Democracy in Central Asia

Democracy in Central Asia: Competing Perspectives and Alternative Strategies

Mariya Y. Omelicheva
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Democracy in Central Asia
    Book Description:

    Promoting democracy has long been a priority of Western foreign policy. In practice, however, international attempts to expand representative forms of government have been inconsistent and are often perceived in the West to have been failures. The states of Central Asia, in particular, seem to be "democracy resistant," and their governments have continued to support various forms of authoritarianism in the decades following the Soviet Union's collapse.

    InDemocracy in Central Asia, Mariya Omelicheva examines the beliefs and values underlying foreign policies of the major global powers -- the United States, the European Union, Russia, and China -- in order to understand their efforts to influence political change in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Omelicheva has traveled extensively in the region, collecting data from focus groups and public opinion surveys. She draws on the results of her fieldwork as well as on official documents and statements of democracy-promoting nations in order to present a provocative new analysis. Her study reveals that the governments and citizens of Central Asia have developed their own views on democracy supported by the Russian and Chinese models rather than by Western examples.

    The vast majority of previous scholarly work on this subject has focused on the strategies of democratization pursued by one agent such as the United States or the European Union. Omelicheva shifts the focus from democracy promoters' methods to their message and expands the scope of existing analysis to include multiple sources of influence. Her fresh approach illuminates the full complexity of both global and regional notions of good governance and confirms the importance of social-psychological and language-based perspectives in understanding the obstacles to expanding egalitarianism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6069-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    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...

  4. 1 Political Regimes in Central Asia: Two Decades after Independence
    (pp. 11-22)

    The seeds of democratization were planted in Soviet territory in the mid-1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s charismatic and progressive new leader, launched his extraordinary perestroika and glasnost reforms. Gorbachev’s limited democratization measures removed the obstacles set up by the communist regime to suppress the political activity of the masses. His new policy of electoral democracy permitted the Soviet voters to choose among multiple candidates competing for political posts. Several of the Soviet republics where the non-Russian “nationalities” constituted the majority of the population quickly took advantage of this democratic opening.¹ The first competitive elections held in these constitutive...

  5. 2 A Framing Perspective on Democracy Promotion
    (pp. 23-34)

    The diverse literature on democracy promotion spotlights the impact of international factors in the process of democratization. It presumes that the political strategies of international actors can shape the nature and outcome of reforms in transitional states.¹ This book’s approach to democracy promotion is based on a similar assumption. It maintains that the end results of an individual state’s democratic transformation are not independent of the international context in which the state operates. This is not to suggest that internal factors and circumstances are either irrelevant or less important. On the contrary, the diverse domestic actors and political processes can...

  6. 3 Western Perspectives on Democracy in Central Asia
    (pp. 35-56)

    The United States and the European Union quickly established diplomatic relations with all the Central Asian republics that emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet Union. Initially, however, Central Asia was of little relevance to them. The EU was preoccupied with more urgent priorities, such as the Balkans, for much of the 1990s. With the exception of Kazakhstan, whose natural resources were immediately attractive to Western companies, Central Asia commanded little interest in the West. Washington did, however, engage Astana in an effort to secure opportunities for US energy companies, and the US government also assisted Kazakhstan in its denuclearization...

  7. 4 Models of Governance Promoted by Russia and China
    (pp. 57-72)

    In the early 1990s Russia nearly abandoned Central Asia, focusing instead on establishing relations with the Western states. Interest in the region grew stronger in 1993–1994 on the basis of growing nationalist sentiment in Moscow and disillusionment with the West. Russia declared a desire to preserve and strengthen its economic and military presence in the Central Asian republics (as well as in other former Soviet states). But Russia’s own economic, political, and military weaknesses prevented Moscow from realizing its ambitious aims, and it was not until the late 1990s that the Kremlin began to increase its military, strategic, cultural,...

  8. 5 Central Asian Democracy Frames
    (pp. 73-92)

    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...

  9. 6 Democracy in the Public Eye
    (pp. 93-114)

    As discussed in chapter 2 of this book, the framing of contentious issues may entail significant political and social consequences. Successful issue frames can not only engender temporary opinion shifts in the target population but also change individuals’ underlying understandings and beliefs. Through a rhetorical alignment of their activities and policies with people’s thinking about national priorities, governments can legitimize their policy-making authority and mobilize public support for their actions. When people’s views are in sync with those promoted in official discursive frames, governments are better equipped to rule. In other words, by effectively framing political and social issues and...

  10. 7 Assessing the Effectiveness of Democracy Promotion Frames
    (pp. 115-132)

    As discussed in chapter 2, democracy promotion is a type of political influence whereby an actor—a state, an international organization, or one’s own government—attempts to induce other states or its own society to accept the norms, beliefs, and policies favored by this actor. Since this influence is effectuated through the language of communication, democracy promotion encompasses a discursive and generative aspect of influence operating at the level of meanings. These meanings, which are conveyed through discourse, organize public knowledge, structure the hierarchy of beliefs, and generate consensus or result in discord in the subjects of communication.¹ How democracy...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 133-146)

    Democracy promotion efforts have accelerated around the globe since the fall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe and the demise of the USSR. Despite the substantial amount of assistance allocated to international democratization and the multiple actors involved, the results of democratic aid have been inconsistent, and a number of newly established democracies have been short-lived.¹ In the academic world, a number of articles have been published about the obstacles to democratization, and some have candidly acknowledged that democracy promotion as currently practiced may not work.²

    According to Freedom House’sFreedom in the World 2011, global freedom suffered its...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 147-148)
  13. Appendix A: Survey Instrument
    (pp. 149-154)
  14. Appendix B: Focus Group Methodology
    (pp. 155-158)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 159-188)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-208)
  17. Index
    (pp. 209-220)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-222)