|The Acceptance of Authoritarianism by Central Asian Culture
IS-334X: Refletive Essay
Help Received: Referenced Artifacts
The experiences I gained from taking Politics of Central Asia (IS-334X), have served to broaden my awareness on the cultures that exists in various regions around the globe. Precisely, IS-334X has provided me with a wealth of knowledge regarding the factors that shape and influence the cultures in the following Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. My experiences, from completing the various assignments associated with IS-334X, have brought me to realize the presence of a broad cultural theme in the five states of Central Asia. I came to the realization that authoritarian rule and governing practices have become a large part of Central Asian culture because they have been institutionalized. I also recognized that authoritarian rule is not always seen as a bad thing by the constituents of the regimes in Central Asia. In this essay, I seek to illustrate how I came to discover this unique theme in Central Asian culture by referencing several artifacts that I completed over the duration of the semester in Politics of Central Asia.
I will begin my reflection by referencing the second response paper that I completed during the semester. In doing this I hope to provide a beneficial analysis on the aspects of the Central Asian transition to independence that reinforce my discovery of a broad theme in Central Asian culture. Next, I will revisit the first response paper that I composed in IS-334X where I will analyze the external pressures that have been placed on the states of Central Asia. In examining these external pressures, I hope to illustrate how authoritarian rule has become a part of Central Asian culture. After reviewing my first response paper, I will reexamine the most recent response paper that I produced in the course where I seek to illustrate the institutional factors that have institutionalized authoritarian rule in the five states of Central Asia. Lastly, I will conclude by briefly referencing a blog post that I made about Tajikistan.
The first artifact that I have made available in my ePortfolio is the second response paper that I completed in IS-334X. As I reference in the artifact, the transition to independence for the five Central Asian states is distinguished for being relatively peaceful. As I illustrate in the artifact, this is partly because the Central Asian states did not want independence nor were they expecting it. After the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the Central Asia states were forced to embrace independence and become sovereign states. The states were not seeking independence, like many would expect a governed nation to do, because they accepted Soviet governance and reaped benefits from doing so. Particularly, as I note in the artifact, states like Kazakhstan did not want independence because of the economic benefits the state received from being a part of the Soviet Union. The learning experience I gained from producing this artifact allowed me to realize that the cultures in Central Asia are accepting of being ruled and governed without having a truly democratic voice over the affairs that could significantly impact them.
The next artifact that I list in my ePortfolio is the first response paper that I was assigned in Politics of Central Asia. As this artifact illustrates, I was tasked with the job of examining the modern argument regarding the concept of a “New Great Game” taking place in Central Asia. Through my preparation and composition of this artifact, I found that there is in fact a modern struggle taking place in Central Asia to wield political influence over the region. This artifact illustrates that the current game in Central Asia is fundamentally different from the historical competition that occurred between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia in the 19th century. This is because the structure of the new game is associated with modern states that have contemporary objectives and capabilities, which is very different from the imperial rivalry that took place between the two empires previously mentioned. In creating this artifact, I learned that the inhabitants and cultures of Central Asia have always been subjected to external pressures, by foreign actors that attempt to extract political and economic benefits from the region through means of exerting their dominance over the Central Asian states. The regimes and cultures of Central Asia, having always been subjected to pressures from external actors, are used to being governed and influenced in an undemocratic manner. I feel that this can help explain why the inhabitants and cultures, which presently exist in Central Asia, do not significantly rebel against the authoritarian regimes and leaders that now govern the five states. The people in Central Asia have become accustomed to authoritarian rule and they have adopted a culture that incorporates this governing style as a way of everyday.
The last response paper that I composed during the semester focused on identifying the factors that account for the trajectories of the Central Asian regimes. I have listed this essay as an artifact in my ePortfolio because of the valuable learning experience I gained from completing it. As I note in the artifact, I found that institutional variables can best account for the differing governing styles of the five Central Asian regimes. While I note the differences between the governing styles of the regimes in this artifact, I also note that each regime and its governing elites utilize a form of authoritarian rule. Elite fragmentation and resource accessibility are the two institutional variables that I found to explain the differing forms of authoritarian rule that take place in the region. Albeit different styles, these two variables have served to perpetuate authoritarian rule because they have institutionalized it. As I reference in the artifact, the process of state building that occurred in the five states after becoming independent, is characterized as being personalistic and it led the elites of the newly independent states to adopt authoritarian regimes. The adoption of authoritarian governance by ruling elites, immediately following independence, can be seen as a critical juncture that established path dependence and institutionalized authoritarian rule in the five Central Asian states. This is true for the culture that resides in Central Asia as well. In adopting and sustaining authoritarian rule, the already accepting people of Central Asia have embraced authoritarianism as a characteristic of their culture.
The last artifact that I reference and list in my ePortfolio comes from a blog post I made during the semester. As the artifact illustrates, the ruling executive and regime of Tajikistan is still practicing authoritarian governance. While many continue to pursue democratization efforts in Tajikistan and all of Central Asia, I feel that authoritarian governance is likely to continue as the primary governing style in all five Central Asian regimes for quite some time. This is because it has been institutionalized and accepted in Central Asian culture. In relation to what I previously mentioned bout Kazakhstan under Soviet rule, inhabitants of Central Asia do not necessarily want democracy if they can benefit from the current authoritarianism that defines their culture and ways of life.