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Central Asian Countries in Global Politics Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jul 13th, 2020


In the article, Collins presents a clan-centric view that is in sharp contrast to Jones Luong’s regional view. Moreover, Collins emphasizes the power of clan pacts in Central Asian countries’ leadership. In contrast, Luong argues that political rivalries between groups are based on regional identities in Central Asia. This paper will analyse Collins’s view on Central Asian politics with respect to the perspectives provided by Luong (Cummings 2013).


Collins presents a view which emphases on kinship-based clans. She argues that these clans have penetrated government institutions in Central Asia. She claims that Central Asian countries have failed to build coherent and democratic states in spite of their weak economies as well as fragmented kinship-based clans. According to Collins, the countries have disintegrated instead of consolidating. The author also explores past research on causes of transitions to democracy that have helped democratise Western countries. However, Collins argues that benchmarks for democracy used in Western countries have no place in Central Asia (Collins 2002).

In her main theme, Collins examines the role of kinship-based clans in Central Asian states. The author explores how clans play a key role in understanding Central Asian politics. Additionally, the author describes how resources are shared based on pacts made between the clans. Collins also provides evidence of regimes that rose because of pacts made among clans. Moreover, she talks of vertical and horizontal clan networks that ensure clans are strong in their pursuit of economic gains.

Additionally, Collins explores diverging pathways adopted by each of the countries right after independence. For instance, she gives an account of how Kyrgyzstan’s leader Askar Akayev tried to practice democracy in the poverty-stricken Muslim country. Collins also explores the political landscape in Turkmenistan, which saw sporadic civil wars between clans seeking a share of the country’s economic gains. Moreover, she examines Kazakhstan, which did not attempt to achieve democratic reforms but instead embraced authoritarian regime (Collins 2002).

The author also examines Uzbekistan, which rejected democracy and instead chose autocracy. Collins notes that after five years, Kyrgyzstan slowly slid back to autocracy. In Tajikistan, Collins attributes Rahman Nabiyev’s failure in consolidating support for his regime to an inter-clan power struggle. In general, Collins observes that the power of clans and pacts is stronger in the region than political structures. Moreover, she observes that after independence, the countries moved from divergence to convergence political pathways.

Besides, Collins posits that the countries are in danger of political breakdown because of power struggles between rival clans. Collins concludes by observing that clan politics makes the region vulnerable to instability (Collins 2002). In closing remarks, she urges the international community to develop models of reform based on socio-economical and political realities of clan politics in the region (Vassiliev 2013).


Main ideas, evidence and whether they hold

Collins’s arguments are clan-centric and the point of view rejects Luong’s perspective that supports the influence of regionalism, dynamism of transition as well as other powerful groups such as religious sects. According to Luong, Collins’s perception of the kinship-based clan is also misleading because Soviet institutions were not eliminated but were transformed (Luong 2002). Collins believes that clan pacts can give rise to democracy even though this argument is not entirely true. Moreover, her argument that a tight pact can lead to democracy as in the case of Kyrgyzstan is also ambiguous.

Moreover, she attributes autocracy to a loose pact as seen in Uzbekistan, which is also misleading. Additionally, she believes that the lack of clan pacts can lead to the collapse of the country as she observes in Tajikistan (Tunçer-Kılavuz 2009). In fact, Luong’s view that regional divisions define the political landscape in Central Asia is quite valid because there is historical evidence of regional divisions during the Soviet era (Luong 2002).

In this regard, Collins assumes that clan pacts are responsible for political victories witnessed in these countries as opposed to election rigging and corruption, which are quite common in the region (Sievers 2013). Although Collins insists on the power of clan pacts, it is quite clear that the elite in the region maintains the system of regional power-sharing. In this regard, it can be argued that civil war in Tajikistan was not caused by unfair clan pact but the poor regional system as observed by some elite who decided to challenge the system during the transition. Despite Collins’s claim that clan-based politics dominated Central Asia, it is clear that regionalism was foremost given the regional networks observed in Aksy political uprising (Junisbai 2010).

Moreover, it is quite clear that influence groups are preferred to the clan in Central Asian politics, which is associated more with the factional political competition. In essence, if Collin’s clan centric view is to hold then clan constitute of a complex network of friends, colleagues, clients, regionalism and kinship among others (Luong 2002). This is quite evident in Nazarbayev’s clan, which constitute people who are unrelated to him (Collins 2002).

Moreover, in Karimov’s country, Coca Cola gained a monopoly because its manager married the president’s daughter. It can be argued that economical and political influence enabled the marriage to succeed (Luong 2002). Based on the given evidence, it can be noted that kinship networks would only hold if the clans involved were powerful politically and economically as seen in Kyrgyzstan leader and his wife whose clans shared powerful ministerial posts.

Weaknesses and other perspectives

Collins’s perspectives on Central Asia’s regional politics are credible but narrowed on clannish pacts. Collins rejects Luong’s view of modernization as a factor in Central Asian politics (Isaacs 2010). In essence, Collins’s view is based expressly on the rivalry between clans over resources while Luong’s perspective emphasizes regional divisions during the Soviet era (Luong 2002). However, it should be noted that Collins’s definition of the clan is narrowed to kinship, which does not reflect the economical and political influence. In essence, if clan domination in Central Asian politics is to be accepted, then the definition of the clan has to be broadened beyond kinship (Luong 2002).

For instance, the power of money is quite evident in intra-clan politics. Nazarbayev’s interest in financial gain overrides kinship when his daughter and son in law are excluded from the clan. This argument concurs with Jones Luong’s position that identity formation is not based on kinship-tribalism but political divisions (Luong 2002). Collins’s assertion that clans can adapt to political change is also proved wrong when Rakhagate scandal forces Nazarbayev to turn against his kinship (Gullette 2007).


Collins’s article on Central Asian countries’ political landscape is detailed but has a narrow view as compared to Luong’s perspective. The article is clan-centric and it does not offer alternative dimensions to Central Asian politics. Besides, Collins’s article neglects Luong’s argument that regionalism and dynamism explain the informal politics of Central Asia. Moreover, she neglects other political factors such as religious sects, which are also essential to politics in the region. Additionally, Collins’s definition of clans by kinship does not entrench the reality because economical and political factors have been found to influence entry into the clan. Nonetheless, the paper provides a basis for understanding the region’s socio-economical and political realities of clan politics that would aid in modelling reforms.

List of References

Collins, K 2002, ‘Clans, pacts, and politics in Central Asia’, Journal of Democracy, vol. 13, no. 3, pp.137-152. Web.

Cummings, S 2013, Symbolism and power in Central Asia: politics of the spectacular, Routledge, London. Web.

Gullette, D 2007, ‘Theories on Central Asian factionalism: the debate in political science and its wider implications’, Central Asian Survey, vol. 26, no. 3, pp.373-387. Web.

Isaacs, R 2010, ‘Informal politics and the uncertain context of transition: revisiting early stage non-democratic development in Kazakhstan’, Democratisation, vol. 17, no. 1, pp.1-25. Web.

Junisbai, B 2010, ‘A tale of two Kazakhstans: Sources of political cleavage and conflict in the post-Soviet period’, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 62, no. 2, pp.235-269. Web.

Luong, J 2002, Institutional change and political continuity in post-Soviet Central Asia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Web.

Sievers, E 2013, The post-Soviet decline of Central Asia: sustainable development and comprehensive capital, Routledge, London. Web.

Tunçer-Kılavuz, I 2009, ‘Political and social networks in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan: ‘clan’, region and beyond’, Central Asian Survey, vol. 28, no. 3, pp.323-334. Web.

Vassiliev, A 2013, Central Asia: Political and economic challenges in the post-Soviet era, Saqi Books, London. Web.

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