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December 17, 2009
Worldfocus Radio: ‘The Stans’ in Transition

‘The Stans’ are the five post-Soviet Central Asian republics — Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — with similar historical, political and cultural roots.

These nations are asserting their cultural identity by proposing ethnic language policies — potentially banning the use of the Russian language.

In Kyrgyzstan, there’s a proposal to make Kyrgyz the dominant governmental language, and in Tajikistan, there’s another to ban the use of Russian in public institutions and official documents.

This week, Chinese President Hu Jintao opened a new gas pipeline that extends from Turkmenistan to north-west China — the first without Russia’s Gazprom.

Martin Savidge hosts William Fierman, a professor of Central Asian studies at Indiana University, and Nikolay Petrov, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Ethnic map of Central Asia. View a larger version by Pmx

They discuss:

  • Common political, cultural and historical roots but not a homogeneous entity
  • Post-Soviet relationships between ‘The Stans’ and Russia — how ethnic tensions and discrimination continue
  • Economic crisis, drug trafficking, oil and migration
  • How Russia, China and the United States are vying for ‘The Stans’
  • Political instability and poor economic well-being raise concerns about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism
  • Could Central Asia become the next conflict zone — even the next Afghanistan?

Nikolay Petrov is a scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center. He has served in the Supreme Soviet and Russian Presidential Administration. Nikolay writes a regular column for The Moscow Times.

William Fierman is a professor of Central Asian studies at Indiana University. His research focuses on the politics of Central Asia, especially policies affecting language, Islam and state identities. He’s currently researching language politics and problems in Kazakhstan.

Host: Martin Savidge
Producers: Christine Kiernan, Lisa Biagiotti and Ben Piven
Researcher: Michael Ramirez


1 comment


It’s lie that the influence of Russian language is so high in Kazakhstan. It is not a true at all. On the contrary, Russian language has started to loose its position and impact on society. There is a sort of a tendency nowadays between Russian people in KZ to give their children in Kazakh schools rather than Russian schools. At last, Russians realized that if they want to see flourish of their children, knowing state Kazakh language is vital for them. Nobody sends their children to study in Russia, otherwise Kazakhs prefer to study in the western countries to get high education, while russian still prefer to study in KZ though in russian language. So therefore, do not exaggerate words, and do not talk without knowing the present posture of affairs of Kazakhstan. Despite good bilateral relations between Moscow and Astana, Russian language is doomed to be forgotten sooner or later like it is being forgotten in Tajikistan , Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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