Emerging Central Asia

January 17, 2012 • Volume 6, Issue 2
Can democracy take root in the “Stans”?
By Brian Beary


A building boom is transforming Astana (AFP/Getty Images/Stanislav Filippov)
A building boom is transforming Astana, the new capital of oil-rich Kazakhstan — the largest and wealthiest of the five Central Asian countries known as the “Stans.” Dubbed the “Dubai of the steppes,” Astana has a massive new, blue-domed presidential palace, called the White House (foreground), two 30-story glittering gold-mirrored conical-shaped office towers and a boulevard lined with fountains, monuments and massive flower-filled squares. (AFP/Getty Images/Stanislav Filippov)

Since emerging from the Soviet Union's orbit 20 years ago, the five nations of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — increasingly are popping up on geo-political radar screens. Given the proximity of the “Stans” to Afghanistan, where NATO continues to wage war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Western powers are ardently wooing Central Asia's leaders in an effort to maintain military bases in the region. There are also rich resources at stake. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan's abundant oil and gas reserves have made them magnets for foreign investors, especially from energy-hungry China, as well as from Europe and the United States. Central Asia also faces a daunting array of domestic challenges, from bloody ethnic clashes and Islamist terrorist attacks to criminal gangs that traffic in drugs and human beings. Meanwhile, some experts wonder if Central Asia, with its repressive, dictatorial leaders and weak but deeply corrupted governments, will soon see its own version of an “Arab Spring” — a popular uprising that will sweep away its aging regimes.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jul. 17, 2012  Myanmar's New Era
Jan. 17, 2012  Emerging Central Asia
Jun. 21, 2011  Peacebuilding
May 03, 2011  Turmoil in the Arab World
Feb. 15, 2011  Sub-Saharan Democracy
Jun. 2010  Democracy in Southeast Asia
Apr. 01, 2005  Exporting Democracy
Jan. 30, 2004  Democracy in the Arab World
Nov. 03, 2000  Democracy in Latin America
Oct. 08, 1999  Democracy in Eastern Europe
Jul. 24, 1998  Democracy in Asia
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