A brief but valuable introduction to developments in the five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, the Kirghiz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan since they gained their independence following the breakup of the former Soviet Union in late 1991. The authors see three major challenges to these countries: national identity, economic viability, and relations with Russia and the nine million Russians living in the region.
As the authors point out, Central Asia's future hinges on Russia and the Russians in Central Asia. Since 1993, all politicians in Moscow, from the liberal Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to the ultranationalists, have agreed that Russia must retain political preeminence. These sentiments are especially strong with regard to Kazakhstan, the country with which Russia shares a 4,000-mile border. For the next few years, the authors conclude, Russia will be in a position to control events in Central Asia. But over the longer run, roads, railroads, and pipelines through China, Iran, and Pakistan will give the Central Asian countries more leverage with Russia.