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III. Nation-State Building in Central Asia: A lost Case?

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With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the five Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have entered a period of nationstate building, which had been started to a large extend by the political elites of the former Soviet Union. These republics were not prepared for independence that came to the region suddenly. The former communist leaders of the Soviet era became the new national elites to take their countries by publicly declared goals and policies through the path of independent nationhood and independent statehood. However, it remains unclear whether this top-to-bottom approach will prove successful in the long run. This article discusses nationstate building in the region by first looking at problems of external sovereignty. Second, domestic state building policies and structures, more specifically, the newly formulated official discourse on-building nation- and the political-legal framework to develop that discourse, are analyzed. Then, the limitations of this process with specific emphasis on supranational identities (basically religious identity of Islam), subnational identities (local and/or tribal identities), and ethnic minorities (with a specific on the Russians in these five countries) are examined. It is concluded that the process of nation-state building in Central Asia is not complete yet and that each republic has unique problems that may challenge this process. For the time being, there exist certain frictions between the goals of the official discourse and nonofficial levels of identity that may hinder the success of the nation building process in the region.


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