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1 Introduction Democracy, first and foremost, means order, but it is understood as anarchy and all-permissiveness here. . . . One can steal, kill, take things away, and plunder. This is how democracy is understood here and in the entire post-Soviet space. . . . It is mayhem. —Focus group participant from Kazakhstan Set off by the collapse of communism in Europe and the demise of the Soviet Union, the global resurgence of democracy has become a pivotal political trend in contemporary international politics. The wave of democratization that swept across Eastern and Central Europe and rippled into parts of the crumbling USSR consolidated the idea of democracy as a “universal human right” that should be supported by the international community .1 This new conviction rekindled a belief that the democratization of communist states can be fostered from abroad if domestic forces are weak or lacking within these states.2 Encouraged by the growing perception of democracy as the only legitimate form of political rule, scores of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), charities, and foundations, most of them sponsored by advanced democracies from the West, rushed into the former communist states and offered them financial resources and know-how for rapid democratization. Despite the initial optimism that democratic aid would be able to nurture and support “people power” in transitioning states, it has produced mixed results at best. Although the European Union (EU), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other international actors have scored some notable achievements in Eastern and Central Europe, especially in terms of electoral assistance and the organizational capacity of civil society groups,3 democracy assistance has been ineffective in contributing to the long-term sustainable development of democratic culture , institutions, and processes in other previously communist states.4 In some instances, democracy assistance has had regressive consequences by destabilizing regimes and creating fragile, dependent, and unrepresentative political opposition.5 By pressing for democratic change in one state, 2   Democracy in Central Asia agents for democracy have unwittingly urged authoritarian leaders in neighboring states to protect themselves by becoming even more repressive . All in all, many analysts concur that when democratic aid has had a favorable impact, that positive effect has occurred largely on the margins.6 The USSR’s successor states are clearly representative of these trends in democracy assistance. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania —which benefited greatly from political backing and various forms of assistance from the EU, the United States, and individual European states— have succeeded in transforming themselves into sustainable democracies; however, the rest of the former Soviet Union has not made a smooth transition to liberal democracy. Admittedly, there have been a few “democratic breakthroughs” marked by the so-called color revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. But even in these more politically liberal postSoviet states, the future of democratic gains is uncertain.7 Most observers agree that democratic reforms are shallow and spotty in these states, which must constantly contend with authoritarian resurgence.8 The focus of this book is democracy and democracy promotion in the three post-Soviet republics of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.9 Arguably, Central Asia is the region where Western democracy assistance has yielded the lowest results. In the early 1990s the new Central Asian governments seemed to be committed, if only rhetorically, to the idea of democratization. They joined the corpus of international treaties prescribing recognition of the principles of democracy and fundamental human rights. They also set up formal democratic institutions consisting of modern laws and constitutions, elections, parliaments, and parties. Inspired by the democratic rhetoric of the leadership of Central Asian states, the United States, EU, United Nations, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in addition to individual European states, NGOs, and international financial institutions, launched multiple development and democracy promotion projects in the region. The United States has been one of the largest donors of democracy assistance and development aid in Central Asia. It disbursed more than $1.8 billion to Central Asian republics from 1992 to 2006, based on the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets Support Act, passed by Congress in 1992 (see chapter 3 for more information ). The US democracy assistance programs in the region have been matched, if not surpassed, by aid from the EU. By some estimates, the EU and its member states spend US$3 billion on democracy, governance, and Introduction  3 related activities annually, exceeding US expenditures.10 Despite the sheer size and volume of democracy assistance programs...


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