This is an essay by one of the leading Russian specialists on Central Asia, Sergei Abashin, who happened to be in Uzbekistan on August 21, 1991. The experience inspired him to assume the symbolic position of an outside observer who nevertheless looks at the events of 1991 from the Central Asia perspective. As Abashin states, the breakup of the Soviet Union had its own history and interpretation depending on the point of observation. His essay is thus an attempt to make sense of the breakup of the USSR through an analysis of post-Soviet transformations in Central Asia. Abashin questions the universality and self-explanatory nature of such tropes as “local nationalisms,” “nationalisms of local elites,” or “post-Soviet societies.” He stresses that the process of nation building continues in all countries of the region and is influenced by specific local conjunctures of multiple factors, not all of which can be traced to some “Soviet legacy.” He illustrates the specifics of these conjunctures in Tajikistan, which appeals to its diaspora and desperately fights with the Muslim alternative; in Kazakhstan, which is searching for a formula of coexistence with its Russian community; in Kyrgyzstan, which is painfully trying to preserve the unity of its elites, and so on. He suggests reasons as to why Uzbekistan became the leader of de-Sovietization in the region, and why the Uzbek elite most persistently employs postcolonial rhetoric. Finally, Abashin denies the validity of any monologic (post-Soviet, or postcolonial, etc.) model of development of Central Asia in the past twenty years, especially if such a model insists on the uniqueness of this development.


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pp. 193-210
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