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73 5 Central Asian Democracy Frames In the last quarter of the twentieth century, democratic issues made headway in the international context. Democracy became a widely recognized principle for effective and legitimate rule that can be dismissed only at the risk of international isolation and loss of reputation at home and abroad. None of the Central Asian governments have relinquished the idea of democracy, in principle, and all have established the requisite democratic foundations. Despite their departures from liberal democratic principles in practice, all the Central Asian governments have described their governance and politics as democratic. To reconcile the discrepancy between the expectations of Western donors and the domestic political situation, the leaders of these states have devised and actively disseminated their own rhetorical and ideological versions of democracy, such as presidential democracy in Kazakhstan, consultative and parliamentary democracy in Kyrgyzstan, and the Uzbek path to democracy and development in Uzbekistan. As discussed earlier, the discursive representations of democracy may deliberately attempt to promote a particular vision of democracy and an evaluation of its status in the Central Asian republics. However, these purposeful democracy frames used by the subjects of communication can hardly be separated from the knowledge and values that bestow meaning on these frames. Unless all language is viewed as a mockery and deception , what is said is inevitably connected to what is known and believed. In addition, ideas and perspectives used in the “frame in communication” must be familiar to the audience to have the intended effect. This book, therefore, does not dismiss the Central Asian governments’ references to democracy as cynical attempts to shore up their authoritarian administrations . By defining what counts as democracy and democratization and linking these notions to history and culture, the Central Asian leaders not only reinforce their own understanding of their political rule but also fos- 74   Democracy in Central Asia ter knowledge about democracy and attitudes toward democratization in the people targeted by the national democracy frames. Kazakhstan’s Presidential Democracy In a 2001 address (which was included in a ten-volume work published to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the republic’s independence), President Nursultan Nazarbayev stated: We are the children of the majestic mountains and the boundless steppes. Here, hundreds and hundreds of generations of Kazakhs were born, gained strength, and reached manhood. These boundless spaces are our cradle, our inheritance, our legacy. It is here that our glorious predecessors would hoist their banner of statehood, which was recognized by states near and far. . . . In preserving our national distinctiveness, much has been done in the past several years. We have carefully restored everything that was lost: halfforgotten traditions, historic rights, culture, language, beliefs. . . . My duty as a person and as president is to be concerned constantly about the preservation and development of the Kazakh nation, its unique national characteristics.1 This exemplifies the nature of presidential discourse in Kazakhstan. Laden with appeals to patriotic pride and stories of the achievements of the Kazakh nation, Nazarbayev’s speeches typically extol the peaceful, united, and progressive nation that Kazakhstan has become. From the beginning of its independent statehood, its official discourse has been infused with acclamatory language glorifying the Kazakhs’ unique traditions , political culture, and centuries-old history. At the highest level, the values of a sovereign Kazakhstan and the principles of its purported democratic system have been discursively connected to the customs and ways of the Kazakhs. When Western commentators have criticized the Kazakh government for cosmetic democratic reforms and lack of respect for civil and political freedoms, its leaders have passionately disputed these assessments. They have lambasted the reports of Western observers of elections and questioned the “mythical unconformity with standards” conveyed in these reports.2 Contrary to the common Western view of Kazakhstan and the Central Asian Democracy Frames  75 other Central Asian states as bereft of any democratic heritage, Kazakhstan ’s authorities and pundits insist that democratic principles have always inhered in the Kazakh nomadic culture. They have proclaimed that the earliest examples of “primordial” nomadic democracy can be found in the country’s political history, which features the election of khans, the protection of individual rights in the courts of biys, and various proto-democratic aspects of customary Kazakh law.3 In the 1990s Kazakhstan’s official discourse described democracy as a desired long-term goal. Frequent aberrations from democratic principles were attributed to the infancy of democratic rule in the newly independent country. By the 2000s, the language of democracy assumed considerably more assertive...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813160696
Related ISBN
9780813160689
MARC Record
OCLC
910326297
Pages
232
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-29
Language
English
Open Access
No
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