RUSSIA IN CENTRAL ASIA: RETREAT, RETENTION, OR RETURN?
Farkhad Tolipov, Ph.D. (Political Science), associate professor at the National University of Uzbekistan (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)
The year 1991: Russia’s Responsibility
(Yeltsin vs. Gorbachev)
On 18 October, 2004, the Russian Federation joined the Central Asian Cooperation Organization (CACO) and so can be called a Central Asian state. This distorted the region’s geography and changed its political composition. On 13 December, 1991, five Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) set up this integration structure in response to the Soviet Union’s breakup and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which was, at first, purely Slavic.
The events of 1991 are directly related to the present and provide answers to many of the questions raised by the transformations going on in the newly independent states (NIS) and their foreign policy. It is often—and correctly—said that the former Soviet republics were not ready for independence; in fact, it seems that Russia itself was not ready for it. Yet it was Russia that sent the ball of breakup rolling in June 1991: it declared independence and challenged the results of the all-Union referendum that took place earlier, on 17 March and formalized the will of the people to preserve the Union. Russia’s political step was absolutely senseless: all the republics that united around it in the 1920s completely depended on it. In this context, Russia’s present attempts at “gathering in the lands” it itself scattered look paradoxical. To succeed it must revise two major issues: (1) the principles of the 1991 disintegration and (2) the principles of 21st century reintegration. Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian history at New York University, has correctly pointed out that those who