The nature of violent protest in Central Asia exhibits variation both in form and state response. In Kazakhstan, violent protest is rare and economically oriented, and it elicits accommodationist state responses. In Uzbekistan, violent protest is also rare, often has Islamic overtones, and elicits repressive state responses. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, violent protest is more frequent and elicits accommodationist state responses. In Kyrgyzstan, violent protest tends to be ethnonationalist in form. In Tajikistan, violent protest is regional and, at times, secessionist in orientation.
This memo seeks to explain these variations in the states of protest in Central Asia. The first section explores causes of violent protest and finds that Soviet-era legacies drive variations in violence, in addition to post-Soviet factors. The second section explores state responses to Central Asian violent protest and concludes that, contrary to what might be expected, it is not a regime’s brute coercive strength but rather government ideology that shapes state responses. Fortunately, with the one exception of Uzbekistan, Central Asian states do not perceive episodic violent opposition as fundamentally threatening to existing modes of governance and, as such, states have been inclined to accommodate rather than repress protest movements. […]
PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 299
By Eric McGlinchey