Staunton, July 7 – The recent violence in Karakalpakstan and the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast call attention to the increasing importance of regional self-consciousness in the countries of post-Soviet Central Asia, according to Kazakhstan-based Russian analyst Nikolay Kuzmin.
Such regional identities, he says, are based on ethnic elements but reflect economic factors involving in the first instance “defense of one’s own and resistance to outsiders” as the “law of survival of such communities which are tied together by tribal and clan links” (turanpress.kz/politika-i-vlast/2253-almaty-horog-nukus-vse-hotjat-peremen-no-poluchayut-novye-uroki.html).
And these identities are especially likely to emerge and grow stronger where the economies of the region are sufficiently different from the economies of the whole of the countries within which they exist. Such “alternative” economies may be based on illegal drugs or on the redirection of economic development away from the national pattern.
In such situations, Kuzmin says, the combination of ethnic sensitivities and the needs of those who dominate the local economies come together whenever one or both believe that outsiders are threatening their status or power. That is what has happened in Karakalpakstan and in the Pamirs; and it is something that can happen elsewhere as well.