ArticlePDF Available

Central Asia and the Challenge of the Soviet Legacy

Authors:
... During the Soviet Union period, Central Asian countries were under highly integrated agricultural control (Libman and Vinokurov, 2011) and their advanced agricultural machinery and fertilizer inputs were allocated from the central government. After independence, Central Asian countries directly faced a rapid decline in food production and a shortage of agricultural production materials (Shahrani, 1993). Illustrative of this was the widespread deterioration of agricultural production witnessed in Central Asia, which was also associated with the loss of land control and subsequent slow reforms during the transition period (Gintzburger et al., 2005). ...
... During the Soviet Union period, every country practiced specialized agricultural production: grain cultivation in Kazakhstan; alfalfa and maize cultivation in Kyrgyzstan; and cotton cultivation in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (Hamidov et al., 2016). Such situations led to more than 70% of the best-quality arable land in Central Asia being covered by cotton, which triggered Central Asia's high dependence on the Soviet Union's food supply (Shahrani, 1993). To achieve food self-sufficiency in the post-socialist era, Central Asia gradually adjusted the agricultural structure by receding cotton cultivation areas and replacing the cotton-alfalfa rotation with the cotton-wheat rotation (Hamidov et al., 2016). ...
Article
The impact of policies on cultivated land and food security has received global attention, especially in Central Asia, which underwent drastic transformations in land policies during the post-socialist era. Therefore, this study focused on the impacts of policies on the quantity and quality of cultivated land and food security in Central Asia from 1992 to 2015. The results showed that although different land policy reforms were implemented by five Central Asian countries, the cultivated land areas tended to be stable after 2010. The cultivated land increased by approximately 7.02 × 104 km2 in Central Asia. After 2000, cultivated land slowly increased and the degree of land degradation rapidly decreased, illustrating that the turning point for the quantity and quality of cultivated land change caused by these policies occurred in 2000. In addition, changes in cotton and grain cultivation occurred in response to the policies of Central Asian countries. Grain per capita increased in land nationalization countries, whereas it decreased in land privatization countries. Thus, driven by policies, the cultivated land use mode in Central Asia was gradually replacing the mode used by the Soviet Union and has been moving toward sustainable development. Some Central Asian countries, however, still face food insecurity.
... While one would have to assign them to the category of developing nations regardless of how that may be defined, the six former republics of the Soviet Union east of the Ural Mountains and west of China are each experiencing change in a far more dynamic fashion than nearly anyone else on the planet. With no history of self-governance, no identification as nations until the 20th Century and virtually no international recognition until the collapse of the USSR, these nations emerged into the 21st Century with a profound deficiency of economic, social, and political capacity (Shahrani, 1993). However, in less than 30 years, these nations have emerged as among the fastest growing nations in the world and an important strategic site for global security (Cooley, 2021). ...
Article
Full-text available
As the world passes the midpoint of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), clarity about the implementation of this agenda becomes increasingly critical. Equally important is the extent to which the SDG framework is succeeding or failing in different contexts. This study explores the role and importance of the “implementers”, mid-level actors that bridge policymaking between national leaderships who set policy and grassroots efforts. Focusing on three SDGs (#2, 6 and 15), thirty (30) such implementers were selected through purposive sampling combined with subsequent reputational strategies. The knowledge and attitudes of these actors toward the goals and progress of their respective nations were evaluated through structured interviews. While the general outlook on their countries’ capacity to reach the proposed goals was positive, the detailed review of SDG targets showed signs that those in “the middle” were highly uncertain as to whether these goals could be reached. Considering the critical role of these implementers in translating policy to action, this creates serious concern about the path forward in sustainable development moving toward 2030 and beyond. Moreover, critical reconsideration of the process of implementing the SDGs needs to be undertaken to capitalize on the expertise and strategic capacity of “the middle” of sustainable development.
... Some limitations pertain to the topic of inquiry itself. Exploring power relations is sensitive in any setting, but particularly in an authoritarian environment with a legacy of large statist dominance of basic services, the economy and society [66] that has been penetrated by a more patrimonial type of governance by central elites [52,67]. This requires provisions in the presentation of results to protect informants. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Relationships of power, responsibility and accountability between health systems actors are considered central to health governance. Despite increasing attention to the role of accountability in health governance a gap remains in understanding how local accountability relations function within the health system in Central Asia. This study addresses this gap by exploring local health governance in two districts of Tajikistan using principal-agent theory. Methods: This comparative case study uses a qualitative research methodology, relying on key informant interviews and focus group discussions with local stakeholders. Data analysis was guided by a framework that conceptualises governance as a series of principal-agent relations between state actors, citizens and health providers. Special attention is paid to voice, answerability and enforceability as crucial components of accountability. Results: The analysis has provided insight into the challenges to different components making up an effective accountability relationship, such as an unclear mandate, the lack of channels for voice or insufficient resources to carry out a mandate. The findings highlight the weak position of health providers and citizens towards state actors and development agents in the under-resourced health system and authoritarian political context. Contestation over resources among local government actors, and informal tools for answerability and enforceability were found to play an important role in shaping actual accountability relations. These accountability relationships form a complex institutional web in which agents are subject to various accountability demands. Particularly health providers find themselves to be in this role, being held accountable by state actors, citizens and development agencies. The latter were found to have established parallel principal-agent relationships with health providers without much attention to the role of local state actors, or strengthening the short accountability route from citizens to providers. Conclusion: The study has provided insight into the complexity of local governance relations and constraints to formal accountability processes. This has underlined the importance of informal accountability tools and the political-economic context in shaping principal-agent relations. The study has served to demonstrate the use and limitations of agency theory in health governance analysis, and points to the importance of entrenched positions of power in local health systems.
... The 15 post-Soviet states that emerged after the breakup of the USSR became loosely known as postsocialist, a somewhat ill-defined term supposedly signifying a brief period of transition between socialism and liberal democracy. While there has long been a preoccupation with the Soviet Union as an imperial entity (Nove and Newith, 1967;Shahrani, 1993;Sahni 1997), it is only more recently that scholars have begun to equate postsocialism with postcolonialism, and so to challenge the Three Worlds ideology that associated the former with the Second World and the latter with the Third World. Instead, Sharad Chari and Katherine Verdery argue for a single analytical field, especially after 1989, 'when many socialist countries became, like postcolonial ones, synonymous with underdevelopment' (Chari and Verdery, 2009, p. 19). ...
Article
There is an assumption that with the disintegration of the USSR the Second World ceased to exist. Yet the demise of the Communist bloc as a geopolitical reality did not mean that it ceased to exert a defining influence over how people think and behave. This article examines how the postsocialist state in Kazakhstan deals with potential crises such as earthquakes and the extent to which the Soviet legacy still shapes intellectual debates, state structures and civil society organisations in in that country. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews, this paper re‐examines the Second World not only in its historical context but re‐establishes it as a conceptual framework for considering DRR in the former Soviet Bloc. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... Third, although the new proposed regime legacy seems to be very specific and idiosyncratic at first glance, it is not so. While we examines the post-communist societies in a wider geographical area than in CEE, we notice that the communist regime legacies with some specific post-colonial features have been not only manifested in the Baltic states, but also in Central Asia and even to some extent in Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus (Kuzio 2002, Shahrani 1993, Moore 2001. Many post-communist societies could be considered as multi ethnic societies in which ethnic tensions and ethnic issues have played an important role in shaping the institutions, party systems and cleavages, etc. (Brubaker 1996, Berglund, Ekman, andAarebrot 2004). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
The study of the Baltic States provides new pathways for advancing the sociological approach of party system analysis in general and in the CEE context in particular. It further allows us to consider several empirical issues related to cleavages in the Baltic States, but also extends the scope of the sociological approach into new spheres of research and even allows us to pursue even a limited theoretical innovation in the field.
Thesis
Health systems are the result of decisions on how resources are raised and spent, which groups in society are involved in the process of decision-making, or which needs and interests are responded to, and the incentives this creates for those delivering services. These decisions are shaped by the interests and convictions of those in power and depend on how they exercise this power. This puts governance at the centre stage of health systems research. Until recently however, health governance research was dominated by normative and ‘technicist’ approaches that focused on technical dimensions of health administration following the good governance paradigm and had limited empirical validation. Many low-income, fragile settings present a complex context for which frameworks based on an understanding of centralised and coherent health systems do not easily fit. This calls for approaches that allow for a more contextualised understanding of governance with an explicit focus on the way political, social and economic interactions in the health system are shaped by humanly devised constraints, also known as institutions. The primary aim of this thesis is to explore governance of the health system in Tajikistan with such a neo-institutionalist perspective, drawing on political economy analysis, principal-agent theory, collective action theory and the concept of social capital. Tajikistan is a low income, post-Soviet and post-conflict setting with features of neo-patrimonialism and state fragility. The combination of a Soviet legacy, including a large public health infrastructure, fragile state capacity, a precarious power balance, partly stemming from a recent experience with conflict, and limited public resources available for health presents deep challenges to health service delivery. Little is known about what political factors have been inhibiting the introduction of health system reforms, and what these entail at the local level. The relationship between key governance actors and the role of political-economic interests, social norms and the wider political-economic context in the health governance process, including at district and community levels, have received less attention in scholarly debate. This includes attention to what citizen engagement in the area of health, and local governance structures at the community level actually entail in practice. The research presented in this thesis draws on literature review and qualitative research conducted in Tajikistan at central policy level, district level and among communities and health workers. The thesis first of all sets out to develop an understanding of useful concepts to explore the governance of basic services in neo-patrimonial systems of governance in general; Secondly, it identifies the main governance constraints to the introduction and implementation of the Basic Benefit Package reforms and associated health management changes, by analysing the interactions of the main stakeholders with the political and socioeconomic context in relation to the technical dimensions of the reform. Third, it offers an analysis of meso-level accountability in the health system in terms of principal-agent relationships as a key process in district-level health governance; and lastly it explores how social capital facilitates the engagement with external development agents and local health governance actors, and fosters collective action around village organisations and community-based health funds. With explicit attention to the political economy in which health policy changes and the interventions from development agencies take place, and the interconnectedness of central, local and community level governance the research highlights the role of particular interests, resource-seeking motivations and entrenched power relations in shaping the health system. It shows how these result in and are affected by unclear mandates, policy incoherence and informal accountability mechanisms. The findings furthermore emphasise the precarious position that health workers as frontline bureaucrats in the system, and citizens find themselves in, in relation to government. Building on this, the study has provided new insight into important mechanisms that underpin the mixed results in engaging citizens through community-based health insurance for greater financial protection. Ultimately these insights serve to underline the relevance of contextualising health programmes and addressing the (informal) resource distribution mechanisms, power dynamics and collective action challenges that are so important in shaping health systems governance.
Article
Western scholarship on the foreign policies of the post-Soviet Central Asian states has consistently framed the region as marginalized but ripe for Great Power influence and poised to assume a more important role in world affairs. This article explores the analytical assumptions, institutional agendas, and geopolitical drivers of scholarly and policy portrayals of Central Asia, emphasizing the key role played by the Western military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 and the region’s supporting role as logistics providers and security partners. The ensuing local and regional reactions to this intensifying securitization prompted International Relations scholars to explore the limits of Western governance and the liberal international order in Central Asia and highlight the rise of new counter-ordering norms, organizations and networks. This body of work has made important contributions to the now growing literature on post-Western International Relations, but still excludes the voices of many Central Asian scholars themselves and overlooks important regional topics and new analytical approaches.
Chapter
This chapter discusses and analyses Kazakhstan’s power transition model and draws comparison with the transition of power in Singapore. Although Singapore and Kazakhstan are different in many respects—including geography, economy, and political system—Singapore has for a long time served as a role model for the governance in Kazakhstan. The transition models in both countries have some strong similarities as they have been carefully planned and orchestrated for years. This chapter also discusses the legacy of the First President of Kazakhstan in the institution-building, foreign and domestic policies and how the next generation of leaders of Kazakhstan could measure up to old and new challenges facing the country.
Article
This article explores the environmental, historical and cultural factors that influence civic engagement among rural communities in contemporary Kazakhstan. It traces how forms of nomadic communitarianism as a response to the vicissitudes of life on the open Steppe merged with the imposed collectivism of Soviet society in such a manner that the two were able to coexist together in both policy and practice. Drawing on fieldwork among a number of villages in South Kazakhstan, we argue that, together, the nomadic and Soviet pasts still constitute the core values at work in rural communities, influencing the structure of local power relations and the nature of group association and cooperative venture. Rather than disappearing, these values, if anything, are re-emerging as part of an attempt to legitimise Kazakh culture as the core identity of the modern nation state.
Chapter
The late-1989 collapse of the Soviet Union has left a noticeable impact upon and within the Persian Gulf region that deserves special attention. A decade after significant changes in the global balance of power, the legacy of the Soviet system in creating new national leaders is still visible, as a new leadership emerges in Moscow. How these new leaders behave in the Gulf and how they conduct meaningful decision making toward the region are of critical importance because north-south security and trade relations are in full swing. Whether the Gulf States can rely on stable political, economic, and security relationships with Central Asia—while countering the still influential Russian Federation—deserves attention. In recent years, the relationship between Gulf states and several New Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union has shaped slowly evolving security and commercial ties.
Direction in economic development
  • P Quoted In Kenneth
  • Charles Jameson
  • Wilber
Quoted in Kenneth P. Jameson and Charles Wilber, Direction in economic development (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979).