Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Power Networks and Violent Conflict in Central Asia: A Comparison of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan/State Erosion: Unlootable Resources and Unruly Elites in Central Asia

Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Power Networks and Violent Conflict in Central Asia: A Comparison of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan/State Erosion: Unlootable Resources and Unruly Elites in Central Asia

Article excerpt

ÍDÍL TUNÇER-KILAVUZ, Power Networks and Violent Conflict in Central Asia: A Comparison of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (New York: Routledge, 2014). Pp. 150. $ 124.43 cloth.

LAWRENCE P. MARKOWITZ, State Erosion: Unlootable Resources and Unruly Elites in Central Asia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013). Pp. 216. $ 45.00 cloth.

These two books address important questions and puzzles concerning state-formation and conflict in Central Asia. Tunçer-Kilavuz's focus is primarily on the civil war in Tajikistan (1992-1997) and its origins, while Markowitz's work deals with more structural accounts of rent-seeking behaviours in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In fact, one may notice that the overarching puzzle informing both books is what, if anything, has led Uzbekistan and Tajikistan so far apart in terms of state cohesion and stability given their common Soviet historical and political roots and economic structures. The argument of each author unfolds in a similar way. Tunçer-Kilavuz traces the rise and developments of networks in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan from the Soviet times to the Tajik civil war. Markowitz delineates structures of elite-patron relations in rent-seeking activities from the Soviet Union to the 2000s. The historical consciousness of both is a welcome novelty in the field of Central Asian studies, which is often subject to presentism.

An important difference between the two books is that Tunçer-Kilavuz's explicitly focuses on a single event, namely the civil war in Tajikistan (and, consequently, on its absence in Uzbekistan), while Markowitz's deals with a pattern of relations, of activities, of behaviors. Yet, they share the same structural approach to investigating relations between localized elites and political patrons. The difference creates complementarity and not stark contrast. In fact, the books seem engaged in a form of tacit dialogue where one covers the socio-political causes of the Tajik civil war while the other covers the socio-economic ones.

Tunçer-Kilavuz's book presents an original account of how the civil war in Tajikistan was born and evolved. Challenging the existing literature on the topic, she points at the similarity of social, political and economic conditions in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and, therefore, argues that specific variables drawn from economics or political science, such as stateness, institutions and identity, alone cannot account for stability in one country and state collapse in the other. In turn, she decides to focus on structure, process and actors and their relationships and adopts process-tracing as her main method to discover how elite structures and networks of actors impacted state resilience. In doing so, she presents a solid argument against the use of 'clan' as a one-size-fits-all term to analyze group dynamics in Central Asia. The author convincingly shows how factors other than regional identity, such as education, career and work experiences and self-interest, determine the creation of networks. In this sense, her book is a welcome contribution from a linguistic and semantic perspective as well. Perhaps, the book could have made a stronger use of triangulation and corroboration. The author seems aware of the potential pitfalls that interviews may have in terms of reliability and indeed anticipates that when narratives are of dubious credibility, she will triangulate appropriately. Yet, this is not shown in the text, and the reader has to accept as valid all the narratives presented. In addition, there is not enough discussion on the pivotal concept informing the book, which seems to be 'power perceptions'. …

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