Maxim Kirchanov, Ph.D. (Hist.), Lecturer at the Chair of International Relations and Religious Studies, International Relations Department, State University of Voronezh (Voronezh, Russia)

Introduction: The Political as the National in Turkmenistan

The newly independent states in Central Asia were not the only regional result of the Soviet Unions disintegration in the early 1990s. It also led to a boost in nationalisms in the Central Asian countries, which have become a significant political force and are especially active in language, culture, and the academic sphere.

The collapse of the common state changed the status of the local nationalisms, infused them with much more vigor, and led to their institutionalization. It can even be surmised that the independent Central Asian states appeared not only because the Soviet Union disappeared and left a vacuum, but also because the mounting national and nationalist movements were accumulating popular dissatisfaction with the Center.

This made nationalism one of the major factors in the emergence of the independent states in Central Asia.

Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek nationalisms functioned in authoritarian states with prominent colonial political legacies. These two factors largely affected the development of regional nationalisms.

The regions post-Soviet nature was manifested by the continuity between the Soviet and new national forms of political authoritarianism. The nationalist movements in the Tajik, Uzbek and Turkmen Soviet Socialist republics played an important role in undermining and finally destroying the Soviet system. As distinct from Central Europe, they never helped the nations to move away from authoritarianism to democracy.

In Soviet times, political discussions in the Central Asian republics were launched and channeled by political elites totally dependent on the republican communist parties. Independence also shifted this role to the politicians closely connected with the Soviet and party leaders.

Saparmurat Niyazovs dictatorship in Turkmenistan turned out to be the most unique phenomenon among the post-Soviet authoritarian regimes in Central Asia.

The authoritarian system, which existed in Turkmenistan between 1990 and the first half of the 2000s, was a close relative of the late Soviet authoritarian regime in the Turkmen S.S.R. In his speeches, President Niyazov dwelt in detail on the political meanderings of the republics history: Today, Turkmenistan is taking the first and, therefore, the hardest steps toward its resurrection. In fact, it is creating its own sovereign history and statehood. Its history is old and brimming with events, but today we have made a fresh start. We are free from the burden of old insults, ideologies, phobias, political clichés, and national labels.

The Political Vocabulary: Nationalism, Neutrality, and Discreteness

President Niyazov was fond of stressing the discreteness of Turkmen political history: How did the Turkmens build over seventy states in the course of..

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