Policy Memos

In For Life: Leadership Succession in Post-Soviet Central Asia

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:



Central Asian rule today is moving more toward dynasty than toward democracy. During the past decade, Central Asian leaders have rewritten, manipulated, even jettisoned constitutions so as to ensure their continued hold on presidential power. Gone are the heady Gorbachev days when mass public demonstrations led to the downfall of more than a few Central Asian first secretaries. Indeed, not since the Brezhnev period have Central Asian leaders been so thoroughly insulated from grassroots pressure. Central Asia, however, need not repeat its Soviet past. As this memo argues, the foundations of Central Asian presidential power—selective repression, revitalized patronage networks, and new norms of executive unassailability—can be shaken by outside pressure. In short, a redirection of U.S. foreign policy in the region can help ensure that Central Asia’s current presidents are not in for life. [...]

About the author

Associate Professor, Schar School of Policy and Government
George Mason University