Hide/Show Apps

Contested Histories in Central Asia: Implications for Contemporary National and Religious Identities

Central Asia has been a region of various interests for many centuries. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the independence of five states in the region. All these states went through major socio-economic and political challenges in the post-Soviet period. While domestic in nature, these problems have started to affect the overall stability and security in the region. The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent “War on Terror” contributed to the perception that the region is vital for global security as well. In the post-Soviet period, many scholarly studies focused on the region in terms of region`s importance in geopolitics, energy security as well as international security. Research has also been conducted on Central Asian politics and society. All this contemporary literature on Central Asia, while rich and extensive, generally lacks the historical dimension. Just like in any other part of the world, modern Central Asian politics and society is hard to understand without a sufficient background in history. Many political and social problems in Central Asia today require a careful reading of the past. As many regional security analysts rightfully claim the region presents potential challenges for international security and stability. The fact that the authoritarian regimes take more repressive measures against the Islamist fractions does not seem to contribute much to the overall security (indeed it is the opposite). In order to understand the roots of contemporary problems in the region many of which are closely related to identity (national and religious), I aim to analyze the region`s past through different lenses. For this I will use first hand materials (such as travelogues, archival materials and local histories) as well as secondary sources in a comparative manner. This will allow me to analyze region`s past through various narratives and gives me the opportunity to cross check the sources` reliability. Central Asia has been explored by many such as adventurers, pilgrims, geographers, missionaries, merchants diplomats and prisoners of war. The testimonies (English, Turkish and Russian original or translations from Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Turkish, Latin, German) left by those people will serve as a point of departure for me. Also archival sources (in Turkey and England) will provide even a deeper understanding. Through the analysis of such resources on the political, social, and cultural history of Islamic Central Asia from the 16th century down to current day, I aim to analyze the historical background and contemporary status of Islam and peoples of Islamic heritage. The political and social legacies of various empires and khanates will help me better contextualize the development of political institutions in the region. Finally a thorough analysis of the primary and secondary materials on the movement of different ethnic and religious groups will allow me to better contextualize the contemporary national identity politics in the region. As modern religious and national identities (tribal affiliations to certain extent) are closely related to many contemporary political and social problems in Central Asia (which may become serious sources of conflict and instability, therefore threatens the regional and global security), with this research I aim to provide a more comprehensive analysis of these problems with a historical background.