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Current Political and Military Affairs and Other Issues

Last Updated: May 25, 2010


Inside Central Asia: A Political and Cultural History of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, by Dilip Hiro

Journey into Kazakhstan: The True Face of the Nazarbayev Regime, by Alexandra George

Since independence in 1991, Kazakhstan, the second largest of the former 15 Soviet Republics, stretching across 3500 kilometers, has been descending into a social and economic abyss. The decline is more tragic because it was the most Westernized of the Soviet Central Asian republics. In "Journey into Kazakhstan" the author travels to different regions - the Aral Sea, the Caspian region, the vast central steppelands, the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon, Karaganda, built by Stalin labour camp prisoners, ravaged industrial towns like Shymkent and Kentau, and collapsing state farms. Through on-the-spot reporting the reader will witness how an entire society is descending rapidly back to the pre-industrial era on account of misgovernance and malfeasance and the collapse of education and social welfare.

Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise, edited by Martha Brill Olcott

At the outset of independence in 1991, Kazakhstan's leaders promised that the country's rich natural resources, with oil and gas reserves among the largest in the world, would soon bring economic prosperity, and it appeared that democracy was beginning to take hold in this newly independent state. A decade later, economic reform is mired in widespread corruption. A regime that flirted with democracy is now laying the foundation for family-based, authoritarian rule. This book examines the development of this ethnically diverse and strategically vital nation. The book also looks at shortcomings of U.S. policy in the region and at the future challenges that Kazakhstan will pose to the United States and international institutions.

"Olcott gives us the best up-to-date account of a transition to modernity that appears to have lost its way." - Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Chicago

"...shrewd and sensitive to the deep problems of post-Soviet politics..." - Stephen Sestanovich, former Ambassador at Large and Special Advisor to the Secretary of State

"A bible for understanding the country, written by a preeminent scholar." - William Courtney, former Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia

Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid

The five Central Asian republics-Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan-were part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. Under Soviet rule, Islam was brutally suppressed, and that intolerance has continued under the post-Soviet regimes. Religious repression, political corruption, and the region's extreme poverty (unemployment rates exceed 80 percent in some areas) have created a fertile climate for militant Islamic fundamentalism. Often funded and trained by such organizations as Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and the Taliban, guerrilla movements like the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) have recruited a staggering number of members across the region and threaten to topple the governments of all five nations. Based on groundbreaking research and numerous interviews, Jihad explains the roots of militant rage in Central Asia, describes the goals and activities of these militant organizations, and suggests ways in which this threat could be neutralized by diplomatic and economic intervention. Rich in both cultural heritage and natural resources - including massive oil reservoirs - Central Asia remains desperately poor and frighteningly volatile. In tracing the history of Central Asia and explaining the current political climate, Rashid demonstrates that it is a region we ignore at our peril.

Rebirth of Uzbekistan: Politics, Economy and Society, by Resul Yalcin

Apart from giving an account of its history and culture, this book examines Uzbekistan's development since the break-up of the Soviet Union, its social, political and economic orientation in the modern world and its role as a bridge between East and West, North and South. In the political field, author investigates the present system of government and the democratic institutions that have been put in place. In the economic field, he discusses Uzbekistan's path to economic reform and its macroeconomic stabilization strategy, and explains the country's failure to espouse the Western model of economic reform. As for the social setting the author provides a detailed account of the ethnic minorities living alongside Uzbekistan's Muslim majority, and analyzes inter-ethnic relations. The diversity of information on this increasingly important and little-known country makes this an authoritative work for those with an interest in the modernization taking place not only in Uzbekistan, but in Central Asia as a whole.

The Tulip Revolution: Kyrgyzstan One Year After, by Erica Marat

Health Care in Central Asia, edited by Martin McKee, Judith Healy, and Jane Falkingham

The 5 Central Asian republics have faced enormous challenges over the last decade in reforming their health care systems, including adverse macro-economic conditions and political instability. To varying extents, each country is diverging from a hierarchical and unsustainable Soviet model health care system. Common strategies have involved devolving the ownership of health services, seeking sources of revenue additional to shrinking state taxes, "down-sizing" their excessive hospital systems, introducing general practitioners into primary care services, and enhancing the training of health professionals. This book draws on a decade of experience of what has worked and what has not. It is an invaluable source for those working in the region and for others interested in the experiences of countries in political and economic transition.

Central Asia: Political and Economic Challenges in the Post-Soviet Era, edited by Alexei Vassiliev

The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture, by Charles King

The first English-language book to present a complete picture of this intriguing east European borderland, "The Moldovans" illuminates the perennial problems of identity politics and cultural change that the country has endured. Throughout the past two centuries, Moldova was the object of a variety of culture-building efforts from Russian, Romanian, and Soviet influences before emerging as an independent state in 1991. The author highlights the political uses of culture - the ways in which language, history, and identity can be manipulated by political elites - and examines why some attempts to mold identity succeed where others fail. He also reveals why, in the case of Moldova, a project of identity construction succeeded in creating a state but failed to make an independent nation. The book contains an entire chapter on the Gagauz Turks of Moldova.

"An erudite and perceptive book. Required reading for all those who want to fathom the relationship between national identity, nation-building, political traditions, and cultural yearnings in one of eastern Europe's least known and understood countries. King uses historical, political, economic, and cultural approaches to challenge old stereotypes and to propose a novel, original perspective on the peoples of Bessarabia and Transnistria." - Vladimir Tismaneanu, Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland (College Park).

Contemporary Turkish Politics: Challenges to Democratic Consolidation, by Ergun Ozbudun

Turkey Between East and West: New Challenges for a Rising Regional Power, edited by Vojtech Mastny and R. Craig Nation

In this volume, experts from Turkey, Europe, and the United States address the key aspects of Turkey's multifaceted role in Europe, its ethnic and religious ties to Central Asia and the Balkans, the Cold War legacy, the quest for a new security role in the region, problems of political modernization, and strategies for future economic development and regional cooperation.

Personal States: Making Connections between People and Bureaucracy in Turkey, by Catherine Alexander

This anthropology of the Turkish state charts how people, both within and outside the state bureaucracy, attempt to personalize the impersonality of the state. Based on a detailed study of the nationalized Turkish Sugar Corporation, understandings of the state are considered from the highest echelons of the state bureaucracy to farming villages. The narratives and metaphors used in these constructions draw on resources close to hand such as the material organization of state factory compounds, state personnel encountered in the course of everyday life and the images of the family structure. For officials, 'the state' often becomes other institutions and Ministries with whim they have little contact. The continuous process of striving to make connections occurs at all levels of the Sugar Corporation and between farmers and factory engineers.

Allah's Mountains: Politics and War in the Russian Caucasus, by Sebastian Smith

This book an in-depth portrait of the diverse peoples of the North Caucasus. Sebastian Smith was a reporter in the region at the time of the Chechen War. Often in the firing line, travelling at times with the Chechen partisans, he gained an unparalleled understanding of the Chechen war. But going beyond the headlines, he also explored the villages of Dagestan, Ingushetia, North and South Ossetia, living with and learning about the peoples of the region. Part history, part travel writing, part front-line war reporting, Allah's Mountains is a picture of a region emerging from the ashes of Soviet oppression only to explode into a seething mix of ethnic disputes. At the same time, it is a portrait of proud peoples who have maintained their traditions despite centuries of tsarist and Soviet rule.

"Smith's canvas, too, is wider than the conflict, with a focus on the seven autonomous republics of the north Caucasus, territories which 'had been swallowed, but not digested' by the Soviet Union. In fluent and persuasive prose, he provides a history of the region known to the medieval Muslim world as 'the language mountain' (estimates range between 40 and 100 peoples, with at least 34 mini-nations in Dagestan alone). Providing the context for the Chechen war, his account of the multitudinous local conflicts that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union - between Ingush and Ossetians (over ownership of the Prigorodny district, shifted inexplicably from one to the other by Stalin), Balkars and Kabards (over distribution of power and land after the deportations of 1943-44), and the related complexities of Karachai-Cherkessia and Adygea - is admirably clear. Less compelling, however, is his echo of the region's cry of 'the curse of history'. In Caucasian terms this applies not just to Soviet domination but to the 19th-century Caucasian wars..." - Sarah A. Smith, in New Statesman, July 18, 1998

Russia in Central Asia: A New Web of Relations, by Lena Jonson

Turkey's Kurdish Question, by Henri J. Barkey and Graham E. Fuller, with forward by Morton I. Abramowitz

Uneasy Alliance, by Mikhail Alexandrov

Examining the complex nature of Russian-Kazakh relations immediately prior to and after the collapse of the USSR, the book examines four major groups of issues in Russian-Kazakh relations: status of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan; Kazakh and Russian attitudes to post-Soviet integration; bilateral military relations; and Russian and international competition for Kazakhstan's energy resources.

Nationalism in Uzbekistan: The Soviet Republic's Road to Sovereignty, by James Critchlow

Natural Gas in Central Asia: Industries, Markets, and Export Options in Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, by Akira Miyamoto

Prospects for Pastoralism in Kazakstan and Turkmenistan: From State Farms to Private Flocks, edited by Carol Kerven.

This collection traces how pastoralists have coped with the challenges of change in their precarious position in a part of the world with a long-tradition of livestock keeping.

Of Khans and Kremlins: Tatarstan and the Future of Ethno-Federalism in Russia, by Katherine E. Graney

Examines the effort made by the leadership of the Russian republic of Tatarstan to build and retain state sovereignty in the post-Soviet period. The author examines inter-ethnic relations, the politics of cultural pluralism, and federalism in Russia and beyond.

The Model of Tatarstan: Under President Mintimer Shaimiev, by Ravil Bukharaev

This 1999 scholarly study examines how President Shaimiev of Tatarstan, elected president in 1991, encouraged economic and political reforms that helped his region to go in the direction of a market economy and democratic system. It is hence a model for the rest of Russia to follow.

Storm Over the Caucasus: In the Wake of Independence, by Charles van der Leeuw

Caucasus: War and Peace, edited by Mehmet Tutuncu

Turkey and Ataturk's Legacy: Turkey's Political Evolution, U.S. Relations, and Prospects for the 21st Century, by Paul B. Henze


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