Civil Society and Politics in Central Asia

Civil Society and Politics in Central Asia

Edited by Charles E. Ziegler
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 366
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    Civil Society and Politics in Central Asia
    Book Description:

    The five Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan constitute an area of increasing importance in global politics. The region currently serves as the main route for transporting American and NATO supplies and personnel into Afghanistan. Its Turkic Muslim peoples share ethnic and religious roots with China's Uighurs in neighboring Xinjiang, where some Uighurs have connections to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, fueling Beijing's already acute fears of terrorism and separatism.

    Perhaps most importantly, the Caspian basin holds immense reserves of oil and natural gas. Countries rich in hydrocarbons -- like Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- can benefit greatly from this wealth, but often they must rely on foreign companies (usually backed by foreign governments) to develop these resources. Revolts in Kyrgyzstan (in 2005 and 2010) and Uzbekistan (in 2005); Tajikistan's civil war (in the 1990s); and continued terrorist incidents (2010--2011), strikes, and suicide bombings in Kazakhstan (in 2011) have contributed to concerns about stability in the region.

    In Civil Society and Politics in Central Asia, a prominent group of scholars assesses both the area's manifold problems and its emerging potential, examining the often uneasy relationship between its states and the societies they govern. A meticulously in-depth study, the volume demonstrates the fascinating cultural complexity and diversity of Central Asia. Small, landlocked, and surrounded by larger powers, Central Asian nations have become adept at playing their neighbors against each other in order to maximize their own abilities to maneuver. The essays in this book look beyond the surface of Central Asian politics to discover the forces that are working for political change and continuity in this critical region of the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5078-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Charles E. Ziegler

    The five Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan constitute a region of great importance in world politics. Historically, this remote area lay at the center of a struggle for influence and empire between Russia and Britain. Today’s major powers—Russia, China, the United States, and the European Union—are not simply replaying the nineteenth-century Great Game. Geographic expansion and empire building may have become less relevant for the great powers, but security concerns remain, and in the twenty-first century these revolve around terrorism, narcotics, and hydrocarbons, all of which broader Central Asia has in abundance.


  4. Part 1. Civil Society in Context
    • 1 Social Capital and Development of Civil Society in Central Asia: A Path Dependency Perspective
      (pp. 21-56)
      Andrey A. Kazantsev

      The issue that I plan to analyze in this essay is that specific Central Asian political and social environments (including the legacy of Soviet totalitarianism and present-day clan-dominated societies) have significantly distorted the structure and function of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Central Asia as compared to the liberal societies, where the theoretical concepts of NGOs and civil societies have been developed. Such type of argumentation is not new; theoretically, both totalitarian legacy and clan issues have been discussed already within the framework of Hannah Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism (as connected to the atomization of society) and within the framework of...

  5. Part 2. Religion and National Minorities
    • 2 Islamization and Civil Society in Central Asia: Religion as Substrate in Conflict Management and Social Stability
      (pp. 59-80)
      Reuel R. Hanks

      More than twenty years ago, the Turkish scholar Ozay Mehmet wrote of “a global identity crisis” sweeping the developing world, a crisis that in particular affected what he termed the “Islamic periphery.”¹ He noted that “in Africa as elsewhere in the Third World, the central question at the dawn of a new century is still: Who am I? Is my identity national or religious?”² At the time Mehmet’s book was published, most of Central Asia remained part of the Soviet Union, but within a year, five new states would appear in the region. Mehmet did not aim his penetrating analysis...

    • 3 Islamic Revival and Civil Society in Kazakhstan
      (pp. 81-110)
      Dilshod Achilov

      Whereas studies of compatibility between Islam and democracy have received wide scholarly attention, little research addresses the issue of rising effects of Islamic revival on civil society. Average public opinion in the Muslim world seems to support the increased role of religion in political life.¹ As civic involvement, social capital, and elite-challenging collective actions establish the core pillars of civil society, which is an important social force to foster and sustain democratization, the Islamic revival continues to play a central role in transforming the dynamics of sociopolitical landscapes in the Islamic world. Academic scholars and political pundits often link the...

    • 4 Negotiating Social Activism: National Minority Associations in Kazakhstan, or the Other Face of “Civil Society”
      (pp. 111-134)
      Marlene Laruelle

      In this chapter I seek to deconstruct the one-size-fits-all concept of civil society in several of its postulates, in particular those that assume a clear separation between society and state, between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government-organized nongovernmental organizations (GONGOs), between the interests of individuals and those of the nation, and between charitable activities and private business. Based on interviews conducted with community associations of the Assembly of the People and in-depth fieldwork among the Russian, German, and Dungan communities, I aim to discuss the role of national minorities’ associations in Kazakhstan as a way to articulate the issue of “civil...

  6. Part 3. Policy and Administration
    • 5 Nonstate Health Care Provision in Central Asia: Cooperative or Competitive?
      (pp. 137-168)
      Erica Johnson

      Under what conditions does nonstate welfare provision become politicized? That is, when do nonstate actors not only challenge a government’s welfare provision capacity but, perhaps as importantly, use welfare service provision as a tool for entering the political sphere to act as, or challenge, a state? I examine this question through an analysis of newly emerged health sector NGOs in post-Soviet Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where, increasingly, the central governments are wary of health provision NGOs and nonstate, private health care providers as potential threats to the state. For example, in May 2010 the government of Uzbekistan announced plans to ban...

    • 6 Civil Service and Public Satisfaction: From Functions to Services—the Case of Kazakhstan
      (pp. 169-194)
      Ken Charman and Rakhymzhan Assangaziyev

      Among the former centrally planned economies, Kazakhstan has been one of the leading proponents of improvements in public service provision. Civil service reform has been at the top of the government’s agenda in the two decades since independence, as an integral component of the republic’s overall strategy to build a competitive socioeconomic environment that can efficiently exploit the republic’s abundant natural resources. As a newly emerging nation with a strong cultural identity derived from its nomadic past, Kazakhstan is ambitious, exerting international influence as a secular republic and leading the emergence of the Central Asian region in the post-Soviet era....

  7. Part 4. State Power and Social Turmoil
    • 7 Civil Society in a Period of Transition: The Perspective from the State
      (pp. 197-222)
      Ruslan Kazkenov and Charles E. Ziegler

      Kazakhstan is in many respects the Central Asian nation best situated to build a civil society, a market economy, and a functioning democracy. Education levels are high, economic growth rates have averaged over 10 percent per year since 2000, and the country has an abundance of natural resources. Most importantly, Kazakhstan has an abundance of human capital. Social organizations are stronger than those found in other Central Asian countries, with the possible exception of Kyrgyzstan, though they remain relatively weak and ineffective compared to those in Western democracies. There are many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), although few of them have regular...

    • 8 In Good Times and Hard Times: Civil Society Roles in Kyrgyzstan Today
      (pp. 223-248)
      Charles Buxton

      The aim of this chapter is to discuss civil society development in Kyrgyzstan from the point of view of a capacity-building practitioner who has lived for over ten years in the country’s capital, Bishkek, and has worked across the Central Asia region. The article takes as a base the definition of civil society used by the author in his work for INTRAC with partners in the region: “Civil society refers to associations that exist outside of the state or market, which maintain a degree of autonomy and independence, and have the potential to provide alternative views, policies and actions to...

    • 9 Civil Society in Chains: The Dynamics of Sociopolitical Relations in Turkmenistan
      (pp. 249-276)
      Charles J. Sullivan

      Democracy, broadly defined, is best characterized as a type of governing system in which a “substantial” portion of a population partakes in both the “exercise” and “contestation” of power according to a set of formal democratic institutions.¹ In referring to such institutions, a view commonly accepted among scholars in the political science discipline today is that in order for democracy to flourish, the state must encourage the development of a civil society. Bearing this in mind, Central Asia stands out as one of the most autocratic regions in the world, in which formal democratic institutions exist only on paper. What...

    • 10 Bridging the Divide between Neoliberal and Communal Civil Society in Tajikistan
      (pp. 277-308)
      Sabine Freizer

      As others have written in this volume, civil society is a highly debated term, and it is being translated in different ways and forms throughout Central Asia. Among all the countries examined here, Tajikistan is undoubtedly the furthest from the states of Western Europe where the concept had its origins in eighteenth-century modern thought. It lived through a vicious civil war that started in May 1992 and ended after the signature of the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in June 1997. Since then peace and stability have gradually been secured, but many problems remain.


  8. Part 5. The International Context
    • 11 State, Civil Society Actors, and Political Instabilities in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan: The Changing International Context
      (pp. 311-332)
      Graeme P. Herd and Maxim Ryabkov

      The introduction has highlighted various conceptions of civil society, demonstrating the important differences in the ways civil society is conceived and actualized. Civil society is a highly contested concept, and its role and significance are far from being understood. Indeed, can one apply the concept of civil society, with its origin in the West, to the Central Asian postcolonial, post-Soviet, authoritarian states? This chapter addresses the following questions: Does civil society have a place in the current regional security architecture, given the rapidly changing international context? If so, what might that place be?

      This chapter outlines several critical factors that...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 333-342)
    Charles E. Ziegler

    In this volume we have examined various facets of civil society and state-society relations in Central Asia to better understand the diverse societal actors and their relationship to the authoritarian governments of the region. We found that while there are autonomous spaces where social organizations can function free from state interference, these vary considerably. Central Asian authoritarianism comes in different shapes, from soft paternalism to chaotic clan rule to virtual totalitarianism. Similarly, there is wide variation in the level and nature of civic activism among the five Central Asian states. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are closest to the totalitarian end of...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 343-344)
  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 345-346)
  12. Index
    (pp. 347-356)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 357-360)