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Afghanistan's lack of a state monopoly of violence reflects on its foreign policy in a number of ways. First, various non-state organizations developing their own relations with foreign countries. Second, enforcing coherent policy making within the institutions of the Afghan state itself has been sometimes problematic as officials could rely on the patronage of organizations external to the state to delay the implementation of official policies. This article discusses the cases of Afghan foreign policy towards Pakistan, India, China and Iran.

In: Central Asian Affairs

This article explores the relationship between reformatting of Bishkek’s central square “from above” and mosaics of meanings, claims, and practices produced by different social actors “from below” in response to the ongoing transformation of this space. Drawing on narratives of long-term Bishkek residents and recent internal migrants to the city, we investigate commonalities and divergences in their perception of Ala-Too’s changing image. It is shown why the square, despite its planned multifunctionality, does not fulfill the needs of various segments of the city population. We also analyze political meanings of the “emptiness” of the square and the ambivalent public reaction to the ways it is being “filled.” The square becomes a spatial mirror of society—a society that remains in constant flux, searching for social stability and for unifying national symbols, heroes, and slogans.

In: Central Asian Affairs
In: The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces
In: The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces
In: Central Asian Affairs
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Prior to 2001, Beijing faithfully observed the principles of neutrality and non-interference regarding Afghanistan, yet it has become one of the key actors in appeasing the conflict, especially since 2014. Numerous scholars suggest that China’s U-turn is related to the potential threat posed by the Uygur separatists in Afghanistan. This study suggests an alternate motive; namely, that Afghanistan’s strategic location—the heart of Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and East Asia—drives China’s increased interest.

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In: Central Asian Affairs

The interaction between Central Asia and Afghanistan is conventionally discussed either from the perspective of spillovers or from the other side of the coin, namely economic cooperation around the slogan of reviving the Silk Road. Yet, for a better grasp of Central Asia’s position on the Afghan question, it is necessary to shift the perspective of analysis from international relations to domestic policies. This article aims to decipher the many internal drivers that shape Uzbek and Tajik policies toward and perceptions of Afghanistan. Understanding decision-making mechanisms and the legitimacy of the authorities, identifying elite groups and their connection to their Afghan counterparts, and grasping the process of knowledge production, all help to better understand how Afghanistan’s neighbors shape their policy.

In: Central Asian Affairs
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Recent studies have convincingly demonstrated that Soviet state atheism continues to influence how religion is understood and practiced in present-day Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, however, a new generation of atheists is emerging whose ideas about atheism—and about religion—are informed more by globally circulating neo-atheist ideas and images. This paper explores their efforts to live atheist lives and be true to their atheist convictions, and the images of religion that play into the process. Focusing on the role of social media in particular, I will argue that while many, at least initially, embrace these platforms as ways to encounter like-minded individuals and experience moral community, what they encounter there are often images of atheism and its religious “others” with which they cannot identify and which often seem irrelevant to the challenges of everyday life, in which coexistence with (and caring for) religious others are central concerns for many.

In: Central Asian Affairs