SOCIETAL FACTORS AND THE RIVALS
As a rich region connecting Asia and Europe, Central Asia has been of great importance to many regional and world powers for over the last three thousand years. These powers have all affected Central Asia to some extent, but the effect of Iran, Turkey, and Russia has been qualitatively distinct from that of others. The three rivals are now in a unique position to seek influence in this region as societal factors make their penetration into Central Asia easier and less provocative than the penetration of any other country into Central Asia.
This chapter analyzes the significance of three societal factors--ethnic, linguistic, and religious--to the three rivals in their ongoing rivalry. Before proceeding, two issues demand clarification: (1) The focus of this chapter is on the three rivals as the major actors, since the outcome of their rivalry will determine the fate of the CA security complex. However, this chapter also takes into consideration the effects on the region of certain other countries whose resort to the societal factors as a means for penetration into Central Asia have been relevant to the main argument of this book. (2) This chapter does not claim nor intend to offer a comprehensive analysis of the process of development of the CA ethnic groups, religions, and languages; such an analysis is simply beyond the scope of this book. The objective here is to provide a clear understanding of the societal factors that have bound the Central Asians together over time and will be likely to contribute to the determination of their common fate.