A Guide to Studying Central Asia and the Caucasus

Table of Contents

Central-Asia-Studies(click to jump to a section)

  1. General News and Information
  2. Some Basics of Politics, Economy, and Geography
  3. Foreign Aid and State-led or -assisted Investment
  4. Journals
  5. Language, Culture, and History
  6. Central Asian Programs
  7. Scholarly Organizations and Groups

 

1. General News and Information

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BNE Intelinews provides coverage in English of Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucuses, and Central Asia. It focuses on politics, economics, and business. They offer a free daily newsletter.

Eurasianet is a website providing news, information and analysis focused on countries in Central Asia, the Caucasus region, Russia and Southwest Asia. Formerly run by the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Foundations, Eurasianet spun off in 2016 to become an independent news organization. They have a free weekly newsletter.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting has goals similar to those of RFE/RL. IWPR both trains journalists and reports on news in Afghanistan, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Ferghana reports on Central Asian countries. The name Ferghana comes from the populous region of Central Asia that is split by the modern borders of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. News is provided in Russian, English, and Uzbek.

The Times of Central Asia was founded in Bishkek by Italian businessman Giorgio Fiacconi. It offers news focused on all countries of Central Asia.

Georgia’s First Channel is run by the Georgian Government and provides news focused mostly on Georgia, but with some general coverage of the wider Eurasian region as well. It is available in an array of languages, including Russian and English.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Current Time feature news and information focusing on Central Asia, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and more. Both are funded by the US  Department of State. Azattyk Unalgysy is RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service site that deals specifically with Kyrgyz issues and affairs, all in the Kyrgyz language of course (but Russian is also available).

Voxpopuli is a collection of photo-reports from Kazakhstan geared to showing the country through the eyes of a younger generation.

NewEurasia is a network of blogs written by aid agency employees, students, analysts, embassy personnel and other individuals living in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Their ability to speak and write in English, as well as their local language, adds significant value to this site.

24.kg is a free site with relatively good search and archive features. It offers news about Kyrgyzstan in Kyrgyz, Russian, and (reasonably readable) English.

Internews.kg is a project of Internews, a California-based non-profit that trains journalists and promotes media independence. They are at partially funded by the World Bank, the Brookings Institute, and the Gates Foundation. News is published in Russian, English, and Kyrgyz.

AKIpress.kg reports in Russian and Kyrgyz. It is a news agency based in Kyrgyzstan and provides coverage of all of Central Asia. Most of the information on the site is free. An English language site is also available, but with much of the material behind a (fairly inexpensive) paywall.

Kabar.kg is the site of the Kyrgyz National Information Agency with updates about events in the Commonwealth of Independent States and China. News is available in several languages, including English, Russian, and Chinese.

 

2. Some Basics of Politics, Economy, and Geography

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GeoHistories, published on this site, look at the geography and developmental history as well as the modern economies, societies, and states of Central Asia, the Caucuses, and other Eurasian locations.

The Eurasia Center offers a very informative and up-to-date website with information about Central Asia and Russia.

Official Government Sites also generally have information on political structures and processes within each country. See the sites for Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

Central Banks generally have considerable information about the economic standing of the country and government they serve. See the websites for the banks of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

Remittances from citizens who have departed their home countries to work abroad and send money back home to support their families are important parts of some Central Asian and Caucasian economies, particularly Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Armenia. Large portions of these remittances often come from Russia, which, thanks to the continued widespread use of Russian and preferential work permit arrangements, accepts more immigrants than any other country in the world, save for the US. Most of these immigrants come from former Soviet states. This gives Russia considerable soft power and valuable bargaining chips with these countries within their diplomatic relations.

Stock markets and securities exchanges are also present in most the above countries. They are generally small and classed as “frontier market exchanges,” meaning that they are as yet underdeveloped. Most citizens of these countries do not hold large savings plans and thus do not hold stock portfolios – nor are most retirement plans in these countries tied to stock market performance. Most stock is held by local elites and foreign investors, meaning that the stock markets are not quite the economic barometer that the US stock market is for the US, for instance. However, these markets are developing and still react to shocks in the same way. See the stock exchanges in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Turkmenistan also has a State Commodity and Raw Materials Exchange.

State Statistics Agencies are also widely prevalent in most countries and are often ready sources of official data on population, poverty, production, and more. See the agencies for Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Of course, the statistics should be verified by independent sources as state statistics agencies can be manipulated for political purposes.

Human Rights are also important if a county’s citizens are to feel secure enough to freely save, spend, and invest in their country. Human Rights Watch provides (most often negatively slanted) reports for Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan.

The US State Department maintains generally up-to-date pages with information about all of the above topics for KyrgyzstanKazakhstanGeorgiaUzbekistanArmeniaAzerbaijan, and Turkmenistan.

 

a.  More about Kyrgyz Politics
Who’s Who in Kyrgyz Politics Kyrgyz politics is fast-paced, with demonstrations every couple months and firings of important officials all part of routine political maneuvering in the country. Trying to keep names and faces straight can be a challenge – this resource can help.

President.kg the official site of Kyrgyzstan’s executive branch and has links to various government organizations, presidential propaganda, news reports, and press information. Someone seems to have forgotten to update the English-language news section in quite some time, but the Russian reporting is current.

Zhogorku Kenesh is the Kyrgyz Parliament and has its own Internet page, though the English-language portion is still being developed. Constitutional documents, photographs and other information are all available here.

 

3. Foreign Aid and State-Led or -Assisted Investment

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Post-Soviet-Conflict-BannerForeign Aid is a vital component of the economy for some Central Asian States, and a source of political acrimony for some. Sometimes, it’s both. The list below highlights some of the major (usually government-connected) donors and information sources about them. Most of these sites also have considerable information about the economies of specific Central Asian countries. Note that aid is coming from both Asian and Western sources.

Donors.kg is the Kyrgyz nexus of governments, businesses, the public, and others that participate in foreign aid and development assistance. It helps these agencies and individuals coordinate the nearly two billion USD currently circulating among projects there.

World Bank is a partner institution of the UN that gives loans, grants, technical assistance and advice to developing countries. Its website also gives an amazing amount of information about the economies of various countries including Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan.

EU Commission Delegations are special structures set up to coordinate EU diplomacy and aid to various states. They also have considerable information about EU relations with particular states. There are delegations to GeorgiaArmeniaAzerbaijanUzbekistanTajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

The United States is the largest source of foreign aid and investment in the world (by numbers, but not by percent of GDP). USAID coordinates most of the foreign aid given by America to other nations. You can view all countries at once via a map on the site. US Foreign Assistance is another official US site that tracks aid given – not only that by USAID, but also other sources such as the Office of the President. You can view all countries at once via a map on the site. The US does not directly invest in other countries, but does run a Trade Service with commercial offices in all embassies mean to help US companies invest and export to other countries.

Russia‘s foreign aid was only “reborn” in 2011, after the economy had recovered enough after the economic collapses of the 1990s to support a return of its status as a net aid donor. It remains relatively small and is often given as material goods and labor, especially as disaster relief. Its monetary value is almost never reported, instead discussing the size of the team and metric tons of goods delivered. Rossotrudnichestvo is Russia’s agency for international aid and cultural exchange. The site doesn’t list amounts of aid given, but does have several reports (on the Russian-language side only) about some specific aid efforts, such as its international COVID response. Russia also gives sizeable loans which are then sometimes forgiven. Some additional information is available from the Ministry of Finance and insight can be gained from this recent article by Aiddata.org. Russian state investment is sometimes run through Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and sometimes via state-owned or state-controlled companies.

China‘s foreign aid and investment has skyrocketed in recent years and Central Asia has been a major recipient of this. Aid is coordinated by the China International Development Cooperation Agency, which was only created in 2018 in an attempt to simplify and streamline China’s aid efforts. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a very high profile Chinese project focused on investment and cultural exchange. It’s main goal is to better connect China with European markets. None of these site offer a database of specific aid or investment numbers, but they do offer articles on specific efforts. There is additional information on China’s state website as well.

Japan International Cooperation Agency is essentially Japan’s version of USAID. They have ongoing projects in KyrgyzstanTajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development funnels money from European and other sources to build infrastructure and give loans to former communist nations such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan  Georgia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.

Asian Development Bank funnels money from Asia and other sources to developing Asian countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan.

4. Journals

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Central Asian Survey is published four times a year by academic publisher Taylor & Francis. This peer reviewed, multi-disciplinary journal includes articles on the history, politics, cultures, religions and economies of Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as Chinese Xinjiang, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.

Toronto Studies in Central and Inner Asia is sporadically published, with each issue covering a different topic and each available for order at a reasonable price.

The China and Eurasia Forum (CEF) Quarterly is another publication connected with Johns Hopkins and Uppsala University. This online journal tends to focus on Sino-Central Asian, Sino-Russian, and Sino-Caucasian relations.

Problems of Post-Communism is published by M.E. Sharpe and, as the name suggests, addresses the ongoing transitions in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Issued six times a year it covers everything from the conflict in Chechnya to economic reform in Russia and U.S. basing in Central Asia, all in peer-reviewed submissions.

Central Asia and the Caucasus – Journal of Social and Political Studies comes out six times yearly and is produced by the Institute for Central Asian and Caucasian Studies in Sweden and the Institute of Strategic Studies of the Caucasus in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Journal of Conflict Transformation is an independent online publication that provides a forum for scholars, practitioners, policy analysts, starting researchers and bloggers to analyze as well as discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and issues related to it.

Vestnik is run by SRAS and publishes the best in student research on all subjects related to Russia and the former Soviet Union. Submissions are open to all students and are continuous.

 

5. Language, Culture, and History

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Russian is still the lingua franca among major Central Asian cities, but learning the local language is helpful particularly for those who will traveling outside of major cities.

Folkways has resources on folk culture, language, and food. See especially the growing list of Talking Phrasebooks, Holiday Guides,  and Recipes. You can also search for a particular culture using the top menu.

PopKult offers some information on popular brands, movies, and music in Central Asia. Again, search by language by using the topmost menu.

Darvazah is an online introduction to the Urdu alphabet, with audio and interactive components.

MuseumStudiesAbroad has several articles on art, high culture, museums, and city planning in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

MyLanguageExchange.com has contact details for setting up language exchanges with speakers of everything from Russian to Kazakh to Urdu.

The Sven Hedin Foundation is supported by the Swedish Academy of Sciences and promotes the study of Central Asia while celebrating the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin. They have an online archive of his work.

The Project on Islam in Eurasia seeks an an understanding of Islam in Central Asia, the Caucuses and Russia beyond what it might mean to the security of the region and more to what it means to the societies of the region.

Silk Road Seattle is an ongoing public education project exploring cultural interaction across Eurasia from the beginning of the Common Era (A. D.) to the Seventeenth Century.

Silk Road hosts a very short history of the area from the Chinese perspective.

TurkoTek is one the best sites available for those interested in carpets – a common art form in Central Asia.

Cultural Shock: A Kyrgyz in the States was written by Kyrgyz student who studied in the US. The article details Kyrgyz traditions of family and compares them to those in the US

The epic of Manas is a foundational myth for the Kyrgyz people. It can be found in the original in a pdf document and in translation in html.

The Carrie Eurasia Collection hosts other literature and sources (often in Russian and Central Asian Languages).

MuzKavkaz.ru is an online store with lots of information about music and film from the Caucasus regions of Russia and Central Asia.

Ossetians.com offers history and cultural issues surrounding the nation of Ossetia – apparently in favor of it achieving statehood.

Sheep Guts Won’t Kill You was written by former SRAS student Schaun Wheeler and gives a wide overview of how to make the most of your travel to Kyrgyzstan.

MIR, a travel agency specializing in adventurous locations, runs a travel blog that is focused in part of Central Asia.

 

6. Central Asian Studies Programs

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Central Asian Studies is run by SRAS. The programs is for adventurous students looking to understand a militarily and economically vital part of the world where Islam and Christianity, as well as Russian, Western, Chinese, and local interests mix and sometimes collide. You’ll gain a wider, fuller, first-hand perspective on geopolitics and foreign relations for your future in government, business, or academia.

SRAS Online sometimes offers classes and lectures online from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Several universities in the United States have programs dedicated to the Central Asian or Eurasian regions, their languages, political affairs and histories. In fact, it’s a safe bet that most Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) members will offer a program with a regional specialization in Central Asia or Eurasia. Below are several examples.

The Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS) is a private, non-political, non-profit, North America-based organization of scholars who are interested in the study of Central Eurasia, and its history, languages, cultures, and modern states and societies.

The Center for the Languages of the Central Asian Region (CeLCAR) is run by Indiana University and promotes the teaching and learning of the languages and cultures of Central Asia. CeLCAR is developing resources for Pashto, Tajik, Uyghur, Uzbek, and Kazakh.

The Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies hosts The Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS), a North America-based organization for scholars of Central Eurasia, and is hosted by Miami University (in Ohio).

Herbert J. Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies was founded at University of Washington.  In addition to links and resources, the site offers program information, recommended readings and topical publications.

Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus at Harvard University is offered through the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

European and Eurasian Studies program is hosted by George Washington University. The program is co-located with the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES).

 

7. Scholarly Organizations and Groups

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The Central Asia Program aims to promote high-quality academic research on contemporary Central Asia, and to become an interface between academia and the policy community by providing a space for discussion that brings the policy, academic, diplomatic, and business communities together.

Central Eurasian Studies Society seeks to facilitate communication, interaction, and cooperation among scholars of the Central Eurasia region as well to promote general knowledge of and public interest in Central Eurasia.

The American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC) seeks to encourage and support scholarly study of the South Caucasus states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) in all fields from the earliest times to the present. ARISC aims to provide an ongoing American scholarly presence in each country in order to facilitate research and establish and nurture ties between institutions and individuals.

Facebook also has a few groups of scholars such as the Central Asian Studies Group and the Central Eurasian Scholars and Media Network.

SRAS thanks SRAS graduate Michael Coffey
for his invaluable contributions to beginning this page.

SRAS thanks SRAS Student Elizabeth Baggot
for updating this page in August, 2010

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