The current article deals with the production of knowledge on late socialism and its dismantling in Soviet Central Asia (Kazakhstan) and Mongolia. Starting with deconstructing conventional debates on the nature of Soviet socialism in international and national historiographies it bridges them with the popular narratives on the causes of socialism’s dismantling. Based on oral sources mainly recorded in the genres of oral history and life story the research shows the gradual replacement of the quest for social equality by nation building and ethnicity narratives in Kazakhstan and Mongolia in the 1980-90s and after 2000. Pointing out the complexity of social composition in the two republics the article attempts to compare the Kazakhstani and Mongolia’s elite’s status vis-à-vis Moscow and the population’s attitudes towards it that formed the course of the perestroika reform. The analysis of the main popular narratives shows their long-lasting acuteness and potential for reproduction not only in the republics under study, but also internationally. The article underlines interconnectivity of the discursive fields in the West and in the second world’s peripheries such as Central Asia, calling for multidisciplinary approach and contextualisation in regional studies.