Slavomír HORÁK

Slavomír Horảk, Research Fellow on Central Asia and the Eurasian Region, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Russian and East European Studies, Charles University (Prague, the Czech Republic)

By Central Asian standards, Kyrgyzstan is a relatively small country. Its natural riches are limited to gold and water resources; other than that it has nothing to offer on the global and regional scale, which explains its insignificant geopolitical weight. Tucked away in a corner of the region, it is isolated from the main routes of Asian freight turnover and its mountains make transit unprofitable (especially compared with its neighbors).

It cannot deal on an equal footing with its large neighborsKazakhstan, China, and Uzbekistan; potential investors prefer to keep away from the region with its unstable or potentially unstable countries, such as Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The image of a backward country, from which its citizens are leaving in hundreds of thousands to seek employment elsewhere and which is short of skilled workers, does nothing to attract money to the Kyrgyz economy. Its economic environmentclosed to foreign investors and non-transparent because of corruption and clientelismcan hardly tempt real money.

The countrys geopolitical situation is highly disadvantageous, partly because of outside factors on which the Kyrgyz elite, no matter what shape it is in, has no influence. The country is an obvious regional, Eurasian, and even Asian periphery.

However, in keeping with Mackinders theory of the Heartland as applied to Central Asia, people are apt to.

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