By Svante E. Cornell
January 2, 2024
In January 2022, Kazakhstan experienced its most serious internal crisis since independence. Popular protests over energy costs turned into riots that in turn took on the shape of an attempted coup d’état that required President Tokayev to request support from the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Kazakhstan’s outlook appeared bleak. While some elements of the January events are still being investigated by the Kazakh law enforcement, the overall picture of what happened is clear. Overall, however, the events led to a gradual purge of older elements within the state institutions, a further distancing from Russia, and a redoubling of the overall reform process in the country.
November 27, 2023
Kyrgyzstan is fertile soil for Russian manipulation. Institutional enmeshing with Russia, lack of alternative security protection, old and new economic linkages, and traditional values vulnerable to Russian propaganda have enabled Moscow to retain a firm grip on Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile, Russia’s war in Ukraine has led to greater uncertainty. There are opportunities for Kyrgyzstan to diversify external relations, but also risks of new dependencies and greater insecurities vis-à-vis Russia.
By Natalia Konarzewska
November 9, 2023
Armenia was hit by a political and humanitarian crisis after Azerbaijan launched a massive military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh on September, aimed at disbanding its de facto government and armed forces. Yerevan’s refusal to provide military assistance to the separatist region fueled massive protests across Armenia in support of Karabakh Armenians and against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Simultaneously, relations between Armenia and Russia reached a new low amid Yerevan’s assertion that Moscow failed to live up to its security commitments in the region. As a result of Nagorno-Karabakh’s capitulation on September 20, tens of thousands of Armenian refugees fled the region.
By Svante E. Cornell
April 18, 2022
In January 2022, Kazakhstan went through an unprecedented crisis. While it was since overshadowed in the eyes of the world by the events in Ukraine, Kazakhstan’s crisis marked a turning point in the country’s history and will have considerable implications for Central Asia. This analysis of the events and their implications, building on an attached chronology of events, concludes that while the initial peaceful public protests were the result of socio-economic frustrations that had long been building in the country, the violent turn of events was the result of a premeditated effort to unseat President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. While the exact nature of this challenge remains unclear, what is clear is that it resulted from resistance to Tokayev’s reform agenda among the forces that benefited from the political and economic system he sought to reform. While the crisis raised concerns regarding Kazakhstan’s future course in both domestic and foreign policy realms, evidence thus far suggests the contrary: President Tokayev has redoubled his commitment to reform and to the country’s sovereignty and independence, promising to build a “New Kazakhstan.” As the U.S. and EU recalibrate their regional strategies in the wake of the war in Ukraine, learning the right lessons from Kazakhstan’s January crisis will be of utmost importance.
By Johan Engvall
March 14, 2022
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s economic response to it has put Central Asia in a precarious position. As part of what Moscow perceives as its sphere of interest, the repercussions of Putin’s war are bound to affect the Central Asian countries particularly hard. While anything but static, the nature of the Russia-Central Asia relationship still enables Moscow to retain a strong influence in the region. Russia remains the dominant security actor in Central Asia, even more so following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Their economies remain closely interlinked with Russia, and at the political level, a distinct type of post-Soviet authoritarian leadership model with roots in the Soviet system facilitates political dialogue. Western disengagement from the region has left them more vulnerable, but the unpredictable consequences of Russia’s military adventurism might force them to realign their external relations.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.