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tjir_v1n2raa01 - The New Great Game in Central Asia after...

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Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol.1, No.2, Summer 2002 125 The New “Great Game” in Central Asia after Afghanistan Alec Rasizade* The term ‘Great Game’ was originally coined by R.Kipling to label the 19th century Anglo-Russian rivalry for hegemony in Central Asia. After the demise of the USSR, this buzzword has been liberally exercised by analysts and observers of the region to describe the great powers’ various endeavors to fill the strategic void, and ranging from their military ventures to mere competition for its energy resources and pipelines. After the Afghanistan war, writers have discovered that the age-old ‘Great Game’ is entering a new and more dangerous phase. They warn that the intrigue continues today, with new powers skirmishing over the ‘fabulous’ oil and gas wealth of the Caspian Basin, with new intimations of Islamist violence, and no one willing to openly concede defeat. But only a few scholars try to explain what specifically is the real Central Asia today. The shaping of national frontiers in Turkestan In his 1920 “ Letter to the Communists of Turkestan ” (as the Russian part of Central Asia was known at that time), V.I.Lenin asked them to investigate how many national republics would be established there and what they should be named. 1 82 years ago, the idea of sovereign ethnic- based states was alien and exotic for the local Muslim population. The concepts on ethnic division of Turkestan were as vague then as they are now in the contemporary multi-ethnic Afghanistan. The Bolsheviks applied to V.Bartold, the renowned scholar on Central Asia, with
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Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol.1, No.2, Summer 2002 126 the question how they should divide the region. He warned them that Central Asia had no historic experience of the paradigm of an ethnic state, and it would be a great mistake to divide the region along ethnic lines now. Nevertheless, the present boundaries and infrastructure were designed by the USSR based on a strong belief of the ‘unbreakable union’ of fifteen Soviet republics. As a result the borders, in some cases disputed (with the most intricate maze of border patchwork being the Fergana Valley), were never delimited or demarcated. The imaginary frontiers of Soviet times have now become real. Now the 5 independent ‘stans ’ are able to communicate with some of their own parts only across the territories of neighbors. The new fragmentation of Central Asia is a painful process, which has become a serious impediment for cross-border migration of labor and trade. Some locals face real national borders for the first time in their lives, like the women from Uzbekistan crossing borders to collect cotton in Tajikistan, or the families from Kyrgyzstan going to work on tobacco plantations in Kazakhstan. Another tool of the “cold peace” among Central Asian neighbors is the imposition of customs and visa duties. Their corrupt law-enforcement and customs officers
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2012 for the course POLS 494 taught by Professor Garymoncrief during the Fall '11 term at Boise State.

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tjir_v1n2raa01 - The New Great Game in Central Asia after...

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