The Central Asian States: Discovering Independence

By Gregory Gleason | Go to book overview

TWO
Legacies of Central Asia

In the late spring of 1990, more than a year before the USSR began to break up, the leaders of the five Central Asian republics gathered in Alma-Ata (now Almaty) to contemplate a common response to what they described as the area's "social, political, economic, and moral crises." The meeting was the first official summit of Central Asian republic dignitaries in Soviet history. Observers expected the meeting to be more symbolic than substantive. But contrary to expectations, the leaders' communiqué issued after the meeting reflected a profound appreciation of the common problems facing Central Asian societies. It cast into sharp relief the conflicts among the republics while succinctly drawing attention to the common interests among the republics.

The communiqué asserted that Central Asia and the native peoples of Kazakstan stood united by common historical experience, shared cultures, and common values and by their closely linked destinies. At the same time, the communiqué asserted that the borders of the republics were inviolable and could not be changed "by anyone's will."1 Nothing could summarize the problems facing the peoples of Central Asia more clearly than these two propositions. United in culture, divided in politics; united in traditions and heritage, divided by circumstance. The presidents seemed to be testifying to the "oneness" of Central Asia even as they insisted upon the distinctiveness of each of the separate republics. Central Asia, they reaffirmed, is "both one and yet many."

"Are you a Central Asian or a Kazak?" you may ask a citizen on the streets of Jambul, a city in southern Kazakstan. The reply that you may get is, "A Turk is a Turk." Yet in the next sentence the speaker may add that he or she is an Uzbek living in Kazakstan. And if you press the issue of national identity further, you may get a new explanation with each new question. A claim to multiple identities is apt to puzzle many an out-

-25-

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The Central Asian States: Discovering Independence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • A Note on Languages In Central Asia xiii
  • One - New States and Ancient Societies 1
  • Notes 21
  • Two - Legacies of Central Asia 25
  • Notes 46
  • Three - The Soviet Socialist Republics of Central Asia 48
  • Notes 77
  • Four - Central Asian States Emergent 82
  • Notes 132
  • Five - Central Asia and the World 136
  • Notes 164
  • Six - Transition in Asia 168
  • Notes 184
  • Chronology of Events In Modern Central Asia: November 1917- December 1995 187
  • Sources on Central Asian Politics, Economics, And Society 205
  • About the Book and Author 211
  • Index 212
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