Thursday, April 29, 2021

Moscow No Longer Only ‘Outside Actor’ Exploiting Territorial Disputes in Central Asia, Analyst Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 27 – Stalin drew the borders of the republics of the Soviet Union in ways intended to heighten ethnic tensions he could exploit and changed them frequently because he understood that every change would produce new classes of winners and losers that helped him to “divide and rule” the country.

            Union republic borders were changed more than 200 times during the Soviet period, and both the original lines and the new ones continue to create problems like poison pills for the successor states (On this, see the current author’s “Can Republic Borders be Changed?” RFE/RL Report on the USSR, September 28, 2990 and

            Nowhere was this process more widespread and nowhere were the problems it created larger and more long-lasting than in Central Asia, something that an analysis on the portal says has given both indigenous elites and various “outside powers” new opportunities to engage in populist rhetoric as far as borders are concerned (

            The article makes the point that this is especially troubling in Kyrgyzstan and its borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Many parts of them remain in dispute as well as the question of exclaves in each being unresolved.

            But what makes this article worthy of note is just one thing: It suggests that in Soviet times, Moscow was the only “outside” power that mattered but that now far more countries, including China, Turkey, the US, Britain and the EU, are and that this will make the resolution of the borders there more difficult because all of these outsiders are exploiting the issue.

            Not surprisingly, the portal suggests that both before and after 1991, Moscow has played a positive role while the others have not. But including Russia in the list of outside actors in this context is suggestive, especially since Moscow both in Soviet times and more recently has been the one that has interfered more than any of the others. 


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