Central Asian Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to Central Asia, the history and culture of its nations. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“So many troublemaking officers had been transferred to Central Asia that the region had a reputation as a refuge for the scum of military society. Their low salary and need to spend lavishly to entertain native notables also encouraged them to engage in extortion and embezzlement.”—Policemen of the Tsar.
“Russian satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin depicted the Tashkent force and their fellow officials as so venal and incompetent that he became a hated figure in the city.”
“In 1908 the Senate sent Konstantin Palen to Turkestan to lead an inspection. In Transcaspia this led to the suspension, dismissal, or indictment of two-thirds of the oblast’s officials. Among those who faced criminal charges was Ashkhabad’s police chief, who was accused of murder.”
“The failure to address the corruption of the police fueled increasing criticism. The resistance of many Central Asian officials to the resettlement of peasants from west of the Urals, the official government policy since the late 1880s, exacerbated this.”

“Ethnicity-based clans have been the major players in the post-communist countries of Soviet Central Asia. Traditional clans mostly come together to form tribes, and at times the tribes will form tribal unions, which in Kazakhstan are called zhuz.”—A Concise Field Guide to Post-Communist Regimes.
“Clan pacts were necessary to create a stable regime after the transition in Soviet Central Asia, and where it was not concluded—namely Tajikistan—its absence led to a civil war.”
“An opposition website visualized Nazarbayev’s adopted political family as a Christmas tree. The website puts on the top of the tree Nazarbayev’s brother and first and second wives as well as his (formal) trustee, assistant, middle daughter (the richest woman in Kazakhstan) and third daughter (Kazakhstan’s largest developer).”
“Instead of the revolts leading to a regime change from a single-pyramid to a multi-pyramid setting, Kazakhstani revolt in early 2022 represents elite change within a patronal autocracy.”

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“In Central Asia, post-communist regimes never entered the gravitational pull of Western liberal democracies thus they continued on a separate orbit. We must face the fact that there exist historically constituted value structures and civilizational patterns that limit the possibility of social-political transformation.”—The Anatomy of Post-Communist Regimes.
“Kazakhstan has been the closest to ideal typical patronal autocracy. Nazarbayev could not consolidate his rule until 1994. In 1995 he changed the constitution one-sidedly, after the Constitutional Court suddenly declared that the parliament had been elected illegally and its powers were null and void.”
“Clan pacts were necessary to create a stable regime after the transition, and where it was not concluded—namely Tajikistan—its absence led to a civil war.”
“In Turkmenistan since 2007, fake opposition emerged in form of fake parties as well as fake presidential candidates, all being vocal supporters of chief patron.”

“The president of the Institute for National Strategy expressed reservation accepting the Central Asian republics into the Eurasian Customs Union, suggesting that they have become too distant from Russia’s civilizational standards.”—Eurasian Integration and the Russian World
“In 2011–2012 the Russian ruling class also speculated about a Eurasian Parliament but the idea was shelved until better times, following rather wary reaction from Russia’s junior partners in integration, Belarus and Kazakhstan.”
The director of the Institute for Modern Development argued that “rushing the accession of the Central Asian states. Potentially, this destroys the balance of values and interests and leads to repeating the mistakes made by the European Union.”

“The categorization of certain Central Asian post-soviet regimes may give cause for some indecision, as they teeter on the brink between being an autocracy and being a dictatorship.”—Stubborn Structures.
“The clans mostly come together to form tribes, and at times the tribes will form tribal unions, which in Kazakhstan are called zhuz. The chief patron will sometimes be balancing between such zhuzs; elsewhere the clans will form regional groups, and one or two stronger regional groupings will rise to more-or-less monopolizing the available positions (Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan). At other times nonaligned local tribes drive the political system towards a parliamentary bargain-mechanism (Kyrgyzstan).“
“In authoritarian societies citizens facing social and economic deprivation are coming up with improvised local solutions, and are increasingly using kinship connections to address their daily problems. This is especially the case in Central Asian countries.”

“Early loans included credits to micro-lending organisations in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, boosting the availability of Tajik somoni and Kyrgyz som loans to local entrepreneurs.”—Transforming Markets.
“Open criticism of the Uzbek regime at the EBRD’s Annual Meeting in Tashkent in 2003 led to an almost total freeze on EBRD activities in the country until after the death of Uzbekistan’s long-term President Islam Karimov 13 years later.”
“Around two-thirds of the EBRD’s portfolio in Kazakhstan was in the financial sector. There was little opportunity for involvement in municipal areas and the corporate sector was largely in the hands of oligarchs.”
“In 2016, the EBRD introduced its climate adaptation programme in Tajikistan. The grant funding helped make the facilities more affordable and just one year later over 2,000 borrowers including private householders, farmers and small business owners had taken up loans to finance technology for anything from irrigation to water storage, greenhouses and insulation.”

Nazarbayev: The Soviet Union has spent $850 million developing the Tengiz oil field. The U.S. side owes us 50 percent of that sum. Chevron has agreed to that. This is a huge deal: twenty-five years, renewable up to forty.
Bush: I am not carrying water for Chevron. But this is a wonderful example of partnership. It would stimulate other deals.
Nazarbayev: Sure, I know. I met with Johnson and Johnson. One word with Yeltsin took three hours. “Federal tax.” Finally, Yeltsin agreed. Moscow July 30, 1991
Minutes of the last Cold War superpower summits, now in paperback.
Gorbachev. There are 15 million Russians in the Ukraine, according to the most conservative estimates. Only 40 percent of Kazakhstan is Kazakh.
King Juan Carlos. Only?
Gorbachev. And that is why Nazarbayev is firmly pro-Union. How is it possible to divide oneself, how do you cut up everything? October 29, 1991, Madrid
Yeltsin (over the phone to Bush)
: The room from which I am calling also contains the President of Ukraine and Chairman of Supreme Soviet of Byelorussia. I also just finished speaking with President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. I read to him the full text of the accord, including all 16 articles. He is fully in accord with all of our actions and he wants to sign the accord. He is about to fly to the Minsk airport to sign it. December, 1991

“Young people, primarily men, began to challenge the authority of local mullas and elders as the guarantors of the ruling order—Islam. This seemingly ideological dispute then translated into grave social conflict, which materialized outside of the Soviet political system.”—from the collection of essays on the afterlife of 1989.
“The Spiritual Board for Muslims in Central Asia and Kazakhstan was established in 1943. If originally its aim was to serve domestic needs during the war, it gradually evolved into a complex institution catering to Soviet ideological goals.”
“What people in Central Asia celebrated in 1989 was the victory of their traditional ruling order over the innovations introduced by the Russians. The power dynamics within society were determined not only by the communist ideology—in fact, the Soviet regime was only one of the actors in the local power dynamics—but by the ideal of a Muslim society in whose name individual actors legitimized their actions.”

Soviet and Russian modernization of Buryatia; the sovereignty movement taking place in Tatarstan; and Kalmykia presented to the English reading academic world.

“Turkey had been on our radar for some time. Istanbul seemed like a good place to tap into respondents from Turkic-speaking areas of the USSR such as Central Asia and Azerbaijan.”—Under the Radar.
“’Do you know anyone among your family or close friends who is religious?’ Over a three-year period between 1975 and 1978, more than 4,000 Soviet travelers were asked this question. The Muslim Central Asian Republics showed a higher than average rate of affirmative response at 53%. Our study showed that religion was far from dead.”
“Then came my initiation into Kyrgyz cuisine. A black sheep’s head was placed in the center of the table and we were all invited to cut off a piece of it, and make some kind of toast (in Russian). I was urged to take an eye.”
“Despite the earthquake in 1966, Tashkent felt more exotic than either Almaty or Bishkek, which were fairly Soviet in appearance.”

“In the ninth century Arabic script-based Persian was accepted as the official language of administration and court life in Central Asia’s Samanid Empire (with its center in today’s eastern Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, western Tajikistan, and northern Afghanistan).”—Words in Space and Time.
“National socialist Germany actively learned from the Soviet example of holodomors (death by starvation), deployed in the early 1930s for accelerating collectivization in and for Russifying Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Kazakhstan.”
“Beginning in the mid-2020s, few post-Soviet states will employ Cyrillic in official capacity, perhaps, only Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.”
"In the Soviet Union transcriptions of books from the Arabic script-based Persian (Farsi) into the Cyrillicbased Tajik were classified as ‘translations.’ Obviously, for all practical reasons, Persian and Tajik are (near-)identical, ensuring full mutual comprehensibility.”

“If you feel lonely and sigh, you see compassion
You are the Turkmen with beautiful houri-like girls like Agayunus”
Two lines by Saparmyrat Niyazov, discussed with the literary output of other despots.
“Until the death of Niyazov, the Ruhnama defined the life of Turkmens in a virtually dictatorial manner… even for obtaining a driver’s license, it became obligatory for citizens to pass a sixteen-hour course on interpreting the Ruhnama.”
“The neutrality of Turkmenistan is represented as a fulfillment of an ancient dream, anchored in the origins of the nation: It was Oguz Khan’s wish and prayer uttered five thousand years ago that our land may be at peace forever.”
“What at first glance appears to be the product of an involuntary Dadaism proves on closer inspection to be a construct that is coherent in itself and enormously powerful: the Ruhnama constructs the symbolic order of Niyazov’s autocratic rule.”

“The Turkmen lost his arm during a battle on July 27, but had remained on the battlefield and continued fighting with his torn arm in his armpits.”
One chapter in the volume on the intertwined relationship between public health and the biopolitical dimensions of nation building discusses the parallel lives of a Russian and a Turkmen hero of the Great Patriotic War.
“In March 1942, the war had already been long over for the Komsomol member Gurban Durdy. He recovered at a military hospital and later returned to Turkmenistan.”
“After the war, Durdy was no longer suitable for the role of an All-Union identification figure in the Russian-dominated USSR because of his non- Russian (non-Slavic) origin, and he gradually disappeared from the view of the main Soviet press and was featured only rarely in Moscow’s publications.”
“Under Niyazov’s rule, Durdy, who was firmly rooted in Russian culture and language and remained a great hero of the Soviet era, faded into the background. This role was taken over by the soldier Atamyrat Niyazov, the president’s father, who lost his life in 1943.”

“The Tajik scandal, which broke out during the 22nd Congress, made visible the rise of a local (if corrupt) bloc of power, further drawing attention to the national question.”
A book that attempts to keep the attention of contemporary analysts focused on the social and cultural legacies of totalitarian experience in the space between Prague and Pyongyang.
“Unlike what happened in the case of colonial empires and the Tsarist empire, the USSR never treated ‘natives,’ for instance those of Central Asia, differently from other citizens before the law.”
“Stalin’s reaction to the earthquake in Ashgabat: ‘What is Turkmenistan—scorched earth? Some might think we are not an advanced state, equipped with its own observatories and seismic stations, but rather a place like Ethiopia.’”
“In 1950, overturning old Bolshevik interpretations of the Tsarist empire as a ‘prison of the peoples,’ the magazine Bolshevik claimed that Russian penetration in Central Asia and in the Caucasus, far from having been negative and imperial in character, had been a factor of progress.”
“Until recently most of the conflicts—with the exception of the civil war in Tajikistan—have involved secessionist efforts by autonomous regions within the former republics that antedated the dissolution of the USSR. Republic borders have been largely observed.”

Looking out for one’s own Identity: Central Asian Jews in the wake of communism.

“The organizers decided to invite inorodtsy (‘reindeer people’ from the Russian North, Lyuli (or Jughi, an ethnic group living in Central Asia, primarily Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, they speak a Tajik dialect and practice Islam) and representatives of ‘peoples from Turkestan’ to the exhibition.”—Staged Otherness.
“The Russians began to export their own Others (who were not only members of the Northern peoples, such as the Samoyed, but also members of the Tatar, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Kalmyk communities) to the West. While in Western and Central Europe those groups aroused great interest among the public because they were ‘exotic,’ in Russia their performances were not considered special.”
“I received information about Kalmyk (1883), Tatar, and Kyrgyz (1898) groups having been exhibited in Europe. Before the October Revolution the Kyrgyz ethnonym referred to today’s Kazakh people, while the Kara-Kyrgyz term referred to the Kyrgyz people.”

Imperial Russia and other empires; instruments and successes in nationalizing enormous territories in the imperial borderlands of a Russian-dominated multiethnic empire.