Conflict, cooperation or competition in the Caspian Sea region: A critical review of the New Great Game paradigm

In: Caucasus Survey
Agha BayramovUniversity of Groningen, The Netherlands

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This article critically reviews the New Great Game image of the Caspian Sea region and the assumptions, concepts, and mechanisms (revolving around actors, aims, and motivations) this image is based on. More specifically, this review essay answers the following questions: How does the academic literature interpret the impact of competition between great powers on social, political and economic developments in the Caspian Sea region? Which actors are presented as the dominant players? The essay also introduces the existing criticism of the New Great Game concept and alternatives to it that have already been put forward. By identifying the gaps and limits of existing scholarship, this article offers new avenues for alternative theoretical and empirical interpretations. More specifically, this article argues that the New Great Game literature promotes unsystematic and shallow discussion as it ignores and misunderstands historical, material, political, economic, and normative differences in the Caspian Sea region. Within this discussion, actors, interests, identities, social contexts, and principles are taken to be fixed, i.e. not prone to change or to any sort of adjustment.

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