Central Asia: Aspects of Transition

By Tom Everett-Heath | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Tom Everett-Heath

On 1 March 2002, a website focusing on Uzbek news ran two headlines: ‘Kyrgyz and Uzbeks continue talking over frontier’ and ‘Uzbek national song festival ends in Tashkent’.

The first story detailed the slow progress made in establishing the boundary between Kyrgyzstan and its southwestern neighbour. After two years of hard work, a mere 290 kilometres of the 1,400-kilometre-long frontier had been agreed. The Uzbek border was not alone in needing definition: Kyrgyzstan had only signed agreements on the delimitation of its frontier with two states, China and Kazakhstan, and even preliminary consultations had not been opened over what was likely to be its most heavily disputed flank, the border with Tajikistan.

The second story focused on Uzbekistan’s first festival of national variety songs - ‘Aziz ona yurtim navolari’ (Melodies of the Motherland) - in which participants performed modern compositions based on folk songs and classical music ‘revised’ by Uzbek poets and composers.

The news stories highlight two of the most important themes running through this collection of essays: the modern redefinition of frontiers underlines the political importance of the Soviet legacy in Central Asia; the complex methods by which identity has been negotiated during and after the region’s Soviet experience is illustrated by the contemporary need for national song festivals.

A decade old, the five states of Central Asia that emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan - are struggling still with their colonial past. The lines drawn on maps by the Soviets during the 1920s - which were initially adopted at independence in 1991 - are being redrawn, throwing into sharp relief the importance of the original Soviet methodology, its objectives and the way in which those objectives have shaped the political and economic development of the region.

Equally important to any understanding of modern Central Asia are the Soviet attempts to forge national identities in the 1920s where no nations had ever existed. Some of the same tools, and many new ones, have been taken up by the regimes that assumed control a decade ago. The science or, perhaps, art (as in the case of national folk songs) of identity construction and nation building is once again of crucial importance to the very survival and stability of the region’s states.

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Central Asia: Aspects of Transition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Turkfront 5
  • 2 - The Kokand Autonomy, 1917-18 30
  • Notes 44
  • 3 - Ethno-Territorial Claims in the Ferghana Valley During the Process of National Delimitation, 1924-7 45
  • 4 - Land and Water ‘reform’ in the 1920s 57
  • 5 - Nation Building in Turkey and Uzbekistan 80
  • 6 - Nation Building and Identity in the Kyrgyz Republic 106
  • 7 - The Use of History 132
  • 8 - Soviet Development in Central Asia 146
  • 9 - Environmental Issues in Central Asia 167
  • 11 - The Uzbek Mahalla 205
  • Notes 217
  • 12 - ‘Fundamentalism’ in Central Asia 219
  • Notes 240
  • 13 - Water 244
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 283
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