Sovereignty after Empire: The Colonial Roots of Central Asian Authoritarianism

David Lewis

in Sovereignty After Empire

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780748643042
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653270 | DOI:
Sovereignty after Empire: The Colonial Roots of Central Asian Authoritarianism

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This chapter discusses whether Central Asian authoritarianism can be viewed in some way as a legacy of empire, while accepting that many other factors have contributed to the emergence of the present political systems that dominate the region. The historical legacy of empire, particularly that form of empire seen in the Soviet period in Central Asia, has contributed to the emergence of authoritarian political systems in two important ways. First, the nature of sovereignty that emerged in the post-Soviet period in Central Asia owes much to the attitudes of Soviet-era national elites towards the borders of the Soviet republics in Central Asia, which emerged partly as a result of deep involvement in the bureaucratic politics of resources in the Soviet period. This, in turn, contributed to the emergence of a type of authoritarian regime that reflected this particular understanding of sovereignty. Second, the nature of authoritarianism in Central Asia — its neo-patrimonialism in particular — stems in part from the informal structures of social organizations and resource distribution that developed in Soviet Central Asia in the 1970s and 1980s. To a certain extent these mirrored political and social developments in other parts of the Soviet Union, but in Central Asia they were framed within a particular discourse about ethnicity and a state system which, despite its anti-imperial rhetoric, was often characterized by colonial principles and discourses. In this sense, authoritarianism in Central Asia becomes more comprehensible when viewed through a post-colonial lens.

Keywords: Central Asia; authoritarianism; empire; neo-patrimonialism; social organization; resource distribution; ethnicity; state system

Chapter.  7732 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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