Globalizing Geographies: Perspectives from Eurasia: Perspectives from Eurasia

Globalizing Geographies: Perspectives from Eurasia: Perspectives from Eurasia

by A Sengupta, S Chatterjee

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This volume examines the Eurasian engagement with geographies of globalisation through an understanding of the intersection of space and place in Eurasia, Eurasian encounters with globalisation in terms of shifting spheres in politics, economics and culture, levels of integration and the intricate patterns of roads and routes. It also takes note of challenges encountered by social groups and communities in the face of globalising tendencies. The role of emerging alternatives within the region and community partnerships in Eurasia has also been addressed. Written by Eurasian scholars and others working on the region, it takes note of the formal and informal linkages between local communities and the larger global arena of which they are a part. The Eurasian context and the changing contours of Eurasia’s globalised space have been addressed in this book. The book would be of value to scholars and practitioners engaged in policy debates and area studies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789385714276
Publisher: KW Publishers
Publication date: 12/15/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 254
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Anita Sengupta is Fellow at Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. She works on the Eurasian region with Uzbekistan being her area of special interest. She has also worked extensively on Turkish politics. Her research interests include questions of boundaries and state formation, minorities and minority identity, gender, geopolitics, problems of transitional politics and culture in the Eurasian region. She can be contacted at
Suchandana Chatterjee is Fellow at Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. Her research interests include shared spaces and connected histories of Eurasia, features of transition in Eurasia and Central Asia and competing discourses of encounter and engagement in trans-Himalayan Buddhist space. Her current research focus is on images of cosmopolitanism in post-Soviet Kazakhstan and borderland anxieties.She can be contacted at

Read an Excerpt

Globalising Geographies

Perspectives from Eurasia

By Anita Sengupta, Suchandana Chatterjee

KW Publishers Pvt Ltd

Copyright © 2015 Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS)
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-93-85714-27-6



Farkhod Tolipov

Two Introductory Remarks

The author of this paper was recently a Fellow at the NATO Defence College in Rome and had a unique opportunity to attend lectures of different guest-officers from NATO HQ and experts from think tanks; to carry out research on NATO's role in Central Asia after 2014; to discuss with colleagues the security challenges the region faces nowadays, etc. From this experience I returned home quite confused by controversial and paradoxical revelations. Though I was of the opinion that NATO should keep its high profile in our region, my position was rejected by all whom I talked to in the NATO institution. My colleagues referred to fatigue among European countries and the US after the Afghan campaign and reluctance to remain in Central Asia. At the same, it is the widespread opinion and concern among primarily Russian and Chinese expert community, as also among Uzbek, Kazakh and other Central Asian official and academic circles, that the US/NATO intends to establish its permanent military presence in Central Asia, concerns which are not verified. My analytical confusion caused some suspicions that something is wrong with Central Asian geopolitical scholarship.

Very recently, I participated in a forum "Dialogues on the Great Silk Road" organised in the Issyk-Kul by the Mukhtar Auezov Foundation. That forum, without exaggeration, was saturated and pervaded with passionate expressions of cultural, historical and national unity of all Central Asian peoples and rejection of artificial division of the region into five sovereign states. The forum loudly called for restoration of the regional commonality. At the same time, it is a prevalent opinion and stereotype that the peoples of the region are deeply divided along different lines and do not and cannot constitute a single polity. In this instance also my analytical confusion caused serious suspicion about Central Asian regionalism scholarship.

Theoretical Assumptions

This research proposes new contemplation on the phenomenon of regionalism in Central Asia, based on consideration of juxtaposition of new phenomenon of what is called "micro-geopolitics" and the old phenomenon of national-regional dualism — two realities that characterise the "ecumenic" evolution of peoples and states of Central Asia since gaining independence in 1991.

The micro-geopolitics refers to the geopolitisation of regional relations between Central Asian states and by state leaders and elites of their own territories. This phenomenon differs from classical geopolitics of great powers and became, in fact, a by-product of the latter. The situation can be described in the notion of "regime of micro-geopolitics." The national-regional dualism means a specific spatial phenomenon reflected in contradiction between "unidimensional" static borders of the states of Central Asia and "multidimensional," dynamic frontiers of self-determination of peoples of these states. In many observations of Central Asia socio-spatial realities of this region are taken from dualist perspective, namely, such constructs as sedentary-nomadic, Turkic-Persian, upstream-downstream, small-big, strong-weak divisions between the Central Asian countries. Moreover, the very definition of the frontiers of Central Asia and its composition remains an actual subject of an academic search and is not yet complete.

Both micro-geopolitics and national-regional dualism have evidently an existential territorial dimension; and juxtaposition of these two spatial realities has caused quite sophisticated and biased political process related to the defining of the region of Central Asia and led to an articulation of "territorialisation" of social being which manifests itself in subregional clan and kinship relationships on the one hand, and mega-regional cross-border way of life of local population on the other. Such a controversial, dual link between space, peoples and polity needs to be deeply elaborated, given an artificial division of this region in early twentieth century, dramatic geopolitical implications of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and new articulation of a spatial dimension of the Euro-Asian integration project in early twenty-first century.

This research is designed within the framework of constructivist methodology and the school of critical geopolitics. However, despite this relatively novel approach to the understanding of relationships between space, peoples and polity, it still remains quite narrow for explaining those relationships without an interdisciplinary approach to the problem which would incorporate historical views, study of demographical and migration processes as well as ideological aspects of the nation- and state-building in Central Asia as related to the habitat. Finally, comparative analysis of the very phenomenon of regional integration in Europe and in Central Asia yields quite telling lessons. These last directions of research do not fit in the frames of this analysis but were mentioned just to point out to the complexity and sophisticated character of driving forces of overall regional relationships in this part of the world.

Global Challenge and National Interest

So-called newly independent states of Central Asia which came into existence due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union have faced since 1991 a twofold existential reality: the challenge of a new era of globalisation and the legacy of old era of sovereignty. Throughout the period of independence — for more than 22 years — these states have dealt with the seemingly paradoxical task of meeting the challenge of globalisation on one hand, and asserting newly acquired sovereignty on the other. This paradoxical task stipulated their contradictory behaviour as actors of international relations.

The challenge of globalisation consists not simply of rising interdependence per se of countries and peoples of the world to which newly independent states have to adapt themselves but of expanding institutional and political engagements and arrangements which require special institutional and normative adaptation and correspondence of these states. At the same time, "fundamentalism of sovereignty" obviously makes them prioritise what is called national interests. Unleashed in 1991, "freedom of national interests" caused metamorphoses of identities and policies. Combined with the challenge of globalisation the challenge of sovereignty created a perplexing situation for states and political regimes of Central Asia.

This situation further confused the political process. The most illustrative manifestation of this confusion is the revelation that the countries of the region still see the world through the old and obsolete lenses of classical geopolitics and power struggle. Interesting and symptomatic in this respect are the activities of international organisations in the region and attitude of Central Asian states towards them which testify non-compliance of Central Asians with international norms. As a result, the actuality of and appeal to multilateral formats in addressing contemporary challenges the world is facing coincided with actuality of and appeal to nationalism in newly independent states of Central Asia. So, international organisations with their international agendas encountered the motion of Central Asian nations in the opposite direction. Central Asian countries' national agendas have not yet been satisfied, but they are forced by contemporary international reality to satisfy international (and regional) agendas.

The complexity confused researches as well. The overall researches of current Central Asian regional developments, to my mind, lack accurate elaboration on three problems in dialectical conjunction, namely, context, contest and consent ("C3"). In other words, one has to comprehend the nuanced context of analysis; evaluate as precisely as possible the real and mythic roots of contests over certain things, such as values, resources and power; propose fundamental solutions of problems and ways towards reaching consent. From this perspective, I would like to point out to the contradictory context of globalisation and sovereignty which are the main factors of ongoing contests among Central Asians over territory, water, resources, power and so on. I would like also to point out that more often than not the consent among Central Asian countries is being constructed, at least within discursive framework, on the wrong basis because crisis management and conflict prevention efforts in the region take mostly the form of mitigation, mediation, confidence-building and the like. However, these measures do not yield fundamental solutions.


Let us ask ourselves: what would happen or what would be the course of events should the Soviet Union still exist? Geopolitical environment and peoples' identities of Central Asians would be, so to speak, Soviet-made. We know that none of the former Soviet Central Asian republics was ready for independence and each was ready to sign a new Union Treaty in 1991. After independence they all rediscovered the world, their own history and the land in which they live. After all, they became micro-geopolitical actors. We know that classical geopolitics is all about the great power rivalry over particular territory; it is all about the great power's aspiration on establishing its control or domination on a particular territory. Micro-geopolitics is all about small countries' aspiration on utilisation of the geographical assets they possess and "selling" these assets to great powers. Former targets and objects of great power geopolitics, or Great Game, these small countries of Central Asia try to play off the "Small Game" card with each other and with great powers.

It is not by accident that the concept of "bridge" is widely used by all political regimes of Central Asia when they try to demonstrate their geostrategic significance. Portraying itself and its territory as a bridge connecting one geostrategic region or great power of the continent with another became an obsession of political regimes of all five countries concerned. It has to be noted here that, on the one hand, central and bridge-like geographical location of Central Asia as heartland of Eurasia is a reality. Its significance was well described, for example, by Ross Munro: "A new Silk Road of modern railroads and highways that would effectively give China a land route far to the west, ultimately to Europe and to an Iranian opening on the Persian Gulf, would have enormous strategic consequences, possibly comparable to the impact that the advent of Suez and Panama Canals once had." But, on the other hand, "bridge-ism" or, more appropriately, "sovereign bridge-ism" led to very rewarding view on the geographical being ("geo- being"). Combined with historical myths about lands and territories, borders and frontiers of any individual country of the region, it has a negative impact on identities and regional relationships of Central Asians because intentionally or unintentionally, it leads to distortion of history and also nationalisation of this history.

I did not ask what would be the course of events should the Soviet Union still exist today only out of curiosity. It was just to remind that the immediate reaction of Central Asian republics to the dissolution of the former superpower was the establishment of their own regional unity. This very fact revealed the unique historical heritage preserved over centuries despite the construction of the Soviet "melting pot." Central Asian regional structure had passed through a number of important stages since 1991 and possessed a profound potential of nurturing regional identity out of five nations, but this evolution was artificially interrupted in 2005. Since then the potential for regional discord between and among Central Asian countries has shifted from latent level to dominant factor of the regional affairs. Central Asians could not cope with such challenges as territorial claims, disputes over water distribution, inter-ethnic conflicts on their own and the idea of international agents' mediation appeared as a recipe for conflict prevention, simulation of regional cooperation and development in this region. However, various multilateral initiatives have not yet resulted in considerable regional cooperation based on mutual trust and corresponding political will.

Anita Sengupta rightly noticed that a variety of regional organisations that emerged in Central Asia, although perceived as agents of economic development and security providers, in fact, have been unable to convey hard defence guarantees, create joint military units, negotiate arms reductions or enforce the end of overt conflicts. She points out that "a correct assessment of these initiatives would have to begin with noting their existential significance as groups of states that recognise themselves as sharing some elements of community and can define their national identity as complementary rather than adversarial to their neighbours."

Currently, the overall relationships between Central Asian countries, unfortunately, are far from fraternal, at least because the national interest approach to whatever problem arises in their relations just exacerbates the problem instead of removing it. Interestingly, almost any conflict-prone situation in the region directly or indirectly has a territorial dimension which stipulates micro-geopolitics. Suffice it to enumerate basic conflictual issues which are "territorialised":

• construction of the Rogun Hydro-Power Station (HPS) in Tajikistan;

• construction of the Kambarata HPS in Kyrgyzstan;

• Tajiks claims of Bukhara and Samarkand;

• Inter-ethnic tension between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the South of Kyrgyzstan;

• Mining by Uzbekistan of some sections of the Uzbek-Kyrgyz and Uzbek-Tajik border;

• Sporadic clashes of border guards on the border area between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan;

• Maintaining the visa regime between Central Asian states;

• Mutual territorial claims and incompleteness of delineation and demarcation process between these states;

• The problems of enclaves between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan;

• The problem of transport communications and pipelines across the region;

• Uzbekistan's accusation of the Tajik side for its dirty aluminium production in Tursunzoda city which has negative environmental impact on the adjacent territory of Uzbekistan;

• Unresolved status of the Caspian Sea.

National-Regional Dualism

Carlo Tullio-Altan, one of the modern researchers of the concept of a "nation," distinguishes the following symbolic landmarks of national identity: epos (historical memory), ethos (rules for living together), logos (common language), genos (family relations and lineage) and topos (territory). However, such thinkers as Max Weber or even Josef Stalin might disagree with such description of a nation. In particular, Max Weber pointed out to the difference between the very idea of the nation and empirical scope of given political association. He defined the concept of nation in the following way: "a nation is a community of sentiment which would adequately manifest itself in a state of its own; hence, a nation is a community which normally tends to produce a state of its own." In most definitions of the phenomenon of the nation it is primarily associated with a certain political affiliation. All the symbolic pointers of national identity — epos, ethos, logos, genos and topos — are at the same time the objective facts of history and subjective perception (interpretation) of that history. I would argue that if political affiliation and allegiance are central for understanding the phenomenon of the modern nation, then the dialectical interaction, mutual exchanges and constituting relationships between the nation and the state are crucial for their coexistence. This is especially true, in my opinion, of nations and states of Central Asia which were shaped respectively as a modern political community and a modern political institution to a great extent due to the Soviet institutionalisation. Moreover, this Soviet political initiative and innovation was picked up after its dissolution by the so-called newly independent states of Central Asia. In our case, it is not so much a nation constitutes and manifests itself in a state of its own as its opposite — a state shapes and manifests itself in a nation.


Excerpted from Globalising Geographies by Anita Sengupta, Suchandana Chatterjee. Copyright © 2015 Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS). Excerpted by permission of KW Publishers Pvt Ltd.
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Table of Contents


Introduction: Perspectives on Transformed Geographies in Eurasia Anita Sengupta,
1. Central Asians: Peoples of the Region or Citizens of the States? Farkhod Tolipov,
2. The Russian Regional Gaze: From the Far East to the Far North Suchandana Chatterjee,
3. The Northern Periphery of the Great Silk Road Vladimir A. Lamin and Yanina A. Kuznetsova,
4. Dugin's Early Eurasianism and the Problem of Recycling Ideology Dmitry Vladimir Shlapentokh,
5. Turkey in Eurasia: Identity and Foreign Policy Anar Somuncuoglu,
6. Siberian Regionalism in the Second Half of the Nineteenth to the Early Twentieth Centuries: Views in Historiography Denis Ananyev,
7. China's Security Governance of Central Asia Emilian Kavalski,
8. Daydreams and Nightmares: Dreaming of Al-Qaeda and the Once and Future Caliphate — Extremist Narratives on Globalised Islam Michael Fredholm,
9. Afghanistan and Central Asian Security: Strategies for Global Concern Arpita Basu Roy,
10. The Point of Convergence: Reasons for New Age Spirituality in Kazakhstan Alexey Zelenskiy,
11. The Silk Route in Mustafo Bafoev's Imagination Diloram Karomat,
12. Northern Eurasia in the Era of Climate Change: Rhetoric and Reality of the Northern Sea Route Sanjay Chaturvedi,
Appendix A: Railroad Tracks of Northern Russia, USSR,
Appendix B: Arctic Shipping Routes,

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