Independent Muslim republics in Central Asia: legacy of the past, shape of the future

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Sussex Library]On: 04 November 2014, At: 06:58Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK

    Institute of Muslim MinorityAffairs. JournalPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjmm19

    Independent Muslimrepublics in Central Asia:legacy of the past, shape ofthe futureGregory Gleason aa Professor in the Department of PoliticalSciences , University of Mexico , Alberqurque,New Mexico, USAPublished online: 20 Mar 2007.

    To cite this article: Gregory Gleason (1991) Independent Muslim republics inCentral Asia: legacy of the past, shape of the future, Institute of Muslim MinorityAffairs. Journal, 12:2, 355-375, DOI: 10.1080/02666959108716212

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02666959108716212

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  • Independent Muslim Republics in Central Asia:Legacy of the Past, Shape of the FutureGregory Gleason

    IntroductionAbout ninety-five percent of life is continuity. No doubt this is the most importantpart of life. The past flows naturally and smoothly into the future. Life has meaningand structure because life is as it has been and is, therefore, as it should be. But thereare also moments - the other five percent - when the past becomes disconnectedfrom the future. These are moments when individuals and whole societies findthemselves at a branching of the paths to the future. Naturalness, routine andregularity are overcome by the choice, redefinition and uncertainty. Individuals andwhole societies are forced to look into their past to redefine their most basic valuesand to determine how those values will shape their future. They are compelled toplan their future rather than merely live it.

    The Central Asian societies of the former Soviet Union have entered such aphase of life. The accumulated difficulties of the USSR during the 1980s led to aseries of political reforms toward the end of the decade. By the beginning of the1990s, the decline in economic production and the capacities of governmentreached unprecedented proportions. Deteriorating economic circumstances fueledthe arguments of those who saw the central Soviet government as economicallyinefficient and politically corrupt. Nationalist movements in the outlying borderlandrepublics pressed insistently for greater self-determination. By the spring of 1991,the Soviet government in Moscow turned to desperate but unsuccessful measuresto halt the economic decline and placate centrifugal nationalist pressures. Theattempted coup of August 1991 sent a sudden shock wave through the entirepolitical structure of the USSR. In the span of just a few days following the coup,the political centre of gravity fragmented, shifting from the capital in Moscow to thecapitals of the fifteen constituent republics. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,at least in the form in which it had existed for the previous seven decades, ceasedto exist.

    The collapse of the USSR took place with a speed and completeness that fewobservers - whether within the USSR or outside of it - had reason to anticipate. Thecollapse initiated what may prove to be one of the most sweeping politicalreconfigurations of this century. The old "rules of the game" suddenly ceased toapply. Political realignment became the consuming issue in all the borderlandregions. The Baltic states quickly assumed a European orientation. Ukraine set

    Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs Volume 12:2 July 1991 355

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  • upon a course of political independence. The far eastern territories began reorientingtoward the communities of the Pacific rim and the societies of Central Asia rapidlyrediscovered the force of the religious, historical and cultural ties with thecommunities to the south.

    The collapse of the USSR and the resulting emergence of political independenceof the republics of Central Asia fundamentally transformed the political agenda forthese communities. The societies of Central Asia must now actively choose theirfuture rather than simply live in the shadow of the Great Powers. This is a time ofdecision. It raises crucial questions regarding the legacy of the past. What politicaland economic structures of the Soviet past are likely to prove enduring? Which willexert the greatest influence on the new structures of the future? What politicalfactors inherited from the past will likely influence relations between the independentCentral Asian republics and the countries of the Middle East? What factors willinfluence the new political relationships between the post-Soviet republics to theNorth and the newly independent Central Asian republics? These are the questionsthis paper seeks to answer. The conclusions we reach will lead us to the much morespeculative but also more intriguing question looming on the horizon, namely, whatis the likely shape of the future political community of the Muslim societies ofCentral Asia?

    Soviet Federal Reform and the Central Asian RepublicsAccording to formal definitions, the USSR was a "federal system."1 The originallegislation creating the USSR and all the subsequent Soviet constitutions describedthe USSR as a "federal union." Despite these official descriptions, however, theUSSR functioned throughout the years of Soviet power as a centralised, unitarygovernment. To a large extent, the USSR's federal form was a result of historicalaccident. Vladimir Lenin, the architect of the Soviet state, was staunchly opposedto federalism on theoretical grounds. He argued that federal structures had afragmenting effect on the feelings of class solidarity that he saw as critical toadvancement of the international workers movement. But, faced with the prospectof political disintegration in the chaos following the Russian Revolution, Leninaccepted a "tactical compromise."2 In order to win the support of political groupsin the borderland areas, the Bolshevik leaders granted the regional groups recognitionin the form of "national-statehood." They were also offered promises of self-government.

    The original federal compromise was formalised in the Union Treaty of 1922that bound the republics together. The Union Treaty was incorporated into the newConstitution when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was officially formed in1924. The trappings of the federal form of government were retained in both the1936 and 1977 Soviet Constitutions. But few serious observers took the formaldescriptions of republican rights seriously. For instance, the right of each republicto freely secede from the Union, a right guaranteed in all the successive versions of

    356 Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs Volumel2:2 July 1991

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  • the Soviet Constitution (Article 72 of the 1977 Soviet Constitution) was oftenrepeated but never seriously tested.

    From the point of view of functional analysis, then, the Soviet system was nota federal system. Functional analysis emphasises five key criteria of a federalsystem. In order for a system to be classified as federal, it must posses: 1) separate,hierarchically arranged political jurisdictions (units), consisting of at least two tiers;2) the responsibility and authority of the particular constituent units must beseparated such that each has final authority for some defined spheres of decisionmaking; 3) the political structures of the separate tiers much possess some degreeof internal complementarity with the social structures of that tier, that is, some claimto representativeness of the society; 4) mechanisms for dispute resolution (typicallya judiciary); and 5) some "residuary rule" which prescribes that undelegatedquestions automatically become the province of one of the tiers. Judged by thesestandards, the USSR was not federal system. However, as a legacy of the original"Leninist tactical compromise," federal tiers having separate administrativejurisdictions were defined.* These are the official dates of entrance into the Union of the republics of CentralAsia. The shape and status of these units changed considerably over the years.Tadzhikistan and Kirgizia were first admitted as autonomous republics.

    The Constituent Soviet Muslim Republics of the

    Azerbaidzhan

    Kazakhstan

    Kyrgyzstan

    Tadzhikistan

    Turmenistan

    Uzbekistan

    USSR(Prior to Independence)Populationin thousands

    16,538

    4291

    5112

    3534

    19906

    Territory(1000 squarekilometres)

    2717

    198

    143

    488

    447

    Date of

    formation*

    Dec. 1936

    Oct. 1924

    Oct. 1924

    Oct. 1924

    Oct. 1924

    Source: NarodnoekhoziaistvoSSSR vl985, pp. 12-17. the 1989populationfigures arefrom Trud (April 30,1989).

    Over the years numerous proposals for change in the federal system were advanced.Some proposals sought the inclusion of the states of East Central Europe into theUSSR as constituent republics. Other proposals called for the elimination of the

    Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs Volumel2:2 July 1991 357

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  • republican borders which were said to be "losing significance." 3 Throughout thefirst four years of perestroika, Gorbachev repeatedly urged retaining the federalstructure of the USSR in its existing form, but delegating greater power to theconstituent republics. In an effort to form political constituencies for many of hisdecentralising reforms, however, Gorbachev announced a major political reform atthe 19th conference of the CPSU in June-July, 1988.

    After the 19th party conference, the accelerating pace of perestroika encouragedmany supporters of independence movements that the time had come for testing theformal guarantees of the Soviet constitution. On November 16,1988, the legislatureof the Estonian republic adopted changes in the republics's constitution whichreserved for the republic the right to veto all-union legislation passed in Moscow.The new Estonian legislation declared the land, natural resources, industrial plant,banks, and general capital located on the territory of the Estonian republic to beproperty belonging solely to the Estonian republic.4 The executive chamber of theUSSR legislature quickly acted to invalidate the "Estonian Clause."5 But the transitionhad already begun.

    The central government offered a succession of plans to satisfy localist sentimentwhile keeping the general idea of the union intact. A "Nationality Platform" of theparty was adopted in September, 1989.6 To mollify local complaints that the economywas excessively centralised, the government offered a plan called the "GeneralPrinciples for Restructuring the Management of the Economy and Social Sphere inthe Union Republics." 7 On April 3, 1990, the "Law on the Order of QuestionsConnected to the Secession of a Union Republic from the USSR" was passed.8 A"Law on the General Principles of Local Self-government and Local Economy inthe USSR" was passed on April 9,1990.9On April 10,1990, the "Law on the BasicEconomic Relations of the Union SSR, Union Republics and Autonomous Republics"was passed.10 But these laws had no discernible effect on the growing economicdeterioration. If anything, the laws provoked public resentment as people began tosee them as little more than bureaucratic maneuvering in the face of an impendingcrisis.

    Two events in particular contributed to the centrifugal pressures. One waspopular elections. Elections for the all-union Congress of Peoples Deputies wereheld in March, 1989. Elections to the republican legislatures were held at differentdates, beginning late in 1989 and staggered throughout 1990. u During 1989, thenew popularly elected legislative assemblies of the republics passed new legislationon a language, migration, economic sovereignty, citizenship, and, in a few cases,independence.

    A second important event was the split in the Lithuanian Communist Partywhich precipitated the Lithuanian party organisation to formally withdraw from theCPSU in December, 1989. Secessionist movements surged ahead following thedecision of the Lithuanian Party. The withdrawal symbolised the end of partyhegemony in the USSR. Gorbachev's position on the republics changed substantiallyafter the Lithuanian party's withdrawal. Gorbachev adopted the view that the Union

    358 Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs Volume 12:2 July 1991

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  • must be further decentralised but, at the same time, measures had to be taken toprevent secession. He accepted the idea of a new Union Treaty as the chiefinstrument for accomplishing this goal. Reversing his earlier opposition to the ideaof a new union treaty, Gorbachev announced at the February 1990 CPSU Plenumthat it had become necessary to negotiate a new union treaty. n At the same time,Gorbachev countered the Lithuanian attempt to "go it alone" with an economicblockade. But, following the election of Boris Yeltsin to the post of President of theRussian republic - and Yeltsin's suggestion that he was prepared to negotiateindependently with the Lithuanians - the power and authority of the "centre" toexecute the blockade of Lithuania was broken.

    In the spring of 1990 a committee was...