2020 saw an unprecedented pro-democracy mobilization in Belarus. Indeed, protest actions against the grossly falsified presidential election and the authoritarian rule of Aliaksandr Lukashenka were impressive in many respects: number of participants, durability, frequency, and diversity. However, that year was also remarkable for mobilization of supporters of Lukashenka’s authoritarian rule: car rallies, pickets, and small-group marches in support of the incumbent lasted for months. Though far from being ubiquitous, a demand for autocracy does exist in Belarusian society. It can be explained by four factors: a tendency towards an economic trade-off, axiological Euroscepticism, the activity of pro-autocracy intellectuals, and the global decline in democracy.
After the August 2020 protests, citizens of Belarus saw unprecedented repression against government opponents, which has persisted for two years. One of the authorities’ methods has been aggressive hate propaganda in the official pro-government media and grassroots anonymous telegram channels. The anonymous Zheltye Slivy / Yellow Leaks telegram channel became the symbol of this propaganda. The channel’s main feature was its aggressive hate speech, which bordered on the incitement to genocide in its extreme versions. This article focuses on this channel’s rhetoric and semantic and discursive features. For this purpose, the article uses the methods of qualitative content analysis and natural language processing (word2vec). The article results reveal the existence of “hate vocabularies” in the channel’s rhetoric—sets of similar words to describe the opponents and enemies of the authorities in Belarus. The article’s main conclusion is that propaganda constructs the image of “anti-society”—a multidimensional imagined social formation with its hierarchy and institutions, which wages war with the authorities and citizens of Belarus.
This article combines oral histories with documents from family and public archives to re-assemble fragments of a Tashkent family history, and it uses Bourdieu’s theses on social reproduction and cultural capital to analyze the ways that this family repurposed its status-seeking decisions in changed political circumstances. Beginning with the author’s effort to document an ancestor who served as a shine-keeper, the article explores what became of that religious role as successive generations turned to new sources of cultural capital. Evidence shows the author’s grandmother’s elision of her lineage, simultaneous reinforcement of her traditional social status, and embrace of the role of Soviet teacher and intellectual. Soviet period repression led some families to destroy lineage documents, and to recount the past in selective ways. The author’s research partially reconstructs the strategies of a Tashkent family who transferred, hid, and reconfigured its cultural capital.
Most studies on transitions to democracy focus on macro-level factors, while Przeworski considers people as the most important factor and emphasizes looking at the ruling class and civil society. Softliners within the ruling class may aim to choose to open up the system to increase political stability and ensure the survival of the existing regime. The paper aims to test whether liberalization indeed increases political stability in the Central Asian context. By performing the empirical analyses, one can find out that liberalization results in political stability in Central Asia.
Urban development in contemporary Kazakhstan diverges from official policy and procedure. Through the exploration of a case study in Astana (until recently Nur-Sultan), the capital, this research reveals how activists are organizing to preserve natural space and thwart development. An activist-expert coalition is currently engaged in a drawn-out effort to preserve Small Taldykol, a natural space for recreation and leisure which is part of a lake system within Astana. The proposed plan includes draining this lake, the development of housing complexes, a tourism complex, and an eco-park. Using Miraftab’s invented spaces of participation and Ong’s exceptions to neoliberalism, this research explores how urban activists use the space created by deviations from development policy processes, orchestrated by developers and officials within the city and national government, in Small Taldykol’s development. These exceptions provide an opportunity for activists to organize, engage with other stakeholders, and to impact Small Taldykol’s fate.
The article deals with the activities of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in mediating the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict both during the war (1992–1993) and after it in the 1990s. These activities of UNPO were mainly coordinated from the Estonian city of Tartu, where the UNPO Tartu Coordination Office was located. The task of the Office was to organize the work of the UNPO on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Many of the regional meetings of the UNPO, which discussed the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, took place in different Estonian cities in the 1990s. The article analyses also the UNPO’s missions in the conflict area. The documents of the UNPO Tartu Coordination Office, which are compiled in Tartu, were used as the main sources.
The Kalmyks have lived in southwest Russia for about four centuries. Whilst cultural assimilation with neighbouring peoples has been an ongoing process since the Kalmyks first settled in the lower Volga from 1630, the twentieth century, which saw the rise and fall of several political regimes in Russia, was the most dramatic period in the group’s history in that it had a deep impact not only on their social structure, religion, and way of life but also on their identity. Subjected to various political ideologies, not to mention punitive mass deportation to Siberia and Central Asia from 1943 to 1956, the Kalmyks had to constantly negotiate their identity not only with the Tsarist/Soviet/Russian state but also among themselves. Whilst today’s self-narratives of Kalmyk ethnic identity are inextricably linked to the discourse of post-Soviet cultural revival, in order to explain the fluidity and dynamics of Kalmyk identity this paper takes a comprehensive approach to the history of the Kalmyk people since their first settlement on the lower Volga. Ethnic identity and its development are narrated chronologically, taking into account social structure, religion, historiography, and popular concepts to which the Kalmyks have been subjected, and which they have embraced, in the course of their history.
Kalmyk Buddhists have long engaged in the practice of pilgrimage for religious purposes. Historically, the main destination for Kalmyk pilgrims was Tibet, which was facilitated by traditional ties between the Kalmyks and the Dalai Lama (and by extension the Tibetan people) after the adoption of Buddhism by Oirat groups at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries. Kalmyk pilgrims pursued a host of goals – religious, political, diplomatic, and educational in nature. Some pilgrims engaged in exploration; during the early Soviet period Kalmyk pilgrims were used by the Soviet government as covert foreign policy instruments in its dealings with Tibet. Soon afterwards, however, pilgrimage was banned altogether due to the anti-religious policy endorsed by the Bolsheviks. It was not until the late 1980s that pilgrimage was revived owing to the democratization of social and political life in the Soviet Union.
This article is devoted to an important period, as yet insufficiently studied by anthropologists and sociologists, in the history of Kalmykia – the deportation of the Kalmyks to Siberia (1943–1956) and its cultural implications. Its aim is to show how the stigmatization of the exiled Kalmyks in an unfavorable social and political environment influenced their linguistic and religious behavior. These issues are part of the process of creating a Soviet Kalmyk ethnicity, which began after the establishment of Soviet power on the Kalmyk steppe in 1920 and was a continuation in the realm of politics of the forced modernization of the people. Kalmyks in Siberia tried to hide ethnically marked forms of culture, abstaining from speaking Kalmyk in public and hiding their religiosity. The article uses field materials collected by the author in the form of interviews conducted between 2004 and 2019 and published memoirs about exile.