This book is one of the few recent books on Central Asian economies written by Russian, Chinese, Kazakh, Uzbek and American experts of the economies of the region. Boris Rumer, Associate of the Davis Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, is the editor of the fifth volume dedicated to these economies. The purpose of this series has been to promote serious scholarly analysis of the social and economic development of these post-Soviet countries since 1996. This volume considers the transition process as complete and gives a considerable attention to the policies of the USA, Russia and China with respects to Central Asia since 2001/9/11. It also explores other key factors to better understand the current economic and political trends, viz. the Islamic factor, the social crisis following economic liberalisation, and the hypertrophy of the raw materials sector in local economies.
After a comprehensive overview written by the editor, the second part is dedicated to the external context, which means US, Russia, China’s policies vis-à-vis the region and the Islamic factor. The third part presents the social and political context of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The last part discusses the prospects for economic development in Central Asia by comparing Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and it assesses the role of natural resources for future economic and social development in the region. In his comprehensive and interesting overview (“Central Asia at the End of Transition,” 3-67), the Editor emphasises that despite the fact that growth is back to the region, economic and social development is not present. Growth is mainly based on resources that were created in the Soviet era (e.g., education or infrastructure) and are on the verge of being exhausted. B. Rumer denounces the excessive confidence of Central Asian governments, the low level of productivity as well as the weak rule of law in the region. He finally considers Russian policy in the region as neo-imperialist.
Interestingly, in the second part, the Russian author Irina Zviagel’skaia, presents a contradictory viewpoint and denounces the US policy in the region (“Russia and Central Asia: Problems of Security,” 71-92). Richard W. Hu then presents the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) as a possible bridge between Russia, China and the USA respect to Central Asia (“China’s Central Asia Policy: Making Sense of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” 130-51). Nevertheless, the author rightly points out that the main success for China has been through the SCO to institutionalise the fight against separatism and terrorism in Central Asia. Vyacheslav Belokrenitsky demonstrates Pakistan’s role in the 1980s-1990s to strengthen the Islamist movements which have operated in Central Asia in the late 1990s (“Islamic Radicalism in Central Asia: The Influence of Pakistan and Afghanistan,” 152-91). Indeed, it was thanks to the Pakistani intelligence service that Tohir Yo’ldashev started to cooperate with the Taliban government (after a trilateral meeting in Peshawar). Dmitrii Furman presents an interesting parallel between Russian and Kazakhstan political events since 1991 (“The Regime in Kazakhstan,” 195-265). Yelstin as well as Nazarbaev had been the creation of the late Soviet nomenklatura, which has produced some similar caution regarding Western democracy. However, the main difference was that Yeltsin stepped back later. Then, Putin as well as Nazarbaev have played the card of the fear of chaos among the population in order to increasingly restrict political opposition. Interestingly, the author makes a final parallel between the Zhakyanov case in Kazakhstan and the Khordorkovsky case in Russia, explaining that this new and rich elite wrongly believed that it could challenge the Presidents in power. That is why both are in jail . . . .
In the third part Stanislas Zhukov strives to present objectively Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan transition paths and draws some lessons for both countries from the opposite case—a rather original but useful exercise for launching a debate on the transition process (“Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan: Landlocked Agrarian Economies with an Unlimited Supply of Labour,” 297-328). Finally, Eshref Trushin et al. concentrate on the institutional and social aspects of why Uzbek liberalisation seems to be halted (Eshref Trushin & Eskender Trushin, “Institutional Barriers to the Economic Development of Uzbekistan,” 329-84). The volume’s other papers are: Evgenyi Abdullaev, “Uzbekistan: Between Traditionalism and Westernization,” 267-94; Stanislas Zhukov, “Kazakhstan: The Development of Small Raw-Material Exporters under the Constraints of Globalisation,” 385-416; Stanislas Zhukov & Oksana Reznikova, “Economic Ties between Russia and Kazakhstan: Dynamics, Tendencies and Prospects,” 417-34). Although one could argue on the fact that the transition process is complete, especially for Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan, this book is worth reading for a better understanding of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan’s nowadays political economy. One of the few weaknesses of the book is the lack of quantitative and detailed macroeconomic analysis (if we except S. Zhukov’s chapter on the comparison between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan). Thanks to its original ideas and data, the book nevertheless succeeds in achieving its objective to promote serious scholarly assessment of the social and economic development of these countries.