The Politics of Transition in Central Asia and the Caucasus Enduring Legacies and Emerging Challenge

The Politics of Transition in Central Asia
and the Caucasus
Most books on the Caucasus and Central Asia are country-by-country studies.
This book, on the other hand, fills a gap in Central Eurasian studies as one of
the few comparative case study books on Central Eurasia, covering both the
Caucasus and Central Asia; it considers key themes right across the two regions
highlighting both political, economic and social change and continuity.
Comparative case study chapters, written by regional experts from a variety
of methodological backgrounds, provide historical context, and evaluate Soviet
political legacies and emerging policy outcomes. Key topics include:
the varied types and sources of authoritarianism
political opposition and protest politics
predetermined outcomes of post-Soviet economic choices
social and stability impacts of natural resource wealth
variations in educational reform
international norm influence on gender policy
the power of human rights activists.
Overall, the book provides a thorough, up-to-date overview of what is
increasingly becoming a significant area of concern.
Amanda E. Wooden is Assistant Professor of Environmental Politics & Policy
at Bucknell University. Her research specializations are environmental security,
environmental and energy policymaking, and water politics in Central Eurasia.
In 2006–7, she served as Economic and Environmental Field Officer in Osh,
Kyrgyzstan for the OSCE.
Christoph H. Stefes is Associate Professor of Comparative European & PostSoviet Studies at the University of Colorado, Denver. His research focuses on
political and economic developments in the South Caucasus. He is the author of
Understanding Post-Soviet Transitions: Corruption, Collusion and Clientelism.
Central Asian studies series
Mongolia Today
Science, culture, environment and development
Edited by Dendevin Badarch and Raymond A. Zilinskas
Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire
Daniel Brower
Church of the East
A concise history
Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar W. Winkler
Pre-tsarist and Tsarist Central Asia
Communal commitment and political order in change
Paul Georg Geiss
Russia’s Protectorates in Central Asia
Bukhara and Khiva, 1865–1924
Seymour Becker
Russian Culture in Uzbekistan
One language in the middle of nowhere
David MacFadyen
Everyday Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia
Maria Elisabeth Louw
Ethnicity, language and power
Bhavna Dave
Ethno-Nationalism, Islam and the State in the Caucasus
Post-Soviet disorder
Edited by Moshe Gammer
Humanitarian Aid in Post-Soviet Countries
An anthropological perspective
Laëtitia Atlani-Duault
Muslim-Christian Relations in Central Asia
A. Christian van Gorder
The Northwest Caucasus
Past, present, future
Walter Richmond
Turkmenistan’s Foreign Policy
Positive neutrality and the consolidation of the Turkmen regime
Luca Anceschi
Conflict Transformation in Central Asia
Irrigation disputes in the Ferghana Valley
Christine Bichsel
Socialist Revolutions in Asia
The social history of Mongolia in the 20th century
Irina Y. Morozova
Post-Conflict Tajikistan
The politics of peacebuilding and the emergence of a legitimate order
John Heathershaw
The Politics of Transition in Central Asia and the Caucasus
Enduring legacies and emerging challenges
Edited by Amanda E. Wooden and Christoph H. Stefes
The Politics of Transition in
Central Asia and the Caucasus
Enduring legacies and emerging challenges
Edited by
Amanda E. Wooden and
Christoph H. Stefes
First published 2009 by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2009.
To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s
collection of thousands of eBooks please go to
© 2009 Amanda E. Wooden and Christoph H. Stefes for selection and
editorial matter; individual contributors their contribution
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or
utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now
known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in
any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing
from the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
The politics of transition in central Asia and the Caucasus : enduring
legacies and emerging challenges / edited by Amanda E. Wooden and
Christoph H. Stefes.
p. cm.– (Central Asian studies)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Asia, Central–Politics and government–1991- 2. Caucasus–Politics and
government. 3. Caucasus–History-–1991– I. Wooden, Amanda E. II. Stefes,
Christoph H., 1969–
JQ1080.P65 2009
ISBN 0-203-02790-6 Master e-book ISBN
ISBN10: 0-415-36813-8 (hbk)
ISBN10: 0-203-02790-6 (ebk)
ISBN13: 978-0-415-36813-1 (hbk)
ISBN13: 978-0-203-02790-5 (ebk)
List of illustrations
List of contributors
List of abbreviations
Frameworks for analysis
Tempting two fates: the theoretical foundations for understanding
Central Eurasian transitions
Revealing order in the chaos: field experiences and methodologies
of political and social research on Central Eurasia
Political contexts of transitional variations
Expecting ethnic conflict: the Soviet legacy and ethnic politics in the
Caucasus and Central Asia
State power and autocratic stability: Armenia and Georgia
Central Asian protest movements: social forces or state resources?
Policymaking legacies and futures
Following through on reforms: comparing market liberalization
in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
Caspian energy wealth: social impacts and implications for
regional stability
Beyond treaty signing: internalizing human rights in Central
Internalization of universal norms: a study of gender equality
in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan
10 Education in Central Asia: transitional challenges and impacts
11 Multivaried and interacting paths of change in Central Eurasia
1.1 Political developments in Central Eurasia
4.1 Opposition protests in Armenia and Georgia, 1992–2005
9.1 Push and pull factors of international norm internationalization
7.1 Caspian region pipelines
7.2 Competing Caspian claims
Economic reforms in comparison
Economic performance in Central Eurasia
Income distribution and human development
Bad governance in Central Eurasia
Characteristics of respondents
Distribution of researchers by discipline
Scholars’ most competent research language
Funding sources
Responses by local–foreign status for gender studies scholars
Research value rankings
Central Asian and Caucasian states, ethnic groups demographics,
Caucasus: ethnic group population per autonomous region, 1989
Cases and preliminary findings: characteristics of ethnic
flashpoints and separatist outcomes
Ethnic composition of the Ferghana valley
Satisfaction with governance, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, June
Rating of progress in price liberalization in Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan (1991–2007)
6.2 Rating of trade and foreign exchange system and important
benchmarks of reform for Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
6.3 Production of raw cotton in the seven highest producing oblasts
in Uzbekistan, 1960–2007
6.4 Reform legislation implemented in Kazakhstan during
Nazarbayev’s rule by presidential decree, March–December 1995
7.1 Fuel exports
7.2 Oil and gas revenues
7.3 Agriculture, value added
7.4 Public health expenditures
7.5 Public spending on education
7.6 Corruption scores and ranking
7.7 Inequality in income or consumption
9.1 Official development assistance received by Kyrgyzstan and
9.2 Freedom ranking in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan
10.1 Tracking socio-economic and political developments
11.1 Patterns of state–society relations in Central Eurasia
Medina Aitieva is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Sociology
Department at the American University of Central Asia. Her research
interests are in gender, bride kidnapping, young people and transitions in
value orientations, youth and technology, and methodological issues. Ms.
Aitieva received her MA from Ball State University.
Oksan Bayulgen is Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at
the University of Connecticut. She specializes in the political economy of
oil, comparative democratization, politics of Russia, and the former Soviet
Union. She has published in journals such as Communist and Post-Communist
Studies and Central Asian Survey.
Pamela Blackmon is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science at
Penn State Altoona. Her research focuses on the policies of the international financial institutions and on the economic development of the transition economies of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Her research has been
published in Central Asian Survey and International Studies Review.
Tim Epkenhans is Director of the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
He studied in Egypt, Iran, and in Germany where he received his Ph.D. in
Islamic and Iranian Studies at the University of Bamberg. His research
interests on Central Asia are focused on Tajikistan, where the OSCE
Academy conducts an Oral History Project.
Julie A. George is Assistant Professor of political science at Queens College,
the City University of New York. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Georgia
in 2002. She has authored several works on Georgian and Russian politics,
including the forthcoming monograph Grafting Peace: The Politics of
Ethnic Separatism in Russia and Georgia.
Carolyn Kissane is Clinical Associate Professor in the M.S. Program in
Global Affairs at New York University. She has worked as a researcher
and consultant in Central Asia and Russia. She received her PhD in
Comparative Education from Columbia University.
Irina Liczek is the Chief Technical Advisor on human rights for the United
Nations in Turkmenistan. She received her PhD in Political Science from
the New School for Social Research. Her current research focuses on internalization of human rights international norms in the newly independent
states of Central Asia, in particular Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Eric McGlinchey is Assistant Professor of Politics at George Mason University.
He received his PhD from Princeton in 2003. Dr. McGlinchey’s research,
which has been widely published, addresses questions of Central Asian
authoritarianism, political Islam, social mobilization and new information
communication technologies.
Christoph H. Stefes is Associate Professor of Comparative European &
Post-Soviet Studies at the University of Colorado, Denver. His research
focuses on political and economic developments in the South Caucasus.
His publications include several book chapters and articles, and he is the
author of Understanding Post-Soviet Transitions: Corruption, Collusion and
Jens Wandel is UNDP Europe and CIS Regional Deputy Director and
Director of the Bratislava Regional Centre. He received his MA in Political
Science from Aarhus University. He is an experienced development
practitioner who began his career in 1988. His core interest areas are
Democratic Governance and Capacity Development.
Christopher P.M. Waters is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Windsor, Canada. His areas of expertise include international
human rights and legal and political issues in Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union. Dr. Waters has published three books and numerous articles.
He has extensive field experience in the Balkan and Caucasus regions.
Lucan Way is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of
Toronto. He writes on authoritarianism, hybrid regimes, and regime transition. He has published widely, including in Comparative Politics, Journal
of Democracy, Politics & Society, and World Politics. He is completing a
book on obstacles to authoritarianism in the former Soviet Union.
Amanda E. Wooden is Assistant Professor of Environmental Politics & Policy
at Bucknell University. Her PhD is in International Relations and Public
Policy. Dr. Wooden’s research specializations are environmental security,
environmental and energy policymaking, and water politics in Central
Eurasia. She recently served as Economic and Environmental Field Officer
in Osh, Kyrgyzstan for the OSCE.
This book project emerged from conversations between the editors during the
Central Eurasian Studies Society conference at Harvard University in fall
2003. We discussed the lack of truly comparative studies of Central Asia and
the Caucasus. As comparative politics and public policy scholars, we believed
this approach to be most useful for understanding political change in the
region since 1991. At the time we felt that scholars of Central Eurasia did not
engage in enough navel gazing about theoretical advancements in order to move
toward more rigorous study. Central Eurasian studies scholars had instead
engaged for a decade in a process of defining what the region was. Since 2003,
the field of Central Eurasian studies has also increasingly engaged in conceptual discussions about topics such as transition, an important issue that
frames section one of this book, as evaluated in the introductory chapter.
From our professional networks, we knew there were many young scholars
who had spent significant time working and living in the region, studying
regional languages and collaborating closely with local scholars. These scholars
were engaging in methodologically diverse and rigorous comparative analysis
moving past conceptual battles. This work of emerging scholars seemed to provide richer theoretical insight into political and socio-economic transformation
than the bulk of work in Central Eurasian political studies had.
Many of these emerging scholars found problematic the dominance of only
a few Soviet-era scholars as representatives of academic expertise on Central
Eurasian politics and policymaking. Likewise, educating a new generation of
scholars quite independent from Sovietological perspectives had remained
difficult. Scholars faced the prospect of teaching Central Eurasian politics classes
with few relevant texts evaluating the state of research. Headlining political
situations in the early 2000s demonstrated the need for more rigorous ways of
evaluating these events. A particular element missing in much of the literature
that we identified was the connection between rigorous theoretical work and
applied political or policy analysis. Often these two approaches are treated as
separate and distinct. We believe this demonstrates a general failing in our
field to communicate complex thoughts—rather than overly simplified narratives—to other scholars and students as well as to decision-makers in need of
greater regional understanding.
xiv Preface
In working on this book project, we have enjoyed the intellectual engagement and support of many people. Both editors gained immensely from
experiences as Visiting Lecturers with the Open Society Institute’s Civic
Education Project (CEP) in Georgia, and Wooden in Kyrgyzstan in 2001. The
importance of the network among foreign and local scholars that developed
cannot be overstated, and is exemplified by the collaboration between Medina
Aitieva and Amanda Wooden in Chapter 2. Another important venue for
meeting like-minded colleagues was the International Research and Exchanges
Board (IREX) policy symposiums on Central Asia and the Caucasus, which
the editors and several contributors attended in 2003 and in 2004. The Central
Eurasian Studies Society network and annual conferences have remained
integral to the development of this book since the conference in 2003 where the
editors met. Clearly, professional networks matter; they help build disciplinary bridges and maintain important connections across scholars within
and outside of the region.
-Many others have contributed to this project, from conception to completion. We would like to thank Peter Sowden, editor at Routledge, for identifying our book as a worthy endeavor. Part of Amanda Wooden’s work on this
volume was conducted under a generous grant from the Kennan Institute of
the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC. We
are forever grateful to external reviewers and readers. Our forever patient and
dedicated copy-editor, Harvey Bishop, cannot be thanked enough. Douglas
Greenfield and Margaret Osdoby Katz provided incisive proofreading of earlier chapter drafts. Bucknell University students Amanda Allen, Molly Burke,
Brittany Rose Merola, and Daniel Winer provided research assistance for
Chapters 1 and 2. Contributors Pamela Blackmon, Julie George, Irina
Liczek, Jens Wandel, and Chris Waters all provided extensive internal review
input for Chapters 1 and 11.
The editors would like to thank Taylor & Francis Ltd for permission to reprint
material from ‘Back to the USSR: Why the past does matter in explaining
differences in the economic reform processes of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan’
by Pamela Blackmon, Central Asian Survey (2005) vol. 24, no. 4, 391–404
(Taylor & Francis Ltd, With thanks also to
Michael Cohen for the use of three maps from the 2002 Caspian Region Country
Brief: Caspian Region Pipelines (Caspian Region Country Brief, January
2007); Proposed Median Line Divisions; Proposed 45-mile Zone Divisions.
Regardless of the great number of contributions and influences of all those
who have aided and abetted this process, we remain responsible for the likely
oversight of many elements including those beyond the scope of our study.
Responsibility for whatever problems remain is ours. We hope that this book
contributes to a more rigorous political study of Central Eurasia and acts as a
guideline for students of the region to take our field further than we can in
this limited space.
Amanda E. Wooden and Christoph H. Stefes
Armenian National Movement
Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil pipeline
Central Asian states
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Commonwealth of Independent States
concluding observations
Council of Europe
Caspian Pipeline Consortium Project
Transparency International Corruption Perception Index
Committee for the Prevention of Torture
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Commission on the Status of Women
Citizen’s Union of Georgia
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
European Convention on Human Rights
European Convention for the Prevention of Torture
extended fund facility
former Soviet Republics
fast track initiative
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural
International Monetary Fund
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
international relations (as a field of political science)
million barrels a day
needs assessment mission
National Plans of Action (part of the Beijing Platform of Action)
National Fund of the Republic of Kazakhstan
non-governmental organization
Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast
official development assistance
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/Office
for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
Open Society Institute
stand-by arrangement
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
United Nations
United Nations Development Programmed
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Part I
Frameworks for analysis
Tempting two fates
The theoretical foundations for
understanding Central Eurasian
Christoph H. Stefes and
Amanda E. Wooden
Wise Providence gave our perception
The choice between two different fates:
Either blind hope and agitation,
Or hopelessness and deadly calm
Two Fates, Evgeny Baratynsky
The poet Evgeny Baratynsky wrote of the two fates confronted by the young
and ardent and the old and measured, and surmised about the choice each
group will make. At first glance, the countries of the Caucasus and Central
Asia have in recent history faced a seemingly similar choice of agitated or
calm political fates. These dichotomous political and policy choices are
what scholars have referred to as the choice between pluralism and authoritarianism, capitalism and socialism, or conflict and stability. However, the
outcomes might not be so dualistically simple, although these simplified
concepts have dominated popular press and public notions of choices made
by decision-makers.
In this book, we discuss the causes and consequences of this seemingly
dichotomous transition from the Soviet period. The introductory chapter
begins by summarizing the main theoretical debates about the study of politics in Central Eurasia. Throughout the book, we also utilize this popular and
simplified notion of a dichotomous transition (successful or unsuccessful) to
highlight what is varied and nonlinear about the process of political change.
We argue that it is important to understand the great many policy outcomes
possible given multiple influences, varied starting points, and changing contexts. In clearly disaggregating these influences and identifying the similarities
and dissimilarities across the region, using the simplifying concept of a bidirectional transitional continuum and through a multi-country comparative
approach, we are able to ascertain a possible set of varied outcomes.
In order to frame the comparisons made in the chapters of this book, this
introduction provides the foundational discussion of the relevant literature on
transitions regarding the study of institutions, distribution of power, disputes,
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
actors and their socio-economic policy considerations. Each chapter fits into
this theoretical overview and seeks to answer the questions derived from it. Is
there a path between Baratynsky’s prophesied outcomes that the countries of
the Caucasus and Central Asia are pursuing? Are there easily identifiable
dichotomies in political context and policy approaches? By focusing on
hypothesized dichotomies are non-dichotomous outcomes identifiable? What
are the variations in combinations that each chapter identifies or ignores? We
conclude this chapter by providing an overview of the layout for this book.
The purpose and scope of this book
The overarching goals of this book are to reveal and compare policy outcomes in Central Eurasia and move beyond overly simplified conceptions and
evaluations of political change in the region. The importance of doing so is
framed in this introduction, by highlighting both the valuable contributions
and the theoretical failings of much work on the region. We seek to meet this
goal given the limited comparative analysis done of both context and outcomes of government action across issues of politics, economics, society, and
the environment. None of these elements operates in a vacuum, and thus it is
important to separate out the factors of transition. Chapter 2 allows insight
into the process of studying the region, the questions that frame the research
scholars’ conduct, and the methodologies chosen (and not chosen) to study
the politics of Central Eurasia. This volume allows the student of Central
Eurasia to gain an overview of approaches to studying the politics of the
region and an aggregated explanation of the convergent and divergent paths
Central Eurasian countries have taken.
An important question for defining the scope of this book has dominated
methodological and professional association identity debates in the last
decade and a half: what is this region “Central Eurasia” anyway? As defined
in this volume, “Central Eurasia” includes the three non-Russian former Soviet
countries of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) and the
five former Soviet countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan). We limit our discussion to former Soviet
countries for methodological reasons, applying a most-similar system design.
Although we do not ignore the varied pre-Soviet and Soviet histories of these
countries, we identify the main components of comparability that make these
countries most similar within the post-Soviet space. This comparability is due to
inclusion of this “southern tier” into the Russian colonial sphere in the nineteenth century (in contrast to the Baltic countries) and formalized inclusion in
the space of the Soviet Union in the early twentieth century, and as a location
for colonial resource exploitation and collectivization. These Russian and
Soviet era similarities remain important as a basis for understanding postSoviet identity and governance. Therefore, we exclude from the “Central
Eurasian” region as defined here the Northern Caucasus and Central Asian
parts of Russia and the non-post-Soviet countries or provinces within the
Tempting two fates
broader geographical, non-political concept of Central Asia, such as Iran,
Afghanistan, and China.1 Studying Central Asia and the Caucasus comparatively has gained acceptance as a broadly defined region separate from other
parts of the former Soviet Union, though there is still debate over the
boundaries of this region and what the region shall mean in the future.
Identifying in this chapter most similar political and socio-economic aspects,
we are able to focus on the dissimilarities and variations among and within
these societies. Therefore, focusing on the eight former Soviet, non-Russian
countries of “Central Eurasia,” we proceed in this chapter to systematically
evaluate the theoretical foundations of scholarship about political, socioeconomic, and environmental transitions from 1991–2008 and the policy
problems identified by these evaluations.
Transitions from communism in Central Eurasia
Most scholars who analyze the changes that have taken place in Central
Eurasia since 1991 avoid using the concept “transition” in any closed-ended
way. A closed-ended conception implies that post-Soviet countries inevitably
and continuously move from communism to a predetermined endpoint
(Gans-Morse 2004). Following the modernization paradigm, this endpoint
would be a liberal democratic and capitalist regime. Alternatively, instead of
moving towards democracy and free markets the eight states of Central Eurasia might return to a time before communist rule when feudal institutions
structured the societies in the South Caucasus and Central Asia (Burawoy
and Verdery 1999; Verdery 1996).
The editors and contributors of this volume do not conceptualize transition in
any teleological (i.e. closed-ended) way. They do not share the assessment that
the Central Eurasian states are on the preordained march towards a Westernstyle political and socio-economic regime or a feudal system. Instead, the authors
concur with Pauline Jones Luong and her collaborators when they argue that
post-Soviet Central Asia, as it recreates disintegrated state and market structures, reveals a peculiar combination of pre-Soviet, Soviet, and entirely new
institutions as well as formal and informal practices and norms (Jones Luong
2004). Thus, unique political contexts are emerging in Central Eurasia.
In short, when we use the concept “transition” we mean “transition from
communism” without any preconceived notion of a possible endpoint. Neither do we assume that these eight countries will experience uniform transitions. Although these transitions might be grouped for analytical purposes,
the uniqueness of each transition is difficult to ignore.
Explaining political transitions
Despite the uniqueness of transitions in Central Eurasia, all eight countries have
one attribute (or the absence thereof) in common. Almost 20 years after the fall
of Soviet authoritarianism, liberal democratic regimes remain conspicuously
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
absent. State institutions that protect and advance political rights and civil
liberties have not emerged to fill the void that the collapse of Soviet rule left.
Yet beyond this negatively defined attribute, differences in regime type soon
become apparent. Given the level of state repression and the absence of political
competition, some regimes are plainly authoritarian. Other Central Eurasian
states, however, can be called semi-democratic or at least semi-authoritarian
insofar as some political competition takes place and violations of basic
human rights are not as frequent as in the former group. To avoid a definite
verdict about the “democraticness” of these regimes, the concept of hybrid
regime was introduced to cover the gray area between (liberal) democratic
and authoritarian rule (Bunce 2001; Merkel and Croissant 2000). In addition,
a comparison over time shows that some regimes have not changed much or
at all since the early 1990s while others, especially the hybrid regimes, saw
political turmoil and social unrest.
Going beyond idiosyncratic analyses of the political transitions in Central
Eurasia with the goal of developing general theories requires us to classify
Central Eurasia’s regimes in different categories. Thereafter, we should not
only systematically compare analytical groups but also the individual cases
within each group, highlighting differences among otherwise similar countries
(Sartori 1970). An analysis of Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Index
(Freedom House, various years) allows for a broad distinction between stable
authoritarian regimes (“not free” according to Freedom House) and those
that have been hybrid regimes (“partly free”) either throughout or at least most
of the post-Soviet period. The first group consists of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan
belong to the second group (Figure 1.1).
Politically, the collapse of Soviet rule meant little for the countries in the first
group. Authoritarian rule has remained in place and elite continuity is prevalent.
For analysts of political change the obvious questions to ask therefore are:
Why has authoritarian rule persisted in the first group but not in the second?
How has it been possible for the Soviet elite to maintain their grip on power?
Within this group of stable authoritarian regimes, significant differences exist.
For instance, while Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are highly repressive regimes
in which incarceration and torture of political opponents is commonplace, the
authoritarian leaders of Tajikistan and Kazakhstan rely less on open repression to stay in power. This finding invites questions regarding the different
modes of authoritarian rule, under which circumstances they are successful,
and why they are chosen in the first place.
As for the group of hybrid regimes, notable deviations are also noticeable,
especially when comparing these countries over time. In the mid-1990s, all
four countries had witnessed political liberalization and therefore seemed to
be on track towards liberal democratic rule. Liberalization was reversed and
oppression of political rights and civil liberties became widespread in the
latter half of the 1990s. In Azerbaijan and Armenia, increasing “authoritarianization” has so far remained without any political consequences. Yet in
Tempting two fates
Figure 1.1 Political developments in Central Eurasia.
Source: Freedom House
Georgia and Kyrgyzstan popular protests removed from power increasingly
illiberal presidents—Eduard Shevardnadze during the Rose Revolution
(2003) and Askar Akayev during the Tulip Revolution (2005), respectively.
We might therefore ask why increasing repression has turned out to be a successful strategy for the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan but not for their
counterparts in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.
Finally, beyond questions related to regime stability and change, another
interesting puzzle concerns the interethnic relations within the eight Central
Eurasian countries. While the South Caucasus has seen violent and protracted
ethnic conflicts, relations between the various ethnic groups of Central Asia
have been considerably more amicable. As Julie George in her chapter points
out, in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union many scholars expected
the opposite. Which factors then caused the outbreak of violent ethnic conflict
in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan? Moreover, were these factors simply
absent in Central Asia or were they compensated by other factors that fostered interethnic accommodation? These questions obviously have increased
relevance as the August 2008 war between Georgia, Russia, and South Ossetia
In the section that follows, we address the above questions by surveying
leading studies of political transitions in Central Eurasia. This overview also
allows us to discuss contributors’ chapters within the context of the scholarship on the region. In doing so, we separate between bottom-up approaches,
which identify forces of political change mainly within society, and top-down
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
approaches, which see the state and the political elite as the major agents of
political development in the region. We further separate between approaches
that focus exclusively on domestic forces and those that recognize the impact
of international factors on the political processes in the region.
Among those who argue that societal forces were dominant in the early
period of transition from communist rule, Bunce figures prominently (Bunce
2001, 2003). She argues that mass mobilization was “often helpful to the
democratic transition in the postcommunist context” (2003: 172). Mass
mobilization signaled that an alternative to the authoritarian regime was
possible, thereby putting the incumbent leadership under pressure to negotiate.
Furthermore, it legitimized and empowered the opposition leaders and provided them with a “mandate for radical change” (Bunce 2003: 172). Nationalism thereby plays a facilitating role, serving as rallying point for the masses:
“nationalism could unite the diverse elements of emergent civil society and
thereby defuse the ideological and political differences that were inevitably
present” (Gill 2006: 620). A strong popular front was thereby able to break the
hold on power of the communist leadership, opening space for a democratic
Applied to Central Eurasia, this theory has some value in explaining uninterrupted authoritarian rule in the first group of countries (stable authoritarian)
and early liberalization in the hybrid regimes (second group). Whereas the
first group includes all but one of the five Central Asian states, the second
group consists of the three South Caucasian countries plus Kyrgyzstan. Some
scholars argue that socio-cultural attitudes prevalent in Central Asia such as
respect for seniority, deference to authority, and traditions of patriarchy have
stood in the way of popular mobilization against the authorities (Akiner 1997;
Gleason 1997). Moreover, the countries of Central Asia were to some degree
creations of Soviet rule. Nationalism was therefore weakly developed, preventing the emergence of strong nationalist movements that could have ejected
the Soviet elite from power. Instead, the Soviet elite of Central Asia largely
remained in power after 1991, maintaining authoritarian rule in the absence
of a powerful opposition. On the other hand, in the South Caucasus—primarily
in Georgia and Armenia and to a lesser degree in Azerbaijan—popular
movements’ quest for independence gave rise to a forceful opposition against
the local administrations of the despised Soviet empire. The first free elections
accordingly swept the Soviet elite from power.
Though elegant, this theoretical approach cannot account for the many
ironies of post-Soviet transitions in Central Eurasia. For one, during the latter
half of the 1980s Central Asia actually saw a wave of nationalist resistance
against the attempts of Gorbachev to reverse the nativization policy of his
predecessors (Bremmer and Taras 1993). Second, the liberalization of postSoviet Georgia did not begin under the first president, the dissident leader
Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who revealed strong authoritarian tendencies during
his short tenure, but rather under Eduard Shevardnadze, the erstwhile and
long-time leader of Georgia’s Communist Party. Moreover, although
Tempting two fates
Armenia’s popular front scored a sweeping victory in the first free elections,
the break with the Soviet past was incomplete, as the new government included many former communists (Stefes 2006: Chapter 2). Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosian, despite his credentials as a leader of Armenia’s
popular movement, increasingly relied on repression to stay in power during
his second term in office. He was eventually ousted from office by members of
his own government.
In view of the massive popular uprisings in several Central Eurasian countries between 2003 (Georgia’s Rose Revolution) and 2005 (Tulip Revolution in
Kyrgyzstan and the Andizhan massacre in Uzbekistan), bottom-up approaches have nevertheless remained popular among political analysts. McFaul
(2005), for instance, argues that the success of the so-called colored revolutions in Georgia (as well as in Serbia and Ukraine) can largely be attributed
to a united and organized opposition capable of mobilizing tens of thousands
of citizens and able to detect electoral fraud and publish their reports almost
instantly with the support of independent media. A similar approach is taken
by other scholars to explain the ouster of Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev in
2005. Fuhrmann (2006) argues that imported and indigenous social capital
aided popular mobilization during the Tulip Revolution. In this regard, some
analysts emphasize the impact of Western democracy assistance, which
strengthened a civil society that was eventually powerful enough to topple the
authoritarian regime when the time was ripe (flawed parliamentary elections
are commonly cited as the focusing event for the popular uprisings).
Yet flawed elections and democracy assistance programs are ultimately
weak explanations for the rapid mobilization of tens of thousands of people.
Since citizens in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan could not foresee how the state’s
coercive force would react, they had to expect the worst. We would therefore
have to look for stronger reasons than flawed elections to explain why citizens
of Central Eurasia sometimes take risky measures to remove their leaders
from power. Most supporters of the bottom-up approach are surprisingly
silent about the motivation of ordinary citizens to take political action. One
notable exception is Katz who relies on traditional theories of revolution to
unearth the structural determinants of mass uprisings, concluding that socioeconomic deterioration combined with political repression in Central Asia has
created a fertile soil for further revolutionary activity of either the democratic
or Islamist type (Katz 2006, 2007).
Bottom-up approaches are also heavily criticized by supporters of topdown approaches who largely reject the assumption that societal forces are
ultimately powerful enough to change the political course of post-Soviet
states. Gel’man argues that “‘civil society,’ in the normative sense of democratic
theory, is present in post-Soviet areas only to the extent allowed by the dominant
elites” (Gel’man 2003: 90). Kubicek points to “the habits of the Soviet period,
the lack of social capital, a ‘wall of indifference’ between elites and masses, and
weak development of civic organization” to explain why political developments
in the post-Soviet era are largely elite driven (Kubicek 2000: 299).
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
Focusing on elites and the distribution of power between them, McFaul
(2002) explains the emergence of different regime types in the wake of the
Soviet Union’s collapse. His theory is straightforward:
Democracy emerged … in countries where democrats enjoyed a decisive
power advantage … conversely, in countries in which dictators maintained
a decisive power advantage, dictatorship emerged. In between these two
extremes were countries in which the distribution of power between the
old regime and its challengers was relatively equal.
(McFaul 2002: 214)
The “in-between” group of countries largely overlaps with our second group
of hybrid regimes, while his group of dictatorships concurs with our first group
of stable authoritarian regimes.3 Yet again, theoretical elegance is bought at
the expense of explanatory power. McFaul only hints at the factors that tilted
the balance of power in one or the other direction. McFaul’s theory is even less
helpful to explain later developments in the group of hybrid regimes. All four
countries have witnessed increasing authoritarianism since the mid-1990s. Yet
whereas the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments have been able to
cement their autocratic rule, their Georgian and Kyrgyz counterparts were
confronted with popular uprisings that ultimately caused their abdication.
In his chapter and other studies, Way argues that in order to understand
the (in)stability of hybrid regimes we need to pay closer attention to the ability of political leaders to rebuild the state and coercive state capacity after the
collapse of the Soviet system (Way 2005; Way and Levitsky 2006). From this
perspective, the early 1990s were not so much a period of liberalization in the
second group of hybrid regimes, as McFaul would argue, but of incumbents’
inability “to maintain power or concentrate political control … The result has
been what might be called ‘pluralism by default’” (Way 2005: 232).4 Way
thereby builds on the work of O’Donnell and Schmitter (1986) as well as
Skocpol (1979).
For this volume, Way attempts to explain the expulsion of Georgian President
Shevardnadze from power during the 2003 Rose Revolution and the ability of
the Armenian government under President Robert Kocharian to thwart a
similar scenario. Way discards the argument that these divergent outcomes
can be explained by different degrees of societal mobilization. In fact,
“Armenia has witnessed far more frequent and sizable opposition mobilization than has Georgia.” Armenia was therefore ripe for an overthrow of the
incumbents, not Georgia. Rejecting therefore a bottom-up approach to political transitions, Way turns towards two other factors: the power of the
incumbent party to unite the political elite and the ability of the state apparatus to suppress dissent. Arguing that past and present ruling parties have
been notoriously weak in both countries, Way identifies the weakness and
internal divisions of Georgia’s coercive state apparatus as the primary reason
for the Rose Revolution. In contrast, Armenia’s police and security forces
Tempting two fates
have shown that they are strong and loyal supporters of the political leadership. In order to explain different levels of state coercive capacity, Way points
towards the divergent transition paths that the two countries took in the early
1990s. Georgia suffered from a civil war and two ethnic wars that essentially
led to a collapse of state structures, which were difficult to rebuild in successive years. In contrast, Armenians rallied behind a common cause, the war
against Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. This “war with Azerbaijan over
Nagorno-Karabakh provided both the impetus for the creation of relatively
robust centralized rule and gave leaders essential coercive and organizational
tools to steal elections, and suppress even massive opposition protest.”
In short, Way encourages us to look at state capacity, not society and
opposition mobilization, to understand the different trajectories that the four
countries in our second group have taken. His theory can indeed be applied to
Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan as well. In 2005, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev
was ousted during the Tulip Revolution. Like in Georgia, the response of
the police force to popular protests was feeble and unorganized. The weakness of the Kyrgyz state apparatus was even more glaring taking into account
that it was challenged by no more than a few thousand protesters (Radnitz
2006). In contrast, after an initial period of tremendous instability, Azerbaijan’s coercive state capabilities strengthened under the tight-fisted rule of
President Heidar Aliyev, who funneled increasing levels of financial resources
into the security forces benefiting from his country’s oil bonanza (see also
Chapter 7 by Bayulgen in this book). This coercive capability helped Aliyev
and his successor, his son Ilham, to repress any opposition to the authoritarian
Eric McGlinchey, in his contribution to this book, addresses the puzzle
remaining from Way’s chapter: why popular mobilization occurred when and
how it did. McGlinchey—seeking to explain divergent effectiveness levels of
political opposition in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan—argues that
political protest is “shaped as much by an independent, society based logic as
it is by state coercive capacities.” While Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan share
similar coercive powers, political opposition in the former country has been
strong for the past two decades, while it has been much weaker in Kazakhstan. Moreover, despite being one of the most repressive regimes in the world,
Uzbekistan’s dictator has faced strong pockets of regional opposition to his
rule. Like Way, McGlinchey identifies the origins of later developments in the
early transition period, developing a path-dependent argument. While protesters targeted the communist leadership in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan,
Kazakhstan also saw massive protests. However, those protests did not so
much aim at the political leadership as they built around ethnic, environmental, and economic grievances. Later opposition to the political leadership
in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan could therefore profit from experiences gained
during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Kazakh opposition however lacks
this experience of anti-government protests. Argues McGlinchey: “Political
protest then … maybe grounded in a self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
dynamic of learned cooperation.” He does not reject that state repression has
played a role in influencing the strengths of the opposition groups in these
countries. Yet in redirecting attention to societal forces, McGlinchey downplays the role of the state. For instance, he argues that the current weakness of
the Uzbek opposition has less to do so with increasing levels of state repression but more with divisions among the various opposition groups that date
back to the early 1990s.5
Explaining more rapid opposition mobilization might require evaluations
of transboundary political learning. Beissinger (2007) provides an alternative
conclusion that the post-communist revolutions of the early 2000s (Serbia
2000, Georgia 2003, Ukraine 2004, and Kyrgyzstan 2005) did not take place
independent from each other. “Each successful democratic revolution has
produced an experience that has been consciously borrowed by others, spread
by NGOs, and emulated by local social movements” (Beissinger 2007: 261).6
In other words, perhaps effective opposition mobilization does not require a
long preparatory stage but can emerge quickly if accelerated by cross-border
learning and/or foreign support.7
In addition to cross-border learning, opposition movements in these countries
could rely on technical and financial support from foreign governments, primarily the US government (Beissinger 2007; McFaul 2005). Mitchell (2004),
for example, argues that foreign money contributed to the rapid growth of
Georgia’s non-governmental organization (NGO) sector, and Olcott states
that “U.S. policy makers should be very pleased by the developments in
Kyrgyzstan, as they do provide strong evidence that sustained support for
grass-roots political organizations can prove effective” (Olcott 2005b).
Yet it is not entirely self-evident that international financing of civil society
leads to democratization. First, international financing could be understood
as elite capture, which could undermine the possibility of indigenous democratic reforms. Moreover, do we truly see a social learning curve for opposition movement or civil society development autonomous (or mostly so) from
elites or international community support? In answering these questions, the
environment and democracy literature discusses a range of outcomes that lie
between elite-society dichotomies. It also addresses the combination of factors
that motivate popular mobilization. One criticism of the literature on Central
Eurasian environmental and other NGO networks is that these are often
simply descriptive, bottom-up arguments of these networks as universally
democratizing forces, yet many authors more critically evaluate the extent of
elite cooptation or international community capture these organizations’
activities (Chatrchyan and Wooden 2005; Weinthal 2004; Wooden 2004). These
assessments reinforce the work on mid-level or local elite capture and social
capital development as not a universally positive force (McGlinchey Chapter 5
in this book; Radnitz 2006). These appraisals move the literature beyond simple
national level and institutional capacity focuses and modernist approaches.
Much interest in Central Eurasian environmental issue mobilization stems
from its role as a late Soviet political change catalyst. In turn, this led to early
Tempting two fates
post-Soviet academic interest in the environment as fomenter of democratic
reform, yet environmental concerns largely dissipated as a major social force
in post-Soviet Central Eurasia. This dissipation highlighted the puzzle of
whether or not environmental concerns were real or were instrumentalized for
political purposes, to meet broader nationalistic goals, and thus were easily
abandoned once intended political power change occurred. (See the case study
on environmental politics in Chapter 2 by Wooden, Aitieva and Epkenhans
for a discussion of the literature.) Study of these concerns has been revived
recently because of general global prioritization of environmental issues and
international community interests in funding action in the region. The most
attention has been paid to institutional capacity development. A primary
debate in the literature has focused on whether or not authoritarian governments or democratic governments prove better at responding to public concern about and addressing environmental problems. Chatrchyan and Wooden
(2005) develop a framework for evaluating the variety of factors influencing
environmental policy improvements by comparing Armenian and Georgian
forestry and water resource management case studies. They find support for
the hypothesis that democratizing, hybrid regimes are often the weakest in
environmental policy improvements, calling into question binary assumptions
about democracy, authoritarianism, and the environment. The nuances
demonstrated by the study of varying environmental movement developments
and influences provides an important response to Gel’man (2003), Kubicek
(2000) and others’ critiques of social force power. Mid-level approaches are
therefore important to include in the study of political change in multiple
directions, including the policy and capacity weakness of those countries
evaluated as the best performing reformers in the region.
Similar to assessments of support for environmental NGOs, most analysts
consider broader Western engagement in the region as having a liberalizing or
even democratizing impact on political development. However, one might
easily overstate the reach of Western governments and international organizations in Central Eurasia. Christopher Waters makes this clear in his chapter, “Beyond treaty signing: internalizing human rights in Central Eurasia,” in
which he examines the gap between the international human rights obligations that have been accepted by the region’s states—and enshrined in their
constitutions—and the actual human rights situation on the ground. Despite
formal commitments to prevent and punish human rights violations such as
torture and arbitrary detention, abuses are carried out by police and other
state agents in each of the countries under consideration. Waters argues that
without domestic “human rights entrepreneurs” international norms and
Western pressure will not significantly improve the human rights situation in
Central Eurasia. These entrepreneurs (typically NGOs) seek to internalize
international human rights standards through litigation, lobbying, and educational activities. In the regions’ hybrid regimes, which allow political activism to some degree, human rights entrepreneurs have been more successful
in upholding governments’ human rights obligations. In contrast, in the
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
authoritarian regimes of Central Eurasia, notably Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan,
international norms and Western lobbying have brought few improvements
(see also Liczek and Wandel’s Chapter 9 in this book). The nature of human
rights issues between countries of the region would be a useful next step for
analysis based on Waters’ insights, especially in reflection of refugee flows and
the cooperation of states in extradition and open operations of national
security services across borders in Central Asia.
The West competes with regional powers such as Russia and China for access
to natural resources, markets, and political cooperation. This has allowed
Central Eurasia’s leaders to play Western, Russian, and Chinese governments
against each other and mute criticism of their authoritarian regimes. Therefore,
Western leverage is at best moderate.8 Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, for example,
which initially appeared to side with the USA, have recently allowed Russia
to increase its influence in the region. Armenia has been a steadfast ally of
Russia in the Caucasus ever since its independence. Only Georgia and to a lesser
degree Azerbaijan have developed close linkages with Western governments
and organizations, seeking NATO and European Union membership.
As Oksan Bayulgen argues in her chapter, close economic and political ties
with the West might not contribute to any political liberalization or even
social improvements for the population. Bayulgen addresses the hypothesized
dichotomy of fossil fuel exports as curse or blessing for stability in Central
Eurasia. Ultimately, she uncovers the oversimplification of the “Great Game”
concept for understanding the destabilizing impact of international engagement in the region, focusing attention on the primary impact of fossil fuel
export dependence, and societal destabilization through maldistribution of the
economic benefits of such a policy. International rivalries over resource rents
and transportation routes interact with this socio-economic destabilization to
exacerbate regional instability, domestic repression, and socio-economic disparities. From her analysis, Bayulgen opens up avenues for future comparative exploration of petro-states in the region. With slow change toward postfossil fuel economies, what does lack of diversification in the economies of
Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan mean for the future? What are
the emerging policy implications of the trajectories of these countries and are
they likely to vary in outcomes?
Understanding the variations requires evaluation of other potential causes
of instability together with natural resource exploitation. Early post-Soviet
analysis of conflict in the region was preoccupied with ethnic conflict and
separatism, as identified clearly by Julie George in her contribution to this
book. George analyzes ethnic separatist movements that have been a major
source of political instability in Central Eurasia. Once again, it turns out that
foreign (albeit not always Western) influence has played a destructive role in
the region. From 1991 until 1994, three secessionist wars in South Ossetia and
Abkhazia (both regions within Georgia) and in Nagorno-Karabakh (an
Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan) left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. The fact that all three ethnic conflicts have taken place in the
Tempting two fates
South Caucasus, while Central Asia has (so far) avoided prolonged ethnic
strife is somewhat surprising. Most analysts expected Central Asia to turn
into an interethnic battleground, pointing towards large groups of ethnic
minorities that lived geographically concentrated in their host countries.
Moreover, owing to the repressive nature of most regimes in the region, these
groups had no peaceful political outlet to express and defend their interests.
Nevertheless, Central Asia has been spared prolonged violent ethnic conflict.
George argues that three factors help to explain this puzzle. First, during
Soviet times most ethnic minorities in the South Caucasus enjoyed various
forms of regional autonomy. The corresponding administrative structures
supported ethnic entrepreneurs in their attempts to instill a common identity
among the minority groups and organize resistance against the ethnic majority.9 In contrast, ethnic minorities in Central Eurasia did not enjoy any form
of self-governance during Soviet times. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it
was therefore difficult, if not impossible, to organize their interests. However,
previously existing autonomy was only one factor. According to George,
political liberalization throughout the South Caucasus facilitated the mobilization of ethnic minorities. Moreover, ethnic identities were often used to rally
political support during the founding elections. Exclusionary rhetoric thereby
provoked mutual distrust and suspicion among the ethnic groups.10 In Central
Asia, the lack of liberalization made it more difficult for ethnic minorities to
organize. In addition, according to George, “the ethnic message of statebuilding reforms in Central Asia was typically more internationalist than
those in the Caucasus, and thus less violently divisive.”
Finally, foreign governments in the South Caucasus—namely, Russia and
Armenia—supported ethnic groups with political recognition, military equipment, and financial resources, which allowed otherwise feeble minorities to
turn into formidable foes that were able to oppose the majority. It is indeed
doubtful that the Abkhaz and Ossetian minorities in Georgia could have
defeated the Georgian forces without Russian support. Likewise, the successful struggle of Karabakh Armenians for independence from Azerbaijan owed
much to Armenia’s (and Russia’s) military support. Through this support,
Armenia and Russia fueled ethnic conflict as they undercut minorities’ willingness to compromise and made those groups appear even more threatening
for the ethnic majority.11 The dependence of South Ossetian and Abkhazian
separatist leaders on Russian and the role that Russia has played in creating a
threatening environment were demonstrated anew most clearly in the August
2008 war.
Socio-economic and environmental transitions
The socio-economic transitions of the eight Central Eurasian countries have
varied significantly. While some governments have embraced privatization
and liberalization, others have endorsed market reforms only to a limited
degree. Irrespective of the reform fervor, however, all countries experienced
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
dramatic contractions of economic output during the early 1990s. While most
had fully recovered from these severe recessions by the early 2000s, the performance of the Central Eurasian economies has been unequal with some
sporting double-digit growth over the past few years, while others remaining
largely stagnant. Finally, changes in the distribution of poverty and wealth
within the eight countries have also varied largely. In some countries, the gap
between rich and poor has rapidly risen. Yet some countries in Central Eurasia have maintained a greater level of socio-economic equality since the end
of Soviet period.
In this section, we briefly depict the historical context for economic change,
post-Soviet economic reform efforts of the eight Central Eurasian countries,
summarize patterns of economic contraction and growth since the collapse of
Soviet rule, and analyze the social and environmental sustainability of economic change. In explaining variances, we show to what degree these three
variables (reform, performance, and distribution) correlate with each other.
To reveal some of the causal mechanisms, we survey the scholarly literature
on economic transitions and socio-economic developments. Framing our discussion are four theoretical questions related to socio-economic transformation. First, what differences in Soviet political and economic legacies have
impacted the type of post-Soviet reform process? Second, what is the postSoviet performance of these economies and how can variations in performance
be explained politically? Third, what are the societal impacts of different
economic transformations and how do society-elite relations demonstrate
levels of accountability and state capacity? Finally, how are these economic
and political changes linked to autonomous local policymaking opportunities
and the context for cultural change sub-nationally? These questions allow us
to place the four chapters by Pamela Blackmon, Carolyn Kissane, Irina
Liczek and Jens Wandel, and Oksan Bayulgen within the scholarly debate.
Data provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
(EBRD) enable us to identify the leaders and laggards of economic reform
(European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 2007). In the South
Caucasus, Armenia, and Georgia stand out as the countries that introduced
liberalization and privatization shortly after independence and have made the
most changes toward capitalist economies. Azerbaijan started economic
reforms later and the extent of these reforms has not matched that of its
neighbors, especially not in the area of large-scale privatization. In Central
Asia, the divergence between leaders and laggards is even more pronounced.
Uzbekistan and especially Turkmenistan have introduced only few economic
reforms. Liberalization of their trade and exchange rate systems as well as
bank reforms and interest rate liberalization have not progressed much. The
state still controls major industries and the banking sector. In contrast,
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan introduced economic reforms early after independence and to a similar extent as Armenia and Georgia. Tajikistan finds
itself somewhere in the middle of the group but has made significant progress
in the areas of small scale privatization and price liberalization (Table 1.1).
Tempting two fates
Table 1.1 Economic reforms in comparison
Large scale Small scale Price
Trade and
privatization privatization liberalization foreign
reform and
interest rate
Start of
Start of
Start of
Start of
Start of
Start of
Start of
Turkmenistan Start of
Source: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 2007.
After considerable economic retrenchment in the early 1990s, all countries
of Central Eurasia moderately recovered in the second half of the 1990s with
growth rates varying between paltry 0.35 per cent (Tajikistan) and sizeable
5.43 per cent (Armenia). For the past seven years, economic growth among
the eight countries has diverged even more starkly. The economies of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan have witnessed double-digit
growth between 2001 and 2006, allowing these countries to recover fully from
the economic crisis of the early 1990s. Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, has
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
grown a mere 3.63 per cent during the first half of the 2000s—not enough to
return the economy to its pre-independence level. Kyrgyzstan shares this fate
with Tajikistan and Georgia. Given the solid growth rates of these last two
countries since 1995, this deficiency can only be explained by the vast havoc
that the civil and ethnic wars inflicted on their economies in the years following independence. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia together with
Uzbekistan are consequently the poorest countries of the region. The
remaining four countries do considerably better with Kazakhstan’s economy
leading the group by a large margin (Table 1.2).
The vast disparity in economic growth patterns is only to some degree
reflected in human development (Table 1.3). According to the United Nations
Development Programme (2006), all eight countries belong to the group of
medium human development countries, which is in itself remarkable given the
sharp economic decline and the subsequent retrenchment of the Soviet welfare state. As the Gini indices for these countries demonstrate, the distribution
of income has been highly unequal throughout the region. A large percentage
of the population lives below $2 a day (e.g., over 40 per cent in Tajikistan),
indicating that few citizens have benefited from the economic recovery of the
past 10 years.
It is nevertheless important to evaluate subgroup differences in distribution
of transition’s costs and benefits, as do Pomfret (2003) and Anderson and
Pomfret (2002). They utilize household survey data to analyze the winners
and losers of transition in Central Asia, identifying three variables as most
important for determining household expenditures and thus poverty levels:
location, family size (number of children), and university education. Their
results indicate a great variety of differences in the region, connecting the
contributions of the chapters in this volume. For example, in Kyrgyzstan the
Table 1.2 Economic performance in Central Eurasia
Average growth in real GDP
GDP per capita
2004 (PPP US$)
Estimated level
of real GDP
in 2006
(1989 = 100)
Sources: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 2007 and United
Nations Development Programme 2007.
Note: GDP, gross domestic product; PPP, purchasing power parity.
Tempting two fates
rural–urban divide in living standards is clear, with the former on average 26
per cent lower than the latter (Pomfret 2003: 28). In contrast, rural households are better off than urban ones and living standards are highest in the
north and lowest in the south. Regional differences are substantial in Tajikistan but rural–urban differences are not.
When analyzing the data, straightforward patterns do not emerge. Economic growth does not correlate strongly with economic reforms. While
Armenia and Kazakhstan seemingly confirm the predictions of free market
advocates that privatization and liberalization will cause rapid economic
growth, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan do not support this assumption. Likewise,
while the absence of economic reforms may have stifled economic performance in Uzbekistan, it has not had the same effect in Turkmenistan and
certainly not in Azerbaijan. The data do not confirm the critiques of free
markets who argue that liberalization and privatization would have a negative
impact on social and economic justice. The top economic reformer Georgia
has the same level of income inequality as the reform-laggard Turkmenistan.
One of the most liberal market economies in Central Eurasia, Armenia,
shows higher levels of human development than Uzbekistan, considered one
of the least liberalized economies in the region.
How do we explain these discrepancies? For one, scholars have to realize
that the data from which we develop our models and theories do not adequately represent the situation on the ground. Sievers (2003) questions statistical data utilized and reported by development agency sources such as the
World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He and Pomfret (2003) note
the difficulty of assessing the Soviet era in comparison with post-Soviet era
given the lack of consistency and parallels in the two reporting periods.
Likewise, Sievers notes, “[a]s unreliable and misleading as current economic
Table 1.3 Income distribution and human development
Per cent of population
living below $2 a day
(1990–2004, most recent
year measured)
GDP per capita
(PPP $ rank
minus HDI
Source: United Nations Development Programme 2006.
Note: GDP, gross domestic product; HDI, Human Development Index; PPP, purchasing power parity.
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
statistics on Central Asia are, they are far more accurate and accessible than
assessments of the region’s other kinds of capital” (2003: 19). He provides an
important example of high physical capital figures that clearly do not reflect
the state of infrastructural decline in these formerly industrial countries. It is
difficult to separate three possibilities: underreporting because of the shadow
economy, overreporting and official misrepresentation, and actual benefits of
high capacity. Pomfret (2003) asserts that the latter may be driving what some
consider Uzbekistan’s relatively decent economic performance despite its lack
of liberalization. Thus, statistical information reflects only a small aspect of
the overall picture and one that should be evaluated carefully in combination
with qualitative assessments such as provided by our authors.
Second, the vast natural resources in some countries of the region exert a
disproportionate influence on economic performance, overriding other parameters of economic growth. For example, it is no accident that among the top
four economic performers of recent years, three are major exporters of either
oil and/or natural gas. With this caveat in mind, advocates of free markets
could nevertheless argue that ceteri paribus liberalization and privatization do
spur economic growth. We do not question this assumption. However, legislating economic reforms and implementing them are two different processes
that rarely coincide in Central Eurasia. As with political transitions, state
capacity matters.
As the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (World Bank 2007)
amply show, good governance is a rare commodity in Central Eurasia. Concerning government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control
of corruption, these eight states rank mostly in the bottom half and often
even in the bottom quarter of 212 countries and territories. Moreover, most
countries have seen few significant improvements across the board, the notable exceptions being Georgia and Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan has even seen deteriorations in two areas. Armenia emerges as the best-governed country in
region and even in this case, the World Bank (2002) argued: “[T]he notional
business environment (which is reflected in laws and regulations) is relatively
good. However, at the microeconomic level, the situation is different. The
state has no capability (and little incentives) to enforce this favorable legal
framework, i.e., to transform the notional business environment into an
effective business environment” (69). To put it differently, the best laws have
little positive impact if there is nobody who implements and enforces them.
This has clearly been the case throughout Central Eurasia (Table 1.4).
While there is no straightforward answer as to why some Central Eurasian
economies have performed better than others (resource endowment, economic
reforms, good governance, foreign aid and investment are just a few factors
that come to mind), the scholarly debate concerning the speed and extent of
economic reforms and the quality of governance in post-communist countries
has focused on a few variables. Most of these variables capture the nature of
political transitions in former communist countries, linking political and economic developments.
Tempting two fates
Table 1.4 Bad governance in Central Eurasia
percentile rank)
Rule of law
percentile rank)
percentile rank)
Control of
percentile rank)
Source: World Bank 2007.
All indicators show countries’ percentile rank.
" Marks significant improvement since 1996 (a move into a higher percentile group).
# Marks significant deterioration since 1996 (a move into a lower percentile group).
The locus classicus of the political economy literature on post-communist
transitions is Joel Hellman’s Winners Take All. Hellman (1998) argues that
the winners of the early economic transition period, such as the former communist elite who was able to appropriate state assets through legal and illegal
means, had a strong interest in halting further economic reforms, which would
have threatened their predominant positions in the newly emerging markets.
Only where the emergence of competitive democratic regimes allowed the
losers (pensioners, less-skilled and older workers, etc.) to participate in the
economic policy-making process have economic reforms moved beyond their
initial stages. Hellman’s theory helps to explain some of the Central Eurasian
cases. For instance, the most democratic regimes of this region, such as Kyrgyzstan and Georgia, have embraced market reforms to a considerable extent.
In contrast, the strongly authoritarian regimes of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have frozen the reform process right at the start, allowing family members and clients of the political leadership to assume control over the most
valuable economic sectors. However, Hellman’s theory does not explain other
cases in the region. For instance, Kazakhstan has remained strongly authoritarian since independence but has continuously moved towards the creation
of a free market economy. Moreover, despite decreasing levels of political
freedom, the Armenian economy has become less restricted. Finally, Hellman
does not address the crucial issue of state capacity and governance, ignoring
widespread problems of implementing and enforcing economic reforms
throughout the region.12
In her contribution to this book, Pamela Blackmon goes beyond simply
linking political factors to economic transitions, arguing instead that the
extent of reforms can be related to different levels of economic integration
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
with Russia during the Soviet era and the preferences of the post-Soviet leadership. Blackmon analyzes the economic reform processes of Kazakhstan
and Uzbekistan, paying special attention to the impact of Soviet-era conditions
that have affected the reforms implemented in each country after the collapse
of Soviet rule. Differences in each republic’s level of integration (in areas such
as infrastructure, geography and natural resource endowments) with Russia
during the Soviet era are one explanatory factor for reform differences.
Moreover, the advancement or delay of reforms was also strongly influenced
by the current political leadership. While President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has pursued economic policies designed to engage the international
community, President Karimov of Uzbekistan has pursued policies that have
largely resulted in the country being isolated from the international community.
In short, levels of political liberalization hardly explain the extent of economic
reforms in these two countries, as both countries have been strongly authoritarian since independence. Blackmon instead adopts a historical approach,
arguing that post-Soviet developments have been shaped to a significant
degree by the Soviet past.
In their contributions, Oksan Bayulgen, Carolyn Kissane, as well as Irina
Liczek and Jens Wandel, are less interested in explaining variations of economic reforms and performance but focus instead on how the costs and benefits of economic transitions have been distributed among the populations of
Central Eurasia. Bayulgen questions if Central Eurasia’s natural resource
wealth has benefited the people of this region. Following the rentier state
theory, Bayulgen argues that economies, which primarily depend on oil and
gas exports, are a curse rather than a blessing for ordinary citizens’ wellbeing.
The point of departure for Bayulgen’s analysis is the expectation that natural
resource wealth should accrue to society broadly.
It is also useful to look beyond the expected ideal to the motivations, processes, and procedures of socio-economic transformation, as Collier and Way
(2004) do in their evaluation of social welfare changes in Georgia. They
demonstrate that all is not what it seems when scholars are driven by “deficit
model” evaluations of what does not exist in transitional contexts. They conclude that marketization of social services has occurred because of state
capacity breakdown not because of deliberate reform. Kissane identifies a
similar process of educational privatization motivated not by efficiency
improvements but rather as the result of state decline. Analyzing the education systems of the five Central Asian states, she concludes that the record of
reforms is mixed, varying from country to country and even from school to
school in the same country. While the region’s few success stories might give
reason for hope, they also demonstrate increasing stratification, which
cements socio-economic inequality by disadvantaging children of poor families and ethnic minorities. As Kissane concludes, “The educational trajectories
of the five countries in this overview show a marked exacerbation of social
inequalities, and rather than education serving as equalizer, the policies and
practices of today reveal increasingly stratified and disconnected systems.”
Tempting two fates
With the exception of Kazakhstan, all Central Asian countries have witnessed
a deplorable decline of the quality of their schools and universities. Kissane’s
in-depth analysis of a specific policy area reveals that socio-economic developments are influenced by a variety of factors. While governments’ decreasing
financial resources and the lack of political will to invest in public goods have
prevented a thorough reform and improvement of the region’s education systems, other factors have played a role as well. For instance, administrative
corruption and a conservative (Soviet) mentality have undermined an effective
implementation of the few reform policies that governments have initiated. In
the end, Central Asia’s deteriorating education systems are likely to impede
economic recovery and the growth of democratic structures. Moreover,
increasing socio-economic inequality might cause political destabilization.
Alternative methods of social welfare provision may be inefficient and entail
significant corruption, yet preserving informal mechanisms is a survival technique employed to maintain Soviet system benefits when facing fiscal crisis and
the distorting impacts of marketization. The ability of nation-states to maintain
infrastructure and provide social welfare for their citizens provides interesting
answers to puzzles such as Uzbekistan’s relatively decent economic performance and Georgia’s deeper social decline (Pomfret 2003). This insight helps
contextualize Kissane’s findings of Kazakhstan as an outlier in educational
service provision.
As in evaluating political transitions, the influence of external actors on
socio-economic conditions and on cultural change more broadly is an
important aspect for study. This is especially necessary in light of arguments
that the international community can augment social welfare provision or
contribute to the marketization process that may contribute to uncertainty and
unequal access. This international influence is the starting point of analysis
for Liczek and Wandel’s chapter. Liczek and Wandel note stark differences
between Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan in internationalization of gender equality
norms. They identify a mix of Soviet and pre-Soviet cultural concepts emerging simultaneously with international pressures for “post-Soviet” Westernstyle reforms. These authors analyze how the role of Turkmen and Kyrgyz
women has changed since the early 1990s by looking specifically at the impact
of international treaties on the protection of women’s rights in the region. The
Soviet Union arguably contributed to gender equality, as women were
encouraged to participate in political and economic life. The collapse of
Soviet rule has caused the re-emergence of pre-Soviet norms in Central Asia,
promoting a subordinate role of women at home, and in the social, economic,
and political spheres. While the Kyrgyz and Turkmen governments seemingly
attempt to stem the return to pre-Soviet norms by embracing international
treaties, international norms of gender equality are only insufficiently socialized in these countries for a variety of reasons, including a revival of nationalism that is based on pre-Soviet norms and a weakly developed rule of law.
An important contribution of Liczek and Wandel’s chapter is that it begins to
move us past the binary distinctions beyond “reformed” and “unreformed”
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
regimes typically analyzed by scholars (Collier and Way 2004: 258). By
revealing the distance between Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan in internalizing
international gender norms—two unreformed countries that otherwise would
both be categorized as failing to address these issues—Liczek and Wandel
reveal the nuances of how national political will and capacity interact with
international support for reform. What has complicated matters further for
Turkmenistan is the absence of a vibrant civil society, including women’s
groups, to drive such change together with low levels of international funding
for gender programs. Hence, while discrimination against women is on the
rise throughout Central Asia, gender inequality is more pronounced in countries that are internationally more isolated. This evaluation of international
isolation is convincing. Societal explanations are a useful approach provided
by Liczek and Wandel, demonstrating for example how the public conceives
of Western rights concepts and international community assistance in this
sphere. Bayulgen’s identification of social discontent as the result of improper
governance is a key insight to be applied to the puzzles left by these national
and international level chapters.
Pomfret (2003) and Anderson and Pomfret (2002) identify the relatively
equal economic gains of female and male workers in Kyrgyzstan because of
women’s ability to gain from general university education versus vocational
education. Access to education matters and interacts with other limiting
societal factors to even out economic impacts. Pomfret (2003) notes that this
result contradicts the “fears that the position of women would decline in the
Islamic countries of Central Asia,” highlighting the simplified vision of both
gender issues and monolithic concepts of Islam.
When viewed together, the chapters by Bayulgen, Kissane, Liczek, and
Wandel provide complex answers to a seemingly simple question of whether
or not Central Eurasian countries are engaging in socio-economic reform or
not and provide better conceptualization of why differences in the region are
apparent. The lessons that can be drawn from these chapters on socio-economic
developments are manifold. First, the key to a continuous understanding of
the present lies in the Soviet and even pre-Soviet past. For instance, rising
gender inequality in Central Asia cannot be grasped without knowledge of
pre-Soviet gender norms. Second, socio-economic developments in Central
Eurasia are so multifaceted that reductionist theories will not help us much to
comprehend them. While a theory that relates the extent of economic reforms
to the level of political liberalization is elegant, it lacks empirical support
when applied to Central Eurasia. As Blackmon argues in this book, the Soviet
legacy of economic interdependence, international factors, and the beliefs of
elites are important variables that need to be taken into account.
Finally, as all authors emphasize, if we ignore the state apparatus as an
important actor, we might miss half of the story. While many social and economic policy changes have occurred in Central Eurasia, few of these have
been implemented effectively and efficiently. For example, corruption has been
a major obstacle to socio-economic reform in every Central Eurasian country.
Tempting two fates
Yet marketization processes have produced side-effects that also are disruptive
to quality of life. Clearly, there have been significant social impacts of economic change in its varied Central Eurasian forms. In short, just as political
developments in the region cannot be reduced to one or two variables, multiple factors have affected market reforms, economic growth, and the distribution of wealth in Central Eurasia. There are multiple trajectories of
transformation at work, involving pre-Soviet, Soviet, and post-Soviet differences, producing varying impacts on societies. It is through the study of these
multiple influences and trajectories that scholars are able to identify properly
the reasons for policy choices and the possibilities for future reforms.
Layout of the book
The main themes that connect the chapters in this book are threefold: the unique
and important geopolitical position in which these countries are now placed
on the international scene and the role of international actors in influencing
politics in the region; the legacy of prior institutions and the multiple varieties
of Soviet hangovers; and current and emerging policy and political challenges
and possibilities for development of unique governance approaches.
The first section “Frameworks for analysis,” including this introductory
chapter, provides the scaffolding for the book. This section’s purpose is to
elaborate theoretical debates, methodological choices, and to underscore the
importance of varying levels of analysis for a fuller understanding of Central
Eurasian politics. Chapter 2 by Wooden, Aitieva, and Epkenhans, “Working
in the field: experiences and methodologies of research in Central Eurasia,”
addresses epistemological questions and provides the analytical framework of
comparing Central Eurasian scholarship methodologies, the first analysis
of its kind.
The second section of the book, “Political contexts of transitional variations,”
provides the basis for understanding differences and similarities in regime
change, non-state actor involvement, state capacity and political will, and
conflict potential. The section begins with Chapter 3 by George, “Expecting
Ethnic Conflict: The Soviet Legacy and Ethnic Politics in the Caucasus and
Central Asia,” an historical late-Soviet period evaluation of a dominant
theme in Central Eurasian studies that is highly relevant to stalemated conflicts
and expectations of developing contestations today. This chapter explores
four case studies of Georgia, Armenia–Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh),
Kyrgyzstan–Uzbekistan–Tajikistan (Ferghana Valley), and Kazakhstan, and
examines the impact of federalist structures, elite bargaining and international
influences on conflict potential. This chapter provides the historical starting
point for the two subsequent chapters in this section, each which delve into
post-Soviet regime change attempts in the four cases evaluated by George in
Chapter 3. Chapter 4 by Way, “State power and autocratic stability: Armenia
and Georgia compared” focuses on the two most similar hybrid states of the
region, arguing for an elite focus level of analysis to understand the lack of
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
democratic reforms. Chapter 5 by McGlinchey, “Central Asian protest
movements: social forces or state resources?” moves beyond elite politics to
evaluate elite-society interactions in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
In addressing non-state actors’—opposition movement—mobilization, this
fifth chapter links the political context discussion to evaluations of the
impacts of policymaking on society.
The third section of our book, “Policymaking legacies and futures,” consists of four chapters providing evaluations of the policy challenges particular
to countries of the region in the post-Soviet period. Chapter 6 by Blackmon
explains divergent economic reforms in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan derived
from different levels of Soviet and post-Soviet economic engagement with
Russia. Chapter 7 by Bayulgen, “Caspian energy wealth: social impacts and
regional implications for stability,” problematizes the modernist perception of
positive gains from oil and gas exploration policies for economic growth and
political stability in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Moving
from economic decision making to political decision making, in Chapter 8
Waters gauges the gap between human rights commitments and actions across
a wide variety of political regimes in the region. Building on Waters’ human
rights framework discussion, Liczek and Wandel in Chapter 9, “Gender
equality norms in Central Asia,” reconnect to Bayulgen’s discussion of Turkmenistan’s international engagement in the mineral resource sector to its lack
of substantive engagement on gender policy. This chapter provides a unique
insight from a combined practitioner–scholar perspective into the reasons for
divergent incorporation of international feminist norms in Kyrgyzstan and
Turkmenistan. In Chapter 10, “Education in Central Asia: transitional challenges and impacts,” Kissane looks at the uniqueness of the post-Soviet process by analyzing the similar and differing educational policies in Central
Asian states and the resulting impact on educational attainment and outcome. This chapter concludes with policy recommendations for improving the
crucial educational foundation of countries in the region.
Our conclusion re-engages the theoretical and methodological foundations
of the first section to unifying the contributions of the chapters in sections
two and three. From these chapters, the conclusion identifies a unified set of
political, economic and social factors of transition. We thereby highlight path
dependencies and critical junctures in Central Eurasia. In doing so, we seek
to assist scholars develop new avenues of research about political change and
policy outcomes beyond overly simplified conceptions. Postulation about the
post-Soviet period and suggestions for research and policymaking are provided to move understanding and analysis of Central Eurasian politics and
policymaking to a more sophisticated level.
1 Interesting work is conducted at the borders of this frontier and region—such as in
the southern provinces of the Russian North Caucasus—but it is excluded from the
Tempting two fates
current study given the non-Russian governance orientation as a basis for postSoviet comparison.
The role of nationalism is less straightforward as this simplified summary suggests.
Timing and the extent of the “stateness” problem play an intervening role (Bunce
2003; Gill 2006).
McFaul considers Kyrgyzstan as a clear-cut case of dictatorship. This assessment is
highly questionable, as most analysts, including Freedom House, consider Kyrgyzstan
a semi-democratic regime well throughout the 1990s.
See also his analysis of Moldova (Way 2002).
See also Grodsky (2007).
While the possibility of the spread of collective action might raise some hopes for
our group of strongly authoritarian countries, Beissinger (2007) correctly points out
that the colored revolutions have prompted the dictators of Central Asia to
increase repression in order to forestall any popular uprisings. Moreover, Western
organizations have been expelled from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, as they are
considered potential supporters of the opposition.
If there was a “perpetuating dynamic of learned cooperation” that culminated in
Georgia’s Rose Revolution, it must have been of recent origin, as opposition to the
Shevardnadze regime mainly consisted of younger people who had participated
neither in the 1980s anti-communist protests nor in the demonstrations against
Georgia’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
For a discussion of Western leverages and linkages, see Levitsky and Way (2006).
See also Cornell (2002) and Roeder (1993).
See also Mansfield and Snyder (2002).
For further discussion see Smith et al. (1998).
For a discussion of the importance of governance in economic reforms, see
Kaufman et al. (2007).
Akiner, S. (1997) Central Asia: Conflict or Stability and Development? London:
Minority Rights Group.
Anderson, K.H. and Pomfret, R. (2002) “Relative Living Standards in New Market
Economies: Evidence from Central Asian Household Surveys,” Journal of Comparative
Economics, 30: 683–708.
Beissinger, M. (2007) “Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena: The
Diffusion of Bulldozer/Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions,” Perspectives on Politics, 5:
Bremmer, I.A. and Taras, R. (1993) Nation and Politics in the Soviet Successor States,
New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bunce, V. (2001) “The Postsocialist Experience and Comparative Politics,” PS, Political
Science & Politics, 34: 793–95.
——(2003) “Rethinking Recent Democratization. Lessons from the Postcommunist
Experience,” World Politics, 55: 167–92.
Burawoy, M. and Verdery, K. (1999) Uncertain Transition: Ethnographies of Change in
the Postsocialist World, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Chatrchyan, A.M. and Wooden, A. (2005) “Linking Rule of Law and Environmental
Policy Reform in Armenia and Georgia,” in C.P.M. Waters (ed.) The State of Law
in the South Caucasus, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Collier, S.J. and Way, L. (2004) “Beyond the Deficit Model: Social Welfare in Post-Soviet
Georgia,” Post-Soviet Affairs, 20: 258–84.
C.H. Stefes and A.E. Wooden
Cornell, S.E. (2002) “Autonomy as a Source of Conflict. Caucasian Conflicts in
Theoretical Perspective,” World Politics, 54: 245–76.
Dikkaya, M. and Kales, I. (2006), “A Case Study of Foreign Direct Investment in
Kyrgyzstan,” Central Asian Survey, 25: 149–56.
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2007) Transition Report 2007:
People in Transition, London: EBRD.
Freedom House (2008) “Freedom in the World: The Annual Survey of Political Rights
and Civil Liberties.” < = 15. > (accessed
17 July 2008).
Fuhrmann, M. (2006) “A Tale of Two Social Capitals Revolutionary Collective Action
in Kyrgyzstan,” Problems of Post-Communism, 53: 16–29.
Gans-Morse, J. (2004) “Searching for Transitologists: Contemporary Theories of PostCommunist Transitions and the Myth of a Dominant Paradigm,” Post-Soviet
Affairs, 20: 320–49.
Gel’man, V. (2003) “Post-Soviet Transitions and Democratization: Towards Theory
Building,” Democratization, 10: 87–104.
Gill, G. (2006) “Nationalism and the Transition to Democracy: The Post-Soviet
Experience,” Demokratizatsiya, 14: 613–26.
Gleason, G. (1997) The Central Asian States: Discovering Independence, Boulder:
Westview Press.
Grodsky, B. (2007) “Resource Dependency and Political Opportunity: Explaining the
Transformation from Excluded Political Opposition Parties to Human Rights
Organizations in Post-Communist Uzbekistan,” Government and Opposition, 42:
Grzymala-Busse, A. and Jones Luong, P. (2002) “Reconceptualizing the State: Lessons
from Post-Communism,” Politics & Society, 30: 529–54.
Hellman, J.S. (1998) “Winners Take All: The Politics of Partial Reform in Postcommunist Transitions,” World Politics, 50: 203–34.
Jones Luong, P. (ed.) (2004) The Transformation of Central Asia: States and Societies
from Soviet Rule to Independence, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Katz, M. N. (2006) “Revolutionary Change in Central Asia,” World Affairs, 168:
——(2007) “Will There Be Revolution in Central Asia?” Communist and PostCommunist Studies, 40: 129–41.
Kaufman, D., Kraay, A. and Mastruzzi, M. (2007) Governance Matters VI: Aggregate
and Individual Governance Indicators, 1996–2006. World Bank Policy Research
Working Paper 4280, Washington, DC: World Bank.
Kubicek, P. (2000) “Post-communist Political Studies: Ten Years Later, Twenty Years
Behind?” Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 33: 295–309.
Levitsky, S. and Way, L. (2006). “Linkage versus Leverage: Rethinking the International
Dimension of Regime Change,” Comparative Politics, 38: 379–400.
McFaul, M. (2002) “The Fourth Wave of Democracy and Dictatorship. Noncooperative
Transitions in the Postcommunist World,” World Politics, 54: 212–44.
——(2005) “Transitions from Postcommunism.” Journal of Democracy, 16: 5–19.
Mansfield, E.D. and Snyder, R. (2002) “Democratic Transitions, Institutional
Strength, and War,” International Organization, 56: 297–337.
Merkel, W. and Croissant, A. (2000) “Formal Institutions and Informal Rules of
Defective Democracies,” Central European Political Science Review, 2: 31–47.
Mitchell, L. (2004). “Georgia’s Rose Revolution,” Current History, October: 342–48.
Tempting two fates
O’Donnell, G.A. and Schmitter, P.C. (1986) Transitions from Authoritarian Rule,
Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Olcott, M.B. (2005a) Central Asia’s Second Chance, Washington, DC: Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.
——(2005b) “Lessons of the Tulip Revolution. Testimony before Commission on
Security and Cooperation in Europe,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Pomfret, R. (2003) Central Asia Since 1991: The Experience of the New Independent
States, Working Paper No. 212, July, Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD) Development Centre.
Radnitz, S. (2006) “What Really Happened in Kyrgyzstan?” Journal of Democracy, 17:
Roeder, P.G. (1993) Red Sunset: The Failure of Soviet Politics, Princeton: Princeton
University Press.
Sartori, G. (1970) “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics,” American Political
Science Review, 64: 1033–53.
Sievers, E.W. (2003) The Post-Soviet Decline of Central Asia: Sustainable Development
and Comprehensive Capital, New York: RoutledgeCurzon.
Skocpol, T. (1979) States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France,
Russia, and China, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, G., Law, V., Wilson, A., Bohr, A. and Allworth, E. (1998) Nation-building in the
Post-Soviet Borderlands: The Politics of National Identities, New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Stefes, C.H. (2005) “Clash of Institutions: Clientelism and Corruption vs. Rule of
Law,” in C.P.M. Waters (ed.) The State of Law in the South Caucasus, New York:
Palgrave Macmillan.
——(2006) Understanding Post-Soviet Transitions: Corruption, Collusion and Clientelism,
New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
United Nations Development Programme (2006) Human Development Report 2006,
New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
——(2007) Human Development Report 2007, New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Verdery, K. (1996) What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? Princeton: Princeton
University Press.
Way, L. A. (2002) “Pluralism by Default in Moldova,” Journal of Democracy, 13:
——(2005) “Authoritarian State Building and the Sources of Regime Competitiveness
in the Fourth Wave. The Cases of Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine,” World
Politics, 57: 231–61.
——and Levitsky, S. (2006) “The Dynamics of Autocratic Coercion after the Cold
War,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 39: 387–410.
Weinthal, E. (2004) “Beyond the State: Transnational Actors, NGOs, and Environmental Protection in Central Asia,” in P. Jones Luong (ed.) The Transformation of
Central Asia: States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence, Ithaca: Cornell
University Press.
Wooden, A. E. (2004) “The Nexus Between Environmental Policy and Human Rights
in Central Asia,” Harvard Asia Quarterly, 8: 14–31.
World Bank (2002) Growth Challenges and Government Policies in Armenia,
Washington, DC: World Bank.
——(2007) “Governance Matters 2007.” <
wgi2007/ > (accessed 17 July 2008).
Revealing order in the chaos
Field experiences and methodologies
of political and social research on
Central Eurasia1
Amanda E. Wooden, Medina Aitieva,
and Tim Epkenhans
Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.
George Santayana
It is the job of the well-informed researcher to reveal the order in the chaos of
what we call the world. It is the job of research methods to facilitate such a
revelation of order.
Singleton, Straits and Straits
Social science methodological training is notorious for its taxing effect on
graduate students. The type of training varies greatly from institution to
institution within disciplines and within countries and certainly across disciplinary boundaries and continents. Despite graduate student griping, methodological training in its varied forms is accepted as crucial to preparing
future scholars. It is deemed important to becoming “professional,” that is, to
conducting research that is reliable, verifiable, and comparable. Methodological considerations determine what scholars will research, what questions they
will seek to answer, and how they will conduct that research. In identifying
what Central Eurasian political and social studies are all about, it is important to understand how we research the region, why, and in what ways
research could be better conducted in the future.
Observers often remark that research on the politics of Central Asia and
the Caucasus (Central Eurasia) is driven primarily by concerns of policy
relevance or donor interests and often lacks methodological or theoretical
rigor. The state of theoretical advancement in studies of the region was
addressed in Chapter 1; the chapters to follow evaluate specific topics of politics and policy in depth. The level of methodological rigor in regional political and social studies is a separate and trickier question to tackle and thus
serves as the framing concern for this chapter.
Disciplinary debates about “appropriate” and “proper” methodological
training are beyond the scope of this article. Given the complicated nature of
these debates in a transdisciplinary area studies context, we begin this
exploratory evaluation of research methodology by identifying possible trends
Revealing order in the chaos
in scholars’ training and perceptions. Thus, the first question we seek to
answer is: what kind of training are students of the region receiving and how
are they using it?
Moving beyond description of the state of Central Eurasian research
methodology, we seek to address the following set of framing questions. How
do variations in political context, material conditions, professional training,
and funding opportunities affect local and foreign scholarship differently?
What research ethics and standards questions have been raised by the conduct
of scholarship in the region? How do research values determine research
question formulation and research design choices? How important are policy
relevance and “hot topic” study as research values to scholars and what
impact do these values have on the quality of scholarship? Is something
unique emerging in how scholars of Central Eurasia are using methods to
study political issues and what is influencing this?
In this chapter, we provide the first published pilot survey analysis of
scholarship on Central Eurasia in order to begin answering these questions.
This chapter offers insight into the intellectual process of researching, living,
and working in the region, as well as what politics in the region (and globally)
means for research. It is an investigation into political science research as well
as research of the political and the social, thereby crossing disciplinary
boundaries and seeking to capture some broader social science approaches
and topics. This chapter will inform readers of the process by which empirical
work in the region is undertaken, as well as the problems that scholars face
and the strategies they use to resolve such research issues. Both researchers
from the region and outside it were polled (36 per cent and 64 per cent of
total survey respondents, respectively); thus, crucial local–foreign perspectives
are addressed. Important issues explored include: research standards and
ethics (e.g., maintaining source confidentiality and the effects on research of
scholar’s intimacy with government officials); and the conditions and restrictions of fieldwork. Issues evaluated also include what policy relevance means
to scholars and policymakers; the frustrations of data collection and its limiting
effect on research sophistication; and the transdisciplinary and transnational
networks that are emerging among scholars of the region.
We first discuss the methodology of this study, which in itself is useful for
understanding research limitations and possibilities. We then turn to a discussion of the foundations of scholarship focusing on Central Eurasia,
including the training of scholars and the uniqueness of the post-Soviet
scholarly generation. This is followed by a general literature review on Central
Eurasian research methodology debates and an evaluation of the context in
which scholars plan and conduct research. To illustrate the variety of working
methods and evaluate lessons learned from their use, the authors of this
chapter provide a review and critique of the approaches to studying their
particular areas of expertise: gender, Islam, and environmental politics. Each
case evaluates the methodologies of research on those particular topics and
addresses one of the main themes of this chapter. The gender studies section
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
addresses foreign–local scholarship differences. The Islamic studies section
addresses research ethics. The environmental politics section addresses how
research is affected by political change and the need for transdisciplinary
approaches to research. These cases include targeted analyses of the pilot
survey results of 59 Central Eurasia studies research respondents.2 Our
expectations were that there are identifiable differences in how local and foreign scholars of the region have been trained, in their roles in the research
process and independence of research, and in the extent to which funding and
values drive research decisions. These expectations were generally supported,
yet with several surprising results, especially in the qualitative responses.
Summaries of the qualitative responses are woven in throughout the chapter,
providing the bridge from our general discussion to our statistical analysis.
The chapter concludes with guidelines for addressing criticisms raised in the
general and three topical literature reviews and from the results of our analysis. Our goal is that this first statistical survey of the state of the field will
help to raise visibility of the importance of Central Eurasia studies, deepen
and broaden the theoretical insights and methodological techniques used by
scholars, and provide guidance to students along their path to discovering
how to study the politics of the region.
Research design
This study employed a combination of qualitative and quantitative research
methods to address our research questions more fully. These included a pilot
snowball survey conducted between December 2006 and January 2007, citation analysis, literature reviews, and more than 25 structured, semi-structured,
and unstructured interviews (in person and via email). Self-administered
questionnaires in Russian and English were sent directly to four academic and
professional listservs (which provide information for Central Eurasian academic
and practitioner audiences) and individually to three academic and social
networks of the authors representing three different disciplines and regions
(Central Eurasia, North America, and Europe).3 A convenience sampling was
used and prospective respondents were identified through the authors’ social
networks and snowball sampling (requesting respondents to forward the survey
to other relevant scholars). We received more than 60 responses (a favorable
response rate for a pilot survey but not necessarily representative of the larger
population and not statistically accurate) out of which we used 59 successfully
completed questionnaires for analysis. Moreover, to gain an in-depth understanding of issues partially addressed in the questionnaire, the researchers
followed up with face-to-face targeted interviews and informal meetings.
Composed of nearly 40 closed and open-ended questions, the questionnaire
was divided into several sections to cover topics on: scholars’ discipline and
training; methodology training and use; research project types and sources of
funding; ethical issues and research limitations; and other broader issues that
affect research activity in the region. Table 2.1 displays the descriptive
Revealing order in the chaos
characteristics of our survey respondents; they represent 19 countries of origin,4
including all Central Asian states and the Caucasus (except for Georgia), and
18 disciplines, with International Relations/Political Science, Area Studies,
and Sociology the most popular.5
Methodological challenges
The data collection represented a rigorous search for both foreign and local
scholars, but there are several limitations to consider in our interpretations.6
One of them is that we did not receive responses from Georgian scholars.
Also, as all authors resided in Kyrgyzstan at the beginning of the survey dissemination, the sample is biased towards Kyrgyzstani scholars (or more
scholars from Kyrgyzstan were responsive). The largest number of responses
is from US scholars, as a majority of the networks utilized for identification
and distribution are US based and one of the authors lived in the US during
the second half of the survey’s administration. Initial data collection problems
of identifying Central Eurasian scholars were addressed through this pilot
Table 2.1 Characteristics of respondents (no./%)
Age (mean)
Highest degree received
Bachelor of Arts
Master of Arts
Graduate student (includes PhD
student, doctoral student, MA)
International organization
Independent researcher (include
here consultant)
Private company research
Non-governmental organization/
non-profit researcher/staff
(includes administration)
Governmental agency researcher
Primary affiliation
Secondary affiliation
Source: CCA Research Methodologies Survey 2007 by authors.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
survey format. Thus a main purpose of this research project was to identify
needs and weaknesses of the questionnaire in order to design a more effective
and comprehensive survey of scholars in the future.
Chapter themes: the foundation of Central Eurasian scholarship
The obvious starting point to assess the state of Central Eurasian research
methodology is to analyze what scholars report about their methodological
training and how they use it in practice. For the purposes of this chapter, we
define methodology in the social science, particularly comparative, sense.
Social science methodologists identify different research design groupings,
such as Bryman’s (2004) experimental, cross-sectional or survey, longitudinal,
case study, and comparative. Given the limitations for quantitative research
on Central Asia discussed below, we consider a more qualitatively oriented set
of categories following Singleton et al. (1988): experiments; surveys; field
research; and use of available data.7 However, area studies skills, such as
research language functionality and humanities methods (primarily anthropological and historical methods, hermeneutic and constructivist approaches,
cultural and critical studies, discourse analysis, etc.) are important and influential for the studies of politics in the region, thus our assessment includes
these skills and methods as identified by our survey respondents.8
It is important to explore how influences on research have changed or are
changing. As most graduate students and young scholars of today have been
taught by Soviet scholars or Sovietologists—or taught by scholars trained by
either—Soviet and Sovietological approaches still significantly influence current Central Eurasian scholars. For several reasons, there has emerged an
opportunity to break from previous approaches, develop a unique Central
Eurasia literature, and perhaps begin to develop a unique scholarly approach.
In this thematic section, we focus on three categories of influences: scholars,
professional networks, and funding sources.
A break from past approaches begins to be evident by looking at the
scholars influencing today’s researchers, as indicated by our survey respondents:
a list of the most influential scholars is included in Appendix I. A large portion
of these influential scholars is under the age of 40 and many of them started
publishing only after 1991. How our respondents identify themselves—with
which discipline or area studies region—is also insightful. Twenty-four of our
respondents (a large minority) self-identify as area studies scholars (Table
2.2); of those, the majority identify with the Central Eurasia region rather
than the former Soviet Union (area studies is the second largest discipline
identified after International Relations/Political Science4).
The main regional language studied by most of our foreign respondents
remains Russian. Likewise, about 86 per cent of local scholar respondents
felt more competent to conduct research in Russian than their own language.9
Although language study, professional affiliations, and influences from
Russia and Soviet-period trained teachers and mentors remain, scholars are
Revealing order in the chaos
identifying with the region as distinct from the broader former Soviet Union
(Table 2.3).
A second important influence in developing a particular and unique identity is networking connections separate from the Soviet and Russian-centered
associations and networks. In the immediate post-Soviet period and since,
scholars of Central Eurasia—the Caucasus, South and North, in particular—
may not have been as engaged in region-specific professional associations
and field networks as their academic counterparts studying Russia and the
north-western successor states; thus, they have developed solitary approaches
to their studies (King 2007). There are important exceptions to this perception of solitary approaches, such as a well-developed network of Georgia
scholars and a separate identity and network of Armenia scholars.10 Also, the
emergence of the Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS) has provided a
smaller, more narrowly defined network of professionals. Fifteen (26 per cent)
of our respondents are members of CESS, two are members of AAASS
(American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies), and one an
ASN member (Association for the Studies of Nationalities).11 This can be
considered a shift for some Caucasus and Central Asian scholars from the
Table 2.2 Distribution of researchers by discipline
Area studies
Regional studies
Central Asia (Studies)
Central Eurasia (including Central Asia and Caucasus or Middle East)
Caucasus (Southern or all)
Former Soviet union (including post-Soviet region or CIS)
Middle East
Source: CCA Research Methodologies Survey 2007 by authors.
Table 2.3 Scholars’ most competent research language
Per cent of
Per cent of
Source: CCA Research Methodologies Survey 2007 by authors.
1 Some respondents listed more than one language.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
most-prominent (as well as Russo centric) Soviet studies and post-Soviet studies professional associations to the much newer associations focused on the
Central Eurasian region.12
A third important influence to identify is that of research funding distribution, particularly field research for non-regional scholars and donor-driven
research for regional scholars. Although US field-based scholarship on the
region started to be publicly supported in the early 1970s (in 1972–73 the first
independent research fellowships were given) by the International Research
and Exchanges Board (IREX) (and later American Councils for International
Education ACTR/ACCELS and others), funding was still given overwhelmingly to study the Russian and European republics rather than Central
Eurasia (Paxson and Ruble 2007).13 For scholars within the region, several
organizations and programs have had a major influence by providing consistent financial support, especially Open Society Institute (OSI—part of the
Soros Foundation), the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Eurasia
Partnership Foundation through the Caucasus Research Resource Centers
(CRRC) (Table 2.4).
In response to the lack of Georgian responses and the bias in representation
of Central Asian scholars in this survey, information about research methodology development in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan was gathered by
Table 2.4 Funding sources
Funding Sources
University or institute
Fulbright, Fulbright–Hayes
Government Sources, Foundations
SOROS Foundation
ACTR/ACCELS or State Dept Title VIII
UN System Organizations
British Council, DFID, ESRC UK
NGO, International
European Union
FLAS Scholarship
NGO, Local
Swiss NSR, Helvetas
US National Science Foundation
Kennan Institute
Source: CCA Research Methodologies Survey 2007 by authors.
Per cent
Revealing order in the chaos
interview (Gutbrod 2008). Overall, Gutbrod assesses research capacities as
visibly increasing in all three Caucasus countries. He notes continuing limitations such as development of the peer review process and variation among
the three in terms of availability of local researchers with methodological
skills and political impacts on information access. Azerbaijan is evaluated
as the weakest of the three, demonstrated by the relatively few fellowship
applications to CRRC from that country.
A major critique of research conducted within the region—and a major
worry voiced by regional scholars—is dependence on donors and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for research funding. Thus,
the level of donor research dependence, the research values identified by
regional scholars related to financing, and the impact of this dependence for
different stages of research are important to consider.
Starting with foundational questions of methodology training and use, plus
assessment of the three categories of influences noted, we shall provide a
preliminary analysis of the state of Central Eurasia research methodology.
Based on these framing questions, our chapter’s working propositions are
fivefold. First, methodological training among Central Eurasia scholars is
diverse, yet research in practice does not reflect that diversity. Second, weak
research standards (that are not uniform within disciplines) have become
problematic as research design often interacts with and is driven by funding
and relevance considerations. Third, many scholars define their work—the
questions they ask and how they research—by the topic’s “policy relevance”
or as a “hot topic,” yet practitioners find such research lacking in insight for
decision making and seek work that reflects more detailed and rigorous data.
Fourth, local–foreign differences are stark, but both groups share in limitations imposed by differing financing, political and other constraints. Fifth, a
Central Eurasia-specific network is slowly developing apart from Russo-centric
(dominated) networks, and the transdisciplinary and transboundary nature of
these networks is an important influence on younger scholars. The next section will include a general literature review and evaluation of the overall
research process problems facing our survey respondents, to be followed by
three case studies analyzing our chapters’ propositions and examining our
survey and interview responses in greater detail.
Literature review and research process evaluation
In the Soviet era, limited access to information, official information manipulation, and misrepresentation of statistics for strategic purposes seriously
hampered social science approaches and continue to be a problem for pursuing
data collection today.14 These access and misrepresentation problems hindered
the development of Sovietology methodology in the West and choked academic freedom in the Soviet Union (Ulam 1976). In the Soviet era, discussions about epistemology were held between practitioners within disciplines.15
One prominent Western methodology of researching politics, “Kremlinology,”
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
emphasized observable and surmised leadership changes and the psychology
of decision-making. The “behavioralist versus institutionalist” methodological
debate found more broadly in the social sciences was briefly part of the dialogue about how to study the region in the 1960s and 1970s (for example,
Kanet, 1971), yet has not been a primary topic of discussion since that time.16
Studies of Central Eurasian politics did not emerge until the 1980s, along
with public Soviet commentary of center–republic relations during that period.
This slow development and lack of a parallel political science discipline in the
Soviet Union impeded the evolution of political and public policy studies of
the region both within and from without.17 As our case studies demonstrate,
political analyses of Central Eurasia more often were qualitative field research
based. Anthropological and historical methods were utilized in the 1970s and
1980s to augment the dearth of reliable statistics, limitations of conducting
survey analysis, and barriers to accessing the decision-making process. Often
Western scholars accessed information through networks of Soviet expatriates
in Europe (Feshbach 2007).
In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, interest arose among the
social sciences in improving the methods by which politics of the successor
states were to be studied, spurred by self-flagellation concerning the failure to
predict the collapse. While few scholars explicitly debated methods (an exception is Graham and Kantor 2007), methodology has been a discussion in
scholarly circles over the last 18 years.18 While recent publications about how
Central Eurasia is, could, or should be studied are limited, discussions about
this topic have emerged in professional associations, including a roundtable
discussion at the Central Eurasian Studies Society in 2006 and in the Soyuz
“Post-Communist Cultural Studies Interest Group,” which emerged from the
American Anthropological Association (AAA) in the early 1990s and became
a formal unit of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic
Studies (AAASS) in 2005 (Paxson and Ruble 2007).19 Since 1991, the methodological approaches of most scholars of politics and policies have been
qualitative, as access to adequate and reliable quantitative data sources
remain limited. Among qualitative approaches, survey-based methods have
slowly developed into an important tool in the region—much like in the study
of Russia and the Baltics. Questions of sufficiency of local scholars’ methodological training have also served as a primary basis for international educational support programs in the region since 1991 (such as Civic Education
Project (CEP), Central Asia Applied Research Network (CAARN), Eurasia
Foundation-Caucasus Research Resource Centers, IREX, etc.).
Although many respondents agreed that the state of research on and in the
region has improved significantly since the 1990s, a number of obstacles to
maturation of Central Eurasian research were noted. Research on the region
compared with the rest of the world was seen as less satisfactory, with work on
Turkmenistan particularly lagging. Scholars, both foreign and local, face stress
from the political context. The emergence of a new generation of young foreign
scholars with increased access to conduct solid field-based interdisciplinary
Revealing order in the chaos
work was noted as positive. Likewise, because of increased international
funding, more local scholars are receiving training in Western research methods and are beginning to be involved in developing independent research
agendas. However, local researchers still lack resources, methodological tools
and opportunities to share best practices, and the language skills needed to
compete for research funding internationally. Although foreign scholars have
the advantage of being better prepared to fund, conduct, and present research,
they are perceived as out of touch with local contexts and realities, ignorant
of historical literature, and overly reliant on easy methods, such as interviews
and internet-based information, as opposed to large-scale surveys or other
methods requiring significant time, local knowledge, and local (non-Russian)
language skills. Local scholarship has been mainly affected by the absence of
academic standards, scarcity of funding, and insufficient training in social
research methods. In addition, much published research is not accessible to
the interested local audience. Therefore, Central Eurasia scholarship is dominated and dependent on Western expertise when local researchers are led and
financially supported by foreign colleagues, although the latter were defined
by local respondents as increasingly knowledgeable and committed colleagues.
General problems in the Central Eurasian research process
We received diverse survey responses regarding the problems and limitations
researchers of Central Eurasia face in conducting field research, including the
dearth of literature, lack of access to archives, lack of access to respondents,
language constraints, issues of confidentiality and anonymity, ethical dilemmas, and inapplicable research tools. Both local and foreign researchers
expressed their frustration over access to respondents and particular concern
about the reliability of the information they gathered from subjects. Other
concerns had to do with locating respondents while observing strict sampling
guidelines. This is a concern also raised by Heidelbach (2005) reporting on
Volkswagen Foundation supported field research and by the CRRC; for the
latter, the lack of available and reliable census data is problematic for conducting household and individual surveys in all three Caucasus countries
(Gutbrod 2008). As social science research and surveying are relatively new
concepts in most of the post-Soviet states, people are generally reluctant to
share their experiences or to “give away” information; this is likely a consequence of being raised in a surveillance society. People living in a village or
a small town may be more willing to spend time with researchers because of
their openness to guests and a less formalized lifestyle, although some scholars argue the opposite. Neither should differences between urban and rural
residents’ receptiveness to research be minimized, nor varying researchers’
perceptions of approachability.
The most sensitive issue of any research and the headache for almost all
respondents was making sure that subjects are not harmed. This was tied to
subjects’ own fears of sharing their opinions and researchers’ concern to
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
assure respondents that their answers would remain confidential—a question
both of ethics and of the veracity of the responses. Some of the “ethical issues”
troubling scholars had to do with the barter tactics to which researchers felt
compelled to resort. They felt they were expected to help or provide assistance to the local community in one way or another in exchange for doing
research or gaining data.20 Our results show that 14 out of 41 respondents felt
that their findings were adapted to reflect the needs of customers. This raises
serious issues of credibility. Besides ethical dilemmas, researchers talked at
length about a number of other restrictions—for example, time limitations
and tight deadlines in conducting research. This concern is in part an interaction of budget constraints during fieldwork and time off from employment
for local scholars or time available to conduct research abroad for foreign
In evaluating research conditions in Kazakhstan, Heidelbach (2005: 46)
concludes that:
Field research is always a complex process involving many contextual
factors, discontinuities, negotiations, and compromises. Comprehending
cultural and historical peculiarities of the research area, learning how local
institutions function, and being willing to adapt personally to new circumstances that affect planning and negotiation strategies are key qualifications for conducting successful data surveys, especially in transition
and developing countries.
In dealing with the above field research limitations, our survey respondents
employed strategies such as changing research designs to better address their
research goals and objectives or relying on international organizations reports
for baseline quantitative data to be investigated through qualitative research
such as interviews. Foreign researchers in particular found it helpful to learn
the local culture and languages, to immerse themselves in the target society. A
common denominator across our respondents in the initial stages of research
design and data collection was the use of established networks; cooperating
with local researchers and colleagues who could assist in making culturally
appropriate translations and gathering data. Overall, our respondents indicated the need to remain flexible and creative in responding to numerous
limitations and changing contexts, learning and developing methodologies
while in the process of conducting research (Radnitz 2007).
The three critical literature reviews to follow—the study of gender, Islam,
and environmental politics—illustrate how scholarship on these topics has
changed with changing political realities over the last 18 years, and in comparison with the late Soviet era. The issue of local–foreign scholarship
raised by our survey respondents is evaluated in the first of our literature
cases on gender studies, with standards and ethics of research and data limitations evaluated by the Islamic studies and environmental politics cases to
Revealing order in the chaos
The study of gender in the region: local and foreign perspectives
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, gender research became a hot topic.21
The zhenskii vopros (woman question), the Soviet phrase for the issue of
women’s emancipation and advancement, has been slowly replaced by
gendernye problemy (gender issues/problems) and/or gendernye issledovaniia
(gender research). The change of terms did not reflect a change in the gender
issues discussed. Gender roles were still viewed as “given” and “fixed,” and
not analyzed in terms of how those roles are socially constructed.22 The rise
of gender research reflects more than a simple need to fill in missing data on
women’s issues since the fall of communism. The growing gap between men’s
and women’s living standards in these countries raised interest in the economic, political, social, and cultural dimensions of post-Soviet change.
Gender research initiatives increased in the post-Soviet space. Foreign scholars and researchers led the way, emphasizing comparisons of pre and posttransition statistical data.23 Interest in gender research is likely to grow,
though the quality of gender analyses has not improved much in the last 18
years. This section will evaluate the state of research on gender issues in
Central Eurasia, incorporating the qualitative responses of 13 scholars (22 per
cent of our survey respondents) who identified themselves as pursuing
“gender studies.” The focus will be on the material conditions affecting Central Eurasian scholarship and how local and foreign scholars’ perspectives are
affected by their different professional training, political context, and funding
Gender research topics
The impact of the economic change of the early 1990s was far worse for
women than for men according to the consensus of scholars. In one of the
earlier analyses of women’s condition in the post-Soviet space, Buckley (1997:
4; see also Paci 2002) emphasized that women were the “victims of the transition.” Although Buckley cautioned that men have also “suffered” during the
transition, there were serious differences between the transition’s impact on
men and women. Since the early 1990s researchers have investigated topics
including poverty and unemployment, violence against women (domestic
violence and other culturally specific practices such as bride kidnapping, selfimmolation, etc.), human trafficking, health issues (abortion and reproductive
rights), education, under-representation of women in politics, gender and
Islam, changes in the institutions of family and marriage (matrimonial strategies,
early marriages, polygamy, etc.), the role of local communities (mahallas or
meheles) on gender relations, and transition period coping strategies and
mechanisms.24 International governmental organizations, NGOs, and public
foundations (including the World Bank, UN institutions, Open Society Institute, USAID, and others) launched the first attempts to introduce gender
issues into policy decisions in the newly emerging nation-states. This trend
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
effectively set the agenda for gender research, as the Communist Party did
before the involvement of the international community (Kamp 2003).25
In an assessment of local gender researchers’ work, Tartakovskaya (2006b)
notes that these scholars arrive at strikingly similar conclusions despite the
different approaches and methods used and the variation in gender relations
across the Central Eurasian region. Two distinct attitudes toward gender in
the post-Soviet states were found in this work. On the one hand, in order to
gain international acknowledgement and to be seen as “advanced” and
“civilized,” Central Eurasian leaders were ready to sign and ratify international agreements on the elimination of gender discrimination. On the other
hand, gender egalitarianism was perceived by elites as imposed and alien to
national traditions (Tartakovskaya, 2006b: 4–5). In Chapter 9 of this book
Liczek and Wandel present both the tangible outcomes and significant limitations of implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.
The principal explanatory factor for gender differences in these nationstates after socialism remains socio-economics which determines the life strategies pursued by men and women. An increase in early marriages in Azerbaijan, for example, has more to do with growing poverty than with the
religious revival offered as an explanation by local politicians (Abasov and
Kasumova 2006: 24–25). Bride kidnapping and polygamy have increased since
the collapse of the Soviet Union in Kazakhstan (Werner 2004), Kyrgyzstan
(Kleinbach et al. 2005) and Georgia (Umar 2007) and can take overtly violent forms (Azimova 2006; Ibraeva 2006). A Human Rights Watch (2006)
report on domestic violence notes that a significant number of Kyrgyz women
regularly report to shelters with problems related to unregistered polygynous
marriages (e.g., property and child custody rights arising from the illegality of
the union) (10–11).26 Regional media, governmental agencies, NGOs and
international organizations have focused on human trafficking, the global
trade of women and girls in Central Eurasia, the fastest-growing form of
organized crime in the world.27 Pearce (2006) identifies factors in the direct
relationship between the reduction of state welfare spending and the “feminization of poverty” in Central Asia (a conclusion that also applies equally to
the Caucasus). These issues include increased unemployment affecting more
vulnerable female heads of household, reduced maternity leave provisions and
availability of childcare, limited protection of minimum wages, and health
insurance coverage.28
Research capacity
Given the rich gender research opportunities in these nation-states, it is
necessary to understand what scholars face when studying these issues. One of
the major differences between local and foreign gender scholarship on gender
is the professional advantage of foreign scholars. Gender studies and rigorous
methodological training were not integrated into Soviet academia so local
Revealing order in the chaos
scholars lack the skills and tools of Western investigators. Local scholars tend
to rely more on descriptive and ethnographic approaches in their investigation
of the relationship between culture and gender. In looking at work by local
scholars in the early 1990s, Ibraeva (2007) suggests that without clear research
specializations these scholars investigated any topical issue, from health to
poverty to privatization to environmental issues. They also depended on
international organizations, grants, and private company research support, so
very few of them had autonomy in conducting their research.
Foreign scholars and local scholars with Western degrees differ markedly
because of more rigorous methodological training. These scholars have better
research skills despite their geographical, linguistic, and cultural disadvantages.
This is evident in Table 2.5, where we see distinct differences in methodological
training among gender studies scholars. There is a disparity in professional
degrees. More foreign scholars have PhDs. This also explains the higher mean
number of academic publications and generally better professional preparation
and knowledge of research methods. Foreign scholars have experience with all
types of research and all seven foreign scholars engaged in all research stages.
In qualitative responses, foreign scholars unanimously mentioned graduate
school courses and fieldwork as sources of research methods knowledge. In
contrast, half of the local scholar respondents referred to international organization trainings though International NGO Training and Research Center
(INTRAC), OSI, Central Asian Resource Center (CARC), Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of the Independent States (TACIS) in addition
to graduate school courses abroad. As far as professional development, our
survey shows that foreign gender studies scholars are likely to attend the
CESS conferences (four out of seven respondents) given that it takes place
primarily in the USA. While fewer local scholars could afford international
conferences, they attend OSI-funded events (three out of six respondents).
Some local researchers have improved their skills by working with visiting
foreign scholars and “the internationalization of gender issues” (Kamp 2003).
Studying bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan illustrates some of the differences
in local–foreign perspectives about conducting research. Amsler and Kleinbach (1999 and subsequently Kleinbach 2003; Kleinbach et al. 2005; Kleinbach and Salimjanova 2007) initiated a large-scale study of this criminal
behavior that many Kyrgyz regard as part of their tradition. In addition,
Lom’s (2004) film, for PBS Frontline World, Bride Kidnapping, showed men
and women in Kyrgyzstan engaged in this practice. This film generated much
discussion among scholars over the issue of bride kidnapping as well as the
ethical implications of gathering data and potential harm to subjects as a
result of research. In response, a roundtable at CESS in 2004 was dedicated to research ethics as a stand-alone topic. This case is exemplary of how
foreign perspectives of the bride-kidnapping practice raised questions about
research ethics. These questions enabled a collaborative group of scholars to
reach a wider audience raising public consciousness and generating valuable
discussions about methodology.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
Table 2.5 Responses by local–foreign status for gender studies scholars (no./%)
Type of methodology
Only qualitative
Only quantitative
Research stages
Field research
Literature review
Research design
Data collection
Data analysis
Report writing
Funding sources
University or institute
Government sources (various)
ACTR/ACCELS or State Dept Title VIII
Carnegie Melon
FLAS Scholarship
Fulbright, Fulbright-Hayes
International governmental organizations
NGO, international
Private sources, foundation
Soros Foundation
Bachelor of Arts
Master of Arts
Mean number of publications
Research findings were adapted to
customers’ expectations
Local scholars
Foreign scholars
Source: CCA Research Methodologies Survey 2007 by authors.
The gaps separating local and foreign researchers clearly indicate a need for
further internationalization and institutionalization of regional research. It is
clear that these variations exist because of disparities in preparation and
training for research. This disparity explains “the methodological trauma”
(Ibraeva 2007) and feelings of inadequacy experienced by local researchers
who lack the skills and confidence needed to conduct independent work and
Revealing order in the chaos
submit it to peer-reviewed publications. During interviews, experts noted that
much research conducted by local scholars does not get beyond the report
stage because the scholars are self-consciousness about shaky methodology. It
would be useful for local scholars to share their frustrations—whether they
are linguistic, political, ethical, or methodological. Research on gender in the
Central Eurasian region—as well as on any other topic—would benefit from
an awareness of the conditions that shape the production of knowledge in the
region. Given these restrictions, the immature institutionalization of local
scholarship prevents academics in the region from engaging in valid research
and becoming social theorists. These restrictions also encourage local academics to follow research agendas shaped by funding organizations and
political realities, instead of pursuing their own research questions.
Researching Islam in Central Eurasia: standards, ethics and
understudied topics29
In recent years, research on the politics of Islam in Central Eurasia has significantly increased, especially among political scientists, sociologists, and
anthropologists, even though only a few of these scholars have a background
in religious studies or Islamic studies.30 This case seeks to evaluate two different approaches to studying Islam—as high politics or social politics—and
the methods best utilized by each approach. While high politics focuses on
state and elite discourse on Islam, social politics is predominately concerned
with daily religious and social practices of Muslim communities. Political
considerations in the region and in foreign scholars’ home countries greatly
impact this research area. At present, Islam in Central Eurasia is most prominently evaluated as high politics and a dominant “danger discourse” has
emerged in this field of study, stressing radical Islam as a destabilizing influence. The ethical, methodological, and epistemological concerns emerging
from policy-driven research agendas are the focus of this case.
The historical approach to studying Islam as divided from political life is
important to keep in mind in evaluating modern research on Islam in the
region. Islamic studies research was originally embedded in Oriental studies,
most often as philological work inspired by German historicism.31 Orientalist
scholars such as Barthold (1956) deemed “Islam” in Central Asia an autonomous anthropological entity having minimal engagement in political and
social reforms. The study of Islam was limited in the twentieth century by the
ascendance of Soviet academic and cultural politics and the intentional isolation of the Soviet system, which significantly hampered the interaction
between Western scholars and their Soviet counterparts. At the same time
that Western scholars could not undertake field research or archive studies,
Soviet representatives of Oriental studies were largely excluded from the major
academic discussions that changed research paradigms in the West. Said’s
1978 Orientalism, describing Western discourse as a political doctrine designed
to exercise control by essentializing the “Orient” and “Orientals” (Said 2003)
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
not only marked the beginning of post-colonial studies, but also reshaped the
methodological outlook of Western Islamic studies.32 As Central Eurasia
became gradually accessible to Western researchers, fieldwork with sociological
or anthropological methodologies, as well as the post-modernist rereading of
primary sources, gained primacy and contributed significantly to a more
complex understanding of the diverse development of Muslim communities.
Contemporary research on Central Eurasian Islamic tenets and attitudes is
only tenuously embedded in the overall Islamic studies discourse, which primarily
concentrates on the Middle and Near East. Conversely, scholars who focus on
political Islamic movements rarely deal with Central Eurasia, reflecting a view
of the region as periphery. This is related to general, problematic assumptions
that contemporary Islam in Central Eurasia, viewed monolithically, lacks
intellectual sophistication. However, our understanding of the diverse agendas
of Muslim intellectuals and leaders in Central Asia today (such as Hajji
Akbar Turajonzoda in Tajikistan or Mohammad Sodiq in Uzbekistan), as
well as their interaction with local communities and reflection of cultures, is still
too limited to draw this conclusion.
Since the 1970s, researchers of Central Eurasia have been aware of the
emergence of an “official” Islam—established by the Soviet authorities to control and contain Islamic tendencies among the population—and a “parallel,”
popular Islam that resists the official structures (Benningsen and LemercierQuelquejay 1979; Gunn 2003; Muminov 2007; Ro’i 2000; Roy 2000). Although
most scholars agree that this dichotomy is an oversimplification, minimal
research has been conducted on the regional—often transboundary—interaction between representatives of “official” and “parallel” Islamic structures
(McGlinchey 2006; Olcott 2007a).
Political Islam, the “danger discourse” and research ethics
These “parallel” or popular Islamic structures are believed to have triggered
the “Islamic Renaissance” in the perestroika era and since independence.
Contemporary research on Islam in Central Eurasia has been dominated by a
focus on the political dimension that could point to a radicalized Islam ultimately destabilizing the region. This focus was not just from Soviets worried
about an “Islamic Revival” in the republics. Already in the last decade of the
Soviet Union, Western observers were helping to create a “danger discourse,”
predicting regional disintegration on a large scale.33 Considerable research
was conducted on the development of radical Islam in the Caucasus (for
example, Ware et al. 2003) and in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (Babadzhanov
2002; Cornell 2005; Naumkin 2005; Olcott 2007a). It is important to also
note that a distinctive characteristic of Central Eurasia (in contrast to South
Asia, for example) is that Western scholarship on Islam is largely inaccessible
and access to Russian language material is much greater. In this way, Russian
scholarship, which often engages in the “danger discourse” with questionable
methodological basis, greatly influences local scholarship and policy.34
Revealing order in the chaos
A critique of this “danger discourse” is not a denial of the legitimate
security concerns about the threat posed by militant organizations such as
the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. However, authoritarian rule, nepotism,
endemic corruption, as well as economic and political exclusion have
contributed significantly to the volatile situation in parts of Central Eurasia,
as demonstrated by Chapters 7 and 3 in this book by Bayulgen and George,
respectively. Thus, a focus on Islamic fundamentalist elements at the level of
high politics rather than social politics—and the limited amount of analysis
of the interaction between the two—misrepresents the relative impact of
these forces in society. Relevant research should focus more on how “Islam”
is communicated (content of sermons or leaflets), reproduced, and represented within specific communities to express social or political dissent. Serious questions of research ethics are raised by this security perspective’s
dominance, as this focus seems to be driven more by policy relevance considerations than thorough and balanced evaluations either of security
concerns or of the nuanced nature of Islam in the region. Policy relevancedriven bandwagoning in academic research is demonstrated by the large
number of scholars suddenly studying the role of militant Islam in destabilization since 2001; of greatest concern is how Islam has been simplistically
constructed and problematically framed in much of this new research in
pursuit of a hot topic.35
Shirin Akiner’s account of the Andijan events in May 2005 reveals some
highly problematic issues related to research standards on political Islam.
Akiner, like some others, relies heavily on information provided by state
security agencies (Akiner 2005; Naumkin 2005; Olcott and Babajanov 2003).
While it is an important consideration that accessing information through
such actors may be a necessary and important part of collecting complete
information, how that information is then represented is a crucial ethical
consideration. The subsequent debate in Central Eurasian studies about
research ethics, which followed publication of Akiner’s 2005 report, centered
on the effects of intimacy with government officials.36 It is a difficult balance
to maintain access to officials in the region in order to gain information and
yet remain uninfluenced by that access.37
The political context clearly matters for the level of access a foreign scholar
has, the degree of state control over local researchers, and the impacts on all
scholars’ abilities to obtain accurate information. Security agencies in the
region—successors of the KGB—have a long tradition of fabricating and
planting compromising evidence on arrested suspects. Several of our survey
respondents reported increasing problems with security agencies in Central
Asia in the last decades and ethical dilemmas in conducting interviews. The
ethical dilemmas they reported include tailoring findings to demonstrate the
information accurately yet retain the ability to conduct research again (i.e.,
obtaining visas), maintaining confidentiality of sources so that they cannot be
tracked by government officials, and how to assure interviewees that this
confidentiality will be maintained.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
Islamic social politics research
While topics related to political or radical Islam enjoy significant visibility,
there is limited but growing research on daily Islamic practices, perceptions,
and beliefs. The study of Islam as social politics rather than high politics
demonstrates why more informal, anthropological, and ethnographic techniques—such as archival research, primary source text analysis, and personal
observation—may often be more useful than social science approaches in
understanding changes in Islamic practices and movements (Radnitz 2007).
Several such studies offering a better understanding of how Islamic beliefs
shape identities, practices, and perceptions and in turn contribute to the
mobilization of social groups include survey and interview evaluations of
youth perceptions (International Crisis Group 2003), work on “female” Islamic
structures in Uzbekistan (Krämer 2002), and study of women’s participation
in radical Islamic groups in Kyrgyzstan (Kim 2006).
Research on the historical development of the mystical (sufi) orders (tariqa)
in Central Eurasia demonstrates how study of the social politics of Islam
needs to be better integrated with the study of high politics of Islam.38 Sufi
orders—such as the Naqshbandiyya, Yasawiyya, and Qaderiyya—are considered to be major agents in the spread of Islam in the region, either as
guardians of normative Islamic practices (Naqshbandiyya) or as groups supporting the reconciliation and synthesis of animistic–shamanistic local rituals
with Islamic beliefs (Yasawiyya). Sufi orders historically exercised significant
political and socio-economic influence because of their hierarchical structure
and extensive personal networks (Kemper et al.; Paul 1991), although most of
these networks and solidarity groups were destroyed during Soviet times.
Though determinative research is largely missing, some researchers assume
the continuing influence or reemergence of mystical orders in Central Eurasia
and explore high politics questions about the degree of Sufism’s influence
today. For example, Olcott (2007b) evaluates whether or not Sufism would
help moderate or politicize Muslim communities in Central Asia. However, in
assessing the alleged influence of Sufism, it is important to reconsider some of
the assumptions made regarding Sufism as a more “tolerant” or “out-ofmosque” variation of Islam in the region. Clearly, work evaluating the interaction between social and high politics is in need of development to better
understand current political influences of Islamic practices and perceptions.
Field research with an anthropological or sociological angle (Krämer 2002;
Kim 2006; Sahadeo and Zanca 2007; Zanca 2005) has contributed and
clearly can contribute to a more complex understanding of Muslim communities in Central Eurasia. However, at times anthropological and sociological
research on Islamic practices, beliefs and structures does not account for the
historical, cultural, and intellectual contexts in which Muslim communities
interact. Certain regional (and localized) practices, beliefs, and religious discourses could turn out to be much less exceptionally and uniquely “Central
Asian” if reflected in a wider context; for instance, the participation of women
Revealing order in the chaos
in radical groups may be part of a larger trend. Rasuly-Paleczek (2005) critiques the applicability of social anthropology concepts and models to the
study of Central Asia and the limited consideration by social anthropologists
of the political sphere. She quotes Seymour-Smith that:
… while analysis of the political dimension has formed an important part
of the majority of anthropological studies, this dimension has usually
been interpreted as an aspect or embedded in other domains such as
kinship, religion, economy and so on … and has been little analyzed for
the features of a political system per se.
(Rasuly-Paleczek 2005: 5)
Engaging in more comparative analysis may mean expanding the comparison
of religions in the region, both historically and presently, and deepening
the study of interactions between regional religious groups.39 Jersild (2000),
for example, interestingly examines the complex interaction between Islam
and orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus. Historical scholarship connecting long-term anthropological and sociological microanalysis of Islam in
Central Asia to high politics macroanalysis is emerging. The study of the
reformist–modernizing movement of the Jadidis (Arabic for “new”) among
Tatar, Central Asian, and Caucasian Muslim intellectuals in the late nineteenth century is a prime example. The Jadidis attracted scholarly attention as
both an original movement in the region and an inspiration for intellectual
tendencies throughout the Islamic world (Carrere d’Encausse 1979; Khalid
1998; Baldauf 2001). However, recent research by Wennberg (2003) reveals
the hitherto neglected relationships between traditional elites and the Jadidis
and finds that some traditional elites were intellectually and politically
much less conservative than previously thought. Other scholars have investigated Soviet official policy toward Muslim communities (Ro’i 2000), Stalinist
discourses related to female Muslim communities in Uzbekistan (Northrop
2004), and Russian perception of a partly religiously instigated rebellion
in the Caucasus in 1924 (Grant 2004). Addressing contemporary issues,
McGlinchey (2005, 2006, 2007, and Chapter 5 in this volume) seeks to connect longer term, rich anthropological and sociological microanalysis to subnational (meso) studies and macro comparative political Islam studies. For
example, he evaluates the diversity of Islam in the region, variations in social
group mobilization, and the macro political implications of these variations
for mobilization.
One micro-level issue in need of further research is contemporary Muslim
authorities and their religious (and intellectual) agendas, and how these leaders interact with elites and affect decision-making. Our understanding of this
topic is still very limited and an important avenue of research connecting social
to high politics. For instance, we know virtually nothing about the imamkhatibs (leaders of Friday Mosques) in Kyrgyzstan or the interaction of ethnic
Kyrgyz religious authorities with their ethnic Uzbek colleagues in Osh,
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
Jalalabad, and Batken (and we know only minimally more about religious
leaders in other parts of Central Asia and the Caucasus). Although few religious authorities publish in the region, recordings of their sermons and
teachings are sold widely in bazaars and in front of mosques. A source-critical
study of this material (Babajanov et al. 2007) could contribute to a more
diverse understanding of social mobilization, shaping of local or regional
identities, as well as politicization of Muslim communities.
At times the superficial treatment of the study of Islam in Central Eurasia
has proven to be problematic, especially regarding ethical research constraints
and the political conditions driving those limitations. The study of Islam in
the region should follow a more consistent comparative approach, providing
perspective by considering similar or dissimilar developments in the Middle
East or South Asia (as well as internal comparisons between regional religions). Anthropological methodologies are seemingly most useful in understanding the understudied social politics and local variations of Islam. Several
US government Central Asian experts interviewed for this study even suggested
that political scientists might utilize anthropological or sociological approaches to generate greater understanding of political Islam which would be
more useful to policymakers than the “danger discourse” approach dominating
Some elements of Islam in Central Asia that are understudied include daily
Islamic practices, perceptions, and beliefs and their variations across the
region; effects of Islam on social institutions such as the family and education; the interaction between solidarity networks and religious organizations
and their relative influence on decision making; turning points for Islamic
groups in the region in multiple directions, not solely further radicalization;
and connecting more thoroughly the broader socio-economic context to the
changes in group formation and daily practices. Above all, researchers should
focus more on written and oral material (sermons, leaflets and other publications) by various Muslim authorities distributed in the region. A critical
content analysis of this material could contribute to a better understanding of
how religious authorities interact with their communities and how they communicate and identify (“frame”) Islamic values or principles. Improving the
study of Islam in Central Asia might include utilization of interdisciplinary
methodologies or simply collaboration between those evaluating social politics
and those studying high politics.
A well balanced approach between social science (sociology or anthropology) with “classical” historical methods could improve our understanding
of how localized variations of Islam emerge, how Islamic values and principles are communicated to and perceived by local and regional communities,
how—especially women and youth—are mobilized to participate in Islamic
groups, and finally why Islamic discourses open space for political dissent.
Likewise, the study of Islam in Central Eurasia requires improving methodological and theoretical foundations in order to drive research agendas by
intellectual need rather than by foreign policy determinations.
Revealing order in the chaos
Environmental politics: data limitations and transdisciplinary
As environmental issues have become foundational considerations in Central
Eurasian economic and energy studies, demand for more thorough environmental politics analysis is likely to grow; accordingly, scholarship on the topic
needs to mature to meet it. There are a number of serious environmental
problems in the region that demand evaluation, especially as these issues are
highly politicized in the past and the present.41 The political context of
reduced funding for scientific research and the focus of international attention
on “hot topics” and focusing events lead to an underdeveloped local scientific
basis and work lacking in theoretical richness and comparability. Likewise,
the scholarly attention to shifting international policy concerns undermines
the consistent assessment necessary to understand and address long-term
environmental problems that could cause social and economic disruption.
There is available Soviet and, more recently, Western research on Central
Eurasian geography, biology, agronomy, health sciences, and climatology.42
Local scientific research in Central Eurasia, on the other hand, has been
inadequately funded since 1991 with almost complete collapse of the supportive public framework. International donors tend to prioritize “policy relevant” disciplines rather than the physical sciences, with notable exceptions.43
Yet this international augmentation of Central Eurasian government funding
for local scientific research is only a fraction of what is needed to support
systematic, complete and consistent data collection. Research both local and
foreign of the politics of science and the environment is as underdeveloped as
post-Soviet local natural science research. Environmental politics has been
most often studied as an adjunct to other policy concerns, not as an important independent field of study.
Central Eurasian environmental studies can be roughly divided into policydriven pieces with little theoretical value and often participant–observer
methodology (when self-identified or identifiable) and narrowly focused scientific works with limited political insight. A handful of exceptional works
use broader theoretical themes to allow comparability and insights into political realities, or systematic social science (or interdisciplinary) research
methodologies that can inform the field’s development.
Political changes driving short-term scholarly interest
In the late Soviet period the “safety-value” issue of environmental protection
(Weiner 1988, 1992) changed in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident.
This event catalyzed internal critical debates and increased access of Soviet
society to external information.44 As a result, numerous analyses of the
Chernobyl event were published, mostly journalistic accounts relying on eyewitness observations (including G. Medvedev 1991, 1993; Z. Medvedev 1990;
Marples 1986, 1988; Shcherbak 1989). In response to the political changes
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
wrought by this focusing event, environmental concerns became part of the
emerging self-determination debate as well as nascent nationalistic identities,
leading or contributing to the emergence of independent political movements
in Central Eurasia by the late 1980s (Aves 1992; Dawson 1996; Roy 2000).45
A spate of theoretically useful case study analyses emerged, identifying the
mechanisms through which environmental degradation affected social mobilization, pressure for reform (see Gustafson 1981 and Darst 1998 on the 1988–89
“Sibaral” River Diversions Project), incentives for corruption (for example, in
the Uzbek SSR cotton industry) and the collapse of the Soviet Union
(Komarov 1978; Feshbach and Friendly 1992; Mnatsakanian 1992; Peterson
1993).46 These influential analyses were often faulted for being overly polemical
or sensationalist and atheoretical (for example, Sievers 2003a: 48). Despite
these drawbacks, this scholarship importantly bridged disciplines and methodologies, linking strategic Western demographic studies to health and
environmental policy analysis and political science theories about regime type
and state collapse.
After environmental mobilization vaporized in the wake of the Soviet collapse, new focusing events have brought attention to environmental politics
and driven research interests. Travelogue-type accounts, such as Reznichenko’s Aral’skaia katastrofa (1992), spurred interest in the next hot research
topic with international security implications, the Aral Sea disaster, which has
dominated environmental research on Central Eurasia since the late 1980s.47
Yet the political analysis of this major environmental catastrophe remains
excessively weak in comparison with the magnitude of the problem. Micklin
(1991, 1992, 1998, 2000; Micklin and Williams 1996) published numerous
geographic analyses of the Aral Sea disaster, establishing a crucial physical
science background for understanding the crisis, yet relegating deeper analysis
of the political context to an afterthought. The same critique can be made
for studies of water resource management in the Caucasus, such as Lake
Sevan’s desiccation and Kura-Araks river basin pollution, both understudied
scientifically and politically.48
Weinthal (2002a,b, 2004), on the other hand, did engage directly in social
(political) science theories and methodologies (process tracing based on
regional elite interviews) in evaluating the regional Aral basin regime establishment as a conflict mitigation case. Unfortunately, few scholars have engaged
in a theoretical or methodological debate with the foundations of Weinthal’s
work, despite debatable assumptions about the likelihood of conflict and level
of cooperation achieved in the basin, as demonstrated by the work of other
scholars (Micklin 2000; Sievers 2003a,b; Wooden 2002, 2004). Likewise,
scholarship on the Aral Sea crisis has not developed on the topic much further
in recent years. With increased pessimism about the feasibility of addressing
the situation, donor and academic attention has turned elsewhere.
A related Central Eurasian water politics literature has emerged focusing
on interstate security aspects, including work by Ascher and Mirovitskaya (2000),
Gerstle (2004), Sehring (2005), Smith (1995), McKinney (2004), Moldaliev
Revealing order in the chaos
(2000), and Spoor and Krutov (2005). Methodological orientation remains
mostly unidentified (and thus asystematic) or participant–observer. Almost all
of these works evaluate water resource conflict at the interstate level, a significant unit of analysis choice driven more by international security interests
than by the realities of more likely intrastate conflict-generating factors in the
region.49 Demonstrating the newest environmental topic of broader policy
relevance, scholarship has emerged on the politics of hydroelectricity in Central Asia (for example, Peyrouse 2007), and some (but certainly not all) work
on regional energy issues tangentially addresses environmental impact and
protection policies (Olcott 1998, 2002; Karl 2000 do address these impacts;
Gleason 2003, for example, does not). Coverage of energy sector environmental repercussions is likely to increase as the extent of climate changeinduced glacial decline in the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges becomes
clearer (see, for example, Aizen et al. 1997; Aizen et al. 2007; Barnett et al.
2000; Khormova et al. 2006) and as new investments in the hydroelectric
energy sector move forward.
In summary, the limitations of this subfield are clearly first theoretical and
second methodological. Bryman (2004) notes that, in conducting social
research, “a choice of research design reflects decisions about the priority
being given to a range of dimensions of the research process” (p. 27), including the influences of theory, values, practical considerations, epistemology,
and ontology. It is therefore important to understand what scholars’ priorities
are and which influences have mattered most in how scholars design research.
The particular research value of hot topic pursuit has clearly driven research
choices and hampered theoretical and methodological development in the
environmental politics subfield and our other case study fields. As an indication of how highly scholars of the region rate the policy impact and topicality
of their research, Table 2.6 provides the answers from our survey question
“Please rank your research values in order of importance to you.”
Table 2.6 Research value rankings (no./%)
Independence of research
The organizational affiliation for your research
The amount of funding you receive
The policy impact of your research
How quickly you can conduct your research
The research topic is one of high attention/hot topic
The research topic is the one of most interest to you
The research methodology is the one that is your skill specific
Source: CCA Research Methodologies Survey 2007 by authors.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
The political context in many countries in the region has also had a major
effect on Central Eurasian research, as our survey responses indicate. Concerns
our survey respondents frequently identified for conducting field research
were the political situation changing access to countries (especially Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), prompting researchers to avoid politically sensitive
topics; access to respondents regarding choice of the season in which research
is conducted, as election events, harvest, and summer break can hamper field
research; and the particular consequences of extraordinary political events.50
For example, although there was a general agreement that it is easier to
obtain primary and secondary data in Kyrgyzstan than other countries in
Central Asia, political instability in 2005 resulted in closure of borders, more
frequent rescheduling of meetings, and loss of official contacts through
administrative turnover. Regime changes, political instability and social unrest
caused researchers to reconsider suddenly outdated findings yet also generated
new research questions. Political instability also influenced the employment of
local researchers, as shifts in research risks occurred, pushing scholars to alter
research design and engagement.51
Certainly, political liberalization at the end of the Soviet period significantly influenced both environmental scholarship and the politicization of
these issues. Increasingly since 1991, environmental issues have become less
safety-value issues and more politicized in some cases (pressure on local
environmental organizations in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and “false
front” reform issues in other countries (Wooden 2004). Likewise, reduced access
to accurate and reliable scientific data and the collapse and limited policymaking influence of the scientific community (Sievers 2003a, 2003b) have
combined with limited press freedom to drastically impact systematic evaluation of environmental issues and governmental responses to them. As most
environmental problems are long-term, the systematic and sustained nature of
data collection is crucial. Given the unreliability of scientific information,
many scholars have turned to international donor assessments of environmental problems, making unbiased analysis rare. For example, many donors
fund global environmental issues research on topics such as transboundary
biodiversity, yet deprioritize local issues such as intrastate drinking water
quality. These biases could prove problematic in determining the environmental politics research agenda and moving it away from concerns most
serious for local communities and decision-makers.
Theoretical and methodological advancements beyond “hot topics”
There are examples of scholarship on Central Eurasian environmental politics
that are theoretically and/or methodological sophisticated, build on important
earlier post-Soviet advances in this field, and utilize interdisciplinary approaches and introduce important methodologies into broader Central Eurasian
studies. Research by Werner et al. (2003) (and work by Carlsen et al. 2001) on
public perceptions of risk from nuclear testing in Kazakhstan exemplifies the
Revealing order in the chaos
importance of interdisciplinary approaches (medical anthropology, health and
environmental policy, and education) and theoretical richness. This work
highlights the absence of more recent environmental analyses systematically
and critically evaluating the impact of Soviet-era decision making on individual level choices today. Continuing the early post-Soviet analyses of the
environment as a causal factor in social mobilization, several recent pieces
evaluate civil society activity against oil and gas exploration and transportation,
such as the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline (Watters 2000; Waters 2004; also
discussed by Bayulgen in Chapter 7 of this book). Analyses of sustainable
development have been more broadly comparable and have admirably extended the literature (Glantz 1999; Sievers 2003a; Raissova and Sartbayeva-Peleo
2004). Sievers’ work in particular is worth mentioning given the methodological breadth with which research was conducted. In addition to a participant–
observer approach, Sievers purposely relies on donor-reported and state data
in conducting statistical analysis in order to expose their inadequacy.
Other new or creatively applied methodologies integrate social science and
physical scientific research approaches and policy-oriented research needs,
such as Ludi’s (2003) sustainable development appraisal methodology.52
Finally, environmental policymaking analyses are rare and are in much need
of development. There are a few assessments of environmental institutions
and policy outcomes in Armenia (Chatrchyan 2003; Greenspan Bell 2000)
and Armenia and Georgia (Chatrchyan and Wooden 2005), using legal studies
methods, elite interviews, and events analysis.53
The opportunities for environmental political studies to develop include
assessing the state of science in the region and the impacts of this sector’s
demise on environmental policymaking; moving beyond state-centric approaches by developing local level data collection and analysis; evaluating the
policymaking process more directly; and assessing public opinion to contribute
to long-term understanding of cultural changes affecting environmental politics.54 Likewise, researchers need to develop better transdisciplinary theoretical
foundations for understanding environmental politics outside of temporal
policy considerations. As scholars of the region have found, political changes
can create opportunities for access that should be seized upon, especially
regarding issues critical to human health, ecosystems, and security. This subfield requires deeper, consistent, and sustained theoretical and methodological
development in order to seize upon such opportunities.
In light of the complexity of regional political and social research, and the
common criticism that it is limited in rigor and insight, we began this
exploratory evaluation of Central Asia and Caucasus research methodology
by identifying trends in scholars’ training and perceptions. Overall, we find
that students and research professionals in the region have considerably
weaker preparation than foreigners, who employ primarily qualitative
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
methods (although they may be skilled in both quantitative and qualitative
methods). In all three case studies, qualitative research dominated, but some
interdisciplinary and multi-methodological approaches were seen emerging.
Local–foreigner differences, underscored most by the gender research survey
results, are crucial for understanding how regional expertise can be developed.
Promotion of joint efforts and the valuable programs that fund them are a good
starting point for strengthening local research and international understanding
and data source development.
The politics of the region and of donor countries has affected research in
profound ways. Funding from international organizations and manipulating
results for audience satisfaction correlate closely. Likewise, the pursuit of “hot
topics” as a guiding research value was reported by 35 of our survey respondents (48.6 per cent of foreign and 51.4 per cent of local scholars) and is
widely identified by interviewees as an issue of concern. That donors’ interests
and policymakers hot topics are determining research questions and outcomes (as is evident from our general survey and particularly our Islam and
Environmental Politics cases) is highly problematic for regional research.
Also, because so many scholars, in environmental studies, for example, rely on
donor assessments for their data, consideration of donors’ or policymakers’
interests also constitutes a problem of evidentiary basis. Some interviewees
indicated their frustration that the pursuit of “hot topics” is coming to define
Central Asian studies and ingraining low standards of theoretical rigor. Decisionmakers and policy organization staff indicated that this kind of “policy relevance-driven” research was not the most useful for their work anyway. Thus,
Western and local scholars driven primarily by concerns of policy relevance
or “hotness” much mistake the matter.
The needs of scholars—foreign and local—in the future include a clearer
understanding about what kind of research is most useful for knowledge
generation and a stable political and funding environment in which to generate important conceptual as well as practically applicable work. These needs
are felt most acutely by local researchers, who often are unable to engage in
all stages of the research process and thus are unable to claim ownership over
outcomes—opening the door to the manipulation of results. Several interviewees pointed out what is missing from scholarship on the region: work that
has greater depth and that offers a clear picture of cultural political elements;
social science perspectives on energy and resource use, moving beyond event
and superficial leadership analysis. In general, several key criteria for social
research—reliability, replication, and validity (Bryman 2004, among others)—
are not systematically applied in the research examined here; many political
studies do not even clearly identify their research designs. Quantitative methods are clearly underdeveloped and underutilized, but so are qualitative
methods—such as anthropological approaches—which seem to be regarded
as most useful by practitioners. Emerging interdisciplinary approaches toward
data collection in the unique Central Eurasian context, given the limitations
discussed in this chapter, hold promise, especially for subfields such as
Revealing order in the chaos
environmental politics. The Russian language remains an important tool for
research in the region. However, new students of Central Eurasia can best
prepare to meet these challenges by also studying or even focusing on local
languages other than Russian, acquiring a more solid theoretical foundation,
obtaining interdisciplinary methodological training and hands-on experience
early in their careers, and honing their ability to communicate the theoretical
and methodological premises of their work.
Overall, we find that a unique Central Eurasian political and social
research approach is emerging. Currently, that “uniqueness” is most apparent
under a minus sign—methodological, theoretical, and analytical weakness
and narrowness. However, based on the research values identified by our
respondents, the type of methodological training they have received, regional
and transdisciplinary network development, and dialogue between regional
and non-regional scholars, this uniqueness is likely to change in the future.
Theoretical richness and sophisticated insight will likely develop to the point
where funding less determines the course of regional scholarship, and Western
scholars grasp policy relevance better.
Appendix I
Most influential scholars (no. of times mentioned if more than once)
Mehrigiul Ablezova
Medina Aitieva
Roy Allison (2)
Dominique Arel
Tom Barfield
John Beauclerk
Yuri Bregel
Val Bunce
E.H. Carr
Alex Cooley
Sally Cummings (3)
Magreet Dorleijn
D.F. Eichelman
Jane Falkingham
Simon Forrester
Paul Geiss
Bruce Grant
Geoffrey Haig
Simon Heap
Joel Hellmann (2)
Stephen Heynemann
Leslie Holmes (2)
Eugene Huskey
Muratbek Imanaliev
Anie Kalyjian
Rebecca Katz
S.M. Abramzon
Roza Aitmatova
Sarah Amsler (2)
Anders Aslund
Thomas Barrett
Mark Beissinger
Matthew Bryza
Valentin Bushkov
Marat Cheshkov
Bruno Coppieters
Karen Dawisha
Tamara Dragadze
Tim Ensor
Kristina Fehervary
Rainer Freitag-Wirminghaus
Gregory Gleason (3)
Ase Grodeland (2)
Lori Handrahan
John Heathershaw
Edmund Herzig
Francine Hirsch
Caroline Humphrey
Gulnara Ibraeva (4)
Stephen Jones (3)
Marianne Kamp
Michael Kemper
Laura Adams
Shirin Akiner (2)
John Anderson (3)
Bakhtyar Babadjanov
Fredrik Barth
Gulzat Botoeva
Cynthia Buckley
Charles Buxton (2)
Kathleen Collins (5)
Helene Carrere
Devin DeWeese (2)
Adrienne Edgar
Matthew Evangelista
F.A. Fiel’strup
Stephen Fuchs
Marina Glushkova
Mehrdad Haghayeghi
Stephen Handelmann (2)
Lale Heckmann
George Hewitt
David I. Hoffman
Samuel Huntington
Elmira Ibraimova
Pauline Jones Luong (8)
Roger Kangas
Tahmanbet Kenensariev
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
Adeeb Khalid (3)
Russell Kleinbach
Hermann Kreutzmann
Joseph Kutzin
Alena Ledeneva
A. Lomakin
Erika Marat
Henrietta Meyers
Anara Moldosheva
Ghia Nodia
Martha Brill Olcott (7)
Uri Ra’anan
Madeleine Reeves (5)
K. Rosenberg
Boris Rumer
Nazif Shahrani
Iveta Silova
Steven Solnick (2)
Mairam Sultanbaeva
J. Swinnen
Harold Takooshian
Nurbek Tileshaliev
Burul Usmanalieva (2)
Marie-Carin von Gumppenberg
Erika Weinthal
Elena Zubkova
Anatolyi Khazanov
S.K. Kojonaliev
Kathleen Kuehnast
Kunduz Maksutova
Zvi Lerman
P. Lukovkina
Yaron Matras
Paula Michaels
Florian Muhlfried
Douglas Northrop
Richard Pomfret
Scott Radnitz
Andrei Richter
Oliver Roy (4)
Ed Schatz
Seteney Shami
N. Sirajiddinov
Frederick Starr (2)
Ron Suny (3)
A. Tabah
Richard Tapper
Valery Tishkov (2)
Tony Verheijen
Effi Voutira
Amanda Wooden
Charles King (2)
Natalya Kosmarskaya
Svetlana Kulikova
Nick Megoran (4)
Petr Lom
Paul Manning
Eric McGlinchey (3)
Ellen Mickiewicz
Irina Nizovskaya
Eleanor Ochs
Bruce Privatsky
Harsha Ram
T.H. Rigby
Vanessa Ruget
John Schoeberlein (2)
Dilshodbek Sharipov
Dan Slobin
Christoph Stefes (2)
Steve Swerdlow
Anara Tabyshalieva
Kanayim Teshebaeva
Robert C. Tucker
Vadim Volkov
Jonathan Weatley
Natalya Zadorojnaya
Source: CCA Research Methodologies Survey by authors, 2007.
1 The authors would like to thank Allison Morrill Chatrchyan, Madeleine Reeves,
Eric Sievers, and Russell Zanca for reviewing this chapter and providing helpful
suggestions. Particular gratitude goes to Margaret Osdoby Katz and Douglas
Greenfield for copy-editing early versions. This publication was prepared (in part)
under a grant from the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars, Washington, DC. The statements and views expressed herein
are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Woodrow Wilson
Center. Special appreciation goes to Murray Feshbach for access to his personal
library. The authors would like to express gratitude to all survey respondents and
interviewees for their contributions to this study.
2 An estimation of the pool of potential respondents has been difficult to determine,
thus we are not able to report an accurate response rate and have engaged in this
study as a pilot one, in part to determine the size of the researcher pool for subsequent studies. Central Eurasia Studies Worldwide Web identified a pool of over
3000 individuals on their listserv (see, and we presume that
at least one-third of these are scholars of the region.
3 Scholars who have done research in the Caucasus or Central Asia were approached
individually via electronic mail addresses. The body of the message included a
letter (in Russian and English) with the description of the study and instructions on
how to complete the questionnaire (in Russian and English) and return it to the
researchers as an attachment.
Revealing order in the chaos
4 These countries and respective number of respondents are: USA (14), Kyrgyz
Republic (Kyrgyzstan) (10), France (four), Germany (four), Canada (three),
Kazakhstan (three), United Kingdom (three), Armenia (two), Azerbaijan (two),
Czech Republic (two), Denmark (two), Greece (two), Uzbekistan (two), Austria
(one), Hungary (one), Romania (one), Russia (one), Tajikistan (one), and
Turkmenistan (one).
5 The disciplines represented are: International Relations/Political Science (29), Area
Studies (24), Sociology (16), Anthropology (14), Economics (14), Gender Studies
(13), Public Policy (12), Education (11), History (six), Language Studies (six), Legal
Studies (four), Religious Studies (four), Environmental Studies (three), Health
Studies (two), Information and Technology Studies (two), Media Studies (one),
Methodology (one), and Psychology (one). The majority of respondents identified
themselves as researchers of Central Asia (10), others as researchers of the former
Soviet Union including the post-Soviet region or Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS) (six), and the rest as Caucasus (two), Central Eurasia (including
Central Asia and the Caucasus or Middle East) (two), and Middle East (one).
6 The local–foreign division reflects scholars’ citizenship. Further studies could distinguish scholars both by citizenship and place of training/degree received. Terminological choice was a difficult process, which the authors carefully and
purposefully conducted. It was difficult to determine how scholars should be classified as local or foreign. Though we ultimately settled on citizenship it could also
be argued the classification should be made based on whether degrees were received
in the Central Asian region or from Western institutions of higher education. In
this analysis we only evaluate minimally the differences between local scholars trained
in the West and those trained in Central Eurasia, as discussed in the Gender Studies case. The bulk of this more nuanced investigation is left for future study.
7 The disciplines categorized for purposes of this study and part of this survey analysis include Anthropology, Economics, Education, Geography, History, Information Science, Law, Linguistics, Policy Science and Public Administration, Political
Science/International Relations, Psychology, and Sociology.
8 It is important to note that the primary aim of this research is social science
methodologies as all three authors are social scientists. Yet given the overlapping
nature of area studies work, non-social scientists were included in the survey
(identifying researchers broadly) and interviews. Those disciplines that bridge
humanities and social science are included, such as Anthropology, Area Studies,
Communication, Cultural Studies, History and Religious Studies. Anthropologists
are noted as playing a particularly important role in influencing decision-makers and
social science research, substantively, and methodologically. Future studies should
more clearly expand the review of literature to include non-social science and
bridging disciplines—such as history and anthropology—for a parallel comparison.
9 At the same time, more than 60 per cent of researchers are proficient in three or
four languages.
10 The “Megobrebs” listserv forms a unique network of Western and Georgian scholars as well as practitioners. Some scholars have discussed a unique category of
“Armeniology” scholars. The North Caucasus are particularly separated as most
often scholars who study the South Caucasus do not include the North Caucasus
in their analysis as it is part of the Russian Federation. Yet a growing group of
scholars—particularly anthropologists—is extending these boundaries and studying
the North Caucasus region separate from studies of the Russian Federation
(Paxson and Ruble 2007). In May 2007, the Kennan Institute organized a conference on the meaning and implications of Caucasus studies. A Georgian university held a conference on “Caucausology” (a term used to describe study of the
Caucasus region) in 2007 and the Eurasia Foundation established the Caucasus
Research Resource Centers (CRRC) to promote research in the region.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
11 Also, three of our respondents are APSA (American Political Science Association)
12 As our survey was disseminated through the CESS listserv, the bias in membership
is a clear one. In general, scholars of the region note a generational and thematic
division in the memberships of AAASS, ASN, CESS (Freeze et al. 2007).
13 Since 1968 IREX has provided more than 6,000 US scholars, professionals, and
graduate students with funding for overseas research opportunities on themes that
are “relevant to U.S. foreign policy” (IREX 2005: 11). While difficult to assess the
total distribution of grants given for which countries in the region, an estimation of
country representation in Central Eurasia and in other post-Soviet countries over
the period 2002–5 was ascertained from the grants selected for publicity in the
annual IREX “Highlights” newsletter. The distribution of grants selected for publicity by sub-region and country of grants was: Caucasus 12 (eight for Armenia),
Central Asia 11 (five for Uzbekistan and three for Tajikistan, one for the remaining
countries). For other post-Soviet countries, the following distribution was found:
Russia (22), Ukraine (five), Moldova (one) and Belarus (one) (Impacting Global
Change: IREX Highlights 2005).
14 Ulam (1976) argued that data access and manipulation were not as serious a limitation for research as assumed. He argued that this limitation was overstated, that
at times information was revealed by the Soviet leadership and often “stereotypes
and ideological preconceptions” hampered Western scholars more in identifying
information sources that were available (p. 4).
15 For example, Political Science debates were often about unit of analysis or behavioralist quantitative versus qualitative approaches and Economics discussions
related to the limits of the field’s predictive power revealed by the Soviet collapse
(see Wilhelm 2003). Yet earlier, Dallin noted in 1973, “The resting place of American views of Russia and communism is littered with the carcasses of incomprehension and misperception, which, were they not so sad, would be funny”(Dallin
1973). Graham and Kantor (2007) tackled the ongoing academic identity question
raised by these debates.
16 This debate within Central Eurasia studies was short lived and “behavioralist”
works such as Kanet’s did not come to dominate study of the region and continue
to be rare (Paxson and Ruble 2007).
17 In the late Soviet period, works of Western scholars analyzing Soviet research
methodologies appeared, such as Snyder’s (1988) “Science and Sovietology:
Bridging the Methods Gap in Soviet Foreign Policy Studies.”
18 Two of the 59 respondents to our survey identified themselves as methodologists
for either their primary or secondary disciplinary category.
19 See the Soyuz website at
20 One reviewer raised the alternative perspective that bartering may not be a negative aspect of field research and that issue highlights differences between the social
sciences and natural sciences in acceptable research conduct.
21 Gender research, in the public discourse, assumes the study of women. Study of men
and masculinities, while limited in comparison to women’s studies in Western literature, is growing quickly. Scholarship focusing on men and masculinities in the postSoviet Central Eurasian is almost non-existent. Exceptions include Mkhitaryan
(2006) discussing different attitudes of Armenian men and women to the meaning
of a “successful life” and the United Nations Development Programme and SorosKyrgyzstan Foundation Report, Gender and Men in the Kyrgyz Republic (2006).
22 Kamp (2003) suggested that, “‘Gender problems are featured in studies supported
by international NGOs, and regional researchers tend to adopt their frameworks in
defining them. … In the development of scholarly studies of gender in Central
Asia, continuities with earlier studies of the ‘women question’ are more evident,
and interaction with schools of thought on gender that have developed elsewhere,
Revealing order in the chaos
especially in the US and Europe, are only beginning to redefine some issues for
research” (p. 24).
Ibraeva (2006) noted that, “[d]uring the Soviet period the region was closed for
Western researchers and was not of sufficient ‘interest’ for leading Russian
researchers. The study of Central Asian cultures and societies was a prerogative of
the scholars from the region. Newly sovereign Central Asian countries opened a
special field of study for Western scholars. During the [past] decade this field … has
become actively institutionalized … [as has] the Russian science … interest in the
region. However, the interests of Western and Russian social scientists are mainly
concentrated on geopolitical and geoeconomic aspects of Central Asian life.
Thereby, Kyrgyz Soviet and post-Soviet culture and social processes are … rarely
placed within their interests … The Kyrgyzstani state and society … are repeatedly
marginalized” (pp. 25–26).
It is worth mentioning a growing literature by Russian and Ukrainian authors on
gender available in the Russian language and widely used by Central Eurasian
scholars. However, these materials are more often textbooks than results of new
research. See also Kamp (2004); chapters in Tartakovskaya (2006a) by Badoshvili,
Durglishvili, Faradjeva, Ivanova, Kim, Makhkamova, Mkhitaryan, Sakhokiya,
Tsereteli, Valitova and Esimova, and Umar (2007).
Under the auspices of the International Women’s Program (formally the Network
Women’s Program) of the Soros Foundation Open Society Institute (see International Women’s Program) and the Institute for Social and Gender Policy (see
Institute for Social and Gender Policy), there is a region-based attempt to “secure
women’s rights,” a product of the Gender Education in the CIS Countries Program
(Institute for Social and Gender Policy 2006).
Also see Asyanov and Grigor’eva (2006) and Kamp 2004.
In 2001, the Network Women’s Program (NWP, now the International Women’s
Program) of the Soros Foundation Open Society Institute initiated a documentary
film project to compensate for the limited sources in the mass media that “look
critically at the impact of socioeconomic and political forces that shape patterns of
gender in the post-Soviet era” (Open Society Institute 2002).
Also see Moghadam 2000.
The following section deals mainly with Muslim communities and Islamic tenets
with a focus on “political Islam” in Central Asia and the Caucasus and does not
intend to present an overview of religious studies in general. Research on the role
of the Orthodox Christian church in the societies and politics of Armenia or
Georgia follow largely similar methodological approaches; however, writing on
“political Christianity” usually does not operate with similar clichés (politicized
Islam as a danger for “stability” and “security”).
Among the respondents of our survey, four indicated a background in religious
studies and one in Middle Eastern studies. In general, Islamic studies research
today is primarily integrated in different area studies.
The focus of this work was on the rise and fall of regional dynasties as well as on
the development of “normative” Islamic thought. Since the spread of Islam in the
seventh-century Muslim communities experienced a highly diverse intellectual and
religious development without the emergence of a central religious authority
therefore categories such as heterodox or orthodox are misleading in an Islamic
context. Nonetheless, most Muslim communities refer to a set of generally accepted
norms, practices, and principles in religious affairs (Arkoun 2003).
The reception of Said’s work in the former USSR, which was interestingly criticized for excluding Russian Orientalist discourses, gained momentum in the 1990s
(see Hokanson 1994 and Irwin 2006).
The term is taken from issue 24:1 of the Central Asian Survey Special Issue
“Discourses of Danger in Central Asia”.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
34 Reviewer comment.
35 Interview with a US government expert on Central Asia, Washington, DC, 2 July
36 Akiner’s (2005) descriptions and interviews reveal a tendency to take the information
provided to her by officials at face value.
37 In Getting Russia Wrong: the End of Kremlinology, Cockburn noted that, “There is
nothing necessarily demeaning in the role of messenger, but it does demand a
degree of intimacy with the government. In Moscow it was something of a relief to
be regarded as a spy, however ineffective; or, at best, as a permanent outsider. This was
a disaster only if you believed, as did some Kremlinologists, that everything which
made the Soviet Union and its 285 million inhabitants tick was explained by some
mechanism located in the Politburo. If this were true, then lack of access through
leak or interview with the men at the top was a crippling disadvantage” (1989: 19).
38 This research concentrates on the analysis of primary sources, such as sufi manuals,
historical annals, and genealogical or autobiographical works (DeWeese 1999;
Gammer 1994; Paul 1991).
39 Scholars have examined the pre-Islamic influence of Buddhism (Klimkeit 1981;
Scott 1995) and Zoroastrianism (Stepaniants 2002), as well as the practices of
various religious groups including “new” Christian missionaries (Lewis 2000), the
role of religion and culture in post-Soviet Georgia (Pelkmans 2006), and Christians
as religious minorities in Central Asia (Peyrouse 2007).
40 Interviews with US state department desk officers with Central Eurasian experience,
Washington, DC, July 2008.
41 Among the issues that motivate scholarship on regional environmental problems
are three that remain the focus of research. First, there are heavily polluted communities and hazardous industrial and nuclear waste hotspots (e.g., Mailuu-Suu,
Kyrgyzstan; Sumgait, Azerbaijan; the Polygon nuclear weapons testing site,
Kazakhstan). Second, there are astounding regional water quality issues (e.g.,
Kura-Araks transboundary river basin) combined with unresolved water distribution disputes (Lake Balkash, the Aral Sea, Lake Sevan, and Caspian Sea basins),
and third, concerns related to minerals exploitation and transportation impacts.
Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan and Sumgait, Azerbaijan were listed in the top 10 and top
35, respectively, of Blacksmith Institute’s “The World’s Worst Polluted Places”
(Blacksmith Institute 2006). Sumgait has moved up on the Institute’s 2007 report
to one of the top 10 world’s worst polluted places (Blacksmith Institute 2007).
42 See Zonn (2000), Micklin and Williams (1996), and the Central Asian State of
Environment reports (see United Nations Environment Programme). For an
example of environmental health sciences research, see Hooper et al. (1999).
43 From interviews with various US officials with significant field experience in Central
Asia, in Washington, DC, June–July 2007. Regarding the collapse of the sciences
in Central Asia, see Sievers (2003a,b) and Zonn (2000). The notable exceptions of
targeted international funding for the sciences include support from NATO,
UNESCO, and bilateral energy, agriculture, environment, and science ministries
and agencies. However, these efforts are still limited in scale and consistency.
44 In the Soviet Union, especially the 1960s through the 1980s, environmental issues were
often “safety-valve” concerns, considered non-political and thus “safe” for discourse.
45 During this period, there were mass public protests in Tbilisi, Yerevan, Almaty,
and Semipalatinsk surrounding issues of nuclear weapons research and testing,
nuclear energy, deforestation, and industrial pollution.
46 The “Sibaral” project, intended to divert water from the Ob’ and Enisei rivers to
the Aral Sea basin primarily for increased agricultural output, was cancelled with
scientists questioning the rationality of the endeavor. Gustafson provided a unique
insight into this issue and environmental policymaking in general with his book
Reform in Soviet Politics: Lessons of Recent Policies on Land and Water, based on
Revealing order in the chaos
field research funded in large part by the International Research and Exchanges
Board (IREX).
This publication was an account of the first official “scientific-publicity” expedition—“Aral-88”—to assess the lake’s desiccation. A more recent example of the
travelogue genre on this topic is Tom Bissell’s 2003 Chasing the Sea.
Reviewer comment. Recent international aid efforts have focused on the mutual
gains of monitoring water availability and pollution in the international Kura-Aras
river basin and promoting systematic sharing of this information between the
Caucasus countries (for example, recent NATO–OSCE and USAID river monitoring projects). Future scholarship may be able to utilize this information and fill
this significant research gap.
A few exceptions to this security focus include work addressing myriad causes and
consequences of environmental degradation within broader treatments of the history or politics of the Black Sea and Caspian regions (King 2004; Dekmejian and
Simonian 2003). Both the general natural resource conflict literature and regional
water resource conflict studies indicate the greater likelihood of internal conflict
over water (in contrast with the probability of violent disputes between Central
Asian countries), although almost no works evaluate theoretically or at the micro
case study level the reasons for this propensity. [0]
McGlinchey (2006) clearly evaluates the political limitations for methodological
choice in conducting research on Islam. “The constraints that a student of Islam
confronts in authoritarian Uzbekistan are greater, though not altogether different,
from the constraints that social scientists face in less difficult research settings. In
my case, concern for personal safety undoubtedly influenced who did and did not
agree to speak with me” (p. 127).
Interestingly, scholars claimed that only political subject matter research in Central
Eurasia was limited, with the exception of Georgia, where political changes since
the 2003 Rose Revolution seemed to have eased pressure even on political research
as well as improved access to state archives.
Ludi 2003 reports on the well-regarded Swiss Development Corporation funded
project, CAMP, and outlines the program’s implementation methodology “sustainable
development appraisal.” This methodology was developed by the Center for
Development and Environment at the University of Berne, Switzerland. The
CAMP approach to information collection is a valuable model for political scientists
studying community level behaviors and commons governance mechanisms. This
methodology combined with theoretical insights from work by political science
scholars—such as Ostrom (1990) on commons governance mechanisms or Keck and
Sikkink (1998) on transboundary networks—would be a useful pursuit for Central
Eurasia scholars, especially as issues of ownership, privatization and community
resource rights are a major part of regional environmental politics discourse.
In the Caucasus, the distribution of environmental news and scientific research
occurs mostly through the well-regarded and successful Caucasus Environmental
NGO Network (CENN) and its quarterly publication the Caucasus Environmental
Magazine, is utilized by many local and foreign researchers.
For examples of successful and useful surveys on environmental health issues, see
Medicins Sans Frontier work in the Aral Disaster Zone 1998–2000 including
Crighton et al. (1999) and van der Meer (1999).
Abasov A. and Kasumova E. (2006) “Gendernaia stereotipizatsia kak factor formirovania zhiznennykh strategii naselenia v perekhodnyi period” [Gender Stereotyping as a Factor Forming Life Strategies of the Population in Transition], in I.N.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
Tartakovskaya (ed.) Gender Research: Regional Anthology of Research Studies from
Eight CIS Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova,
Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Moscow: Institute of Social and Gender Politics.
Aizen, V.B., Aizen, E.M., Melack, J.M. and Dozier, J. (1997) “Climatic and Hydrologic
Changes in the Tien Shan, Central Asia,” Journal of Climate, 10: 1393–404.
Aizen, V.B., Aizen, E.M. and Kuzmichenok, V.A. (2007) “Geo-informational simulation
of possible changes in Central Asian water resources,” Global and Planetary
Change, 56: 341–58.
Akiner, S. (2005) Violence in Andijan, 13 May 2005: An independent Assessment,
Washington DC: Central Asia and Caucasus Institute.
Amsler, S. and Kleinbach, R. (1999) “Bride kidnapping in the Kyrgyz Republic,”
International Journal of Central Asian Studies, 4: 185–216.
Arkoun, M. (2003) “Rethinking Islam Today,” Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Science, 588: 18–39.
Ascher, W. and Mirovitskaya, N. (eds) (2000) The Caspian Sea: A Quest for
Environmental Security, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Asyanov, Sh. and Grigor’eva A. (2006) “Domashnee nasilie nad zhenshinoi v gorodskoi sem’e Uzbekistana: istoki, pravovye vozmozhnosti ustraneniia i profilaktiki”
[Domestic Violence of Women in Urban Family in Uzbekistan: Roots, Legal
Opportunities for its Elimination, and Prophylactics], in I.N. Tartakovskaya, (ed.)
Gender Research: Regional Anthology of Research Studies from Eight CIS Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan,
and Uzbekistan, Moscow: Social and Gender Policy Institute.
Aves, J. (1992) “The evolution of independent political movements after 1988,” in
G.A. Hosking, J. Aves, and P.J.S. Duncan (eds) The Road to Post-Communism:
Independent Political Movements in the Soviet Union 1985–1991, London: St. Martins.
Azimova, N. (2006) “Svadebnaia obriadnost’ uzbekov: model’ gendernoi ierarkhii v
sem’e” [Wedding ceremony of Uzbeks: Model for Gender Hierarchy in a Family], in
I.N. Tartakovskaya (ed.) Gender Research: Regional Anthology of Research Studies
from Eight CIS Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, Moscow: Institute of Social and Gender Politics.
Babajanov, B. [Babadzhanov, B.] (2002) “Islam in Uzbekistan: from the struggle for
‘religious purity’ to political activism,” in B. Rumer (ed.) Central Asia: A Gathering
Storm? New York: M.E. Sharpe.
Babajanov, B. [Babadzhanov, B.], Muminov, A., von Kügelgen, A (2007) Disputes on
Muslim Authority in Central Asia (20th Century): Critical Editions and Source
Studies, Almaty: Daik-Press.
Baldauf, I. (2001) “Jadidism in Central Asia within Reformism and Modernism in the
Muslim World,” Die Welt des Islam, 41: 72–88.
Barnett, T.P., Boomer, I., Aladin N., Plotnikov, I., and Whatley, R. (2000) “The
Paleolimnology of the Aral Sea: a Review,” Quaternary Science Reviews 19: 1259–78.
Barthold, V.V. (1956) Four Studies on the History of Central Asia, Leiden: EJ Brill.
Benningsen, A. and Lemercier-Quelquejay, C. (1979) “‘Official’ Islam in the Soviet
Union,” Religion in Communist Lands, 7: 148–59.
Bissell, T. (2003) Chasing the Sea, New York: Vintage Books.
Blacksmith Institute (2006) The World’s Worst Polluted Places: The Top Ten. < www. > (accessed 16 August 2008).
—— (2007) The World’s Worst Polluted Places: The Top Ten of the Dirty Thirty.
< > (accessed 16 August 2008).
Revealing order in the chaos
Bryman, A. (2004) Social Research Methods, 2nd edition, Oxford: Oxford University
Buckley, M. (1997) “Victims and agents: gender in post-Soviet states,” in M. Buckley
(ed.) Post-Soviet Women: From the Baltic to Central Asia, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Carlsen, T., Petersen, L., Ulsh, B., Werner, C., Purvis, K. and Sharber, A. (2001)
“Radionuclide Contamination at Kazakhstan’s Semipalatinsk Test Site: Implications
on Human and Ecological Health,” Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 7: 943–55.
Carrere d’Encausse, H. (1979) Decline of an Empire: The Soviet Socialist Republics in
Revolt, New York: Newsweek Books.
Chatrchyan, A.M. (2003) “Democratic Transition, Stagnation and its Environmental
Consequences: Protection of Lake Sevan and Forestry Resources in Post-Soviet
Armenia,” PhD dissertation, University of Maryland.
Chatrchyan, A.M. and Wooden, A. (2005) “Linking Rule of Law and Environmental
Policy Reform in Armenia and Georgia,” in C.P.M. Waters (ed.) The State of Law
in the South Caucasus, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cornell, S.E. (2005) “Narcotics, Radicalism, and Armed Conflict in Central Asia: The
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” Terrorism and Political Violence, 17: 619–39.
Cockburn, P. (1989) Getting Russia Wrong: the end of Kremlinology, London: Verso.
Crighton, E., van der Meer, J., Yagodin, V.N., and Elliott, S. (1999) Impact of an
Environmental Disaster on Psychosocial Health and Well Being in Karakalpakstan,
Médicins Sans Frontières/Vrachi Byez Granits, Aral Sea Area Program.
Dallin, A. (1973) “Bias and Blunders in American Studies on the USSR,” Slavic
Review, 32–33: 560–76.
Darst, R. (1998) “Environmentalism in the USSR: The Opposition to the River
Diversion Projects,” Soviet Economy, 4: 223–52.
Dawson, J. I. (1996) Eco-Nationalism: Anti-Nuclear Activism and National Identity in
Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine, Durham: Duke University Press.
Dekmejian, R. H. and Simonian, H. H. (2003) Troubled Waters: The Geopolitics of
the Caspian Region, London: I.B. Tauris.
DeWeese, D. (1999) “The Politics of Sacred Lineages in 19th-Century Central Asia:
Descent Groups Linked to Khaja Ahmad Yasavi in Shrine Documents and
Genealogical Charters,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 31: 507–30.
Feshbach, M. and Friendly, A. Jr., (1992) Ecocide in the USSR: Health and Nature
Under Siege, New York: Basic Books.
Feshbach, M. (2007) Senior Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,
discussion with author, Washington, DC, 27 June 2007.
Fletcher, J.F. and Sergeyev, B. (2002) “Islam and Intolerance in Central Asia: The
Case of Kyrgyzstan,” Europe-Asia Studies, 54: 251–75.
Freeze, T., King, C. and Osdoby Katz, M. (2007) Discussion with author, Washington,
DC, 1 July 2007.
Gammer, M. (1994) “The Beginnings of the Naqshbandiyya in Da-gesta-n and the
Russian Conquest of the Caucasus,” Die Welt des Islams, New Series, 34: 204–17.
Gerstle, D.J. (2004) “The Pamir Paradox: Water Insecurity and Hunger at the Source
of Central Asia’s Rivers,” Journal of International Affairs, 57:169–78.
Glantz, M.H. (ed.) (1999) Creeping Environmental Problems and Sustainable
Development in the Aral Sea Basin, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gleason, G. (2003) Markets and Politics in Central Asia: Structural Reform and
Political Change, London: Routledge.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
Graham, L. and Kantor, J. M. (2007) “‘Soft’ Area Studies versus ‘Hard’ Social Science:
A False Opposition,” Slavic Review, 66: 1–19.
Grant, B. (2004) “An Average Azeri Village (1930): Remembering Rebellion in the
Caucasus Mountains,” Slavic Review, 63: 705–31.
Greenspan Bell, R. (2000) “Legitimacy, trust, and the environmental agenda: lessons
from Armenia,” Environmental Law Reporter, 30 (September): 10771–77.
Gunn, T. J. (2003) “Shaping an Islamic Identity: Religion, Islamism, and the State in
Central Asia,” Sociology of Religion, 64: 389–410.
Gustafson, T. (1981) Reform in Soviet Politics: Lessons of recent policies on land and
water, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gutbrod, H. (2008) Regional Director of the Caucasus Research Resource Centers
(CRRC) Program, interview with author, Tbilisi, Georgia, 1 January 2008.
Heidelbach, O. (Winter 2005) “Surveying Risk in Kazakh Agriculture: Experiences
and Observations,” Central Eurasian Studies Review, 4: 46–47.
Hokanson, K. (1994) “Literary Imperialism, Narodnost’ and Pushkin’s Invention of
the Caucasus,” Russian Review, 53: 336–52.
Hooper, K, Chuvakova, T., Kazbekova, G., Hayward, D., Tulenova, A., Petreas,
M.X., Wade, T.J., Benedict, K., Cheng, Y.Y., and Grassman, J. (1999) “Analysis of
Breast Milk to Assess Exposure to Chlorinated Contaminants in Kazakhstan: Sources
of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-Dioxin (TCDD) Exposures in an Agricultural
Region of Southern Kazakhstan,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 107: 447–57.
Human Rights Watch (September 2006) Reconciled to Violence: State Failure to Stop
Domestic Abuse and Abduction of Women in Kyrgyzstan Vol. 18–19 (D).
Ibraeva, G. (2006) “Brachnye Strategii v Kyrgyzstane: Pokolenie Otsov i Detei”
[Matrimonial Strategies in Kyrgyzstan: Generation of Fathers and Children], Bishkek:
——(2007) Department of Sociology, American University of Central Asia, interview
with the author, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 20 August 2007.
IREX (2005)Impacting Global Change, Washington, DC: IREX. <
resources/annual/IREX_Highlights_2005.pdf > (accessed 16 August 2008).
Institute for Social and Gender Policy (2006) Gender Education: Regional Overview of
Eight CIS Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, Moscow: Institute for Social and Gender Policy.
< > (accessed 16 August 2008).
International Crisis Group (2003) Youth in Central Asia: Losing the Young Generation;
(ICG Asia Report No. 66), Osh: ICG.
International Women’s Program, Open Society Institute (2002) >
initiatives/women/focus_areas > (accessed 16 August 2008).
Irwin, R. (2006) Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents, Woodstock:
Jersild, A. (2000) “Faith, Custom, and Ritual in the Borderlands: Orthodoxy, Islam,
and the ‘Small Peoples’ of the Middle Volga and the North Caucasus,” Russian
Review, 59: 512–29.
Kanet, R.E. (ed.) (1971) The Behavioral Revolution and Communist Studies: Applications of Behaviorally Oriented Political Research on the Soviet Union and Eastern
Europe, New York: The Free Press.
Kamp, M. (2003) “Gender Studies in Central Asia,” paper presented at the American
Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies Annual Convention in Toronto,
Canada, November 2003.
Revealing order in the chaos
——(2004) “Between Women and the State: Mahalla Committees and Social Welfare
in Uzbekistan,” in P. Jones Luong (ed.) The Transformation of Central Asia: Sates
and Societies From Soviet Rule to Independence, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Karl, T.L. (2000) “Economic Inequality and Democratic Instability,” Journal of
Democracy, 11: 149–56.
Keck, M.E. and Sikkink, K. (1998) Activists beyond borders: Advocacy Networks in
International Politics, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Kemper, M., von Kügelgen, A., and Yermakov, D. (eds) (1996) Muslim Culture in
Russia and Central Asia from the 18th to the Early 20th Centuries, Berlin: Klaus
Khalid, A. (1998) The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform. Jadidism in Central Asia,
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Khormova, T.E., Osipova, G.B., Tsvetkov, D.G., Dyurgerov, M.B., and Barry, R.G.
(2006) “Changes in glacier extent in the eastern Pamir, Central Asia, determined
from historical data and ASTER imagery,” Remote Sensing of Environment, 102:
Kim, L. (2006) “Izuchenie gendernykh predstavlenii uchitelei shkol Bishkeka i Tashkenta” [The Study of Gender Perceptions of High School Teachers of Bishkek and
Tashkent], in I. N. Tartakovskaya (ed.) Gender Research: Regional Anthology of
Research Studies from Eight CIS Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, Moscow: Social and
Gender Policy Institute.
Kleinbach, R. (2003) “Frequency of non-consensual bride kidnapping in the Kyrgyz
Republic,” International Journal of Central Asian Studies, 8: 108–28.
——and Salimjanova, L. (2007) “Kyz ala kachuu and adat: non-consensual bride
kidnapping and tradition in Kyrgyzstan,” Central Asian Survey, 26: 217–33.
——, Ablezova, M. and Aitieva, M. (2005) “Kidnapping for marriage (Ala Kachuu in
a Kyrgyz Village),” Central Asian Survey, 24: 191–202.
Klimkeit, H. J. (1981) “Christians, Buddhists and Manichaens in Medieval Central
Asia,” Buddhist-Christian Studies, 1: 46–50.
King, C. (2004) The Black Sea: A History, New York: Oxford University Press.
——(2007) Professor of Government, Georgetown University, interview with author,
Washington, DC, 3 July 2007.
Komarov, B. [Wolfson, Z.] (1978) “Unichtozhenie prirody, obostrenie ekologicheskogo
krizisa v SSSR” [The Destruction of Nature in the Soviet Union], White Plains:
M.E. Sharpe.
Krämer, A. (2002) “Geistliche Autorität und islamische Gesellschaft im Wandel. Studien über Frauenälteste (otin oder xalfa) im unabhängigen Usbekistan” [Spiritual
Authority and Islamic Society in Transition. Studies on Female Elders (otin or
xalifa) in independent Uzbekistan], Berlin: Klaus Schwarz.
Lewis, D. C. (2000) After Atheism. Religion and Ethnicity in Russia and Central Asia,
Richmond: Curzon Press.
Lom, P. (2004) Bride Kidnapping. Documentary Film. <
stories/kyrgyzstan/thestory.html > (accessed 5 May 2008).
Ludi, E. (2003) “Sustainable Pasture Management in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan:
Development Needs and Recommendations,” Mountain Research and Development,
23: 119–23.
McGlinchey, E. (2005) “The Making of Militants: The State and Islam in Central
Asia,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 25: 554–66.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
——(2006) “Islamic Leaders in Uzbekistan,” Asia Policy, 1: 123–44.
——(2007) “Divided Faith: Trapped between State and Islam in Uzbekistan,” in J.
Sahadeo and R. Zanca (eds) Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present,
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
McKinney, D. C. (2004) “Cooperative Management of Transboundary Water
Resources in Central Asia,” in D.L. Burghart and T. Sabonis-Helf (eds) In the
Tracks of Tamerlane: Central Asia’s Path to the 21st Century, Washington, DC:
National Defense University Center for Technology and National Security Policy.
Marples, D.R. (1986) Chernobyl and Nuclear Power in the USSR, New York: St.
Martin’s Press.
——(1988) The Social Impact of the Chernobyl Disaster, New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Medvedev, G. (1991) The Truth about Chernobyl, London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.
——(1993) No Breathing Room: The Aftermath of Chernobyl, New York: Basic Books.
Medvedev, Z.A. (1990) The Legacy of Chernobyl, New York: W.W. Norton.
Mnatsakanian, R. A. (1992) Environmental Legacy of the Former Soviet Republics,
Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Centre for Human Ecology.
Micklin, P.P. (1991) The Water Management Crisis in Soviet Central Asia, (The Carl
Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, No. 905), Pittsburgh: The
Center for Russian and East European Studies.
——(ed.) (1992) Special Issue on the Aral Sea Crisis, Post-Soviet Geography (formerly
Soviet Geography), 33: 5.
——and Williams, W.D. (eds) (1996) The Aral Sea Basin, Proceedings of an Advanced
Research Workshop, 2–5 May1994, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, NATO ASI Series, Vol.
12, Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.
——(1998) “Regional and International Responses to the Aral Crisis,” Post-Soviet
Geography and Economics, 39: 399–417.
——(2000) Managing Water in Central Asia, London: Royal Institute of International
Mkhitaryan, A. (2006) “Gendernyi diskurs uspeshnosti v sovremennoi Armenii”
[Gender Discourse of Achievement in Contemporary Armenia], in I.N. Tartakovskaya (ed.) Gender Research: Regional Anthology of Research Studies from Eight
CIS Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova,
Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, Moscow: Institute of Social and Gender Politics.
Moghadam, V. (2000) “Gender and Economic Reforms: A Framework for Analysis
and Evidence from Central Asia, the Caucasus and Turke,” in F. Acar and A.
Gunes-Ayata (eds) Gender and Identity Construction: Women of Central Asia, the
Caucasus and Turkey, Leiden: EJ Brill.
Moldaliev, O. (2000) “Security Challenges for Kyrgyzstan,” in G. K. Bertsch, C. Craft
and S.A. Jones (eds) Crossroads and Conflict: Security and Foreign Policy in the
Caucasus and Central Asia, New York: Routledge.
Muminov, A. (2007) “Fundamentalist Challenges to Local Islamic Traditions in Soviet
and Post-Soviet Central Asia,” in T. Uyama (ed.) Empire, Islam, and Politics in
Central Eurasia, Hokkaido: Slavic Research Centre.
Naumkin, V. (2005) Radical Islam in Central Asia: Between the Pen and the Rifle
(Soviet Bloc and After), Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
Northrop, D. (2004) Veiled Empire: Gender & Power in Stalinist Central Asia, Ithaca:
Cornell University Press.
Olcott, M.B. (1982) “Soviet Islam and World Revolution,” World Politics, 34: 487–504.
——(1998) “The Caspian’s False Promise,” Foreign Policy, 111: 94–113.
Revealing order in the chaos
——(2002) Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise, Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace.
——and Babajanov, B. [Babadzhanov, B.] (2003) “The Terrorist Notebooks,” Foreign
Policy, 135: 30–40.
——(2007a) Roots of Radical Islam in Central Asia, Washington, DC: Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.
——(2007b) Sufism in Central Asia. A Force for Moderation or a Cause of Politicization, Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Open Society Institute (2002) Gender Montage: Paradigms in Post Soviet Space. Documentary Films. < > (accessed
5 July 2008).
Ostrom, E. (1990) Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective
Action, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Paci, P. (2002) Gender in Transition, Washington, DC: The World Bank Eastern
Europe and Central Asian Region.
Paul, J. (1991) “Die politische und soziale Bedeutung der Naqšbandiyya in Mittelasien
im 15. Jahrhundert” [The political and social significance of the Naqshbandiyya in
Central Asia in the 15th Century], Berlin: de Gruyter.
Paxson, M. and Ruble, B. (2007) Deputy Director (now Senior Associate) and Director
of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for International
Scholars, discussion with the author, Washington, DC, 19 June 2007.
Pearce, D. (December 13, 2006) “The Feminization of Poverty: Is It Only in America,
or Is It Globalizing?” Social Research Center, American University of Central Asia,
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. < > (accessed 21 July 2008).
Pelkmans, M. (2006) Defining the Border: Identity, Religion, and Modernity in the
Republic of Georgia, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Peterson, D. J. (1993) Troubled Lands: the Legacy of Soviet Environmental Destruction,
Boulder: Westview Press.
Peyrouse, S. (2007) “The Hydroelectric Sector in Central Asia and the Growing Role
of China,” China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, 5: 131–48.
Radnitz, S. (2007) Scholar in Residence at the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow
Wilson International Center for Scholars (now Assistant Professor, Jackson School
of International Studies, University of Washington), interview with the author.
Washington, DC, 11 July 2007.
Raissova, A. and Sartbayeva-Peleo, A. (2004) “From Rio to Johannesburg: Comparing Sustainable Development in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and The Kyrgyz Republic” in D.L. Burghart and T. Sabonis-Helf (eds) In the Tracks of Tamerlane: Central
Asia’s Path to the 21st Century, Washington, DC: National Defense University
Center for Technology and National Security Policy.
Rasuly-Paleczek, G. (2005) “Comparative Perspectives on Central Asia and the
Middle East in Social Anthropology and the Social Sciences,” Central Eurasian
Studies Review, 4: 2–17.
Reznichenko, G. (1992) Aral’skaia katastrofa [The Aral Catastrophe], Moscow: Novosti.
Ro’i, Y. (2000) Islam in the Soviet Union. From World War II to Perestroika, New
York: Columbia University Press.
Roy, O. (2000) The New Central Asia: the Creation of Nations, New York: New York
University Press.
Sahadeo, J. and Zanca, R. (2007) Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present,
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
A.E. Wooden, M. Aitieva and T. Epkenhans
Said, E.W. (2003) Orientalism. 3rd edition, New York: Vintage.
Sehring, J. (2005) “Water Policy in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: Problem Perception and
Agenda Setting,” Akademik Araştirmalar Dergisi [Journal of Academic Studies], 25:
Shcherbak, I. (1989) Chernobyl: A Documentary Story, New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Sievers, E.W. (2003a) The Post-Soviet Decline of Central Asia: Sustainable Development
and Comprehensive Capital, London: RoutledgeCurzon.
——(2003b) “Modern Regression: Central Asian Markets, Democracy and Spoils
Systems,” Harvard Asia Quarterly, 7 (1): 43–52.
Singleton, R.A., Straits, B.C., and Straits, M.M. (1988) Approaches to Social
Research, 2nd edition, New York: Oxford University Press.
Smith, D.R. (1995) “Environmental Security and Shared Water Resources in PostSoviet Central Asia,” Post-Soviet Geography (formerly Soviet Geography), 36: 351–70.
Stepaniants, M. (2002) “The Encounter of Zoroastrianism with Islam,” Philosophy
East and West, 52: 159–72.
Snyder, J. (1988) “Science And Sovietology: Bridging The Methods Gap in Soviet
Foreign Policy Studies,” World Politics 40: 169–93.
Spoor, M. and Krutov, A. (2005) “The ‘Power of Water’ in a Divided Central Asia,”
in M.P. Amineh and H. Houweling (eds) Central Eurasia in Global Politics: Conflict, Security and Development, Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.
Tartakovskaya, I.N. (ed.) (2006a) Gender Research: Regional Anthology of Research
Studies from Eight CIS Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Moscow: Social and Gender Policy
——(2006b) “Postsovetskii gendernyi poriadok v Tsentral’noi Azii i Iuzhnom Kavkaze: neopatriarkhat ili vozrozhdenie natsional’noi identichnosti?” [Post-Soviet
Gender Regime in Central Asia and Southern Caucasus: Neopatriarchy or Renaissance of National Identity?], in I.N. Tartakovskaya, (ed.) Gender Research: Regional
Anthology of Research Studies from Eight CIS Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Moscow:
Institute of Social and Gender Politics.
Ulam, A.B. (1976) “Do We Know All There is to Know About the USSR?” in The
Dynamics of Soviet Politics,” P. Cocks, R.V. Daniels, and N.W. Heer (eds)
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Umar, Y. (2007) “Dating in Georgia: Tradition and Reality,” Gender Information
Network of South Caucasus. <
id=3951&sub=region > (accessed 20 June 2007).
United Nations Development Programme and Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan (2006)
Gender and Men in the Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek: United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) and Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan. <
php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=183&Itemid=118 > (accessed 5
May 2008).
United Nations Environment Programme, Global Resource Information Database
(GRID-Arendal), Central Asia. <
groupID=1 > (accessed 16 August 2006).
van der Meer, J. (1999) Voices on Environmental Health in the Aral Sea Area. Tashkent:
Médicins Sans Frontières/Vrachi Byez Granits, Aral Sea Area Program.
Ware, B., Kisriev, E., Platzelt, W. J., Roericht, U. (2003) “Political Islam in Dagestan”,
Europe-Asia Studies, 55: 287–302.
Revealing order in the chaos
Waters, C. P. M. (2004) “Who Should Regulate the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline?”
Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, 16: 403.
Watters, K. (2000) “Environment and Development of Civil Society in the Caspian
Region: The Role of NGOs,” in W. Ascher and N. Mirovitskaya (eds) The Caspian
Sea: A Quest for Environmental Security, NATO Science Series 2. Environment –
Vol. 67, Dordrecht, Boston, London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Weiner, D. (1988) Models of Nature: Ecology, Conservation and Cultural Revolution in
Soviet Russia, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
——(1992) A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to
Gorbachev, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Weinthal, E. (2002a) State Making and Environmental Cooperation: Linking Domestic
and International Politics in Central Asia, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
——(2002b) “The Promises and Pitfalls of Environmental Peacemaking in the Aral
Sea Basin,” in K. Conca and G.D. Dabelko (eds) Environmental Peacemaking,
Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.
——(2004) “Beyond the State: Transnational Actors, NGOs, and Environmental Protection in Central Asia,” in P. Jones Luong (ed.) The Transformation of Central
Asia: States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Wennberg, F. (2003) An Inquiry into Bukharan Qadimism: Mirza Salim-bik. Berlin:
Klaus Schwarz.
Werner, C. (2004) “Women, marriage, and the nation-state: The rise of nonconsensual
bride kidnapping in post-Soviet Kazakhstan,” in P. Jones Luong (ed.) The Transformation of Central Asia: States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence,
Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
——, Purvis, K. and Ibraev, N. (2003) “Comparative Perceptions of Risk from
Nuclear Testing in Kazakhstan: Preliminary Results and Proposed Research,” Central
Eurasian Studies Review, 2: 11–14.
Wilhelm, J.H. (2003) “The Failure of the American Sovietological Economics Profession,” in Europe-Asia Studies, 55: 59–74.
Wooden, A.E. (2002) Silent Chernobyls: Ecological Degradation, Macroeconomic
Policies, and Political Institutions, PhD dissertation, Claremont Graduate University.
——(2004) “The Nexus Between Environmental Policy and Human Rights in Central
Asia,” Harvard Asia Quarterly, 8: 14–31.
Zanca, R. (2005) “Believing in God at Your Own Risk: Religion and Terrorisms in
Uzbekistan,” Religion, State and Society, 33: 71–82.
Zonn, I. (2000) “The State of Scientific Research on the Caspian Environment:Russian
Data,” in W. Ascher and N. Mirovitskaya (eds) The Caspian Sea: A Quest for
Environmental Security, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Part II
Political contexts of
transitional variations
Expecting ethnic conflict
The Soviet legacy and ethnic politics
in the Caucasus and Central Asia
Julie A. George
The countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia are among the world’s most
ethnically diverse. Their territorial boundaries were drawn and redrawn
through centuries of imperial domination, borders assigned arbitrarily or to
sustain tensions in political and economic spheres. As a result, the new states
of the Caucasus and Central Asia inherited a legacy of complex ethnic politics. Nonetheless, one key element separates the Caucasian from the Central
Asian experience: ethnic separatism through violent conflict.
Contrary to the expectations of early observers of the independence movements, the most severe and long-standing conflicts occurred in the Caucasian
countries, not those of Central Asia. In Central Asia, scholars expected
instability and ethnic strife, borne of anticipated aggression during statebuilding in what had been traditionally authoritarian societies (Rumer 2002).
In the Caucasus, where Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost’ and demokratizatsiya
led to early nationalist campaigns and the growth of an indigenous civil
society, the democratic transition was expected to tame contentious politics
(Huttenbach 1995).1 However, the paths of the Caucasian and Central Asian
states diverged from these quite logical expectations. In the Caucasus, secessionist struggles in Abkhazia and South Ossetia left stalemated conflicts in
Georgia, later to return to active violence in 2008; in Azerbaijan, the NagornoKarabakh conflict has bedeviled both domestic and international policymakers. In Kazakhstan and the Ferghana Valley, both in Central Asia, the
expected prolonged ethnic conflicts never appeared. Early skirmishes did not
morph into long-term, strategic political turmoil.
This chapter examines the ethnic and political trajectories of both regions
and argues that three factors best explain the presence of continued and protracted nationalist separatism in the Caucasus and its absence in Central
Asia. First, the Soviet institutional legacy, which organized ethnic minorities
into administratively designated homelands, helped mobilize minority groups
and supplied entrepreneurial elites with the infrastructure and means of constructing ethnic differentiation strategies. Autonomous republics were more
prevalent in the Caucasus than in Central Asia, enhancing the institutional
impact for ethnic groups. Second, nationalist ethnic responses (majority and
minority) to democratic reform processes enhanced the likelihood of strategic
J.A. George
violence. In the Caucasus, central governments used ethnic identities to mobilize
statewide constituencies at the expense of minority actors, while local
nationalist minority leaders did the same on a regional scale. In Central Asia,
the central state government limited democratization reforms through centralizing state authority and restricting the growth of civil society. Moreover,
the ethnic message of state-building reforms in Central Asia was typically more
internationalist than that in the Caucasus, and thus less violently divisive.
Third, external actors impacted both state policies and separatist capabilities.
In the Caucasus, Russian and Armenian policies helped mobilize national actors
in the separatist regions, enhancing their probability of success in violent
interactions. In Central Asia, Russia’s economic interests and perception of a
growing Islamic threat in the area pushed the regional leaders toward a policy
promoting central government stability rather than regional separatism.
This chapter explores the theoretical underpinnings of the early expectations of conflict in Central Asia and the Caucasus and provides a mechanism
by which to understand why protracted ethnic separatist wars developed in
some cases but not others. In doing so, the chapter offers a brief account of
the trajectories ethnic politics took in five critical cases: Abkhazia and South
Ossetia in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, the Russian-speaking
population in Kazakhstan, and the Ferghana Valley (whose tensions derive
primarily from its division between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan). The framework developed here contributes to scholarly work on the region by providing
a systematic way to conceptualize how ethnic politics has worked in postSoviet societies. Moreover, the framework identifies conditions that may
increase or decrease the likelihood for future conflicts.
Expectations of conflict: theoretical approaches and practical
Early predictions: primordial and instrumentalist expectations
Predictions of how ethnic politics would emerge in the newly independent
Caucasus and Central Asia relied to a large extent on the consideration of
primordial and instrumental factors. Primordial explanations emphasized the
ethnic diversity of the region, particularly in Central Asia, as a potential
destabilizing factor for the transition from the Soviet system (Saidbaev 1992;
Slim 2002). Analysts at the time warned of sparring ethnic groups and protracted instability. The primordialist interpretation of ethnic conflict leads
scholars to expect conflict where differentiation exists among groups, particularly if the minorities exist in significant enough numbers to oppose majority
group policy generation and implementation. Thus, one might anticipate that
very diverse populations, containing more groups of substantial numbers,
might be linked with more conflicts.
Three demographic concerns drove the predictions of violence in Central Asia.
The simplest pointed to the diversity of the region. The second predicted
Expecting ethnic conflict
tensions and violence where minorities were significant in proportion to the
rest of the population. The third anticipated tensions if certain ethnic minorities dominated certain geographic space, in the post-Soviet context, often in
autonomous territories (Toft 2003). Given that separatist violence emerged in
the Caucasus but not in Central Asia, if these demographic theories are correct, we should find that the Caucasus region is more diverse, its separatist
minorities more demographically robust, and its separatist regions dominated
by their titular groups.
However, when comparing the states of the Caucasus and Central Asia,
one finds that the effective number of ethnic groups (a statistic that combines
the number of ethnic groups with their relative proportion of the population),
the Central Asian states contain more demographically significant minority
groups than the states of the Caucasus.2 Table 3.1 presents the effective number
of ethnic groups for each state in the Caucasus and Central Asia, noting
whether that state experienced protracted ethnic violence upon its independence.
The largest ethnic groups were not necessarily the most active in affecting the
ethnic political circumstances of a state. In fact, the demographic argument
Table 3.1 Central Asian and Caucasian states, ethnic groups demographics, 1989
number of
ethnic groups
Per cent of
total population strategic ethnic
Azerbaidzhanian 5.69
Source: Goskomstat 1989.
J.A. George
can do little to explain why it was the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians in
the Caucasus that engaged in ethnic secessionism. Neither the Abkhazians
nor the Ossetians appear in the four most populous groups in Georgia. In
Azerbaijan, Armenians, the ethnic majority of separatist Nagorno-Karabakh,
accounted for a mere 5 per cent of the country’s population.
Likewise, there is no consistent relationship between population density
and separatist war in the Caucasus and Central Asia. According to the 1989
Soviet census, the Ossetians constituted 66 per cent of South Ossetia and the
Armenians 77 per cent of Nagorno-Karabakh, however the Abkhazian population was a mere 18 per cent of Abkhazia (see Table 3.2). But all three of
these regions have engaged in violent separatism, Abkhazia doing so despite
its minority status in its titular republic. So while the ethnic differentiation is
certainly a critical element of politics in the Caucasus and Central Asia, the
primordial conceptions analyzed above give little concrete picture regarding
which conditions are most likely to lead to ethnic conflict and separatism.
Instrumentalist scholars argue that ethnic tensions emerge not because of
mere ethnic differences, but because of mechanisms of ethnic mobilization. Some
instrumentalist scholars focus on regime type, arguing that systemic political
repression of ethnic groups can cause ethnic mobilization (Dunlop 1998; Gurr
1993). One implication of this approach is that authoritarianism exacerbates
ethnic tensions, while democracies permit greater minority representation,
allow an outlet for ethnic identity and mobilization, and expand the political
conversation past ethnic interests (Linz and Stepan 1996; Gurr 2000).
But political liberalization in the region did not bring these anticipated
effects. The Caucasus, which started their process of political liberalization
through Gorbachev-era policies of glasnost’ and demokratizatsiya, should
have been able to ameliorate minority concerns more effectively than Central
Asia, whose democratic campaign was less robust. Georgia was the first Soviet
successor state to have fair and free presidential elections, electing Zviad
Table 3.2 Caucasus: ethnic group population per autonomous region, 1989
South Ossetia
Source: Goskomstat 1989.
Per cent of
Expecting ethnic conflict
Gamsakhurdia to the post in 1991. Likewise, in Azerbaijan, the 1992 election
of Abulfaz Elchibey, the head of the Popular Front movement, was fair and
competitive. However, both Azerbaijan and Georgia experienced violent
ethnic regional secession movements despite these democratic processes. With
regard to Kazakhstan and the Ferghana Valley, although both experienced
ethnic tensions and some sporadic violence, they did not suffer the anticipated
crises. As will be discussed in detail below, there are reasons to believe that
democratization campaigns exacerbate, rather than mitigate, ethnic tension.
Expectations of ethnic violence and separatism
The applications of instrumentalism and primordialism led analysts to what
turned out to be reverse expectations for the states upon their independence
from the USSR. What caused protracted ethnic instability in the Caucasus?
What explains the relative Central Asian stability? I argue that the ethnically
based Soviet federal institutions, combined with nationalizing central statebuilding policies and foreign intervention, spurred ethnic politics in the Caucasus into protracted conflict. Likewise, the absence of autonomous units
representing key ethnic minorities, the less democratic but also less ethnically
divisive politics of transition and state-building, and differing strategic interests by external actors created less favorable conditions for strategic ethnic
violence by minority leaders in Central Asia.
Institutional framework: autonomous territories
Previous autonomous regional status, defined according to national identity,
has been a common factor in strategic ethnic violence in the Caucasus and
Central Asia. A growing literature in ethnic studies emphasizes the role of
institutions that organize ethnic groups within a governing structure, in particular
the role of federal arrangements (Bunce 1999; Roeder 1991; Cornell 2002).
The Soviet federal structure organized ethnic groups into territories, often
according to their historical homelands, and assigned an administrative level
relative to their perceived status in the Soviet system. Thus, ethnic groups
were divided into layers of hierarchical territorial autonomy. The higher levels,
such as Union or Autonomous Republics, received greater power to determine local policies and politics. This created a republic-wide constituency for
the leadership, albeit unelected. The enhanced legitimacy of national political
leaders increased national ethnic elites’ potential to mobilize followers, in part
simply because the federal structure legitimized political demands associated
with ethnic identity. Within the Soviet Union, the first regions to secede were
the Union Republics, all of which achieved independence by December 1991.
Among the Soviet successor states, increased levels of ethnic separatism
occurred most consistently with ethnic groups that dominated ethnofederal
administrative units during the Soviet period (Treisman 1997). In the Caucasus
and Central Asia, seven autonomous territories had been established by the
J.A. George
Soviet Union. Six sought greater power and autonomy from the central government. Three of these, all in the Caucasus, fought wars of independence.
Democratization processes and nationalist messages
The institutional explanation does not, however, fully explain the processes of
ethnic mobilization; rather, it merely provides a locus for ethnic politics to
occur. As noted above, although autonomous status was highly correlated
with increased ethnic mobilization, such mobilization did not always escalate
to violent separatism. The character of successor states’ state-building policies
helps explain why some regions used secessionist tactics while others did not.
In particular, a close examination of how politics emerged in these regions
and how new political actors penetrated once-closed political institutions
shows how the institutional structure of the regions merely channeled ethnic
politics. Soviet-era policies glasnost’ and demokratizatsiya helped expand
political possibilities for regional ethnic leaders, although ethnic elites’ strategies varied. Subsequent state independence also enabled central government
leaders to establish state-building policies that either exacerbated or diminished ethnic divisions. One causal factor of this variance has been the states’
implementation of democratic reforms.
Despite the aforementioned theorized linkages between democracy and
lessening of ethnic tensions, transitioning states carry no such guarantees.
Jack Snyder (2000) has argued that the period of democratization is the very
time when we should expect greater levels of radical ethnic mobilization. The
opening of the media, the emphasis on free speech, and the enlargement of
the political system to new political actors enables elite tactics that engage
public support and invite a vibrant and active constituency. Nationalist
appeals, he argues, are likely as politicians seek to energize and attract constituencies. Consequently, contrary to the common expectation that democracy will bring stability, increased political pluralism enhances volatility given
political entrepreneurs’ incentives to manipulate the new media structures and
speech freedoms (Snyder 2000).
In the Soviet Union, politics in many republics took a nationalist flavor
when their titular groups proclaimed an end to the imperial power of the
Soviet Union. These efforts, although successful in the primary goal of eroding Soviet power, affected the political environment of these same republics by
constructing identities that conflated the ethnic identity of the titular ethnic
group with the governance of the state; the state itself was conceived as
the mechanism by which the titular group should realize its political goals.
Central governments that emphasized this idea, particularly when combining
it with the institutions of a democratic transition, were more likely to mobilize not only the states’ majority group against minority groups, but also
enhance animosity and fear among them. Combined with autonomous
regional structures, the state-building process thus became one of zero-sum
nationalist mobilization with real territorial and political divisions, making
Expecting ethnic conflict
separatism one clear political alternative for concerned minority groups or
entrepreneurial elites.
External influences: homelands and interested parties
The third component affecting the national politics of the Soviet successor
states is the foreign policy interests of invested external actors. As Rogers
Brubaker has noted, the interests of a third party can have exacerbating
influence on internal conflicts. In particular, ethnic homelands for other states’
minorities became lightning rods for enhanced domestic ethnic demands
and increased opportunities for separatism (Brubaker 1996). Moreover, the
foreign policies of non-homeland states affected both regional and central
government perceptions of risk and possibility. Powerful outside actors can
act as non-neutral parties, at times exacerbating regional minority separatism
in their zeal to establish their foreign political or economic goals (King and
Melvin 2000).
Definitions and expectations
The remainder of this essay assesses the trajectory of ethnic politics in four
states, tracking five ethnic flashpoints. An ethnic flashpoint is an area where
ethnic tensions either developed or were expected to develop by observing
analysts. Separatist war occurs when violence is used as a mechanism to
separate from a territory. Hence, mob riots, even if violent, without clear
political intent attached to the use of force are not considered strategic. I use
the Correlates of War threshold of 1000 or more battle deaths to determine
whether a separatist war has occurred (Sarkees 2000).
The cases considered represent an exhaustive survey of ethnic flashpoints in
Central Asia and the Caucasus that emerged in the decade following the
Soviet collapse.3 Thus, case studies include all separatist wars of the Caucasus,
South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as areas where ethnic
separatism and violence were expected, the Russian population in northern
Kazakhstan and the Uzbek population in Kyrgyzstan, in particular in the
Ferghana Valley. Table 3.3 offers the list of ethnic flashpoint cases, noting
the three causal elements of the framework and subsequent separatist outcome
(or lack thereof).
The Caucasus: protracted ethnic separatism
The three cases of the Caucasian region experienced extensive strategic ethnic
violence, with separatist movements spurring the outbreak of war between
combatants from the autonomous region and those of the central governments. The 1992 war in Abkhazia claimed an estimated 10,000 lives, the 1990
war in South Ossetia 1,000, and the 1988 war in Nagorno-Karabakh 25,000.
In each of the separatist territories, the de facto authorities have set up
J.A. George
institutions of independent governance, for example with constitutions,
executives, ministries, legislatures, and militaries.
Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia
Three factors stand out in the ethnic politics that have challenged the Georgian state. First, the separatist movements emerged from ethnically based
regional autonomies. Second, glasnost’ permitted ethnic Georgian nationalist
mobilization that continued into the early state-building period, which in turn
spurred minority ethnic group mobilization within Georgia. Third, the role of
Russia in these conflicts enhanced the military and political power of the
separatist regions, weakening the territorial stability of Georgia.
Institutional structures in Georgia
Even before Georgian independence, Abkhazia and South Ossetia began their
efforts to obtain greater status and power within Georgia. In June 1988,
Abkhazian activists appealed to Moscow to allow Abkhazian secession from
Georgia; in September 1990, the leadership of Abkhazia declared sovereignty
(not independence) within Georgia. In September 1989, South Ossetian leaders appealed to the Soviet government for their consideration of unification
of North Ossetia (part of the Russian republic) with South Ossetia, to be
administered through Russia.
There are few clear and objective mechanisms for assessing the territorial
claims of the two minority groups, as well as those of the Georgian state.
Abkhazia had not always been part of Georgia, as the territory of Georgia
was partitioned and exchanged from various imperial powers over several
Table 3.3 Cases and preliminary findings: characteristics of ethnic flashpoints and
separatist outcomes
Ethnic flashpoint (listed
according to territorial
affiliation prior to any
declaration of
Causal factor 1: Causal factor 2:
policy by central
Causal factor 3:
External actor
support for
minority group
Key question:
Did the ethnic
flashpoint engage
in separatist war?
Georgia: Abkhazia
Georgia: South Ossetia
Azerbaijan: NagornoKarabakh
Central Asia
Kazakhstan: Russian
Kyrgyzstan: Uzbek
population in Ferghana
Expecting ethnic conflict
centuries (Suny 1994). The administrative unit of South Ossetia was established in April 1922 by the Soviets. South Ossetia is not considered the
homeland of the Ossetian people. North Ossetia, the Ossetian homeland, is in
Russia, and has its own autonomous status.
Although the census data indicate that these ethnic groups were demographically weak vis-à-vis other minority groups in Georgia, these regions
have been the foci of ethnic politics since even before Georgian independence.
The institutional structure of both regions helped national leaders structure
their message of autonomy and independence, as well as a mechanism for
making demands of the central government: both Abkhazia and South Ossetia
requested greater autonomy from Moscow. Their argument centered on the
legitimacy of their political autonomy based on the linkage of their ethnic
heritage with the territory (Pliev 2002; Lakoba 2002).
Georgian nationalist movement and regional responses
As the Georgian nationalist independence movement from the USSR raged in
Tbilisi, Abkhazia and South Ossetia escalated their demands for autonomy
within Georgia. This was in part a response to Georgian national politics. A
leader of the Georgian opposition movement, Zviad Gamsakhurdia (who
became president in April 1991), actively supported a unitary state structure
for Georgia, a policy that he interpreted to require the eradication of all federal units, a blow to the autonomous territories (Khoshtaria 2002). On 11
November 1990, in an initial step for Georgia’s anti-federal policy, the Georgian parliament voted to remove South Ossetia’s autonomous status, in part a
response to South Ossetia’s request to Moscow that it join the Soviet Union
as part of the Russian republic the day before. Later, after the Soviet government rejected its request, South Ossetia declared its intention to become an
independent state in September 1990. Violence ensued as the Georgian government sought to control the separatist province. To date, neither party has
agreed to a political resolution to the conflict, and violent interactions periodically resurface. Moreover, Gamsakhurdia’s successor, Eduard Shevardnadze,
maintained the anti-federal policy of his predecessor, even though participants
in the subsequent conflict resolution process contend that the South Ossetian
leadership would have accepted Georgian sovereignty if their autonomous
status had been restored (Zugaev 2002).4
Gamsakhurdia matched his anti-federal rhetoric with secessionist slogans
casting the Georgian independence movement as a necessary element to
heighten the political and cultural position of the ethnic Georgian population.
These policies provoked Vladislav Ardzinba, an emergent political figure in
Abkhazia, who responded to Gamsakhurdia’s unification policy with extensive ethnic mobilization and increased autonomy demands. In August 1990,
the Abkhazian Supreme Soviet declared sovereignty within Georgia; by July
1992, Ardzinba had declared Abkhazian independence from Georgia. That
August, Georgian troops, now under the new Georgian president Eduard
J.A. George
Shevardnadze, entered Abkhazia and began fighting with Abkhaz separatists.
Spurred by the United Nations and the USA, Georgia and Abkhazia signed a
ceasefire agreement on 14 May 1994; however, a negotiated political resolution has not been achieved. Abkhazia, like South Ossetia, is de facto independent, although most international actors consider the regions part of the
Georgian territory de jure.5
External actors: the role of Russia
Russia invested significant interest and money into the politics of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia throughout the early 1990s. Not only did Russia supply
monetary and military support during periods of active conflict in the early
1990s, it did so in an obvious attempt to bring Georgia back into its sphere of
influence—Russia ceased its overt military intervention in Abkhazia once
Georgia truculently joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1993.
Russian troops have remained as a peacekeeping force in Abkhazia ever since.
Moreover, Russia’s official policy on the de facto independent regions was
mixed through the years; Russia was a member of the United Nations Friends
of Georgia group, which recognizes the territorial integrity of Georgia as
inclusive of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Even so, Russia positioned itself as a protector of both regions, especially once
it granted Russian citizenship to those living in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Boris Yeltsin’s 1992 decree “On the Protection of the Right and Interests of
Russian Citizens outside the Russian Federation,” established legal imperatives
for Russian policy to protect the interests of its citizens living outside its state
boundaries (King and Melvin 2000: 120). Moreover, Russian Duma deputies
took active interest in Abkhazian and South Ossetian self-determination; for
example, in November 2003 when Vladimir Zhirinovsky introduced a resolution calling for Abkhazian associate membership into the Russian Federation.
Although this resolution was tabled and Russia at the time did not positively
acquiesce to Abkhaz and South Ossetian requests to join the country, Russia
opened the door to further interaction by granting internal passports and
offering social services to the titular populations of both regions. Approximately 90 per cent of South Ossetians and 80 per cent of Abkhazians declared
themselves citizens of Russia (Freese 2004; van der Schriek 2004).
In August 2008, Russian troops invaded Georgia through South Ossetia
and Abkhazia, militarily establishing a buffer zone that reached close to Tbilisi and included Poti, one of Georgia’s most important port cities. The Russians were responding in part to a summer-long simmering of violence
between South Ossetian and Georgian soldiers and villagers, as well as to
some success on the part of the Georgians to re-establish control over the
southern half of the territory (although the precise timing of Russian action
remains disputed). The Russian military action precipitated Moscow’s recognition of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states and its
announcement that it planned to install military bases in the regions.
Expecting ethnic conflict
Russian influence undoubtedly provided moral, political, economic, and
military support for the separatist movements in Georgia. For Abkhazians
and South Ossetians, this support provided a mechanism for economic development and trade, a way to maintain physical control over the territories, and
for opportunities within a dire economic environment, given the dearth of real
tax collection potential for the Abkhazian and South Ossetian governments.
For Georgians, the Russian protection of the territories amounted to essential
annexation and imperialism, most profoundly demonstrated in the August
2008 war.
Azerbaijan: Nagorno-Karabakh
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan emerged as a territorial dispute over the Armenian dominated enclave within Azerbaijan. (According to
the 1989 Soviet census, Armenians accounted for 76.9 per cent of the territory’s population; Azeris constituted 21.5 per cent.) Like Abkhazia and South
Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh had autonomous status within the Soviet federal
structure. In 1987, the leaders of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast
(NKAO) initiated a political movement to join with the Union Republic of
Armenia, obtaining a great deal of popular support for the effort in both
Nagorno-Karabakh and in Yerevan, the Armenian capital. This movement
grew into coherent political strategy in August when Armenian leaders sent
a petition to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev requesting that NKAO be
located under the administrative territory of the Armenian republic.
The leaders of Azerbaijan protested the effort, citing the Soviet Constitution’s Article 78, which stipulated that any change of one republic’s boundary
be approved by all republics involved, as well as by the government in
Moscow. The government of the Azerbaijan Union Republic refused to consider a Nagorno-Karabakh union with Armenia, but also refused any political self-determination for the Armenians in the region (Croissant 1998). The
Soviet leadership muddled the decision-making process, at one point seeming
permissive of the Armenian desires, although ultimately deciding that NKAO
should remain in Azerbaijan. War over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in
1988. Like the conflicts in Georgia, there has been no political resolution to
the problem of the disputed territory. Also similar to Georgia, three key factors affected both the outbreak of ethnic tensions and the protracted nature of
the conflict: a pernicious Soviet federal legacy, mobilized nationalist politics
leaders on both sides that equated Nagorno-Karabkakh’s status with government legitimacy, and the continued involvement of Armenia and Russia in
both the policymaking and execution of conflict.
Institutional conditions in Azerbaijan
Soviet Nagorno-Karabakh was contested territory long before the Soviet
empire annexed the Caucasus. However, imperial powers, particularly Russia
J.A. George
and the Ottoman Empire, permitted few opportunities for the dispute to
be resolved or even aired as a question of national self-determination. Both
ethnic groups, Armenians and Azeris, maintain historical claims to NagornoKarabakh. The Armenian claim to the territory also stems in part from their
greater demographic hold over the territory. The Armenians argue that the
western territory of today’s Azerbaijan belonged to the Armenians in the
second century BC. That territory, including what is now Nagorno-Karabakh,
maintained its autonomy and thus the traditions of Armenian national
sovereignty were preserved.
The Azeri claim to the territory derives not only from current politics—
Nagorno-Karabakh currently resides de jure within Azerbaijan—but also
from historical accounts. The Azeri argument rests on the culture that existed
in the territory prior to Armenian migration. They argue that the indigenous
population, who eventually became the Azeris, experienced assimilation as a
result of the Armenian immigration. (Some proponents of this interpretation
contend that the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh are actually assimilated
The Soviet federal system extended the likelihood for conflict over the region
once Armenia and Azerbaijan achieved independence. The nationalization
and independence movements of the Union Republics provided the smaller
regions with a precedent for political behavior. Moreover, ethnic Armenians,
whose interest in joining Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia had not diminished in the decades of Soviet rule, dominated the bureaucratic administration
of Nagorno-Karabakh. As the politics of glasnost’ unfolded in the USSR and
the Union Republics engaged in increasingly secessionist politics, the idea of
changing the structure of Nagorno-Karabakh began to seem feasible for both
the regional population and the Armenian population. The fact that the
territory was an autonomous oblast increased the theoretical and the practical argument, providing both the means for making such a change, but also
a rationale.
The nationalist movements: Nagorno-Karabakh a national symbol in new
electoral politics
During the late 1980s, Nagorno-Karabakh quickly dominated the political
debate in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the leaders of both parties
appealed to the Soviet leadership under Gorbachev for a resolution to the
territorial controversy. However, Gorbachev responded indecisively with regard
to its status and future. At one point, he seemed to suggest to the Armenian
leaders that Moscow would be willing to entertain a petition for NKAO to
join the Armenian territory, but later argued that NKAO should stay within
the territory of Azerbaijan, albeit with a greater level of self-determination
and special development credits administrated by Moscow. This satisfied
neither party, and Armenian and Azeri political moods turned against
Expecting ethnic conflict
Even more than those in Georgia, the regional politics of NagornoKarabakh highlighted the scope of national politics in both Armenia and
Azerbaijan. In Armenia, the Soviet “compromise” over Nagorno-Karabakh
engendered opposition against the Armenian Communist Party; most prominent among the opposition was the Karabakh Committee, composed of
members of the Armenian intelligentsia. For the Armenians, the status of
Nagorno-Karabakh emerged as a symbol of the national fervor that characterized the politics of independence from the USSR. According to Gerard
Libaridian, “as important as the issue of Karabagh was (or became) for most
people, what mattered was the symbolism of effectively articulating opposition to the state for the first time” (Libaridian 1999: 232). Thus, popular
mobilization concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh question had become a
mechanism to reject the repression of the Soviet regime altogether. The processes of glasnost’ and demokratizatsiya permitted such mobilization, and
Armenian political elites took advantage of it. Soon, electoral legitimacy in
both Karabakh and in Yerevan was tied to the intransigence of the message
of Karabakh. Ethnic Armenian leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh earned legitimacy in their positions, the president of Armenia, Robert Kocharian, a
notable example. Born in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, he was a
leader of the initial Karabakh separatist movement, becoming president of
the republic’s de facto government in 1994. His success in Nagorno-Karabakh
enhanced his legitimacy in Armenian politics.
Similarly, the force of the Azeri national movement grew in response both
to the growth of Karabakh-oriented nationalism in Armenia, enhanced by the
Soviet inability to respond satisfactorily to the NKAO question (Croissant
1998). According to Michael Croissant, the Azeris “had come to realize that
comparable means [as the Armenian national movement] could be used to
voice their own grievances and to guard their republic’s territorial integrity”
(Croissant 1998: 31).
Political entrepreneurs in Azerbaijan also used Nagorno-Karabakh as a
mechanism to oppose political rivals. After an Armenian offensive took the
strategic town Kelbajar, outside Nagorno-Karabakh territory but linking the
region to Armenia, military leaders ousted then Azeri president Abulfaz
Elchibey, replacing him with Heidar Aliyev (De Waal 2003).
Enhancing the power of the institutional status of Nagorno-Karabakh,
leaders of NKAO itself, Azerbaijan, and Armenia all used its territorial status
to legitimize their national movements. Nagorno-Karabakh was a mechanism for
the independence movements of the republics and a source of legitimacy for
their independence. The logic of this rationale, however, has had devastating
consequences, for it was exclusive. Leaders in both Armenia and Azerbaijan
had promised their citizens that Nagorno-Karabakh would be returned to their
respective jurisdictions. Since the conflict framed both countries’ independence
movements, the legitimacy of state governance depended on the territory’s
status. If either administration failed to establish power within or for the region,
then that administration lost its credibility and claim to power.
J.A. George
External actors: the role of Russia and Armenia
Like the South Ossetian and Abkhazian conflicts in Georgia, external actors
have been crucial for the prolongation of the conflict in NKAO. The most
significant player in supporting the case of the separatists, both politically and
economically, has been Armenia (King 2001). In addition to economic support from abroad, Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence movement has received
military aid, in various forms, from Armenia and Russia. The Armenian
support has been overt. Russia’s role has been less blatant, and not necessarily
part of the stated foreign policy of the central government. Even so, members
of the Russian Seventh Army, a remnant of the Soviet Army based in the
region, fought in support of Karabakh’s independence, some Army officers
even receiving Russian military honors for their efforts (King 2001).
Uncertain future: continuing conflict or resolution?
In both Georgia and Azerbaijan, three factors have been crucial for the
initiation and prolongation of violent ethnic separatism: the mobilization
capacity of the autonomous regions, the casting of the independence movement from the Soviet Union as the realization of nationalist or ethnic goals,
and the interests of external actors in the success of the separatist movements.
At the time of writing, the ongoing conflict resolution efforts sponsored by
international groups have been largely ineffective. Several rounds of talks in
2006 between Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President
Robert Kocharian ended without any movement toward political settlement,
despite initial optimism (Corwin 2006).
In Georgia, especially, extensive political change in the central government
through the Rose Revolution gave observers reason to anticipate renewed vigor
in negotiations between the Georgian government and leaders in Abkhazia and
South Ossetia.6 Eduard Shevardnadze’s successor, Mikheil Saakashvili, promised
extensive autonomy to both regions (a departure from the central government’s standard policy toward South Ossetia) and professed his intention to
denationalize Georgian politics such that all ethnic minorities had a real
opportunity to engage the political system. Leaders in both regions largely
eschewed Saakashvili’s advances, citing ambiguity in the government’s rhetoric,
which at times highlighted Georgian national interests at the expense of other
ethnic groups (George 2008). The August 2008 war exacerbated conditions
and cemented animosity even further.
Defying expectations: the relative peace of central Asia
In Kazakhstan and the Ferghana Valley, ethnic tensions in the early 1990s caused
unrest and, particularly for Ferghana, violence. In Kazakhstan, a Cossack
separatist movement ended with the arrest of 22 individuals. In the Ferghana
Valley, clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz over land rights led to the
Expecting ethnic conflict
deaths of 120 Uzbeks and 50 Kyrgyz (Tishkov 1995). Relative to the experiences
of the Caucasus, however, these ethnic tensions and clashes did not constitute
strategic ethnic violence. Long-term separatist goals and extensive nationalist
mobilization have been conspicuously absent. The absence of separatism does not
mean that ethnic tensions do not continue to exist in these areas, nor does it
intend to understate the concerns of ethnic minorities in the region. However,
the question remains: given clear ethnic tension in the area, what accounts for
the absence of prolonged ethnic separatism or systematic ethnic violence?
As the dissolution of the Soviet Union continued, Kazakhstan emerged early
as a potential source of instability in Central Asia. Upon Kazakhstan’s independence, the Russian population made up 38 per cent of the country’s
population. Currently, there are Russians living in every single oblast in Kazakhstan, although they are more densely populated in nine oblasts located in the
northern part of the country. Writing in 1996, Martha Brill Olcott stressed
that Russians made up over 50 per cent of these oblast populations, remarking that “the threat of secession is so obvious that it does not need to be
stated” (Olcott 1996: 60). But a secessionist policy akin to those in the Caucasus never developed.
Ethnic tension in northern Kazakhstan
In 1999, Cossack leaders (ethnically Russian) agitated for secession, advocating
the construction of a “Russian Altai” republic from the territory of Eastern
Kazakhstan. As a response to this mobilization (which was not violent itself),
the Kazakhstan authorities arrested the organizers (Zardykhan 2004). However,
the secessionist movement never expanded into a larger effort, and non-Cossack Russians did not join the fray. Instead of remaking the political arena of
Kazakhstan, the Russian-speaking population for the most part either has
remained part of Kazakhstan’s political structure or has emigrated from the
country. Indeed, Kazakhstan has witnessed a population exodus. According
to reports in the late 1990s, over 2.2 million people emigrated from Kazakhstan
since 1991, the majority of whom went to Russia. Analysts attribute the
migration to economic as well as political factors. At the same time of this
exodus, however, ethnic Kazakhs living abroad returned home in high numbers,
with over half a million Kazakhs repatriated from 1991 to 2001. In 1989, the
Russian population of Kazakhstan represented 38.5 per cent of the total
population; by 2002, that proportion had declined to 30 per cent.
Lack of administrative divisions
One explanation for the lack of a Russian independence movement is that
they have no autonomous administrative district to unify ethnic Russians and
J.A. George
provide a mechanism for mobilization. Like the Armenians in NagornoKarabakh, the Russians in Kazakhstan have a homeland outside the territory
in which they live. However, unlike the violent ethnic flashpoints of the Caucasus, the Russians of Kazakhstan have not had the entrenched bureaucratic
infrastructure that could represent interests of the Russian ethnic minority.
Instead, Russian groups with varying alliances (the Cossacks, for example)
are dispersed across the territory with little political solidarity. Without an
administrative territorial structure serving as a political and ethnic unifier and
legitimizer of special political rights for the titular ethnic group, the Russian
population in Kazakhstan is dispersed and fragmented.
Unifying independence message
Unlike in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, the message from the central
government elite in Kazakhstan was not one that divided ethnic Kazakhs
from the Russian population. This is not to say that the government did not
tacitly promote (or permit) policies that enhanced the standing of ethnic
Kazakhs. Rather, the Kazakhstani regime proclaimed an official policy to be
one of building multiculturalism within the state. This, although certainly not
consistently applied to the Russian population, was implemented such that no
clear ethnic mobilization emerged at the central government level. This lack
of an ethnic nationalist mobilization message (such as “Georgia for the
Georgians,” heard from Gamsakhurdia) helped reduce any strategic ethnic
separatism by minorities within Kazakhstan.
The internationalist (or Eurasian) multicultural policy, which began even
before the collapse of the Soviet Union, was particularly effective given the
centrality of power in the Kazakhstan executive. Gennadi Kolbin, the General Secretary of Kazakhstan’s Communist Party and a Russian, aggressively
suppressed Kazakh nationalism during the 1989 election of candidates for the
Congress of Peoples Deputies. Kolbin’s successor, Nursultan Nazarbayev,
worked aggressively to “span the gaps between the republic’s two major
nationalities during a period of rising nationalism,” soon exerting “virtually
complete control of political life in Kazakhstan” (Olcott 1997: 553–54).
Nazarbayev established the policy of internationalism by linking any economic
and political success of the country to the eradication of ethnic tensions.
Kazakhstan’s vast landmass, containing significant oil and gas reserves as well as
remnants of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, gave urgency to Nazarbayev’s stabilizing
mission (Schatz 2000). As a result, Nazarbayev cast the Kazakhstani population
(inclusive of all ethnic groups living in Kazakhstan) as Eurasian, linking them
to the common purpose of creating a prosperous and stable Kazakhstani state.
Analysts of the Kazakhstani transition caution that this policy, while overtly
multicultural, did not necessarily negate a concomitant policy agenda of developing the Kazakh identity as that of the country’s titular ethnic group (Dave
2004). Rather, Nazarbayev actively pursued both in such a way that obscured
any single mission of the state regarding ethnic mobilization (Schatz 2000).
Expecting ethnic conflict
Upon its independence, Kazakhstan extended full citizenship to all people
within its borders, including the ethnic minorities. This policy contrasted
greatly with the first citizenship policies of other successor states, in particular
Estonia and Latvia, which limited the citizenship power of their extensive
Russian populations. Nazarbayev copied key multicultural policies of the
Soviet regime, in particular establishing national-cultural centers endowed
with the mission to enhance ethnic representation for all groups. The goal of
the centers was to establish the “cultural heritage” of the community. The
centers drew their budgets from the Kazakhstan central government and
donations from kin countries. Critics of the soothing effects of the centers
point to the meager government funding as a signal that the centers would
lack the facilities to bring any meaningful ethnic representation for minority
groups (Dave 2004: 92–93). Although the mission of these centers was more
cultural than political, the government projected these centers as key elements
of representation in Kazakhstan’s transition to democracy (Schatz 2000).
The key to Nazarbayev’s simultaneous Eurasianization and Kazakhenhancement strategies, according to Edward Schatz, has been their ambiguity,
particularly with regard to implementation. Nazarbayev, while constructing an
authoritarian regime, framed ethnic multinationalism with a stated program
of democratization, placing the national-centers at the center of this campaign.
Schatz points out further that the Kazakhstan government used state media
in both Russian and Kazakh language to its advantage, constructing dual messages
depending on the linguistic audience. While a Kazakh-language broadcast
might emphasize “the norm of linguistic, democratic, political, and cultural
redress [against Soviet era Russian oppression],” the Russian language state
message “underscored the norm of citizenship and civicness” (Schatz 2000: 86).
The dual approach masked the impact of the ethnic favoritism policy toward
Kazakhs at the expense of the Russian population. Because of the weakness
of the transitioning institutional structure in Kazakhstan, overt acts of discrimination (which did commonly occur) could be excused as acts of local
authorities not following the national level policies. Unlike the Transcaucasian
countries, where titular ethnic mobilization was a legitimizing force for the
central governments often at the expense of ethnic minority interests, Nazarbayev trod a blurred policy line that permitted certain benefits for the Kazakh
population while simultaneously maintaining a policy of internationalism and
ethnic inclusion.
External actors: Russia
Kazakhstan’s economic position, combined with Nazarbayev’s internationalist
policies, helped smooth relations with Russia. Unlike Georgia, whose initial
refusal to join the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) frustrated the
Russian central government, Kazakhstan joined the organization on December
13 1991, signaling a willingness to cooperate with Russian interests. Kazakhstan
has participated in agreements regarding ownership of the Caspian oil fields
J.A. George
and remains a steady trading partner for Russia. Ian Bremmer notes that
Kazakhstan has been and will continue to be a “strategically significant
countr(y) viewed as inextricably tied to Russia’s orbit,” a consideration
“reflected in Putin’s increasing willingness to use economic levers of power to
keep a Russia-led bloc of countries together” (Bremmer 2003: 238).
Complementing the economic cooperation with Russia was Nazarbayev’s
relatively benign and inclusive nationality policy, which has mitigated the
kind of intervention we have seen in Nagorno-Karabakh by the Armenians or
by the Russians in Georgia. With regard to the imprisonment of the separatist
Cossacks in Kazakhstan, Russian legislators and diplomats observed the
court proceedings and requested shorter prison terms, although the Kazakhstan government did not comply (Zardykhan 2004: 2). However, the Russian
response has not been the kind of aggressive posturing that we see regarding
its interests in Georgia. But economic ties with Kazakhstan have considerably
more wealth potential than they do with Georgia. Thus, although tensions do
exist between the Russians and Kazakhs of Kazakhstan, they have not done
so sufficiently to overwhelm Russia’s desire to maintain a stable and economically beneficial relationship with Kazakhstan.
Ferghana Valley
Scholars of Central Asia continue to anticipate serious ethnic violence within
the Ferghana Valley. The sizable ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz populations in the
region present the most significant source of ethnic tension; more than a
decade after the Soviet dissolution, one of the Kyrgyz government’s most
pressing security concerns is the anticipation of an Uzbek secessionist movement (Albion 2001). A pernicious legacy of Soviet colonialism, the geographic
political configuration of the Ferghana Valley ensures intense multicultural
and multiethnic contact. Before the Bolsheviks drew administrative borders in
Central Asia, the Ferghana Valley was a unified space (Tabyshaliyeva 1999).
Now, the Ferghana Valley includes portions of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and
Tajikistan, and contains a mosaic of ethnic differentiation (see Table 3.4). The
predominant ethnic tensions in the Ferghana Valley have occurred between
Uzbek and Kyrgyz populations, which are mixed in the area, with some
Uzbek villages lying in Kyrgyzstan, and Kyrgyz villages in Uzbekistan.
Ethnic crises in the Ferghana Valley in the early 1990s legitimated early scholarly concerns regarding the ethnic instability of Central Asia. In June 1990,
ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks both participated in ethnic cleansing campaigns in
Osh and Uzgen (both in Kyrgyzstan). Ostensibly a response to the reallocation
of economic and land resources between Kyrgyz and Uzbek villages during a
period of economic instability, members of each ethnic group acted to punish
rumored crimes in other villages, as well as to deter future attacks. Kygyz
villagers moved into Osh in order to expel Uzbeks from the city. A total of
171 people died during violent confrontations during one week (June 4–10
1990), thousands others fell victim to rape and assault (Tishkov 1995).7
Expecting ethnic conflict
Table 3.4 Ethnic composition (%) of the Ferghana Valley
Ferghana Valley
Ferghana Valley
Osh City
Source: Lubin (1999: 35).
A critical factor in these massacres was their lack of a concrete political
mission. Valery Tishkov, the former Minister of Nationalities under Boris
Yeltsin, points out that in the Osh riots, “the purpose of violent action in
ethnic clashes is not immediately related to the realization of long-term goals
and strategies” (Tishkov 1995: 139). Although local leaders led the Osh–
Uzgen massacres, their primary intent was to cleanse the territories of the
out-group to enhance land use potential for their preferred group. The Osh–
Uzgen crisis escalated into vengeance killings for rumored events in neighboring towns. In his analysis of the subsequent court proceedings, Tishkov
observed that most participants (on both sides) claimed to regret their behavior, attributing it to a combination of lack of critical thinking regarding
unsubstantiated rumors, alcohol, youth, and a mob mentality (Tishkov 1995).
Although similar circumstances were certainly present in the crises of the
Caucasus, the lack of a strategic political objective among the participants
deprived the Osh–Uzgen crisis of a lasting message that could prolong the
fighting. The trials provided an outlet for justice.
Even with a judicial resolution to the Osh–Uzgen crisis, current observers
of the Ferghana Valley still anticipate ethnic violence (Slim 2002; O’Hara
2000). Such long-standing predictions of conflict assert various causal elements. The first, similar to the primordial reasoning in the Kazakhstan case,
emphasizes the ethnic diversity of the territory and the fact that Soviet-drawn
borders did not coincide with the region’s ethnic geography. Changing demographic trends add to these insecurities as Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have emigrated
to Russia for better economic opportunities, while the Ferghana Valley houses a
substantial proportion of ethnic Tajiks immigration (Kyrgyzstan is a destination
for 3 per cent of Tajikstan’s emigrants) (Mansoor and Quillin 2007).
From the primordialist perspective, these changes in the demographic make
up of an already tense area might conceivably enhance the insecurity of minority groups. The focus on demography, however, limits deeper analysis of the
mechanisms that cause separatist conflict (Reeves 2005). But observers also
J.A. George
point to instrumental factors that might enhance tensions and conflicts in the
area. For one, the population of the Ferghana Valley is dense and faces scarcity due to overpopulation and paucity of water and land resources. These
factors, according to Kyrgyz civil society scholar Anara TabyshAliyeva, have
contributed to increased tensions among ethnic groups in the regions, particularly in ethnic minority dominated villages (Tabyshaliyeva 1999). Second,
there is no legal agreement over the precise territorial boundary between
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Both countries dispute current boundaries, leaving groups of people being claimed by both. This criss-cross of ethnic diversity and territorial disputes increases and solidifies ethnic tensions. The
territorial confusion enhances ethnic mobilization by exacerbating political
and economic insecurities as members of groups are thwarted in their efforts
to visit families or trade goods across the border (McGlinchey 2000).
International policies of both countries have aggravated tensions. In recent
years, both countries have strengthened their border security and instituted
visa regimes. Uzbekistan’s decision to place landmines in the disputed territory furthered the land dispute, causing local casualities and livestock damage
(International Crisis Group 2002). Uzbekistan defended its actions as part of
its struggle against Islamic guerrilla fighters, but nonetheless the landmines and
later air strikes against suspected guerrilla enclaves in southern Kyrgyzstan
have intensified its already strained relationship with its neighbor.
The increasing salience of political Islam, particularly as a mechanism for
opposition against central governments of both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan,
complicates ethnic matters in the Ferghana Valley. One factor pressing this is
the growth of the Islamist group Hizb-ut Tahrir, whose focus has been to
mobilize ethnic Uzbeks into political action (Albion 2001). But as will be
discussed below, the Islamic factor, while critical to politics in both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, has brought less central government nationalization and
also increased incentives for both countries to normalize their relationship.
Despite the chorus of quite logical pessimism regarding ethnic interactions
in the Ferghana Valley, there has been none of the strategic separatist ethnic
violence that has persisted in the Caucasus. The reason for this, I argue, is
that the Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups in the Ferghana Valley lack the mobilizing
infrastructure of autonomous regions. Moreover, the Kyrgyz and Uzbek governments have generally followed state building policies eschewing unambiguous majority group nationalization. Finally, bilateral negotiations between
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in recent years have helped lighten the border
tensions, while Russia has pursued policies seeking to quell nationalist and
religious divisions within both countries.
Absence of autonomous regions
The Ferghana Valley tensions do not involve separatist regions that considered their administrative territory a homeland endowed with legitimacy for
self-determination. Consequently, Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyz in
Expecting ethnic conflict
Uzbekistan had no administrative territory that endowed them with a rationale for separatism. Indeed, Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbeks, by some accounts, have
little interest in joining Uzbekistan and “generally have negative attitudes to
the Uzbek political and economic system” (International Crisis Group 2002).
Identity separation between Uzbek and Kyrgyz groups has been blurred in
the last decade. Both identities encompass complex amalgamations of regional, clan, tribal and religious affiliations, in addition to the more general
ethnic designations. These intricacies defuse stark differentiations between the
groups and help lessen tensions. Public opinion studies conducted in Kyrgyzstan indicate some feelings of positive ethnic relations between Kyrgyz and
Uzbek populations. Regina Faranda and David B. Noelle, who conducted the
study, report that 82 per cent of Kyrgyz assess ethnic relations to be good or
very good, 84 per cent of Uzbeks reporting the same. Although the authors
note that the Uzbeks are still the key “out-group” within Kyrgyzstan, they
indicate that other identity markers decrease the distance between Uzbeks
and Kyrgyz, for example among those who were devout Muslims (Faranda and
Nolle 2003: 179, 188).
Of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, only Uzbekistan has an autonomous region,
the Karakalpak Autonomous Republic, whose titular ethnic group stems
from a Turkic-speaking nomadic people strongly related to the Kazakhs.
Although the top regional elites are closely allied to Uzbekistan’s executive
Islam Karimov, a small separatist Karakalpak movement emerged in the early
1990s (Fane 1996: 280). Area experts attribute the lack of strategic ethnic
violence to date to the authoritarian unifying state-building policies of the
Karimov regime. In practice, the region lacks any practical autonomy; its leaders are selected by Karimov and thus remain loyal to the central government
(Gleason 1997). Even so, some scholars have not dismissed the possibility of
Karakalpak separatism in the future (Hanks 2000: 942, 951).
State-unifying message
Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have followed quite divergent paths in terms of
post-Soviet state-building, although both have sought to create a state unified
and stable in the face of ethnic diversity. Kyrgyzstan’s path was more liberal
than Uzbekistan’s, and in terms of central government ethnic policies, was
similar to Kazakhstan’s. Uzbekistan under Karimov emerged as the most
authoritarian polity of the three. Notably, neither Kyrgyzstan nor Uzbekistan
framed their state-building process as an effort primarily to further the prospects of a titular ethnic group. Particularly in Uzbekistan, the lack of
democratic reforms decreased elite entrepreneurial incentives to use nationalist messages to attract constituencies. In response to the Osh–Uzgen crisis in
the Ferghana valley, central government leaders in both Kyrgyzstan and
Uzbekistan spoke out against the violence, rejecting both the retaliatory
rhetoric that spurred the killing and the ethnic charges that fostered it. Rather
than using the ethnic tensions to exploit differences and achieve political gain,
J.A. George
the states’ political leadership used the courts to resolve the disputes and
bring criminal charges.
In Kyrgyzstan, President Askar Akayev established immediate citizenship
for all living in the state upon its independence, regardless of ethnic identification. One controversial policy, harmful in particular to the Russian population of Kyrgyzstan, was the language law passed in September 1989
requiring Kyrgyz as the working language for the Russian-dominated management and professional sectors. The law was postponed in May 1994 to
stop the emigration of Russians from the country (Huskey 1997: 632–33). In
2001, the government amended its constitution to include Russian as the
second official language of Kyrgyzstan (Faranda and Nolle 2003: 178).
Uzbekistan’s state-building policies have concentrated on stifling the perceived dangers of cultural identification, whether ethnically or religiously
construed. Uzbekistan’s president Karimov presented his policies of authoritarianism within the context of addressing both domestic and external influences
that might otherwise jeopardize Uzbekistan’s political stability and economic
prosperity (Gleason 1997: 587). As such, Uzbekistan has not developed
media and speech freedoms that often catalyze the growth of civil society; nor
have democratization programs been implemented that could spark ethnic
nationalism among political entrepreneurs seeking power at high levels.
Karimov’s most explicit cultural policy has been a response not to internal
political competition by ethnic movements, but rather to forces he perceives
as encroaching from outside Uzbekistan’s borders, namely radical Islam. The
growth of Islam in Uzbekistan began early in the 1990s. Politically motivated
Islamic groups emerged as potential competitors to Karimov’s power. For
example, in 1992, some Islamic groups began mobilizing to construct an
Islamic state for Uzbekistan, which marked the beginning of Karimov’s
repression of Islamic organizations. To combat what he perceives as dangerous Islamic radicalization within Uzbekistan, Karimov’s policy has been to
construct himself as the model of Islam, casting himself as a modern-day
Timur and the spokesman of the true Islam (Naumkin 2006: 129–30). This
rejection of any Islamic message not state approved, combined with authoritarian policies, led to the controversial events in Andijan in 2005, where
government troops killed at least 169 civilians protesting the incarceration of
23 businessmen, held for allegedly practicing radical Islam and membership
in the Islamist Akramiya group. (Human rights organizations and Uzbek
political opposition groups estimate the number to be between 750 and 1,000
civilians killed.)
Unlike Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan’s state-building policy has been overtly
authoritarian and hostile to identity politics. However, rather than exacerbating ethnic differentiation (in particular with regard to the anticipated
ethnic flashpoints between Kyrgyz and Uzbek in the Ferghana Valley), the
regime has quelled it. However, as the events in Andijan have shown, the
problem of Islamic radicalism, real or perceived, remains a critical factor for
Uzbekistan’s state-building process.
Expecting ethnic conflict
Outside actors
In the Caucasus, external actors exacerbated ethnic separatism, catalyzing violent
means. In Kyrgyzstan, where experts (and Kyrgyz state officials) anticipated
an Uzbek separatist movement, none has developed. Nor has Uzbekistan sought
to use its homeland status to incite rebellion. In fact, policy analysts have
observed that although some local Uzbeks do protest the arbitrary nature of the
Soviet drawn borders it would be inaccurate to “accuse Uzbekistan of irredentist
sentiment,” noting that “if anything, Uzbekistan has viewed its compatriots
in Kyrgyzstan with some suspicion” (International Crisis Group 2002).
Likewise, the Russian influence has been one of stabilization. Russia’s
interest in the Ferghana Valley was primarily dominated by concerns regarding the civil war in Tajikistan from 1992 to 1997. Russian foreign policymakers worried that the war in Tajikistan was due to the growth of Islamic
forces in the area, as well as the growing influence of the Taliban from
Afghanistan. Political officials in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan thought similarly, and took measures to decrease the role of Islamic fundamentalism in
the area. To do so, they invited a Russian military presence to the region, and
participated in the CIS Peacekeeping Force that was deployed in Tajikistan
(Hunter et al. 2004). The fear of Islamic fundamentalism enhanced Russia’s
role as a stabilizing force for the central government leaders of both countries.
In the case of Uzbekistan, external actors played a key role in how the
presidential administration understood its options for creating an ethnicity or
religion policy. Karimov responded not merely to Russia’s interests, but also
to events unfolding in Tajikistan, in the midst of a civil war, and in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime had defeated the mujahedeen fighters to
establish control. Karimov viewed the growing Islamic movements in the
region as possible future competition for leadership, and so pursued policies
reducing the impact of identity politics.
Conclusions on the Ferghana Valley
At this writing, the protracted ethnic violence anticipated by scholars of the
Ferghana Valley regions has not emerged. I argue that such violence is unlikely, given the lack of autonomous regions to provide infrastructure for
mobilization, the avoidance of clear-cut nationalizing policies by central state
leaders, and the current interests of external state actors to maintain territorial and governmental stability in the region. Even so, the ethnic tensions
identified by Central Asian experts concerning demographic trends, resource
scarcity and boundary disputes are real and paramount within the Ferghana
Valley political environment. As such, we might still observe ethnic violence
in the region of the type of the Osh riots in 1990: small-scale clashes that lack
the larger political motivations we see among separatist groups in the Caucasus but that nonetheless exact a brutal toll on the livelihoods of those in
close proximity.
J.A. George
Another arena to watch is the nationalizing policies of the central states.
Kyrgyzstan, which in the 1990s followed a deliberate policy of secular internationalization, has in recent years pursued policies trending toward Kyrgyz
nationalization. A language law passed under Akayev in February 2004
requiring Kyrgyz proficiency for those in the highest government offices
(rather than Russian, as had been permitted previously) (Albion 2004). Even
with increased nationalization of this sort, however, the Uzbek population
seems unlikely to resort to violent separatism, given the dearth of support by
the Uzbek government. Decreasing political liberalism in Kyrgyzstan, which
has characterized the state since the Tulip Revolution led to the resignation of
Akayev in 2005, may also limit the ability of ethnic or religious entrepreneurs
to use separatism as a mobilization tool for a disgruntled Uzbek constituency
(although such appeals might also be made outside of democratic frames).
Central Asia and the Caucasus inherited the legacy of Russian and Soviet
imperialism and contain a mosaic of ethnic groups that are dispersed across
territories and boundaries that have been drawn and redrawn for decades, if
not centuries. The demise of the Soviet Union and the accompanying politics
of nationalism and separatism provided unique opportunities and incentives
for political actors to penetrate the once closed political environment. Even
so, ethnic politics and conflicts manifested themselves differently in both
regions. The Caucasian states of Georgia and Azerbaijan, cast early on as
emerging democratizers, have experienced prolonged and still unresolved
ethnic conflicts with separatist regions. In Central Asia, the lack of democratic reforms helped depress secessionist tendencies, while the central government elites often cast their policies in terms of allaying, not heightening,
ethnic differentiation.
External states aggravated the impact of the nationalizing policies of the
Caucasian states. The autonomous status of the regions themselves helped
national actors mobilize their message; national actors in Central Asia lacked
similar infrastructural and external support. For the cases in Central Asia, the
Russian population in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz–Uzbek tensions of the
Ferghana Valley, groups lacked the unifying structures of autonomous
republics. Moreover, the most powerful external actor, Russia, found that its
interest lay in increasing, rather than decreasing, the stability of the central
government regimes in Central Asia.
One compelling insight into the ethnic politics of Central Asia and the
Caucasus involves the process of political liberalization in the region. In both
cases, political leaders proffered overt and fairly radical strategies by which to
contend with ethnic diversity. In the Caucasus, political leaders used nationalist messages to protest Soviet repression, in essence linking the growth of
societal outcry against the Soviet system with the cultural and political rights
of their ethnic group. This “populist” message, combined with institutions
Expecting ethnic conflict
that provided no obstacles to the titular nationalist policy and a Russian
government eager to destabilize former and current rivals, led to a violent
In Central Asia, where little nationalist civil society grew, the repressive
Soviet machine had a softer evolution into highly centralized regimes where
political elites used their authority to mandate cooperation among ethnic
groups and implement an internationalist message (or outlaw a nationalist
one). Without civil society reform, this was possible. Thus, the less liberal
political policies led to more peaceable outcomes. One must note, however,
that events such as the massacre in Andijan might be rationalized by the
stability argument. It is instructive to see the actions governments deem
necessary to maintain ethnic and religious stability, as well as to recognize the
possibility that the noble goal of avoiding ethnic violence might lead to tragic
strategies for doing so (Rubin 2006; Fumagalli 2007).
1 Glasnost’ and demokratizatsiya were both part of the perestroika reform that started in 1986. Perestroika, or “restructuring”, was an economic policy designed to
stimulate the flagging Soviet economy by energizing managers and creating new
incentives for production (in part through market-based initiatives). Glasnost’
(“openness”) lessened government censorship and permitted some criticism of both
the economic and political system. With demokratizatsiya (“democratization”),
Gorbachev permitted the first truly competitive elections in the Soviet Union,
albeit in a limited number.
2 The effective number of ethnic groups, a weighted measure of ethnic differentiation,
is derived from the formula commonly used to measure the effective number of
political parties in a system, calculated by adding the squared proportions of each
ethnic minority population and dividing by one (Moser 2001).
3 One additional case arguably to include is the civil war in Tajikistan. It is excluded
as a case here not only because of space considerations, but also because the conflict was not indisputably ethnic. For a discussion on the regional (rather than
ethnic) sources of the Tajikistan civil war, see Rubin (2006) and Fumagalli (2007).
My analysis also does not consider autonomous territories that did not provoke
expectations of ethnic tensions: the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in Azerbaijan (whose population in 1989 was 96 per cent Azeri), the Karakalpak Autonomous Republic in Uzbekistan (although the text does touch on events there), and
Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast in Tajikistan (for the same reasons that I
exclude Tajikistan altogether).
4 Notably, this willingness applied to South Ossetia under Lyudwig Chibirov. His
successor, Eduard Kokoity, has vociferously rejected this position since he became
president in 2000.
5 Russia and Nicaragua recognized both Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence in 2008. However, the United Nations still considers Georgia’s borders to
conform to those established by the Soviet Union. For insight into the processes of
governance in these de facto states, see Lynch (2004).
6 The Rose Revolution, a peaceful overthrow of President Eduard Shevardnadze in
November 2003, occurred after falsified election returns led to extensive popular
mobilization against the embattled leader. Mikhail Saakashvili, Shevardnadze’s
former Justice Minister who carried the namesake rose to the parliament building,
J.A. George
succeeded Shevardnadze, promising extensive democratization and anti-corruption
7 There are different casualty numbers reported for the Osh riots. Eugene Huskey
(1995) reports a slightly higher number than does Tishkov here, noting 230 deaths.
Albion, A. (2001) “Theme of the Week: Is the Osh Development Plan a Strategy for
Undermining Militants,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reports: Central Asia,
27 July 2001.
——(2004) “Kyrgyz Language Law Passes, War of Words Continues,” Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty Reports: Central Asia, 25 February 2004.
Bremmer, I. (2003) “The Future of Eurasia,” Security Dialogue, 34: 238–42.
Brubaker, R. (1996) Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in
the New Europe, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bunce, V. (1999) Subversive Institutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism
and the State, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cornell, S. E. (2002) “Autonomy as a Source of Conflict: Caucasian Conflicts in
Theoretical Perspective,” World Politics, 54: 245–76.
Corwin, J. A. (2006) “U.S.: Minsk Group Fails to Produce Results on NagornoKarabakh,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 9 March 2006.
Croissant, M.P. (1998) The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications,
Westport, CT: Praeger.
Dave, B. (2004) “Management of Ethnic Relations in Kazakhstan: Stability without
Success,” in W. Slater and A. Wilson (eds) The Legacy of the Soviet Union, Hampshire:
Palgrave McMillan.
De Waal, T. (2003) Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War,
New York: New York University Press.
Dunlop, J.B. (1998) Russia Confronts Chechnya: Roots of a Separatist Conflict,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fane, D. (1996) “Maintaining Stability through Authoritarian Control,” in L. Drobizheva, R. Gottemoeller, C.M. Kelleher and L. Walker (eds) Ethnic Conflict in the
Post-Soviet World: Case Studies and Analysis, Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.
Faranda, R. and Nolle, D.B. (2003) “Ethnic Social Distance in Kyrgyzstan: Evidence
from a Nationwide Opinion Survey,” Nationalities Papers, 31: 177–210.
Freese, T. (2004) “At War with Itself,” Transitions Online, 3 December 2004.
Fumagalli, M. (2007) “Framing Ethnic Minority Mobilization in Central Asia: The
Cases of Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan,” Europe-Asia Studies, 59: 567–90.
George, J.A. (2008) “Minority Political Inclusion in Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgia,”
Europe-Asia Studies, 60: 1151–75.
Gleason, G. (1997) “Uzbekistan: The Politics of National Independence,” in I. Bremmer and R. Taras (eds) New States, New Politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Goskomstat (1989) Itogi Vserossiiskoi Perepisi Naselenia 1989 Goda, Minneapolis,
MN: East View Publications.
Gurr, T. R. (1993) “Why Minorities Rebel: A Global Analysis of Communal Mobilization
and Conflict since 1975,” International Political Science Review, 14: 161–201.
——(2000) Peoples Versus States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century, Washington,
DC: United States Institute of Peace.
Expecting ethnic conflict
Hanks, R.R. (2000) “A Separate Space?: Karakalpak Nationalism and Devolution in
Post-Soviet Uzbekistan,” Europe-Asia Studies, 52: 939–53.
Hunter, S., Thomas, J.L. and Melikishvili, A. (2004) Islam in Russia: The Politics of
Identity and Security, Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.
Huskey, E. (1997) “Kyrgyzstan: The Politics of Demographic and Economic Frustration”
in I. Bremmer and R. Taras (eds) New States, New Politics: Building the Post-Soviet
Nations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
——(1995) “The Rise of Contested Politics in Central Asia: Elections in Kyrgyzstan,
1989–90,” Europe-Asia Studies, 47: 813–33.
Huttenbach, H.R. (1995) “Post-Soviet Crisis and Disorder in Trauscaucasia: The
Search for Regional Security and Stability,” in V. Tismaneanu (ed.) Political Culture
and Civil Society in Russia and the New States of Eurasia, Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.
International Crisis Group. (2002) “Central Asia: Border Disputes and Conflict
Potential,” ICG Asia Report, No. 33, 4 April 2002.
Khoshtaria, G. (2002) Minister of Foreign Affairs under Zviad Gamsakhurdia, interview
with the author, Tbilisi, November 2002.
King, C. (2001) “The Benefits of Ethnic War: Understanding Eurasia’s Unrecognized
States,” World Politics, 53: 524–52.
King, C. and Melvin, N.J. (2000) “Diaspora Politics: Ethnic Linkages, Foreign Policy,
and Security in Eurasia,” International Security, 24: 108–38.
Lakoba, S. (2002) Historian and former First Deputy Speaker of the Supreme Soviet
of Abkhazia, interview with the author, Sukhum(i), September 2002.
Libaridian, G.J. (1999) The Challenge of Statehood: Armenian Political Thinking since
Independence, Watertown, MA: Blue Crane Books.
Linz, J.J. and Stepan, A.C. (1996) Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe, Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press.
Lubin, N. (1999) Calming the Ferghana Valley: Development and Dialogue in the
Heart of Central Asia, New York: The Century Foundation Press.
Lynch, D. (2004) Engaging Eurasia’s Separatist States: Unresolved Conflicts and de
facto States, Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.
Mansoor, A. and Quillin, B. (eds) (2007) Migration and Remittances: Eastern Europe
and the Former Soviet Union, Washington, DC: The World Bank.
McGlinchey, E. (2000) “Powerless in Kyrgyzstan,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Newsline, 13 July 2000.
Moser, R. (2001) “Ethnic Diversity, Electoral Systems, and the Number of Parties in
Post-Communist States,” paper presented at the American Political Science Association
Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
Naumkin, V. (2006) “Uzbekistan’s State-Building Fatigue,” The Washington Quarterly,
29: 127–40.
Olcott, M.B. (1996) Central Asia’s New States: Independence, Foreign Policy, and
Regional Security, Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.
——(1997) “Kazakhstan: Pushing for Eurasia,” in I. Bremmer and R. Taras (eds) New
States, New Politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations, New York: Cambridge
University Press.
O’Hara, S.L. (2000) “Lessons from the Past: Water Management in Central Asia,”
Water Policy, 2: 365–84.
Pliev, A. (2002) Deputy Foreign Minister, South Ossetia, interview with the author,
J.A. George
Ragin, C. (1987) The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative
Strategies, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Reeves, M. (2005) “Locating Danger: Konfliktologiia and the Search for Fixity in the
Ferghana Valley Borderlands,” Central Asian Survey, 24: 67–81.
Roeder, P.G. (1991) “Soviet Federalism and Ethnic Mobilization,” World Politics, 43:
Rubin, B.R. (2006) “Central Asia and Central Africa: Transnational Wars and Ethnic
Conflicts,” Journal of Human Development, 7: 5–22.
Rumer, B. (2002) “The Search for Stability in Central Asia,” in B. Rumer (ed.) Central
Asia: A Gathering Storm? Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.
Saidbaev, T. (1992) “Inter-Ethnic Conflicts in Central Asia,” in K. Rupesinghe, P. King
and O. Vorkunova (eds) Ethnicity and Conflict in a Post-Communist World. The
Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China, London: The Macmillan Press.
Sarkees, M.R. (2000) “The Correlates of War Data on War: An Update to 1997,”
Conflict Management and Peace Science, 18: 123–44.
Schatz, E.A.D. (2000) “Framing Strategies and Non-Conflict in Multi-Ethnic
Kazakhstan,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 6: 71–94.
Slim, R. (2002) “The Ferghana Valley: In the Midst of a Host of Crises,” in
M. Mekenkamp, P.V. Tongeren and H.V.D. Veen (eds) Searching for Peace in
Central and South Asia: An Overview of Conflict Prevention and Peace-Building
Activities, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Snyder, J.L. (2000) From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist Conflict,
New York: Norton.
Suny, R.G. (1994) The Making of the Georgian Nation, Bloomington: Indiana
University Press.
Tabyshaliyeva, A. (1999) “The Challenge of Regional Cooperation in Central Asia:
Preventing Ethnic Conflict in the Ferghana Valley,” Peaceworks, 28, Washington,
DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.
Tishkov, V. (1995) “‘Don’t Kill Me, I’m a Kyrgyz!’: An Anthropological Analysis of
Violence in the Osh Ethnic Conflict,” Journal of Peace Research, 32: 133–49.
Treisman, D. (1997) “Russia’s ‘Ethnic Revival’: The Separatist Activism of Regional
Leaders in a Postcommunist Order,” World Politics, 49: 212–49.
Toft, M.D. (2003) The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests, and the
Indivisibility of Territory, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
van der Schriek, D. (2004) “Fertilizing Tensions,” Transitions Online, 7 June 2004.
Zardykhan, Z. (2004) “Russians in Kazakhstan and Demographic Change: Imperial
Legacy and the Kazakh Way of Nation Building,” Asian Ethnicity, 5: 61–79.
Zugaev, K. (2002), South Ossetian Minister of Information and Press, 1998–2002,
former Member of Parliament, interview with the author, Tskhinval(i), South Ossetia.
State power and autocratic stability
Armenia and Georgia compared
Lucan Way1
This chapter compares regime development in two most similar cases. Armenia and Georgia are both small states in the same region, with similar levels
of economic development that witnessed the rise of powerful ethnic nationalist
movements in the late 1980s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, both cases
were plagued by violent ethnic conflicts and independent paramilitaries that
threatened to undermine all central state control. Finally, both countries were
hybrid or competitive authoritarian regimes throughout the 1990s and 2000s.2
At the same time, the two countries have differed considerably in terms of
regime stability since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Armenia, governments faced down several enormous opposition protests to hang onto control.
Throughout the post-Soviet period, incumbent governments or their chosen
successors managed to stay in power. By contrast, Georgian governments
have suffered greater instability (including several years of total state breakdown) in the face of relatively modest challenges. Since 1991, oppositionist
forces have forced two incumbents from power.
I argue that these divergent outcomes are the result of different interactions
between ethnic nationalism and state building. In Armenia, the conflict with
Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh generated a unified ethnic nationalist
response that contributed to successful state-building efforts and sufficient
coercive state capacity necessary to thwart even a highly mobilized opposition. By contrast, Georgian leaders lacked such a salient unifying issue. As a
result, Georgian politics remained extremely fragmented, which in the context
of emerging ethnic conflict resulted in total state collapse. Georgia’s weak
state in turn was unable to cope with even modest opposition challenges in
1991–92 and 2003.
Organizational power and autocracy: lessons from the Caucasus
Most discussions of autocratic breakdown in the post-Communist world have
focused on the importance of opposition protest (Bunce and Wolchik 2006;
Beissinger 2007; Thompson and Kuntz 2004; Howard and Roessler 2006;
Tucker 2007). Yet, a rough comparison of post-Cold War Armenia and
Georgia suggests the limits of this approach. As we see in Figure 4.1, below,
L. Way
Figure 4.1 Opposition protests in Armenia and Georgia, 1992–2005.
Sources: For Armenia: Goldenberg (1994: 149); Mitiaev (1998: 86, 91, 101); Masikh
and Krikorian (1999: vi); Danielian (1996–97:128); Magdashian (2001); EurasiaNet
(2002); Petrosian (2003), Fuller (2003b,c,d), Hakobyan (2004); and Karapetian (2004).
For Georgia: Wheatley (2005: 155, 184); Civil. Ge Daily News Online, Politics
Notes: This figure is drawn from a list of major opposition demonstrations solicited
from at least two country experts in each case. The figures represent the highest
estimates of demonstration size the author could find in a non-partisan news source
for each demonstration.
Armenia has witnessed far more frequent and sizable opposition mobilization
than has Georgia (despite the former’s smaller population). Yet, Georgia has
suffered notably greater regime instability. While Armenian governments have
been able to hold onto power in the face of often massive opposition protest,
two Georgian governments have collapsed since 1991 when confronted with
relatively weak opponents.
In order to understand the sources of stability and instability in the two
cases, we need to examine two essential tools that are often key to maintaining incumbent power: states and ruling parties. Strong states and ruling parties have translated into greater autocratic stability (Way 2002, 2005a; Slater
2003; Levitsky and Way 2007; Geddes 1999; Brownlee 2007; Slater 2008).
While Armenian and Georgian regimes have both possessed relatively weak
ruling parties, the two cases have differed dramatically in terms of state
strength. A stronger state in Armenia has led to greater regime stability.
First, as Barbara Geddes and Jason Brownlee argue, strong ruling parties
are often essential to autocratic stability. Strong ruling parties “encourage
continued cooperation over defection” (Brownlee 2007: 57), by institutionalizing the distribution of patronage to supporters and providing credible
commitments that rewards will be distributed to those who invest time and
resources in the party’s future.
State power and autocratic stability
Sources of party cohesion vary (Levitsky and Way 2007). The most
common—but also the weakest—source of cohesion is patronage. Parties
based exclusively on short-term patronage ties are vulnerable to elite defection
during periods of economic crisis. When economic downturns threaten
incumbents’ capacity to distribute patronage, or when incumbents appear
politically weak and vulnerable to defeat, patronage-based parties often suffer
massive defections. Patronage is a particularly weak source of cohesion when
parties are new and lack a long track record of electoral success. Thus while
parties with proven success—such as the PRI in Mexico or UNMO in
Malaysia—have been able to maintain cohesion even in the face of crisis,
newer parties such as Putin’s “United Russia” confront much greater challenges. In addition, while almost all parties use some form of patronage to
maintain cohesion, they also may draw on other sources of cohesion to bolster patronage—including a robust ideology, or ethnic ties in the context of
ethnic polarization/civil war.3 Parties relying on these other forms of cohesion
are more likely to retain cohesion in the face of crisis.
Both Armenia and Georgia have suffered from relatively weak ruling parties that threatened regime instability in the 1990s and 2000s. Thus, while the
ruling Armenian National Movement (ANM), founded in 1990, had wide
elite and popular support, it suffered from weak cohesion as a new party. The
party consisted of a broad nationalist coalition that included nonconformist
intelligentsia from the Communist era, younger activists, and figures from the
Communist establishment (Aves 1996: 4). The result was relatively weak
cohesion (Sarafyan 1994: 30). Throughout the early 1990s, major leaders of
ANM broke off to form their own parties (Libaridian 1999: 10, 23–24; Masih
and Krikorian 1999: 45–46). In 1998, the party completely disintegrated after
Prime Minister Robert Kocharian took power from President Levon Ter-Petrosian in an internal coup caused in part by disagreements over policies
toward Nagorno-Karabakh. Under Kocharian, the former head of the Karabakh region who replaced Ter-Petrosian as President in 1998, the ruling
party became even weaker. Kocharian has based his rule on a coalition of
multiple parties rather than one party. At the same time, at least one of these
parties—the Dashnaks—has an extensive party organization throughout the
country (Mitiaev 1998: 108; Sarafyan 1994: 31).
Governing parties have been similarly weak in Georgia. Under the first
President Zviad Gamsakhurdia (1990–91), the Georgian regime had a very
weak ruling party. The “Round Table” created haphazardly by Gamsakhurdia in the run-up to the first legislative elections in 1990 lacked virtually
any organizational structure. Although it won an overwhelming share of seats
(155 of 250) to the Georgian Supreme Soviet, it was formed primarily on the
basis of self-appointed Gamsakhurdia supporters lacking particular ties to the
leader (Aves 1992: 165–66; Slider 1997: 177). Ruling-party capacity notably
improved under Eduard Shevardnadze (1992–2003). In stark contrast to his
counterparts in other post-Soviet countries, Shevardnadze resisted early misgivings and decided to build a single, relatively coherent ruling party—the
L. Way
Citizen’s Union of Georgia (CUG)—that more or less controlled parliament
from 1995 until 2001–2. Having been the Georgian Communist Party First
Secretary 1972–85, Shevardnadze was able to create an organization from a
series of economic and political nomenklatura ties as well as members of the
intelligentsia who saw Shevardnadze as key to ending the Georgian civil war
(Wheatley 2005: Chapter 4). The party made a significant effort to encompass
the elite at all levels in the country. Thus, mayors of towns and even heads of
schools felt it was necessary to join the CUG (Wheatley 2005: 131). At the
same time, party cohesion was not extremely strong. The party was never
more than a relatively loose coalition of highly diverse interests and “uneasy
bedfellows” (Wheatley 2005; Jones 1999). In addition, the CUG lacked any
serious ideology or source of cohesion outside of patronage distribution
(Wheatley 2005: Chapter 5). In 2001–3, the CUG fragmented into several
competing ruling parties. Finally in 2001, Saakashvili created a relatively centralized party—United National Movement—that dominated the legislature
after elections in 2004.
While governing party cohesion has been about the same in Armenia and
Georgia, the two cases have differed dramatically in terms of state power—
another important source of regime stability. Recent scholarship has focused
overwhelmingly on the critical role that state power plays in the creation of a
stable democracy. As Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan (1996), Guillermo O’Donnell
(1993, 1999) and Stephen Holmes (1997) among others4 have argued, effective
state power is necessary to support democratic institutions. Thus Stephen
Holmes (1997) has noted that “the largest and most reliable human rights
organization is the liberal state. Beyond the effective reach of such a state,
rights will not be consistently protected or enforced.” In the absence of a
functioning central state, it is virtually impossible to protect civil liberties,
hold free and fair elections, or secure minority rights that are core to any
procedural democracy.5 Indeed, Georgia, which suffered from civil war in
1991–94, provides a classic example of how weak states make democracy
impossible. Certainly, elections can hardly be free and fair when competing
paramilitaries and armed criminal gangs dominate the country—undermining
normal street commerce or travel between cities.
Yet, if Georgia provides a stark example of the dangers of state weakness,
Armenia shows us that the successful construction of a centralized state in no
way ensures democracy. In fact, as I have shown elsewhere (Way 2002, 2005a,
2006), state building is as crucial for authoritarian consolidation as it is for
democratization (see also Slater 2008). The creation of a functioning centralized state hierarchy in Armenia was a key prerequisite for relatively stable
autocratic rule. The war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh provided
both the impetus for the creation of relatively robust centralized rule and gave
leaders essential coercive and organizational tools to steal elections, and suppress even massive opposition protest. By contrast, state collapse in Georgia
undermined democracy but also made the regime more competitive and
vulnerable to outside challenges.
State power and autocratic stability
Below, I compare the evolution of organizational power and democracy in
Armenia and Georgia—focusing on the character of state building in the two
cases. I show how the two cases are similar in a number of important ways.
However, divergent patterns of ethnic conflict in the two countries led to state
collapse in Georgia and the creation of relatively centralized state institutions
in Armenia. The different degrees of state capacity had a direct impact on
autocratic stability. In Armenia, leaders were able to withstand several serious
outside challenges. By contrast, Georgian incumbents fell twice to relatively
modest oppositionist forces in 1991–92 and 2003.
Ethnic conflict and state building in Armenia and Georgia
Armenia and Georgia represent most similar cases along virtually any
dimension imaginable. They are both small countries in the same region that
adopted Christianity in the first thousand years AD. Both have poor, aid
dependent,6 and underdeveloped economies—with per capita gross domestic
products (GDPs) of about 10 per cent that of the USA in the early 2000s
(World Development Indicators). Both countries experienced roughly similar
patterns of extreme economic collapse in the early 1990s but consistently positive
growth beginning in 1995 (although Armenia’s growth appears to have been a
bit more robust according to official figures).7
Their recent political histories are also quite similar. In the late 1980s,
Gorbachev’s political liberalization fed the rise of powerful ethnic nationalist
movements led by the cultural intelligentsia. In Georgia in 1987–90, Zviad
Gamsakhurdia, a literary scholar and dissident who had spent years in prison
for nationalist and human rights activity, helped to lead mass protests in favor
of Georgian independence. In the republican elections of October 1990,
Gamsakhurdia’s “Roundtable—Free Georgia” won 64 per cent of seats in the
legislature. In May 1991, Gamsakhurdia was elected President with 87 per cent
of the vote. Similarly in Armenia in 1987–90, Levon Ter-Petrosian, a historian,
led a mass movement to support Armenian ethnic rights in the neighboring
Nagorno-Karabakh region that was densely populated by Armenians but
under the political control of Azerbaijan. In 1987–88, the Committee helped
organize a series of strikes and mass demonstrations—reaching close to a million
in February 1998 (Malkasian 1996: 37–47). In the first Armenian legislative
elections in May 1990, the Committee—now calling itself the ANM—overwhelmingly defeated the Communist Party (winning of 110 of 245 seats) and
installed Ter-Petrosian as head of parliament. In 1991, Ter-Petrosian was
overwhelmingly elected President with 83 per cent of the vote.
Armenia and Georgia also both witnessed the outbreak of ethnic violence
and the growth of paramilitaries that threatened state collapse in the late
1980s and early 1990s. In Georgia, Georgian nationalist paramilitaries emerged
in 1988–90 to battle secessionist efforts by leaders of the autonomous regions
of South Ossetia and then Abkhazia. In Armenia, independent paramilitaries
under weak central control were created in 1988–90 to battle Azerbaijan
L. Way
for control over Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus both cases were threatened by
state collapse.
Despite such important similarities, regime stability has differed significantly
in the two cases. In Armenia, the government and its chosen successors were
able to centralize de facto control over the country and survive in power through
mid-2009. While 1989–90 witnessed a collapse in central state control and
growth in semi-independent paramilitaries (De Waal 2003: 111), Ter-Petrosian
effectively subdued independent military formations in the country (Masih
and Krikorian 1999: 20–22; Mitiaev 1998: 77–78; Goldenberg 1994: 144). One
of the largest paramilitaries, the Armenian Army of Independence, agreed to
lay down its arms to declare loyalty to the Ministry of Interior (De Waal 2003:
111). The war that had until then been spontaneously organized by volunteers
became more systematically controlled by a centralized state apparatus (Aves
1996). Subsequently the leadership was able to build a powerful coercive apparatus.
The government generously funded the military (De Waal 2003: 257, 122) and
was able to draw on a strong sense of national identity to impose a highly effective
draft (Aves 1995: 223; Aves 1996). The Armenian central state also maintained firm control over regional governments (Hakobyan 2004) and has built
an extensive coercive apparatus that penetrates the country (Stefes 2006: 114–16).
Simultaneously, incumbent governments have maintained power in the face
of significant mass protest. In the context of large significant opposition
mobilization, an economic blockade from neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan
and a violent attack on parliament in 1999, incumbents won in Presidential
elections in 1991, 1996, 1998, 2003, and 2008, and the executive was never
overthrown by an outside challenger. While President Levon Ter-Petrosian
left office in early 1998, he was replaced by officials from within his own
government, including Prime Minister Robert Kocharian, whom Ter-Petrosian
had appointed several months earlier. In 2008, Serzh Sargsyan, Kocharian’s
chosen successor was elected President.
In stark contrast, the end of the Soviet Union in Georgia witnessed neartotal state collapse as well as the failure of two incumbent governments in the
face of outside oppositionist forces. First, the Georgian state has remained
relatively weak throughout the post-Soviet period. Under Gamsakhurdia, the
army consisted of competing and poorly trained paramilitary formations
(Jones 1996: 36). Several significant forces such as Jaba Ioseliani’s Mkhedrioni
(Knights) never even came under the nominal control of Gamsakhurdia
(Wheatley 2005: 135). As a result, Georgia had lost military battles for control
over both South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the early 1990s.
Unlike Gamsakhurdia, Shevardnadze actively sought accommodation with
Russia and was gradually able to reestablish central control over the militias.
By 1995, Shevardnadze had sidelined most major paramilitaries and consolidated at least basic control over the Georgian police (Stefes 2006: 42–43;
Wheatley 2005: 84–85). Yet, Georgian state weakness persisted. In contrast to
Armenia, the Georgian central state confronted immense difficulty controlling
regions despite the country’s small size. In addition to Abkhazia and Ossetia,
State power and autocratic stability
the Pankisi Gorge, Ajaria, Kodori Gorge and Mingrelia were all weakly
controlled by the central state (Welt 2000).
In contrast to Armenia, governments in Georgia twice fell to relatively
modest opposition challenges. In late 1991 and early 1992—just months after
his overwhelming victory in the presidential elections—Gamsakhurdia was
forced from power when key paramilitaries turned against him. Shevardnadze, who came to Georgia in 1992, was able to hold onto power for
much, much longer. However in 2003, despite years of consistently positive
economic growth Shevardnadze fell in the face of sporadic protests that
reached a maximum of “tens of thousands” of protestors (Karumidze and
Wertsch 2005: 13; De Waal 2003) in late November.8
What explains such significantly different outcomes in the two cases? I
argue that the key difference was that in Armenia the new government benefited from a single issue—battle with Azerbaijan over control over NagornoKarabakh—that united disparate forces and greatly facilitated successful
construction of a centralized state apparatus (Stefes 2006: 113). By contrast,
the Georgian government lacked such a unifying issue—permitting the descent
of Georgia into full-scale civil war and persistent state weakness.
While many diaspora Armenians had never heard of Karabakh prior to
1988, the issue became the single overriding conflict that united the vast
majority of population and elite—greatly facilitating state-building efforts in
the republic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Nagorno-Karabakh, dominated
by Muslims in the nineteenth century, became majority Armenian by the
early twentieth century (Goldenberg 1994: 158). In 1923, the region was officially
placed under Azerbaijani republican control—a decision made with Joseph
Stalin’s consent. By the 1960s, Armenians began to protest perceived economic
underdevelopment in the territory and called for the transfer of control over
the region to neighboring Armenia. In 1987–88, protests began taking place
calling for the unification of Armenia and Karabakh. In February 1988, the
Karabakh Soviet voted overwhelmingly to transfer their territory to Armenia.
In Erevan, the capital of Armenia, hundreds of thousands demonstrated on
behalf of Karabakh. While protest demands ranged from democratization to
ending corruption to the creation of a memorial to recognize the 1915 genocide, “the focus [of the protests] was on Karabakh” (Goldenberg 1994: 162).
Subsequently, anti-Armenian riots took place in the Azerbaijani town of
Sumgait—killing at least 32 Armenian residents. By the end of the year, both
countries had expelled large numbers of Armenian and Azerbaijani minorities
from their territories—creating enormous refugee problems. Soviet efforts to
control the situation utterly failed. The arrest of 11 members of the Karabakh
Committee headed by Ter-Petrosian, significantly enhanced the popularity of
the movement. By 1990, the Communist Party had totally lost control over
Armenia—culminating in Ter-Petrosian’s selection as head of parliament and
government in August and election as president a year later.
The fight against Azerbaijan over Karabakh was able to unify the Armenian national movement because it tapped into highly resonant antipathy
L. Way
towards Turkey grounded in the 1915 Armenian genocide (Goldenberg 1994:
154; Malkasian 1996). Azerbaijani identity and language are closely tied to
The imprint of suffering left by the slaughter of 1915 has given each stage
of the [Karabakh] conflict an added dimension. Armenians regularly refer
to the Azerbaijanis Turks or Tatars, an identity interchangeable with their
tormentors from the past.
(Goldenberg 1994: 154)
The conflict pressed “well-known emotional buttons” that united Armenians
behind a single cause (Malkasian 1996: 37, 128). “Armenia’s pro-democracy
movement … merged completely with the Karabakh issue” (Goldenberg
1994: 165). The 1988 pogrom in Sumgait further reinforced links to the 1915
massacre—making Karabakh the overwhelmingly central priority in Armenia. Leaders were able to use the battle with Azerbaijan to subordinate other
issues and conflicts within Armenia. This battle took precedence over concerns for Armenian independence. Most notably, the Armenian movement
was willing to put off demands for secession in order to secure Moscow’s
support for territorial demands.
Further, the military success in Nagorno-Karabakh generated an elite set of
cadres highly skilled in violence and coercion that became an important bulwark for relatively stable autocratic rule. As we shall see below, veterans from
this conflict provided key support to the regime when it successfully quelled mass
opposition protests in the mid 1990s and early 2000s (Stefes 2006: 48–50).
In stark contrast, the Georgian nationalist movement lacked any single
overriding issue that could unite disparate factions. Like the Armenians, the
Georgians also confronted violent ethnic conflict. However, the Georgian
fights with the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and Ossetia did not tap into
salient identity issues in any way comparable to Armenia’s conflict with
Turkey. Thus, many leaders broke with Gamsakhurdia over his decision to
engage Ossetia because they felt that Georgian independence from the Soviet
Union should take priority (Wheatley 2005: 27–28). In the absence of any
single unifying issue, the movement quickly collapsed into hostile competing
factions.9 Thus, the movement split over core issues—such as whether to
participate in the official 1990 parliamentary elections or take part in alternative parallel elections organized without the support of Soviet authorities
(Wheatley 2005: 27). While Gamsakhurdia ran for a position in the government-sponsored elections, other major leaders—including Giorgi Chanturia—
ran for seats in the alternative “National Congress,” that later became a base
of opposition in the violent fight against Gamsakhurdia for power (Wheatley
2005: 29–32).
While state collapse in Georgia was caused by several factors—including
Gamsakhurdia’s erratic behavior—the lack of a single salient issue made it
more difficult for leaders to unite the movement and halt the disintegration of
State power and autocratic stability
Georgia into chaos. By the mid-1990s, the Georgian government had lost
two wars of secession, had only limited control over a number of other territories within its borders and suffered from frequent and open rebellion by
agents of coercion and other officials (Fuller 1998; Devdariani 2002; Welt
2000; Jones 1999).
Sources of regime stability
These different patterns of ethnic conflict and state building had a direct
impact on regime stability. In Armenia, the powerful coercive apparatus that
arose from the war in Nagorno-Karabakh was highly effective in putting
down major protest. By contrast, Georgia’s weak state meant that incumbents
were often vulnerable to even weakly mobilized opponents.
Organizational power and autocratic stability in Armenia
Two major factors have directly shaped regime stability in Armenia: ruling
party and state capacity. While Armenia’s relatively weak ruling parties have
generated important sources of instability, the strong state has successfully
prevented any outside opposition challengers from seizing power.
Armenia has remained a stable competitive authoritarian regime since the
ANM seized power from the Communist Party after the 1990 elections.10
Under President Ter-Petrosian, the regime engaged in widespread pressure on
media—instituting politically motivated legal proceedings against numerous
journalists and shutting down 11 major outlets—including the largest circulation paper in the country (Fuller 1995; Mitiaev 1998: 99). In 1994, the
government outlawed the Armenian Revolutionary Party or Dashnaks (Mitiaev
1998: 99; Dudwick 1997). Finally, the government engaged in serious electoral
fraud—both in parliamentary elections of 1995 (Dudwick 1997: 94–95) and
most spectacularly in Presidential elections in 1996. In 1996, the former
Defense Minister Vasgen Manukian mounted a serious challenge to TerPetrosian—possibly beating the President in the first round on September 21
1996 (Astourian 2000–1: 45; Mkrtchian 1999). As later admitted by the
Interior Minister at the time—Vano Siradeghian—the Armenian leadership
met after receiving “distressing news” of Ter-Petrosian’s failure and decided to
falsify the results in order to give Ter-Petrosian a first round victory (Danielyan 1998). Subsequently, the regime carried out mass arrests of Manukian
supporters that were “accompanied by forced closures of opposition parties,
numerous police beatings, and an army presence on the streets of the capital”
(Human Rights Watch 2003: 5).
In 1998, disagreements within the government over policy towards Karabakh led to the resignation of Ter-Petrosian in favor of his Prime Minister,
Robert Kocharian, who remained in power through 2008. In 1998, Kocharian
defeated the former Armenian Communist Party Chief Karen Demirchian in
a Presidential election marred by “serious irregularities” (Organization for
L. Way
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 1998: 3). Kocharian continued
to engage in serious democratic abuses: harassment of major media (including
the closure of the oppositionist A+ television station in 2001) (Grigorian
2000; Petrosian 2003); regular persecution of opposition activists (Danielyan
2004); and serious electoral fraud in the 2003 Parliamentary and Presidential
elections that returned Kocharian for a second term (OSCE 2003a, 2003b;
Giragosian 2004).11 In February 2008 Kocharian’s chosen successor, Serzh
Sargsyan, won elections that were characterized by widespread intimidation
and fraud. In reaction to subsequent protests, the government cracked down
on opposition killing seven and imposing a state of emergency.
The dynamics of political development in Armenia since 1991 have reflected the fact that the regime has on the one hand possessed a strong state
apparatus that was able to put down frequent and strong protest but on the
other hand has had a relatively weak ruling party that suffered from frequent
elite defection. As we see in Figure 4.1, the Armenian opposition was extremely mobilized. The opposition organised protests of about 100,000 in 1993
and 50,000 in 1994 and 1995 (Masih and Krikorian 1999: vii; Mitiaev 1998,
86, 91, 101). Following the fraudulent 1996 Presidential election, opposition candidate Vasgen Manukian led a demonstration of 150,000–200,000
(Danielian 1996–97: 128).
While the Armenian government faced a far more mobilized opposition
than in Georgia, it was able to draw on a highly effective state to crack down
on outside challenges. Thus, after Manukian mobilized over a 100,000 against
the fraudulent election in 1996, the military plus divisions of the Yekrapah
Union of Karabagh veterans were able to squash the protest by arresting over
200 opposition activists throughout the country, closing roads leading to the
capital Yerevan, and shutting down the headquarters of opposition parties
(Mkrtchian 1999; Bremmer and Welt 1997; Zakarian 2005; Minasian 1999).
As a result, the government was able to put down one of the largest demonstrations (relative to the size of the country’s population) in the former Soviet
Union since 1992.
While the size of the protests after 1996 became smaller, the opposition still
mobilized protests that were at least as large as those of Georgia. Thus in
2003, an estimated 25,000 to 100,000 came out against fraud in the first round
of Presidential elections that pitted Kocharian against Stepan Demirchian
(Hoel 2003; Petrosian 2003; Fuller 2003a). However, coercive forces in Armenia
continued to demonstrate remarkable capacity to shut down opposition
action. Thus, in between the first and second rounds, the government detained
several hundred Demirchian activists throughout the country – thereby forcing the campaign into hiding and squashing the protest (Human Rights
Watch 2003: 10).
Subsequently, the Rose Revolution in Georgia inspired Armenian opposition to take the streets again – with demonstrations of 10,000 to 25,000
against the government in early 2004 (Hakobyan 2004; Karapetian 2004).
However, again, the Armenian state was strong enough to quickly put down
State power and autocratic stability
these protests. The police knew the location of just about every opposition
activist and thus were easily able to find and harass anyone who might present
threaten the regime (Danielyan 2004). Military and thugs supporting the
government detained hundreds of oppositionists and raided opposition headquarters (Danielyan 2004). As during previous demonstrations, the police
were able to block access to the capital and thus prevent the protests from
growing (Hakobya 2004; Human Rights Watch 2004). Finally, the military
and security services were easily able to suppress protests of 20,000–25,000
that emerged following disputed elections in February 2008.
The regime’s success at putting down opposition protests in the 2000s was
partly the result of its ability to pre-empt protest activity through widespread
“prophylactic” arrests of leaders before protests took place (Grigorian 2000;
Stepanian and Kalantarian 2005). Thus, mass arrests of opposition leaders
before the second round of the Presidential elections in 2003 effectively disabled the opposition before it could mount a serious challenge (Human
Rights Watch 2004: 3).
At the same time, Armenia’s relatively weak ruling party structure has
created a potentially serious obstacle to autocratic consolidation. In the early
and mid-1990s, defections from the ruling coalition generated the most serious opposition to the regime (Astourian 2000–1: 49–50). Thus, in the 1996
Presidential elections the three main candidates had all been leaders of the
Karabakh Committee (the organizational precursor to the ANM). Under
Kocharian, the ruling coalition has been even more fragmented—consisting
of multiple (and often competing) autonomous political parties. The ruling
group has suffered high volatility and numerous crises—particularly in 1998–
99 when the President was challenged from within the government (Fuller
1998; Simonian 2000; Danielyan 2004; Giragosian 2004). Kocharian continued to face a great deal of open dissent from within the government in the
mid-2000s. In the run-up to the 2008 elections, the “Prosperous Armenia”
party supported the political ambitions of President Kocharian; the “Republican
Party” supported Prime Minister, Serzh Sargsyan; and the Dashnaks gave
their support primarily to Kocharian. Such a situation often made it hard to
figure out who the “incumbent” is and would seem to make defection easier.
The weakness of parties and reliance on the security apparatus has meant that
the government has had to use police harassment and open threats of prosecution to keep some parliamentarians in line (Khachatrian 2006b). Following
the disputed February 2008 elections, high-level regime officials—including
the deputy head of the parliament (from the Dashniak party), the deputy
prosecutor-general, and nine officials in the Foreign Ministry—defected to the
opposition (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 2008a,b). Thus, despite Armenia’s powerful state, the regime continues to face serious potential threats of
In sum, Armenia maintained a stable competitive authoritarian regime
1992–2007 in the face of powerful opposition protest by relying on a strong
coercive apparatus that emerged from its successful war with Azerbaijan in
L. Way
the early 1990s. At the same time, the regime faces potential instability from a
highly fragmented and weak ruling coalition.
Weak organizational capacity and autocratic failure in Georgia
Georgia represents a case of unstable competitive authoritarianism. Relatively
weak party and state structures have contributed to regime instability in the
post-Cold War era. Thus, in 1992 and 2003, Zviad Gamsakhurdia and then
Eduard Shevardnadze fell in the face of only moderately strong opposition
challenges. Such turnover, however, has not led to full democratization. The
regime of Zviad Gamsakhurdia represents one of the most short-lived and
disastrously failed efforts at authoritarian state building in the former Soviet
Union. After being elected head of parliament in 1990 and then President in
1991, Gamsakhurdia sought to impose strict censorship on the media and
arrest leaders opposed to his regime (Jones 1997: 516–2; Slider 1997: 162–64).
However, the regime rapidly disintegrated and Gamsakhurdia was forced into
exile in January 1992 after several small militia armies attacked the capital.
The combination of weak organizational capacity and hostile relations with
Russia effectively doomed Gamsakhurdia’s autocracy-building efforts in 1991.
The loosely organized Round Table bloc rapidly disintegrated in 1991 and
many former supporters began calling for Gamsakhurdia’s resignation.
Simultaneously, the already weak Georgian state had severely hemorrhaged
by mid-year. In late August 1991, Gamzakhurdia was discredited when he
appeared to succumb to the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in
Moscow. Following a decree abolishing the post of head of the Georgian
National Guard, the National Guard Commander Tengiz Kitovani broke
form the President and led his troops out of the capital. After the coup failed,
protests broke out in Tblisi against Gamsakhurdia. Gamsakhurdia responded
by attempting to impose martial law. However, the state completely disintegrated. Kitovani, who had been encamped outside Tblisi, marched into the
capital and fought Gamsakhurdia forces in the center of the city. The warlord
Jaba Ioseliani also led his paramilitary units into the capital. Gamsakhurdia
holed himself up in a bunker below the parliament building until he was
forced to flee in early January 1992.
In February–March 1992, the leaders of the coup that ousted Gamsakhurdia convinced Eduard Shevardnadze to return to Georgia as the head of
state. However, the Georgian state by this point had almost totally broken
down. Rival militias—including paramilitaries loyal to Gamsakhurdia in
western Georgia—fought one another for control throughout the country
(Wheatley 2005: 77).12 No effective Georgian military existed at this point
and Shevardnadze had to rely on Ioseliani and other warlords to put down a
Gamsakhurdia-led rebellion in October 1993 (Wheatley 2005: 78). Only in 1995
was Shevardnadze able to sideline the militias and establish a semi-functional
Georgian central state (Wheatley 2005: 84–85). In 1995, Shevardnadze was
elected President with 77 per cent of the vote.
State power and autocratic stability
The Shevardnadze era was characterized by both competitive elections and
widespread civil liberties violations and electoral manipulation. In the 1995
Presidential elections, the authorities reportedly manipulated the vote count
to ensure a convincing victory over the former Communist Party head
Dzhumber Patiashvili (Wheatley 2004). Again in the 1999 parliamentary
and 2000 Presidential elections, witnesses reported widespread ballot stuffing
and vote count manipulation (OSCE 2000a,b). The government also inflated
turnout figures in order ensure that a major opposition party did not pass the
minimum threshold to enter parliament (OSCE 2000a: 27). Finally, the 2003
parliamentary elections that led eventually to Shevardnadze’s overthrow witnessed widespread ballot stuffing, multiple voting, and manipulation of the
vote count (OSCE 2003c). Further, most media were highly biased in favor of
the government—both during and in between elections (Jones 1999; Fuller
1996; OSCE 2000a: 27; 2000b: 15).
In the mid- and late 1990s, Shevardnadze was able to maintain relatively
secure control over Georgia. In part, such success was rooted in the creation
of a relatively robust (by post-Soviet standards) patronage machine centered
in the ruling Citizens Union of Georgia (CUG).13 Equally as important, the
opposition in Georgia was relatively weak and divided. Like most other postCommunist countries (Howard 2003), Georgia had a relatively weak civil
society that was highly dependent on foreign financing.14 The opposition in
the late 1990s was split between a regional patronage network in Ajaria and
dissidents in the capital (OSCE 2000a; Wheatley 2004).
However, the CUG’s lack of ideology or other mechanisms of cohesion
outside patronage made it vulnerable to crisis. Thus, when Shevardnadze
began to lose popularity in the early 2000s, the party rapidly hemorrhaged—
leading eventually to the disintegration of the Shevardnadze regime.15 After
the successful 1999 parliamentary elections when the CUG gained over half
of the seats in parliament, the party began to disintegrate. In the spring
and summer, a group of younger officials within the party began openly criticizing Shevardnadze and charging various government ministers with corruption (Wheatley 2005: 103–6; Devdariani 2002). By the fall, the party suffered
massive defections and, after Shevardnadze had resigned, the party split apart
permanently (Devdariani 2001). In particular, three formerly close allies of
Shevardnadze emerged as major challengers: Nino Burdjanadze, Zurab
Zhvania, and Mikhail Saakashvili.
In 2003, these figures all challenged a reformed ruling party in parliamentary elections. Following widespread falsification of the vote that appears to
have resulted in lower results for opposition parties, the opposition led by
Saakashvili called for mass demonstrations against the government that
eventually led to Shevardnadze’s resignation in late November 2003. Most
accounts of these events have emphasized the importance of mass protest and
mobilization in Shevardnadze’s overthrow following the oppostion’s seizure of
parliament on November 22 (cf. Beissinger 2007; Tucker 2007). Certainly, by
Georgian standards, the demonstrations were relatively large. Yet, the protests
L. Way
were smaller than those in Armenia in 1996 and about the same size as antiregime actions in Armenia in 2003 and 2004, and 2008. For most of November,
protests against the fraudulent election were small and sporadic (Mitchell
2007, 345). Attempts to organize a general strike failed (Wheatley 2005: Chapter
6). On November 22 when the opposition seized parliament, the demonstrations according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, reached 20,000–30,000
(Fuller 2003b); while others estimated the size to be in the tens of thousands
(Karumidze and Wertsch 2005: 13). It is not entirely clear where the sometimescited figure of 100,000 comes from. But such estimates may have been made
on the basis of the much larger street celebrations – televised worldwide – that
took place after the parliament had been occupied.
Indeed, the opposition appears to have succeeded in overthrowing the legislature less because of its ability to mobilize especially large numbers of
committed protestors and more because Shevardnadze’s coercive apparatus
was strikingly weak. Accounts of the storming suggest that the police simply
dissolved in the face of protests that were not especially large by the standards
of the region. When opposition activists decided to enter the parliament
building, police did nothing to stop them (Karumidze and Wertsch 2005:
15) – at least in part because they had not been paid in months (Stefes 2006: 131).
As a result, Saakashvili was able to march into the building, rose in hand,
and take charge of the legislature after reportedly drinking a glass of tea left
behind by a fleeing Shevardnadze.
After escaping parliament Shevardnadze attempted to declare martial law.
Yet, as he complained, “[t]he Georgian state apparatus did not stand up to the
challenge before it” (quoted in Karumidze and Wertsch 2005: 29). High-level
officials resisted taking action against the opposition and Shevardnadze
resigned the next day.
In sum, mass protest certainly played a role in the fall of Shevardnadze.
Yet, the scale of protest cannot explain why the regime fell in Georgia but not
in neighbouring Armenia. Instead the critical factor was Georgia’s much
weaker state apparatus.16
Once in power, Saakashvili immediately took measures to strengthen central state control. He increased Presidential power, jailed corrupt officials,
radically reformed the traffic police, and subordinated a breakaway government in Ajaria that had remained largely outside central control throughout
the Shevardnadze era (Stefes 2004).
However, as in Russia (Way 2005a), “strengthening the state was accompanied by certain setbacks in democratic freedoms” (Nodia 2005: 1). Through
2008, observers noted systematic violations of democratic norms that make it
impossible to label the new regime democratic. The opposition has suffered
periodic harassment through politically motivated prosecutions on the basis
of corruption and treason charges (Devdariani 2004). There was also systematic pressure on independent media: including tax raids of television stations critical of the government; prosecution of critical journalists, and
pressures to cancel programs critical of Saakashvili (Fuller 2005; Corso
State power and autocratic stability
2006b). In the 2005 “Reporters Without Borders” media freedom report,
Georgia fell five places from ninety-fourth to ninety-ninth out of 167 countries
surveyed (Corso 2006a). In addition, Georgia continued to suffer important
levels of electoral fraud in 2004.17
Armenia and Georgia shared many characteristics at the end of the twentieth
century. Both were relatively underdeveloped small countries in the Caucasus
region that experienced robust ethnic nationalist movements in the Gorbachev
era. Yet, the two countries experienced very different levels of regime stability
in the 1990s and 2000s—with Georgia suffering much greater instability than
Armenia. A comparison of the two cases demonstrates how different patterns
of ethnic nationalist conflict may generate very different types of state power
and autocratic stability. In Armenia, the leadership was able to draw on the
single overriding issue of Karabakh to unite an otherwise disparate nationalist movement and build a relatively powerful state apparatus. The strong state
in turn contributed in important ways to autocratic stability in the face of a
robustly mobilized opposition. As a result, incumbent governments or their
chosen successors maintained power through the late 2000s. By contrast, the
absence of such a single issue in Georgia contributed to state division and
collapse. Partly as a result, incumbents fell from power in 1992 and 2003.
Nevertheless, Georgia remained non-democratic through 2008.
1 The author thanks Christoph Stefes, Cory Welt, and Jonathan Wheatley for their
assistance on this chapter.
2 Competitive authoritarian regimes are civilian regimes in which elections are the
primary means of gaining and keeping power but in which electoral and civil liberties abuses are so severe that the country cannot be called a democracy. In such
cases, oppositions face significant abuses—including harassment by tax and other
authorities, violence, and mild electoral fraud. However, oppositions can and
sometimes do win. Elections are highly unfair but simultaneously remain competitive. See Levitsky and Way (2002, 2007).
3 For a much more extensive discussion, see Levitsky and Way (2007) and Smith (2005).
4 Also see Sperling (2000);, De Waal (2003: 76), Bunce (2003: 180–81), and Stefes (2005).
5 I refer here to a standard procedural definition of democracy that includes the
protection of civil liberties, and free and fair elections. See Dahl (1971).
6 In 2003, aid accounted for just over 50 per cent of central expenditures in both
countries (World Development Indicators).
6 Armenia’s average growth was 9 per cent in 1995–2005. Georgia’s was 6.3 per cent
(World Development Indicators).
7 Georgia’s official growth rate was 5 per cent, 6 per cent, and 11 per cent in 2001,
2002, and 2003 (World Development Indicators).
9 The battle for Georgian independence might have provided such a unifying issue.
However, the failed coup in August 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet state from
within meant that Georgia attained independence without having to fight for it.
L. Way
10 Competitive authoritarian regimes are civilian regimes in which elections are the
primary means of gaining and keeping power but in which electoral and civil liberties abuses are so severe that the country cannot be called a democracy. In such
cases, oppositions face significant abuses—including harassment by tax and other
authorities, violence, and mild electoral fraud. However, oppositions can and sometimes do win. Elections are highly unfair but simultaneously remain competitive.
See Levitsky and Way (2002, 2007).
11 Both elections suffered from significant harassment of opposition, biased media
coverage, ballot stuffing, and vote counting fraud (OSCE 2003a,b).
12 For example, the author was significantly delayed in his efforts to leave Georgia in
April 1992 when a militia group absconded with jet fuel intended for a flight from
Tbilisi to Moscow.
13 For an opposing view, see Stefes (2006) who argues that unlike the Armenian
government, the Shevardnadze government was not able to create a durable and
reliable patronage structure.
14 While “civil society” groups were often considered powerful (see Mitchell 2004),
their influence seems to have been rooted more in their ties to particular government
officials rather than any autonomous organizing capacity (Wheatley 2005: 127).
15 By the late 1990s the party had suffered from “prominent defections and poor
discipline” (Jones 1999, 2000: 53).
16 Comparing Georgia and Armenia, Richard Grigorasian argued that “[t]he key
difference … lies in the power of the state, as the Georgian transition was marked
by the cumulative effects of a loss of state authority and power and a devolution of
power from the central government in Tbilisi to the increasingly assertive and restive
regions, leaving a power vacuum” (quoted in Hakobyan 2004).
17 Thus, the OSCE report on the repeat parliamentary elections held in March 2004
noted “irregularities observed during the tabulation of results, implausible voter
turnout, the mishandling of some complaints and the selective cancellation of
election results … The lack of political balance on election commissions remained
a source of concern” (OSCE 2004b).
Astourian, S. (2000–2001) From Ter-Petrosian to Kocharian: Leadership Change in
Armenia, Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies Working Paper Series,
Aves, J. (1992) “The Rise and Fall of the Georgian Nationalist Movement, 1987–91,”
in G. Hosking, J. Aves, and P. Duncan (eds) The Road to Post-Communism:
Independent Political Movements in the Soviet Union 1985–1991, London: Pinter
——(1995) “National Security and Military Issues in the Transcaucasus,” in V. Parrott
(ed.) State Building and Military Power in Russia and the New States of Eurasia,
Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.
——(1996) “Politics, Parties and Presidents in Transcaucasia,” Caucasian Regional
Studies, 1. <–2.htm. > (accessed 15 June 2008).
Bedevian, A. (2006) “Ruling Parties Pledge Continued Cooperation,” Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty Armenia Report, 6 February. <
rfe/20060206/200602061/ > (accessed July 2007).
Beissinger, M. (2007) “Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena: The
Diffusion of Bulldozer/Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions,” Perspectives on Politics, 5:
State power and autocratic stability
Bremmer, I. and Welt, C. (1997) “Armenia’s new autocrats,” Journal of Democracy, 8:
Brownlee, J. (2007) Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization, London: Cambridge
University Press.
Bunce, V. (2003) “Rethinking Recent Democratization: Lessons from the Postcommunist
Experience,” World Politics, 55: 167–92.
——and Wolchik, S. (2006) “Favorable Conditions and Playing Favorites,” Journal of
Democracy, 17: 5–18.
Civil. Ge Daily News Online, Politics (2005) “Zourabichvili Gears Up for Politics,” 20
October. < = 11010 > (accessed 6 October 2008).
Corso. M. (2006a) “Georgia: Pressure to Report,” Transitions Online, 27 February.
< > (accessed 15 June 2008).
——(2006b) “Georgia: Free Enough?” Transitions Online, 5 April. < >
(accessed 15 June 2008).
Dahl, R. (1971) Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Danielian, M. (1996–97) “Elections in Armenia: a funeral for democracy,” Uncaptive
Minds, 9: 125–31.
Danielyan, E. (1998) “Ter-Petrossian Rigged 1996 Election, Fell Into ‘Depression’,
Says Top Ally,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Armenia Report, 30 December.
——(2004) “Armenia: A Dictator in the Making,” Transitions Online, 24 June. < www. > (accessed 15 June 2008).
Devdariani, J. (2001) “Georgia: CUG Hopelessly Divided: The dismissal of the
Georgian government last week highlights the growing rift between conservatives
and reformers,” Caucasus Reporting Service, 104, 6 November.
——(2002) “Georgia: stormy year breeds uncertainty,” Transitions Online, 24 January.
< > (accessed 15 June 2008).
——(2004) “Georgia’s Rose Revolution Grapples with Dilemma: do ends justify
means?” Eurasia Insight, 26 October.
De Waal, T. (2003) Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War,
New York: NYU Press.
Dudwick, N. (1997) “Political Transformations in Armenia: images and realities,” in
K. Dawisha and B. Parrott (eds) Conflict Cleavage and Change in Central Asia and
the Caucasus, New York: Cambridge University Press.
EurasiaNet (2002) “Thousands Rally to Protest Shutdown of Independent Armenian
TV channel,” Armenia Daily Report, 8 April 2002, original from Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty. <
0018.shtml > (accessed 6 September 2008).
Fuller, L. (1995) “MEDIA: Independent Press in Armenia and Georgia,” Transition
Magazine, 6 October.
——(1996) “MEDIA: Georgia’s Remotely Controlled Television,” Transition Magazine,
18 October.
——(1998) “Coup attempt in Georgia,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Caucasus
Report, 1: 34.
——(2003a) “Armenian presidential campaign kicks off,” Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty Caucasus Report, 6: 4.
——(2003b) “Thousands protest Armenian election falsification,” Radio Free Europe/
Radio Liberty Caucasus Report, 7: 35.
——(2003c) “When is a coup attempt not a coup attempt?” Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty Caucasus Report, 6: 14.
L. Way
——(2003d) “Shevardnadze resignation resolves constitutional deadlock,” Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty Caucasus Report 6: 41.
——(2005) “Some Georgian journalists feel less equal than others,” Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty Caucasus Report, 5: 3 January. <
2005/01/1–030105.asp > (accessed July 2007).
Geddes, B. (1999) “What do we know about democratization after twenty years?”
Annual Review of Political Science, 2: 115–44.
Goldenberg, S. (1994) Pride of Small Nations: The Caucasus and Post-Soviet Disorder,
London: Zed Books.
Giragosian, R. (2002) “Armenian media under assault,” Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty Endnote, Thursday, 24 October, 6: 201.
——(2003) “Armenia: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back,” Transitions Online, 9
April. < > (accessed 15 June 2008).
——(2004) “Armenia 2003: burdened by the unresolved,” Transitions Online, 15
April. < > (accessed 15 June 2008).
Grigorian, M. (2000) “Armenian Political Upstart Arrested: an inglorious protest
meeting in Yerevan could mark the end of Arkady Vardanian’s brief political
career,” Caucasus Reporting Service, 56.
Hakobyan, A. (2004) “Armenia: Authorities Hit Back as Opposition Campaign
Mounts,” Transitions Online, 13 April. < > (accessed 15 June 2008).
Hoel, J. L. (2003) “Armenian: Presidential Elections 2003 Report,” Norwegian
Resource Bank for Democracy and Human Rights, September 2003. < http:// > (accessed
18 June 2008).
Holmes, S. (1997) “What Russia Teaches Us Now: How weak states threaten freedom,” American Prospect, 8, July–August: 30–39. <
article=what_russia_teaches_us_now > (accessed July 2007).
Howard, M. M. (2003) Weakness of Civil Society in Post-Communist Europe, New
York: Cambridge University Press.
——and Roessler, P.G., (2006) “Liberalizing Electoral Outcomes in Competitive
Authoritarian Regimes,” American Journal of Political Science, 50: 365–81.
Human Rights Watch (2003) “The Use of Administrative Detention in the 2003
Armenian Presidential Election,” Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, 23 May.
< > (accessed 15 June 2008).
——(2004) “Cycle of Repression: Human Rights Violations in Armenia,” Human
Rights Watch Briefing Paper, 4 May 2003. <
0504/armenia-election.pdf > (accessed 16 June 2008).
Jones, S.F. (1996) “Adventurers or commanders? Civil military relations in Georgia
since independence,” in C. Danopolous and D. Zirker (eds) Civil-Military Relations
in the Soviet and Yugoslav Successor States, Boulder: Westview Press.
——(1997) “Georgia: the Trauma of Statehood,” in I. Bremmer and R. Taras (eds)
New States, New Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
——(1999) “Georgia: A Difficult Year,” Transitions Online, 9 January. < >
(accessed 15 June 2008).
——(2000) “Democracy from Below? Interest groups in Georgian society,” Slavic
Review, 59: 42–73.
Karapetian, R. (2004) “Armenian President Cracks Down: Dozens are hurt or arrested in the centre of Yerevan as the Armenian opposition calls for the resignation of
President Kocharian,” Caucasus Reporting Service, 227, 15 April.
State power and autocratic stability
Khachatrian, R. (2005) “Dashnaks ‘Not Responsible for Referendum Fraud,” Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty Armenia Report, 22 December.
——(2006a) “Parliament Fails to Elect New Human Rights Defender,” Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty Armenia Report, 8 February.
——(2006b) “Parliament Leaders Condemn ‘Illegal’ Police Actions Against MP,”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Armenia Report, 2 March.
Karumidze, Z. and Wertsch, J. (eds) (2005) Enough! The Rose Revolution in the
Republic of Georgia 2003, New York: Nova Science Publishers.
Kuzio, T. (2000) “Non-military security forces in Ukraine,” Journal of Slavic Military
Studies, 13: 29–56.
Levitsky, S. and Way, L.A. (2002) “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism,”
Journal of Democracy, 13: 51–65.
——“International linkage and democratization,” Journal of Democracy, 16: 20–34.
——(2007) “Competitive Authoritarianism: The Origins and Evolution of Hybrid
Regimes after the Cold War,” unpublished manuscript.
Libaridian, G. (1999) The Challenge of Statehood: Armenian Political Thinking Since
Independence, Watertown, MA: Blue Crane Books.
Linz, J. J. and Stepan, A. (1996) Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation:
Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe, Baltimore: The
Johns Hopkins University Press.
Magdashian, P. (2001) “Armenia: The Teflon President: Opposition parties accuse
Robert Kocharian of untold number of wrongdoings but to no avail,” Caucasus
Reporting Service, 100, 5 October.
Malkasian, M. (1996) “Gha-ra-bagh!” The Emergence of the National Democratic
Movement in Armenia, Detroit: Wayne State Press.
Masih, J. R. and Krikorian, R. (1999) Armenia at the Crossroads, Newark: Harwood
Academic Publishers.
Minasian, L. (1999) “The Role of the Army in Armenia’s Politics,” Caucasus Reporting
Service, 5: 4 November.
Mitchell, L. (2004) “Georgia’s Rose Revolution,” Current History, 103: 342–48.
——(2007) “Inside Track: Beacon of Democracy or Khachapuri Republic?” National
Interest, 13 December.
Mitiaev, V.G. (1998) “Vnutripoliticheskie protsessy v nezavisimoi Armenii,” in E.M.
Kozhokina (ed.) Armeniia: Problemy Nezavisimogo Razvitiia, Moscow: RISI.
Mkrtchian, N. (1999) The Place and the Role of Parliamentary Elections in the Process
of Establishment of Democratic Practices in Armenia: The Peculiarities of the 1999
Parliamentary Elections. < > (accessed July 2007).
Nodia, G. (2005) “Freedom House Nations in Transit 2005 Georgia.” < www. > (accessed July 2007).
O’Donnell, G. (1993) “On the state, democratization, and some conceptual problems:
a Latin American view with some postcommunist countries,” World Development,
21: 1355–69.
——(1999) “Polyarchies and the (Un)rule of Law in Latin America: A Partial Conclusion,” in J. Mendez, G. O’Donnell, and P. S. Pinheiro (eds) The (Un)rule of Law
and the Underprivileged in Latin America, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre
Dame Press.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (1998) Republic of
Armenia: Presidential Election March 16 and 30, 1998 Final Report, Warsaw:
L. Way
——(2000a) GEORGIA: Parliamentary Elections October31 and November 14 1999
Final Report, Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR.
——(2000b) Republic of Georgia Presidential Election APRIL 9, 2000 Final Report,
——(2003a) Republic of Armenia: Presidential Election March 16 and 30 1998 Final
Report, Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR.
——(2003b) Republic of Armenia: Parliamentary Elections May 25 2003 Final Report,
——(2003c) Georgia: Parliamentary Elections November2, 2003 Election Observation
Mission Report, Part 1, Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR.
——(2004a) Final report on the extraordinary presidential election in Georgia, January
4, 2004, Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR.
——(2004b) Final Report on Partial Repeat Parliamentary elections, March 28, 2004,
——(2008) Georgia: Extraordinary Presidential Election, January 5, 2008, Warsaw:
Petrosian, S. (2003) “Armenian Election Clash Looms: Government and opposition
are set on a collision course following the disputed first round of Armenia’s
presidential election,” Caucasus Reporting Service, 168, 27 February.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (2007) “Georgian Opposition Broadcaster Shuts Down
as Political Scandals Heat Up,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reports, 27 December.
——(2008a) “Armenia: Opposition Protests Gain Momentum with High-Ranking
Support,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reports, 22 February.
——(2008b) “Armenian Protests Continue Amid Arrests and Resignations,” Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reports, 24 February.
Rochowanski, A. (2004) “EU extends cooperation with Georgia, but expresses caution
on accession issue,” Eurasia Insight, 17 June.
Sarafyan, M. (1994) “Armenia,” in B. Szajkowski (ed.) Political Parties Of Eastern
Europe, Russia, And The Successor States, Stockton: Essex.
Simonian, H. (2000) “Armenia: Pessimistic Stability,” Transitions Online, 15 January.
< > (accessed 15 June 2008)
Slater, D. (2003) “Iron Cage in an Iron Fist: Authoritarian Institutions and the
Personalization of Power in Malaysia,” Comparative Politics, 36: 81–101.
——(2008) “State Power and Staying Power: Malaysia and Singapore Compared,”
paper presented at The New Authoritarianism: Challenges and Obstacles to NonDemocratic Rule After the Cold War conference, University of Toronto, 25, 26 April.
Slider, D. (1997) “Democratization in Georgia,” in K. Dawisha and B. Parrott (eds)
Conflict, Cleavage, and Change in Central Asia and the Caucasus, New York and
London: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, B. (2005) “Life of the Party: The Origins of Regime Breakdown and Persistence
under Single-Party Rule,” World Politics, 57: 421–51.
Sperling, V. (ed.) (2000) Building the Russian State: Institutional Crisis and the Quest
for Democratic Governance, Boulder: Westview Press.
Stefes, C. H. (2004) “The Legacies of Transition: Georgia’s State Collapse and
Democracy,” paper presented at the Central Eurasian Studies Society 5th Annual
Conference, Bloomington, IN.
——(2005) “Clash of Institutions: Clientelism and Corruption versus Rule of Law,” in
C.P.M. Waters (ed.) The State of Law in the South Caucasus, New York: Palgrave
State power and autocratic stability
——(2006) Understanding Post-Soviet Transitions. Corruption, Collusion and Clientelism.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Stepanian, R. and Kalantarian, K. (2005) “More Activists Detained Ahead of Next
Opposition Rally,” Liberty Armenia/Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 7 December.
Thompson, M.R. and Kuntz, P. (2004) “Stolen elections: the case of the Serbian
October,” Journal of Democracy, 15: 159–72.
Tucker, J. (2007) “Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems, and PostCommunist Colored Revolutions,” Perspectives on Politics, 5: 537–53.
van der Schriek, D. (2004) “Saakashvili’s First 100 Days: Bloom still on reforms, but
critics voice concern,” Eurasia Insight, 10 May.
Way, L. (2002) “Pluralism by default in Moldova,” Journal of Democracy, 13: 127–41.
——(2005a) “Authoritarian state building and the sources of political competition in
the fourth wave: the cases of Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine,” World Politics,
57: 231–61.
——(2005b) “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution: Kuchma’s failed authoritarianism,”
Journal of Democracy, 16: 131–45.
——(2006) “Organization, Identity, and the Sources of Political Contestation and
Autocratic Consolidation in Russia, 1992–2005,” unpublished manuscript, University
of Toronto.
Welt, C. (2000) “A Return to Eurasia,” Transitions Online, 11 January. < >
(accessed 15 June 2008).
Wheatley, J. (2003) “The Problems of Post-Soviet Regime Change: Dynamic and Static
Elements of the Georgian Regime 1989–2001,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Florence, Italy:
European University Institute.
——(2004) “Elections and Democratic Governance in the Former Soviet Union: The
Case of Georgia,” Free University of Berlin. <
cscca/downloads/jw_pub_boi.pdf > (accessed 16 July 2008).
——(2005) Georgia from National Awakening to Rose Revolution: Delayed Transition
in the Former Soviet Union, Burlington: Ashgate.
Wilson, A. (2005) Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Zakarian, A. (2005) “Armenian War Veterans Create New Union,” Radio Free Europe/
Radio Liberty Caucasus Report, 11 February.
Central Asian protest movements
Social forces or state resources?
Eric McGlinchey
State capacity and political protest are two variables which are seen as closely
if not directly linked. Variations in state capacity, particularly coercive capacity, are thought to be inversely related to variations in the degree of political
protest. For example, Theda Skocpol writes in her influential study of revolutions, as Tsarist Russia saw its coercive powers eroded by “massive defeat in
total war,” so too did it suffer a rise in political protest and, ultimately, political revolution (Skocpol 1979: 94).1 Conversely, states which maintain or
deepen their coercive capacities, Skocpol instructs, are “insulated from, and
supreme against, the forces of society” (Skocpol 1979: 94).
This causal relationship between institutional strength and social opposition, though intuitive and, in many cases, empirically grounded, nevertheless
does not always hold. Social movements in seemingly strong states often
catch us by surprise. In Communist Eastern Europe, one author writes, for
example, the mass opposition movements of 1989 appeared “out of nowhere”
(Kuran 1991). Two years later the superpower USSR itself imploded, much to
the shock of Soviet citizens and Western political scientists. With the benefit
of hindsight, some scholars have attributed mass demonstrations and Moscow’s resulting collapse of authority to a “loosening of controls” (Dallin
1992, 284–85). Elsewhere in the former Soviet world, though, opposition
movements continue to puzzle. In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan,
for example, variations in political protest appear to have little relation to
what institutional theories of political capacity would predict. Thus, while the
Kazakh and Kyrgyz governments share similar coercive powers, political
opposition remains largely nonexistent in Kazakhstan whereas opposition has
become increasingly pronounced in Kyrgyzstan. And in Uzbekistan, the
Central Asian state with perhaps the greatest ability to repress, both Islamist
groups and human rights defenders continue to challenge authoritarian rule.
These three cases are even more puzzling given that political protest
throughout Central Asia was rare during the Soviet period. In short, not only
are variations in Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek political opposition puzzling in
that they do not follow what institutional theories of state capacity predict,
these differences are also surprising given that, despite these countries’ shared
political and, indeed, cultural histories, protest has assumed such diverging
Central Asian protest movements
outcomes. In this chapter I address these unexpected outcomes. More specifically, I highlight where existing institutional explanations of state capacity fail
to explain variations in Central Asian political opposition and offer, in their
place, an alternative explanation which sees political protest as shaped as much
by an independent, society-based logic as it is by state coercive capacities.
My study of political opposition proceeds in three steps. I begin by outlining variations in Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek political protest from the late
1980s to the present. I begin in the 1980s rather than with the Soviet collapse
because protest in all three polities first emerged during Gorbachev’s perestroika years, well before independence in 1991. As this first section demonstrates, however, while all three polities experienced turbulence during the
final years of the Soviet empire, instability has largely subsided in Kazakhstan
whereas it continues to define the Kyrgyz and Uzbek political landscapes. In
the section “Institutional and society: centered explanations of authoritarian
instability” I turn to potential explanations for these variations in political
opposition. More specifically, I find that institutional explanations fail to
explain differences in Central Asian protest movements. Rather, I argue, variation in Central Asian political opposition is a product of socially produced
norms of cooperation. Thus, I demonstrate how opposition groups in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan learned to unite in political protest while those in
Kazakhstan remained fragmented and ineffective. In short, in contrast to both
those who argue political culture is slow to change and to those who contend
institutions and coercive capacity alone determine political opposition, I argue
that strategies of protest are learned and though they may develop in one
institutional environment they persist even when the coercive capacity of
authoritarian regimes increases or decreases.
Lastly, in conclusion, I explore the insights my Central Asian comparison
may hold for broader theories of protest and political stability. In particular, I
suggest that the existing literature, perhaps understandably given its focus on
institutional weakness, overemphasizes state variables while underemphasizing
the causal role of social opposition movements. Institutional capacity, of
course, has a pronounced influence on regime stability. And while it remains
crucial that we continue to research what makes some institutions strong and
others weak, so too must we address that which makes some social opposition
movements more coherent and capable of effecting political change than
Challenges to Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek political stability:
Gorbachev to the present
Though Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan share similar institutions,
they have not shared similar degrees of political protest. All three countries
are authoritarian states with power concentrated in the hands of a presidential
executive. The Kazakh executive, Nursultan Nazarbayev, however, has enjoyed
16 years of largely uncontested power whereas his Uzbek and (now multiple)
E. McGlinchey
Kyrgyz counterparts have become frequent targets of domestic opposition.
The following paragraphs detail this variation in Central Asian political
Kyrgyzstan: political opposition and executive overthrow
The Kyrgyz government, in contrast to the Kazakh state, has had to abide
sustained political opposition. In Kyrgyzstan political protest against personalist rule began before the Soviet collapse and, one could convincingly argue,
was in part responsible for one of what thus far has been the only peaceful,
opposition-driven regime change Central Asia has seen in the past 16 years.2
Initial efforts at cooperative political protest in Kyrgyzstan emerged in the
wake of violent ethnic conflict. In June 1990 riots between Uzbeks and
Kyrgyz in the southern cities of Osh and Uzgen left more then 200 dead and
300 homes destroyed (Razakov 1993: 77). The riots themselves had little to do
with national politics and they did not target the Kyrgyz leader at the time,
First Secretary A. MasAliyev. Rather, local politics—in this case a housing
deficit and an incompetent official’s attempt to resolve this deficit by allotting
land from an Uzbek collective to a group of homeless Kyrgyz—sparked the
deadly conflict (Razakov 1993: 44–46).
The tremors of local conflict, however, ultimately would produce fissures
among the once unified Kyrgyz elite. The Kyrgyz leadership was slow to
respond to the riots and the Kyrgyz public, horrified by the bloodshed,
angered by the government’s inaction, and emboldened by the glasnost’ and
perestroika reforms, took to the streets in the first ever mass demonstrations
that polity had ever seen (Erkebaev 1997: 51). Hunger strikers lined the walls
of parliament and activists from a spectrum of newly formed political groups
filled the city streets. The capital was placed under a state of emergency as
demonstrations engulfed the universities and central squares (Erkebaev 1997:
61–63). The Kyrgyz First Secretary, unable to silence the demonstrators,
found he was also unable to control his once pliant communist cadres. Thus,
whereas the parliamentary session prior to the riots was, according to one
MP, marked by “nothing special. … everything moved along calmly and
according to tradition like in the pre-perestroika times,” the session following
the riots led to a political revolt in which the Kyrgyz MPs unseated Masaliyev
and installed Askar Akayev—then perceived as a reformer—as the new president of Kyrgyzstan (Erkebaev 1997: 32). Unfortunately, Akayev’s reformist
tendencies were short lived.3 The Kyrgyz president’s good relations with newly
politicized pro-reform movements did not last. The 1990 protests which
brought Akayev to power, ironically, would prove to be only the beginning of
what ultimately has been sustained, coordinated and ultimately successful
social mobilization against the Kyrgyz executive.
In October 1991, Akayev submitted his presidency to a popular vote in an
effort to silence a growing chorus of detractors in the parliament and in
society at large. Though Akayev won with 95 per cent of the vote, protestors
Central Asian protest movements
alleged that the ballot was rigged. Indeed, as the leader of the opposition
Erkin party, T. Turgunaliyev, quipped: “it’s difficult to have a democratic
election when there is only one candidate” (Tett 1991).
Akayev faced further challenges in 1992, when oppositionists in the Kyrgyz
parliament forced an early adjournment so as to shelve new constitutional
amendments which would have increased executive powers (Sydykova 1997:
26). This cooperative protest was followed in December 1993 by another
coordinated action in which 190 MPs joined to oust the Kyrgyz prime minister in a no confidence vote; this after parliamentary investigations revealed
the executive administration had used Kyrgyz gold reserves to re-outfit the
presidential motorcade.4 Nine months later, in September 1994, an unlikely
alliance of democrats, nationalists, and communists united to protest
Akayev’s early dismissal of the parliament (Razgulyayev 1994). And in February 1995, 200 demonstrators—including both political figures and social
activists—gathered to protest what they said was ballot rigging in elections
to the new parliament (Deutsche Press-Agentur 1995). Protestors gathered
once again in March to jeer Akayev’s hand-picked MPs as they entered the
parliament (Itar-Tass 1995).
The president’s new parliament obligingly passed laws and constitutional
amendments to buttress the executive’s hold on power. By the late 1990s, the
Kyrgyz president had built many of the coercive institutions and adopted
many of the repressive strategies his counterparts elsewhere in Central Asia
had long been using. Akayev pressed these new powers against the political
opposition. Thus, in contrast to the first half of the decade, where political
demonstrators only rarely faced coercive state attacks, protestors and opposition leaders in the second half of the 1990s were regularly intimidated,
coerced, and arrested for publicly challenging executive rule. In January 1997
the leaders of the umbrella opposition group “For the Salvation of the
People” were jailed for participating in what the government deemed illegal
public protests (Razgulyayev 1997). In September 1998 several human rights
activists were imprisoned for organizing a protest in Kyrgyzstan’s southern
Dzhalal-Abad oblast (Amnesty International 1998). And in late 1999 and
early 2000, the Akayev government—despite condemnation from the US
Department of State and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE)—began legal proceedings against leading oppositionists
D. Usenov, F. Kulov, M. Aliyev, M. Kaipov, and I. Kadyrbekov in an effort
to prevent any real political contestation in the upcoming 2000 parliamentary
and presidential elections (US Department of State 2001; OSCE 2000a).5
Akayev’s seeming transformation from political liberal to repressive autocrat
was so complete that one Russian paper led its coverage of Kyrgyzstan’s 2000
elections with the headline: “Entire Kyrgyz Opposition Locked Up—Only the
Communists Remain Free” (Otorbayeva 2000).
State coercion, however, did not achieve Akayev’s desired goal of silencing
the many critics of executive rule. Indeed, social protest not only continued
but became evermore widespread. In March 2000 thousands of demonstrators
E. McGlinchey
gathered in the capital and in regional cities to protest the government’s rigging
yet again parliamentary elections. And thousands more would later block
traffic along Kyrgyzstan’s north–south highway in protest of the similarly
rigged October 2000 presidential ballot (Agence France Presse 2000).6
Ironically, public protest, instrumental to Akayev’s own ascent to power in
1990, ultimately unseated the president in Kyrgyzstan’s March 2005 “Tulip
Revolution.” Moreover, since Akayev’s departure, mass public demonstrations
have proven a steady threat to the tenure of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s
regime. At the time of writing, President Bakiyev has thus far staved off
opposition challenges through a mixture of negotiation, compromise and, in
response to April 2007 protests, a heavy police response.
That Bakiyev’s strategy for political survival will continue to be effective,
though, remains uncertain. Kyrgyzstan has yet to have free and fair elections
and, as the ongoing protests indicate, a new political culture is emerging
where political change is achieved not through polls and the ballot box, but
through protests and bullhorns.
Protests against authoritarian rule, similar to the demonstrations in Kyrgyzstan, have been a constant of post-Soviet Uzbek politics. Importantly, however, opposition in Uzbekistan has differed in several critical ways. Uzbek
demonstrations against the Karimov leadership, for example, have, with a few
exceptions, been considerably smaller in size than those against the Akayev
government. Moreover, Uzbek protests have been less sustained than those in
Kyrgyzstan. And perhaps most significant, the Uzbek opposition has not been
able to coordinate nation-wide cooperation. Rather, in those cases where
cooperation has emerged, it has been among opposition forces at the local
and regional level, most notably among secular human rights defenders and
moderate Islamist oppositionists.
In the initial years following independence, Islam Karimov’s position
appeared at times as precarious as that of his Kyrgyz counterpart. In January
1992, in what has been dubbed the “Tashkent Tiananmen,” Uzbek police
fired on students who, angered by price hikes, were demanding Karimov’s
resignation (Musin 1995). Six students were killed and 30 were injured in the
violence (Iams 1992). In November 1992, 10 months later, Karimov was
physically detained by hundreds of angry demonstrators in Namangan, a city
in the Ferghana Valley. In contrast to the Tashkent events, this time the
opposition had the upper hand; Karimov was not released until he agreed to
the demonstrators’ demands and promised to make Uzbekistan an Islamic
republic (Namangan Human Rights Activists 2004). For the next two years,
opposition continued to grow, particularly in the independent-minded mosques of Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley. Representative of this opposition were
the supporters of Mukhammad Radzhab, the head Imam of Quqon city.
Radzhab, prior to his arrest in August 1994 on charges of possessing weapons
Central Asian protest movements
and narcotics, inspired hundreds of Quqon residents by his refusal to bow to
President Karimov’s increasing bureaucratization and institutionalization of
an “official” Islam (Quqon Activists 2004). Radzhab’s arrest would be the
first of what has proven to be sustained government repression of independent
Islamic leaders and their supporters (Human Rights Watch 2004).
Uzbek activists have pursued diverging strategies in response to the government’s growing persecution of Islamic elites. Militant Islamists have
responded in kind to the government’s repression, bombing state buildings in
the capital, Tashkent, in February 1999 and again in August 2004. The
paramilitary group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, thought to be
behind the February 1999 bombings, launched armed incursions into Uzbekistan in November 1999 from bases in Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan.
Not to be overshadowed by this violence, importantly however, are the many
peaceful protests activists have staged both in Tashkent and in the regions. In
contrast to Kyrgyzstan, where demonstrations have typically been staged by
political oppositionists, these Uzbek protests are typically led by human
rights defenders together with women whose husbands have been imprisoned
for “anti-constitutional” activity—a charge levied both against members of
the radical Hizb-ut Tahrir Islamist organization as well as against independent,
though by no means radical, Islamic leaders and their followers.7 These Uzbek
protests, moreover, though widespread, rarely attract large numbers. Given
Uzbekistan’s press restrictions, it is difficult to assess the exact size of these
demonstrators. Interviews with Islamist activists and human rights defenders
in Qarshi, Namangan, Andijan, and Quqon, however, suggest that these
demonstrations typically involve at most dozens and not hundreds or thousands of protestors seen in the Kyrgyz demonstrations (Qarshi Activists 2004;
Namangan Activists 2004; Andijan Activists 2004; Quqon Activists 2004).
It is unclear if these localized protests might eventually develop into country-wide demonstrations. The Andijan protest of May 2005, now sadly
remembered as the Andijan Massacre, suggests that even on rare occasions
when thousands do gather in a city, protests are unlikely to spread to other
regions (McGlinchey 2005). The Karimov regime’s demonstrated readiness to
shoot its own citizens undeniably dampens what might otherwise be a widely
shared inclination to protest. Importantly though, factors other than the
Uzbek government’s willingness to repress and imprison oppositionists currently make united mass protests unlikely. Most important, differing groups
within the Uzbek political opposition, unlike groups within the Kyrgyz
opposition, have not demonstrated any real ability to cooperate. Abdurahim
Polat, the leader of the Uzbek opposition party, Birlik, noted as much when,
in March 2002, he stated that the “unconsolidated Uzbek opposition could
have used the Uzbek president’s visit to the USA as a ‘pretext’ for taking at
least a step towards unity” (BBC Monitoring of International Reports 2002).
Rather than coordinating a mass demonstration in front of the US embassy
as had been previously planned, however, Birlik and Erk, Uzbekistan’s other
opposition party, focused their energies on insulting one another. As Polat
E. McGlinchey
explains, “the initiative to hold united opposition pickets fell through. …
Everybody knows that Erk members can do nothing in practice on their own”
(BBC Monitoring 2002). Uzbekistan’s human rights defenders, another group
which could potentially mobilize nationwide opposition against government
repression, are similarly divided (Gill 2004). As a result, although opposition to
the Karimov regime is widespread, there is little indication that this opposition
will cohere into an effective national movement in the near future.
In contrast to Akayev’s travails in Kyrgyzstan or even to the localized opposition to authoritarian rule Karimov faces in Uzbekistan, the Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev has encountered few public challenges to his
hold on power. This is not to say protest was or currently is non-existent in
Kazakhstan. In December 1986, for example, thousands of Kazakhs gathered
in the republic capital Alma-Ata to protest the replacement of the long-serving Kazakh First Secretary with an ethnic Russian. In the late 1980s, social
groups also mobilized in opposition to nuclear testing on Kazakh territory.
And immediately following independence, 5,000 protestors gathered in the
capital to demand the parliament, elected under Soviet rule, be disbanded
(Seward 1992). These early protests are representative of what has become a
trend in Kazakh mass demonstrations—although groups may mobilize
around ethnic and economic issues and although they may protest against
their local representatives, rarely do public protests directly target the Kazakh
president in the way they do in Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. Thus, while
Kazakh citizens have demonstrated against, among other things, wage and
pension arrears, rising gas prices, the declining social welfare state, language
laws, fewer hours of Russian programming on television and the removal of
the Lenin statue from the capital’s central square, President Nazarbayev
himself has thus far been little bothered by mass mobilization.
Indeed, the few occasions where Kazakhs have directly challenged Nazarbayev’s rule have been fleeting and have garnered minimal public support.
The first and, as of yet, only substantial demonstration against Nazarbayev’s
rule took place on 8 December 1996 and lasted three hours. The protest, in
which 3,500 people gathered, was described by one reporter as a case of “rare
unity among the opposition” (Grabot 1996). Smaller anti-Nazarbayev
demonstrations occurred in 1997 (600 people), 1999 (200 people), and 2004
(50 people), the first a protest against government intimidation of opposition
parties (Economist 1998), the second a protest against the government’s rigged
parliamentary elections (Interfax-Kazakhstan 1999), and the third a protest
against the imprisonment of opposition leader, Galymzhan Zhakiyanov
(Interfax-Kazakhstan 2004).
Even more notable than the protests that occurred, however, are those
demonstrations that did not materialize. The Nazarbayev leadership, like
Akayev’s government in Kyrgyzstan, has manipulated multiple elections. The
Central Asian protest movements
Table 5.1 Satisfaction with governance, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, June 1999
1 No (%) 2 To some
extent (%)
3 Yes (%)
Do not
Mean score2 N3
1.3 (.02)
1.7 (.02)
Source: The Kazakh and Kyrgyz surveys were commissioned by the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) and conducted by the Almaty-based
Central Asian polling agency Brif. For more on Brif and its survey methodology, see Data analysis is my own.
1 “Do not know” responses are not used in calculating mean scores.
2 Standard errors are in parentheses.
3 Sample size used for calculating mean scores.
Nazarbayev regime has imprisoned, intimidated, and coerced the political
opposition. President Nazarbayev himself, moreover, has been exposed by
both domestic and international watchdogs as corrupt, as using his country’s
oil reserves to fund authoritarian rule (Johnston 2000; Romanovskii 2002). Yet,
whereas such excesses have sparked widespread anti-Akayev protest in Kyrgyzstan, President Nazarbayev has seen few challenges to his autocratic rule.
One potentially straightforward explanation for this variation is that
Kazakhs simply are more content with the Nazarbayev government than
either Kyrgyz or Uzbeks are with their leaders’ autocratic rule. Comparisons
of survey data with the Kyrgyz case, however, suggest the opposite. In Table
5.1 I summarize the results of public opinion surveys conducted in Kazakhstan
and Kyrgyzstan in June, 1999. As the table demonstrates, Kazakhs are considerably less satisfied with governance than are their Kyrgyz counterparts.
In the next section I turn to potential explanations other than satisfaction
with governance for why political protest is greater in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan than it is in Kazakhstan. My goal in exploring these alternative explanations is not to disprove some while inductively attempting to prove others.
Rather, my goal is to demonstrate (1) that existing institution-centered theories,
while they may explain regime instability in some cases, provide incomplete
guidance for the three Central Asian states studied here and, I suspect, for
other countries in the developing world, and (2) to offer a society-centered
hypothesis of opposition which, through further testing in other settings, may
provide new causal insights for mass mobilization and political protest.
Institutional and society-centered explanations of
authoritarian instability
Among the most explored explanations of political protest is weak institutional
capacity. Weak institutions, political scientists have found, encourage social groups
to mobilize against perceived injustices. Repressive government institutions, in
E. McGlinchey
contrast, limit the ability of social groups to mobilize popular support. As Timur
Kuran writes, for example, in cases where states have high coercive capacity,
people are unlikely to openly oppose the government because the “personal
risk of joining a revolutionary movement could outweigh the personal benefit
that would accrue were the movement a success” (Kuran 1991: 14).
Conversely, should coercive capacity weaken, the likelihood that people
would be willing to oppose the government is thought to increase (Kuran 1991:
38). As I next describe, however, this inverse relationship between the coercive
capacity of state institutions and the extent of political protest, though it may
explain initial levels of opposition in newly independent Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, fares less well in the years following the Soviet collapse.
The Kazakh and Uzbek governments, in contrast to the chaos which beset
elite politics in Kyrgyzstan in the early 1990s, remained steadily under the
control of Soviet-era apparatchiks as Moscow retreated from Central Asia.
This relatively smooth transition from Soviet to post-Soviet coercive rule was
the product of Nazarbayev and Karimov’s ascendancy to power at a time
when the Communist Party still maintained a monopoly over political control
and of both leaders’ intimate familiarity with the reigns of power. Nazarbayev and Karimov’s three decades long apprenticeship in the Communist
Party not only brought them into contact with all levels of the republic-level
political elite, it provided them with first-hand lessons in how to control these
elite. Nazarbayev, for example, joined the Communist Party in 1962 and, for
the next three decades, steadily climbed the ranks, advancing from factory
manager (1972) to Kazakh Secretary of Industry (1979), to Chairman of the
Kazakh Council of Ministers (1982) and, finally, to Kazakh First Secretary
(1989) (McGlinchey 2003: 101–8). Karimov began his apprenticeship in
Uzbek central planning in 1966, working his way from senior specialist to
Minister of Finance (1983) and finally to Uzbek First Secretary (1989). By
the time Nazarbayev and Karimov changed their titles from First Secretary to
President, both leaders had built both extensive networks of clients as well as
viable and tested instruments of repression.8
President Akayev, in contrast, built his career in Soviet academia, spending
a considerable period (1962–76) away from Kyrgyzstan studying physics in
Leningrad (McGlinchey 2003: 109). Akayev returned to Kyrgyzstan and
achieved some prominence as the head of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences in
the late 1980s. In 1990, however, Akayev suddenly and surprisingly ascended
to the peak of Kyrgyz power. As discussed in the section “Challenges to
Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek political stability: Gorbachev to the present,” a
wave of ethnic riots engulfed southern Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 1990.
Such ethnic riots, it should be noted, were not unique to Kyrgyzstan. In
December 1986, thousands of Kazakhs clashed with Soviet police as they
took to the streets to protest the Mikhail Gorbachev’s appointment of an
ethnic Russian as republic First Secretary. And in June 1989, over 100 died in
ethnic rioting between Meskhetian Turks and Uzbeks in Uzbekistan’s Ferghana valley. Whereas the riots in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were quickly
Central Asian protest movements
resolved by the Moscow leadership, however, the 1990 riots in Kyrgyzstan led
to a different and decidedly less stable political outcome.
In 1989, Gorbachev was still very much in control of cadre politics in Central
Asia. In the spring of 1990, however, Gorbachev, in an effort to accelerate
political reform and to dissipate the power of conservative challengers in the
Communist Party, devolved cadre politics to the local level. Most dramatically, in February of 1990, Gorbachev repealed Article 6 of the Soviet constitution, the provision which granted the Communist Party monopoly power
and the Moscow leadership ultimate authority in political appointments. For the
first time in Soviet history, constituent republics were free to elect their own
parliaments and, these parliaments, in turn, were free to appoint new presidents
independent of Moscow’s rule (Brown 1997: 193–98).
In short, whereas Moscow restored political order in Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan after the 1986 and 1989 ethnic violence, there was no external
arbiter to calm Kyrgyz politics in the wake of the 1990 ethnic riots. Instead,
competing groups within the Kyrgyz political elite, emboldened by mass
demonstrations in the republic capital and opposed to their leadership’s
inaction in the wake of ethnic conflict, put aside their differences and banded
together to oust the Communist First Secretary and install the compromise
candidate and political outsider, Askar Akayev, as the new Kyrgyz president.
The lessons of 1990 have continued to motivate united political protest in
Kyrgyzstan, this despite an institutional environment where the Kyrgyz
executive enjoys growing coercive capacity. In the early 1990s, this opposition
united under the umbrella group, the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan.
Later, in the second half of the 1990s, new and often overlapping opposition
coalitions emerged. The opposition bloc, “For the Salvation of the People”
brought together Communists, nationalists, and liberals in 1997 in opposition
to Akayev’s rule (Razgulyayev 1997). In September 1998 the Kyrgyz Human
Rights Committee, the Patriotic Party, the Communist Party, and the Youth
Humanist Union joined together to stage protests against the Akayev government (Vechernyi Bishkek 1998). In January 2000 members of the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan joined with the Ar-Namys (Honor), Kayran
El (the Poor and Unprotected), and Kyrgyz Republican parties to protest what
they declared was the “threat of sliding into totalitarianism” (Res Publica
2000). Two months later the non-governmental organization For Democracy
and Free Elections, the Kyrgyz Democratic Movement, the Ar-Namys Party,
and the Popular Party united their supporters in demonstrations against what
they said were rigged parliamentary elections (Interfax 2000). And in August
2003, the Peoples Congress of Kyrgyzstan, an opposition bloc uniting five
political parties, adopted a resolution demanding President Akayev’s resignation in the wake of the fatal shooting of five demonstrators and the continued
incarceration of Kyrgyzstan’s leading oppositionist, Felix Kulov (AKIpress
2003). The culture of cooperative protest which emerged in 1990, in short,
persists in Kyrgyzstan despite the reality that the weak political institutions
which produced this new culture have ceased to exist.
E. McGlinchey
In Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, in contrast, where ethnic riots preceded
Moscow’s retreat from Central Asia, the Nazarbayev and Karimov leaderships faced few sustained challenges from their republics’ fragmented political
opposition. And in the years since the Soviet collapse the Kazakh and Uzbek
opposition movements, as a result of their not having had any experience with
united political contestation, continue to remain divided and ineffective. This
is not to say that opposition movements in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan cannot
learn to cooperate so as to provide more effective challenges to authoritarian
rule. Indeed, as discussed in the section “Institutional and society: centered
explanations of authoritarian instability,” in Uzbekistan we are beginning to
see growing cooperation between Islamist activists and secular human rights
defenders. Thus far, however, this cooperation has been limited to the local
level. Cooperative political protest has yet to become an embedded norm
capable of mobilizing opposition at the nationwide level in Uzbekistan.
Cooperative Kyrgyz opposition, in contrast, though it emerged under a no
longer extant institutional environment, persists because it has become a
learned political behavior. Cooperative opposition is a shared norm in Kyrgyzstan. In contrast to what is often argued in the democratization and
political culture literatures, the Kyrgyz case demonstrates that new modes
of behavior are both quickly learned and enduring.9 Indeed, much as International Relations scholars have demonstrated that patterns of behavior—
norms—often run counter to international power structures, so too at the
domestic level do actors continue to cooperate, even when cooperation
would seem unlikely given the growing coercive nature of domestic power
Conclusion: institutions, society and political protest
The new institutionalist literature has convincingly demonstrated that political behavior is “molded through political experiences, or by political institutions” (March and Olsen 1984: 739). And indeed, if one were to look at
opposition movements in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan in the
early 1990s, a new institutionalist logic would seem sufficient for explaining
variation in political protest. Thus, in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan states with
considerable coercive capacity, political opposition was limited and, at best,
sporadic. In Kyrgyzstan in contrast, where the collapse of Communist rule was
exacerbated by concomitant ethnic riots, state institutions proved considerably
weaker and political protest, as a result, much more widespread.
Beyond this initial starting point, however, institutionalist logics provide
limited insight into variations in Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek political protest
since the mid-1990s. In Kazakhstan, where coercive capacity has remained
relatively constant, cooperative political protest indeed has remained muted.
In Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, however, where state institutions have become
more coercive since the Soviet collapse, cooperative protest has increased. In
sum, political behavior in the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek cases appears only
Central Asian protest movements
intermittently to be molded by political institutions. This in itself does not
mean institutionalist explanations should be abandoned. It does suggest,
however, that a more complex causality is needed to explain political opposition. In this chapter I have attempted to outline the foundations of such
causality. More specifically I have demonstrated that cultures of political
protest are enduring. Developed in response to the incentives of one institutional environment, practices of political protest persist long after government
bureaucracies strengthen or weaken and associated institutional incentive
structures change. Political protest then may paradoxically have little to do
with the state or the state’s immediate coercive capacity, but rather may be
grounded in a self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating dynamic of learned
1 Similarly, Jeff Goodwin (2002: 24) writes, “successful revolutions necessarily
involve the breakdown or incapacitation of states.”
2 There have been two other Central Asian leadership changes. These, however, have
either been motivated by armed conflict or the death of the prior president. In
1992, Tajik president Imomali Rakhmonov’s ascent to power in 1992 came as a
result of civil war. Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov came to
power in December 2006 following Saparmurat Niyazov’s death.
3 Indeed, it is unclear if Akayev was ever truly a reformer. I have argued elsewhere
that Kyrgyzstan’s initial years of political pluralism were the product of Akayev’s
lack of resources to fund authoritarian rule. See McGlinchey (2003).
4 Earlier parliamentary investigations by Kyrgyz oppositionists revealed the prime
minister and other close Akayev associates shipped to Switzerland, undercover of
night and with a private Swiss plane, 1.6 tons of Kyrgyz gold as collateral for a
loan to purchase, among other things, a fleet of Volvo limousines and Westernmade weapons for the President’s armored motorcade. For a Kyrgyz account of the
president’s gold scandal, see Sydykova (1997: 42–47). For an English-language
account of the Kyrgyz gold scandal, see Boulton (1994).
5 US State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said of the Kulov arrest: “The
closed nature of these military proceedings, which involves an appeal of charges on
which he was originally acquitted, do contravene international human rights standards and make it impossible to judge the fairness of the trial. The charges and the
proceedings give every appearance of being politically motivated” (US Department
of State 2001). The OSCE noted of the other arrests and court cases: “the manipulation of the legal system for political advantage, the lack of independence of
election commissions, bias of state media and interference by state officials in the
electoral process” marred the electoral process (OSCE 2000a).
6 The OSCE said of the 2000 presidential elections: “executive authorities’ interference in the activities of opposition candidates undermined free and fair
campaigning” (OSCE 2000b: 4).
7 The Uzbek government has used the “anti-constitutional” charge to bludgeon
independent Islamists. The charge comes from article 159 of the Uzbek constitution: “Public appeals to unconstitutionally change the existing government system,
to seize power to remove from office legally elected or appointed representatives, or
to unconstitutionally disrupt the territorial unity of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as
well as distribution of material with such content are punishable with a fine of up
to fifty times of the minimum wage or imprisonment of up to three years.”
E. McGlinchey
8 In the 1980s Nazarbayev, for example, used his personal networks, both in
Kazakhstan and in Moscow, to devastating ends, engineering both the ouster of
Kazakh First Secretaries D. Kunaev in 1986 and G. Kolbin in 1989.
9 Almond and Verba (1963: 4) note, for example, that democratic culture will
“spread only with great difficulty, undergoing substantial change in the process.”
Similarly, Diamond (1999: 250) writes that the development of civil society is
strongly predicated on a “liberal-pluralist past,” something, Diamond observes,
“which most developing and postcommunist countries states lack.”
Agence France Presse (2000) “Kyrgyz Opposition Supporters Renew Protests of
Parliamentary Elections,” 16 March.
Almond, G. and Verba, S. (1963) The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy
in Five Nations, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
AKI press (2003) “Kyrgyz Opposition Congress Calls for President’s Resignation,”
25 August.
Amnesty International (1998) “Human Rights Activists Punished for Organizing
Peaceful Protest,” 30 September.
Andijan Activists (2004) Personal communications, August and November.
Ashimbaev, A. (2002) Kto est’ kto v Kazakhstane, Almaty: Credo.
Asian Development Bank (2004) Asian Development Outlook 2004, New York: Oxford
University Press.
BBC Monitoring of International Reports (2002) “Uzbek Opposition Fail to Unite
During Leader’s US Visit,” 16 March.
Brown, A. (1997) The Gorbachev Factor, New York: Oxford University Press.
Boulton, L. (1994) “The Soviet Insider, the Gold, and Kyrgyzstan’s Political Innocents,”
The Financial Times, 28 January: 4.
Dallin, A. (1992) “Causes of the Collapse of the USSR.” Post Soviet Affairs, 8: 279–302.
Deutsche Press-Agentur (1995) “Second Round of Kyrgyz Poll Begins Despite BallotRigging Charges,” 19 February.
Diamond, L. (1999) Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation, Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press.
Economist (1998) “A United Front in Kazakhstan,” 17 January: 37.
Erkebaev, A. (1997) 1990: prikhod k vlasti A. Akayeva, Bishkek: Izd. Dom Kyrgyzstan.
Evans, P. (1995) Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Gill, A. (2004) Personal communication, 16 August.
Goodwin, J. (2001) No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945–
1991, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gorbachev, M. (1999) On My Country and the World, New York: Columbia University
Grabot, A. (1996) “3,500 Demonstrate Against Kazakh President,” Agence France
Presse, 8 December.
Human Rights Watch (2004) Creating Enemies of the State: Religious Persecution in
Uzbekistan, New York: Human Rights Watch.
Iams, J. (1992) “Students Protest Police Shootings in Uzbekistan,” Associated Press,
19 January.
Interfax (2000) “Interior Troops Protecting Government Building in Bishkek,” 15 March.
Central Asian protest movements
Interfax-Kazakhstan (1999) “Opposition Holds Rally, Demands Fresh Elections,”
30 October.
——(2004) “Kazakh Opposition Holds Rally Demanding Freedom for Jailed
Ex-Governor,” 16 June.
Itar-Tass (1995) “Protests Greet Kyrgyz MPs on First Day of New Parliament,” 31 March.
Johnston, D. (2000) “Kazakh Mastermind, or New Ugly American?” The New York
Times, 17 December: 3.
Karl, T.L. (1999) The Paradox of Plenty: Oil Booms and Petro State, Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Kuran, T. (1991) “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European
Revolution of 1989,” World Politics, 44: 7–48.
McGlinchey, E. (2003) “Paying for Patronage: Regime Change in Post-Soviet Central
Asia,” Princeton: Princeton University, PhD dissertation.
—2005. “Autocrats, Islamists, and the Rise of Radicalism in Central Asia,” Current
History, October: 336–42.
March, J. and Olsen, J. (1984) “The New Institutionalism: Organizational Factors in
Political Life,” American Political Science Review 78: 734–49.
Migdal, J.S. (1988) Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and
State Capabilities in the Third World, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
—— Kohli, A. and Shue, V. (1995) State Power and Social Forces: Domination and
Transformation in the Third World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Musin, A. (1995) “Karimov’s Crackdown,” The Moscow Times, 26 May.
Namangan Human Rights Activists (2004) Personal communications, August and
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (2000a) “Kyrgyz
Republic Parliamentary Elections February 20 & March 12, 2000,” Warsaw: OSCE/
——(2000b) “Kyrgyz Republic Presidential Elections October 29,” Warsaw: OSCE/
Otorbayeva, A. (2000) “Entire Kyrgyz Opposition Locked Up—Only the Communists
Remain Free,” Kommersant, 6 April: 11.
Quqon Activists (2004) Personal communications, August and November.
Qarshi Activists (2004) Personal communications, August and November.
Rabushka, A. and Shepsle, K.A. (1972) Politics in Plural Societies: A Theory of
Democratic Instability, Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing.
Razakov, T. (1993) Oshkiie sobytiie, Bishkek: Renaissance.
Razgulyayev, Y. (1994) “Kirghizia: The Parliament is Being Killed before Its Term
Expires,” Pravda, 7 September: 2.
——(1997) “Political Repressions Begin in Kirghizia,” Pravda, 10 January, 19: 7.
Res Publica (2000) “Parties Protest Against State Attack on Opposition, Call for
Unity,” 25 January.
Romanovskii, M. (2002) “Oppozitsiia obviniaet Nazarbayeva v korruptsii,” Nezavisimaia
gazeta, 21 June: 5.
Ross, M. (1999) “The Political Economy of the Resource Curse,” World Politics, 51:
Seward, D. (1992) “Thousands Demonstrate Against Kazakhstan’s Government,” The
Associated Press, 17 June.
Sikkink, K. (2002) “Restructuring World Politics: The Limits and Asymmetries of Soft
Power,” in S. Khagram, J.V. Riker and K. Sikkink (eds) Restructuring World
E. McGlinchey
Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks and Norms, Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press.
Skocpol, T. (1979) States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France,
Russia, and China, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sydykova, Z. (1997) Za kulisami demokratii po-kyrgyzski, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Res
Tett, G. (1991) “Moderate Re-Elected in Soviet Republic,” The Financial Times,
14 October: 2.
US Department of State (2001) “Regular Briefing,” 24 January.
Vechernyi Bishkek (1998) “Political Parties Join Forces Against President’s Referendum
Initiative,” 16 September.
Weber, M. (1946) “Foundations and Instability of Charismatic Authority,” in H.H.
Gerth and C.W. Mills (eds) From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, New York:
Oxford University Press.
Part III
Policymaking legacies
and futures
Following through on reforms
Comparing market liberalization in
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
Pamela Blackmon
Kazakhstan should have the brightest future in Central Asia, because of its
vast natural resources and human potential and because it has gotten right
some of the economic decisions made over the past decade.
(Olcott 2005: 86)
Yes there is convertibility, in theory (in Uzbekistan) but it is still very difficult
to convert. You need to register contracts, wait for money to be available etc.
It is still a terrible place to do business. We pay all taxes and duties, which
makes things even more difficult.
(US business firm representative 2005)
When Uzbekistan ended its multiple exchange rate system and agreed to
currency convertibility of the current account in October 2003, the decision was
made with a few caveats. In fact, almost two years after the formal decision
on currency convertibility the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive
Board noted that, “serious restrictions in foreign as well as domestic trade
remain(ed),” even though currency convertibility had “stimulated” economic
activity in 2004 (IMF 2005). Uzbekistan may have removed the formal restrictions on the exchange rate, but from the viewpoint of one business representative, as well as from the IMF Executive Board, there are still substantial
restrictions on business and trade.
Kazakhstan, on the other hand, had taken the important step of currency
convertibility in 1996. Kazakhstan’s pace of economic reform in other areas such
as price liberalization and financial sector reform has consistently placed it among
the stronger reformers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Uzbekistan has been slow to continue with reforms, reversing many reform efforts
in 1996, when the multiple exchange rate regime was implemented. Some of the
early comparative statistical analyses of the transition economies correlated a
change in political leadership (non-communist) with economic reforms (Åslund
et al. 1996; Fish 1998). However, the variable of political regime type loses its
explanatory value in these cases because former communist leaders have ruled
both countries since each state’s independence. What other reasons explain
why Kazakhstan continued with economic reform while Uzbekistan did not?
P. Blackmon
Kyrgyzstan’s early political and economic reform, for example, seemed to
confirm that a change to non-communist leadership was necessary for economic
reform in the other Central Asian states (CAS). Since Askar Akayev was the
only president of the CAS who was not a former First Secretary of the
Communist Party, much of the country’s success in these areas was attributed
to the fact that he had not been a former member of the Communist Party.
However, over time Akayev began to restrict political freedom and to implement more authoritarian policies in a vain attempt to hold onto power, before
formally resigning as president on April 4, 2005 (Isachenkov 2005). Tajikistan
has registered recent progress in economic reform indicators such as price
liberalization and small-scale privatization, although concern about political
stability and activities focusing on anti-terrorism slowed some privatization
efforts during 2001 (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
(EBRD) 2002: 202). Civil war in the country, lasting from 1991 until the
peace agreement in June 1997, also slowed the country’s early economic progress.
Finally, little to no economic reform has been undertaken in Turkmenistan.
Indeed, the sudden death of the president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat
Niyazov, in December 2006, and the “election” of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov as the new president in February 2007 has emphasized the importance
of determining why some countries implement reform and move away from
state-controlled economic systems, and why some do not.
This chapter analyzes the influence of Soviet-era conditions and how those
conditions have affected the economic reform processes of Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan in the post-Soviet era. For example, while both countries were
former Soviet republics, each republic differed in its level of integration with
Soviet-era Russia (Palei and Petr 1992; Rumer, 1996; Gleason 1997).
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have strong leaders, but leaders that have differed in the strength of their pursuit of economic reforms (Gleason 2001;
Åslund 2003). Finally, each leader has differed to the degree that they have
continued with members of the former Soviet elite in each of their governments. Hellman (1998), for example, has pointed out that one way to measure
the power of the former communist elite was to examine the extent of personnel turnover in key economic sectors or government positions. While President Nazarbayev’s actions in disbanding the Kazakh parliament on two
occasions and ruling by presidential decree were undoubtedly taken to consolidate his power, they were also designed to rid the government of the
former elite who were against his economic reform policies (Olcott 1997).
President Karimov chose a very different style of governing by continuing into
the post-Soviet era with many of the elite who were in his early government
during the Soviet era. Differences in the continuation of the former Soviet
elite in the government of each president is an additional indicator of whether
each president would follow policies of continuity (from the Soviet-era) or
policies of change in the post-Soviet era. A closer examination of these previous
Soviet-era circumstances will have greater explanatory value than political
regime type in interpreting the reform processes of these two countries.
Following through on reforms
The comparative case study and elite interview methods are the primary
research methodologies used in this chapter. This combination of methodologies allows for an in-depth comparison of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in
order to answer questions concerning the different economic reform paths of
the countries. Interviews conducted with economists from the financial institutions of the IMF and the World Bank contribute to the project’s depth of
understanding about the processes of economic reforms. Interviews conducted
with these individuals produced knowledge about these countries that could
not be discovered using other secondary sources (Aberbach and Rockman
2002). Secondary data sources were consulted to provide specific comparative
information in the areas of economic reform implemented in each country,
and about the Soviet and post-Soviet histories of each country. These sources
include the EBRD Transition Reports, which provide qualitative and quantitative data on economic sectors of the transition economies, in addition to
IMF Staff Country Reports and World Bank publications.
Economic reform in the transition economies
Previous studies on the reform processes of the transition economies have
analyzed the relationship between initial conditions, reforms, and economic
growth (Wolf 1999; De Melo et al. 2001). These studies were important
because they indicated a shift away from the focus on political change during
the transition, and they established that initial conditions were important in
any analysis of the transition economies. Zettlemeyer (1998) found, for
example, that Uzbekistan’s combination of low industrialization, its ability to
export cotton, and energy self-sufficiency explained why the country’s output
fell less than any of the other former Soviet Union (FSU) republics. However,
this study did not analyze how Uzbekistan was less integrated with Russia in
these sectors during the Soviet era, and that this lower level of integration
might explain the government’s ability to function at a similar economic level
at independence. Conversely, while Kazakhstan’s integration with Soviet-era
Russia in areas of physical infrastructure such as electrical power, pipelines,
and industrial production has been well documented, this level of integration
may have constrained the country’s options to operate as a closed economy at
independence (World Bank 1993; Gleason 2003a).
Many studies on the transition economies have included variables such as the
influence of Soviet history and culture as important to understanding developments in post-Soviet states (Tsygankov 2001; Abdelal 2001). More contemporary research on these countries has incorporated a greater analysis of the
degree to which circumstances during the Soviet era have influenced the present
economic situation in the post-Soviet states (Gleason 2003b; Ofer and Pomfret
2004; Jones Luong 2004; Olcott 2005; Pomfret 2006). The focus on pre-condition
circumstances is important because it acknowledges the necessity of analyzing
differences in Soviet-era history, politics, infrastructure, and resource endowments
as influencing the economic development of these countries.
P. Blackmon
Progress on economic reform
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan began their reform efforts almost in tandem. In
1992, each country began a privatization program and liberalized some
prices, actions that have been noted as important benchmarks for the transition economies (Fischer and Sahay 2000). The countries would later diverge
in their progress on price liberalization as seen in Table 6.1.
Kazakhstan had completed price liberalization by the end of 1994, and did
not register a decrease in the ranking of this indicator from 1995 through
2007. Uzbekistan showed improvement in this indicator (1992–96), but then
registered decreases beginning in the rankings for 1997 and 1998. This was
also a period of higher governmental involvement in the economy, including
the use of the multiple exchange rate regime (Pomfret 2000). It is important
to note that Kazakhstan has been consistent in the ranking of its price liberalization policies during this time frame while Uzbekistan’s ranking has
remained unchanged (at 2.67) since 1998 (see Table 6.1).
The countries also differed markedly on the dates and terms of conditional
financial arrangements with the IMF early in the transition process. Kazakhstan was able to secure a stand-by arrangement (SBA) with the Fund in January 1994 and received an advanced lending arrangement, an extended fund
facility (EFF), with the Fund in July 1996. Uzbekistan had its only SBA
suspended by the IMF in March 1997, because of its continuation of the
multiple exchange rate regime, formally implemented in January 1997 (IMF
economist 2002). The dates that terms were reached for these lending
arrangements, as well as differences among the arrangements themselves, are
important distinctions between the reform efforts of the two countries. The
specific order of the lending arrangements from the IMF is indicative of progress on economic reforms since the structure of lending was premised on the
fact that the transition economies would move from the SBA to the EFF. The
purpose of the SBA was to assist with stabilization policies, while the EFF
Table 6.1 Rating of progress in price liberalization in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
Source: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) 2007.
The classification system for the transition indicator scores has been modified from
previous reports.
“+” and “−” ratings are treated by adding 0.33 and subtracting 0.33 from the full
Averages are obtained by rounding down, for example, a score of 2.6 is treated as 2+,
but a score of 2.8 is treated as 3− (EBRD 2007).
Following through on reforms
was designed to allow the country to focus more on structural reforms
(Fischer 1997).
The dates in which each country agreed to currency convertibility and the
lifting of discriminatory currency arrangements also indicate differences in
reform of the trade and foreign exchange system (see Table 6.2).
Kazakhstan accepted Article VIII obligations on July 16 1996 and the
country’s acceptance of full current account convertibility was stated as one
of the most important economic reforms that the country implemented (IMF
1996a; IMF economist 2002). Kazakhstan’s ranking in this indicator was also
the highest (4.0) in 1996. Decreases in the indicator in 1999 likely have to do
with the devaluation of the Russian ruble in 1998, a policy that resulted in
substantial financial problems for Kazakhstan, including the depreciation of
Kazakhstan’s currency, the tenge, and an increase in inflation (Gürgen 2000).
The problems were due in part to the large levels of trade with Russia, and a
subsequent decrease in Russian demand for the country’s exports (Olcott
2002: 133–34). Uzbekistan agreed to full current account convertibility,
accepting Article VIII obligations on October 15 2003 (IMF 2003a). Reasons
cited for the decision of the government to agree to currency convertibility at
that time included the fact that inflation was less than 20 percent, the country
Table 6.2 Rating of trade and foreign exchange system and important benchmarks of
reform for Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (1991–2007)
2.00 (First SBA)
4.00 (EFF, Currency Convertibility)
2.00 (First SBA)
1.67 (SBA suspended)
1.67 (Currency convertibility)
Source: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) 2007.
The classification system for the transition indicator scores has been modified from
previous reports. “+” and “−” ratings are treated by adding 0.33 and subtracting 0.33
from the full value.
Averages are obtained by rounding down, for example, a score of 2.6 is treated as 2+,
but a score of 2.8 is treated as 3− (EBRD 2007).
EFF, extended fund facility; SBA, stand-by arrangement.
P. Blackmon
had a satisfactory level of foreign reserves, there were circumstances surrounding a stronger balance of payments situation in the country, and finally,
that the black market exchange rate was close to the official exchange rate
(IMF economists 2003). However, as further evidence that Uzbekistan’s decision to agree to currency convertibility in 2003 did not end all restrictions on
trade and convertibility, this indicator’s ranking did not improve until 2005,
and the improvement from 1.67 to 2.0 was a marginal increase indicative of
“some liberalization of import and/or export controls; almost full current
account convertibility in principle, but with a foreign exchange regime that is
not fully transparent” (EBRD 2002: 21) (see Table 6.2).
The liberalization of the trade and foreign exchange system would be a
necessary step in order to acclimate the transition economies into the international economic system. Although Table 6.2 shows that both countries have
had fluctuations in the rankings of their trade and foreign exchange systems,
there is an overall pattern of reform differences between the two countries
since 1991. The government of Uzbekistan has continued to move slowly in
these economic reform indicators while the government of Kazakhstan has a
pattern of continuing progress, although the government has intervened in the
Factors influencing reform
Geography and resources
Differences in the structures of the Kazakh and Uzbek economies, largely
because of resources and geography, have shaped each country’s international
economic orientation based on whether the country was more or less integrated with Russia during the Soviet era. While it is obvious that Kazakhstan
borders Russia and that Uzbekistan is more distant, these geographic differences as well as Kazakhstan’s integrated infrastructure with Soviet-era Russia
have influenced the development of these states in the post-Soviet era.
First, for purposes of border security, it was in Moscow’s interest to keep a
close watch on Kazakhstan. One way to accomplish this was through decisions taken to ‘settle’ Russian immigrants first during Stalin’s collectivization
drive, then during the Virgin Lands campaign under Khrushchev. In fact, for
most of Kazakhstan’s history the Kazakhs were a minority and the Russians
a plurality. This demographic situation did not occur in any of the other
Soviet republics. Second, the location of the Soviet space center in Baikonur
as well as important coal-processing facilities in Karaganda resulted in a different type of relationship between Kazakhstan and Russia. Brukoff (1995)
for example, found that Kazakhstan received funding levels higher than the
union average and that this resulted in industrial development in areas such
Following through on reforms
as metallurgy, machine building, and heavy and light industry. While none of
the former republics were designed to function as independent states,
Kazakhstan’s border with Russia appeared to be even more fluid (Olcott
1997: 201).
Second, Kazakhstan’s electrical power, industrial production, and pipeline
structures were all linked with Russia’s sectors (Rumer 1996). Kazakhstan’s
electrical power and coal systems were divided mainly into two grids: the
north and the west, connected to the Russian system, and the south, connected to the rest of Central Asia. Kazakhstan did not have a unified electrical system during the Soviet era, and one factor for decreases in electrical
production in Kazakhstan resulted from interruptions in the electrical grids
(Gleason 2003a). Kazakhstan’s production of electricity fell from a high of 86
billion kwh in 1991, to 47.5 billion kwh in 1999, before recovering slightly to
53 billion kwh in 2001 (Interstate Statistical Committee of the Commonwealth
of Independent States 2002: 50).
Kazakhstan was also the third largest coal producer during the Soviet era,
but almost half of its production of coal was exported to Russia. The most
prominent field for Russia was the Karaganda because it was the main supplier of coking coal for the metallurgical industries of the Urals.1 The construction of a multiple track railway line during the 1930s, in order to
facilitate the transportation of coal from the Karaganda field to the Urals,
was another indicator of the importance of the field, and of the necessity to
further integrate the two republics. Kazakhstan’s coal production dropped by
39 per cent from 1991 to 2001, and from 1997–2000 all of its exports of
coking coal exported to the CIS were still exported to Russia (Interstate Statistical Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States 2002: 51;
IMF 2002: 95). Kazakhstan also has substantial recoverable oil reserves.
Early estimates put the reserves at about 30 billion barrels, and the development of the Kashagan field alone is projected to have reserves at 13 billion
barrels (Timmons 2004: W1, W7). However, the primary refineries are located
in the northeast (Pavlodar) and in the southeast (Shymkent) while the main
oil deposits are in west Kazakhstan. During the Soviet era, Kazakhstan’s oil
was exported to Russia for refining, while Kazakhstan’s refineries were
designed to refine crude from Siberia via the Omsk–Pavlodar–Shymkent
pipeline. The fact that this pipeline structure was designed around the Soviet
system, and not with republic boundaries in mind, explains Kazakhstan’s
decline in the production of crude oil, and the country’s need for substantial
investment in upgrading of pipeline structures, as well as alternative pipeline
routes. For example, in 1998 six out of 13 international consortia involved in
oil and gas field projects in Kazakhstan were specifically for oil pipelines to be
constructed or repaired (Dittmann et al. 2001: 141). This outside investment
would be necessary in order for Kazakhstan to increase its output of oil as an
independent state. Kazakhstan also privatized large enterprises concentrated
in the power, energy, and communications sectors during 1996–97, which
resulted in large amounts of foreign investment into these sectors as well
P. Blackmon
(World Bank 1999). In fact, Kazakhstan’s early privatization program was
called one of the most “ambitious” of the FSU (Levine 1994). The government of Kazakhstan made a decision that it could not operate within Russia’s
integrated system, and would instead have to engage the international community through decisions made about a higher level of international economic orientation. Kazakhstan’s decision to agree to convertibility of its
currency, move ahead with its privatization program, and implement legislation
to encourage investment were important steps in engaging the international
community (Abraham 1999; Weinthal and Jones Luong 2001; Blackmon 2007).
Uzbekistan is also endowed with natural resources, although the types of
resources as well as the structural connectivity to Soviet-era Russia were different. Primarily, it was not in Moscow’s interest to integrate the republic as
closely to the center. This was because of geographic distance, but also
because Uzbekistan was a producer of primary products such as cotton, but
not a primary manufacturer of those products.2 Uzbekistan was also a substantial producer of gold and natural gas during the Soviet era, producing
about one-third of the entire gold production of the Soviet Union. Further
investment would be needed to increase the gold mine potential in Uzbekistan
from its Soviet-era production levels, but mining operations during the Soviet
era were already such that the country would be the eighth largest producer of
gold in the world after independence (Commodity Research Bureau 2000:
11). Gold and oil are both natural resource commodities, but an important
difference between the two is that a country’s ability to export gold does not
depend on an infrastructure system (pipelines) in order to transport the
resource to the market. Uzbekistan has been able to increase its gold production by 22 per cent from 1992 levels through estimates for 2005 (Commodity Research Bureau 2003: 111; Commodity Research Bureau 2007: 113).
While Uzbekistan was the third largest producer of natural gas of the
republics, most of its production was consumed domestically for local industry. Uzbekistan’s large endowment of natural gas, and more importantly its
primary use for local industry purposes during the Soviet era allowed the
country to have more control over this resource after the end of the Soviet
Union. Uzbekistan has been able to increase its domestic production of natural gas by 35 per cent from 1991–2000, while decreasing natural gas imports
by 85 per cent from 1991–98 (IMF 1996b: 91; 2000: 52).3 The country’s
domestic consumption of natural gas increased by 45 per cent from 1991–98,
while exports decreased by 52 per cent during the same period.4 The increases
in domestic extraction and consumption coupled with the decrease in exports
and imports indicate that the government has control over its natural gas
reserves, and that they are sufficient enough to be used predominately for
domestic purposes. Uzbekistan’s self-sufficiency in energy has been noted as
one reason for the slow decline in output relative to the other FSU republics
Following through on reforms
(Zettlemeyer 1998). However, the fact that Uzbekistan was less integrated
with Russia in these sectors during the Soviet era also explains the government’s ability to have more control over these resources, including export
potential, and thus revenue-generating avenues, than the other FSU republics
had at independence. For example, in 1987, the only republics that registered
a positive trade balance with Russia were Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.5 All of
the other republics including Kazakhstan registered a negative balance,
importing more than they exported from Russia.
The agricultural sector generates the most revenue for Uzbekistan, averaging 29 per cent of the country’s GDP for the years 1994–2000 (EBRD
2002: 217). Uzbekistan was viewed as an ideal republic for the purpose of
cotton production during the Soviet era because of its favorable climate and
physical attributes, including the fact that it was the third most populous of
the FSU republics (Rumer 1996: 64–68). In order to ‘facilitate’ Uzbekistan’s
cotton growing, irrigation systems were developed during the 1960s to harness
the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya rivers in order to increase the cotton-growing
areas of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Uzbekistan’s production of raw
cotton in the seven highest producing oblasts increased by 71 per cent from
1960 to 1970 (see Table 6.3).
The republic’s focus on cotton growing and production was continued
throughout the reign of First Party Secretary Sharaf Rashidov (1959–83), and
skepticism about the true potential of the republic to continue its vast production of raw cotton was not questioned until the “cotton affair.”6 Under the
leadership of Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan continued to develop into a cotton
monoculture, even though the country’s irrigation systems are unlikely to
support Uzbekistan’s current production of cotton into the very near future.
Uzbekistan’s favorable terms of trade situation, through its ability to export
natural resources and keep its industry functioning through its natural gas
reserves, allowed the republic to perform at relatively the same economic level
at independence as it had during the Soviet era. Uzbekistan did not operate at
the same level of integration with Russia in those sectors during the Soviet
Table 6.3 Production of raw cotton in the seven highest producing oblasts in Uzbekistan
(in thousands of tons), 1960–1970
Source: Compiled and calculated from tables in Uzbek SSR Tsentral’noe statisticheskoe
upravlenie 1971.
P. Blackmon
era, and the government had the choice to pursue a lower level of international
economic orientation in the post-Soviet era.
The leaders’ view of reform
It is difficult to discuss the reform efforts of these countries without a discussion
of the views of their presidents about economic reform. The historical differences
in resource endowments and geography are part of the explanation about why
these two countries have continued with reform at different paces. For example, even though both countries can be categorized as authoritarian, there are
important differences between authoritarian regimes in the successor states of
the USSR. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have been described as having authoritarian regimes that are “autocratic” meaning that the “ … policymakers are
accountable to a narrow circle” (Roeder 1994: 63). Furthermore, there are
differences in the degree to which the president has dominated the legislature
in each country. The parliament of Kazakhstan presented a challenge to
Nazarbayev’s control in 1993, while there was no such challenge to Karimov’s
control of the legislature (Roeder 1994: 79). A more contemporary study
categorized Kazakhstan as “mildly authoritarian” while describing Uzbekistan as a “full-fledged dictatorship” (Åslund 2003: 75).7 Therefore, it is important
to investigate differences in the leaders’ strength of their pursuit of reforms.
Islam Karimov
The position of former First Secretary of the Communist Party is one of the
only aspects in which the two leaders are similar. Karimov did not rise up
through the Communist Party ranks as Nazarbayev did, and prior to his
appointment as First Secretary of the Uzbek Communist Party, he was the
First Party Secretary of the rather remote Kashkadarya oblast (Carlisle 1995:
196). Karimov was trained as an economist, and formerly worked for the
republic’s branch of Gosplan. His background in Soviet-style economics with
Gosplan has greatly influenced his ideas about Uzbekistan’s economic reform
process, and the rejection of any kind of shock therapy approach to reforms.8
Karimov was also deeply concerned about the societal stability of the country
and was aware that substantial structural reforms may have resulted in social
unrest. Uzbekistan has an increasing working age population and high employment in the agricultural sector, which if developed to reflect more modern methods would actually decrease employment in the sector (Agzamov et al. 1995).
Karimov’s decision to embrace past policies and to rehabilitate Rashidov,
as well as other officials involved in the cotton affair, would also result in the
return of members of the former First Party Secretary’s Soviet-era elite.9
These decisions by Karimov to look to the past for the future development of
Uzbekistan have greatly impacted the development of the country. As stated
previously, the cotton production of the country cannot be sustained into the
near future. The only way for the government to continue to bring in the
Following through on reforms
needed revenue without implementing painful reforms was to implement the
distorted exchange rate system in the latter part of 1996. This decision was
necessary in order to correct a severe balance of payments situation that the
government had no control over. First, there was a significant decline in the
cotton harvest, largely as a result of adverse weather conditions for cotton
growing. The world price of cotton and gold, two of Uzbekistan’s largest
export revenue earners, also decreased from 1995 prices. Second, in 1996 the
price of wheat imports significantly increased, from $153 a ton in 1995 to
$251 a ton (IMF 1998: 109). This led the government to implement restrictions on imports and access to foreign exchange in mid-1996 in order to
protect the foreign exchange reserves in the country.10 The Uzbek government
had stated many times prior to October 2003 that it would end the restrictive
exchange rate regime. It was also hypothesized that because of the international attention the country received after the September 11 2001 attacks,
including a closer relationship with the USA, that these events would increase
the likelihood of convertibility (The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited
2002: 6). However, it is more likely that the decision had to do with the economic circumstances of a stronger balance of payments situation, due in large
part to high world prices for gold and cotton.
Nursultan Nazarbayev
Nazarbayev’s previous position as a prominent member of the Communist
Party would have made it more likely that he would have been beholden to
the former elite and would have proceeded with reform more slowly. Instead,
Nazarbayev’s theme in statements made as early as 1991 was that Kazakhstan needed to pursue the transition to a market economy as quickly as possible (US Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1991a). In order to facilitate
this transition he brought in Western economists, in order to hear their advice
on economic reform and privatization. This decision was later described as an
important step in the country’s approach to economic reform (World Bank
economist 2002). Regarding a continuation of the influence of communist
ideology on economic reforms Nazarbayev stated, “I believe that we must
resolutely separate the economy from ideology. There should be no party
influence on economic strategy including influence by the Communist Party”
(US Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1991b). Nazarbayev realized even
before the end of the Soviet Union that he would need to create a new strategy, and a new economy for Kazakhstan to be able to move forward as an
independent country (Kazakhstan embassy official 2002).
However, Nazarbayev did not have the support of his country’s parliament
on his ideas about the implementation of economic reform. Nazarbayev dissolved the first parliament in late December 1993, because it rejected his
resolution to speed up decisions on economic reform. The second parliamentary elections held in March 1994 were not considered free or fair because of
instances of multiple voting, and a separate state list of candidates nominated
P. Blackmon
directly by Nazarbayev.11 The new parliament and Nazarbayev would also
have differences of opinion on economic reform, and in March 1995 the
Kazakh Constitutional Court ruled that the previous elections were invalid,
thus dissolving this parliament as well. However, it is extremely likely that
Nazarbayev was somewhat responsible for this decision because of the parliament’s opposition to his economic reform policies (Olcott 1997). Nazarbayev subsequently ruled by presidential decree from March to December
1995, and during this time period many significant pieces of reform legislation
were implemented (see Table 6.4).
Many laws that were implemented during 1995 greatly advanced the economic reform program of Kazakhstan. For example, Kazakhstan’s revised tax
code was described as representative of laws adhering to international standards, and was considered to be one of the most comprehensive passed
among the FSU countries (Suhir and Kovach 2003). Because of the country’s
economic reform program envisioned for 1996–98, the IMF approved the
EFF for Kazakhstan in July 1996, and noted that 1995 had been the most
successful year for the Kazakh economy since independence (IMF 1996c).
However, many of these broad reforms were implemented during rule by
presidential decree, and without the non-compliant parliaments and officials
that had blocked reform measures. Nazarbayev was able to proceed with
economic reforms by manipulating the political system in order to bring in
people that would support his policies, and by removing his opponents.
Former Soviet elite
These actions also account for the high turnover of the former Soviet elite in the
government of Kazakhstan. Yerik Asanbayev was the only member of Soviet
era elite to be listed in the 1992 and 1993 governments of Kazakhstan. He was
appointed as vice president of the Republic of Kazakhstan in December 1991
when Nazarbayev was sworn in as president (US Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1991c).12 Asanbayev continued in this position until the new
constitution of Kazakhstan was adopted in 1995, when the position of vice
president was abolished.13 This is a very different situation from that of the
Karimov government, in which some officials from the early government are
Table 6.4 Reform legislation implemented in Kazakhstan during Nazarbayev’s rule by
presidential decree, March–December 1995
Establishment of rehabilitation bank
Compulsory medical insurance fund
Revised tax code
New banking legislation
Sources: International Monetary Fund (IMF) 1995: 17–27; European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) 1996: 157.
Following through on reforms
members of the current government. For example, Utkir Sultanov was listed
in the Uzbek government in 1992 as Minister of Foreign Economic Relations,
which is an important position because of the Ministry’s responsibility for
decisions about trade and exported goods. Sultanov was then appointed
prime minister in 1995, and he held this position until December 2003, when he
was assigned to the position of Deputy First Prime Minister for the Engineering,
Metallurgical, Oil and Gas and Chemical Industries (Uzland 2004). In 2005,
he held this post as well as a position as a Deputy Prime Minister (Uzland
2005). Additionally, the legislative branch of government, the Oliy Majlis, has
had the same chairman, Erkin Khalilov, since the first legislative elections in
1994. While the chair of the legislature is ‘elected’ by parliamentarians, the
longevity of Khalilov is more likely a further sign of Karimov’s influence over
the legislative branch. The Karimov government has been representative of a
government of continuity rather than change from the Soviet era.
Conversely, in Kazakhstan, there has been a pattern of a shift in the government with the disbanding of the two parliaments and Nazarbayev’s belief
that many of the governmental officials were not proceeding with economic
reform as he had wanted. This was most evident after the resignation of the
government headed by Sergei Tereshchenko in October 1994, and thus the
ability of Nazarbayev to appoint members whom he approved of to serve in
the government during his rule by presidential decree. Vladimir Shkolnik, for
example, had been in the Tereshchenko government and was re-appointed by
Nazarbayev to serve in the October 1995 government (Karasik 1996: 238).
Shkolnik has continued to serve as a prominent member of the Kazakh government and is currently the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources.14 In
part, Nazarbayev was able to move against the former elite through a very
vocal and early disassociation from Dinmukhamed Kunayev, the previous
First Party Secretary, and the elite from the Brezhnev era (Alexandrov 1999:
6–10). Nazarbayev first began to criticize Kunayev in February 1986, citing
among other issues his poor “methods of administration” (Alexandrov, 1999: 7).
Additionally, in a speech Nazarbayev gave at the twenty-seventh CPSU
(Communist Party of the Soviet Union) Congress, he cited the need for
improvement against the “negative phenomena” that had affected the republic’s national economy, which he attributed to, “serious failings and shortcomings in the leadership of the economy … and violations in the principles
of social justice as well as in the selection, placement and training of cadres”
(US Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1986). Nazarbayev did not have a
positive view of Kunayev or his policies, which may have made it easier for
him to proceed more independently of the former Soviet elite than Karimov,
and thus to implement reform.
Prospects For further reform
One of the most pressing issues as to the future of economic reform in both of
these countries concerns whether delays in reform policies will continue in
P. Blackmon
Uzbekistan, and conversely whether advanced policies will continue in
Kazakhstan. While it is not a foregone conclusion that new leaders of either
state would change economic policies dramatically, (presidential changes in
Kyrgyzstan (2005) and in Turkmenistan (2007) have thus far not resulted in
substantial economic policy changes), the framework developed in this chapter focused a great deal on actions by each leader as determining reform
policies. It is difficult to determine whether the level of integration and thus
the degree of interdependence that each republic had with the Soviet-era was
a greater factor (than the role of leadership) in determining differences in the
economic reform policies of both countries. Therefore, it is important to
analyze both structural (integration) and agent (leadership) components for a
comprehensive explanation of determinants of reform policies.
Presidential elections were held in Kazakhstan in December 2005 and while
Nazarbayev was the “clear winner” garnering 91 per cent of the vote, the
election “ … did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections” (Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 2006: 3). Additionally, changes to the
Kazakh constitution exempting Nazarbayev from the consecutive two-term
limit for a president are a sign that Nazarbayev has no plans to step down as
president in the near future (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 2007).
Nazarbayev is popular, and it is likely that he would have won the presidential elections without any governmental interference, although probably
not with such a high percentage of the vote.
The government of Kazakhstan has been commended for its successful
macroeconomic achievements since 2000, including halving the unemployment rate and tripling per capita income (Husain 2007). There has also been
renewed attention whether the large oil and natural gas resources will lead or
have led to a natural resource “curse” in the country, since high oil prices
have helped to fuel much of the country’s economic growth (Olcott 2002;
Pomfret 2005; 2006). The National Fund of the Republic of Kazakhstan
(NFRK), an oil stabilization fund set up in 2000 to control inflation as well as
to mitigate against future balance of payments problems, was noted by the
IMF to have been a positive step (IMF 2003b). However, while the NFRK
has been beneficial for the country (the IMF recommended its establishment),
the IMF also noted that poverty was still a “serious concern” and that the
benefits from the oil wealth were not benefiting all Kazakhs (IMF 2003b: 5).
While Kazakhstan’s overall poverty rate had decreased from 30 per cent in
2001 to 20 per cent in 2003, poverty was about 30 per cent in rural areas in
contrast to almost no poverty in Almaty and Astana (McMahon 2005). The
overall poverty rate had decreased further to only 10 per cent in 2005, but
again poverty was noted as being higher in the oblasts of Atyrau (25 per cent)
and Kyzylorda (16.3 per cent) (World Bank 2006). Since oil prices were
Following through on reforms
projected to be US$60.8 a barrel in 2007 and even though by February 2008
they had fallen to $41 US$ a barrel, resources are clearly available to improve
the living standards of all Kazakhs. (IMF 2007: 19). Kazakhstan has the
potential to continue to benefit from its oil reserves but it remains to be seen
whether this wealth will be used to continue to alleviate poverty in the country or to enrich a select few (for a further discussion of the resource curse, see
Chapter 7 by Oksan Bayulgen in this book).
Presidential elections in Uzbekistan were held on December 23 2007, which
Karimov won with 88 per cent of the votes cast. While the OSCE/ODIHR
(Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) assessed the elections,
the organization only sent a Limited Election Observation Mission to the
country for two reasons. First, the fact that visas for the OSCE/ODIHR
NAM (Needs Assessment Mission) were not granted until November 26
made it impossible for the NAM to be able to assess and observe the conditions of the elections in a timely manner (OSCE 2007: 1). Second, the report
noted that “(d)ue to the apparent limited nature of the competition” a comprehensive assessment of the procedures on election day would not be necessary (2007: 6). Obviously, the elections were a hoax in addition to the fact
that according to the Uzbek constitution, it was technically illegal for Karimov to run again as a presidential candidate since he had already served two
consecutive terms as president.
The crackdown on protestors against the government during May 2005 in
Andijan, Uzbekistan seemed to answer the question whether Karimov’s government would resort to violence to remain in power. The protestors were
demonstrating at least in part against the poor economic conditions in the
country, although the government blamed Islamic extremists (Kimmage
2005a; Bukharbayeva 2005). Prior to these events, the EBRD announced in
April 2004 that due to limited progress on political and economic benchmarks that the Bank had outlined for the country in 2003, that it could no
longer be involved in financing projects with the government and would
instead focus on projects that clearly benefited Uzbeks in the private and
public sector (EBRD 2004). The review noted that a political benchmark that
had not been met was the refusal of the government to register opposition
political parties. An economic benchmark that had not improved included the
continued “restrictions on access to foreign exchange” even though current
account convertibility had been formally implemented (EBRD 2004: 1).
Uzbekistan has recently been increasing its economic and military relationships with Russia, and one analyst has described the situation as one in
which Karimov has been “turning away from the West” (Kimmage 2005b). It
is not clear that Karimov ever made substantial efforts to turn toward the
West, although the country had seemed to be making some progress in economic and political reforms at times. However, it appears evident that any
P. Blackmon
progress that Uzbekistan had made in integrating itself into the international
community has been halted at least for the near future.
Conclusions and extending the analytical framework
While Kazakhstan has proceeded with economic reform at a faster pace than
Uzbekistan, each of these countries has only been an independent state since
1991. Additional time will be needed to be able to state with certainty the
progress that each country will have made on areas of economic reform.
However, the reform paths of these countries do indicate that advancement or
delay on economic reform cannot solely be predicted by the fact that both
leaders were former communist rulers. A detailed analysis of historical and
political influences on reform combined with data about each country’s progress on economic reform provides a more complete picture of the reform
This type of analysis could also be extended to analyze the reform processes
of other countries moving from distorted economies. The indicator for level of
integration during the Soviet era could be used in other cases to represent the
previous trade and economic orientation that the country had under its distorted economy. A lower level of trade, and thus less economic orientation
would signify that the country would follow policies of a lower level of economic integration because it would be a difficult transition. If Uzbekistan’s
entire economy had not been centered on the production of cotton, which did
not develop from economic theories of comparative advantage, then the state
could have altered its economy and society more easily.
These types of circumstances lead to the other part of the analysis, which
includes the decisions made by the leader and/or the government of the transitioning state. This is an important component of determining reform,
although it has many facets. First, it involves close analysis of the leader’s
history, previous background, and their writings and speeches in which they
specifically talk about issues of economic reform. It should have come as a
surprise to no one that Karimov would have continued the state-controlled
economy. He was trained as a Soviet style economist, and he had stated very
early in the reform process that his country would follow limited political and
economic reform. Second, people that the leader chooses to serve in the government are a good indicator as to whether the leader is continuing with past
policies or looking to the future. Nazarbayev’s manipulation of the political
system was not a step toward democracy by any means, but he did remove
people from government who did not agree with his reform policies.
Therefore, a closer analysis of the historical and political circumstances of
a transitioning state, including the role of the leader, are important components in determining the likely economic reform processes of those states. It
would be a mistake for future research to continue to focus solely on the
political categorization of a leader (former communist or authoritarian)
because that is a narrow and unpredictable indicator in determining reform.
Following through on reforms
1 In 1960, the Kuznetsk and Karaganda coal basins were stated as being able to
produce enough coking coal to supply the metallurgy needs of the Urals for “many
years” (Current Digest of the Soviet Press 1960: 5)
2 The primary cotton manufacturing oblasts were Ivanovo and Kostroma located
near Moscow. The decision by the Soviets not to develop the manufacturing of
cotton textiles where the cotton was grown was not based on sound economic
policies, especially considering that the rail system was already overloaded and the
fact that the textiles then had to be shipped back to the Central Asian region. For
further details and additional analysis of cotton growing under the Soviet Union,
see Rumer (1996: 62–75).
3 Data were not available for export, import, or consumption amounts of natural gas
after 1998.
4 Ibid.
5 Uzbekistan’s balance was +130, and Tajikistan’s was +57. By comparison,
Kazakhstan’s balance was −1068 (in millions of hard currency rubles) (Ekonomika
i Zhizn 1990:7).
6 The “cotton affair” refers to the time period during Rashidov’s tenure as First
Party Secretary around 1978–83, when Moscow, in effect, paid for cotton that it
never received. The actual amounts of raw cotton delivered to Moscow were
inflated to meet or exceed the planned target amounts by bribing officials at the
procurement centers or by increasing the cultivated area, as explained in Rumer
(1989: 70–71). The fact that the event would be portrayed not as one of corruption
in Moscow but as one of an unfair prosecution of Uzbek officials in Uzbekistan
would continue to strain relations between Uzbekistan and Russia during the
Soviet era, see, for example, Critchlow (1988).
7 In the article Åslund (2003: 75) asserts that all of the Central Asian states are
viewed as authoritarian, but that they have “great” differences in pluralism.
8 An official from the Embassy of Uzbekistan stated that Karimov’s economic
background would allow him to understand the disadvantages of other economic
systems, such as a shock therapy approach to economic reform (Uzbekistan
embassy official 2002). For more information on Karimov’s reasons as to why the
transition from a planned economy to a market based one should happen in phases
and take time, see Karimov (1993).
9 I. Dzhurabekov who served in many positions in the Uzbek government from
1992–98, including Minister of Agriculture, was listed in the position of agricultural vice prime minister in the Rashidov government (see US Foreign Broadcast
Information Service 1994).
10 This decision also allowed the state to have enough currency reserves to pay for
more important imported goods such as equipment needed for the self-sufficiency
of local industry (Uzbekistan embassy official 2002).
11 For complete information on the March 7 1994 parliamentary election in
Kazakhstan, see Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1994). Even
though the commission did not certify these elections as free and fair, it is noteworthy that for Uzbekistan’s parliamentary elections held in 1999, that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe “refused” to send a full observer
mission due to the failure of the process to meet democratic standards, and instead
the commission sent a small team of representatives (Freedom House 2000).
12 The Kazakh parliament adopted a law instituting the position of vice president in
November 1990 (US Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1990).
13 The first constitution of Kazakhstan was adopted in January 1993. A new constitution
was adopted by referendum on August 30 1995. This new constitution does not
mention a position of vice president (see Articles 47 and 48) (Butler 1999: 251–52).
P. Blackmon
14 This Ministry is important in the Kazakh government due to its visibility with oil
projects, and projections about increases in oil production. For examples of
Shkolnik’s comments and visibility as Minister of Energy, see Timmons (2004).
Abdelal, R. (2001) National Purpose in the World Economy, Ithaca: Cornell University
Aberbach, J. and Rockman, B. (2002) “Conducting and Coding Elite Interviews,”
Political Science and Politics, 35: 673–78.
Abraham, K. (1999) “Kazakhstan More Energetic than most of FSU,” World Oil,
220: 29.
Agzamov, A., Anvarov, A. and Shakirov, K. (1995) “Economic Reform and Investment Priorities in the Republic of Uzbekistan,” Comparative Economic Studies, 37:
Alexandrov, M. (1999) Uneasy Alliance: Relations Between Russia and Kazakhstan in
the Post-Soviet Era, Westford: Greenwood Press.
Åslund, A., Boone, P. and Johnson, S. (1996) “How to Stabilize: Lessons from PostCommunist Countries,” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 1: 217–313.
Åslund, A. (2003) “Sizing Up the Central Asian Economies,” Journal of International
Affairs, 56: 75–87.
Blackmon, P. (2007) “Divergent paths, Divergent Outcomes: Linking Differences in
Economic Reform to Levels of U.S. Foreign Direct Investment and Business in
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan,” Central Asian Survey, 26: 355–72.
Brukoff, P. (1995) The Unwilling State: Exploring Kazakhstan’s Resistance to Economic Autonomy in the Post-Soviet Period, Rand Dissertation, California: Rand
Bukharbayeva, B. (2005) “Hundreds Dead in Uzbek Uprising,” Moscow Times, 16 May.
Butler, W. (ed.) (1999) Constitutional Foundations of the CIS Countries, The Hague:
Simmonds & Hill Publishing.
Carlisle, D. (1995) “Islam Karimov and Uzbekistan: Back to the Future?” in T. Colton
and R. Tucker (eds) Patterns in Post-Soviet Leadership, Boulder: Westview Press.
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1994) Report on the
March 7, 1994 Parliamentary Election in Kazakhstan, Staff of the CSCE, Washington,
DC, March 1994
Commodity Research Bureau (2000) The Knight-Ridder CRB Commodity Yearbook,
New York: John Wiley & Sons.
——(2003) The Knight-Ridder CRB Commodity Yearbook, New York: John Wiley & Sons.
——(2007) The CRB Commodity Yearbook, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Critchlow, J. (1988) “Corruption, Nationalism and the Native Elites in Soviet Central
Asia,” The Journal of Communist Studies, 4: 142–61.
Current Digest of the Soviet Press (1960) “Third Metallurgical Base of the U.S.S.R.”
Vol. XII, No. 15, Original by K. Belyanichikov and P. in Planovoye khozyaistvo, No.
2, February: 11–22.
De Melo, M., Denizer, C., Gelb, A. and Tenev, S. (2001) “Circumstance and Choice:
The Role of Initial Conditions and Policies in Transition Economies.” The World
Bank Economic Review, 15: 1–31.
Dittmann, K., Engerer, H. and von Hirschausen, C. (2001) “Much ado about little?
Disenchantment in the Kazak and Caspian Oil and Gas Sectors,” in L. Hoffman,
Following through on reforms
P. Boringer, H. Flassbeck and A. Steinherr (eds) Kazakhstan 1993–2000: Independent
Advisors and the IMF, New York: Physica.
Ekonomika i Zhizn. (1990) ‘Kto I Kak Zhivet.’ No. 10, 7 March.
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) (1996) Transition
Report, London: EBRD.
——(2002) Transition Report, London: EBRD.
——(2007) Transition Report, London: EBRD.
——(2004) “EBRD Updates Strategy for Uzbekistan,” EBRD Press Release, 6 April,
London: EBRD.
Fischer, S. (1997) “Applied Economics in Action: IMF Programs,” American Economic
Review, 87: 23–27.
——and Sahay, R. (2000) “The Transition Economies After Ten Years.” IMF Working
Paper No 00/30, Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Fish, S. (1998) “The Determinants of Economic Growth in the Post-Communist
World,” Eastern European Politics and Societies, 12: 31–78.
Freedom House. (2000) Freedom in the World 1999–2000, Washington, DC: Freedom
House: 516–18.
Gleason, G. (1997) The Central Asian States, Boulder: Westview Press.
——(2001) “Foreign Policy and Domestic Reform in Central Asia,” Central Asian
Survey, 20: 167–82.
——(2003a) “Russia and the Politics of the Central Asian Electricity Grid,” Problems
of Post-Communism, 50: 42–52.
——(2003b) Markets and Politics in Central Asia: Structural Reform and Political
Change, New York: Routledge.
Gürgen, E. (2000) “Central Asia: Achievements and Prospects,” Finance & Development,
37: 40–43.
Hellman, J. (1998) “Winners Take All: The Politics of Partial Reform in Postcommunist
Transitions,” World Politics, 50: 203–34.
Husain, A.M. (2007) “Sustaining Kazakhstan’s Macroeconomic Success,” Kazakhstan’s Echo, 5 February 34:1–3; reprinted from The Business and Power, 29
December 2006.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) (1995) “Kazakhstan – Recent Economic Developments,” IMF Staff Country Report , 11 December, Washington, DC: IMF.
——(1996a) “Kazakhstan Accepts Article VIII Obligations,” IMF Press Release PRN
96/41, 23 July, Washington, DC: IMF.
——(1996b) “Uzbekistan – Selected Issues and Statistical Appendix,” IMF Staff
Country Report No. , 10 June, Washington, DC: IMF.
——(1996c) “IMF Approves Three-Year Extended Fund Facility for Kazakhstan,”
IMF Press Release PRN 96/39, 17 July, Washington, DC: IMF.
——(1998) “Republic of Uzbekistan: Recent Economic Developments,” IMF Staff
Country Report No. , 19 August, Washington, DC: IMF.
——(2000) “Republic of Uzbekistan: Recent Economic Developments.” IMF Staff
Country Report No. 00/36, 12 January, Washington, DC: IMF.
——(2002) “Republic of Kazakhstan: Selected Issues and Statistical Appendix,” IMF
Country Report No , 7 January, Washington, DC: IMF.
——(2003a) “The Republic of Uzbekistan Accepts Article VIII Obligations.” IMF
Press Release PRN 03/1888, 11 November, Washington, DC: IMF.
——(2003b) “Republic of Kazakhstan: 2003 Article IV Consultation – Staff Report,”
IMF Country Report No , July, Washington, DC: IMF.
P. Blackmon
——(2005) “IMF Executive Board Concludes 2005 Article IV Consultations with
Republic of Uzbekistan,” IMF Public Information Notice No 05/73, 10 June,
Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund (IMF).
——(2007) “Republic of Kazakhstan: 2007 Article IV Consultation,” IMF Country
Report No , 5 July Washington, DC: IMF.
——economist (2002) Interview with the author, IMF, Washington, DC, 8 July.
——economists (2003) Interviews with the author, IMF, Washington, DC, 13 October.
Interstate Statistical Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States (2002)
Commonwealth of Independent States in 2001 Statistical Yearbook, Moscow.
Isachenkov, V. (2005) “Akayev Signs His Resignation,” Moscow Times, 5 April 2005.
Jones Luong, P. (ed.) (2004) The Transformation of Central Asia: States and Societies
from Soviet Rule to Independence, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Karimov, I. (1993) Building the Future – Uzbekistan Its Own Model for Transition to a
Market Economy, Tashkent: Uzbekistan Publishers.
Karasik, T. (ed.) (1996) Russia and Eurasia Facts and Figures Annual, Vol. 21, Gulf
Breeze, FL: Academic International Press.
Kazakhstan embassy official (2002) Interview with the author, Embassy of Kazakhstan,
Washington DC, 11 July.
Kimmage, D. (2005a) “Uzbek Police Crush Protests in Tashkent,” Radio Free Europe/
Radio Liberty, 10 May 2005.
——(2005b) “Uzbekistan: Between East and West,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,
17 November 2005.
Levine, S. (1994) “Central Asian Republics Look West for Investment,” Financial
Times, February 8: 4.
McMahon, R. (2005) “CIS: New World Bank Report Shows Mixed Progress on
Poverty,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 October 2005.
Ofer, G. and Pomfret, R. (eds) (2004) The Economic Prospects of the CIS: Sources of
Long Term Growth, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Olcott, M.B. (1997) “Democratization and the Growth of Political Participation in
Kazakhstan,” in K. Dawisha and B. Parrott (eds) Conflict, Cleavage and Change in
Central Asia and the Caucasus, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
——(2002) Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.
——(2005) Central Asia’s Second Chance, Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (2006) Republic of
Kazakhstan Presidential Election 4 December 2005, OSCE/ODIHR Election
Observation Mission Final Report, 21 February, Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR.
——(2007) Republic of Uzbekistan Presidential Election 23 December 2007, OSCE/
ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report, November 28–30, Warsaw: OSCE/
Palei, L. and Petr, J. (1992) “Integration Versus Independence for the Successor States
of the USSR: When Might Economics’ ‘Right Answers’ be Wrong,” Comparative
Economic Studies, 34: 1–12.
Pomfret, R. (2000) “The Uzbek Model of Economic Development, 1991–99,” Economics
of Transition, 8: 733–48.
——(2005) “Kazakhstan’s Economy Since Independence: Does the Oil Boom Offer a
Second Chance for Sustainable Development?” Europe-Asia Studies, 57: 859–76.
——(2006) The Central Asian Economies Since Independence, Princeton: Princeton
University Press.
Following through on reforms
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (2007) “Kazakh Deputies Approve Unlimited
Terms for Nazarbayev,” 18 May. < > (accessed 23 May 2007).
Roeder, P. G. (1994) “Varieties of Post-Soviet Authoritarian Regimes,” Post-Soviet
Affairs, 10: 61–101.
Rumer, B. (1989) Soviet Central Asia ‘A Tragic Experiment’, Boston: Unwin
——(1996) “Disintegration and Reintegration in Central Asia: Dynamics and Prospects,” in B. Rumer (ed.) Central Asia in Transition: Dilemmas of Political and
Economic Development, New York: ME Sharp.
Suhir, E. and Kovach, Z. (2003) “Administrative Barriers to Entrepreneurship in
Central Asia,” Center for International Private Enterprise, 30 June.
The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (2002) “Convertibility is Promised,” Country
Monitor, 20 May.
Timmons, H. (2004) “Oil Majors Agree to Develop a Big Kazakh Field,” The New
York Times, 26 February: W1, W7.
Tsygankov, A. (2001) Pathways After Empire: National Identity and Foreign Policy in
the Post-Soviet World, Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield.
US business firm representative (2005) Personal communication, 31 May.
US Foreign Broadcast Information Service (1986) Speech by N. A. Nazarbayev
delivered at March 4 morning session of 27th CPSU Congress, FBIS Daily Reports,
14 March: O10, original in Pravda, 5 March: 4–5.
——(1990) “Kazakhstan Restructures State Power;” FBIS Daily Reports, 23 November:
53, original by G. Kulagin in TASS, 21 November: 1.
——(1991a) “Nazarbayev Arrives in Britain on Official Visit;” FBIS Daily Reports,
29 October: 72, original by C. Moncrieff in London, Press Association, 28 October,
2028 GMT.
——(1991b) “One of the Few Who was Attracted by Western Ideas” (interview with
Nursultan Nazarbayev by V. Simonov and Y. Dotsuk), FBIS Daily Reports, 18 April:
54; original in Komsomolskaya Pravda in Russian, 13 April: 2.
——(1991c) Alma-Ata Kazakh Radio Network in Kazakh and Russian, 1099 GMT,
on 10 December 1991, in FBIS Daily Reports, 11 December: 82
——(1994) “Special Services are Active Not Only on Their Own Turf. A Spate of
Resignation Begins Among Republic’s Leaders,” FBIS Daily Reports, 29 June: 55,
original by A. Musin in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 28 June: 3.
Uzbek SSR Tsentral’noe statisticheskoe upravlenie (1971) Uzbekistan za gody vos’moi
piatileki (1966–1970gg): kratkii statisticheskii sbornik, Tashkent: Uzbek SSR.
Uzbekistan embassy official (2002) Interview with the author, Embassy of Uzbekistan,
Washington DC, 11 July.
Uzland, Uzbekistan Information Directory “Uzbek Government Members and Other
Officials as of March 2004.” < > (accessed 10 July
Uzland, Uzbekistan Information Directory 2005. < >
(accessed 13 May 2005).
Weinthal, E. and Jones Luong, P. (2001) “Energy Wealth and Tax Reform in Russia
and Kazakhstan,” Resources Policy, 27: 215–23.
Wolf, H.C. (1999) “Transition Strategies: Choices and Outcomes,” Princeton Studies in
International Finance, 85, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
World Bank. (1993) Kazakhstan: The Transition to a Market Economy, Washington,
DC: World Bank.
P. Blackmon
——(1999) Privatization of the Power and Natural Gas Industries in Hungary and
Kazakhstan, World Bank Technical Paper No 451, Washington, DC: World Bank.
——(2006) Kazakhstan: Country Brief 2006, Washington, DC: World Bank.
——economist (2002) Interview with the author, World Bank, Washington DC, 12 July.
Zettlemeyer, J. (1998) “The Uzbek Growth Puzzle,” Working Paper of the IMF, WP/
98/133, Washington, DC: IMF.
Caspian energy wealth
Social impacts and implications for
regional stability
Oksan Bayulgen
The Caspian Sea region is a vaguely defined subset of Central Asia and the
Caucasus consisting of the Sea’s littoral states Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan,
Turkmenistan as well as Russia and Iran. It is a unique grouping “defined less
by demography or geographic proximity than by geology” (Ruseckas 1998:
43). Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the creation of new independent states in its place, this region has received significant attention from
regional and international powers as well as major Western energy companies
because of the promise of its largely untapped oil and gas reserves. During the
initial excitement about the region, the Caspian Basin was touted by some
estimates as one of the world’s largest new energy sources with up to 200
billion barrels of oil reserves almost on par with Saudi Arabia (Pope 1997).
Even though estimates over time of the oil and gas potential of the region have
been significantly moderated, there is no question that this region’s proven
reserves are significant, approximately 3–4 per cent of the world’s total proven
reserves. It is expected that by 2010 regional oil production will meet or exceed
annual production from South America’s largest oil producer, Venezuela (US
Energy Information Administration 2007).1
In the early stages of the Caspian oil and gas exploration, many observers
had high expectations for the positive influence these resources would have on
regional stability and on the political and economic prosperity of the Caspian
states.2 The exploitation of these riches was expected to mitigate existing
ethnic conflicts in the region and improve relations by providing incentives for
littoral states as well as regional powers to cooperate for shared gains. It was
also assumed that enormous cash investments and oil and gas sales would
revive failing economies, stimulate much-needed economic growth, and provide safety nets for these societies (Olcott 1999). Consequently, energy wealth
would cement the independence of these new states as they embarked on
significant economic and political reforms.
While these resources represent vast opportunities for cooperation and stability in the region, severe disagreements over pipeline routes from the Caspian Sea as well as the legal division of these reserves have created major
obstacles to the realization of this region’s full potential. Many in fact argue
that today’s competition for control over these resources resembles the rivalry
O. Bayulgen
of the Great Game between the British and Russian empires at the end of the
nineteenth century (Rumer 1993; Central and Eastern Europe Bankwatch
Network 2002; Menon 2003; Kleveman 2003; Weitz 2006). The world’s largest energy consumers (the USA, Russia, China), the largest foreign oil companies, as well as the rising regional powers like Turkey and Iran all want a
piece of the Caspian energy pie.
Caspian’s energy wealth is certainly at the heart of the rivalry between the
new actors of the new Great Game. However, the competition for influence
transcends the simple economic calculations of wealth distribution or various
pipeline options and includes the intransigent political and geostrategic considerations that each has over this region. The break-up of the Soviet Union
in 1991 left a power vacuum and triggered a jockeying for influence over the
Caspian. The fact that it is surrounded by nuclear states (Russia, China,
India, Pakistan, and in the future possibly Iran), and that it is adjacent to
Afghanistan, where the war against terrorism and militant Islam is unfolding,
makes this an extremely fragile region. Unless all the actors involved in the
Caspian find a common ground and work together to develop the region’s oil
and gas fields and pipelines, this multifaceted and complex so-called “New
Great Game” has the potential to endanger the overall regional stability
and security.
In addition to the prospects for regional instability, the poor performance
of the Caspian states in utilizing these resources makes the expectations of
economic prosperity and internal stability highly unlikely. Unfortunately, for
the majority of the people in the Caspian region, the development of oil and
gas is proving to be more curse than blessing. In the last decade, prospects of
huge oil and gas rents have brought corruption, economic inequality, and
poor social services instead of peace and good governance. The history of
petroleum development in other parts of the world substantiates this predicament of the “black gold.” The rentier state literature extensively demonstrates that dependence of a state on a resource that is capable of generating
such extraordinary rents, not only distorts the economy—an ailment known
as the “Dutch Disease”—but also produces high levels of corruption, government inefficiency, inequality, and reinforces authoritarian tendencies by
concentrating state power in the hands of a few ruling elites (Mahdavy 1970;
Hughes 1975; Delacroix 1980; Gelb 1986; Shafer 1994; Chaudry 1997; Karl
1997; Ross 2001). The presence of natural resources can also cause domestic
instability by providing attractive spoils to potential rebels and/or by creating
resentment over unequal distribution of oil rents (Collier and Hoeffler 1998,
2005; Wantchekon 1999; De Soysa 2000; Snyder 2006).
In this chapter, based on the overview of the literature and an extensive indepth analysis of government documents, company reports, and statistical
data, I will first focus on two issues over which much of the struggle has been
taking place: the pipeline routes to carry the Caspian oil and gas to world
markets and the legal division of the Caspian Sea. Following a discussion on
the effects these issues have had on regional stability, I will also explore the
Caspian energy wealth
implications of the energy wealth for the internal economic and political
development of the Caspian states. Overall, I demonstrate how the particularities of the Caspian energy wealth are likely to contribute to disorder in the
region by reducing the incentives for cooperation among regional actors as
well as the incentives for reform for those that are enriched with it.
Dispute over the pipeline routes
The landlocked nature of the Caspian region makes the export of large
quantities of oil and natural gas to markets extremely challenging. At the
time of the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Caspian oil was being
transported through two pipelines: from Baku on the Caspian to either the
Georgian port of Supsa or the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black
Sea. From there, it was transported via tankers that had to pass through the
increasingly congested Bosporus Strait in Turkey. Kazakhstan’s exports have
also relied on an existing pipeline to Samara (Russia), where Kazakh crude
was blended with West Siberian crude, ultimately arriving at Russian terminals on the Black Sea or at European markets via the Druzhba (“friendship”
in Russian) pipeline.
Increased oil production, the war in Chechnya, deteriorating pipelines, the
monopoly of the Russian transportation company Transneft, and the clogging
of the Bosporus Strait, however, forced the multinational oil companies and
littoral states to consider alternative routes of transport from the region.
What made this issue especially thorny was that the littoral states, regional
powers, and the multinational energy companies had different and opposing
ideas as to where the pipelines should be built. The bargaining over the proposals was hard fought, given each actor’s relative security and economic
considerations in the new Caspian game.
To minimize their dependence on Russia, the newly independent states of
Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Kazakhstan have been trying to change the region’s
energy flow from the existing north–south axis toward Russia to an east–west
axis toward Europe (US Energy Information Administration 2003). The
region’s two biggest pipeline projects, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium Project (CPC), and the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil pipeline (BTC) are establishing
the framework for this new axis (see Map 7.1).
The CPC pipeline connects Kazakhstan’s Caspian Sea oil reserves (mostly
from the Tengiz field) to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. The
governments of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman developed the CPC project in
conjunction with a consortium of international oil companies (including
Chevron and Exxon Mobil). It is actually an extension of the existing oil
transit infrastructure surrounding the Caspian Sea. Newly constructed components of the line run from the Russian town of Komsomolskaya straight
westward to Novorossiysk. From there, it is transported to world markets by
tankers that pass through the Turkish Bosporus Strait, which connects the
Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Officially opened on November 27 2001,
O. Bayulgen
Map 7.1 Caspian region oil pipelines (U).
Source: Energy Information Administration, Caspian Sea (January 2007).
the CPC pipeline had an initial capacity of 560,000 barrels per day (bbl/d)
and exported around 690,000 bbl/d in 2007 with plans to further increase
capacity to 1.34 million bbl/d (US Energy Information Administration 2008).
This pipeline met significant Russian opposition because it provided
Kazakhstan with an alternative to the Russian-dominated northern export
route, the Atyrau–Samara pipeline, and diversified the ownership and control
of the pipeline with an international consortium, thereby effectively ending
Russia’s monopoly on energy transport systems in the Caspian Basin. As
such, this project has been a constant reminder to the Russians of the
spreading US presence in this region. Opposing the CPC from the beginning,
Russians have recently been able to change the dynamics of the pipeline game
in their favor. In May 2007, they reached an agreement with Turkmenistan
and Kazakhstan to build a natural gas pipeline along the Caspian Sea coast.
The pipeline is to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Europe via
Kazakhstan and Russia. The agreement, along with an accompanying deal to
upgrade existing Soviet-era infrastructure in Uzbekistan, is now seen as a
blow to US, European, and Chinese hopes of diverting the flow of Central
Asian gas out of Russian hands (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty 2007).
The CPC pipeline has also been opposed by Turkey, which has repeatedly
raised concerns about the ability of the Bosporus Strait to handle additional
tanker traffic, considering that most of the other Russian oil pipelines also
Caspian energy wealth
terminate at Novorossiysk and need to go through the Turkish straits to reach
world markets. The 17-mile-long Bosporus Strait is one of the world’s busiest
and most difficult to navigate waterways with an annual capacity of 50,000
vessels, including 5,500 oil tankers (US Energy Information Administration
2005). Currently oil flow through the Bosporus ranges from 2.8 to 3.1 million
bbl/d. The CPC expansion is estimated to add an incremental 750,000 bbl/d
of oil to this amount (US Energy Information Administration 2007). The
increase in tanker traffic from the launch of the CPC pipeline has legitimately
brought attention to the environmental and security concerns about possible
accidents and ensuing oil spills.3
Given these concerns and the potential advantages of having a pipeline
built across its territory, Turkey has systematically advocated and lobbied for
an alternative westward pipeline that would carry oil from Azerbaijan’s Baku
via Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. The BTC pipeline
was also favored by Georgia, which would receive substantial amounts in
transit fees and by Azerbaijan, which would use it to bypass the Russian sphere
of influence and increase its leverage over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute
with Armenia.4
Even though the US, Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Georgian governments
have openly supported and provided economic incentives for the construction
of this pipeline, the BTC project has faced numerous challenges to its development. Initially, the multinational oil companies were reluctant to start it
because of the costs involved in building across the long, rugged terrain.5
Moreover, local and international non-governmental organizations objected
because they found the project to be environmentally hazardous, threatening
to regional archeological treasures, important national parks, water resources
and in violation of international human rights.6 Nevertheless, with clear US
support, in 1999 the BTC was designated the main export route for the
Azerbaijani Consortium, consisting of oil companies led by British Petroleum, to explore and develop Azeri oil. The first oil started flowing from
Baku on May10 2005 and reached the port of Ceyhan on May 28 2006.
As a viable alternative to the east–west corridor projects, Iran and all major
oil companies have consistently held that southern routes to the Persian Gulf
are the shortest, and the least expensive means of exporting oil from the
Caspian Sea. A pipeline through Iran is estimated to cost 40–50 per cent less
than the BTC pipeline (Askari 2003). In addition to these southern routes, the
swapping of oil with Iran was considered a viable alternative. Accordingly, the
Azeri, Kazakh, and Turkmen oil would be delivered to Iran’s northern oil
refineries and, in return, Iranian oil would be made available at Iran’s Kharg
Island terminal in the Persian Gulf.7
The Iranian option has not been fully utilized, given the US objection to
doing business with the Islamic regime, which has been openly anti-West since
the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Iran Sanctions Act imposes sanctions on
non-US companies investing in the Iranian oil and natural gas sectors. The
US companies are already prohibited from conducting business with Iran
O. Bayulgen
under US law. In 1997, however, Turkmenistan and Iran completed the US
$190 million Korpezhe–Kurt Kui pipeline linking the two countries, thereby
becoming the first natural gas export pipeline from Central Asia to bypass
Russia (US Energy Information Administration 2003). In addition, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have both initiated low-volume oil swap deals with
Iran, delivering oil in tankers to refineries in Iran’s northern regions in
exchange for similar volumes of crude at Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf. As
of May 2004, about 130,000 bbl/d of Russian, Turkmen, and Kazakh oil were
being shipped to Neka port on the Caspian, and then on to Tehran by the
existing 170,000 bbl/d capacity Neka–Tehran pipeline (US Energy Information
Administration 2004).
There are also other pipelines—some just recently completed, others still
under construction, and yet others that are on hold—for transporting Caspian oil and gas resources to various world markets (see Map 7.1).8 The one
that holds the most potential is the 613-mile-long Kazakhstan–China pipeline, which carries Kazakh oil from north-western Kazakhstan to China’s
north-western Xinjiang region. Completed in 2006, this pipeline is designed to
meet the rising Chinese appetite for energy. China has a booming economy,
and since 2003 has replaced Japan as the world’s second-largest oil importer
(after the USA) (Bahgat, 2005: 269).
Multiple pipelines: peace pipelines?
Despite the disagreements over the pipeline routes, multiple pipelines are
becoming the reality of the Caspian region. The question is whether they will
become “peace pipelines”—by linking the countries through agreements,
treaties, and alliances—or be sources of disorder for an already fragile
region.9 I argue that given the limited resources of the Caspian Sea and the
obstacles to the timely construction of the pipelines, over the long run one is
more likely to witness competition rather than cooperation among the Caspian actors. Considering the significant implications of these transportation
routes for the revenue streams of Caspian states, the competition over the
pipeline routes will more likely continue to raise tensions between those who
benefit from them and those who are left out.10
First of all, the Caspian Sea does not hold the promise that many initially
ascribed to it (Rasizade 2005; Manning 2000). Industry sources have cited
several drilling disappointments, particularly in Azerbaijan since the late 1990s.
The new moderated estimates of the reserves make the Caspian pie to be shared
much smaller than previously expected. In addition, the opening up of oil
fields that were once closed to foreigners in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia
make the Caspian Sea a less attractive destination for investors, particularly
considering the high production and transportation costs of its oil. Because
oil in Saudi Arabia can be produced for less than US$3 a barrel, the transport
costs of Caspian oil mean that oil companies would need about US$13 a
barrel to make a profit from their Caspian oil exports (Manning 2000: 18).11
Caspian energy wealth
This competition for investment as well as the limited resources put the “first
movers” at a distinct advantage (Mahnovski 2003: 129).
Second, the building of the necessary export pipelines and thus the development of Caspian Sea oil and natural gas has been significantly slowed
down by regional conflicts. Most of these conflicts are in the Caucasus part of
the Caspian region: Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia, and the Chechen republic
of Russia. Many of the proposed export routes pass through these areas where
issues in dispute remain unresolved.12 The numerous flashpoints and the
ongoing instability have caused energy companies and potential investors
either to back away from or to delay the construction of proposed pipelines.
For example, the western route for early oil from Baku, Azerbaijan to
Georgian port of Supsa, as well the main export route of BTC, pass just
north of the disputed Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as
the sites of separatist struggles in Abkhazia (north-west Georgia) and Ossetia
(north-central Georgia). The port of Supsa is just 12 miles from a buffer zone
between Abkhazia and Georgia. In October 1998, pipeline construction on
the western route was suspended because of fighting between government
forces and those led by Akaki Eliava, a supporter of the late Georgian president Gamsakhurdia. Also, previous Georgian president Shevardnadze
escaped assassination attempts in 1995 and 1998, which were reported to have
been linked to disputes over construction of oil pipelines through Georgian
territory (US Energy Information Administration 2002).
Similarly the northern route for early oil from Azerbaijan, the Baku–
Novorossisk pipeline passes for 80 miles through the contested Russian
Republic of Chechnya. Russia’s Transneft pipeline transport company and
Chechen government officials have clashed in the past over the issue of tariffs
and war reparations from Russia (Bahgat 2004). On the east side of the Caspian, the unstable situation in Afghanistan has stifled the development of
export routes to the southeast. Furthermore, the continued threat of Islamic
fundamentalism in Central Asia, especially in the Ferghana Valley, has prohibited any new export pipelines in that region. The possibility of war
between Pakistan and India served as a further deterrent to Caspian export
pipelines running southeast, via either Iran or Afghanistan (US Energy
Information Administration 2002).
The construction slowdown has the potential to heighten tensions for two
reasons. First, it means a delay in much-needed profits for the governments
and the subsequent reduction in the degree of patience and tolerance needed
for reaching compromise solutions. Disappointment over the waning prospect
of oil windfalls has exacerbated the financial shortages that the transition to a
market economy has produced, lessening the region’s ability to realize its
energy potential. Second, ethnic tensions make certain pipeline routes more
preferable than others for potential investors, resulting in competition for
international financing and a zero-sum mentality, where one actor’s gains are
considered another’s loss. Thus, in a context where the future of energy
development is uncertain and the pie to be shared is smaller than anticipated,
O. Bayulgen
the actors become acutely sensitive to any erosion of their relative capabilities.
This makes it more likely for them to decline to join, or limit their commitment to cooperative arrangements in the future if they believe that their
partners are achieving or are likely to achieve greater gains.13
The relationship between Azerbaijan and Armenia provides one example of
how the relative-gains consideration can potentially destabilize the security
situation in the region. Armenia is bypassed by the BTC pipeline and hence
fails to enjoy the economic and financial benefits of pipeline and terminal
construction. Pipeline maintenance expenditures and especially transit fees
could provide substantial benefits to a country of transit. It is estimated that
the maintenance of a 1–1.5 million barrels a day (MBD) pipeline would
annually amount to about US$50 million and that transit fees would annually
be about US$0.80 a barrel, or US$300 million annually for a MBD pipeline.
Further, the engineering and construction of a number of oil and gas pipelines
would yield significant business, estimated at US$6 to US$10 billion (Askari
2003). One can argue that the relatively stable status quo that has persisted
since the ceasefire in 1994 may be attributed to the weakness of the Azerbaijani military to challenge areas under Armenian control. However, the oil
wealth may threaten the status quo as the prospect of large inflows of export
revenues give rise to Armenian concerns that Azerbaijan will use these revenues
to buy military armament and shift the balance of power in its favor.
Dispute over the legal division of the Caspian Sea
The legal partitioning of the Caspian Sea is another issue where conflicts of
interests have significantly increased tensions among the Caspian states and
helped to accelerate the militarization of the Caspian Sea. Prior to its breakup, the Soviet Union and Iran relied on several agreements to govern their
relationship in the Caspian, most notably the Friendship Treaty of 1921 and
the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1940. After 1991, the number of
littoral states increased to include five (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the
Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan), making the two treaties null and
void.14 The division of the Caspian wealth immediately became contentious.
Their inability to resolve this dispute in a timely manner prevented the five
states from developing their fields and getting the oil and gas to markets
expeditiously and efficiently. The uncertainties in connection with the distribution of Caspian resources slowed existing investment projects and rendered
investors reluctant to start new ones.
The main issue in the debate on the legal status of the Caspian has been
whether it is a sea or a lake. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have since the
beginning consistently insisted that the Caspian is a sea and that the United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea should apply to it.15 According to
this convention, the littoral states can claim 12 miles from shore as their territorial waters and beyond that a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Applying
it to the Caspian would mean that full maritime boundaries of the five littoral
Caspian energy wealth
states would be established based upon an equidistant division of the sea and
undersea resources into national sectors. Russia and Iran, on the other hand,
initially argued that the Caspian is an inland lake and the Law of the Sea
does not apply. They advocated a condominium approach, which envisions
joint management of the Caspian resources (see Map 7.2).
In the late 1990s, some of these states engaged in bilateral talks to resolve
their disagreements and expedite the oil exploration projects. In 1997,
Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan agreed to adhere to the borders of the sectors
along the median line until a convention on the legal status of Caspian was
signed. Also in 1997, Kazakhstan signed an agreement with Turkmenistan
that pledged to divide their sections of the Caspian along median lines
(Bahgat 2005: 123). The signing of these agreements between the three states
brought about a major change in the Russian approach. By the late 1990s,
Russia was advocating the principle of dividing the seabed and its resources
between neighboring states. Based on a median-line approach, Russia signed
agreements with Kazakhstan in 1998, with Azerbaijan in 2001, and with both
again in May 2003 (US Energy Information Administration 2007).
Unlike Russia, Iran has been more adamant about the condominium
approach. It rejected the bilateral agreements that were signed among the
other littoral states and insisted on developing the resources in the Caspian
collectively. The reason for this foot dragging by Iran has been the uneven
distribution of potential oil and gas riches in the Caspian seabed. Iranian
shores hold much less oil and gas reserves than the other littoral states.
According to the median-line approach, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the
Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan would each get respectively 21, 13.6,
28.4, 19, and 18 percent, making Iran the biggest loser and Kazakhstan the
winner (Feifer 2002).
Despite some bilateral and trilateral attempts, however, as of yet no agreement
has been reached among the five littoral states regarding the final partitioning
of the Caspian Sea.16 The lack of consensus on this matter so far has created
significant tensions between the littoral states and in some cases militarized
their relations. For instance, in February 1998, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan
agreed to divide the Caspian Sea between them along a median line but disagreed strenuously on where to draw the line over a field called Kyapaz by
Azerbaijan and Serdar by Turkmenistan. Azerbaijan reached a preliminary
agreement with oil companies to develop this field in July 1998, but Turkmenistan laid claim to it a few months later. Turkmenistan also laid claim to
portions of the Azeri and Chirag fields and argued that they lay within its
territorial waters. It alleged that Azerbaijan is illegally working in these fields
and in July 2001 demanded that Baku suspend all such work (Bahgat 2004).
This dispute has stalled work in the central Caspian since 1998 and helped
kill a trans-Caspian gas pipeline that might have benefited both parties.
Another confrontation between the littoral states took place on July 23
2001 when two Azerbaijani research ships were chased by an Iranian gunboat
from a disputed oil field in the southern Caspian (Lelyveld 2002). The near
O. Bayulgen
Map 7.2 Competing Caspian claims.
Source: Energy Information Administration, Caspian Sea (January 2007).
clash was the most serious conflict in the oil-rich waters since the Soviet break
up. The immediate result of the July 23 incident was a decision by Britain’s
BP oil company to suspend all activity under its contract with Azerbaijan in
the oil field that Baku calls Alov and Tehran calls Albroz.
More importantly, perhaps, the region witnessed a significant military
build-up soon after the incident. The first display of preventive power was by
Caspian energy wealth
Turkey, when Ankara sent fighter jets to Baku in late August for an air show
that also served as a display of force on behalf of its ethnic ally, Azerbaijan.
Furthermore, both the USA and Russia registered disapproval of the Iranian
action. Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered military maneuvers in the
Caspian, employing some of the newest weapon technologies, 60 warships
and 10,000 military personnel (Rasizade 2005: 16) Putin also pledged to
allocate more than US$300 million in the coming years to modernize the
Russian Caspian Fleet (Ogutcu 2003: 10). To counter Russian military exercises and presence in the region, the Bush administration initiated a series of
joint military exercises in the Caspian Sea to train Azerbaijan’s naval fleet to
protect the oil-rich nation’s offshore drilling platforms (Berman 2004–5: 62).
The US government has also set up troops called the “Caspian Guard,”
which aim at establishing a mutual control regime in air, sea, and land borders for Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan in case there are attacks to oil fields and
pipelines (Bahgat 2005: 280). Hence, the lack of an agreement on the legal
status of the Caspian has delayed major energy projects, increased direct
tensions among littoral states, and led to a military build-up, contributing to
the overall instability and insecurity in this region.
Domestic implications of the Caspian resource wealth
Even if we still believe in the potential for mutually cooperative relations
among the Caspian actors over time, the performance of the newly independent Caspian states in managing their oil wealth so far can easily engender
pessimism about the overall regional security and stability. The resource curse
literature is full of examples of countries where a high degree of dependence
on primary exports has had detrimental effects on long-term economic
growth, governance, social and economic equality, as well as political institutions, particularly when the development of the resources coincided with
modern state-building. There seems to be a consensus among experts that the
Caspian societies are already witnessing the curse of oil. Analysts warn of an
imminent “Dutch Disease” as a result of oil dependence, and the increasing
corruption and inequality levels are threatening the social peace and order in
these countries. Unless the leaders diversify their economies, and build corruption-free institutions to collect and distribute revenues efficiently and
fairly, the domestic unrest that is accumulating may have huge consequences
for the stability and peace in the Caspian region.
Distortions in the economy: “Dutch Disease”
Oil and gas revenues are the backbone of the Caspian economies. One way to
measure the level of dependence on oil and gas revenue is to look at the percentage of fuel exports in total exports and the percentage of oil and gas
revenues in total government revenues. As the figures in Tables 7.1 and 7.2
demonstrate, by both of these accounts the Caspian states are highly
O. Bayulgen
dependent on energy resources. For instance, Azerbaijani fuel exports
between the years 1996 and 2004 have been on average 78 per cent of total
exports (see Table 7.1).17 These figures are similar to those of major energy
producing countries like Venezuela and Iran, 81 and 85 per cent (respectively)
on average during the same years (World Development Indicators 2006).
Moreover, the energy sector accounted for more than half of budget revenues
in Azerbaijan (see Table 7.2), more than 30 per cent of the gross domestic
product (GDP) since 2002 and 74 and 97.6 per cent of all foreign direct
investment (FDI) in 2003 and 2004 respectively (US Energy Information
Administration 2005). Considering that oil and natural gas production are
expected to increase dramatically in the near future with the operationalization of the newly constructed pipelines from the region, even under conservative oil and gas reserve and price estimates, the revenue windfall to these
governments over the next 20 years will be substantial.18
As demonstrated in the literature, such a high degree of energy dependence
usually creates serious structural problems in the economies of oil rich countries—also known as the “Dutch Disease.”19 Typically in the first stage of this
disease, as the rents flow into the economy, national currency becomes very
strong in relation to the US dollar. Imports then become cheaper, and local
products become more expensive and noncompetitive in international markets. The result is that most branches of the national economy other than oil
exploration and its transportation soon deteriorate (Kurbanov and Sanders
1998). Moreover, such dependence on oil rents may cause the economy to
become vulnerable to changes in world oil prices as they go through cyclical
booms and busts. Any significant drop in oil prices leads to a sharp decline in
government revenues and then to borrowing from foreign lenders. Finally,
despite increasing government revenues, oil development typically does not
improve the job market since energy development projects are technology-
Table 7.1 Fuel exports (% of total exports)
Source: World Development Indicators 2006.
Table 7.2 Oil and gas revenues (% of total government revenues)
Source: International Monetary Fund (2005a,b).
Caspian energy wealth
intensive and require only a few qualified engineers and workers after the
initial construction period.
Even though their oil and gas production levels are not at full capacity, the
Caspian states are already showing signs of this disease (Esanov et al. 2001;
Cohen 2006). For instance, the agricultural and non-fuel industrial sectors
have already suffered significantly since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Table 7.3 demonstrates that as a percentage of GDP, agriculture value added
fell dramatically in both Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan since the beginning of
the 1990s.20 The appreciation of the national currency against the dollar has
also become quite visible. For instance, the Azerbaijani manat appreciated
over 6 per cent in nominal terms against the US dollar in 2005, and an
additional 1 per cent in 2006 (Global Insight 2006). Moreover, inflation is
showing signs of increase in the last couple of years in part due to higher
levels of public spending as a result of higher oil revenues. For instance, in
Azerbaijan, inflation was reported at 9.6 per cent in 2005 and 11 per cent in
2006.21 Experts warn that a further increase into double digits can jeopardize
the growth potential of the economy. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), these inflationary pressures are likely to increase as the oil
export volumes increase and the non-oil sectors contract (Cohen 2006:14).
Finally, as commonly found in a “Dutch Disease,” the job market has not
expanded much in these states. For instance, the oil sector represented only 1
per cent of employment in Azerbaijan in 2002 (International Development
Association 2005).
Weak governance, corruption, inequality
In addition to weakening the economy and making it vulnerable to global
price fluctuations, oil windfalls are also changing the structure and capacity of
these states to govern effectively (Leite and Weidmann 1999; Ross 1999; Auty
2001). First of all, the availability of easy and direct rents is making government elites and their supporters who benefit from these rents reluctant to
introduce reforms that can empower new groups and threaten the status
Table 7.3 Agriculture, value added (% of gross domestic product)
Source: World Development Indicators World Bank Group (2006).
O. Bayulgen
quo.22 This is most evident in the drastic decline in the ability of these governments to enforce tax collection and maintain even minimal levels of public
services and social welfare protections. For instance, a recent IMF paper
concludes that in 10 years of reforms Azerbaijan has made no progress and
has even backtracked on electricity reform, a large source of potential tax
revenue for the state (Cohen 2006:15). Moreover, the low levels of government expenditures on health care and public education demonstrate that these
governments have on average spent less even when their revenue streams
increased as a result of oil and gas exports. For instance, public expenditure
on health care in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan as a percentage of GDP from
1991 to 2003 dropped from 3.1 per cent to 1 percent, and from 4.3 per cent to
2 per cent respectively (see Table 7.4). Similarly, public spending on education
fell from 8 to 3 per cent and 3.9 to 2 per cent in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan
respectively between 1991 and 2004 (see Table 7.5).23 As a result, according to
many experts, in the past several years, the quality of public education and
health care has deteriorated in these countries and a relatively egalitarian
social structure has been destroyed.
Second, an abundance of petrodollars in government hands has been
increasing the incentives for rent-seeking behavior and corruption in these
countries. A 2001 study by the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (EBRD) shows that total energy rents during 1992 and 2000
have been in the order of 20–50 per cent of GDP in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan,
and Turkmenistan and that a significant portion of these rents has been used
to support subsidies to special interest groups favored by incumbent governments instead of being allocated to productive areas (Esanov et al. 2001). The
report also shows that in several instances, the leaders of these countries have
appropriated export rents outside the state budget for the benefit of their
closest entourage. According to the report, this is most evident in Turkmenistan, where the US$1.5 billion foreign exchange reserve has been under the
direct control of the president (Esanov et al. 2001: 6).
According to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index
(CPI), which ranks countries according to the perceptions of corruption by
Table 7.4 Public health expenditures (% of gross domestic product)
Source: World Development Indicators (2002, 2006).
Caspian energy wealth
business people and country analysts, the Caspian states rank nearly at the
bottom of the list with low CPI scores, indicating high levels of corruption
(see Table 7.6).24 For instance, in 2006, among 163 countries, Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan ranked 130, 111, and 142 respectively
(Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2006). Similarly, a
study conducted by the World Bank and EBRD shows that among 20 countries with transitional economies, 59.3 per cent of the companies in Azerbaijan spend from 8 to 10 per cent of their annual income on bribery, a figure
that puts Azerbaijan in the lead (Hellman and Schankerman 2000).
Corruption is, of course, nothing new in the former Soviet republics; in
fact, it is a legacy of the Soviet regime (Stefes 2006). In its declining years the
Communist system lived on bureaucratic fiddling. These former Soviet
republics “inherited political institutions that entailed near-universal state
ownership of property and a bureaucracy imbued with an autocratic and
interventionist mentality” (Schroeder 1996: 12). The Soviet legacy of centralized power was further strengthened after independence in 1991. The
Table 7.5 Public spending on education (% of gross domestic product)
Source: World Development Indicators (2002, 2006).
Table 7.6 Corruption scores and ranking
Source: Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Indices (CPI) (1999–2006)
O. Bayulgen
persisting elites from the communist era have acquired the right to set the
rules of the game for energy development in an environment where the
necessary regulatory institutions were painstakingly absent.
The bonuses that foreign companies pay when oil contracts are signed are a
perfect illustration of corruption in these countries. For instance in Azerbaijan, many believe that even though there is a Special Oil Fund set up to keep
oil revenues from being inappropriately used, some bonus payments are
pocketed by officials and that foreign companies are turning a blind eye to
this diversion. A comparison of figures from oil contracts and the National
Bank of Azerbaijan indicates a misbalance and confirms these suspicions
(Central and Eastern Europe Bankwatch Network 2002).25 There is a
common saying among the people: “The name of oil belongs to us but the
taste of it belongs to others.”26
The extent of corruption and weak governance results in high levels of
poverty, and weak development indicators for these societies despite the
recent economic growth generated by the energy windfall. So far, the energy
wealth has not translated into material comfort for the general population.
For instance, in Azerbaijan the rate of poverty soared in 2002 with 44.6 per
cent of the population considered poor and 26.9 per cent very poor. Even
though it has decreased somewhat over the past years, it is still widespread at
around 33 per cent (poor and very poor combined) of the population (International Development Association 2005). In Kazakhstan, on average 34.6 per
cent of the population has been living below the national poverty line
between 1990 and 2003 (United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP)
2006b). In Turkmenistan, 45–50 per cent of the population was estimated to
consume below the subsistence minimum in 2003, and 30 per cent of the
population had a level of consumption below half the national average
(World Bank 2006).
Furthermore, life expectancy at birth in Azerbaijan—already low—has
been declining as a result of high infant, child, and maternal mortality rates,
and the high prevalence of preventable diseases. In 2002, nearly a quarter of
children in Azerbaijan were malnourished and two-fifths were suffering from
anemia; drinking water was available for only 54 per cent of households
countrywide and for 17 per cent in rural areas (Central and Eastern Europe
Bankwatch Network 2002). In Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the population
without sustainable access to an improved water source stood at 14 and 28
per cent in 2004 respectively (UNDP 2006b). In terms of the Human Development Index (HDI) (a composite measurement of educational level, life
expectancy, and income) in 2006, out of 177 countries, Azerbaijan was ranked
99, Kazakhstan 79, and Turkmenistan 105 (UNDP 2006a).27
Corruption and weak governance has also widened the income and consumption gaps between the haves and the have-nots in these societies. In
terms of the Gini index, which measures inequality in a society (a value of 0
represents perfect equality; a value of 100, perfect inequality), the Caspian
states fare poorly (see Table 7.7). Despite the missing data, Table 7.7 also
Caspian energy wealth
demonstrates the wide gap between the richest and poorest segments of these
societies during the 2000s when rents from energy projects started to accrue.28
Since relative deprivation drives group mobilization, especially when the distribution of wealth is considered unfair and the system is perceived to be
engulfed in corruption, such a wide gap does not bode well for these societies.29
According to some experts, this disproportion in standards of living is also
likely to contribute to domestic instability by exacerbating existing social and
ethnic conflicts between oil-producing enclaves and other regions (Kurbanov
and Sanders 1998).
Anti-democratic tendencies
Lastly, the rentier state literature extensively demonstrates how dependence
on a resource that is capable of generating extraordinary rents also reinforces
authoritarian tendencies by concentrating state power in the hands of a few
ruling elites (Mahdavy 1970; Hughes 1975; Delacroix 1980; Gelb 1986;
Shafer 1994; Chaudry 1997; Karl 1997; Ross 2001). It is a pattern that is
certainly becoming apparent in the Caspian region. In terms of democratic
development, the states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan performed disappointingly in the last decade. They have been consistently ranked
“not free” in terms of political rights and civil liberties by Freedom House
between 1993 and 2006 (Freedom House 2006).30 These states have been
ruled by former communist elites who have gained wide powers to rule by
decree and who have systematically harassed the opposition, civil society and
stifled democratic development. Almost two decades since their independence,
authoritarianism still persists in these countries.
According to a recent study, in transitional countries each percentage point
increase in fuel dependency is associated with a 0.01–0.03 point decrease in
the rule of law, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, and accountability (Hoff et al. 2004). In the post-Soviet states, the curse of oil is much
more pronounced since these states have inherited from the Soviet Union
highly centralized state structures and extremely weak civil societies. In these
states the presidents and their closed circle of loyalists hold almost total control over the way energy contracts are written, the way energy projects are
carried out, and finally the way the energy revenues are spent.31
Table 7.7 Inequality in income or consumption
Richest 10%
Poorest 10%
Richest 20%
Poorest 20%
Gini index
Source: World Development Indicators 2006.
O. Bayulgen
For instance, in Azerbaijan without the consent of the president, the negotiations between foreign companies and the state oil company cannot begin
(Bagliarbekov 1999; Bayram 1999). When he gives consent and the negotiations are complete, the president’s approval is once again needed before the
contract can be sent to parliament for ratification. Considering that parliament rubberstamps all the contracts without any debate, it is clear that the
president holds the utmost control over the development of energy resources
(Bayulgen 2003).
Not surprisingly, with so much money flowing into their economies, the stakes
are raised for powerful elites to dominate the political system and continue to
control the resources. A recent study of oil exporting countries from 1960–99
shows that oil wealth significantly decreases the likelihood of regime change (Smith
2004). Given this common pattern in oil-rich countries, the natural resources
of the Caspian will most likely perpetuate the authoritarian regimes and eradicate any incentives for the ruling elites to initiate political reforms. A lack of
political opening in these countries for more than 15 years can be attributed
to these significant rents that come with controlling oil and gas resources.
Even though the leaders of these countries acknowledge the potential
negative affects of dependency on oil and have taken some measures to curb
these tendencies,32 successful efforts to use petrodollars wisely will depend on
the presence of countervailing democratic institutions and social pressures.
Without a professional bureaucracy, strong political parties and civil society
organizations, it is highly unlikely that the effects of the large volume of oil
money will extend beyond a small and politically and regionally connected
circle of governing elites.
In a context where people perceive the distribution of wealth to be unequal,
corruption to be pervasive, and governance to be weak, popular disillusionment will likely build over time. Lacking a voice in the political system, an
increasing number of marginalized groups may create social unrest. What is
even more alarming is that to contain social unrest, governments may become
more repressive and utilize oil proceeds to build their military and police
forces.33 An increase in military expenditure may further contribute to the
disorder in the region.
A curse or blessing?
There is a reason why many believe that oil is a curse. The past experiences of
oil-rich states in the developing world confirm repeatedly the theoretical
arguments about how and why oil endangers economic growth, political
development, and regional security. While one can hope that the Caspian
region is an exception to this rule, so far the regional and domestic developments surrounding the development of these resources provide signs of
impending disorder in this part of the world.
Especially with today’s escalating oil prices, the stakes are even higher for
all actors in the Caspian geopolitical game. Unless disputes over the legal
Caspian energy wealth
status of the Caspian Sea and the pipeline routes are resolved, energy projects
will be delayed or cancelled, making considerations of relative gain ever more
acute. It can also be argued of course that the higher stakes of developing
these profitable resources may motivate the regional actors to overcome their
differences and reach compromises. So far, there has been very little evidence
for cooperation. Instead, the rule has been more of a stalemate than of progress on issues that Caspian actors disagree on. However, even if they decide
to cooperate and resolve their differences, the widening gap between the haves
and the have-nots among the Caspian populations will continue to be a
source of tension and instability for the region as a whole. Only if the governments can establish an equitable and transparent distribution of the energy
wealth, will they be able to ease social unrest and go on to build legitimate
states and democratic governance that will one day turn the oil wealth into a
blessing rather than a curse. Whether or not these states can escape the poor
development outcomes of the earlier generation of countries that relied on oil
and gas will be interesting to observe for students of this region.
1 Production from these resources is still far below the targets. Since the independence of the former Soviet republics in 1991, oil production has come primarily
from the north Caspian states of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and only from a
handful of projects (Kazakhstan’s Tengiz and Azerbaijan’s Azeri, Chirag, Gunesli
(ACG) fields).
2 Here on forward, the term Caspian states will be used only to refer to Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. This is because they share a lot of similarities and
fit the regional focus of this book.
3 See Koldemir (2005) for detailed information on the characteristics of the Bosporus
Strait and the environmental effects tanker accidents are having there.
4 Aside from a few thousand jobs, the BTC pipeline is expected to bring Georgia some
US$60 million annually in transit fees. For more information, see Welt (2004).
5 While states are mainly interested in enhancing their strategic position and influence,
the oil and gas companies have primarily the economic motive of profit maximization.
6 For instance, many environmentalists are concerned about the destructive effects of
the pipeline on the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, site of the mineral water
springs which provide Georgia’s largest export. The risk to the environment and
communities is worsened by the fact that for the Azerbaijan and Georgia sections
BP has chosen a corrosion protection system that is not suitable for the job.
According to experts, the protective coating BP has used on pipe welds will fail,
leading to corrosion of the steel pipe, and inevitable leaks. In Turkey too, engineers
working on the pipeline have reported that construction and management standards are shoddy—leading to significant safety risks. Moreover, there is concern
that the BTC project is taking away many people’s land and livelihoods without
adequate compensation. Finally, some claim that the pipeline construction is violating human rights, with increased surveillance, harassment, and state repression
in the region. For more details, see References for the Baku Ceyhan Campaign
website and Wooden and Chatrchyan (2005).
7 According to Askari (2003), it is estimated that if Iran could swap oil from Caspian sources for its northern refineries for Iranian crude on the Persian Gulf, Iran
could gain approximately US$0.50 per barrel or roughly US$90 million a year.
O. Bayulgen
8 For instance, the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP)—also named the Baku–Tblisi–
Erzurum pipeline—runs parallel to the BTC oil pipeline for most of its route
before connecting to the Turkish gas infrastructure near the town of Erzurum (US
Energy Information Administration 2007). This 550-mile-long pipeline, whose
construction ended in May 2006, will carry natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah
Deniz field in the Caspian to world markets through Georgia and Turkey. Another
pipeline is the subsea trans-Caspian pipeline that Kazakhstan wants to build connecting north-western Kazakhstan (Aktau) to the BTC pipeline. Owing to Russian
and Iranian opposition, however, this pipeline is only at the proposal stage (US
Energy Information Administration 2007). Finally, there is the trans-Afghan pipeline, which Turkmenistan has been promoting. This pipeline would entail building
pipelines across war-ravaged Afghan territory to reach markets in Pakistan and
possibly Iran (US Energy Information Administration 2007). The security concerns,
however, have kept construction from beginning.
9 For more information, see Welt (2004).
10 According to Mahnovski’s (2003) reporting of Chevron’s estimates, the CPC oil
pipeline will add approximately US$84 billion to Russia’s GDP and US$23 billion
in tax revenue and Kazakhstan will receive approximately US$8 billion in tax
revenue over its 35–40 year lifetime.
11 According to others, such as Ebel (2003) and Rasizade (2005), a price of at least
US$20 is needed to justify overall Caspian investment. Certainly there are other
costs associated with investing in the Middle East as opposed to the Caspian in the
first place. The political and geostrategic risks in the former are well known.
However, from a purely technical standpoint, it is more costly to drill for and
transport Caspian oil.
12 In fact, many argue that the competition over pipeline routes has fueled longstanding ethnic grievances in these areas. Accordingly, the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Chechen rebellion against the Russian Federation, Russia’s interference in Georgia’s secessionist movements, and
Turkey’s military struggle with Kurdish rebels have partly something to do with
control over export pipelines. For further details, see Barylski (1995).
13 Relative capabilities theory figures prominently in the realist explanations for whether states can cooperate or not. Accordingly, these realists believe that driven by
an interest in survival, states are sensitive to any erosion of their relative capabilities, which are the ultimate basis of their security and independence in an
anarchical, self-help international context. They assert that the major goal of states
in any relationship is not to attain the highest possible individual gain but instead
to prevent others from achieving advances in their relative capabilities. They conclude that state positionality constrains the willingness of states to cooperate. See
for more details Grieco (1992).
14 These treaties said nothing about the development of mineral deposits under the
seabed. This was another reason why a new agreement was needed to accommodate
the new situation.
15 Turkmenistan’s position has changed over time. Initially it supported the Russian
proposal but then in bilateral agreements agreed to divide the sea along a median line.
16 Despite a lack of an overall agreement on the division of the Caspian Sea, all five
of the littoral states signed an agreement to collectively begin efforts to reverse
the environmental damage that energy development has imposed on the sea. For
more detail, see Petroleum Economist (October 2006).
17 It is important to note that the non-fuel exports include export of natural gas. If we
treat gas similar to oil—which should probably be the case since it is becoming more
closely linked with oil—the share of the non-fuel sector decreases even further.
18 For instance, according to the International Development Association (2005), for
Azerbaijan oil production is expected to reach a peak in 2010 at 59 million tons
Caspian energy wealth
annually (roughly four times current production) and then decline rapidly from
2012 onwards. According to the International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (2006), long-term revenue projections, based on an average oil price
of about US$43 per barrel for the next 20 years, suggest gross revenues of about
US$340 billion from Azerbaijan’s oil and gas fields plus pipeline transit fees before
operating costs. After operating costs, state fiscal revenues are expected to reach
about US$175 billion, of which about US$20 billion will accrue to the state budget
in the form of corporate tax revenues and US$155 billion will accrue to the State
Oil Fund (SOFAZ) in the form of royalties. The oil consortia are expected to
rapidly repatriate some US$40 billion of invested capital, plus profits. According to
the report, this implies an annual oil windfall of US$1,000 per capita for the next
20 years.
This phenomenon is called the “Dutch Disease” because it was first identified when
the Netherlands became a major exporter of natural gas in the late 1950s. The
classic model describing Dutch Disease was first developed by Cordon and Neary
(1982). For an extensive analysis of the negative economic effects of oil revenues,
see Gelb (1986).
The low level of non-oil economic activity has also driven many to black-market
and criminal activities. Heroin smuggling has become a big industry region-wide
and poppy production is rising in Kazakhstan. The absence of legitimate economic
opportunity is contributing to the criminalization of local economies. For instance,
according to Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Silk Road Studies Program (2004), in
the last decade, the share of drug-related crimes as a proportion of total crime
increased from 3 per cent to 12 per cent in Kazakhstan. Between 1991 and 1999
the total number of the drug-related crimes increased by a factor of 4.3. Despite a
registered decline in 2002, the U.S. International Narcotics Control Strategy
Report noted a 15 per cent increase in drug-related crimes in 2003.
See US Department of State (July 2007).
These elites do in some cases introduce reforms that are mostly tailored to foreign
investors because of the need for Western capital and expertise to jump-start the
energy development. As energy resources become more developed, however, one
would expect to see reform incentives weaken. For more information on how the
availability of resource rents influences a government’s propensity to liberalize, see
Dalmazzo and Blasio (2001). Also for a comparison of reform progress between
energy-rich and energy-poor countries of the former communist states, see Esanov
et al. (2001).
During these years, population growth in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan was on
average 1 and 0.3 per cent respectively. By comparison, Norway’s public expenditure on education and health care stands on average 7.5 and 7.8 per cent of its
GDP during the same years (World Development Indicators 2006).
The CPI scores range from 1 to 10, indicating the most and least corrupt respectively.
According to the IMF, which oversees the organization of the Special Oil Fund,
this arrangement has been deficient because it lacks formal and clear operating
rules, and gives the president the sole authority on the use of the funds.
Author’s translation of “Neftin adi bizimdir, tadi baskalarinindir.” See Musayev
Kazakhstan’s relatively higher HDI score is a result of a higher figure for its GDP
per capita, which is one of the components of HDI.
Editor’s note: this is an important example of the methodological problems of
comparisons between these countries and Turkmenistan in particular. See Chapter
2 for further discussion.
Relative deprivation is a well-developed argument in the literature on political
conflict. The pioneer of this theory, Gurr (1968, 1970), argued that the potential for
collective violence depends on the discontent of members of a society and
O. Bayulgen
discontent is a result of a perceived gap between what they have and what they
think they should have. Natural resource abundance offers the potential for riches
among individuals and groups and consequently it is likely to increase the salience
of the grievance and greed motive. For more information on the relationship
between resource dependence and conflict, see Collier and Hoeffler (1998; 2005);
Wantchekon (1999); De Soysa (2000), and Snyder (2006).
Individual countries are evaluated based on a checklist of questions regarding
political rights and civil liberties that are derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each country is assigned a rating for political
rights and a rating for civil liberties based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing
the highest degree of freedom present and seven the lowest level of freedom. The
combined average of each country’s political rights and civil liberties ratings
determines an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. Except for Azerbaijan, which was considered “partly free” in several years, all the other Caspian
states have been systematically “not free.”
For further information on the relationship between oil and Azerbaijani politics,
see Bayulgen (2003).
Both Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have established national oil stabilization funds
with the aim of insulating the economy from volatile oil revenue, saving windfall
resources for future generations, and increasing the transparency of oil revenue
management. However, much remains to be done regarding the transparency of
these funds.
Ross (2001) for instance finds a strong correlation between oil wealth and military
spending. He argues that oil revenues make it possible for regimes to invest in
repressive apparatuses that can keep them in power despite social opposition.
Askari, H. (2003) “Caspian Oil development: The sooner the better; a trade-off analysis
and a basis for agreement,” Business Economics, 38: 43–50.
Auty, R.M. (2001) Resource Abundance and Economic Development, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Bagliarbekov, V. (1999) Deputy General Manager, Foreign Investments Division,
SOCAR, interview with the author, Baku, 2 July 1999.
Bahgat, G. (2004) “Regional Report: The Caspian Sea: Potentials and Prospects,”
Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, 17:
—— (2005) “Oil and Terrorism: Central Asia and the Caucasus,” The Journal of
Social, Political, and Economic Studies, 30: 265–83.
Baku Ceyhan Campaign. < > (accessed 19 June 2008).
Barylski, R. (1995) “The Caspian Oil Regime: Military Dimensions,” Caspian Crossroads, 1(2). < >
(accessed 13 September 2004).
Bayram, U. (1999) Project Manager, MOBIL, interview with the author, Baku, 2 July
Bayulgen, O. (2003) “Facing the dilemma of global capitalism: The case of Azerbaijan,” Central Asia Survey, 22: 209–20.
Berman, I. (2004–5) “The New Battleground: Central Asia and the Caucasus,”
Washington Quarterly, 28: 59–69.
Bremmer, I. (1998) “Oil politics: America and the Riches of the Caspian Basin,”
World Policy Journal, 15: 27–36.
Caspian energy wealth
Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Bankwatch Network (January 2002) “Caspian
Oil on the East-West Corridor,” Issue Paper. < > (accessed
13 September 2004).
——(April 2002) “Pocketing Caspian Black Gold: Who are the real beneficiaries of oil
infrastructure development in Georgia and Azerbaijan?” CEE Bankwatch Network and Energy Project Study. < > (accessed 13 September
Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Silk Road Studies Program (2004) “Kazakhstan
2004,” Country Factsheets, Eurasian Narcotics. < > (accessed
29 January 2007).
Chaudry, K. (1997) The Price of Wealth: Economies and Institutions in the Middle
East, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Cohen, M. (2006) “The Effect of Oil Revenues on Transition Economics: The Case of
Azerbaijan,” Geopolitics of Energy, 28: 12–20.
Collier, P. and Hoeffler, A. (1998) “On Economic Causes of Civil War,” Oxford
Economic Papers, 50: 563–73.
——(2005) “Resource Rents, Governance and Conflict,” Journal of Conflict Resolution,
49: 625–33.
Cordon, W.M. and Neary, J. P. (1982) “Booming Sector and De-Industrialization in a
Small Open Economy,” The Economic Journal, 92: 829–31.
Dalmazzo, A. and De Blasio, G. (2001) “Resources and Incentives to Reform: A
Model and Some Evidence on Sub-Saharan African Countries,” IMF Working
Paper No. 01/86. < > (accessed
29 January 2007).
De Soysa, I. (2000) “The Resource Curse: Are Civil Wars Driven by Rapacity or
Paucity?” in M. Berdal and D. Malone (eds) Greed and Grievance: Economic
Agendas in Civil Wars, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Delacroix, J. (1980) “The Distributive State in the World System,” Studies in
Comparative International Development, 15: 3–20.
Ebel, R. (2003) “Projecting the invasion impact,” Washington Times, 22 April.
Esanov, A., Raiser, M. and Buiter, W. (2001) “Nature’s Blessing or Nature’s Curse: the
Political Economy of Transition in Resource-Based Economies,” EBRD Working
Paper No. 65. < > (accessed 19 June 2008).
Eurasia Group (2006) “China’s overseas investments in oil and gas production.”
< > (accessed 2 February 2007).
Feifer, G. (2002) “Caspian: Russia, Azerbaijan Sign Agreement on Sea Boundaries,”
Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, 24 September. <
24092002152937.asp > (accessed 13 September 2004).
Freedom House (2006). Freedom House country ratings. < >
(accessed 2 February 2007).
Gelb, A. (1986) “Adjustments to Windfall Gains: A Comparative Analysis of OilExporting Countries,” in P. Neary (ed.) Natural Resources and the Macroeconomy,
Cambridge: MIT Press.
Global Insight (2006) “Azerbaijan: Current Situation and Highlights,” 27 April < www. > (accessed 29 January 2007).
Grieco, J. (1992) “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation,” in R. Art and R. Jervis
(eds) International Politics, New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Gurr, T. (1968) “Psychological Factors in Civil Violence,” World Politics, 20: 245–78.
——(1970) Why Men Rebel, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
O. Bayulgen
Hellman, J. and Schankerman, M. (2000) “Intervention, corruption and capture: the
nexus between enterprises and the state,” EBRD Working Paper 58. < www.ebrd.
com/pubs/econo/wp0058.pdf > (accessed 3 March 2004).
Hoff, K., Horowitz, S.and Milanovic, B. (2004) “Investment in Influence and Political
Alternation: Evidence from Transition Countries,” Mimeo. <
Events/CNEM_Conference/cnem_conference.html > (accessed 20 March 2006).
Hughes, H. (1975) “Economic Rents, the Distribution of Gains from Mineral
Exploitation and Mineral Development Policy,” World Development, 3: 811–25.
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (2006) “Country Partnership Strategy FY07–10 for Republic of Azerbaijan,” IBRD Report No. 37812-AZ.
PartnershipStrategy.doc > (accessed 10 January 2007).
International Development Association (IDA) (2005) “Program Document for a Proposed Poverty Reduction Support Credit to the Republic of Azerbaijan,” IDA Report
No. 31978-AZ. <
IB/2005/06/15/000012009_20050615160136/Rendered/PDF/319780rev.pdf > (accessed
10 January 2007).
International Monetary Fund (2005a) IMF Country Report No. , Azerbaijan Republic: Statistical Appendix (January 2005). < >
(accessed 7 September 2008).
—— (2005b) IMF Country Report No.05/239, Republic of Kazakhstan: Statistical Appendix, July 2005. < > (accessed 7 September 2008).
Karl, T.L. (1997) The Paradox of Plenty: Oil Booms and Petro-States, Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Kleveman, L. (2003) The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia, London:
Atlantic Books.
Koldemir, B. (2005) “Bosporus: Is the Passage Getting Safer?” Journal of the Black
Sea / Mediterranean Environment, 11: 139–48.
Kubicek, P. (2004) “Russian energy policy in the Caspian Basin”, World Affairs, 166:
Kurbanov, E. and Sanders, B. (1998) “Caspian Sea Oil Riches: A Mixed Blessing,”
Occasional Paper in the Center for International Development and Conflict Management Monograph Series. <
htm > (accessed 23 September 2004).
Leite, C. and Weidmann, J. (1999) “Does Mother Nature Corrupt? Natural Resources,
Corruption, and Economic Growth,” IMF Working Paper, WP/99/85.
Lelyveld, M. (2002) “Caspian: A Delicate Balance Prevails,” Johnson’s Russia List,
17 July. <–6.cfm > (accessed 13 September 2004).
Macfarlane, S. N. (2004) “The United States and Regionalism in Central Asia,”
International Affairs, 80: 447–61.
Mahdavy, H. (1970) “The Patterns and Problems of Economic Development in Rentier States,” in M.A. Cook (ed.) Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East,
London: Oxford University Press.
Mahnovski, S. (2003) “Natural Resources and Potential Conflict in the Caspian Sea
Region,” in O. Oliker and T.S. Szayna (eds) Faultlines of Conflict in Central Asia
and the South Caucasus, Rand Corporation.
Manning, R. A. (2000) “The Myth of the Caspian Great Game and the New Persian
Gulf,” The Brown Journal of World Affairs, 7:15–33.
Menon, R. (2003) “The New Great Game in Central Asia”, Survival, 45: 187–204.
Caspian energy wealth
Musayev, I. (1999) Professor of Political Science, Baku State University, interview with
the author, Baku, July 14, 1999.
Ogutcu, M. (2003) “Caspian Energy and Legal Disputes: Prospects for Settlement,”
Oil, Gas and Energy Law Intelligence, 1, No. 2. <
freearticles/article_19.htm > (accessed 24 January 2007).
Olcott, M. B. (1998) “The Caspian’s False Promise,” Foreign Policy, Summer: 95–113.
——(1999) “Pipelines and Pipe Dreams: Energy Development and Caspian Society,”
Journal of International Affairs, 53: 305–23.
Petroleum Economist (October 2006) “Not yet a Caspian Sea Change.” < http://
309&VName=PQD > (accessed 19 January 2007).
Pope, H. (1997) “U.S. Report Says Caspian Oil Deposits Might be Twice As Large As
Expected,” Wall Street Journal, 30 April.
Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (2007) “Central Asia: Russian, Turkmen, Kazakh
leaders agree on Caspian Pipeline,” 12 May.
Rasizade, A. (2005) “The Great Game of Caspian Energy: Ambitions and Realities,”
Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, 7: 1–17.
Ross, M. (1999) “The Political Economy of the Resource Curse,” World Politics, 51:
——(2001) “Does Oil Hinder Democracy,” World Politics, 53:325–61.
Rumer, B. Z. (1993) “The Gathering Storm in Central Asia”, Orbis, 37: 89–105.
Ruseckas, L. (1998) “State of the Field Report: Energy and Politics in Central Asia
and the Caucasus,” National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) AccessAsia Review,
July:41–84. (accessed 20 April 2000).
Schroeder, G. (1996) “Economic Transformation in the Post-Soviet Republics,” in
B. Kaminski (ed.) Economic Transition in Russia and the New States of Eurasia,
New York: M.E. Sharpe.
Shafer, M. (1994) Winners and Losers: How Sectors Shape the Developmental Prospects
of States, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Smith, B. (2004) “Oil Wealth and Regime Survival in the Developing World, 1960–99,”
American Journal of Political Science, 48: 232–46.
Snyder, R. (2006) “Does Lootable Wealth Breed Disorder?” Comparative Political
Studies, 39: 943–68.
Stefes, C. H. (2006) Understanding Post-Soviet Transitions: Corruption, Collusion and
Clientelism, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Swanstrom, N. (2005) “China and Central Asia: A New Great game or Traditional
Vassal Relations,” Journal of Contemporary Russia, 14: 569–84.
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (2006) Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (1999–2006). < >
(accessed 23 July 2008).
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2006a) Statistics in the Human
Development Report: Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis
2006. < > (accessed 15 January 2007).
——(2006b) “Country Tables: Kazakhstan,” Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the
Global wateR crisis 2006. Statistics in the Human Development Report. < http://hdr. > (accessed 15
January 2007).
US Department of State (July 2007) “Background Note.” < >
(accessed 28 March 2008)
O. Bayulgen
US Energy Information Administration (July 2002) “Country Analysis Brief: Caspian
Sea Region: Regional Conflicts,” < > (accessed 13 September 2004).
——(August 2003) “Country Analysis Brief: Caspian Region.” < >
(accessed 22 August 2003).
——(August 2004) “Country Analysis Brief: Iran.” < > (accessed
3 January 2007).
——(November 2005) “Country Analysis Brief: Caspian Sea Region, World Oil
Transit Chokepoints.” < > (accessed 19 January 2007).
——(August 2006) “Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan.” < >
(accessed 19 January 2007).
——(October 2006) “Country Analysis Brief: Kazakhstan.” < >
(accessed 19 January 2007).
——(January 2007) “Country Analysis Brief: Caspian Sea Region.” < www.eia.doe.
gov > (accessed 3 January 2007).
——(February 2008) “Country Analysis Brief: Kazakhstan.” < >
(accessed February 2009).
Wantchekon, W. (1999) “Why do resource dependent countries have authoritarian
governments,” Leitner Working Paper 1999–11, New Haven, CT: Yale Center for
International and Area Studies.
Weitz, R. (2006) “Averting a New Great Game in Central Asia,” The Washington
Quarterly, 29: 155–67.
Welt, C. (2004) “A Georgian-Russian Pipeline: For Peace or Profit?” Eurasianet
Commentary, 9 March. < > (accessed 13 September 2004).
Wooden, A. and Chatrchyan, A.M. (2005) “Linking Rule of Law and Environmental
Policy Reform in Armenia and Georgia,” in C.P.M. Waters (ed.) The State of Law
in the South Caucasus, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
World Bank (2006). “Turkmenistan Country Brief.” < > (accessed
2 September 2007).
World Development Indicators (2002) World Bank Group.
——(2006) World Bank Group.
Beyond treaty signing
Internalizing human rights in
Central Eurasia
Christopher P.M. Waters
Human rights standards are commonly set by states acting together. These
standards—from the right to life to the right to participate in public life—are
enshrined in a host of international treaties and declarations. The international
community may monitor compliance with these standards and engage in
“naming and shaming” of violators. In some regions—notably Europe—there
are also human rights courts which provide regionalized judicial recourse for
victims of rights abuses. Only occasionally, however, does the international community act directly to enforce human rights standards, by imposing sanctions,
conducting criminal prosecutions, or, in extreme cases, using military force
against violators. More often it is on the domestic front where actual adherence,
or not, to human rights is determined (Galligan and Sandler 2004).
While in every country in the world there is some distance between internationally agreed human rights standards and full domestic implementation
of those rights, the extent of the disparity in the Caucasus and Central Asia
(the “region”) is striking. Indeed, despite the fact that the region’s states have
formally accepted the main core of international standards, the level of
human rights abuse “on the ground” is high. In exploring human rights in
Central Eurasia, this chapter aims to do three things. First, it will explore
what formal human rights obligations exist for the region’s states. Second, it
will consider the human rights situation on the ground, by taking a brief
comparative overview of human rights compliance across the South Caucasus
and Central Asia. Particular attention will be given to the human right of
freedom from torture. While it would be fair to say that the human rights
situation is poor across the region, there are important differences, with some
countries on a more progressive track than others. Third, this chapter argues
that a significant driver for increased human rights compliance is the presence
and activity of “human rights entrepreneurs,” individuals and civil society
groups acting to bridge the gap between international standards and domestic
implementation of those standards. These actors—including the Georgian
non-governmental organization (NGO) named “Article 42,” which provides a
case study in this chapter, may use a variety of strategies, including litigation
before courts, to move the human rights agenda from the level of formal
treaty signings to protection for individuals on the ground.
C.P.M. Waters
Before moving to the next section, a methodological note is in order. While
there are various lenses through which human rights can be viewed—political,
philosophical, and so forth—this chapter adopts a legal, and specifically
socio-legal, perspective.1 An orthodox legal perspective would involve analyzing
primary legal sources: international instruments (treaties and resolutions of
international bodies), national constitutions and legislation, and the decisions
of courts. A socio-legal analysis takes this analysis a step further. Although
this methodology treats legal instruments and court judgments seriously, its
ultimate concern is with the impact of the treaties and judgments on society
(Halliday and Schmidt 2004). Thus, it invites an interdisciplinary approach,
which looks not only at “pure law” but also the politics and sociology of law
in action.
International human rights standards
The attempt to universalize and legalize human rights is often described as a
twentieth-century phenomenon which took its current shape in the decades
following World War Two. However, one need only think about nineteenthcentury efforts to abolish slavery to see that 1945 is a rather myopic starting
point. Indeed from ancient times, most ethnic and religious groups’ traditions
have contained at least rudimentary notions of human rights. To take some
regional examples of women’s rights, the ancient Armenian law code of Shahapivan recognized the rights of women to own property in the event that
their husband left them without grounds (Anjargolian 2005). And, in neighboring Georgia, the medieval law code of King George V provided for payment
in cases of husbands deserting their wives (Wardrop 1914). Furthermore, both
the Christian and Islamic traditions present in the region embody early
notions of rights. Nonetheless, for the sake of brevity this account will begin with
the “Great Leap Forward” (Tomuschat 2003) in human rights that occurred
after the last world war.
The United Nations (UN) Charter of 1945, which set out a new architecture
for international order, made progress on human rights one of the goals of the
new organization. This progress was seen as instrumental in preventing future
war and the Charter states that (Article 55(c)):
With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being
which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations …
the United Nations shall promote … universal respect for, and observance
of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as
to race, sex, language, or religion.
In furtherance of that goal the General Assembly of the new organization
adopted the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Although
not a legally binding document, the UDHR was passed without opposition
and continues to represent broad consensus about the basic content of human
Beyond treaty signing
rights. The UDHR sets out both civil and political rights (for example, the
right to life, freedom from torture, right to a fair trial, freedom of expression
and assembly) as well as economic, social, and cultural rights (including the
right to education and the right to form trade unions). This non-binding
resolution has been followed by dozens of UN-sponsored treaties—binding
on the state parties to the treaty—on a range of rights. Some of the key ones
include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the
International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
(CERD), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CRC), and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). With the exception of Kazakhstan—which took until 2006—all of the South Caucasian and Central Asian
states acceded to these key UN treaties in the 1990s. In fact, some of the
countries signed the treaties in the first days of independence. This was in part
an attempt to assert their new sovereignty, the ability to enter into relations
with other states being considered a key attribute of statehood. But are the
treaty standards implemented by the state parties?
Direct intervention by the international community to protect the human
rights standards set out in these treaties is possible. This intervention may
take the form of sanctions, criminal prosecutions, and even, as in the case of
Kosovo in 1999, by military force (so-called “humanitarian intervention”).
However, as noted above, this kind of action is rare. Other, more indirect,
attempts to influence the human rights behavior of states may be found in
institutional mechanisms on the international plane. For example, expert
committees with monitoring functions have been established for each of the
main treaties. Thus the UN Committee against Torture monitors states’ records
of compliance with the CAT and the UN Human Rights Committee looks at
compliance with the ICCPR. In the UN system, rights are also monitored by
the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights (OHCHR), and special rapporteurs who are notable individuals
charged with monitoring the human rights situation in a specific country or
with respect to a specific theme (torture, health, etc.).
When considering the usefulness of the treaties in question, liberal theorists
point to their normative draw. Thomas Franck (1990), for example, refers to a
“compliance pull” of norms or rules which have procedural or substantive
legitimacy, such as the norm against genocide. Others have focused on the
institutions which have been set up on the international plane—such as the
expert bodies—and which constructively engage states (Ghandhi 1998). It is
difficult to estimate the efficacy, however, of normative pull by itself or even
combined with pressure through the rights-monitoring bodies. Certainly, there
is no automatic link between ratification of a treaty and the improvement of a
country’s human rights performance. Among others, Hathaway purports to
show this empirically: “Although the ratings of human rights practices of
C.P.M. Waters
countries that have ratified international human rights treaties are generally
better than those of countries that have not, noncompliance with treaty obligations appears to be common” (Hathaway 2002: 1940).2 This certainly feeds
the realist view of international law and relations, which contends that human
rights treaties are simply hortatory and do not affect state behavior.3 In this
view, if states do obey the norms in the treaties, it is only because they are
forced to do so through power and coercion exercised by other states or
because of domestic requirements; compliance with treaties is coincidental
not causal. Similarly, rational choice scholars suggest states ratify treaties
only because doing so brings some reputational benefit and the costs of ratification in the absence of strong enforcement mechanisms are minimal
(Goldsmith and Posner 2005).4 However, despite the treaties’ lack of binding
enforcement mechanisms, and even the lack of evidence of a strong link
between treaty ratification and actual performance, the importance of these
treaties should not be downplayed.
The problem with the realist, rational choice, and similar understandings of
human rights (non-)compliance is that they are focused on relations between
states. The main story, once the standards have been set horizontally
between states, is what Harold Koh (1999) has called a “transnational legal
process”; that is, a vertical process by which the international norms become
embedded in the political, social and legal fabric of individual states. The
actors in this legal process are not only intergovernmental organizations,
states, or governments of various levels, but also interest groups, NGOs,
private citizens and even corporations and unions; in other words, “civil
society” engaged with human rights and law. NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which operate on both the international
and the domestic planes, can lobby governments and undertake education
campaigns. NGOs and private citizens can take test cases to courts or other
forums (human rights commissions, ombudsmen, etc.), invoking internationally and domestically recognized human rights. For example, recent US
court cases reasserting the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay were
brought with the assistance of a coalition of NGOs. These NGOs raised the
USA’s international legal obligations before judges and several courts,
including the Supreme Court, have cited both international human rights
law as well as the US Constitution in their decisions (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld,
126 S.Ct. 2749 (2006)).
This transnational legal process does not work in the same way in all
countries. It appears to work better in mature, open democracies where there
is more scope for the activities of civil society groups and particularly what
have been called “human rights entrepreneurs,” who are prepared to challenge arbitrary state action by insisting on respect for human rights. In functioning democracies, the courts and other institutions are also strong enough
to challenge arbitrary executive action. In these states the legal, political, and
social orders are more open to the interaction of the international and
domestic than in closed societies. It has even been suggested that this
Beyond treaty signing
interaction works better in mature democracies because the interaction is a
two-way street; that is, the human rights norms were originally exported to
the international plane by the Western European and North American states
and therefore are not “foreign” imposed concepts (Madsen 2004). There is
indeed empirical evidence to show that human rights treaty ratification by
mature democracies does improve the situation in those countries (Hathaway
2002: 1940). If there is some validity to the transnational legal process argument which has been cited here, the key for progress on rights in Central Asia
and the Caucasus will be not only about what pressure is being exerted from
New York and Geneva, but about what a variety of transnational actors are
doing in Tashkent and Tbilisi to bridge the international standards–national
implementation gap.
How the transnational process actually works will be further explored in
the next section. At this juncture, however, it is important to note that the
process begins not only with UN-sponsored treaties and standards, but also
with the work of regional organizations. Parallel but complementary to the
UN, there are several regional organizations which have their own human
rights treaties and compliance mechanisms. Notably, in the Americas (the
Organization of American States), Africa (the African Union), and in Europe
(the European Union and the Council of Europe) there are organizations
which have a well-developed standard-setting role, which may take into
account particular regional understandings of rights. And these organizations—with varying degrees of effectiveness—also have established institutional mechanisms for human rights claims to be made. Two points need to
be made here. The first is that there is no comparable regional body for Asia,
including Central Asia. To be clear, the Central Asian countries are members
of some regional organizations where human rights are formally on the
agenda. For example, the Commonwealth of Independent States, whose
membership includes the Central Asian and most other former Soviet republics, has provisions in its 1993 Charter on human rights protection. The CIS
Charter also establishes a Human Rights Commission, located in Minsk, to
monitor implementation. The CIS protection of human rights is however
almost meaningless in reality. In other words, outside of the UN system, the
Central Asian countries do not belong to any organizations which take legally
binding rights seriously.5 In this regard, the transnational legal process does
not find a strong regional starting point. The situation is quite different for
the three South Caucasian states which are members of the Council of
Europe (COE). The Council has the most well-developed human rights
structure of any region in the world and one that easily surpasses the UN
system in effectiveness and openness to human rights entrepreneurs.
The COE was founded in 1949 by Western European states and given a
mandate over human rights and democratization. Following the collapse of
communism in Eastern Europe it grew in size and now covers “Greater
Europe” with 46 member states, including Georgia (which joined in 1999),
Armenia, and Azerbaijan (which joined in 2001). The Council has a well-
C.P.M. Waters
developed standard-setting role and has sponsored numerous human rights
treaties. The centerpiece of this rights regime is the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its subsequent protocols, which, among
other things, ban the death penalty. In addition to a standard-setting function,
the COE also has a binding enforcement mechanism in the form of a European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. Individual citizens whose rights
have been breached may take their cases to this court once they have
exhausted domestic remedies, and the court can issue judgments in these cases
which are legally binding on states. As will be discussed below, differences in
progress on human rights between the South Caucasus and Central Asia are
already apparent, and the gap will likely grow over the coming years because
of the divergence of membership in this strong, rights-oriented organization
and the willingness of some human rights entrepreneurs in South Caucasus to
use its mechanisms.
Compliance with international human rights standards
The obvious—though misleading—place to begin an analysis of compliance
with international human rights obligations is with the constitutions of states.
All of the constitutions of the South Caucasian and Central Asian countries
contain references to international law. And most provide for the direct
effectiveness of international treaties into national law. Azerbaijan’s Constitution is typical in this respect, stating that: “International agreements
wherein the Azerbaijan Republic is one of the parties constitute an integral
part of the legislative system of the Azerbaijan Republic” (Constitution of the
Republic of Azerbaijan, 1995, Art. 148(2)). Some constitutions, such as Tajikistan’s, allow for international treaties to trump domestic laws when the two
conflict: “If republican laws do not conform to the recognized international
legal documents, the norms of the international documents apply” (Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, 1994, Art. 10). These states follow—as
the Soviet Union before them arguably did—what is described as a monist
tradition of international law (Butler, 1983: 344). That is, international obligations are directly part of the law of the land when ratified and do not
require additional action by parliaments or other organs of government to be
made effective. This can be contrasted with so-called dualist states, such as the
UK, where implementing legislation is required to transform an international
legal obligation into domestically enforceable law.
In addition to their role in directly “importing” the standards contained in
international treaties, the region’s constitutions explicitly contain human rights
provisions. In fact, some of these constitutions go much farther than their
Western European or North American equivalents by purporting to protect
economic, social and cultural, as well as civil and political rights. Unfortunately, constitutional protection for human rights—whether through treaties
or through constitutional rights themselves—usually does not translate into
actual protection for the region’s citizens.
Beyond treaty signing
Before turning away from “the law on the books” and towards a view of the
human rights reality in the region, it is worth indicating how human rights
information is obtained.
Monitoring human rights compliance
When done rigorously, human rights monitoring is treated as a specialized field,
with its own sub-fields (police, prison, and trial monitoring for example) and
techniques (English and Stapleton 1995). Much importance is placed on the
ethics of monitoring (especially the need for confidentiality), information gathering (interviews or forensics), reporting (using qualified language for unsubstantiated reports and so forth) and follow-up with authorities and victims.
Human rights monitoring can also be a hazardous activity, especially when
carried out by local NGOs which lack strong international backing. Governments in the former Soviet Union often perceive independent NGOs as subversive elements and may seek to harass (commonly through arbitrary searches
and tax inspections) or even close down the organizations. For most people,
however, knowledge of the human rights situation in a particular country will
draw on secondary sources. These sources may be roughly divided into the
reports of governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental bodies.
In terms of governmental reports, both the UK (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) and the USA (State Department) produce annual snapshots of
the human rights situation in countries of concern. Not surprisingly perhaps,
the countries in the region regularly feature in these reports. Intergovernmental organizations also produce reports on specific regions, countries, or
themes. These reports may be regular or ad hoc. A good example of the latter
is the inquiry by the UN OHCHR following the Andijan massacre of May
2005, when security forces killed scores of civilians in the Uzbek city following protests over unfair judicial proceedings which were taking place (UN
OHCHR 2006). In terms of human rights reporting from the NGO sector,
two groups are particularly noteworthy. Both Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch publish annual human rights overviews as well as more
ad hoc reports on particular abuses. Both have, for example, written reports
on the Andijan massacre and urged strong action against the Uzbek authorities. Though with less global sweep and resources, the reporting activities of
local human rights, legal, or democratization NGOs are also crucial as they
are written in local languages and demonstrate familiarity with day-to-day
realities. Aside from these practicalities, local NGOs can most effectively
argue that rather than being foreign concepts, core human rights values are
indeed universal values. The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev,
recently suggested that with respect to democracy and “liberal traditions,” his
country “should remain devoted to the Oriental wisdom and be deliberate
and careful” (Nazarbayev 2005: 23).
Few would doubt that human rights must be applied in a way which is
culturally relevant. The problem comes when rulers use the “cultural relativism”
C.P.M. Waters
argument as an excuse to stand behind grave human rights abuses. Local
people, including local human rights entrepreneurs, can more effectively insist
that the rights embedded in international treaties and domestic constitutions
are indeed germane to local conditions.
In light of local groups’ active engagement on the ground, international
human rights monitors will often draw on the expertise of local NGOs in
compiling their own reports. For example, the Georgian Young Lawyers’
Association based in Tbilisi is often the first port of call for foreigners interested in the latest human rights situation in that country. Each source of
human rights information has its strengths and weaknesses. Governmental or
intergovernmental reports, while generally reliable, may be prepared with
political considerations in mind. For example, the release of the UK’s 2004
Human Rights Report, which is critical of Russian actions in Chechnya, was
delayed following the Beslan massacre carried out in North Ossetia by Chechen terrorists in order to assuage Russian sensibilities (Norton-Taylor 2004).
NGO reports, on the other hand, may be less fettered by politics, but also
reflect the fact that “occasionally their world view tends to be somewhat
simplistic. They believe that a governmental apparatus can achieve anything
it determines should be done, without taking into account the difficulties of
implementation” (Tomuschat 2003: 232).
While somewhat methodologically crude—relying heavily on surveys carried
out by third parties rather than comprehensive field-work—and not always
free from political sympathies, there are comparative rankings of human rights.
These provide a useful starting point for our view of human rights in the
Caucasus and Central Asia. Notably, the think-tank Freedom House annually
publishes comparative “freedom rankings” for the countries of the world (see
Figure 1.1 in the introductory chapter to this book). What is clear, despite
considerable variations among the countries (and modest improvements for
Georgia and Kyrgyzstan from the year before) is that human rights are not at
an acceptable level anywhere in the region.
Other comparative rankings reflect this pattern with minor variations. For
example, the World Bank’s governance division ranks states on the basis of
“Voice and Accountability,” which takes into account such things as public
participation in decision-making. Its list of the region’s states in descending
order (from the most voice for citizens and government accountability to the
least) is as follows: Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan (World Bank 2006). In both the Freedom
House and World Bank ratings, the region falls markedly behind not only
Western states but the former communist East European states as well.
Focus on torture prevention
Given the range of rights and the number of countries in question, however,
such snapshots provide only a partial picture. Accordingly, I have selected
one right, the freedom from torture, for comparative treatment. The most
Beyond treaty signing
widely used legal definition is found in Article 1 of the 1984 CAT, which
provides that:
“torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical
or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as
obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of
having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for
any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence
of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
On this definition, the practice is widespread in each of the eight states under
consideration. This is despite the fact that in ratifying the treaty, all of the
region’s states undertook to prevent and punish torture. Extrapolating from
human rights reports, it can be said that torture in the region most often
occurs at the hands of the police during pre-trial detention, in attempts to
obtain confessions. Beatings, electrocution, and threats of rape are the most
common forms of torture. While most of the criminal codes of the region
specifically outlaw torture, the practice is implicitly tolerated by courts: confessions are routinely admitted as evidence despite allegations that they were
extracted during torture and few prosecutions of officials ever take place.
One puzzling aspect of torture in the region is that it occurs in both relatively
liberal regimes as well as the most repressive regimes. That torture is commonplace in Uzbekistan, a dictatorship, is perhaps not surprising; repression
is after all the stock in trade of dictators. As a leading text on torture puts it,
“torture is a form of governance, an integral part of government through
terror … One never knows when the knock on the door may come. In this
form torture can be seen in its most insidious form, subversive of democratic
participation and political organization per se, the most fundamental enemy
of civil society” (Evans and Morgan 1998:60). The US Department of State’s
2004 Country Report on Uzbekistan, which calls President Karimov’s regime
“authoritarian,” details the use of torture in that country:
The law prohibits such practices; however, police and the NSS [National
Security Service] routinely tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees to obtain confessions or incriminating information. Police, prison
officials, and the NSS allegedly used suffocation, electric shock, rape, and
other sexual abuse; however, beating was the most commonly reported
method of torture. Torture was common in prisons, pretrial facilities,
and local police and security service precincts. Defendants in trials often
claimed that their confessions … were extracted by torture.
Authorities were particularly likely to use torture against suspected members
of Islamic parties. The UK government’s 2004 report similarly expresses
C.P.M. Waters
concern at reports that prisoners have been tortured to death in custody and
highlights the action taken by its ambassador over the apparent torture to
death with boiling water of a member of an Islamist party (UK Foreign and
Commonwealth Office 2004). What is perhaps most alarming is that the Uzbek
government appears to be doing little to combat torture, despite apparent
dialogue with external critics.
In Eduard Shevardnadze’s Georgia, horrific examples of torture were not
unknown. In 1997, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture found that torture
methods included:
[H]anging upside down; scalding with hot water; extraction of fingernails
or toenails; application of electric shocks; systematic beating, sometimes
resulting in fractured bones or broken teeth; and issuing of threats that
members of the detainees family would be killed or tortured. Courts were
said generally to refuse to exclude evidence, including “confessions,”
repudiated by defendants as having been obtained through torture, and to
fail to investigate such claims of torture.
(Rodley 1997: para. 98)
In fairness, Shevardnadze did make some progress on the torture front in his
remaining years in office. However, what may be surprising is that since the
2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, which brought a reformist government to
power under President Saakashvili, torture remains a real problem in that
country. In the government’s first year in power, it is generally recognized that its
record on torture was poor (Human Rights Watch 2005). This was in part due
to the new administration’s focus on pursuing corrupt officials, sometimes with
little regard for legality, and in part due to a newly introduced system of “plea
bargaining” which encouraged lower sentences in return for torture victims
dropping their complaints. Torture also continued because it is deeply engrained
in police practice and is not simply a matter of changing leadership at the top.
What distinguishes Georgia from Uzbekistan, however, is that it is much
more likely that Georgia will effectively combat torture in the medium term.
This is in large measure due to the comparatively larger scope for civil society
action in Georgia, and, accordingly, greater scope for the transnational legal
process to operate. Recently, Georgian authorities have begun working with
the COE, the European Commission, the OSCE, the UN Special Rapporteur
on Torture, international NGOs (such as the Association for the Prevention
of Torture) and, most importantly, local Georgian NGOs (including the
Former Political Prisoners Association for Human Rights). This engagement
has resulted in several positive outcomes, including a plan to allow local
NGOs to monitor places of detention, a possibility without prospects in
Uzbekistan, where civil society groups are both weak and regularly harassed
as a threat to the political order.
What also separates Georgia and Uzbekistan (and the South Caucasus and
Central Asia more generally) is—as suggested earlier—the former’s inclusion
Beyond treaty signing
in the COE’s comprehensive regional rights regime. Torture is prohibited
under the ECHR, as is “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,”
and cases of torture have been taken to the European Court of Human Rights
in Strasbourg by human rights entrepreneurs from the South Caucasus, where
redress in the form of compensation has been awarded by the Court. In
addition to this judicial function—which considers torture incidents after the
fact—the COE also seeks to prevent torture. The centerpiece of these efforts is
the 1987 European Convention for the Prevention of Torture (ECPT) which
establishes a non-judicial mechanism for torture prevention. A Committee for
the Prevention of Torture (CPT) was established by the treaty which has the
power to visit any place of detention in the member states to ensure that torture does not occur. The CPT monitors holding cells and prisons and works
with authorities and transnational actors (NGOs, academics, and so forth) to
put systems in place to prevent torture. The CPT has visited places of detention on several occasions in each of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan; for
example, in May 2005 the CPT, in its third visit to Azerbaijan, carried out an
ad hoc inspection of Gobustan Prison, which holds all of the country’s lifesentenced prisoners. While there is much more work to be done, these
(sometimes unannounced) visits and subsequent recommendations have
proven quite productive in combating torture and ill-treatment by police and
prison officials in the South Caucasus.
Deepening human rights compliance: human rights entrepreneurs
Determining how human rights compliance can be deepened is no simple task
(Donnelly 2003). What social conditions are necessary for human rights protection? Is there a correlation between economic prosperity and respect for rights?
Similarly, what political conditions are required? Will grievous human rights
abuses always be found in the absence of democracy? Is unchecked democracy
also bad for human rights, specifically minority rights? Turning to the specifics of the region, what is the role of the Soviet heritage? Do the cultures of
the region, in particular in Central Asia, indeed have different understandings
of rights than the “Western”-formulated rights found in international treaties?
Will the development of hydrocarbon wealth in the region make the affected
countries’ leaders more or less receptive to human rights? What impact does
pervasive corruption have on rights protection? Strong states were traditionally seen as the enemy of human rights, but are weak states just as or more
dangerous? The open-ended nature of these questions should not be overstated. For example, there is empirical evidence to suggest that “countries that
are stable, peaceful, democratic and tolerant are likely to offer better levels of
protection than those lacking those qualities” (Galligan and Sandler 2004: 24).
But beyond some minimal consensus, answers to these questions will often
depend on disciplinary and ideological perspective. For example, a lawyer is
likely to point to the rule of law as a critical factor in rights protection while a
political scientist might point to governance as the key.
C.P.M. Waters
This section does not purport to set out a grand explanation for how
human rights can be protected. Indeed, several of the factors listed above
clearly play important roles in encouraging or repressing rights. More modestly, and in keeping with the suggestion that transnational legal actors play
a necessary (if not sufficient) role in internalizing rights, this section will take
a case study of a group of human rights entrepreneurs. The group chosen, a
Georgian NGO named “Article 42,” has counterparts in other countries of
the region. However, a cautionary note in terms of comparability should be
expressed in that civil society groups in Georgia have greater freedom of
action than in the other countries of the region, especially in Central Asia
(Ruffin and Waugh 1999). Despite that caveat, Georgian NGOs have faced
many of the same challenges experienced by NGOs elsewhere in the region,
including harassment, beatings, weak state partners and a lack of civic tradition.6 These groups have been forced to carve out scope for their actions,
albeit with some financial support from Western backers (Jones 2000).
Article 42 was founded in the mid-1990s by a lawyer who had been a student dissident leader in the late Soviet period (Waters 2004; Article 42). The
NGO, which is named after the legal rights provision of the Georgian Constitution, received a small start-up grant from the American Bar Association’s
Central and East European Law Initiative (itself a transnational legal actor)
and began with a modest program of legal representation for the indigent. It
quickly established a legal clinic focused on human rights cases, particularly
those involving wrongdoing on the part of the police. By the end of the 1990s,
the clinic had several practicing lawyers and more than a dozen law student
volunteers. These volunteers were enthusiastic about their work and would
skip classes to attend, believing they had more to learn at the clinic than in
the law schools, where professors simply read lectures with out-of-date content. They also saw the training they were receiving as good preparation for a
move to private practice following graduation. From the start, the clinic’s
lawyers were interested in comparative human rights and international human
rights standards. Exploration of these fields was seen as an opportunity to
supplement Georgia’s inexperience with human rights theory or practice. In
addition to the clinical legal activities of the organization, efforts were also
made to spread human rights literacy among the population. For example,
the group has distributed several pamphlets, including one entitled “If you are
arrested!” which set out the rights (to counsel, to outside contact, etc.) of
individuals arrested by the police. By the end of the 1990s, these sorts of
public education campaigns seemed to be working, with opinion polling
showing a significant rise in citizens’ awareness of their rights. This in turn
can be considered a contributing factor to public disenchantment with police
abuse and even an underlying cause for the Rose Revolution’s popular support. While there are debates about the precise role NGOs played in leading
the Revolution, there can be little doubt that NGOs such as Article 42 played
an important role in making it possible. As Ghia Nodia, a well-known
Georgian political scientist, puts it, “civil society organizations laid the
Beyond treaty signing
groundwork with their civic education efforts” (Nodia 2005: 102). In fact the
perceived role of Georgian NGOs in bringing about that country’s 2003 Rose
Resolution has encouraged some of the region’s authoritarian regimes to
crack down harder on civil society groups since that time (Eurasianet 2004).
Following the Rose Revolution, Article 42 did not disband or become
complacent. It has been working constructively on prison reform with state
and non-state partners and, demonstrating bi-partisan maturity, the group
continues to pressure the government of President Saakashvili to improve
citizen’s protection. The numbers of lawyers and volunteers grew significantly
in the 2000s and Article 42 not only continues with its clinical work on behalf
of the indigent, it also takes on high-profile “test” cases. These cases, brought
to various levels of Georgia courts, include constitutional challenges where
both the Georgian constitution and international human rights standards have
been cited. In addition to its domestic activities—or rather as a continuation
of its domestic activities—the group takes cases on behalf of aggrieved clients
to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. For example, after
exhausting domestic remedies, the group brought a successful challenge to the
Strasbourg court over Georgia’s extradition of several Chechens to Russia,
where they faced possible torture (European Court of Human Rights 2005).
The court ordered the Russian and Georgian governments to pay compensatory
Over the years, Article 42 has become increasingly strategic in using the courts
to further rights. Care is given to selecting cases, determining the appropriate
place for a judicial challenge and in using the media. These strategies have
long been used elsewhere. In the USA and UK, for example, since the midnineteenth century groups have used litigation—as well as public information
dissemination and campaigning—to further their causes. In the USA in particular, litigation has long been seen as “an integral part of the dialogue by
which constitutional standards are shaped and reshaped under changing
conditions” (Feldman 1992: 56). To date in Georgia, Article 42 lawyers
remain among a minority of Georgian lawyers who are comfortable with
pursuing a rights-oriented strategy in the courts. By inclination and training,
most Georgian lawyers and judges have adopted a differential stance toward
law as passed by parliament and are unwilling to challenge the validity of
those laws. Lawyers have also traditionally been deferential towards prosecutors and judges and human rights work remains limited to a minority of
lawyers. It can be hoped that as awareness of rights spreads and access to
court for rights challenges is made easier, competition in the rights market
will increase and human rights work will become part of mainstream legal
Although there is widespread formal adherence to international human rights
treaties in the region, the implementation of standards contained in these
C.P.M. Waters
treaties remains poor. While there are variations between the countries, this is
true throughout the region, as is clear from the widespread use of torture.
This chapter has suggested that while direct intervention by the international
community to enforce rights is rare, and the institutions set up internationally
to monitor rights are weak, transnational human rights actors can work
towards internalizing rights. Through litigation before domestic and international tribunals—including the European Court of Human Rights for South
Caucasian complainants—campaigning and public information, civil society
groups operating domestically and internationally can seek full implementation
of international standards.
However, having placed stock in this analysis on the importance of transnational actors, the importance of horizontal state-to-state pressure should
not be downplayed unduly. The lack of condemnation of human rights abuses
by the international community can weaken the resolve of civil society groups
and strengthen the hand of authoritarian leaders who portray themselves to
their people as internationally respected statesmen. An example of the failure
to frankly condemn human rights—and to follow-up with concerted action—
is the relatively muted response to the 2005 Andijan massacre by some Western governments (Rashid 2005). In addition, the USA, the UK, and other
countries have weakened their authority to insist on human rights protection
by virtue of committing or condoning human rights abuses in the “war
against terrorism.” Both by deporting people to regimes that practice torture
(MacAskill et al. 2005) and in permitting torture to occur in places like
Guantanamo Bay (Priest and Gellman 2002), these pioneering nations of
human rights standards have ceded ground to human rights abusers and
contributed to the gap between human rights rhetoric and reality.
1 While definitions of socio-legal (sometimes called “law and society”) methodology
differ, a commonly cited, broad definition is that put forward by the British SocioLegal Studies Association (SLSA): “Socio-legal studies embraces disciplines and
subjects concerned with law as a social institution, with the social effects of law,
legal processes, institutions and services and with the influence of social, political
and economic factors in the law and legal institutions” (Socio-Legal Studies
Association “First Re-Statement of Research Ethics”: 2). This current chapter is
informed by the author’s socio-legal fieldwork carried out in the region—primarily
the South Caucasus—since 1998. This has included interview projects and participant–observer experiences in the areas of legal education and legal profession
2 See also, Keith (1999).
3 Briefly put, the classical realist view is that power and national interest—not
morality, law or international organizations—are the determinants of international
affairs. See, for example, Morgenthau (1948).
4 On rational choice theory generally, see Allingham (2002).
5 Although, importantly, both the South Caucasian and Central Asian states are
members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),
which sets out political (rather than legal) commitments on human rights.
Beyond treaty signing
6 Also in terms of comparative methodology, it should also be noted that Georgian
NGOs represent a critical case, in that their strategic importance goes beyond
Georgia. Specifically, there has been an attempt by NGOs in other countries in the
former Soviet Union to emulate the Georgian groups’ tactics.
Allingham, M. (2002) Choice Theory: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford.
Anjargolian, S. (2005) “Armenia’s Women in Transition,” C.P.M. Waters (ed.) The
State of Law in the South Caucasus, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Article 42. < > (accessed 6 June 2008).
Butler, W.E. (1983) Soviet Law, London: Butterworths.
Donnelly, J. (2003) International Human Rights in Theory and Practice, Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press.
English, K. and Stapleton, A. (1995) The Human Rights Handbook, Colchester:
Human Rights Centre, University of Essex.
Eurasianet (2004) “Uzbek Authorities Crack Down on Another Foreign NGO In
Tashkent,” Eurasianet, 17 September 2004. <
civilsociety/articles/eav091704.shtml > (accessed 27 March 2008).
European Court of Human Rights (2005) Chamber judgement in Shamayev and 12
Others v. Georgia and Russia, press release, 12 April 2005. <
press/2005/April/ChamberjudgmentShamayevand12Others120405.htm > (accessed
27 March 2008).
Evans, M. and Morgan, R. (1998) Preventing Torture, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Feldman, D. (1992) “Public Interest Litigation and Constitutional Theory in Comparative
Perspective,” The Modern Law Review, 55: 44–72.
Franck, T.M., (1990) The Power of Legitimacy Among Nations, New York: Oxford
University Press.
Freedom House (2006) “Freedom Rankings 2006”: 15. <
template.cfm?page=15 > (accessed 27 March 2008).
Galligan, D. and Sandler, D. (2004) “Implementing Human Rights,” in S. Halliday
and P. Schmidt (eds) Human Rights Brought Home, Oxford: Hart Publishing.
Ghandhi, P.R. (1998) The Human Rights Committee and the Right of Individual
Communication: Law and Practice, Dartmouth: Ashgate.
Goldsmith, J.L. and Posner, E.A. (2005) The Limits Of International Law, New York:
Oxford University Press.
Halliday, S. and Schmidt, P. (2004) (eds) Human Rights Brought Home: Socio-Legal
Perspectives on Human Rights in the National Context, Oxford: Hart.
Hathaway, O.A., (2002) “Do Human Rights Treaties Make a Difference?” Yale Law
Journal, 111: 1935–2042.
Human Rights Watch (2005) Briefing Paper, “Georgia: Uncertain Torture Reform,” 12
April 2005. < > (accessed 27 March 2008).
Jones, S.F. (2000) “Democracy from Below? Interest Groups in Georgian Society,”
Slavic Review, 59: 42–73.
Keith, L. C. (1999) “The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: Does It Make a Difference in Human Rights Behavior?” Journal of
Peace Research, 36: 95–118.
Koh, H.K. (1999) “How Is International Human Rights Law Enforced?” Indiana Law
Journal, 74:1397–1417.
C.P.M. Waters
MacAskill, E., Dodd, V. and E. Allison (2005) “African Union Defends Mugabe,”
Guardian, 25 June: 19.
Madsen, M.R. (2004) “France, the UK, and the ‘Boomerang’ of the Internationalisation of Human Rights (1945–2000),” in S. Halliday and P. Schmidt (eds) Human
Rights Brought Home: Socio-Legal Perspectives on Human Rights in the National
Context, Oxford: Hart.
Morgenthau, H.J. (1948) Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace,
New York: Knopf.
Nazarbayev, N. (2005) “Kazakhstan on the Road to Accelerated Economic, Social
and Political Modernization,” Address by the President of the Republic of
Kazakhstan to the People of Kazakhstan, Almaty: Atamura.
Nodia, G. (2005) “Breaking the Mold of Powerlessness: The Meaning of Georgia’s
Latest Revolution,” in Z. Karumidze and J.V. Wertsch (eds) “Enough!” The Rose
Revolution in the Republic of Georgia 2003, New York: Nova.
Norton-Taylor, R. (2004) “UK Allies Among Worst Abusers of Human Rights,”
Guardian, 11 November 2004:17.
Priest, D. and Gellman, B. (2002) “U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations,”
Washington Post, 26 December: A1.
Rashid, A. (2005) “By Ignoring Uzbek Bad Behavior, Washington Risks Repeating
Historical Mistakes,” Eurasianet, 1 July. <
articles/eav062705.shtml > (accessed 27 March 2008).
Rodley, N.S. (1997), “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, December 24,
1997,” Commission on Human Rights, fifty-fourth session, E/CN.4/1998/38.
Ruffin, M.H. and Waugh, D. (1999) Civil Society in Central Asia, Seattle: University
of Washington Press.
Socio-Legal Studies Association, “First Re-Statement of Research Ethics”: 2. < www. > (accessed
27 March 2008).
Tomuschat, C. (2003) Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2004), “Annual Report on Human Rights”
&cid=1007029393564 > (accessed 27 March 2008).
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (2006) “Report of
the Mission to Kyrgyzstan by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights (OHCHR) concerning the Events in Andijan Uzbekistan of 13–14 May
2005.” <
pdf ?OpenElement > (accessed 27 March 2008).
US Department of State (2004), “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.”
< > (accessed 27 March 2008).
Wardrop, O. (1914) (trans.), “Laws of King George V, of Georgia,” Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society, 607.
Waters, C.P.M. (2004) Counsel in the Caucasus: Professionalization and Law in Georgia,
Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff.
World Bank (2006) “Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996–2005,” September 2006.
< > (accessed 27 March 2008).
Internalization of universal norms
A study of gender equality in Kyrgyzstan
and Turkmenistan
Irina Liczek and Jens Wandel1
The main goal of this chapter is to expand theories of socialization of international norms and apply them to the post-Soviet transitions of Central Asia.
This is done through a comparative analysis of the diffusion of gender norms
in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Specifically, this chapter looks at the impact
to date of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW) acceded to by both states by 1997. What difference
did the ratification of the CEDAW make for the women of Kyrgyzstan and
Turkmenistan? How can international organizations more effectively support
the efforts of Central Asian states to monitor women’s rights in accordance
with the CEDAW?
We show that the ratification of the CEDAW offered a distinctive opportunity for international dialogue and scrutiny about improving the human
rights of women in both countries. In the case of Kyrgyzstan, the CEDAW
also became an advocacy tool for women’s non-governmental organizations
(NGOs). The study of the state reports submitted to the CEDAW monitoring
body by Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan indicates that timely reporting correlates with positive legislative changes, while delaying the reporting process
correlates with state inaction in the area of women’s rights legislation. Furthermore, the quality of the CEDAW state reports does provide an indicator
for inclusiveness and internalization of international norms. These reports
describe the actors involved, disclose which indicators are used to support
findings, and the conclusions give insight to how the governments want to
portray the status of women’s rights in their respective countries. Our study
found that systematic and long-term international technical support is crucial
in stimulating timely reporting and implementation of gender equality norms
in practice.
However, it is important to highlight the limitations of studying the status
of women by looking only at government reports to treaty bodies.2 First,
timely reporting does not necessarily correlate with improvement of women’s
rights in practice if the rule of law is weak. Second, government-controlled
official reports may try to present the best possible picture of the status of
women’s rights. In this respect, positive statements will need additional validation. In cases where the reports do pronounce deterioration of women’s
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
rights, the validity of the information would be high, given that the need for
this type of report is to present the best possible picture.
Theoretical framework and research methodology
The importance of international norms and their diffusion in the domestic
politics of states has been highlighted in the constructivist literature by scholars such as Martha Finnemore (1996), Thomas Risse et al. (1999), Margaret
Keck and Kathryn Sikkink (1998). Finnemore looks at state interests and
behaviors by investigating an international structure not of power, but of
meaning and social value. In her view, the behavior of states can be better
understood only if one understands the international structure of which they
are a part. Thus, Finnemore argues that states may redefine their interests as
a result of internationally shared norms and values that give meaning to
international political life (Finnemore 1996).
In this chapter, we expand constructivist theories of socialization of international norms that argue that states redefine their interests as a result of
universally shared norms and values that give meaning to global political life.
We argue that in the case of the newly independent Central Asian states,
socialization of international norms of gender equality unfolded under more
complex circumstances. Commitments of the Central Asian states to the UN’s
universalist human rights agenda, including those of gender equality, were
influenced by two sets of political factors: external (membership in the UN,
ratification of human rights conventions, constructive dialogue with treaty
bodies) and internal (consolidation of the new nation-states by drawing on
pre-Soviet norms).
Our argument draws from emerging international relations (IR) theoretical
contributions that incorporate feminist perspectives in analyzing international
society by taking into account “the ways domestic societies shape state identities
and interests and therefore their membership in the society of states … and
how emergent norms in international society reshape the practices and identities of member states” (True 2005: 159). Thus, our research strengthens this
recent IR feminist scholarship, and joins the views proposing that the global
international norms of gender equality need to be repositioned to local settings, to create a conversation between the global women’s human rights norms
and perspectives that allow us to understand “how social norms are constructed,
and how gender identities and norms are shaped, contested and negotiated
within different institutions globally and locally” (Kardam 2005: 2).
IR theories focusing on state behavior and the conditions of collaboration
among states remain a valid theoretical framework because the nation-state
remains the basic unit of analysis and because of feminist activism “to promote the establishment of global norms and rules for gender equality so that
states can be held accountable” (Kardam 2004: 86). Nevertheless, one has to
look at how such global agenda diffuses locally and interacts with competing
domestic discourses on gender issues.
Internalization of universal norms
Based on new research, we argue that the global gender equality framework diffused in Central Asia during 1997–2006 was ultimately shaped and
weakened by domestic legacies, the deepening of patriarchal authoritarian
politics and family practices based on stricter observance of customary and
Islamic norms than during Soviet times.3 As we develop our argument, we
show that international norms can be diffused in Central Asia, but their
implementation, we conclude, is problematic due to long-lasting local cultural
norms that we call Islamic nationalism, an increasingly male-dominated
political arena, and weak rule of law to enforce gender equality commitments
made in the UN foras.4
Figure 9.1 illustrates the push and pull factors of international norm internalization. As an external factor, the UN CEDAW agenda was promoted by
increased pluralism and funding (Kyrgyzstan), while the key constraining
factors were the emergence of nationalism based on pre-Soviet norms and a
weak rule of law (Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan). The review of the CEDAW
reporting processes in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan reveals that traditions
and stereotypes affect women’s rights because tribal customary norms are
strongly engrained in the two societies. Furthermore, long-term technical
assistance funding and expansion of pluralistic approaches to governance are
key areas that may contribute to practical implementation of women’s rights
in Central Asia.
Methodologically, we will use the research design of “most similar systems”5 to examine selected cases representing a broad range of political systems from Central Asia. The Soviet Union imposed a socialist legacy on the
Central Asian republics as well as legislative uniformity, in accordance with
ideological principles coming from the Soviet center. While Kyrgyzstan and
Turkmenistan are themselves geographically, demographically, culturally, and
Figure 9.1 Push and pull factors of international norm internationalization.
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
historically similar, their transitional processes diverged significantly in the
1990s.6 Kyrgyzstan chose the “open society” model, making notable changes
in its political arena by establishing a multi-party political system and fostering both civil society participation and reorientation towards a market economy. Turkmenistan, on the other hand, maintained an authoritarian political
outlook characterized by a one-party system and absolute presidential power.
Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest Soviet republics, was also the first to engage
the international community more readily, in need of international assistance
to boost its economy and establish legitimacy for its newly established Government. Thus, the Kyrgyz state made steps towards democratization and a
market economy to receive international assistance.
Turkmenistan had a stronger economic leverage, because of its oil and gas
assets, and proved more cautious in opening to international advice. However,
it actively pursued a strategy of neutrality and saw rapid and visible international recognition through the UN as a key element in its foreign policy. As
an integral part of this strategy it did take steps to accede to a number of
international human rights conventions, yet the dialogue with the monitoring
bodies did not take place until the UN has exercised more pressure.7
Both countries found themselves independent quite unexpectedly as a result
of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. This change gave
rise to a strong need to articulate national identity and recognize language,
culture, and traditions that had been ignored or actively suppressed by the
Soviet state. Marxism had to be abandoned as a theoretical underpinning for
the nation-state. Alternatives such as democratic values or market economic
theories are not sufficient to create identities that explain who they are, who
their citizens are, and what set them apart from other states. This meant that
ethnicity, language, history, and pre-Soviet values were important sources for
the new national identities in both countries.
Our assessment of the impact of the CEDAW is drawn from the analysis of
the two reports submitted to date by Kyrgyzstan (1998 and 2002), summaries
of meetings with the CEDAW Committee, published press releases, alternative
reports, and the concluding observations (henceforth COs) received thereafter
from the CEDAW Committee. In the case of Turkmenistan we will analyze
the first and second combined report submitted in 2004, the summary of the
meeting with the CEDAW Committee, and the recommendations received
hereafter in May 2006. Some scholars might be critical of our approach,
arguing that the review of such documents and of the CEDAW reporting
process, including the meetings with the CEDAW Committee, do not reflect
entirely the local reality of women’s lives. However, we found the CEDAW
treaty body reporting useful because it allowed us to assess particular characteristics and recurring issues that Kyrgyzstan is still facing in the implementation of CEDAW within two reporting cycles. Furthermore, we were
able to assess if women in a country that has been conscientiously engaged in
monitoring their rights such as Kyrgyzstan fared better than in a country such
as Turkmenistan, where the government only reported once in 10 years.
Internalization of universal norms
We also found the cases of Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan compelling,
because both of them have experienced regime changes in the past two years.
We hope that our research will open the path for comparative studies that
investigate if these regime changes led to greater democratization, greater
governmental efforts towards monitoring and implementation of women’s
rights, and allowed for more opportunities for international support and
systematic dialogue on human rights.8
Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women
The UN Charter and the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights have
been accepted unequivocally by all its member states. Drawing on these universal principles, the norms of gender equality were consolidated in global
politics and the UN system as an outcome of feminist activism. The UN
Decade of Women (1976–85) was marked by three global conferences on
women and culminated with the adoption of the CEDAW endorsed by almost
all countries in the world.9
The Soviet Union made a significant contribution by lobbying the UN for
international protection of women’s rights and creation of a binding document that would oblige member states to make changes in national legislation
to give men and women equal rights. As reflected in the minutes of the
Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 1972:
The Soviet delegation was in favour of drawing up a legally binding
international convention on the elimination of discrimination against
women which would cover all aspects of the status of women, and intended
to submit a draft resolution to that effect.
(Commission on the Status of Women 1972a: 24)
At the twenty-third session of the CSW, the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics submitted a draft resolution that envisaged:
to give effect to the principles set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and to ensure speedy adoption of
the necessary practical measures for that purpose and invited the Secretary-General to call upon the States Members of the United Nations to
transmit their views or proposals concerning the nature and content of a
new instrument of international law to eliminate discrimination against
(Commission on the Status of Women 1972b: 36)
As a result, the work on the drafting of the CEDAW started in 1974 by a
working group of the CSW. To date, CEDAW has been endorsed by almost
all the countries in the world and has remained the only binding piece of
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
international law that requires governments to report on the implementation
of measures against women’s discrimination. By adopting the CEDAW, the
member states acquired an international legal instrument that would help
actualize equality. In doing so, states have agreed “to take all appropriate
measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women”
(CEDAW 1979: 3). By comparison, the outcome documents of the UN Conferences on Women, though not legally binding, “reflect a moral consensus of
the international community and provide an understanding of how equality
should be interpreted in practice” (UNDAW 1994: 426). None of these
documents accept “that differences based on culture and religion replace or
modify the universal principle of equality or that “freedom of religion and the
principle of equality between women and men are inconsistent or in conflict”
(UNDAW 1994: 426–27). Furthermore, states that ratified or acceded to the
CEDAW commit themselves to implement its legal provisions, harmonize
their national legislation accordingly, and submit periodic reports on progress
made at the CEDAW Committee, the monitoring body of this convention. A
governmental delegation is then required to meet with the Committee and
discuss progress and challenges encountered in the implementation of the
CEDAW. In turn, the CEDAW Committee issues COs to the respective country
requiring specific measures to be taken and reported upon during the next
reporting cycle. Alternative reports can be submitted by non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and considered by the CEDAW Committee in as much
as they give an additional view and provide supplementary data relevant to
the impact of the convention on women’s lives and implementation status by
their respective governments.
The emergence of gender politics in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan
and Turkmenistan
Gender politics in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan have developed since the
time of independence in 1991 along two distinct tracks: (1) adherence to
international norms of gender equality socialized in the two countries through
UN standards that emerged as the new model to guide gender policy postindependence; and (2) re-emergence of pre-Soviet norms linked to the idea of
the national history of Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, accompanied by rejection
of Soviet emancipation policies, such as the use of quotas in politics.
Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan joined the international dialogue on gender
equality upon acquiring membership of the UN in 1992. Both countries were
newcomers to the international dialogue on gender equality as independent
states. Their first political commitments in the area of gender equality were
made at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in
1995, by endorsing the Beijing Declaration and the Beijing Platform of
Action. As a result, both countries have established some form of women’s
policy agency charged with improving the status of women, and adopted
Internalization of universal norms
national plans of action for that purpose.10 These agencies were charged to
oversee the implementation of international commitments both states have
made as a result of participating at the Beijing Conference. Furthermore,
both countries acceded to a number of international conventions, among
them the CEDAW.
So far, Kyrgyzstan has reported on CEDAW implementation in a timely
manner: it accessed to the CEDAW in 1997, and submitted its first report
within a year and the second report within four years, according to the Convention’s guidelines. Turkmenistan acceded to the CEDAW in December 1996
and submitted its first and second combined report in November 2004. The
CEDAW Committee examined the report on May 2006, and COs were issued
soon thereafter. To assess what difference CEDAW reporting made to
women’s lives in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan we evaluate the reports against
formal and practical indicators as follows.
Formal indicators that international norms are being internalized are
timely reporting, availability of alternative reports, involvement of a large
number of stakeholders in preparing the report, and presence of a senior-level
delegation that reports and conducts constructive dialogue with the CEDAW
Committee. Practical indicators of implementation of international norms are
effective legal changes that echo the recommendations given by the CEDAW
Committee in the COs, such as the use of the Convention in courts, absence
of discriminatory legislation, and data that show an improvement in the
status of women. Such measures would show direct impact of international
norms to people’s lives.11 The following section provides an analysis of the
formal and practical indicators relevant to the implementation of the CEDAW
undertaken by the Kyrgyz and Turkmen governments by 2006.
Kyrgyz republic: analysis of formal indicators for
internalization of CEDAW
Both reports submitted by the government of Kyrgyzstan to the CEDAW
Committee were done in time and according to the reporting guidelines. Half
a year after the Kyrgyz government acceded to the CEDAW in March 1996, a
special commission made up by government officials and judicial bodies was
set up to start the writing of the report. The process was consultative and the
draft report was sent for feedback to other governmental, administrative, and
non-governmental bodies. In 1999, the year the report was reviewed by the
CEDAW Committee, the Kyrgyz delegation was headed by a senior government official, namely the Chairperson of the State Committee on Family,
Youth and Women. The second periodic report was prepared by a commission made up of representatives of government and NGOs. The report was
prepared in a participatory way and included all ministries, other relevant
governmental bodies and NGOs. In 2004, the year the report was examined
by the CEDAW Committee, the Kyrgyz government sent a large delegation
led by a senior official, the head of the Secretariat of the National Council on
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
Women, Family and Gender Development, the main state structure for
women’s advancement in the country. An alternative report that analyzed the
implementation of the CEDAW between 1999–2003 was prepared by the
Council of NGOs and was submitted to the CEDAW Committee to supplement the governmental report. In conclusion, one can say that Kyrgyzstan
has complied with the formal implementation measures required by the
Kyrgyz republic: practical indicators of internalizing the CEDAW
The first CEDAW report submitted by Kyrgyzstan in 1998 emphasized the
legal measures that the government has taken to implement human rights
conventions, including the challenges for doing so. Examples include Article 3
of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, which observes the principles of
equality of all citizens, and prohibits discrimination based on sex. The Criminal Code, the Civil Code, the Labor Code, and the Consumer Protection Act
have all been remodeled to incorporate the international human rights standards
Kyrgyzstan had committed to implement. However, the report acknowledged
that “the system for ensuring the legal protection of all citizens is still inadequate. The main reason is that the Kyrgyz Republic still lacks a uniform State
policy for the integrated solution of all problems related to human rights”
(CEDAW Report 1998: 12).12
A drop in the living standards of the whole population, but in particular of
women, followed the loss of the subsidies for health, education, culture, and
consumer services, provided in the past by the Soviet Union. The first
CEDAW report acknowledged that women were more affected than men by
these losses. For example, 58 per cent of women were unemployed and had
less employment opportunities because of the closing of women-dominated
factories, and by downgrading of skilled women laborers to unskilled jobs.
Furthermore, women suffered loss of childcare facilities and increase in the
cost of preschool facilities. Health indicators such as maternal and infant
mortality increased. Finally, women experienced a dramatic drop of representation in parliament, from 30 per cent during the Soviet times to 4.7 per
cent (CEDAW Report 1998: 16–24). In agriculture, 37.9 per cent of women
were landowners, but without the means to cultivate it (CEDAW Report
1998: 16).
The second report submitted in 2002 and examined in 2004 highlights the
ratification of the CEDAW Optional Protocol in 2001, which allows women
to file individual complaints if their rights according to the CEDAW were
violated. The report highlighted the adoption of a number of national plans
geared towards the protection of human rights, gender equality, and a Presidential Decree to Promote Women in Governmental Positions. This report
also emphasized efforts to collect data on violence against women and
provision of services for victims of crime, and legal prohibition of trafficking
in women.
Internalization of universal norms
A comparative analysis of the concluding observations received from
CEDAW shows a significant number of recurring concerns. In 1999, the
CEDAW Committee urged the Kyrgyz government to adopt temporary measures such as quotas for ensuring an adequate representation of women at
high-levels of political decision-making. This issue has been re-examined
critically at the 2004 meeting between the Kyrgyz delegation and the CEDAW
Committee as a recurrent recommendation. Following a period of time where
there were no women in parliament, President Bakiyev announced in 2006
that quotas for administrative appointees were being introduced. Likewise in
1999, the CEDAW Committee requested data on violence against women and
its connection to poverty, and launching of measures to counteract this
through policies and other measures that would improve this situation. The
Committee also recommended ensuring de jure and de facto equality of
women, elimination of the practice of polygamy,13 and wider participation by
NGOs in preparing the next CEDAW report.
In 2004, while examining the second report, the CEDAW Committee
commended the Kyrgyz government for adopting a range of plans and programs that addressed in a clearer manner the issue of discrimination against
women. Among these, the second National Action Plan for Achieving
Gender Equality for 2002–06; the Program of Measures to Combat the Illegal
Export of and Trafficking in Persons in the Kyrgyz Republic for 2002–05; the
National Human Rights Program for the period 2002–10 and “enacting new
laws in support of the goal of gender equality, including the Law on the
Basics of State Guarantees of Gender Equality … and the law on social and
legal protection against violence in the family” (CEDAW Committee 2004: 3).
However, critical concerns remained, such as the ability of women to make
use of the laws protecting their rights, ending poverty, trafficking, violence,
better health provision, and employment opportunities as well as ensuring
real opportunities for political participation.
The existence of harmful traditions, such as bride kidnapping and stereotyping that undermines women’s right to choose has been a recurrent concern
in both 1999 and in 2004, and shows that the Kyrgyz government did not
adequately address them. In 1999, the CEDAW Committee underscored the
prevalence of patriarchal culture and the continuing emphasis on the
traditional roles of women exclusively as mothers and wives. The Committee notes with particular concern that the initial repost, in referring to
the roles of men as the breadwinner, may legitimize existing stereotypes.
(CEDAW Committee 1999: 4)
Five years after these comments and recommendations were made, not much
has been changed in this area, and kidnappings remain to date, “mostly
painful, non-planned events in a young woman’s life and one of the most
powerless and vulnerable situations she will ever experience” (Rimby 2004:
25). New issues such as women’s unrecognized right to land ownership based
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
on old traditions and customs emerged as the land and agrarian reform
unfolded in Kyrgyzstan, affecting women, in particular, divorced and disabled
women, widows and single women. The low level of legal literacy among
women enables
[t]he revival of paternalistic arrangements and values … conductive to
reinforcing the traditions and customary law of Muslims (adat). In such a
situation, women risk losing all the gains made in terms of their rights
and not obtaining any benefit from the land reforms. Changes in the
economic and social position of women are creating an urgent need for
institutionalized assistance in obtaining equal access to land resources
and real estate.
(CEDAW Report 2002: 53)
Practical measures to internalize the CEDAW have been started but have
been limited: the CEDAW was not yet quoted in any court of law, and no
individual complaints have yet been filed to any of the UN bodies, because of
lack of information on the complaints procedure. NGOs were involved in
preparing the second periodic report, but not all data on the implementation
of women’s rights were considered when preparing the report (Council of
NGOs 2003: 4). However, involving NGOs in writing the second periodic
report can be considered as a positive step in implementing the CEDAW,
since this report represented more women’s voices. There are still substantive
issues that have not been solved in spite of the efforts to produce more
gender-oriented legislation. These issues include inequality in property rights,
elimination of poverty, creating employment opportunities, reducing high
levels of maternal morbidity, the persistence of polygamy, bride kidnapping
and gender stereotypes, and the decreasing number of women participating
in politics.
Gender analysis of laws and bills has been undertaken since 1998, and
though it was a notable effort, the resulting recommendations were systematically bypassed by the Kyrgyz legislature. Gathering data on violence
against women has been started by government agencies through sociological
surveys and information received from shelters for women escaping domestic
violence. However, these data do not provide an accurate picture yet
(CEDAW Report 2002: 26–27).14 In spite of this, the new law on protecting
women from domestic violence has been a major step that shows harmonization of the CEDAW in the legal system of the Kyrgyz Republic.15 Provision
of legal services for victims of crime is a positive step that helps women at
large (CEDAW Report 2002: 6).16 However, limited awareness among women
of their rights cannot improve their condition in the family or help change
gender stereotypes in society.
The analysis of the two sets of COs indicates that recurrent issues remain:
discrimination against women, the need to put in place temporary measures
for women’s advancement in high levels of decision-making;17 limited
Internalization of universal norms
measures to eliminate persistent patriarchal attitudes towards women,
including customs such as bride kidnapping and polygamy; strengthening
measures to prevent trafficking of women and girls as well as offering alternatives for women and girl prostitutes; and, strengthening measures that
would improve maternal and infant mortality rates.
In conclusion, the practical implementation of the CEDAW is patchy. The
Kyrgyz Republic has taken positive steps regarding formal requirements, such
as timely reporting, ratification of a large number of international laws on human
rights, and conducting a substantive dialogue with the CEDAW Committee.
While, the transcripts of the two meetings with the CEDAW Committee suggest
that this dialogue resulted in a more in-depth understanding of monitoring of
women’s rights and has sensitized the governmental delegations, practical
indicators in major areas remain unsolved and hence under scrutiny for the
next round when the third periodic report is due.
Turkmenistan: analysis of formal and practical indicators for
internalization of CEDAW
Turkmenistan acceded to CEDAW in December 1996. The first report was
due in 1997, the second in 2001, and the third in 2005. At the time of this
writing, Turkmenistan did not ratify the CEDAW Optional Protocol, which
allows individuals to file complaints of discrimination to the CEDAW Committee. In 2004, the government of Turkmenistan submitted a combined first
and second periodic report to the CEDAW Committee, eight years after
accession. This report was prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and
was based on information received from other ministries, other governmental
bodies, and social organizations that had competence on issues related to
ensuring women’s freedoms and protections against discrimination. In addition,
the report states that ad hoc international expertise was used to conclude the
preparation of this report (CEDAW Report 2004: 3). The report was presented by one delegate, namely the permanent representative of Turkmenistan
to the UN in New York. Compared with Kyrgyzstan, none of the authors of
the report traveled to New York to detail the status of implementation of the
CEDAW in Turkmenistan.
A close reading of the report reveals that it is a description of laws and
policies, often lacking evidence of their impact to improve the de facto situation of Turkmen women. Furthermore, lack of comparative analysis and data
that would suggest the trends and tendencies of the situation for women further weakens the quality of the report. A close reading shows some inconsistencies. On one hand the report postulated that women can combine
professional and family life, and on the other, that women, especially in the
rural areas, are expected to raise children and care for the household.
The dialogue between the Turkmen delegate and the CEDAW Committee
has been productive in bringing these issues to the forefront and expressing
expectations for change and improvement in governmental policies that
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
would advance the lives of women in practical terms. The following is a brief
summary of the first periodic report of Turkmenistan that substantiates the
above-mentioned points.
According to the report the status of women is on an upward trend, and a
declining birthrate is interpreted by the government as a “social orientation of
women’s reproductive behavior, as the scope of their interests ceases to be
limited to the family” (CEDAW Report 2004: 5). However, the marriage age
for women is 16, which is under the international standard of 18 years. A low
marriage age stimulates early marriages, reduces educational opportunities
and as a consequence leads to lower paid jobs or a higher potential for
women to become full-time homemakers since, “traditionally, for Turkmen
women, the family hearth, husband and children have been the highest value”
(CEDAW Report 2004: 22). This attitude is reinforced by the high value
society places on women rearing their children at home, which in reality
comes at the expense of sacrificing personal development and the ability to be
economically independent. The traditions under which rural women live
assign “a determinative role in caring for children, their education, and
maintaining the household” (CEDAW Committee 2004: 44).
The return to “pre-Soviet” values for women as described was part of a
broader effort to present a national set of values alternative to those of the
Soviet era. As such it was integral in intense nation-building efforts and
dominated the media and the mainstream political discourse. Looking at
employment, job segregation stereotypes—regarding women’s and men’s
expected professional paths and the distinction between easy and difficult or
dangerous jobs—are still applicable, with women being assigned to public
health, social services, education, and general services, deemed the “easy
path.” This makes the assessment of “equal job for equal pay” difficult. The
report explains that “the special character of women’s employment is determined to a significant degree by her reproductive functions” (CEDAW Report
2004: 34). However, unlike Kyrgyzstan, some sectors dominated by women,
such as the light industry, are not closing down in Turkmenistan but are
expanding, thus providing higher paid job opportunities to women, albeit in
traditional areas of employment. This was a consequence of the government
switching from being exclusively an exporter of raw materials, such as oil, gas,
cotton, to exporting ready-made products, especially in the textile industry.
The dialogue between the CEDAW Committee and the Turkmen delegate
also focused on other major concerns such as the delay in reporting, the lack
of examples of the use of the CEDAW in Turkmen courts, lack of gender
disaggregated data and absence of references on violence against women or
trafficking. The Turkmen delegate conveyed that the delay in reporting was
due to technical difficulties, and assured the Committee that the courts are
aware of the CEDAW and it is being quoted in court cases, though supporting
evidence for these statements was not presented by the delegate. Regarding
the lack of disaggregated data in the report, the Turkmen delegate “admitted
that the National Institute of Statistics did not collect exhaustive data to
Internalization of universal norms
monitor progress in the promotion of gender equality” (UN General Assembly 2006: 7) thus bypassing a crucial guideline for report preparation. Further
explanations highlighted that violence against women, while not widespread,
remains an issue in the private sphere. The delegate promised that subsequent
reports would include data on the status of women, which would mean a
stricter monitoring of aspects of the status of women in Turkmenistan.
In conclusion, the dialogue on the implementation of the CEDAW has
been started by Turkmenistan, but what has been presented so far only
represents the government’s views. It is highly desirable that the voices of civil
organizations in the country be added to the formal channel for the CEDAW
Committee to be able to clarify the impact of the Convention on the lives of
women and girls in Turkmenistan. Since the third report is due in 2010, we
are unable to offer a comparative analysis as we did in the case of the Kyrgyz
republic. However, a comparative analysis of the emerging issues that the
CEDAW Committee recommended to Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan reveals
that Kyrgyzstan fared better in the realm of formal indicators while striking
similarities remain in both Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan’s implementation of
practical indicators in substantive areas such as health, violence against
women, maintenance of cultural customs and traditions, trafficking, and the
role of women in decision-making. However, since Turkmenistan did not
monitor the situation of women’s rights as stipulated in the CEDAW, it is left
with specific issues that Kyrgyzstan has already addressed, such as the ratification of the Optional Protocol, establishment of a stable institutional
mechanism that monitors all forms of discrimination against women and
ethnic minorities, and providing an opening for effective development of a
dialogue with women’s organizations.
International and domestic sources of financing for gender equality
We argue that the internalization of norms is enabled by direct international
support. In the following, we review the availability of international funding
to support the reporting processes in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan from
1997 to 2006. Technical assistance and funding during this period had been
considerably higher in Kyrgyzstan than in Turkmenistan. This difference was
caused by the perception of international organizations that Kyrgyzstan was
an “island of democracy” in Central Asia even when democracy started to
deteriorate in the country (Motyl 2001:1).18 President Akayev presented
himself as a democratic leader striving to create a democratic country among
more authoritarian neighboring regimes, ensuring that Kyrgyzstan became
one of the major aid recipients in Central Asia (Huskey 2002).
Furthermore, during the first few years after accession to the CEDAW,
Kyrgyzstan established a State Commission of Family, Youth and Women,
charged among others to integrate the implementation of the Beijing Platform
of Action (BPA) with the CEDAW. On average, the government funded 30
per cent of this National Action Plan annually to follow up on the BPA and
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
the CEDAW. Foreign aid to Turkmenistan decreased because the international community saw no progress in democratization and restructuring of the
economy. For instance, “in April 2000, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) took the unprecedented step of suspending its
public sector lending programmes to Turkmenistan on the basis of the government’s unwillingness to implement agreed upon structural reforms”
(Gleason 2001: 177). As a result, the international community made successive
moves to cut technical assistance in Turkmenistan. Table 9.1 shows the total
net development assistance (ODA) as reported to Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development/Development Assistance Committee (OECD/
DAC) received by Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan (see OECD).
Tables 9.1 and 9.2 clearly show that the international perception of freedom
and democracy played an important role in the quantity of development
assistance disbursed to Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. This situation could
explain the delays in implementation of international requirements primarily
focused on human rights and security that would have benefited people at
large during the first decade of transition in Turkmenistan. While the ODA
funding for Turkmenistan was minimal, that for Kyrgyzstan proved insufficient for long-term socialization of norms, given the recurrence of issues
found in the COs issued by the CEDAW Committee in 1999 and 2004.
Table 9.1 Official development assistance received by Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan
(US$ million)
Kyrgyz Republic
Source: Nations in Transit, 1998: Civil Society, Democracy and Markets in East Central Europe and the Newly Independent States by Adrian Karatnytsky, Alexander
Motyl, Charles Graybow, 1999, Turkmenistan,
html; Kyrgyzstan,; Freedom House, Freedom
in the World Comparative Rankings: 1973–2005,
Table 9.2 Freedom ranking in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz Republic
Source: Nations in Transit, 1998: Civil Society, Democracy and Markets in East Central Europe and the Newly Independent States by Adrian Karatnytsky, Alexander
Motyl, Charles Graybow, 1999, Turkmenistan,
html; Kyrgyzstan,; Freedom House, Freedom in the World Comparative Rankings: 1973-2005,
Internalization of universal norms
Progressive views on gender equality as stipulated in the CEDAW were
internalized by the growing NGO sector in Kyrgyzstan, but not by a critical
mass of women, who remain largely unaware of their rights under international norms. Driven by national building efforts in both countries, pre-Soviet
norms drawing from Islamic norms and values and customary law re-emerged
as strong parameters that impact women’s lives.
Impact of pre-Soviet norms on women’s lives: customary law and
Islamic resurgence
Domestic standards that rely on the revival of traditional cultural values
stemming from pre-Soviet tribal customary law (adat) and Islamic norms
place women in unequal relationships to men and hamper the implementation of
the CEDAW. The CEDAW Committee has emphasized these factors in the case
of both Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan and they remain a present concern.
The manifestations of a reinstated vigor of the Islamic faith mainly regulate
women’s and girls’ lives and choices. Most of the time, the various forms and
traditional practices stemming from Islam (e.g., polygamy) and the customary
law, adat, (kalym, ala kachuu or bride kidnapping, checking the bride’s virginity) impact the full realization of women’s human rights in these countries
(Kleinbach et al. 2005; Tabyshalieva 1998). For example, the revival of Islamic religious norms even opened discussions about legalizing polygamy in
both Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. In both countries polygamy is illegal, but
authorities turn a blind eye when it is taking place.
Some of the “new” businessmen and politicians who have become rich,
whether traditionalists or simply desiring to revive all that is “national,”
mention the legalization of polygamy as a kind of gentle ancestral custom
or the sign of a good Muslim.
(Tabyshalieva 1997: 59)
The modern justification of polygamy is connected to the poor economic
situation of many young women who could be sponsored by already married
rich men. These men, the argument goes, are so resourceful that they could
support several households and could alleviate the problem of unemployment
among young women. The issue is more complex, given the efforts of the
political leaders to increase the number of the titular ethnic group. Thus:
it is clear that in every Central Asian republic, the politicians think
how to increase the number of the titular nation. Sometimes, a simple
recipe is offered—plural marriage. Some, for instance in Kyrgyzstan,
declare that it is vital to increase the number of Kyrgyz through the
introduction of polygamy; a heated discussion on this subject has even
arisen in parliament
(Tabyshalieva 1997:59; see also Tabyshalieva 1998: 110–11)
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
Marriage through matchmaking has some Islamic resonance but draws from
the customary law of the nomads as well. Likewise, an increase in “bride
kidnapping” in Kyrgyzstan is alarming since it is a form of violence against
women and a harsh violation of women’s rights (CEDAW Report 2002: 25).19
Recent research indicates that bride kidnapping is in direct violation of Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which states
that “marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the
intending spouses”; it violates Article 1 and 16 of CEDAW, which obliges
states to take measures against violence against women (Article 1) and the
Article 155 of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, stating that:
forcing a woman to marry or to continue a marriage or kidnapping her in
order to marry without her consent, … is subject to punishment in form
of a fine in the amount of 100 to 200 minimal wages per month or to
imprisonment up to five years.
(Kleinbach et al. 2005: 199)
Duishevaeva undertook a critical investigation of why Kyrgyz people
(mostly men) maintain what she calls “negative traditions” (kalym, bride
kidnapping, levirate, checking the bride’s virginity). Her findings suggest three
some people said that we could not say anything bad about our traditions
because they are spiritual wealth left to us by our forefathers and that
we should respect them all, even if they are harmful. Some claimed that
they do not see anything terrible in keeping such traditions and approximately all the people who told me so were males. The third type was a
very patriotic group of people who said that there is a piquancy about
these traditions. Surprisingly, most of them were of my same age (young
adult) and all of them have been abroad.
(Duishevaeva 2004: 1)
Thus, the Islamic resurgence in Central Asia is central to the analysis of the
status of women. The Central Asian states want to appear modern while
reviving traditions and culture that burden women with inequality. From
this it follows that the official political standing on women’s roles is ambiguous. On the one hand women are equal in law with men and discrimination
on the grounds of sex is forbidden, while on the other hand women are
represented as mothers and wives whose primary roles are to reproduce and
maintain the family. Lack of an unambiguous political stand on women’s
rights by the political leadership in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan gives mixed
messages to their constituencies and to the international community. Thus, in
both Kyrgyzstan and in Turkmenistan, nationalistic discourses are found
to be restrictive for the implementation of the global gender norms held by
the CEDAW.
Internalization of universal norms
There is a real struggle over norms guiding gender roles in both the Kyrgyz
and Turkmen societies. The pre-Soviet norms are gaining ground supported
by an emerging Islamization of these societies. For Kyrgyzstan, international
norms are understood and to a certain degree reflected in the “state” and
legal bodies. The relative openness of the Kyrgyz society allows for articulation of women’s rights and some self-organized participation in society. In
Turkmen society, Soviet norms were upheld on the surface and used to
demonstrate adherence to international norms. However, in reality pre-Soviet
norms are taking over and dominate both the discourse and the reality of
women’s lives in Turkmenistan. Furthermore, there is no presence of multiple
state actors or non-governmental actors, leading to the conclusion that the
socialization of CEDAW-related norms were weakest in Turkmenistan.
The analysis of the CEDAW reporting and the intergovernmental process
related to it suggests that Finnemore is right in looking at socialization of
international norms as a function of the relative interests of the nation-states
involved. The link between nation building and the importance of both
countries acting in accordance with international agreements have led these
countries to report on compliance with the CEDAW. However, when we look
at this matter more substantively, it turned out that at least three other
country-level issues mattered a great deal in shaping both the reporting and
the actual socialization of norms related to the CEDAW. First, the level of
funding available (both international and national) was important to support
the institutional underpinning and the actual socialization of the norms.
Second, the forming of the nation-state and the influence of norms from preSoviet times directly and negatively influenced that actual level of socialization. This factor is prevalent in both countries. However, the international
political isolation of Turkmenistan and sustained efforts of the Niyazov
regime to use their version of history to legitimize the “strong Presidency”
allowed pre-Soviet norms to be the dominant voice in the internal political
discourse around understanding women in society. Third, the role of general
political openness and presence of NGOs appear to have some impact on
socialization and general discourse around the CEDAW norms. In conclusion, so far, Kyrgyzstan has in relative terms developed a higher level of
socialization of the CEDAW norms.
While the first rounds of CEDAW reporting do not allow us to generalize,
at the same time indications from Kyrgyzstan since 2005 do suggest a decline
in pluralism, which has already resulted in having no women in parliament.
This is an extreme marginalization of women’s political participation. If this
trend continues to deepen, then our findings remain valid that funding, pluralism, and pre-Soviet norms are indeed important internal parameters to
understand the socialization of CEDAW norms. However, the changes in
Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan’s political regimes experienced in the last two
years show some encouraging signs. In Kyrgyzstan, the Bakiyev government
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
has again submitted on time its third periodic report to the CEDAW Committee in 2006. Furthermore, the new government has experimented with
establishing an interdepartmental body for treaty body reporting, introduced
a quota policy that gives opportunities for women’s participation in high
political decision-making, and adopted a new National Action Plan on
advancement of women for gender equality.
The new Turkmen government has recently established a high-level interdepartmental commission mandated to ensure that Turkmenistan complies
with its international obligations in the area of human rights, which seems to
be an encouraging sign of commitment from the government to systematically
engage in constructive dialogue with the monitoring bodies on human rights.
During its first session, held in September 2007, this interdepartmental
commission drafted a clear goal to prepare both the overdue and upcoming
periodic reports up to 2010.
Both Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan are currently in need of new external
financing that would be required to develop and systematically update—in
particular in Turkmenistan—a set of gender-disaggregated data to allow for
actual analysis that informs domestic policy. To support these processes,
international organizations need to establish better connections between
norms and development strategies. We believe that international organizations’ sustained work building national capabilities for inclusiveness and
acceptance of pluralism in society may halt further deterioration of women’s
rights in these two countries. Furthermore, investments in advocating and
building capacity to uphold the rule of law may have similar positive impacts.
Otherwise, we remain pessimistic about the socialization of international
norms in general and CEDAW norms in particular to benefit the people of
the two countries under study.
1 We wish to thank the editors of this book and Liva Biseniece for their comments
on the manuscript. Jennifer Chmura of Niagara University is also acknowledged
for research assistance.
2 Treaty bodies are committees of experts that monitor the implementation of the
main international human rights conventions.
3 During the Soviet times, the customary law practices such as the bride price and
underage marriage were outlawed, along with the Islamic practice of polygamy.
4 I am adapting Peletz’s (1997) term here. In this chapter, Islamic nationalism is a
multidimensional paradigm, whereas culture, religion, and customs, combined with
newer political discourses are the forces that regulate women’s and men’s roles in
unequal, yet powerful ways.
5 The “most similar systems” are studies of “concomitant variation” and are based
on the belief that systems as similar as possible with respect to as many characteristics as possible constitute the optimal samples for comparative inquiry.
“Intersystemic similarities and intersystemic differences are the focus of ‘most
similar systems’ designs. Systems constitute the original level of analysis, and
within-system variations are explained in terms of systemic factors … Common
systemic characteristics are conceived as controlled for, whereas intersystemic
Internalization of universal norms
differences are viewed as explanatory variables. The number of common characteristics sought is maximal and the number of unshared characteristics sought,
minimal (Przeworski and Teune 1970: 30).”
Turkmenistan’s territory is 488,100 km2 while Kyrgyzstan is 199,900 km2 their
population is similar in size, i.e., 5,110,023 and 5,264,00, respectively. Both Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan share a common Soviet legacy of state socialism and
centralized economy. Both are semi-nomadic tribes of Turkic origin, Muslim, and
share the tribal customary law, adat.
Several UN resolutions condemned the violations of human rights in Turkmenistan that eventually triggered an opening to collaborate on treaty body reporting.
President Akayev was ousted from office in 2005, while in Turkmenistan the death
of President Niyazov was followed by elections in 2007, with President Berdimuhammedov being elected as the President. The Kyrgyz government maintains its
commitment toward democratization while the new Turkmen president seems more
receptive to follow up more systematically and to start implementing the international commitments on human rights that the government of Turkmenistan agreed
to under his predecessor.
CEDAW is the only binding international instrument that monitors the socialization of norms of gender equality in the domestic legislation of the signatory states.
A state that has ratified CEDAW is obliged to report to the CEDAW Committee, on
its implementation a year after its endorsement. If this is not feasible, a combined
first and second report may be submitted four years after its ratification.
A national machinery—namely the State Committee on Family, Youth, and
Women—was set up in Kyrgyzstan within the office of the prime minister in 1996.
This structure was dissolved and replaced with the National Council on Women,
Family and Gender Development, placed under the president’s jurisdiction in 2001.
An Interministerial Coordinating Council was set up in Turkmenistan in 1998, and
lasted until 2001.
The basis for differentiating between formal and practical indicators is to make the
point that reporting, as an end in itself is not sufficient. In other words, monitoring
of women’s rights through periodic reporting is meaningless if practical implementation measures that give evidence that women’s status has improved as a
result, is missing.
This observation triggered the development of a National Programme “Human
Rights” for the period 2002–10 that came into effect on January 2002. However,
due to the regime change of 2005, this programmed is currently inactive.
This issue is detailed later in the chapter.
Review of the second periodic CEDAW report reveals that a strategy for combating
violence against women was being designed; the statistics on women victims of
violence was not yet standardized and not enough funding was allocated from the
state budget to alleviate this issue. Furthermore, there is no system to monitor the
number of women that go abroad for trafficking purposes which renders analysis
Namely the Kyrgyz Republic Law on Social and Legal Protection against Violence in
the Family came into being as a result of NGO activism, by using their constitutional
right to popular initiative that stipulated that on gathering 30,000 signatures a
draft law can be considered by the Parliament. Thus, this law banning violence
against women came into being and was passed through parliament in 2003.
According to the CEDAW Report of 2002, around 10 crisis centers and shelters
were available for female victims of violence. Official data from this report states
that around 30,000 female victims of various forms of violence approached these
centers and used their services.
This has changed recently, and in 2006, the new government announced the
introduction of quotas for administrative appointees.
I. Liczek and J. Wandel
18 In his essay prefacing the Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2001 report, Alexander Motyl clusters the post-Soviet countries in three tiers democracy, despotism,
and something in between. In this categorization, Kyrgyzstan remains in the “middle
tier,” while Turkmenistan is in the least democratically advanced countries.
19 Data on bride theft is scarce; the Second CEDAW Periodic Report notes that both
bride theft and polygamy occur but are not subject to legal prosecution in practice.
According to data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 18 cases of bride theft
were recorded in 2001, double the number recorded in 2000.
CEDAW (1979) Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,
Article 2, 1–13, UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. < www. > 1–13. (accessed 3 November 2006).
CEDAW Committee (1999) Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Kyrgyzstan, UN Document, A/54/38,
paras 95–142.
—— (2004) Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination Against Women, Kyrgyzstan, UN Document, A/59/38, paras 142–78.
CEDAW Report (1998) “Initial report of the Kyrgyz Republic under the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women,” New York: CEDAW/C/KGZ.
——(2002) “Second Periodic Report, Kyrgyzstan,” New York: CEDAW/C/KGZ.
——(2004) “Report of Turkmenistan Regarding the
Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women,” New York: CEDAW/C/TKM/1–2, 22 November 2004.
——Commission on the Status of Women (1972a) “International Instruments and
National Standards Relating to the Status of Women,” E/CN.6/573, 15 February
——(1972b) E/CN.6/L.599/Rev. 3, 23 February 1972, “International Instruments and
National Standards Relating to the Status of Women, Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics Draft Resolution,” E/CN.6/L.599/Rev. 3, 23 February 1972.
——Council of NGOs (2003) “Alternative Report to the Second Periodic Report by
the Kyrgyz Republic to the CEDAW Committee.”
Duishevaeva, A. (2004) “Negative Traditions in Kyrgyz Culture,” unpublished essay
(courtesy of R. Kleinbach), Bishkek: American University of Central Asia, Bishkek.
Finnemore, M. (1996) National Interests in International Society, Ithaca: Cornell
University Press.
Freedom House (2005) Freedom in the World Comparative Rankings: 1973–2005, 1–2.
< > (accessed 12 October
Gleason, G. (2001) “Foreign policy and domestic reform in Central Asia,” Central
Asian Survey, 20: 167–82.
Huskey, E. (2002) “An economy of authoritarianism? Askar Akaev and presidential
leadership in Kyrgyzstan,” in S. Cummings (ed.) Power and Change in Central Asia,
London and New York: Routledge.
Kardam, N. (2004) “The Emerging Global Gender Equality Regime from Neoliberal
and Constructivist Perspectives in International Relations,” International Feminist
Journal of Politics, 6: 85–109.
Internalization of universal norms
——(2005) Turkey’s Engagement with Global Women’s Human Rights, Aldershot:
Ashgate Publishers.
Karatnytsky, A., Graybow, C., and Motyl, A. (1999) “Nations in Transit, 1998: Civil
Society, Democracy and Markets in East Central Europe and the Newly Independent
States.” < > (accessed on 12 October 2006).
Keck, M. and Sikkink, K. (1998) Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in
International Politic, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Kleinbach, R., Ablezova, M. and Aitieva, M. (2005) “Kidnapping for marriage (ala
kachuu) in a Kyrgz village,” Central Asian Survey, 24: 191–202.
Moghadam, V. M. (1994) “Introduction: Women and Identity Politics in Theoretical
and Comparative Perspective,” in V. M. Moghadam (ed.) Identity Politics and
Women: Cultural Reassertions and Feminisms in International Perspective, Boulder:
Westview Press.
Motyl, A. J. (2001) “Ten Years After the Soviet Collapse: Persistence of the Past and
Prospects for the Future,” 1–6. <
cover-materials/essay2.htm > 1–6 (accessed 10 December 2005).
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “Official Development Assistance (ODA)-Disbursement by Recipients and Type.” <
default.aspx?DatasetCode=TABLE%202A > (accessed 29 January 2007)
Peletz, M. G. (1997) “‘Ordinary Muslims’ and Muslim Resurgents in Contemporary
Malaysia: Notes on an Ambivalent Relationship,” in R.I. Hefner and P. Horvatich
(eds) Islam in an Era of Nation States: Politics and Religious Renewal in Muslim
Southeast Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
UN Development Programme/Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of
Independent States (1998) Poverty in Transition? New York: UNDP/RBEC.
Przeworski, A. and Teune, H. (1970) The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry, New
York: John Wiley & Sons.
Rimby, M. (2004) Reproductive Decision-Making in Kyrgyzsta: A Qualitative Study
among Young Urban Women, MA Thesis, Gothenburg: Nordic School of Public
Health Gothenburg.
Risse, T, Ropp, S. and Sikkink, K. (eds) (1999) The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tabyshalieva, A. (1997) “Women of Central Asia and the Fertility Cult,” Anthropology
and Archeology of Eurasia, 36: 45–62.
——(1998) Otrazhenie vo vremeni: zametki k istorii polozheniya zhenshin Tsentralnoi
Azii. Bishek: SOROS.
True, J. (2005) “Feminism,” in A.J. Bellamy (ed.) International Society and Its Critics,
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
UNDAW (1994) “International Standards of Equality and Religious Freedom: Implications for the Status of Women,” in V. M. Moghadam (ed.) Identity Politics and
Women: Cultural Reassertions and Feminisms in International Perspective, Boulder:
Westview Press.
UN General Assembly (2006) “Concluding Considerations of Turkmenistan’s Report,
Women’s Anti-discrimination Committee Highlights Difficulties in Assessing Progress,” GA WOM/1558, UN Department of Public Information. News and Media
Division, New York. < > (accessed
29 May 2006).
10 Education in Central Asia
Transitional challenges and impacts
Carolyn Kissane
The Central Eurasian region is engaged in a difficult process of transition,
renewal, and redefinition. The former Soviet Socialist Republics of Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan provide provocative
cases from which to examine the relationship between political transition and
its impact on the educational systems of the region. The year 1991 marked a
significant shift for the region, when each of the five republics which had
formerly existed as part of the larger Soviet Union became independent.
Terms such as transition and transformation have been used to describe the
period following this historical juncture in the region’s history; however, the
more accurate term for the changes made to the educational programs might
best be described as tinkering. The reality of the region’s educational transition
is mixed. In some places it is hard to imagine the Soviet period ever existed;
change has been monumental, but in other areas, the changes have been incremental at best and regressive in the worst way. It is possible to visit schools
where there is at least one computer in every classroom, talk with teachers
using highly interactive teaching methods and versed in the latest educational
methodologies, and where students are taking a full range of courses with
resources to meet their learning needs. However, these examples are more the
exception than the rule; most schools struggle to pay teachers, provide textbooks and heating, and may be working on double or even triple school shifts.
There is no singular educational narrative in place, and this heterogeneous
context significantly affects studies of education in the Central Asian region.
The purpose of this examination therefore is to bring education out of the
periphery and into the discussion of the large-scale societal change in the
region. The cases presented in this chapter highlight the exacerbated tensions
of transition when economic and political commitments are mixed, and when
necessary educational resources to support both access and quality are not in
place. A review of policies shows that while significant educational reforms
exist on paper, the overriding concerns of governments for concentrating
power and decreasing support for a public good such as education have
assured that large-scale state-sponsored educational change is a process of
tinkering, but not transformation. This ongoing process has developed into a
splintering effect at work in education, where some groups can take
Education in Central Asia
advantage of educational opportunity because of their ethnic ties to the
nation via their titular status, or because their wealth affords them either the
option of accessing the best of the system, or seeking opportunity in the private
education sector. The impacts on the region of such increasingly stratified and
poor-quality education systems have the potential to be particularly destabilizing because education is indispensable for effective and active political and
economic participation (Tomasevski 2003).
There is no standardized educational policy approach across the region,
and the differences between the five states are important for a fair analysis,
but each state faces similar challenges in aligning their systems with educational reform requirements for the twenty-first century. This chapter provides
first, a brief historical and contemporary comparative overview of education
in the five states, focusing specifically on access, quality, and the various
ethno-nationalizing policies implemented in the early years after independence. Second, it explores the influence of outside factors on the educational
landscape, and, lastly, it considers how the issue of corruption pervades the
region’s institutions, and heavily impacts the management and quality of
education. How these five countries choose to negotiate and direct educational change has important implications for the region’s future, including
political and economic development, ethnic relations, and the overall stability
and security of the region.
As a comparative educator and specialist in the Central Asian region it is
important to explore the ways in which the former Soviet republics address
and develop their education systems. Information for this chapter is drawn
from a mixture of interviews, classroom observations, policy documents, and
secondary literature sources. Data were collected between 2000 and 2006
during six separate research visits to the region. In order to study the educational trajectories of the five countries of examination since 1991, I reviewed
educational policy documents from the various Ministries of Education,
interviewed the former Minister of Education in Kazakhstan, Deputy Minister of Education in the Kyrgyz republic, conducted 15 interviews with students and teachers and observed classroom lessons at the secondary school
level in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Context: educational transition
In his research on educational transition, Birzea stresses, “the post-Communist transition is concerned with the totalitarian system of government which
dominated for over fifty years in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet
Union into ‘its exact political ideological and economic opposite,’ identified
as the open society” (Birzea 1994: 4). Sixteen years into the “post-Communist
transition,” open society is still not a term that would aptly describe the current political or societal landscape of the countries under study. The former
Soviet system has disintegrated in name only; many of the same structures
remain in place, and this is especially true in the area of education. Hofmeyr
C. Kissane
and Buckland, in their research on education and political change argue,
“education systems do not change just because there is a change in government” (Hofmeyr and Buckland 1992: 17). The post-Soviet educational landscape examined for this study is in some ways strikingly similar to the pre-1991
period; while a number of new policies and calls for improved teaching and
learning practices are in place, the translation of these policies and practices
into action has been slow and incremental. There are many exciting cases of
individual schools and teachers implementing innovative strategies, but they
are isolated best-practice examples of how schools can promote an open
society. The broader picture unfortunately remains one of a system constrained by limited human and financial resources, and this situation is
further aggravated by the absence of political will.
It is critical for this examination to recognize the strong educational foundation that existed during the Soviet period. The region of Central Asia had
the least developed infrastructure and weakest formal education system
within the Soviet Union in the first half of the twentieth century. The Russians and later the Soviets understood that education had the greatest potential for secularizing this predominantly Muslim region, and for fostering
allegiance to first Russia, and later Marxist–Leninist ideology. The level of
literacy in the region rose from the single digits in the early twentieth century
to almost universal literacy by the early 1980s. There were great disparities
across the five republics. For example, Kazakhstan was the most Russified
and educationally developed, while Tajikistan remained the poorest and most
educationally underdeveloped. Both universal access and the promotion of
gender equality were supported. The Soviet system of education consisted of
a highly centralized public administration of education, with each republic
housing a small ministry of education that implemented the directives from
Moscow. Science and mathematics programs were considered to be some of
the best in the world; these two subjects were emphasized, beginning in the
lower primary grades and became more specialized as students moved into
secondary school. The humanities and social sciences were heavily laden with
Marxist–Leninist ideology (Kanaev and Daun 2002; Chapman et al. 2005).
The Soviet schooling system was described as “among the strongest educational systems in the world,” as well as “fundamental,” having “stood the test
of time,” and “even in its weakened state, second to none” (Asanova 2006: 659).
The region inherited a comprehensive educational system, including kindergartens, boarding schools, special education schools, schools for gifted children, in addition to primary, secondary, higher educational, and vocational
schools. Formal systems of education existed in each of the republics.
With independence, each country set out to establish separate systems. The
enormity of such a project after almost 70 years of working within the larger
Soviet educational framework was tremendous. Each country faced the challenges of redefining the curriculum, organization, and governance of schools
(DeYoung and Suzhikova 1997: 22). Because of the sharp decline in revenues,
educational institutions fell victim to budget cuts.
Education in Central Asia
The years immediately following the dissolution of the Soviet Union were
economically devastating, and since educational change requires budgetary
allocations for reform, most of the reforms had to be initiated by the international community. The democratization rhetoric of the governments was
not supported in policy, or in practice. Educational reforms focusing on
decentralization, cooperative learning, student-centered teaching approaches,
and critical thinking were designed and funded through international assistance programs. Yet few of the actual reforms were set into policy by the
respective governments. McLeish notes:
To effect a comprehensive change in practice is very difficult, especially
when engaged in a process of transition which has democracy as its aim.
It would be hypocritical to employ authoritarian tools in an effort to
secure democratic practices.
(McLeish and Phillips 1998: 19)
In early proclamations following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new
governments in these young countries underscored the importance of education
in developing independent national identities and establishing strong postSoviet trajectories for economic and political development. The educational
reforms during the first decade of the region’s independence called explicitly
for national self-determination, more market-oriented and decentralized systems, and the establishment of humanitarian principles within the educational
sector. What this meant, in effect, was a move away from the Soviet system of
education towards the creation of independent national curricula, content,
and management. The emphasis in the early years focused on de-Russifying
the system through changes in language laws to support the national titular
language, as well as revising and rewriting history textbooks to reflect the
more nationalistic consciousness of the new states of Central Asia. Dual discourses were emerging with support for strengthening national identity through
titular national preferences in language, history, and access while at the same
time proclaiming democratization of the educational system.
The democratic rhetoric of the early transition period was heavily influenced by international organizations and governments, especially the USA
and European Union, which responded in 1991 with a number of educational
initiatives to support decentralization and civil society development. School
and community programs were implemented on the ground through international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As the recipients
of democratic assistance money, the Central Asian countries quickly learned
how to integrate the new vernacular into their policy talk. However, problems
emerged in the delivery and implementation of democratic initiatives in the
education sector. The governments talked about policy in terms of opportunities for openness and greater financial investment in education in order to
improve the position of the citizenry. Yet as the results of this regional survey
indicate, none of the states has matched the rhetoric with significant financial
C. Kissane
assistance to the educational sector (Kissane 2005: 57). Ultimately, the degradation
of overall education quality and access means that the region (maybe with the
exception of Kazakhstan) will not have in place an educated and skilled
citizenry to meet the changing global challenges of the twenty-first century.
The results of Central Asia’s educational transition do not reveal a strong
showing in the area of democratization and improvement of educational
indicators. In two of the five states, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the situation has greatly deteriorated, with leadership under two autocratic dictators
showing complete disregard for human rights and the rule of law. Tajikistan
remains the poorest and most underdeveloped, having suffered a five-year
civil war (1992–97), and it is only now beginning to show improvement in the
areas of poverty alleviation and improved government integration. Kyrgyzstan is somewhere in the middle, showing progress in some key reform areas.
Yet the instability of the current regime could lead to a reversal in direction.
Kazakhstan is the one that stands out in the region, with the strongest economy, sporting annual growth rates of more than 9 percent, and the most
stable political system. It also boasts the most significant natural resources in
the region and is considered, along with Russia, a significant non-OPEC
(Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil producer.
Influence of ethno-nationalizing policies on education
In addition to the economic and political challenges facing education, the
systems also confront issues of national identity, history, and language. Since
gaining independence, each newly independent state has set out to forge a
national identity separate from that of the Soviet period. The post-Soviet
education changes in language of instruction, history education, and the new
importance placed on ethnic symbols and traditions in schools is part of what
are referred to as the implementation of ethno-national policies in schools.
The dissolution of the USSR set into motion a redefining and reaffirming of
national identity that focused on the ethnic over the multicultural. The areas
where this was most easily achieved were in the areas of language of instruction
and history education. In the area of language, the question of alphabet and
language of instruction have both been powerful and contentious educational
issues impacting social cohesion.
The alphabets of Central Asia have gone through multiple changes over the
last century: Arabic (1923–29), Latin (1929–40), and Cyrillic after 1940.
Stalin mandated the use of Cyrillic in order to better unify the federation, but
in the 1980s there were calls for a return to national languages, as well as
demand for a change in scripts. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan retain the use of
Cyrillic. Kazakh is the official language of Kazakhstan, but most citizens
speak Russian, which remains the second official language of the state. Kyrgyzstan tried to make Kyrgyz the exclusive state language, but changed the
law in early 2000 to allow for both Russian and Kyrgyz. Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan have moved to using the Latin alphabet and have made Turkmen
Education in Central Asia
and Uzbek official languages. Tajikistan moved to Arabic and Tajik is the
official language. There are seven different languages of instruction used
across Uzbekistan with over 91 per cent of schools using Uzbek, three per
cent Karakalpak, and only 1.2 per cent now offering instruction in Russian.
The government’s policy around language supports national consolidation
and favors ethnic Uzbeks over non-Uzbeks, but the government’s support for
the Uzbek language over Russian has caused severe difficulties in the area of
Uzbek textbooks and educational materials, which remain in short supply.
The Central Asian states moved towards making the titular language the
national or official state language, and great energy went into rewriting history to tell another version of the Soviet narrative. In order to understand the
processes and outcomes of ethno-nationalism within educational policies, it is
important to look at the approaches taken by the five Central Asian republics.
Kazakhstan is an interesting case to study some of the issues involved in the
tension between promoting a more ethno-national educational project versus
a more multicultural civic-oriented national project. Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan share similar backgrounds approaching the language
and history question within education.
The issue of religion deserves special mention in the context of education in
Central Asia. Citizens of the region are predominantly Muslims, though each
of the countries publicly promotes secularism. Uzbekistan has actively sought
to stifle any religious movements the government deems threatening to its
hold on power. The governments seek to limit and implement stricter controls
over Islamic practice. Radical changes occurred after 1991, with a religious
revival and the opening of both old and new mosques, the re-establishment of
religious schools, and a surge in the interest around the study and practice of
Islam. In the early 1990s through the end of the decade, money came from
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan to support religious education, both in
the formal context of schooling, as well as through informal after-school
programs. Over the last four years, the governments of Central Asia have
imposed restrictions on religious organizations and funding from abroad for
the establishment of religious schools. New laws limit funding, actions, and
operations, and not only do both the governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan prohibit religious education of any kind in state schools, they have
made it more difficult to get approval for opening up private schools that
promote a religious ideology. Turkmenistan bans the practice of all religions
except Russian Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam. Religious education
therefore has taken on more covert forms through the establishment of afterschool religious education programs that are more difficult to control because
they are outside the formal institutional structures.
Access and quality: regional overview
Examining some educational and social indicators for the region illustrates
the challenges facing the five states in this survey. According to the UN
C. Kissane
Human Development Index, the five states still suffer from what is referred to
as middle to low human development. Four of the five republics rank high on
education indicators, but it is important to note that enrollment and access to
quality education has diminished for large sectors of the population, especially
those in rural areas and the urban poor. The gross enrollment ratio (GER)
has decreased for each of the five states since 1991. In Tajikistan the decrease
is dramatic, and much of this is the result of the civil war and the ongoing
economic problems facing the republic. According to the Freedom House
Survey (2005), Freedom in the World, not one of the five republics is considered
free, revealing a very poor record protecting civil liberties and political rights.
Data for four of the five countries under study show a decline in government
expenditure for education as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)
and the Freedom in the World rankings indicate weak to non-existent civil societies,
as well as the continuation of authoritarian governments (Table 10.1).
Compared with those of developing countries, educational indicators in the
former Soviet republics, including those in Central Asia are generally still
strong. Adult literacy rates are close to 100 percent, basic education enrollment and completion rates are high, and a substantial network of schools and
universities remains intact. Yet compared regionally, primary and secondary
enrollments are lower in Central Asia than in other Eurasian countries, with
noticeable declines in upper secondary education (with the exception of
Uzbekistan). Several reasons cause the precipitous decline in education quality
and opportunity, including insufficient government resources directed towards
education, lack of internal capacities within the ministries and local educational offices, and a long list of inchoate policies that create more obstacles
than opportunities for positive educational change. Materials for learning
improvements and school renovations are limited, particularly in rural areas.
During the Soviet period, expenditure on education was much higher, and
for all five countries, funding for education has dropped off precipitously,
Table 10.1 Tracking socio-economic and political developments
on education
(% of GDP)
Corruption Freedom in the
perception World (2006)
Not free
Partly free
Not free
Not free
Not free
Sources: United Nations Development Programme 2006; Freedom House 2006;
Transparency International 2007.
Notes: HDI, human development index; GDP, gross domestic product; GER, gross
enrollment ratio.
Education in Central Asia
undermining the quality of education. The system as a whole has deteriorated
since 1990, as education financing declined across the region.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, because of the difficulties of accessing
accurate and reliable data, are hard cases to evaluate specifically with regards
to educational development and opportunity. Qualitative data analysis, conducted through a review of educational documents and literature reveal a
deteriorating situation in the area of education, especially for Turkmenistan.
Though more developed in terms of educational institutions and policy,
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have both retreated in providing adequate support for basic education and a growing level of socioeconomic stratification is
evident within the population, especially in Kazakhstan. Tajikistan is largely
dependent on outside agencies and governments for funding social services
such as education. Funding shortages impact all countries in the region and
interfere with meeting minimum quality standards of education.
All five countries guarantee the right to education through secondary school.
Kazakhstan’s constitution of 1995 specifies that education through secondary
school is mandatory and free. In addition, citizens have the right to compete
for free education in the republic’s institutions of higher learning (Republic of
Kazakhstan Constitution, Article 30). However, the reality of this constitutional right to free primary and secondary education is applied differently in
practice. Schools and universities have addressed financing problems by
requiring parents and students to assume the costs that the government no
longer covers. This has resulted in an increased disparity between well-off and
poorer communities, with the wealthier communities having access to better
schools. The majority of “free” state schools require students to pay a fee, and
this is true throughout the region. Even parents in the state schools are forced
to pay some kind of a fee, especially if parents want their children to have
access to be better teachers, and more options beyond the standard curriculum.
In 2006, the government of Kyrgyzstan initiated a new policy prohibiting the
collection of school fees. Yet since schools depend on the fees for their financial survival, most school directors ignore the policy and even most international educational programs encourage parental participation in the form of
financial contributions such as support for school infrastructure, contributions
for the purchase of textbooks, etc. Fees vary across schools, from US$15 a
month to US$200 a month. Since a majority of the state and officially free
public schools in the republic require a school fee, the constitutional right of
citizens to free education is not honored in practice. Many rural schools lack
textbooks, or only have textbooks from the Soviet period, and many teachers
state that it is impossible to survive on their low teachers’ salaries. Most are
forced to hold one or two outside jobs in order to support their families and
remain in the classroom. As a result of the low salaries, difficult working
conditions, and an overall loss of prestige in the teaching profession, there is a
severe shortage of teachers throughout the five nations.
The following country sections provide brief overviews of the major challenges confronting each of the five Central Asian states. The challenges are
C. Kissane
similar, but opportunities are also emerging, especially under new development strategies that target education. Kazakhstan, because of the wealth
generated through oil revenues and its rapid economic development over the
last five years, boasts the most developed education system in the region, but it
shares with its neighbors the same challenges that come with authoritarianism
and its impact on education.
In Kazakhstan, between 1990 and 2003, the total allocation of government
funds for education decreased dramatically in both absolute terms and as a
percentage of GDP.1 The UN’s most recent human development country
study for Kazakhstan reveals that between 1995and 2001 public expenditure
on education was cut by 1.4 times, from 4.5 per cent to 3.2 per cent of GDP;
however, in 2004 it increased to 3.4 per cent (United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) 2005: 18). Kazakhstan’s economic growth is the most
impressive of the region, and its per capita GDP is currently approximately
US$5,500, but the government is still not meeting the 6–7 per cent of GDP
recommended by the Dakar Conference on Education for All. Kazakhstan,
along with the other countries studied in this chapter all allocate a smaller
percentage of GDP to education than most developing countries. According
to former Kazakh Minister of Education Zhaksibek Kulkeyev “place of residence greatly impacts the quality of education with many rural areas of
Kazakhstan only able to provide primary education, and some incomplete
secondary education” (Kulkeyev 2003).
The rural population accounts for 42 per cent of the population. More than
6,000 of Kazakhstan’s schools are located in rural areas (Republic of
Kazakhstan 2003: 15). A field visit to a rural school in Zhambul in the month
of February of 2000 provides an illustration of the difficulties prevalent in
rural schools. Half of the school was not in use because there was no heat,
even as temperatures outside reached below minus 15 degrees centigrade.
Administrators, teachers and students wore coats during the lessons and
commented that the shutting off of heat is a regular occurrence during the
winter months. Additionally, Zhaksibek Kulkeyev explained that few schools
have good, well-qualified teachers. Many teachers are unable to teach foreign
languages and upper-level math and science, and cannot offer students their
constitutional right to a complete 10–11 year education. Approximately 52
per cent of Kazakhstan’s 7,500 schools are categorized as incomplete and
inferior to regular schools. These incomplete schools serve approximately 15
per cent of the school age population, and 76 per cent of the schools are
located in rural areas (Kulkeyev, 2003).
The growing socioeconomic disparity across the republic has also given
way to an increase in the number of private schools and is creating further
educational inequality in terms of access and quality. Some of these schools
boast excellent resources with well-equipped science laboratories, instruction
Education in Central Asia
in multiple foreign languages, computer access in every classroom, and highly
diversified extracurricular activities. Parents pay anywhere between US$1,500
to over US$5,000 per year. Miras school, a private school with locations in
Almaty and Astana, employs a number of teachers from the USA, and teacher
salaries are more than triple those of public school teachers.
Comparatively, Kazakhstan is the region’s education power house with
active teacher networks and more diverse educational opportunities than any
other country in the region. Kazakhstan navigated its way out of economic
decline and today is regarded as an economic success story, with GDP growth
rates above 10 per cent since 2000. The country’s structural reforms support a
more market-driven economy, and this is reflected in the educational system,
especially in the growth of private schools and universities, but a more
destabilizing situation is developing around the way in which the country’s
uneven distribution of wealth continues to widen. Kazakhstan is the only
country in the region to establish a National Fund (for oil revenue) that also
supports the region’s most progressive scholarship program for undergraduate
and graduate study abroad. Bolashak, which means the future in Kazakh, is
the name of a program for study abroad that currently sends approximately
3,000 students from Kazakhstan to study in 25 different countries. Kadisha
Dairova, director of Bolashak, said the program shows:
Kazakhstan’s forward-thinking policies, and support for encouraging
overseas education while cultivating reform-minded young leaders …
Students return with great understanding of issues and areas that are
critical for the country’s continued development, and they come to better
understand regional realities beyond their own borders.
(Dairova 2006)
In 2005, President Nazarbayev issued a mandate that all vice ministers in the
ministries must have studied overseas, and a review of vice ministers shows
that this is a mandate that is finding its way to full implementation.
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan share a border, and are the most similar in
terms of the former Soviet republics in that each has a large ethnic Russian
population and historically similar development trajectories, but today the
story is a different one, with Kazakhstan at the forefront of economic development and Kyrgyzstan falling behind on most basic socioeconomic indicators,
including education.
Scholars and practitioners observing Kyrgyzstan in the early to mid-1990s
witnessed positive political changes, including the emergence of democratic
educational governance with a multicultural emphasis on curriculum and
pedagogy. The tide turned in the mid-1990s as Kyrgyzstan moved from a
relative position of stability to instability due to acute economic crisis and
C. Kissane
increasingly authoritarian tendencies on the part of the central government.
The Kyrgyz Republic experienced the Tulip Revolution in March 2005, one of
three “color revolutions” in the former Soviet Union, which replaced former
President Askar Akayev with Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Popular support for the
new leadership in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek has diminished dramatically
since the spring of 2005, when hopes were high that the new leadership would
decrease corruption and expand development opportunities for the country.
As in Kazakhstan, funding for education has decreased as a percentage of
GDP. Dramatic decreases in educational funding and access are more pronounced in the south of Kyrgyzstan than in other parts of the country (Lubin
and Ribin 2000). Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan can boast the most progressive
educational policies and opportunities for schools, but Kyrgyzstan suffers
from severe budget constraints. Owing to limited financial and material
resources, there exists a growing level of disparity between rural and urban
schools, a prevailing problem across the region. The costs of educational
expenditure cuts can be found in limited opportunities for parents to send
their children to state financed pre-school programs, the reduction of compulsory
education from 11 to nine years, the suspension of school maintenance repairs,
and the almost complete elimination of grants for educational materials
(Ushurova 2006: 4). Highly dependent on financial contributions from parents, inequality has increased because relying on private funds creates a privatized public education system where schools with wealthy parents are at an
advantage, and rural schools are constrained because of higher poverty levels.
A more complicated picture emerges when examining the case of Tajikistan.
The people of Tajikistan were witnesses to a six-year civil war from 1991 to
1997 that led to an acute humanitarian crisis, the loss of more than 50,000
lives, and the displacement of almost 600,000 people. During the civil war
many schools were looted, and according to the IMF and World Bank, 20 per
cent of schools were destroyed during the conflict. Since 1991, literacy levels
have fallen from approximately 90 per cent to 60 per cent (UNICEF 2004).
According to statistics from the Ministry of Education in Tajikistan, over
90 per cent of schools have insufficient heating systems, and many schools
have no heating at all. While attending a regional educational workshop in
December 2006, educational representatives from Tajikistan noted that
schools had been without heat and electricity for over two weeks. In addition
to the multiple infrastructural challenges facing schools, most schools also
work on a multiple-shift schedule. Some schools have three shifts per day,
while the majority of schools work under a double-shift program (Ministry of
Education 2002).
The government of Tajikistan currently spends 2.5 per cent of GDP on
education, and enrollment stands at 58.4 percent, a very low rate by international standards. According to the World Bank, 64 per cent of the population
Education in Central Asia
lives below the national poverty line (World Bank 2004: 22). Many families
cannot afford to cover the basic fees required to send their children to school.
This also accounts for the decreasing level of girls’ enrollment. As in many
other developing countries, parents often choose to send their sons to school
over their daughters because of the perceived value of a boy’s education over
a girl’s education. Education in Tajikistan has suffered greatly from lack of
resources and many skilled teachers leave, migrate out, or do not practice due
to the abysmally low salaries for educators.
In 2003, Tajikistan’s parliament voted to increase the state budget by 44
per cent for 2004, to US$ 315 million (somoni 943 million). According to
the plan set out under the new state budget, funding for education will
increase by 60 percent, but given current budget constraints and Tajikistan’s
heavy reliance on international assistance it is unlikely that this target will be
met. A significant number of educational reforms under way in the country
depend entirely on external funds. One example of an international assistance
education program is the United States Agency for International Development Basic Education Sector Strengthening Program. The initiative focuses
on primary education, grades 1–4, improving in-service teaching training,
increasing parent and community involvement in schools (creation of parent
teacher associations), institutional management, and improvement of school
Student absenteeism is an issue that many of the rural areas in the region
confront. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are both plagued by student absences.
The reasons cited by school authorities focus on sickness, work requirements
in and outside of the home, and education not seeming relevant for some
students and parents who lack confidence that the system will provide
opportunities for students to move out of poverty. Schools in Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan witness a sharp drop in student attendance from mid-September
through November, when students can be found in the fields harvesting
cotton. The president of Tajikistan banned students from participating in the
practice in 2005, but students still make up a large percentage of harvesters
and local government officials call on parents and young people to participate. The Ministry of Education refused to grant school visits to international
organizations during the fall 2006 cotton-picking season. The government did
not want people to see the empty desks of students who were absent because
they were required by the local authorities to assist with the cotton harvest.
The magnitude of reform required to bring about system-level change is
great. The financial difficulties facing Tajikistan are substantial, and though
the prospects for the future look better than at any other time since independence, many obstacles remain. The country needs to improve educational
quality at all levels and address the growing problem of girls not attending, or
leaving school before graduation. The education of girls is diminishing in
Tajikistan and the research shows that as girls leave school, the economic
opportunities for the country will fall further. The World Bank recently
launched a countrywide Fast Track Initiative (FTI) in Tajikistan, with US$9
C. Kissane
million being made available for the construction and rehabilitation of
schools, teacher training, and textbook development. The FTI is part of a
larger global educational initiative to target countries with low enrollment
rates and provide assistance towards the achievement of Education for All,
and the Millennium Development Goals. It is too early to assess the impact
of the FTI, but it does represent an important international commitment to
raising educational levels in the country.
Though the situation in Tajikistan is difficult, the government appears
determined to improve the country’s weak education system. Turkmenistan,
however, is a special case and the following overview illustrates the radical turn
the government made away from support for educational development. The
case is best described as the implementation of regressive educational policies.
It is quite difficult to imagine the societal landscape that is present-day Turkmenistan. The country and its policies challenge all rationality and warrant
serious attention by the international community. The republic’s policies are
intentionally debilitating an entire generation. Young people are being denied
their rights to an education and basic health care, and are having their human
rights all but disregarded in both theory and practice. Former President
Niyazov went so far as to ban the diagnosis and reporting of infectious diseases, with disastrous results, especially given the increasing number of heroin
addicts and prostitutes the government continues to ignore. Turkmenistan has
a population of some 5 million and sits on the world’s fifth-largest reserves of
natural gas.
The 2004 Helsinki Committee report for Turkmenistan finds:
the system of education in Turkmenistan has sharply deteriorated and
become too politicized. It seems that the education system has become
not a means of intellectual development but a weapon with which government politically influences the people.
(Helsinki Committee: 9)
The country presents the region with the most troubling and dangerous educational case of the five under review. The totalitarian practices of the former
President for life Saparamat Niyazov, who suddenly died in December of
2006, led to drastic reductions in educational funding. Current policies categorically discourage the development of a knowledge society. The compilation
and distribution of data is practically forbidden, and the state has a policy of
almost total censorship. It is therefore impossible to interview educators and
students about the current situation and the actions that have led to the
demise of a once stable system of education. Niyazov was a tyrannical ruler,
destroying the country’s human capital infrastructure by decreasing the
number of years of compulsory schooling, closing regional libraries, enforcing
Education in Central Asia
a rigid curriculum that encompasses the study of only one primary text, and
denying any critical educational experience to the people.
Basic education was reduced from 11 years to nine years, and university
from four years to two. Academic instruction decreased as more emphasis
was placed on vocational education. While in 1991 the country’s official literacy rate was approximately 90 per cent and an established program of
higher education was in place, today the literacy levels are falling sharply,
schools are closing, and teachers are required to devote 15 minutes of every
lesson, whether the subject is science or the arts, to reading one book, Turkmenbashi’s Rukhnama. This text focuses on proper social behavior, morals,
and allegiance to the motherland and its (now former) glorious leader, Niyazov. The text is described by officials within the government as a “moral
codex.” The text is required across all levels of the educational system from
kindergarten to university. Students are tested on it at the end of every year
and are required to pass it for entrance into university.
In addition to the explicit cuts to all areas of education, the government put
into effect an extreme new educational policy that does not allow for degrees
obtained abroad since 1983 to be recognized. The former president outlawed all
degrees obtained outside of Turkmenistan. In addition to his discriminatory
practices in education, he has also unleashed a number of ethnocentric language
and hiring practices that eliminate opportunities for Turkmenistan’s representation of other nationalities. The majority of schools offering instruction in
languages other than Turkmen have been shut down, and the teaching of
English is currently prohibited in state schools. It is hard to imagine the new
president imposing even more regressive educational policies; Niyazov’s death
may in fact bring the necessary impetus for actual educational progress.2
Freedom House’s Countries at the Crossroads report describes Uzbekistan as:
An authoritarian state in which civil liberties are sharply curtailed, rule of
law is applied in a discriminatory manner, corruption is widespread and
the operations of government are nontransparent, while public voice is
stifled by extensive media censorship and a political machine designed to
concentrate power in the president’s office.
(Albion 2004: 2)
Educational reform can be characterized as sporadic and uneven. The Ministry
of Education sponsored Inventory Checks of Secondary Schools and found
that 20 per cent of students are studying without textbooks, and 96.4 per cent
of schools do not have qualified teachers in the areas of foreign languages,
chemistry, history, and geography. These concerns are especially significant
since young people constitute a majority (almost 56 per cent) of the population
(UNDP 2003a). The government has committed to The State Nationwide
C. Kissane
School Education Development Program, which came into effect last year and
is scheduled to be completed by 2009. The government of Uzbekistan declares
education a key priority for the socio-economic development of the country.
Reforms in the education sector are viewed as one of the most important
mechanisms for achieving political, economic, and social progress. Throughout the 1990s, the main goal of education reform was a reorientation from
Soviet education values towards the new demands of a market-based economy. In 1997, the Government launched the National Program for Personnel
Training, which aims to extend compulsory education from nine to 12 years
by 2009. In 2004 a new state National Program for School Education Development for years 2004–9 was adopted by special decree of the President of
Uzbekistan. Taking into account a historically social role of mahalla (community) in the upbringing of children, the Government developed a National
Concept on Cooperation of the Family, Mahalla and School in Students’
Upbringing in 1993. The Concept conveys a national idea and perspectives
for community participation in education and upbringing process.
The regulatory environment in Uzbekistan in relation to NGOs (both foreign
and local) is unclear at the moment; the Government of Uzbekistan has
recently introduced laws requiring registration and restricting programming
opportunities.3 Despite these restrictions on civil society organizations,
Uzbekistan has made legal commitments to promote community participation in education and has several structures in place to fulfill these commitments. At the national level, Uzbekistan articulates in its education laws
that community participation in education is valued and encouraged.
(Umurzakova 2006: 18)
Despite these efforts to develop school governance structures that increase
community participation in education, the mechanisms and standards to do
so are still largely absent. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank
are both launching education programs in Uzbekistan in 2007 that are slated
to work with school boards and increase the effectiveness of community
participation in education.
Educational transfer and democracy promotion
The period following 1991 brought forth an onslaught of outside educational
initiatives in the form of bilateral, multilateral, non-governmental, and philanthropic assistance. Development agencies became essential in providing
funding for educational reform (Asanova 2006: 660). The international community responded to the challenges of the transition with an active array of
governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental assistance programs
devoted to promoting democracy and the market economy, based on the
assumption that “any country moving away from dictatorial rule is in transition toward democracy” (Carothers 2003: 23). The post-Soviet transition in
Education in Central Asia
education, as it was viewed from the outside, was to start with an infusion of
new democratic and market-oriented practices to accelerate a democratic transition. Schriewer (1992) and Steiner-Khamsi (2000, 2002) identify these processes as educational transfer and borrowing, and explore how in times of
political or economic change or crisis the source of authority for educational
policy may be externalization, or references to examples from abroad that are
transferred or borrowed to rectify internal problems with the system.
Much of the international assistance in education has focused on educational management and governance, decentralization, the promotion of student-centered classrooms, critical thinking, and student exchange. Buzzwords
like “decentralization,” “outcomes-based education,” “restructuring,”
“democratic teaching,” “teacher-centered pedagogy,” and “education for citizenship” as well as educational management and market-oriented educational
reforms are a part of the region’s educational vocabulary, but are rarely
implemented in the classroom. Advocates for new approaches to teaching
often experience opposition and resistance from educational authorities who
seek to retain past practices.
The underlying idea behind these reforms was to de-Sovietize the educational systems of Central Asia and promote democratization through the
transfer of reforms from abroad (Steiner-Khamsi 2004). The majority of teachers interviewed for the study shared similar views regarding changes in their
pedagogy and classroom practices, especially regarding being more democratic and humanistic. This is not uncommon in a transitional landscape.
Discourse borrowing, especially regarding the employment of democratic
teaching methods is often done for purposes of leverage, legitimation, and
recognition, both nationally and internationally. The way in which teachers
identify their style as democratic, suggests that they understand this style
represents an internationally preferred practice. Although they may in fact
continue to utilize more authoritarian teaching methods in the classroom, the
inclusion of the new discourse and greater exposure to new pedagogical possibilities is also informing how they talk about their own teaching. Societies
that are trying to reposition themselves in the world will often use international educational reforms to signal a progressive shift toward more internationally oriented educational practices and policies. Policy-makers will use
international reforms and concepts to signal democratization and denote
participation in the global society (Spreen 2004; Steiner-Khamsi 2000). The
discourse on pedagogy follows much of the rhetoric of democratization. Teachers believe they have made a pedagogical move from a command style of
instruction to a more democratic and open style of teaching, but many continue to use didactic teaching methods that provide little to no opportunity
for student discussion, debate, and critical thinking. Teachers, especially those
exposed to teacher training focusing on critical thinking and civic education,
will often talk about the democratization of their pedagogy and classroom
practice, but only a small majority of teachers actually have the opportunity
to participate in these predominantly foreign-sponsored training programs.
C. Kissane
Policy constraints at the higher ministerial levels and the lack of resources
needed in the areas of school infrastructure, curriculum materials, and more
access to teacher training keep the numbers of teachers with access to more
democratic teaching methods and learning small.
Civic education was a key target of international organizations eager to
promote democracy in the region. Throughout the early 1990s, programs were
transferred into the region with substantial financial support from the West,
notably the USA and the European Union. The objectives of the programs
were to teach secondary school students the requirements of being a citizen,
their rights, duties, responsibilities, and how to exercise critical independent
judgment. In a class observed for this research, students were using a text
titled We the People, which was published in the USA but translated into
Russian and Kazakh. Students learned about what democracy looks like in
the context of the USA, but were not able to connect the material to their
own societies. When interviewed, many students and teachers noted the contradictions between content and actual government practice. Ottaway echoes
the students’ sentiments when she writes, “Some semi-authoritarian leaders
have mastered the concepts and language of democracy so well that they
could easily become civic educators themselves” (Ottaway 2003: 218). In
many ways, the civic programs that are transferred from the USA and the
European Union are in direct contrast to the rest of the curriculum. For
example, in Turkmenistan students cannot question the government or expose
criticism of the president in public. Kazakhstan imposed a similar policy in
2001, which makes it illegal to defame the President; and the law has in effect
silenced not only dissent in the context of educational institutions, but also
has greatly diminished the power of the media. The problem with many of the
internationally funded civic education projects is that the information taught
to the students is not what they experience outside of the classroom. The
authoritarian regimes of Central Asia may allow minimal democratization
processes to filter through education, but at the same time in other areas of
society the governments are stepping up efforts to prevent democratization
(Katz 2007). Aside from the economic dislocations found within the systems
as discussed earlier in the chapter, an equally if not more important point to
acknowledge and address is the intentional absence of critical introspection
allowed within the educational systems under review. Financial investments
to improve quality and expand structural capacity is critical, but this alone
will not open up the possibilities for necessary citizen participation that is
presently being stifled by the political regimes in place.
Corruption within education: societal costs
Why care about the existence of corruption in education? The answers are
many, but the main motivation for acknowledging and dealing with the ultimate degradation of education because of corruption is that when “education
loses impartiality, it loses quality” (Heyneman 2007: 5). Economic rates of
Education in Central Asia
return to education are also reduced as the value of degrees are reduced, and
as suspicion sets in over the qualifications of graduates who come out of a
system that allows for corrupt educational practices. The degree to which
corruption impacts education is significant, especially at the level of higher
education, where it is not uncommon to have students pay for their grades,
degrees, and entry to university (Adambai 2005). The payment of bribes for
admission and grades at secondary schools, universities, and professional
institutes is endemic across the region. This amounts to professional misconduct, whereby teachers and administrators engage in acceptance of material gifts from students and parents in exchange for positive grades,
assessment, or selection to specialized programs. Teachers, students, and
educational experts all agree that corruption penetrates deep into the education system and is exacerbated by the low salaries for teachers and professors.
One student I interviewed commented, “I can’t imagine life without corruption, and school is where I experienced it first-hand.” This student went on to
describe the ways in which he would offer his teachers bribes for higher
grades, and how some of his friends were buying their way into university.
Corruption is not usually discussed when examining educational systems
and institutions, but when exploring the educational landscape of the five
Central Asian states it is necessary to acknowledge and address both the shortand long-term consequences of entrenched corrupt practices found within the
educational sector. Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index reveals a high level of corruption in each of the five states. Many
international initiatives have tried to tackle corruption in the region but to
no avail. Bribes are offered for good grades, entrance into university or a specific
program that has high rent reward for the future, and for diplomas for degrees
that may or may not have been completed. The low salaries of administrators
and teachers, the opaque nature of admissions and testing, all make the
situation difficult to reform. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan changed the university entrance exam to make it more difficult for bribery to creep in, but in order
for this reform to work there also has to be the political and societal will
to eliminate it, and this will has yet to take hold. The tests are now standardized and computerized, but problems still remain with students paying
large sums of money to enter university, and are ultimately able to graduate
with a diploma but without any of the knowledge that is supposed to go
along with the degree. The playing field in higher education is far from level.
Iveta Silova, a former senior education advisor for the Open Society Institute (OSI), emphasizes the negative repercussions of a system of bribery in
education that seems to be getting worse rather than better. “Over time,
bribery has devalued the reputations of Central Asian schools—making it
harder for local residents to study or practice outside their home countries.
There is also a depreciation of diplomas” (Blua 2004: 3).
Amageldy Aitaly, a former university vice rector and currently a member
of Kazakhstan’s parliament, comments on the impact of bribery in higher
C. Kissane
Parliament’s department of information analysis has conducted special
studies in the country’s universities. The results show that one-third of all
full-time university students confessed that he or she gives bribes to their
teachers; every tenth student said that he or she studies only through
paying bribes. In general, university students give bribes to their teachers
regularly and the teachers take the bribes from their students for credits,
grades, and diplomas on a regular basis. That is a widespread plague in
our education system.
(Moore 2004: 4)
Corruption is less apparent at the primary and secondary level, but it exists
nonetheless and does so because of the severe economic conditions of the
schools and the teachers who work in them. Research indicates that when
levels of corruption are high, governments spend less on education and health
and more on public works projects chosen not for their value to the nation
but for their kickback potential (Rosenberg 2003: 30). Corruption is ultimately a major drain on educational resources that could be more effectively
used to improve quality and alter present levels of inequity across the systems.
There is a need for corrupt practices to be curbed, but how remains a question
many policy-makers have yet to effectively answer.
This chapter illustrates the transitional difficulties faced by the region and the
challenges of improving educational quality and access. What does it mean
when countries fail to invest in education, diminishing educational possibilities for large sectors of the population? Today some groups can take
advantage of educational opportunity because of their ethnic ties to the
nation via their titular status, or because their wealth. The Central Asian
region sits at the crossroads of intense global change, and unless the issues of
repression within education, and in the larger society, and the lack of investment in the region’s most important resource, its citizenry, are addressed, the
future of the region is in jeopardy. “Most poor countries face major challenges in providing sufficient classroom space for all children at all levels, not
to mention equalizing the quality of all schools across communities” (Holsinger 2007: 305). The educational trajectories of the five countries in this
overview show a marked exacerbation of social inequalities, and rather than
education serving as equalizer, the policies and practices of today reveal
increasingly stratified and disconnected systems. To date, the majority of the
population have not benefited from educational development, and education
although it is stated as a governmental priority in each of the five countries
has not been offered the financial assistance and support needed to overcome
16 years of diminishing investments.
The lack of a significant and continued commitment to education jeopardizes both current and future generations, and inhibits the development of
Education in Central Asia
an informed civil society. An equation for successful political, economic, and
societal development must emphasize education, and provide much more
than rhetorical support for educational development.
There is a wide and growing gap between the changing needs of the market
and the skills being taught at schools. Instead of having to start from scratch, the
educational systems of the countries under study began this transition with a
deeply entrenched belief in education as an instrument for change, as is evidenced from the important role given to education during the Soviet period.
Education, if effective, offers students opportunities for learning and the opportunity to meet the changing requirements of time, but can also contribute to
economic, political, and civic development (Tyack and Cuban 1995: 135).
Educational change is a complex enterprise and requires commitments on all
levels: from the national government, from regional and local education
departments, and, most importantly, from individual schools and the teachers
and administrators that work within educational settings. There is an urgent
need to increase public expenditure on education, especially in the more rural
areas, and in order to alleviate the growing socioeconomic divide both within
and among the countries of the region. A more concerted and intentional
effort to earmark education for greater financial inputs and more openness
are two important first steps the governments of the region along with the
larger support of the international community can take to improve education
and alleviate the inequalities that support unstable future development.
1 In [0]1990, expenditures were 8.2 per cent of GDP, in 1995, 5 per cent and by 2003
they fell further to 3.1 percent, while total educational expenditure declined from
24.5 per cent of the state budget in 1990 to 14 per cent in 2000 (Republic of
Kazakhstan 2001; 2003).
2 It is critical to note that 45 per cent of the population of Turkmenistan is under 19
years old. The rapid disintegration of the educational system is cause for alarm in
a country with such a young and increasingly uneducated population. In 1991
there were approximately 40,000 students enrolled in institutions of higher education—currently there are approximately 7,000 (UNDP 2003b). Approximately
22,000 teachers were laid [0]off in 2002, and the teachers who remain are paid
miniscule wages and teach in overcrowded classrooms with a shortage of basic
texts, and a lack of any kind of instructional support.
3 For example, Articles 202 and 239 of the new Criminal Code and Code on
Administrative Liability of Uzbekistan approved by the senate on December 3
2005 set stringent restrictions on the [0]registration and operation of national and
international NGOs in Uzbekistan.
Adambai, G. (2005) “Petty Corruption on a Grand Scale.” Kazakhstan Newswire,
3 June.
Ahonen, S. (2001) “Politics of Identity Through History Curriculum: Narratives of the
Past for Social Exclusion—or Inclusion? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 33: 170–94.
C. Kissane
Akiner, S. (1995) The Formation of Kazakh Identity: From Tribe to Nation-State,
London: Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Albion, A. (2004) “Uzbekistan,” in Countries at the Crossroads 2004: A Survey of
Democratic Governance, Washington, DC: Freedom House.
Amnesty International (2006) “The Clampdown on Dissent and Religious Freedom
Continues in Turkmenistan,” Amnesty International.
wfchannel/index.php?pagenum = 10 (accessed 15 October 2006).
Asanova, J. (2006) “Emerging Regions, Persisting Rhetoric of Educational Aid: The
Impact of the Asian Development Bank on Educational Policy Making in
Kazakhstan,” International Journal of Educational Development, 26: 655–66.
Berdahl, D. “Nostalgia,” Ethnos, 64: 192–211.
Birzea, C. (1994) Educational Policies of the Countries in Transition, Strasbourg:
Council of Europe Press.
Blua, A. (2004) “Central Asia: Buying Ignorance: Society Bears the Hidden Costs of
Corruption,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 7 July.
Carothers, T. (2003) “The End of the Transition Paradigm,” Journal of Democracy, 13:
Chapman, D.W., Weidman, J., Cohen, M. and Mercer, M. (2005) “The Search for
Education Quality: a five country study of national strategies to improve educational quality in Central Asia,” International Journal of Educational Development, 2:
Dairova, K. (2006) Director of the Boloshak Program (Future/Presidential Scholarship
Program), interview with the author, Almaty, Kazakhstan, July.
DeYoung, A. and Suzhikova, B. (1997) “Issues in Post-Soviet Secondary School
Reform: The Case of Kazakhstan,” International Journal of Educational Reform, 6:
——and Valyayeva, G. (1997) “Post-Soviet Secondary School Reform in Kazakhstan:
The Views of 149 Classroom Teachers,” Central Asia Monitor, 3: 22–34.
Freedom House (2003) Freedom House Country Survey: Kazakhstan, New York:
Freedom House.
——(2005) Freedom in the World 2005, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Washington, DC: Freedom House. < www.freedomhouse.
org/template.cfm?page=22&year=2005&country=6764 > (accessed 25 August
——(2006) Freedom in the World 2006. Washington, DC: Freedom House. < www. > (accessed 8 September 2008).
Gutek, G. (2006) American Education in a Global Society: International and Comparative
Perspectives, Chicago: Waveland Press.
Helsinki Committee (2004) Turkmenistan, Human Rights Watch.
Heyneman, S. (2007) “Buying Your Way into Heaven: The Corruption of Education
Systems in Global Perspective,” Perspective in Global Issues, 2(1). < http://pgiissues.
com/0201/articles0201/BuyingYourWayIntoHeaven.pdf > (accessed 6 November
Hofmeyr, J and Buckland, P. (1992) “Education System Change in South Africa,” in
R. McGregor and A. McGregor (eds) McGregor’s Education Alternatives. Juta:
Holsinger, D. (2007) “Inequality in the Public Provision of Education: Why it Matters,”
(Presidential Address/Comparative and International Education Society Conference),
Comparative Education Review, 49: 297–310.
Education in Central Asia
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2005) Human Development
Index: Monitoring Human Development: Enlarging People’s Choices, New York:
International Monetary Fund (IMF) (2007) IMF Country Report (Tajikistan) No. 07/
144. Washington, DC: IMF
Jones Luong, P. (2004) “Economic Decentralization in Kazakhstan: Causes and Consequences in P. Jones Luong (ed.) The Transformation of Central Asia: States and
Societies From Soviet Rule to Independence, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Kambarov, K. (2005) “To Uzbekistan for Care,” Transitions Online, 6 October. < http://
NrSection=3&NrArticle=15169 > (accessed 4 July 2008).
Kanaev, A. and Daun, H. (2002) “Nationalism and Educational Transition in Central
Asia,” in H. Daun (ed.) Educational Restructuring in the Context of Globalization
and National Policy, New York: Routledge Falmer.
Katz, M. (2007) “Will there be revolution in Central Asia? Communist and PostCommunist Studies, 40: 129–41.
Kissane, C (2005) “History Education in Transit: Where to for Kazakhstan? Comparative
Education, 41: 45–69.
Kolsto, P. (ed.) (1999) Nation-Building and Ethnic Integration in Post-Soviet-Societies:
An Investigation of Latvia and Kazakhstan, Boulder: Westview.
Kulchik, Y. (1995) “Central Asia after the Empire: Ethnic Groups, Communities,
and Problems,” in R.Z. Sagdeev and S. Eisenhower (eds), Central Asia: Conflict,
Resolution, and Change, Chevy Chase: CPSS Press.
Kulkeyev, Z. (2003) Former Minister of Education, interview with author, Almaty,
Kazakhstan, 14 July.
Lisovskaya E. and Karpov, V. (1999) “New Ideologies in Post-communist Russian
Textbooks,” Comparative Education Review, 43: 523–43.
Lubin, N. and Ribin, B. (2000) Calming the Ferghana Valley: Development and Dialogue in the Heart of Central Asia, New York: Council on Foreign Relations and
Century Foundation.
McLeish, A. and Phillips, D. (eds) (1998) Processes of Transition in Education Systems,
Oxford Studies in Comparative Education: Oxford: Symposium Books.
Marat, E. (2007) “Branding the New Nations of Central Asia and the South Caucasus,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 14 November 2007. <
newsite/?q=node/4735 > (accessed 15 November 2007).
Ministry of Education (2002) “Education Report,” Dushanbe, Tajikistan: Ministry of
Moore, K. (2004) “Central Asia: Buying Ignorance – Corruption in Education,
Corrosive,” (part 1), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 7 July.
Olcott, M. (1997) “Kazakhstan: Pushing for Eurasia,” in I. Bremmer and R. Taras
(eds) New States New Politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
——(2002) Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise, Washington, DC, Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace.
Ottaway, M. (2003) Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi Authoritarianism,
Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Republic of Kazakhstan: Constitution, Article (30). The Embassy of the Republic of
Kazakhstan in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. < www. > (accessed 31 October 2006).
C. Kissane
Republic of Kazakhstan (2001) Republic of Kazakhstan Statistical Yearbook, Almaty,
Kazakhstan: State Statistical Agency.
——(2003) Republic of Kazakhstan Statistical Yearbook. Almaty, Kazakhstan: State
Statistical Agency.
Rosenberg, T. (2003) “The Taint of the Greased Palm,” New York Times Magazine, 10
August 2003: 28–33.
Schriewer, J. (1992) “The Method of Comparison and the Need for Externalization:
Methodological Criteria and Sociological Concepts,” in J. Schriewer, and B. Holmes
(eds), Theories and Methods of Comparative Education, New York: P. Lang.
Socium Council (SC) (2006) Midterm Education Financing Strategy in Kyrgyzstan,
2006, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Ministry of Education.
Spreen, C. A. (2004) “Appropriating Borrowed Policies: Outcomes-Based Education in
South Africa,” in G. Steiner-Khamsi (ed.) The Global Politics of Education Borrowing
and Lending, New York: Teachers College Press.
Steiner-Khamsi, G. (ed.) (2004) The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and
Lending, New York: Teachers College Press.
——(2002) “Reterritorializing Educational Import: Explorations into the Politics of
Educational Borrowing,” in A. Novoa and M. Lawn (eds) Fabricating Europe: The
Formation of an Education Space, Boston: Kluwer.
——(2000) “Transferring Education, Displacing Reforms,” in J. Schriewer (ed.)
Discourse Formation in Comparative Education, Frankfurt: Lang.
Tomasevksi, K. (2003) Education Denied: Costs and Remedies, New York: Zed Books.
Transparency International (2007) Corruption Perceptions Index 2007.
“Turkmenbashi Drives His Lessons Home,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting,
Central Asia, 17 August 2004.
“Turkmenistan: Brain Dead,” The Economist, 24 July 2004: 42.
Tyack, D. and Cuban, L. (1995) Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School
Reform, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Umurzakova, M. (2006) “Community Participation in School Governance in Uzbekistan,” draft report prepared for USAID Participation in Education and Knowledge
(PEAKS) Project, Tashkent: Uzbekistan.
UNICEF (2004) Basic Education and Gender Equality and UNICEF, Tajikistan:
Background. < > (accessed 15 September
United Nations Development Programme (2003a) The Common Country Assessment
of Uzbekistan, United Nations, 2003. New York: UNDP.
——(2003b) Education in Turkmenistan 2003. New York: UNDP.
——(2005) National Human Development Report: Kazakhstan 2005. New York: UNDP.
——(2006) 2006 Human Development Index Rankings. New York: UNDP.
Ushurova, R. (2006) “Financing Textbooks in Kyrgyzstan: Issues and Options,” draft
paper for Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative: Open Society
Institute Bishkek.
World Bank (2004) Tajikistan: Poverty Assessment Update. Washington, DC: World
Zheksimbeyev, M (2000) Secondary school student, interview with the author, Astana,
Kazakhstan, October.
11 Multivaried and interacting paths
of change in Central Eurasia
Amanda E. Wooden and
Christoph H. Stefes
As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the collapse of Soviet rule, it is
fair to say that the initial transition phase from communism has ended,
encouraging us to rethink the assumption that the political, social, and economic developments in Central Eurasia are still largely in flux. Pre-Soviet and
Soviet legacies already limited the variety of possible paths that post-Soviet
societies were likely to take after 1991. The policies and institutions that have
been adopted after 1991 have further reduced the range of available choices.
Early winners of the transition period—frequently, the old Soviet elite that
enjoyed a head start in 1991—have largely succeeded (albeit not in every
country) in their attempts to secure their interests by putting favorable policies and institutions in place. In turn, this assumption implies that challengers
will face a difficult time trying to upset the status quo, which leads us to further
conclude that paths once taken are unlikely to be challenged and abandoned
fast or frequently.
Historical institutionalists refer to path dependence as “the dynamics of
self-reinforcing or positive feedback processes in a political system” (Pierson
and Skocpol 2002: 699). Once these paths are unearthed, current developments in Central Eurasia become more comprehensible, making predictions
about future developments less uncertain. As Pierson (2004: 11) reasons,
“Exploring the sources and consequences of path dependence help us to
understand the powerful inertia or ‘stickiness’ that characterizes many aspects
of political development … .” Old paths are abandoned and new ones are
frequently taken at critical junctures, dramatic events that make following
existing paths difficult or impossible. The disintegration of the Soviet Union
certainly was such a critical juncture. However, the end of the Soviet Union
was not a historical rupture. In other words, post-Soviet societies did not start
from scratch. Instead, their transitions from communism were embedded in
numerous social, economic, and political legacies. These legacies of the Soviet
and pre-Soviet past have continued to shape developments of the post-Soviet
present, as many contributors to this volume have demonstrated.
While the time of critical junctures in Central Eurasia reached its zenith in
the late 1980s and early 1990s, the dramatic political events in Georgia (2003
and 2008) and Kyrgyzstan (2005) have demonstrated that surprises are still in
A.E. Wooden and C.H. Stefes
the wings. Although we need to be careful not to overemphasize the importance of these events as potential critical junctures, at least Georgia does not
look the same today as it did in the 1990s. We need to account for departures
from seemingly stable paths to explain continuity and discontinuity in Central
Eurasia. Historical institutionalists emphasize the importance of conjunctures—“interaction effects between distinct causal sequences that become
joined at particular points in time” (Pierson and Skocpol 2002: 702). The
joining of these distinct sequences can reinforce existing interests, identities,
and power structures. Yet they can also cause interests and identities to shift
radically and severely redistribute power resources, thereby upsetting power
structures. Conjunctures thereby become critical junctures. If we want to engage
in the daring venture of prediction, we will have to identify conjunctures and
assess their importance as potential critical junctures.
In this concluding chapter, we summarize and discuss the studies of this
book. Our contributors have identified a great number of continuities but also
variations and nonlinearities of political, social, and economic developments
and policy outcomes in the region. Using their insights individually and in
combination, we reveal possible path dependencies but also critical junctures that
account for the nonlinearities. Building on the insights of our contributors, we
identify some factors that might help future studies of the region to analyze
the sources and consequences of path dependencies and critical junctures. We
are thereby specifically interested in identifying those dynamics that might upset
current political and economic trajectories, allowing us to answer questions
about the future of Central Eurasia’s conflicts and authoritarian regimes, the
future directions of economic reforms and social welfare programs, and the
protection of civil rights.
Trajectories of political development: stable and unstable paths
All of our chapters link legacies of the Soviet and/or pre-Soviet past to current developments, helping scholars to understand better the constraints and
opportunities for Central Eurasian decision-makers. The chapters by George,
McGlinchey, Way, and Bayulgen outline path dependencies and discuss critical junctures concerning political developments in post-Soviet Central Eurasia. Thereby, the authors focus on various aspects of political development,
including ethnic conflict, societal mobilization, the coercive capacities of states,
and the emergence of rentier states. By considering political trajectories in
Central Eurasia’s societies and states, we are able to discern different patterns
of state–society relations in this part of the world.
George’s chapter emphasizes the centrality of Soviet institutional legacies to
understand the outbreak of violent ethnic conflict in Central Eurasia. While
she evaluates the actual and expected ethnic conflicts of the early 1990s, her
analysis has clear relevance to that period’s frozen conflicts that have re-emerged.
By granting several (but not all) ethnic minorities in the Soviet republics some
political autonomy and corresponding administrative structures, Moscow
Paths of change in Central Eurasia
provided minority elites with the institutional capacity for ethnic mobilization. Yet the Soviet leadership allowed ethnic mobilization only to some
degree. The situation changed with Gorbachev’s political reforms. Political
liberalization and free elections provided ample room and incentives for both
the ethnic minorities and majorities to organize along ethnic lines, as ethnic
grievances provided readily available rallying points for political mobilization.
Thus, calls for national unity by ethnic majorities and minorities’ demands for
greater autonomy and even independence inevitably clashed in the wake of
the Soviet Union’s disintegration, further aggravated through the intervention
of neighboring countries.
The conjuncture of the Soviet legacy of ethno-territorial divisions, Gorbachev’s political reforms, and the breakup of the Soviet Union caused an
eruption of ethnic tensions that had simmered throughout the Soviet period.
Nevertheless, George’s study suggests that while an intensification of ethnic
conflict was probably inevitable in the wake of Gorbachev’s reforms, the outbreak of ethnic wars was not the inevitable outcome of this critical juncture if
ethnic leaders on both sides had chosen more conciliatory courses of action.
This finding indicates that path dependency does not determine a particular
outcome but merely limits the range of decisions that are likely to be taken by
political actors. It should also be clear, however, that roughly 15 years after
successful secession, the range of options has further narrowed. The political
leaders of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh are now even
less willing to compromise with the Georgian and Azerbaijani governments,
as the status quo of de facto independence provides considerable political and
economic benefits (King 2001; Lynch 2004). Moreover, they can rely on
powerful outside forces (Russia for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Armenia for
Nagorno-Karabakh) that do not shy away from using military force to preserve the status quo. Taking path dependencies seriously therefore leads to the
dire prediction that a peaceful conclusion of the conflicts is unlikely. The
military escalation in South Ossetia of August 2008 is therefore most likely
not the last war in the Caucasus region. This outbreak of violence also raises
questions about what paths have now been closed.
McGlinchey also highlights the importance of path dependency, emphasizing how the dynamics of positive feedback processes produce societal norms
of political cooperation. In explaining variations in Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and
Uzbek political protest in the post-Soviet era, he points towards “a self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating dynamic of learned cooperation” that ensued in
Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but not in Kazakhstan. The paths that political
opposition in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have taken since the late 1980s are
remarkably resilient, as “strategies of protest are learned and though they
may develop in one institutional environment they persist even when the
coercive capacity of authoritarian regimes increases or decreases.” Given
the emergence of norms of political cooperation, protest movements will continue to challenge the regimes in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, while political
change in Kazakhstan is more likely to emanate from divisions among the
A.E. Wooden and C.H. Stefes
ruling elite. However, without knowledge about the coercive capacity of the
Kyrgyz and Uzbek state apparatus we are unlikely to predict the chances of
success of protest movements. In fact, the almost bloodless ouster of Kyrgyz
President Akayev in 2005 stands in stark contrast to the bloody repression of
a protest movement in the Uzbek region of Andijan only a few months later.
Way’s study focuses on assessing and explaining the different levels of
coercive state capacity in Armenia and Georgia. He links the strength of
Armenia’s security apparatus to the Karabakh war, which the Armenian side
won, thereby facilitating state building efforts in the 1990s. In contrast, the
1990s were lost years for Georgia’s state builders due to the combined legacies
of a civil war and two military defeats against ethnic separatists. Concerning
path dependency, it becomes obvious throughout his study that the initial
absence of a strong state in post-Soviet Georgia caused political and economic problems that frustrated later efforts by the Shevardnadze government
to strengthen the state apparatus and especially its coercive capacity.1 In
contrast, Armenia’s past and present presidents have been able to rely on a
loyal and cohesive state apparatus, which facilitated consecutive efforts to
fortify the state’s coercive apparatus. The ability of Armenian leaders to hang
on to power despite massive street protests is therefore not surprising and
stands in stark contrast to Shevardnadze’s rather unspectacular fall.
If we were to apply comparative historical analysis to the insights that our
contributors present in this volume, which conclusions could we draw concerning the political future of Central Eurasia? More precisely, can we identify steady trajectories in terms of societal mobilization? Are the political
regimes that we find in the South Caucasus and Central Asia stable or not?
Finally, what do the types of political regimes and societal mobilization tell us
about state–society relations, and how will current and future state–society
relations ultimately shape what we generally call political development in this
part of the world?
While McGlinchey and Way seemingly disagree with each other, the findings of their studies actually are complementary and together provide insights
about patterns of state–society relations and future political developments. To
repeat McGlinchey’s claim, institutional factors determine the strength of
political opposition only to a limited degree. In other words, as the dynamics
of opposition mobilization follows “an independent, society based logic”; a
state’s coercive capacity and the political power of the opposition are not
necessarily inversely related. Way’s study of regime stability in Armenia and
Georgia confirms McGlinchey’s finding. In both countries, political protests
have been prevalent and extensive since the late 1980s. In McGlinchey’s words,
they might be the “product of socially produced norms of cooperation”—just
like in Kyrgyzstan and to a lesser degree in Uzbekistan. In fact, the Armenian
opposition has at times been able to mobilize more citizens for mass protests
than its Georgian counterpart, despite the fact that the state’s coercive capacity has actually been stronger in Armenia than Georgia. Way thereby provides additional empirical evidence for McGlinchey’s claim that state capacity
Paths of change in Central Eurasia
does shape the strength of opposition movements only marginally. Yet Way
focuses not on the strength of the opposition movements but rather on the impact
that opposition protests have had on the Armenian and Georgian regimes.
His explanatory variable thereby is the coercive capacity of states.
In other words, while McGlinchey reveals trajectories of society-based
opposition movements, Way traces the paths of state building and the formation of coercive capacities. McGlinchey and Way thereby each identify two
ideal paths—weak and strong society-based opposition as well as weak and
strong coercive capacity. If we combine these paths, we arrive at four ideal
patterns of state–society relations, as summarized in Table 11.1.
Assuming that the four paths are stable, patterns of state–society relations
should be relatively consistent as well. As far as political stability is concerned, the countries in the lower left cell are likely the most stable in Central
Eurasia. In fact, few analysts expect mass-based protest movements to force
regime change in the resource-rich countries of Central Eurasia. Authoritarian regimes appear to be safely in place. Referring to the rentier state literature, Bayulgen provides additional explanations why authoritarian regimes in
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan should be considered stable
regimes. She argues that natural resources enable authoritarian leaders to
prop up the coercive capabilities of states, buy off the political opposition, and
tie the political and economic elite to the state through patron–client relations
and, more formally, public contracts. In this regard, Azerbaijan has shown
that regimes are volatile only in the initial struggle for political control.
However, once political authority is established the dynamic of self-reinforcing feedback processes is set in motion. As an increasing number of influential politicians and businesspeople rally behind the leadership, the risks of
political and economic losses associated with deserting the pro-government
camp rapidly increase. Combining Bayulgen’s with McGlinchey’s insights
leads us to conclude that regime change in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and
even in Azerbaijan is unlikely as long as oil and gas generate huge windfall
profits for the governments of these countries.
Most unstable are the countries in the two upper cells, representing patterns
of recurring political crises. The difference between the two cells is that in the
upper left one, incumbents are likely to weather the storms. Indeed, Armenia,
Table 11.1 Patterns of state–society relations in Central Eurasia
Strong state coercive capacity
Weak state coercive capacity
Strong societybased opposition
Armenia and Azerbaijan
(since mid-1990s), Uzbekistan
(societal mobilization
somewhat strong)
Georgia, Kyrgyzstan (at least
1991–2003/05), Azerbaijan
(before mid-1990s)
Weak societybased opposition
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan
A.E. Wooden and C.H. Stefes
Uzbekistan, and Aliev’s Azerbaijan have seen numerous but unsuccessful
popular uprisings against the political leadership. In other words, while the
societal norms of cooperation among protest movements will cause recurring
challenges to the authoritarian regimes in these three countries, the Armenian,
Uzbek, and Azerbaijani regimes are highly resilient in the face of societal
In contrast, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia in the upper right cell are prone to go
through cycles of societal upheavals and extra-electoral replacements of governments, followed by a new round of political protests that destabilize the
political regime. It is important to point out, however, that the chances of
democracy (or, for that matter, any type of political regime) to take hold are
slim in these two countries. As McGlinchey argues, “a new political culture is emerging [in Kyrgyzstan] where political change is achieved not
through polls and the ballot box, but through protests and bullhorns.” The
same observation could also be made for Georgia. Although most mobilization
is peaceful and the state apparatus generally does not respond with violence,
this kind of political culture is hardly a recipe for the creation of a stable path
towards democracy.
Finally, after a prolonged civil war in the early 1990s today’s Tajikistan
(lower right cell) appears to have reached some measure of political calm. The
reason for this tranquility has little to do with President Emomali Rakhmon,
who is tolerated but not admired by the population. Nor is it related to the
strength of Tajikistan’s coercive apparatus. Instead, the main cause of the stability of Tajikistan’s political regime lies in the fact that the political opposition is weak and divided. Societal upheavals occur infrequently and do not
reach the extent of political protests as in Azerbaijan or Uzbekistan. In short,
in Tajikistan a weak state meets a weak society-based opposition.
Which factors might lead to critical junctures, upsetting current state–
society relations and thereby opening space for more radical political change
in the region? Rapid economic changes should certainly come to mind such as
global economic downturns, rapid fluctuations in the price of natural resources, and bad harvests. Given the strong interrelations between political and
economic developments in the region, these changes have the potential of
leading to a reconfiguration of identities and interests and to a redistribution
of political power. How wealth and opportunities for social and economic
advancement are distributed in Central Eurasia’s societies generally affects
political developments in the region and more specifically the ability of the
political elite to stay in power. In turn, political leaders have a strong interest
in shaping social and economic reforms to their political advantage. Yet this
ability might be curtailed by the economic changes mentioned above. For
instance, leaders were toppled in those countries of Central Eurasia—namely,
Georgia and Kyrgyzstan—where a period of economic growth during the
second half of the 1990s was followed by economic stagnation, dashing initial
hopes for a better life. In contrast, where economic growth has been strong
(Kazakhstan and Armenia) or at least steady, even when starting from a very
Paths of change in Central Eurasia
low point (e.g., Tajikistan), societal unrest has either been muted (Kazakhstan)
or governments have been able to nip the opposition in the bud (Armenia in
2004 and 2008, and Uzbekistan in 2005).
Trajectories of social and economic policies: gradual change
or simply rhetoric?
Our second group of contributors focuses on social and economic policies,
locating the formulation and implementation of these policies at the intersection of state and society. Kissane, Liczek and Wandel, Blackmon, and Waters
analyze educational and economic reform, gender equality measures, and
human rights law in post-Soviet Central Eurasia.
In her chapter, Blackmon stresses the impact that the Soviet economy has had
on limiting the choices that the governments in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
could reasonably make following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Uzbekistan’s economy allowed the post-Soviet government to avoid economic integration with Russia and the West, which would have necessitated far-ranging
economic reforms. In contrast, Kazakhstan could only loosen its economic
ties to Russia on which it was heavily dependent during Soviet times by
opening its economy to the West, making far-reaching economic reforms
inevitable. Nevertheless, as Blackmon emphasizes, despite economic constraints,
choices were available to the post-Soviet leaders of Kazakhstan and especially
Uzbekistan, such as pursuit of economic reforms and economic integration
with the West. Instead, Karimov decided against privatization, price liberalization, and a free trade regime, while his Kazakh counterpart opted for
comprehensive economic reforms.
Obviously, the breakup of the Soviet Union opened up opportunities for
economic reorientation. Yet the choices that political leaders in Central Eurasia have made following their countries’ independence have put the economies on new (and sometimes not so new) paths, narrowing the choices for
these countries today. For instance, Kazakhstan’s liberalization and privatization in conjunction with high elite turnover in the 1990s removed the Soviet
guard from the corridors of power. This allowed for the rise of a new business
class that supports capitalism and Kazakhstan’s close economic ties with
the West. This class will fiercely resist any rollbacks of economic reforms.
Likewise, Uzbekistan’s restrictions on business and trade have played into the
hands of business groups closely allied with the Karimov regime. As these
groups have expanded their economic and political reach, economic reforms
are difficult to foresee in Uzbekistan.
Comparing educational reform across the five former Soviet countries of
Central Asia, Kissane finds that continuities in public policy from the Soviet
era are prevalent.
The post-Soviet educational landscape … is in some ways strikingly
similar to the pre-1991 period; while a number of new policies and calls
A.E. Wooden and C.H. Stefes
for improved teaching and learning practices are in place, the translation
of these policies and practices into action has been slow and incremental.
In evaluating the gap between rhetoric and reality in social reform, Kissane finds
not only this continuity but also interesting discontinuities and heterogeneous
outcomes. The jolting impact of the Soviet collapse on Central Asian education
systems has led to funding shortages and a growth in private schools. Together
with an increase in socioeconomic disparity, this has led to rapidly increasing
educational inequality. Despite this significant change in the quality of education provision in the post-Soviet period, Kissane does not describe this
change process as a transition or transformation, but rather as new nationstate “tinkering.” Also, Kissane demonstrates that this tinkering has happened
in quite different ways in each of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics.
“The reality of the region’s educational transition is mixed … There is no
singular educational narrative in place, and this heterogeneous context significantly affects studies of education in the Central Asian region.” The conjuncture of centralized educational system collapse with national identity
formation led Central Asian governments to use Western civic education funding
and rhetoric. Kissane finds that in substance this combination of processes led
to greatly varying ethno-nationalizing school policies across the region.
In a similar way, nation-building efforts altered the status of women in
Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan and made reform difficult, as Liczek and Wandel
demonstrate in their chapter about international gender equality norms.
Many of the path dependencies generally discussed are the “Soviet hangover”
type. However, using a constructivist approach, Liczek and Wandel identify a
different path dependency in the reemergence and political instrumentalization of pre-Soviet customary norms in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. “The
return to ‘pre-Soviet’ values for women … was part of a broader effort to
present a national set of values alternative to the Soviet era. … ”
Likewise, Waters introduces his discussion of Central Eurasian human
rights reform by broadening the timeframe for which scholars normally evaluate the source of human rights norms. He questions the assumptions that
such norms are only of Western derivation and therefore inapplicable to
Central Eurasia. Human rights law is not just a twentieth-century construct,
argues Waters, providing examples of ancient and medieval women’s rights
laws in the Caucasus and Islamic human rights constructs. Waters also concludes that even nation-states founded on modern international human rights
principles often diverge from the path of consistently and universally protecting human rights. Thus, the path of following international human rights
norms is not straight and easy, but has complex, historical barriers to full
implementation. Waters identifies the different characteristics of post-Soviet
space that lead to variations in violation of these norms, for example comparing
the egregious human rights record of Uzbekistan to the better but imperfect
conditions in Georgia. In doing so, he identifies the possible characteristics
that create conditions for change that may emerge in the region.
Paths of change in Central Eurasia
The push factor Waters identifies is domestic human rights entrepreneurs
who work to increase human rights compliance by challenging legal institutions
to change. These are “individuals and civil society groups acting to bridge the
gap between international standards and domestic implementation of those
standards.” Waters argues that these civil society entrepreneurs can spark a
transnational legal process through which international human rights norms
can become embedded in societies. These actors emerge because of norm
transmission, a transnational norm-learning process despite the lack of civic
traditions and limited working relationships with the state. A factor that combines with this norm-learning process to enhance its effectiveness is international financial support for human rights entrepreneurs. Waters’ provides
clear support for the supposition that a conjuncture of international financing
and transferal of international human rights norms—upon a canvas of historical
domestic rights values and specific domestic institutions—can lead to a gradual
or evolutionary process in which domestic actors are able to transform themselves and society by pushing for institutional change in novel ways. Additionally,
Waters notes that horizontal state-to-state pressure does matter for domestic
institutional change when combined with internal civil society pressure, and it
is necessary as well for a transnational institutional change process.
Several other contributors evaluate the influence of external actors as one
possible factor in path alteration and critical juncture emergence. The question that several authors raise is, how powerful and significant are international norms and funding for reforms to gain traction? In addition, are these
changes (that seem to be influenced by external actors’ responses to the
changed situation) merely superficial and ones of discourse alterations but not
deep institutional reformation? Are there other factors that interact with
international funding to create conjunctures for change or to limit their
development? For example, the buzzwords of international educational programs have been adopted and integrated, reflecting what Kissane calls discourse
borrowing in part to allow these new nation-states to achieve international
legitimation and recognition, yet without demonstrating substantive change.
She notes that, “The discourse on pedagogy follows much of the rhetoric of
democratization.” Kissane concludes that the significant change in Central
Asia from the Soviet period—in which education was the great equalizer and
during which the Soviet system drastically altered gender equality, employment, and literacy in Central Asia—is the result of the centralized system’s
collapse and not due to international civic education program’s success.
Liczek and Wandel make the argument that norm internalization is a result
of the conjuncture of international support competing with the pulling, or
limiting, factor of traditional cultural norms about women. Liczek and Wandel
conclude that socialization of international norms is determined not only by
the interests of these countries in nation-building and gaining international
legitimacy through compliance reporting, but also by the amount of funding
available for institutional change. This raises the question: what determines
differences in levels of international funding? Liczek and Wandel find, as
A.E. Wooden and C.H. Stefes
many other authors have, that general political openness is the characteristic
which attracts greater international financing. Kyrgyzstan has accordingly
received much more international funding for its women’s rights groups than
Turkmenistan has. Thus the sources of path dependence—pre-Soviet norms—
interacted with the new factors of the degree of political openness and international funding, in the context of nation-state formation, to provide different
outcomes in the degree of international norm internalization.
Several important sources of possible future political change and continuity
in social and economic policies have been identified in this book. These include
the influence of domestic non-state actors, the causes and consequences of
regime change and sources of destabilization, and the influence of international
actors and ideas. The importance of non-state actors as push factors for
political change was demonstrated by Waters’ and McGlinchey’s chapters. A
specific example emerges from Waters’ discussion of the role of NGOs in the
2003 Georgian “Rose Revolution.” We can surmise that future possible patterns
include the increasing influence of civil society actors. Waters claims that, “[i]t
can be hoped that as awareness of rights spreads and access to court for rights
challenges is made easier, competition in the rights market will increase and
human rights work will become part of mainstream legal practice.”
It is important to keep in mind the negative response of other Central
Eurasian governments to this civil society reformist role, as Waters demonstrates in his discussion of Uzbekistan’s crackdown on domestic and international human rights and democratization organizations. While some countries
have embarked on a post-Soviet path that likely leads to progressive political
change, other countries have learned to respond to this possibility by closing
off that path. “In fact the perceived role of Georgian NGOs in bringing about
that country’s 2003 Rose Resolution has encouraged some of the region’s
authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on civil society groups since that
time (Eurasianet 2004)” (Waters this volume). This is similar to the cut-off of
above-the ground Islamist organizations and educational funding, as described in the next section. Thus, we are likely to see heterogeneous outcomes
in civil society development and influence, partially depending on how governments have reacted to the emergence of these actors in the political arena
in the past decade and a half. Yet civil society development is also shaped by
an internal logic, as McGlinchey argues in his analysis of the emergence of
protest movements. He stresses the importance of learned norms of cooperation that develop independent from state action (namely, repression). We may
therefore see a new role for Islamic organizations in Central Asia, forced to
become hidden, secretive, and anti-government actors.
As changes in leadership have occurred in several countries in the region—
notably Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan most recently—our contributors have been able to not only identify sources of these changes in state–
society relations (as discussed in the previous section) but also what impacts
such changes are likely to have in the future. Liczek and Wandel’s cases exemplify
the different possible results of regime change; they evaluate effects of pluralism
Paths of change in Central Eurasia
decline in Kyrgyzstan since 2005, such as reduced political representation of
women, as well as encouraging signs of formal commitments by Turkmenistan
and demonstration of concern about representation in Kyrgyzstan.
Some of our contributors dissect seemingly drastic changes in the aftermath
of the Soviet Union and provide a cautionary note that some effects of this
critical juncture were not as drastic as expected. In evaluating the “deficit” of
the post-Soviet era government actions (Collier and Way 2004; see discussion
of their work in Chapter 1 of this book), some of our contributors have found
that these deficits were predetermined by the limited possibilities, constrained
policy paths, established by institutional collapse. The superficialities of Soviet
adherence to international human rights norms are clear and continue. The
drastic changes in the post-Soviet space may have much to do with construction of norms, values and ideas of what culture is—the political creation and
instrumentalization of culture in nation-building—as demonstrated by Kissane, Liczek and Wandel, George, and Waters. Nation-building was a serious
and constantly changing undertaking in the Soviet Union, thus such “tinkering”, as Kissane calls it, may not be so discontinuous. Likewise, by using the
historical institutionalist lens, we are able to see how slow-moving social
processes interact with drastic institutional change to provide both unintended openings for political change (such as drastic turnaround in gender
equality) and limit the opportunities for progressiveness in other areas (such
as increased human rights protections). Yet the heterogeneous results of these
varied attempts to nation building are becoming clear in the divergent postSoviet paths that countries have taken. George’s insights about the role of
ethnic leaders in instrumentalizing cultural differences have particular relevance here. What these studies indicate is that sequencing of institutional and
social change matters to explain unexpected inertia in the face of significant
systemic alterations (Pierson and Skocpol 2002: 701).
Similar to our contributors’ discussions of political development, several of
those evaluating social and economic policy identify the important role of
external international actors. Liczek and Wandel note that there are different
impacts on women’s lives in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan based on the level
of internalization of international gender equality norms. While in both
countries this internalization is minimal at best with similar negative consequences for women’s health, violence against women, human trafficking,
and women’s political roles (as Wooden, Aitieva, and Epkenhans also find),
even the slightly better internalization on Kyrgyzstan’s part reveals how small
steps can have profound results. Liczek and Wandel likewise demonstrate that
it was the perception of greater political openness and political will in Kyrgyzstan that led to the international funding which allowed for more thorough gender equality standard implementation. They argue this was the case
even as Kyrgyzstan became less democratic; international perceptions of
minor steps truly mattered. Similar to Waters’ finding about the creation of
political space in Georgia, a non-isolated and relatively open political atmosphere provided the opportunity for non-governmental actors to play a role in
A.E. Wooden and C.H. Stefes
promoting women’s rights in Kyrgyzstan, in sharp contrast to Turkmenistan.
This in turn allowed the former to attract more funding to meet international
obligations. Thus, non-state actors play an important role; Turkmenistan’s
path limiting the development of these actors’ capabilities and influence
may have significant impacts on women’s lives and consequently the economy
and stability.
Our contributors have identified social elements interacting with institutional change to understand state–society relations and policy outcomes that
perplex upon first glance. How our scholars have chosen to identify these
avenues of research is an important question as is the extent to which the
study of the region is itself determined by the contexts in which research is
defined, funded, and conducted.
Trajectories in research on Central Eurasia
Wooden, Aitieva, and Epkenhans evaluate the state of Central Eurasian
research methodology and identify how the study of Central Eurasia has
changed in the post-Soviet period. The authors focus on influential scholars,
professional networks, and funding sources as indicators, identifying continuity in foreign scholars’ language training, and professional associations.
Soviet-era conceptualizations, of Islam for example, continue to be used or
influence scholars today. “As most graduate students and young scholars of
today have been taught by Soviet scholars or Sovietologists—or taught by
scholars trained by either—Soviet and Sovietological approaches still significantly influence current Central Eurasian scholars.” However, there is discontinuity in several important ways, including how scholars of Central
Eurasia are developing professional networks outside of Russian-centric academic circles. A unique Central Eurasian approach may be developing, but
just as with the slow-moving social processes evaluated by several contributors,
sophisticated region-specific academic research agendas and approaches take
time to emerge.
Wooden, Aitieva, and Epkenhans demonstrate how the political changes
and continuities discussed by other contributors—authoritarianism, the color
revolutions, regular leadership change, conflict, emergence and influence of
international actors, nation-building, civil society activism—have helped to
determine the study of the region in the post-Soviet period in often surprising
ways. Openness to foreign scholars obviously was a major boon to research in
the late Soviet period and the continuation or change in this relative openness
after the Soviet Union’s disintegration distinguishes our understanding of
politics in the region today (e.g., Georgia in comparison with Turkmenistan).
Information access remains constrained in Central Eurasia, providing ample
room for speculation about future political trajectories. It is not only information access and political conditions in Central Asia that affect scholars of
the region, but also political changes in foreign scholars’ home countries and
in donor countries. As Wooden, Aitieva, and Epkenhans demonstrate in their
Paths of change in Central Eurasia
gender research case study, local scholars rely on foreign funds almost entirely,
and clearly these funders set the research agenda in accordance with their
goals. Additionally, as identified in the environmental politics case, scholars
often rely on donor-generated data and analysis, thus the particular perspective
and policy needs of donors matters much for the study of the region.
The critical juncture of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the new path
dependencies created because of this process are exemplified best by combining insights from several chapters regarding the role of Islam in politics and
policymaking. Wooden, Aitieva, and Epkenhans demonstrate how the study
of Islam has been influenced greatly by the “danger discourse” inspired by
both Western (US, European) and Russian conceptualizations of this religion
as a destabilizing force in the region. In an interesting connection to this idea,
Kissane discusses the influence that funding from abroad had for religious
education in the early post-Soviet period, which has been increasingly limited
by Central Asian governments over the last four years because of this “danger
discourse.” As a result of this constricted path, religious education has, “ …
taken on more covert forms through the establishment of after-school religious education programs that are more difficult to control because they are
outside the formal institutional structures.” Liczek and Wandel also address
the role of Islamic practices in the gender rights discourse in Central Asia and
distinguish between recently re-emergent Islamic practices and customary
practices, arguing that both are central to analysis of gender equality in the
region. “The manifestations of a reinstated vigor of the Islamic faith are
mainly regulating women’s and girls’ lives and choices. Most of the time, the
various forms and traditional practices stemming from Islam (e.g., polygamy)
and the customary law adat (kalym, ala kachuu or bride kidnapping, checking
the bride’s virginity) impact the full realization of women’s human rights in
these countries (Kleinbach et al. 2005; Tabyshalieva 1998).”
When evaluated together, these three chapters help us to identify new
trends in cultural sources of conjuncture and how these factors are politicized,
the newly constrained paths that Central Asian governments are pursuing,
and the potential impacts for societies in the region and for the study of these
societies. Wooden, Aitieva, and Epkenhans note, and the combined evaluation of these three chapters demonstrates, the need for scholars to utilize
alternative methodologies—such as anthropological approaches combined
with traditional political analysis—to allow greater understanding of the
varied social politics of Islam in Central Eurasia. As for other areas of study,
Central Eurasian Islamic studies require an improved methodological and
theoretical basis “in order to drive research agendas by intellectual need
rather than by foreign policy determinations” (Chapter 2: this volume).
Avenues for future research
As this example of the Islamic factor demonstrates, our book’s contributions
provide insight about the meeting point of the past and future, both when
A.E. Wooden and C.H. Stefes
viewed individually and in combination. It is difficult to imagine all-encompassing
approaches, theories or methodologies. However, it is useful to provide guidance to the understudied factors and underutilized scholarly tools and
approaches that might best allow us to study those aspects often ignored.
Particularly well suited to the undertaking of identifying factors for political
change and inertia in Central Eurasia are the political economy approach and
the theory of historic institutionalism suggested in this chapter.
We have argued in this book for scholarship that moves beyond overly
simplified conceptions and demonstrated how our chapters alone and in
combination provide a rich historical and comparative perspective that does
this. These chapters shed light on the nuances, homogeneities, and heterogeneities of political change and policy outcomes in the post-Soviet period by
comparing countries over time, not evaluating single cases and politics out of
context. When viewed without the comparative historical institutionalist lens
we have employed, several elements our contributors ably identify are lost:
feedback processes inherent in political systems, importance of economic and
political development sequences, exogenous factors that influence domestic
decision-making within particular institutional contexts, slow-moving nature
of social and cultural change, unintended openings created by small alterations and choices made by reluctant or constrained leaders, and threshold
effects when path dependencies conjoin and thrust change forward.
Returning to the opening quote of the volume, this chapter has unified our
perspective that the dichotomy of post-Soviet political fates is false. There are
many more than the two political fates of pluralism or autocracy, capitalism
or socialism, conflict or stability, that Baratynsky’s poem laid out for us at the
beginning of this book. Rather, Central Eurasian countries have embarked on
varied but seemingly similar paths in the last 15 years, with analogous Soviet
foundations but divergent pre- and post-Soviet influences both domestic and
external. Without a comprehensive view of these different elements and a
magnifying glass that allows us to see the slowest moving pieces within the
macro context, we become dismissive of the particularities of Central Eurasian political processes. It will be valuable for scholars to continue deepening
our understanding of the temporal connections between social processes
(Pierson and Skocpol 2002) within the context of institutional change in order
to identify the many resulting variations possible in politics and policymaking
in Central Eurasia.
1 For a further discussion, see Stefes (2006).
Collier, S.J. and Way, L. (2004) “Beyond the Deficit Model: Social Welfare in Post
Soviet Georgia,” Post-Soviet Affairs, 20: 258–84.
Paths of change in Central Eurasia
Ilkhamov, A. (2004) “The Limits of Centralization: Regional Challenges in Uzbekistan,” in P. Jones Luong (ed.) The Transformation of Central Asia: States and
Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
King, C. (2001) “The Benefits of Ethnic War: Understanding Eurasia’s Unrecognized
States,” World Politics, 53: 524–52.
Lynch, D. (2004) Engaging Eurasia’s Separatist States: Unresolved Conflicts and De
Facto States, Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.
Mitchell, L. (2004) “Georgia’s Rose Revolution,” Current History, October: 342–48.
Pierson, P. (2004) Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis, Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
Pierson, P. and Skocpol, T. (2002) “Historical Institutionalism in Contemporary Political Science,” in I. Katznelson and H. V. Milner (eds) Political Science: State of the
Discipline, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Radnitz, S. (2006) “What Really Happened in Kyrgyzstan?” Journal of Democracy, 17:
Stefes, C. H. (2006) Understanding Post-Soviet Transitions: Corruption, Collusion and
Clientelism, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Tsygankov, A. P. (2007) “Modern At Last? Variety of Weak States in the Post-Soviet
World,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 40: 423–39.
Abkhazia 14–15, 75–76, 78, 81–85, 88,
107–8, 110, 169, 251
Adat 214, 219, 223, 261
Ajaria 109, 115, 116
Akayev, Askar 96, 98, 126–28, 131–35,
142, 217, 223, 236, 252
Akramiya 96
Aliyev, Heidar 87
Aliyev, Ilham 88
Amnesty International (AI) 127, 192,
Andijan 47, 93, 96, 99, 129, 155, 195,
202, 252
Ardzinba, Vladislav 83
Armenian National Movement (ANM)
87, 105, 107, 109, 111, 113
Armenian Revolutionary Party
(Dashnaks) 121, 127, 129, 137
Article 42 189, 200, 201
Asanbayev, Yerik 152
Bakiyev, Kurmanbek 128, 213, 221, 236
Berdymukhamedov, Gurbanguly 142
Birlik Party 129
Burdjanadze, Nino 115
Chanturia, Giorgi 110
China 164, 168
Citizen’s Union of Georgia (CUG) 106,
Commonwealth of Independent States
(CIS) 35, 59–70, 91, 97, 141, 147, 193
Communist Party 42, 87, 90, 106–7, 109,
111, 115, 132–33, 142, 150–51, 153
Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against
Women (CEDAW) 42, 191, 205–24
Council of Europe (COE) 193–94,
Dermichian, Karen 111
Dermichian, Stepan 112
Diaspora 109
Elchibey, Abulfaz 79, 87
Erk Party 129–30
Erkin Party 127
European Union (EU) 36, 193, 229, 242
Ferghana Valley 25, 75–76, 79, 81–82,
88, 92–100, 128, 132, 169
Freedom House 27, 157, 179, 196, 218,
224, 232
Gamsakhurdia, Zviad 27, 79, 83, 90,
105–8, 109–10, 114, 163
Gorbachev, Mikhail 78, 85–86, 99, 114,
117, 125, 132–33
Great Game 164
Hizb-ut Tahrir 94, 129
Human Rights Watch (HRW) 42, 111–13,
129, 192, 195, 198
Iran 163, 164, 167–71, 174, 181–82
Islam 24, 31, 40–50, 56, 61, 63, 94, 96,
128–29, 164, 219, 231, 260, 261
Islamic movement(s) 46–47, 97, 129
Karabakh (see Nagorno-Karabakh) 25,
75–78, 81–82, 85–87, 90, 92, 103,
105–17, 167, 169, 182, 251, 252
Karakalpak Autonomous Republic 95,
Karimov, Islam 22, 95–97, 128–30, 132,
134, 142, 149–57, 255
Khalilov, Erkin 153
Kocharian, Robert 87–88, 105, 108,
Kodori Gorge 109
Kolbin, Gennadi 90, 136
Kosovo 191
Kulov, Felix 127, 133, 135
Kunayev, Dinmukhamed 153
Mahalla 240
Meskhetian Turks 132
Mingrelia 109
Mkhedrioni 108
Nagorno-Karabakh 25, 75–78, 81,
85–87, 90, 92, 103–11, 167, 169,
182, 251
Nazarbayev, Nursultan 22, 90–91, 125,
130–31, 134, 136, 150–54, 195, 235
Niyazov, Saparmurat 142, 221, 223,
238, 239
Nomenklatura 106
Non-Governmental Organization
(NGO) 33, 36, 43–44, 63, 133, 189,
195–96, 200, 219, 223
Novorossiysk 165, 167
Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights (OHCHR) 191, 195
Oliy Majlis 153
Open Society Institute (OSI) 36, 41, 62,
66, 69, 243, 248
Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC) 230
Osh 49, 92, 93, 95, 97–99, 126
Ossetia, North 82–83, 169, 196
Ossetia, South 75–88, 99, 107–8, 110,
Pakistan 164, 169, 182, 231
Pankisi Gorge 109
Patiashvili, Dzhumber 115
Patronage 104–6, 115, 118
Perestroika 46, 99, 125–26
Persian Gulf 167–68, 181
Polat, Abdurahim 129
Putin, Vladimir 173
Radzhab, Mukhammad 128
Rashidov, Sharaf 149–50, 157
Rose Revolution 27, 48, 63, 88, 99, 112,
198, 201, 258
Roundtable—Free Georgia 107
Roundtable (see Roundtable—Free
Georgia) 38, 43, 107
Rustavi-2 38, 43, 107
Saakashvili, Mikheil 88, 99, 106, 115–16,
198, 201
Sargsyan, Serge 108, 112–13
Saudi Arabia 163, 168, 231
Shevardnadze, Eduard 27, 83–84, 99,
100, 105–9, 114–18, 169, 198, 252
Shkolnik, Vladimir 153
Siradeghian, Vano 111
Stalin, Joseph 230
Sultanov, Utkir 153
Sumgait 62, 109–10
Supsa 165, 169
Tereshchenko, Sergei 153
Ter-Petrosian, Levon 105, 107–11
Tiskov, Valery 58, 93
Transneft (pipeline) 165, 169
Tulip Revolution 98, 128, 236
Turkey 108, 110, 164–67, 173, 181–82,
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
(USSR) 61, 79, 83, 86–87, 124, 150,
United National Movement 106
United Nations (UN) 18–19, 29, 60, 62,
84, 99, 170, 178, 187, 190, 209, 232,
234, 246, 248
United States (of America, US) 131, 237
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR) 184, 190, 191, 220
Uzgen 92–93, 95, 126
Women’s Rights 23, 61, 190, 205, 207,
209, 214–23, 256, 258, 260
World Bank 19, 20–21, 41, 143, 148,
151, 154, 175, 177–78, 196, 236, 237,
Xinjiang 168
Yeltsin, Boris 84, 93
Zhakiyanov, Galymzhan 130
Zhirinovsky, Vladimir 84
Zhvania, Zurab 115