Inside Central Asia


Alisher Usmanov: Uzbekistan’s Oligarch of Choice

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is growing closer to Uzbekistan-born Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who could help the president solidify his power as he continues to struggle against the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB) and its chief, Rustam Inoyatov. However, any belief that oligarchs will help modernize Uzbekistan is naïve. They will simply assume the power once wielded by the SNB.

Uzbekistan’s New Balance of Forces

The new leadership in Uzbekistan wants to replace the Soviet-era political-economic model, but Uzbek technocrats are still unable to effectively challenge the entrenched security chiefs. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is studying the experiences of Russia, Kazakhstan, and South Korea in hopes of bringing Westernized, apolitical economic specialists to Uzbekistan.

Suspense in Kyrgyzstan: Who Will Be the Next President?

In any other post-Soviet country, the president’s choice of successor would have informed the choice of the ruling party, but not in Kyrgyzstan. There is a flurry of activity in Bishkek, which foreshadows a sharp collision at the Social Democratic party convention, and possibly a fracturing of the ruling party. As a result, the authorities may back a completely different candidate.

Bigger, Not Better: Russia Makes the SCO a Useless Club

The Kremlin is still anxious about the expansion of Chinese influence in Central Asia, which is why it has turned the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, set up in order to work out widely accepted rules of the game for Eurasia, into a useless bureaucracy. Now, Beijing can develop relations with other SCO members without worrying about what Moscow thinks.

The Power Struggle Dividing Uzbekistan’s Leadership

In the apparent battle between Uzbekistan’s two most influential politicians, security service head Rustam Inoyatov will have to either support the new president’s agenda, or attempt to return Uzbekistan to the way it was under the totalitarian late leader Karimov. But the resources he has to achieve the latter are getting smaller and smaller every day.

Borderline Anxiety: Putin’s Central Asia Tour

Putin’s recent trip to Central Asia showed that he is willing to pay Russia’s partners in the region for their geopolitical loyalty—even if some republics have refrained from joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Why Turkmenistan Bothered Holding Presidential Elections

Declining hydrocarbon prices and a gas dispute with Russia have kept Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov from bringing back the luster and prosperity of Turkmenistan’s golden age. The next few years promise to be even harder for Turkmenistan’s economy, which is why parliament decided to extend Berdymukhamedov’s term in office from five to seven years.

Continuity in Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev’s Curious Appeal for Constitutional Reform

If none of the Kazakh president’s current associates will agree to accept the right of another to become the country’s second national leader, it’s inevitable that Kazakhstan will be ruled by some kind of collective leadership after Nazarbayev. However, nothing in the president’s special address suggested any mechanism for the transfer of power.

Will Mirziyoyev Bring Change to Uzbekistan?

It will be difficult for Uzbekistan’s new president to bring about foundational change without moving toward some kind of glasnost. Though Uzbekistan’s tightly controlled political system has its limits, Mirziyoyev will have to loosen the reins in one way or another.

The Rogun Dam: A Source of Division in Central Asia

Tajikistan, plagued by frequent widespread blackouts, has begun construction of an ambitious dam project that could significantly ease the country’s perennial energy shortages. However, in a region notorious for water disputes, neighboring Uzbekistan is staunchly opposed to the dam. A long-term solution is essential to maintaining peace in the region.
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