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Chaos, Violence, and Dynasty

Politics in Central Asia

Eric McGlinchey

Publication Year: 2011

In the post-Soviet era, democracy has made little progress in Central Asia. Chaos, Violence, Dynasty presents a compelling explanation for this through a comparison of the divergent political courses taken by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan in the wake of Soviet rule. While the Soviet legacy is crucial to understanding the varying outcomes in these countries, Eric McGlinchey also examines the economics, religion, politics, foreign investment, and ethnic composition of these nations for insights into their relative strengths and weaknesses today. Soviet rule and influence in the region was inconsistent. Thus, their manipulation of the politics of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the late 1980s solidified the role of local elites, while in Kyrgyzstan Moscow looked away as leadership crumbled during the ethnic riots of 1990. Today, Kyrgyzstan is the poorest and most politically unstable country in the region, thanks to a small, corrupt, and fractured political elite. In Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov maintains power through the brutal suppression of disaffected Muslims, who are nevertheless rising in numbers and influence. In Kazakhstan, a political machine fueled by oil wealth and patronage underlies the greatest economic equity in the region, and far less political violence. This timely study concludes with a call for a more realistic and flexible view of the authoritarian systems in the region, if there is to be any potential benefit from foreign engagement with the nations of Central Asia and similar political systems globally.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Central Eurasia in Context

Front Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xvi

Mine is not the first study of post-Soviet Central Asian politics. I have benefited greatly from first-generation comparativists who blazed paths intellectually and, no less important...

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pp. 1-16

Journalist Alisher Saipov left his office just before sunset. On a typical day he would be back at his laptop, drinking coffee to the ping of instant messages well into the early morning...

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Chapter 1. A Post-transitions Research Agenda for the Study of Authoritarianism

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pp. 17-47

I left an October 2009 U.S. government conference on democracy assistance in Central Asia with two thoughts: policy makers and academics have developed a sophisticated conceptualization...

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Chapter 2. The Soviet Origins of Post-Soviet Autocratic Variation

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pp. 48-79

Central to understanding the diverging paths of Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek authoritarianism are the differing legacies of the perestroika period. In the framing of this book’s causal...

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Chapter 3. Kyrgyz Chaos

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pp. 80-113

Familiarity with diverging Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek elite institutions and the perestroika legacy model should have proved sufficient for anyone assessing the Central Asian political landscape in December 1991 to anticipate that politics in Kyrgyzstan...

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Chapter 4. Uzbek Violence

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pp. 114-146

Uzbekistan at first glance appears politically stable. In contrast to the elite turmoil in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbek elites thus far have proven remarkably deferential to President Islam Karimov...

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Chapter 5. Kazakh Dynasty

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pp. 147-164

The Kazakh case, similar to the Uzbek and Kyrgyz cases, closely conforms to what the perestroika legacy model predicts. Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev, thanks to Gorbachev’s...

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pp. 165-172

We began with the following questions: Why do Central Asian states with similar pasts exhibit dissimilar post-Soviet outcomes? Why is Uzbek politics violent? Why is Kyrgyz politics chaotic? Why, in contrast, is the only real threat to enduring Kazakh stability...


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pp. 173-196


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pp. 197-208


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pp. 209-216

Back Cover

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p. 217-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780822977476
E-ISBN-10: 0822977478
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961680
Print-ISBN-10: 0822961687

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Central Eurasia in Context