Friday, May 7, 2021

Border Problems in Central Asia Now Arose Because Soviets Didn’t Want Mono-Ethnic Republics, Pritchin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – Border problems in Central Asia now exist because the Soviets drew borders and established exclaves/enclaves ( to prevent the formation of mono-ethnic republics which might have been better able to resist Moscow, Stanislav Pritchin says.

            The researcher at the Center for Post-Soviet Research at Moscow’s IMEMO says that the central authorities drew the borders and created exclaves to make it easier for the Soviet state to administer the region and to reduce “the risks of establishing mono-ethnic republics” that would have threatened Moscow’s control (

            Second, these problems have been intensified since 1991 because the current governments do not want to change borders or give up their enclaves lest that produce a nationalist explosion at home and because these governments face new problems given explosive population growth which has increased competition for land especially in the exclaves.

            Third, Pritchin continues, many of the national republics lack the capacity or political will to control border zones and enclaves, something that has allowed them to become important transit centers for the illegal flow of drugs and other contraband and also for the spread of Islamist radicalism from one country to another.

            Fourth, over the past 30 years, the countries of the region have faced so many problems along their borders and in the exclaves that they have been unable to make progress in border demarcation and delimitation. As a result, problems that were manageable earlier have been allowed to fester and are thus becoming ever more explosive.

            In many of these countries, national leaders use the nationalism that border disputes inevitably produce both to distract their own populations from current problems and to marginalize domestic opponents and limit the influence of neighboring countries on their domestic markets and societies.

            And fifth, “in a paradoxical way,” whenever any two countries do make progress on resolving border issues, that creates expectations that others will do the same and thus fears of border changes. As a result, the achievement of each new agreement becomes more difficult, and previous agreements are often called into question.

            Thus, it is quite likely that one of “the triggers” of the violence at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border was the earlier resolution of border issues between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the Moscow researcher says. Because of this complexity, no final resolution of the problems of exclaves or borders is likely anytime soon.

            The most anyone can hope for, Pritchin suggests, is that the governments in the region will allow time for tempers to cool and will stop demonizing neighboring countries and nations. Unless that happens, he concludes, what has just occurred along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border likely will be followed by more such clashes there and elsewhere.

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