Since the national independence of the Central Asian countries in the early 1990s, there has been a tension between stability- and transformation-oriented rationalities, goals, and policies. However, the concurrent missions of political stability and societal transformation indicate a clear distinction between state and society. This idea of separating state and society is particularly strong with regard to security issues, but this strict separation is likely to produce contradictory goals and to have dysfunctional consequences, since it prevents the political system from benefitting from the contribution that civil society can make to addressing political and social challenges. Therefore, in this article—which also serves as an introduction to the special issue—we argue that it is necessary to bridge the discourses on security and civil society, with a particular focus on Central Asia.
The degree of institutionalized cooperation on security among three or more of the five Central Asian states remains moderate. Currently, regional security is nurtured in part via frameworks provided by external state and nonstate partners. A rational institutionalist perspective has been invoked, suggesting demand for regional security cooperation. This view also insinuates that it would be reasonable for these five states, because of their limited resources, to rely largely on external cooperation partners instead of being self-organized. This article discusses additional causal factors possibly responsible for the low degree of regionalism. Given varying foreign policy preferences and Kazakhstan’s consistent backing of far-reaching security regionalism, the argument that autocracies generally refrain from deep security cooperation cannot be sustained, nor does the sea change in Uzbekistan’s foreign policy in 2016, which could serve to nurture security regionalism in the future, align well with this argument.
Mainstream theories of international relations explain the foreign policies of small states based on the function of external incentives and pressures. This article challenges such explanations and analyzes Kyrgyzstan’s decisions concerning the U.S. air base at Manas between 2005 and 2010, which was a curious case of risk-taking in foreign policy by a small state. Applying a framework of “ideas, interests and institutions,” the article shows how changes in Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy reflected a shift in the domestic context of policymaking.
Although a number of previous studies have investigated violent extremism in Central Asia, rigorous research concerning the international efforts in preventing this phenomenon in the region is still limited. In response to this gap in the literature, the paper examines the EU’s engagement in preventing violent extremism (PVE) through the involvement of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Kyrgyzstan. In particular, by providing new insights into the EU-funded civil society projects under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) and its program Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism (STRIVE), it deepens our understanding of the security–development nexus and the approach to stability and peace that characterizes EU assistance on the ground. At the same time, by looking at the concrete activities carried out by EU-funded organizations in Kyrgyzstan, this article presents a classification of CSO forms of engagement in PVE that is relevant for the selected country and beyond.
How do the post-Soviet countries differ in their regulatory approaches to organized civil society? This study provides a systematic and comprehensive assessment of relative differences and similarities in the regulation of civil society organizations in seven post-Soviet countries: Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. Empirically, the study offers a regulatory index that makes it possible to map and compare relative differences and similarities between these countries’ regulatory approaches to civil society. The findings show that post-Soviet authoritarian countries do not use similar levels of repression against organized civil society. The study provides an account of how different political configurations explain relative differences in the extent to which post-Soviet authoritarian countries repress their respective civil societies.