Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Amid slowing spread of COVID-19, govt maintained some restrictions; meanwhile, several protests took place throughout month. Following stabilisation of COVID-19 cases, Health Minister Alexei Tsoi 3 Aug advised residents to “maintain positions that have been won through very hard trials endured by the entire population and healthcare system”. Dozens of vendors in capital Nur-Sultan 3 Aug protested against closure of Artyom shopping mall as part of COVID-19 lockdown measures and condemned govt’s relief sum of $100 as insufficient. Govt 14 Aug said some health measures would be maintained, including weekend lockdowns and closure of schools until Oct, but postponed July decision to document pneumonia cases with COVID-19 symptoms. Police in Almaty city 3 Aug detained activist Serik Azhibai for protesting outside Chinese consulate; Azhibai accused Chinese ambassador of stating military cooperation between two countries could help quash possible riots; court same day sentenced Azhibai to 15 days in prison on charges of staging unapproved public event and disobeying police orders. District court in Almaty 12 Aug sentenced civil rights activist Asya Tulesova to 18 months of restrictive freedom for assaulting and insulting police during 6 June protest that called for range of democratic reforms. Uzbek law enforcement 17 Aug confirmed Kazakh authorities deported Uzbek opposition activist Khurram Berdiev to Uzbek capital Tashkent (see Uzbekistan). In Aqmola province, at least 100 activists 8 Aug gathered in Talapker village to commemorate prominent civil rights campaigner Dulat Aghadil in Talapker village who died in custody in Feb 2020. In response, police 26-27 Aug detained dozens in cities across country, and courts imposed short jail sentences or fines on activists for attending unsanctioned rally. In south, security forces early Aug reportedly deployed officers to Qosmezgil village after late July clashes between several young ethnic Uzbek and ethnic Kazakh men, which left four injured, including one policeman. In north east, security forces 16 Aug reportedly closed off roads to Baydibek-biy village, day after alleged inter-ethnic clash between Chechens and Kazakhs.
Kazakhstan’s wish for stability and continuity under long-serving President Nazarbayev trumps the will for political change, especially given turbulence elsewhere on Russia’s borders. But without economic reform, full ethnic equality and a political succession plan, the Central Asian country risks becoming another brittle post-Soviet state vulnerable to external destabilisation.
Resource-led economic growth cannot mask the need for reforms in Kazakhstan as labour unrest, social divisions and a growing Islamist movement threaten the country’s stability.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan.
The Annual Meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) commencing on 3 May 2003 is an opportunity to assess frankly and honestly the records of the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Competition for water is increasing in Central Asia at an alarming rate, adding tension to what is already an uneasy region.
The new Kazakh military doctrine is a clear reference to Ukraine. The Kazakh doctrine is very similar to the doctrine Belarus adopted in 2016, but Minsk was more explicit about learning lessons from Ukraine.
Originally published in Eurasianet
In late 2014, consultant and former Crisis Group researcher, Varvara Pakhomenko, journeyed to the northern Kazakh steppe, and the towns and villages along Kazakhstan’s Russian border, to learn more about the interwoven relationship between the Kazakh and Russian speakers of the area.