Weapons of the Wealthy: Predatory Regimes and Elite-Led Protests in Central Asia

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Weapons of the Wealthy: Predatory Regimes and Elite-Led Protests in Central Asia
By Scott Radnitz
Cornell University Press, 2010
216 pp. $35.00
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The Tulip Revolution that overthrew President Askar Akayev's government in Kyrgyzstan in 2005 entered the honor roll of "color revolutions." But Radnitz argues that this was not a case of civil society rising up spontaneously to overthrow an authoritarian elite. Instead, elites on the outs with the ruling group mobilized their clients at the village level in a process he labels "subversive clientelism." They replaced one corrupt regime with what turned out to be another, which, in turn, was upended by new protests in 2010. Ironically, the groundwork for this revolution was laid by the relatively liberal political and economic reforms of the first post-Soviet Kyrgyz regime, which allowed independent elites to strike roots in the villages. In neighboring Uzbekistan under President Islam Karimov, Radnitz writes, a more statist regime left no room for autonomous elites. When popular protests occurred there -- most notably in 2005 -- they remained localized and failed to overthrow the government.