Research Initiatives

Research Initiatives

Nation-Building in Central Asia: Legacies, Identities, and Institutions

As part of a wider strategy to expand its research boundaries to areas east of the Middle East, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) is launching a new research project to examine some of the central questions relating to nation-building processes as they have unfolded in Central Asia. A foundational underpinning to this research effort is an interest in examining how the Central Asian states have navigated their early dilemmas, what their path towards nation building over the past thirty years has been like, and what the consequences for particular strategies adopted for the different states have been. Among other things, through this project CIRS hopes to broaden and deepen academic understanding of how these young states launched efforts to build their unified, modern nations, in what ways they have managed to establish political and social cohesion, and how they have engaged in the processes of administrative and institutional consolidation.

For many, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was viewed as a positive event, and one which in essence would unshackle millions of people and multiple communities that for so long had been strictly controlled and ruthlessly repressed under Russian domination. The sense by the global community during the early 1990s was that the newly “liberated” people and independent states that emerged out of the Soviet rubble would finally have an opportunity to transition towards healthier forms of political and economic life. While the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the Soviet Union certainly brought a wave of reconfiguration to the international and regional systems, it clearly did not lead to an instantaneous wave of positive change for the former USSR’s immediate neighborhood. Constituent republics that used to be part of the Soviet Union, particularly those in Central Asia, were left to contend with artificial borders and populations that were byproducts of the state-building enterprise of the Soviet Union and its social-engineering endeavors. The new borders had limited historical basis, while the populations they contained were extremely heterogeneous in terms of culture, language, and ethnicity. The predicament the young independent republics of Central Asia found themselves in was how to build these newly assigned territories and people into viable sovereign “nations”. In addition, at independence these nascent states also faced a number of structural challenges and legacies left over from the Soviet era, such as autocratic governance practices and institutions, faltering economic conditions, a lack of both practical and moral support from the international community, a dearth of popular enthusiasm for nation building within their own territories, as well as a lingering political culture prone to authoritarianism.

  • Click here to read about Nation-Building in Central Asia Working Group I
  • Click here to read about Nation-Building in Central Asia Working Group II

As part of its Research and Scholarship initiatives, CIRS organizes several ongoing Working Groups that convene in Doha to examine a variety of international issues. The primary purpose of CIRS research initiatives is to fill in existing research gaps, and to contribute towards furthering knowledge on the prevailing issues related to security, economic stability, and the political realm of the region. Each of these projects involves some of the most prominent scholars of the Middle East and the Gulf region. Each scholar participating will be working on a specific sub-topic, under the overarching subject.

Nation Building in Central Asia