Policy Memos

Revolutions and Religion in Central Asia

Policy Memo:


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Unable to achieve change through the ballot box, the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have taken to the streets in an effort to turn out their authoritarian leaders. Despite divergent outcomes, the Kyrgyz and Uzbek protests confirm that fourteen years after the Soviet collapse, the region is finally ripe for political change. The patronage networks which sustained Central Asia’s first generation of post-Soviet strongmen are showing signs of vulnerability. New sources of wealth, and with them, new elites and new centers of power present a growing challenge to the region’s aging autocrats. There is no guarantee though that these new elites, should they succeed in winning power, will prove more politically tolerant than their predecessors. Importantly, however, lessons from the recent uprisings in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan demonstrate that U.S. foreign policy can improve the odds of democratic change in the region by supporting two critical groups: members of parliament and independent Islamic leaders. [...]

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About the author

Associate Professor; School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs
George Mason University