Gorbacheve's Central Asian Time Bomb Is Ticking

Report Asia

Gorbacheve's Central Asian Time Bomb Is Ticking

September 28, 1990 31 min read Download Report
Bryan Johnson
F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy
(Archived document, may contain errors)

792 September 28,1990 INTRODUCI'ION The Soviet Union is the world's fifth largest Muslim state. With 55 million Mus lims living on Soviet territory, 09 Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have larger Muslim populations Following in the footsteps of the Baltic states and other non-Russian peoples who seek independence from Moscow, the Mus lim republics of Kazakhstan, Kirgizia,Tadzhikistan,Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan are ready for what could be a violent showdown with the Soviet central govern ment on t h e road to independence. There are five reasons for this: 1) the Moscow built colonial economy is in severe crisis; 2) Soviet Central Asia is suffering an ecological disaster; 3) the region has the lowest standards of living and health care in the Soviet U n ion; 4) the population growth is explosive; and 5) Islamic fun damentalism is growing swiftly Huge Land. Unrest in Soviet Central Asia would have important economic political, and strategic implications for the Soviet UnionThe five Central Asian republics occupy 1,537,200 square miles (of the U.S.S.R.3 total of 8,662,4OO square des stretching 1,900 miles from the Altai Mountains in the East to the Caspian Sea in the West and 1,325 miles from Siberia in the North to the Soviet Union's southernmost point, th e town of Kushka inTurkmenia. This huge land host six times larger thanTexas and five times the size of Britain and France combined, is the home of 17 million Uzbeks, 8 million Kazakhs, 4 million Tadzhiks, 3 millionTurkmen, and 2.5 million Kirgh a total po p ulation of 34.5 million, or 12 percent of the U.S.S.R.3 inhabitants 1 rules and rituals of Islam. Rather, it descn'bes the inhabitants of the areas where hundreds of years of Islam have de it inseparable from the ethnic and cultural identity of the popula t ion In the Soviet context, the word "Mustim" does not necessarily descn'be a true believer who follows daily all the Peaceftl Change Unsure. The Central Asia republics have formed nationalist pro-independence movements that enjoy widespread popular suppor t . Examples include Birlik and Erk in Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan in Kirgizia, and Rusto&hez in Tadzhikistan. Yet the evolution of legitimate political structures having the peoples trust has been painfully slow in Soviet Central Asia. Because of that, and give n the disastrous economic conditions of the area a peaceful transition to a new political, social and economic organization in a post-Soviet Central Asia is by no means a certainty This makes it very important for the Bush Administration to pay close atten t ion to what is happening in Soviet Central Asia. At stake here is a region close to the Middle East and United States interests there: Persian Gulf oil and ties with Is rael. The battle for independence in this region has already been joined, and it is be t ween a hope for eventually democratic and secular states on the one hand, and authoritarian, clergy-dominated states on the other.The victory of the latter could be as destabilizing for the Middle East and South Asia as has been the emergence of the funda m entalist Islamic state in Iran in 1980 pening term concerns.The short-term strategy should include identifying and supporting to the extent possible and prudent, the forces of democracy, non-violence, and religious tolerance. The long-term task should be t o help create economic, social and political conditions so that these forces could gain an upper hand in their struggle with Soviet communists on the one hand and anti-Western Islamic fun damentalists on the other.To achieve these goals, the U.S. should D o uble the number of Radio Liberty broadcast hours in the languages of Central Asia. The U.S.-funded Radio Liberty, based in Munich, West Germany, is the only Western radio station that broadcasts regularly in the languages of Central Asia. Doubling the bro a dcast hours in these languages would require in creasing Radio Libertys budget by $950,0oO, or 05 percent, for fiscal 1991.The added hours of broadcast would help defuse tensions by giving Central Asians ac cess to democratic and free market ideas Identif j , and aid Central Asian political organizations that advocate democracy and secularism This would encourage budding democratic political movements in Soviet Central Asia and discourage potential ethnic and religious conflicts by promoting democratic polit i cal models. The aid could be channeled through such organizations as the United States Information Agency (USIA) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED Help establish a Western economic presence in Central Asia by encourag ing private U.S. entrepre n eurs to explore business opportunities there. American businesses could serve as an example of private entrepreneurship and provide a model for local free-marketeers to emulate, and jobs created by Western busi nesses could help to alleviate poverty and t h us increase political stability. The Of fice of East European and Soviet Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerces It is in Americas interests to use whatever influence it has to keep this from hap American policy toward Soviet Central Asia should addre s s short-term and long 2 International Trade Administration should include analysis of business oppor tunities in Central Asia in its briefing package on doing business in the U.S.S.R which is sent on request to American businesses Promote ties betweem Tur k ey and Central Asia. With the exception of Tadzhiks, the Central Asian peoples are of Turkic origin. The upsurge of Turkic tional pride has created a desire for greater unity among theTurkic peoples and an interest in the history, culture, and political i n stitutions of the only democratic secular Turkic state in the world -Turkey. As a democracy and a member of NAT0,Turkey could be held up by the West as a more constructive alternative than the theocratic and repressive model of Iran Expand cultural and sc ientific exchanges between the U.S. and Central Asia to provide greater exposure to U.S. democratic institutions and the free market economy Provide medical, ecological and agricultural assistance to Central Asia.

Soviet Central Asia is undergoing a severe environmental and health care crisis.

The U.S. could help alleviate this by providing medical care to decrease infant mortality and assist in the detoxification of soil and water SOW CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN AU population figures are as of 1989 A "e" symb ol bdicatesthat this group is the native population.

A blank indicates less than 1% composition THE FIVE FUSES OF GORBACHEV'S CENTRAL ASIAN TIME BOMB There are five crises common to Soviet Central Asia that could ignite a violent upheaval. They are Fuse # I: The Devastation Caused by the Soviet Colonial Economy Moscow pursued for sixty years a classic colonial policy in Central Asia. It im ported such raw materials from Central Asia as cotton, gold, oil, and uranium while exporting such indutrial finished products to the region as machinery and equipment.

Nowhere has the colonial nature of Moscow's Central Asian economic policy been so obvious as in cultivation of cotton. The Russians introduced American cot ton in the FerganaValley, Uzbekistan, in 1884 to satis

the need of the Russian textile industry for cheap domestic cotton. The best lands of the region were taken over for cotton cultivation, which caused resentment among the local population and made cotton the symbol of Russian imperialism. Before th e Bolshevik victory in October 1917, the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin, accused the I 4 &arist government of transforming Cenkal Asia into "a cotton appendix of Rus As with other aspects of the Czarist colonial rule, the Bolsheviks not only c on tinued the policies of the Russian Czars, but strengthened them. For example traditional crop rotation was eliminated in the 1940s. For the following half-cen tury, nearly all arable land inTadzhikistan,Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan has been used to grow c otton. Cultivating cotton over long periods of time and without crop rotation is very hard on soil.The result has been the massive exhaustion and erosion of agricultural land in Soviet Central Asia.

White Gold Cotton has been very important to Moscow's economic planners.

Along with oil, gas, arms, and gold, cotton is one the very few Soviet mass exports that can be sold on the world market to earn the hard currency needed for food im ports. For decades, official Soviet media labelled cotton beloezobto, or "white gold From 1950 to 1980, the production of cotton in all of Central Asia more than doubled from 2.6 million tons to 5.6 million tons. Uzbekistan, which- accounts for two-thirds of the Soviet cotton crop, produces almost as much cotton as the en tire U.S.The First Secretary of the Uzbek Communist Party, IslamJMmov, ad mitted that "there is not one person in the Republic of Uzbekistan who is not anxious about the price of cotton which] dete es literally everything, [includ ing] the social well-being of millions of people.

Although the Soviet Union continues to keep secret the amount of land devoted to cotton, estimates are that it occupies over half of all arable land inTadzhikistan Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan and the best, most fertile land. Cotton is gr own on so much land inTadzhikistan,Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan that these republics can not feed their population, despite having some of the best soil and climate condi tions in the world. Food is so scarce that an inhabitant of Uzbekistan consumes fewer v egetables, fruit, meat, and milk each year than any other citizen in the Soviet Union.

Soviet cotton is grown in Central Asia, only 4 to 5 percent of the harvest is processed locally and only 7 percent of Soviet textiles are produced there. In a speech thi s March to the Uzbek Supreme Soviet, the republic's parliament, the Uzbek Prime Minister Shukrullah Mirsaidov complained that Moscow takes away the entire cotton crop even when Uzbekistan exceeds its quotas, thus deprivin the republic of an opportunity to earn hard currency by selling cotton abroad sia P Colonial-Style Robbery. In the classic colonial pattern, though 90 percent of all B 2 Michael Rywkin, Marcow's Muslim Chdknp (honk, N.Y ME. Sharpe, lM p. 46 3 Pravda Vostoka, September 27,1989 4 Gregory Gl e ason Bulik' and the Cotton Question Reporf os) the USSR, June 15,1990, p. 22 5 ptmdrr Vmtoka, March W, 1990 5 While unemployment for the Soviet6U&on as a whole is estimated at 4.3 per cent, it is 73 percent for Central Asia. In Uzbekistan, for example, th e5e are one million unemployed, which is one out of every ten able-bodied Uzbeks.

Fuse #2: The Ecological Disaster he exclusive cultivation of the "cotton monster," as the Soviet press now often calls it, has led to one of the world's worst ecological disa sters. Overcultivation of the land inTadzhikistan,Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan has resulted in the thousands of square miles of wasteland, poisoned by toxic pesticides, defoliants, and fer tilizers long banned in the West.

It has even caused the disappearance of the Aral Sea in Northern Uzbekistan.

Since cotton requires much more water than is provided by natural rainfall, the Soviets since 1953 have diverted huge amounts of water from Central Asia's largest river, the Amudar'ya, to the Kara Kum canal, which rum through a desert in easternTurlanenia.This water irrigates cotton fields.The result has been a rapid depletion of water in the Aral Sea, into which the Amudar'ya river flows. Once the world's fourth largest inland body of water, the Aral used to be a beautiful sea teeming with fish. But today, after the loss of 65 percent of its water, all that is left is a salty, arid seabed covered with puddles of water full of pesticides. The salt and toxic chemicals from the Aral's sea-bed are dispersed by the win d and are believed to have increased infant mortality and throat cancer Fuse #3: Declining Standards of Living and Health Care.

By every economic indicator Central Asia is the poorest region of the Soviet Union. According to a 1988 survey of four of the five Central Asian republics Kirgizia,Tadzhikistan,Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan this region has the largest portion of Soviet citizens living below the official poverty line of 78 rubles per per son per month, or $13 at the'official tourist ex c hange rate.Thus, while 14.5 percent or 41 million people) of the population of the Soviet Union as a whole live below the official poverty line, 59 percent of the population do so hTadzhikistan, 45 per cent in Uzbekistan, 37 percent in Kirgizia, and 37 pe rcent inTurkmenia.

According to Soviet sources, consumption of meat in Uzbekistan is only one third the Soviet average, and in many regions of Uzbekistan it is as low as 50 6 XLL, 3 (July 1989, p. 450 7 I. Adirim A Note on the Current Level, Pattern and Tr ends of Unemployment in the USSR Sonef Studies, Vol James Critchlow Uzbeks Dedd Halt to Russian In-Migration Re+ on the USSR, March 2,1990, p.18 6 pounds (20 "8s) per person per year. The average American eats 245 pounds of meat per year. Iivestia, the la r gest government newspaper, on January 2,1989, ex pressed its outrage over malnutrition inTadzhikistan, saying that the region presented a semi-real mirage: an emaciated child, suffering from malnutrition in a time of peace."g This spring the Soviet Union was shaken by the revelation in the press that the death of children from hunger is common inTurkmenia."

One of the most tragic consequences of Moscow's neglect of Central Asia is the health care disaster. Unsanitary living conditions, polluted water, unhy gienic and inadequate medical facilities, and the presence of highly toxic defoliants have produced the U.S.S.R.'s highest infant mortality rate. While the average Soviet in fant mortality is 25 per thousand of live births (as complyed with 9.7 per thousa nd in the U.S it is 49 inTadzhikistan, 533 inTurhenia, and 47 in Uzbekistan. It is reported to be around 100 in the areas surrounding the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan.

Infant mortality from infectious diseases inTurkmenia is four times the national Soviet average, and Central Asian women die in childbirthtwo to three times more often than do those in the Soviet Union as a whole.

Most of Soviet Central Asia has extremely poor hygienic standards. Thus, for ex ample, 87 percent of the rural population of Turkmenia have no access to potable water and are forced to use water from open canals and ditches heavily con taminated by defoliants, fertilizers, and pesticides. As a result, the incidence of such intestinal disease as typhoid is eight times higher inTurkmenia t han in the U.S.S.R. as a whole. At 65.2 years, the life expectancy inTurkmenia is almost five years lower than the national Soviet average of 69.8 yearsu By comparison, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 752 years.

Fuse #4: Exploslve Population Growth.

Despite horrendous infant mortality, the Central Asian population grows rapidly because of the highest birth rate in the Soviet Union. The decline of the economy and the miserable living standards are aggravated by a population explosion. Mus lims ar e by far the fastest growing segment of the Soviet population: while the non Muslim population grew by 5.5 percent between 1979 and 1989, the Muslims grew 8 Yuri Chernichenko Grass from under the haystack In Yuri N. Afanasiev, ed ntm is No Other Way (Mosc o w Progress Publishers, l988 p. 595 9 A. Karpov, S.Tutorskaya Lqkdi byr'mden'kim Is it easy to be a child 10 Moscow News, April 2,199O.The article by theTurkmeniau writer Ak-Mukhrmmed Velsapar was accompanied by a pichlre of a Turkmenian child who died of starvation 11 According to Mascow News (June 27,199O),Turkmenia has the fifth worst infant mortality record in the world.

Only in Angola, Chad, Nigeria, and the Philippines do more babies proportionately die before reaching the age of one l2 Moscow News, J uly 12,1987 13 Annette Bohr, Turkmenistan under Perestrok an OveMew: Repon on the USSR, March 23,1990, p. 25 7 by 27 percent. As a result, the number of Soviet Muslims is expected to increase from 55 million to 76 million by the year 2000, at which time t h ey will rise qyn the current level of 19 percent to 25 percent of the total Soviet population This population growth strains the already depressed economies of the Central Asian republics and increases political instability As millions of Muslim baby boom e rs enter the work force, they are finding jobs increasingly difficult to get In Uzbekistan, where already one in ten able-bod&d Uzbeks is unemployed, there are 240,000 new people seeking a job every year. Similarly, only half of the young people leaving s c hool inTadzhikistan have a chance of finding a job. The young unemployed have been involved in the bloody riots that have erupted since summer 1989 with increasing frequency and violence. In Dushanbe, the capital of Tadzhikistan, which saw bloody riots th i s February, 117,000 young people, or 23 percent of the total city population, are reported to be emqpyed only seasonally while 70,000, or 14 percent, are permanently unemployed sues in Soviet Central Asia housing. By the year 2000 the available living spa c e in this region must double to accommodate the increased population.This is im possible given the state of the Central Asian economy Fuse #5: The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism Fundamentalist unrest takes various forms. In one of the first manifestations of the Muslims growing political power, hundreds of Muslims demonstrated on February 3,1989, inTashkent demanding the removal of Shamsutdinkhan Babak han, the Moscow-appointed Chairman of the Muslim Religious Board for Central Asia and Kazakhstan, the chi e f official Muslim cleric of Central Asia.The demonstrators accused him of being Moscows puppet and of violating the Muslim ban on drinking alcohol. Three days after the demonstration, Babakhan was fired and that March a much more independent and orthodox cleric was elected by the Congress of the Muslims of Central Asia, an assembly of official Muslim clerics ap pointed by Moscow.

Other examples of the rapidly increasing political and social influence of Islam The rapid population growth exacerbates one of the politically most explosive is An unprecedented appearance on Soviet national television of the new leader of Soviet Muslims, Muk hammad Sadyk Mukhammad YusuE, in sp,!ring 1989.

During the 30-minute special broadcast entitled The Religion of Islam and Nationality Relations, he criticized Moscow for its ignorance of Islam, its inter ference in the religious affairs of Soviet Muslims, and its 14 Rywkin, op. cit p. 81 16 Ibid p. 453 17 Pravda, February 18,1990 15 Rav& VOSlOka, March 24,1990 8 restrictions on access of the Islamic clergy to the mass media 4 4 An unusual meeting between Mukhammad Sadyk Muk hammad Yusuf and the head of the Political Depart ment of theTurkestan Military District, which is in charge of the military in Soviet Central Asia. Among the issues discussed were draft deferments for students of the Bukhara ntedrese (a Muslim religious academy and allowing Muslim draftees in the Soviet army to say daily prayers 4 4 The opening of sixty mosques in the first half of 1989 in Uzbekistan 4 0 T h e publication this March of the first official periodical for Soviet Muslims inTashkent, the capital of Uzbekis tan.The four-page newspaper, Ish Noon (The fight of Ish appears biweekly in Arabic, Cyrillic, and Uzbek scripts, and carries information on Isl a m with original Arabic quotations from thebran and the ha or sayings of Muhammad lims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Islams holiest site. Fol lowing Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachevs order Aeroflot, the Soviet Unions state-owned airline, added special flight s to Saudi Arabia, with which Moscow does not have diplomatic relations. Some 1,500 Muslims were permitted to fly to Mecca 4 4 A mass ha or pilgrimage, this summer of Soviet Mus The Muslim renaissance has given rise to a violent strain of Islamic fundamen t alism. In August 1986, for example, Soviet authorities arrested a self-proclaimed mullah named Abdulla Saidov in aTadzhikistan district just north of the Soviet-Af ghan border. He was demanding publicly that an Islamic state be created in Central Asia by taking up arms against the Soviet state.

In February 1990, a previously unknown Islamic group called Islam and Democracy, based in the Kazakhstan capital of Alma-Ata, claimed credit for or chestrating the removal of the corrupt chief of Central Asian Musli ms, Shamsut dinkhan Babakhan.This organizations charter demands that its members act within the strictly established framework of the commandments of the Koran and declares as the groups main goal the spiritual cleansing of people from im morality as well as joining religion and state in a democratic form of peoples power 18 Report on the USSR, February 24,1989, p. 23 9 Attracting Young People. Islam and Democracy infuses the struggle against Moscows domination with the fundamentalist fervor of the religio u s war. The groups leader, Almaz Estekov, said in February: With its policies Moscow has shown its true nature, and its true nature is that of a two-homed devil. And it is precisely cooperation among religious societies that can help to create a united fro nt against the power of Moscows p~licies According to Estekov, his group is attracting young people disillusioned with life and with the system, and it is in Islam that they find refuge.

There are indications that Estekovs assessment may be on the mark. Du ring the February 1990 riots in theTadzhikistan capital of Dushanbe, for example, the protestors, most of them young workers and students, demanded that a pork processing plant in the city be closed because eating pork is against the Islamic law.

Most rec ently, on August 5, a militant Muslim political party was formed in the city of Namangan, 140 miles east of Tashkent, by more than 3,000 delegates from all five Muslim republics. According to its leader, Dadakhan Hassanov, the partys objective is to gathe r all Central Asian Muslims into a new pan-Turkic state called Turkestan. This state would be governed in accordance with the Islamic religious law. Said Hassanov: We want freedom, independence and Islam. When we say independe we mean a completely sovereig n state, politically, economical ly and culturally.Hassanov has called the late Iranian ruler Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini a great leader. In a recent public opinion poll of the residents of Tash kent, Hassanov was named among the ten most admired men MOVIN G AWAY FROM MOSCOW Seeking to co-opt the growing independence sentiment in Central Asia and to prevent a violent uprising against Moscow, the local Communist leaders have been trying to distance themselves from Moscow.Thus the republican government of Uzbe k istan forced Moscow in summer 1989 to recall the widely unpopular ethnic Russian outsiders in the republican leadership. These were: the Second Secretary (Deputy Head) of the Uzbekistan Communist Party, the First Deputy Prime Minister, and the Deputy Chai rman of the Supreme Soviet of Uzbekistan.

They were replaced by local, ethnic Russians who had spent their lives in Uzbekis tan and who were for this reason considered more trustworthy by the Uzbeks.

At the same time, Moscow wi thdrew Russian law enforcement officials brought in to fight corruption in Uzbekistan. Among those recalled to Russia was the Deputy Minster of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan, who controls the police. His dis 19 Report on fhe USSR, March 17,1990, p. 19 20 Los Angeles Ties, August 6,1990 10 missal was a concession to.the public opinion that widely considered Gorbachevs anti-corruption campaign as an excuse for the further strengthening of MOSCOWS colonial control?

Personnel changes have been followed by leg islative action intended to make Central Asia more independent of Moscow. Among the most important steps in this direction 0 0 The Supreme Soviet af Tadzhikistan passes a Declara tion of Sovereignty on August 24,19

90. The declara tion established the sup remacy of Tadzhik laws over Soviet laws and places the republics domestic and foreign policy under the authority of the government of Tadzhikistan tion of Sovereignty on August 22,1990 Sovereignty on June 20,1990 1990 The ban asserts republican, at the ex p ense of central, control over resources inTadzhikistan at a time when goods are scarcer across the Soviet Union 0 0 The Kazakhstan Supreme Soviet creates the position of the President of the Republic on April 24,1990, to strengthen its autonomy. This legi s lation specifies that the President is empowered to protect Kazakhstans sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity. He is given the right to overrule decisions of the government of the U.S.S.R. if these violate the interests of the republic 0 0 Uzbe kistan limits the export from the republic of cer tain categories of goods, including hit and vegetables on April 18,1990 economic independence of the republic from Moscow on March 28,19

90. He insists that all the most valu able elements in the republic, especially the natural resources, belong to Uzbekistan and not to the Soviet Union.The declaration may have set Uzbekistan on a 0 0 The Supreme Soviet of Turkmenia passes a Declara 0 0 The Uzbek Supreme Soviet passes a Declaration of 0 0 Tadzhikistan bans export of all foodstuffs on May 31 0 0 Uzbek Prime Minister Shukrullah Mirsaidov declares 21 From 1985 to 1987, Gorbachev promoted the eradication of corruption in the state and Party apparatus as a means of improving the Soviet economic and political sit u ation.This anti-corruption campaign was a continuation of the same policy conducted by his predecessor, Yuri Andropov, in 1983 and 1984 11 collision course with MOSCOW over the ownership ofthe 1990 cotton crop dustrial products hm ihe republic, except for those al ready contracted under state orders Kirgizia bans a number of exports hm the republic on February 25,1990, among them foodstuffs and wool Uzbekistan declares Uzbek the state language of the republic on October 21,1989 Kazakhstan establishes a 199 5 deadline for mandatory knowledge of Kazakh in the republic on September 25 1989 state language of the republic, replacing Russian, on July 27,1989 Kazakhstan on March 13,1990, bans exports of all in- Tadzhikistan declares theTadzhik language (Farsi) the T HE RUMBLING OF THE FUTURE STORM The relaxation of the colonial regime by Moscow, the greater autonomy of the local communist leadership, and the emergence of pro-independence popular movements may be too little too late to prevent large-scale violence. Al r eady the deteriorating economic conditions and ethnic conflicts, for decades suppressed and contained but not resolved by Moscow, have triggered dozens of violent protests and riots. Since spring 1989, the largest violent outbreaks in Central Asia have oc curred in The Osh region, Kirgizia, June 4 to July 17,19

90. Participants: Uzbeks and Kir gk, mostly collective farmers. Casualties: at least 186 dead; 500 houses burned hundreds of Uzbek refugees fleeing Kirgizia for Uzbekistan. Immediate causes protest b y ethnic Uzbeks against housing for ethnic Kirgiz in the predominantly Uzbek area. Demands: Equitable distribution of land between Uzbeks and Kirgiz for housing.

Dushanbe, Tadzhikistan, February 12 to February 15,19

90. Participants workers, students, an d the unemployed. Cd: 22 dead, 568 injured. Immedi ate CQ(LF~S: a rumor that Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan were given apart ments in the city. Demancls: removal of Armenian refugees from Dushanbe; resig nation of the Communist leaders of the republic; return of the profits from cotton sold abroad by Moscow; closing down of an aluminum plant in the city because of the pollution it generates; deportation of non-Muslims from Tadzhikistan; and a ban on Western attire for women.

Novyi Uzen Kazakhstan, June 17 to June 20,19

89. Participants: young workers, unemployed, and high school students. Cmdties: 5 dead, 118 injured 3,500 refugees. Immediate causes: resentment over the high prices charged by 12 private stores, or cooperatives, owned mostly by the Chech ens, Ingush, and Lez gins settlers from the nearby Caucasus region. De closing the coopera tives and the expulsion of non-Kazakhs from the city of Novyi Uzen.

The FerganaValley, Uzbekistan, June 3 to June W, 19

89. Particzpants: Young mostly unemployed U zbeks Canralties: 99 dead; 1,010 injured, 748 homes burned 34,OOO refugees. Immediate causes: a killing of an Uzbek by a group of Meskhetian Turks, who are Georgian Muslims deported on Stalins orders to Central Asia in November 19

44. Demands: removal of all MeshetianTurks from Uzbekistan; rais ing the price paid by Moscow for Uzbek cotton; an end to employment discrimina tion against Uzbeks THE POPULAR FRONTS It will be very difficult for the local communist leadership and Moscows newly found tolerance t o stifle the growth and radicalization of the pro-independence MtiOMkt movements in Central Asia. What makes the situation explosive meanwhile is that the Central Asian republics lag behind other areas of the Soviet Union in forming mass, non-violent, demo c ratic, pro-independence political or ganizations, sometimes called Popular Fronts.The paucity of such groups bodes ill for the prospects of the Baltic route for Central Asian independence, in which the republics pursue independence, democracy, and economi c growth peacefully.

The independent political movements in Central Asia are very new. They began to form a year ago and have been growing ever since. Although differing in specific objectives and tactics, they all want to improve the living conditions, end colonial economic relations with Russia, and achieve greater autonomy.

Central Asian independent grass-roots organizations that appear to enjoy the greatest popular support are Birlik, or Unity (Uzbekistan).The organizations full name is Unity for the Preservation of Uzbeki stans Natural, Material and Spiritual Riches. Started as a working group by eighteen intellectuals inTashkent in November 1988, it held its first congress on May 28,1989, with 300 delegates from all regions of Uzbekistan.

Led by Rakhim Pulatov, Birlik is by far the largest popular movement in Uzbekis tan, enjoying the support of an estimated several hundred thousand Uzbeks. On October 15 1989, some 50,000 people participated in aTashkent demonstration called by Birlik. A mass movement, rather than a polit i cal party, Birlik consists of many often coacting subgroups, including those propagating violent Uzbek nationalism.The movements program calls for greater political and economic in dependence of Moscow and strengthening of Uzbek cultural, religious, and s o cial traditions Ed, or Will (Uzbekistan Formed by Uzbek intellectuals on April 11,1990 inTashkent, this group is led by Mukhamed Salih. The founding members broke away from Bidik because they believed it to be insufficiently devoted to democracy and incre a singly prone to violence and Uzbek nationalism. Close to a Western style political party Erk is committed to ethnic and religious tolerance. Its pro 13 gram calls for a national referendum to decide which form of association with Mos cow they would prefer : the present-day federation with greater autonomy, a much looser union or confederation, or total independence Kyrgptun (KirgMa The full name is Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement and it was formed on May 26,1990 in F~lze, the capital of Kirgizia. It unites 2 2 infor mal or non-official groups from various regions of Kirgizia, including four or ganizations representing ethnic Russians.The names of the leaders are still un known in the West.The program calls for radicalization of political and economic reforms a nd further democratization of the Kirgiz society.

Rustok, or Renaissance (Tadzhikistan This was formed in September 1989 $jj promoteperestroika inTadzhikistan and advanceTadzhik national inter ests. The leadership committee includesTokhir Abdudzhabor, Abdu kodyr Kholikzade, and Khalifabobo Khamidov, about whom very little is known in the West. Rastok came to prominence during the February 1990 riots in Dushanbe by appealing on television for calm, and negotiating with republican authorities on behalf of the protestors. Like other Central Asian popular movements, the group calls for greater political and economic autonomy. The main emphasis, however, is on the restoration and strengthening of theTadzhik cultural identity and heritage through literature, the a rts, and architecture.

Tadzhik Democratic Party (Tadzhikistan This appeared in Dushanbe last month, formed by representatives of several non-official Tadzhik movements, and it claims a membership of about 4,0

00. Led by ShodmonYusupov, it calls for Tadzhi k sovereignty within a loose confederation of independent states. Its short term objectives include the removal of the Communist Partys cells from the police and the armed forces capital of Turkmenia. Its leaders are Shirali Nurmuradov, Mehmet Sehedov, an d Nurberdi Nurmahmedov.The movements program calls for the creation of a state of law inTurkmenia, a multi-party political system, national and religious tolerance, and a democratic and non-violent solution to the problem of Turkmenias membership in the So v iet Union. Unity organized its first mass meeting on January 14,1990, in Dushanbe, when 10,OOO Tadzhiks commemorated the 109th anniversary of the fall of the last Turkmen fortress to the Russian Agzybidik, or Unity mrkmenia).This emerged this spring in As hkhabad, the Czarist colonial troops.

The Central Asian Summit. An important step toward consolidating Central Asian popular movements.was made at the first conference that independence or ganizations held in the capital of Kazakhstan, Alma-Ata, on June 22 to 23,1990.

Attending were representatives from all Central Asian republics except Turkmenia, whose delegates were detained by theTurkmen authorities for or ganizing a demonstration in Ashkhabad 22 Bess Brown, Unrest in Tadzhikistan Rem on the USSR, Febr uary 23,1990, p. a 14 The conference participants discussed kys to reduce inter-ethnic conflicts in Central Asia, particularly the fight over land between the Kirgiz and the Uzbeks in the Osh region of Kirgizia.They also sought to improve cooperation betw e en or ganizations in the different republics and regions of Central Asia. Finally, they adopted an "Appeal to the Peoples of Turkestan the name of Central Asia before the imposition of Soviet power.The "Appeal" emphasizes the common religious, linguistic, and cultural background of the peoples of CentraLAsia and calls for themto cooperate in search of a better future for the region LIKELY SCENARIOS FOR A POST-SOVIET CENTRAL ASIA The current colonial status of Central Asia is not likely to last much longer a nd may end within two years. Moscow appears to be unwilling or unable to reimpose Stalinist terror on the republics seeking independence. This partly is the result of the electrifying effect which the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan had on the Central Asian peep, all of whom, especially theTadzhiks, have ethnic brethren in Af ghanistan. Soviet Muslim journalist T

ur Pulatov wrote in the August 5,1990 Moscow Navs It is clear now that the Soviet leaders did not take into account that such a step [as invading Af ghanistan] would rapidly activate the suppressed feelings of Islamic fundamentalism in the Soviet Central Asian republics."

As for the political arrangements after the breakaway from Moscow, two scenarios for a post-Soviet Central Asia are possible Scenar io #1: Several Muslim states are established.These are likely to be im poverished, politically unstable, and hostile to one another. The animosity is espe cially strong between the Uzbeks, who traditionally claimed for themselves the leading role in Centr a l Asia, and the Kazakh, Kirgiz,Tadzhik, and Turkmen, who reject this claim. The resentment against Uzbek hegemony is especially strong amongTadzhiks, who consider themselves the heirs of classical Persian culture which they deem superior to the cultural l e gacy of their Turkic neighbors. This cul tural rivalry has ignited border disputes.This February's rioters in theTadzhik capital of Dushanbe, for example, demanded that the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, historic centers of Tadzhik culture which are tod ay part of Uzbekistan be returned toTadzhikistan.

Instability and violence may be aggravated further by the foreign powers vying for influence in the area. Likely to be competing directly are Afghanistan, China Iran, and Turkey. They either border on Centr al Asia or have sizeable ethnic minorities related to the peoples of the region and strong linguistic and cultural ties to them.The Soviet-Chinese border, for instance, cuts off 200,000 Uighurs from the main body of their people -estimates range between 5 million and 10 million -who live in China's Xinjiang province 23 Paul Goble Central Asians Form Political Bloc" Reporl on the USSR, July U, 1990, p. 19 24 There are four millionTadzhiks in Afghanistan and two million Uzbek,Turkmen, Kkgk, and Kazakh 15 The s e states could stoke the fires of ethnic conflicts, supplying arms and possibly even waging Lebanon-like, proxy wars there. A post-Soviet Central Asia, in fact could become a huge Lebanon: restless, impoverished, prone to violence, and bris tling with wea pons and ammunition from abroad.

Scenario #2: The five Central Asian peoples avoid conflict and form a con federation of states. An important step toward this was taken at the June 22 to 23 gathering of the leaders of five Central Asian republics in Alma-A ta. Among other documents calling for Central Asian solidarity, they signed an Agreement on Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation. This envisions a kind of Central Asian Common Market to facilitate direct trade between the republics byp assing Moscow and spurring regional economic autonomy. This Central Asian summit created a permanent coordinating council, to be based in Alma-Ata, which could become the nucleus of a future political confederation of the five states.

If the Alma-Ata initi ative is successful and leads to further steps toward a Central Asian confederation, ethnic violence and warfare could be avoided.This would spur economic growth and contribute to political stability. Under cir cumstances of political and economic stabili t y, the ideal of democracy and the free market could possibly take root in Central Asia TOWARD A PEACEFUL DECOLONIZATION OF SOVIET CENTRAL ASIA Central Asia badly needs Western attention and help. Should the regions forces of religious fanaticism and autho r itarianism prevail, the results could be very des tabilizing for the Middle East and American interests there. Islamic fundamen talist states, for example, hostile to the West and close to either Iran or Iraq, could support anti-American terrorists or thr eaten Pakistan and other Muslim states friendly to the U.S. It is in Americas interests to prevent a post-Soviet Central Asia from becoming yet another destabilizing factor in the Middle East.

To be sure, the U.S. ability to influence political arrangements in a post-Soviet Central Asia is limited. Soviet Central Asia is far away, and U.S. diplomats have lit tle experience or interest in the region.This does not mean, however, that the U.S can d o nothing to influence events there.The U.S. could identijl and support the forces of democracy and secularism, and it could encourage Western economic ventures. The U.S. should lead an international effort to help Central Asia redress the disastrous lega c y of Moscows colonial rule, especially in ecology, agriculture and health care.To achieve these goals, the Bush Administration should Double the number of Radio Liberty broadcast hours in the languages of Central Asia. Radio Liberty, the U.S.-funded broad c aster based in Munich, is the only Western radio station broadcasting regularly in the Central Asian languages 16 4 hours per day in u.2 hop each &I Kirgiz and Tadzhik, 1.5 hours in lhrkmen and 3 hours in Uzbek. At this time of increased political tension and ethnic strife, the hours of broadcast in these languages need to be doub1ed.This will require an increase in Radio Liberty's fiscal 1991 budget of $19S,OOO, or only 0.5 percent of its total budget. Radio Liberty can supply timely and unbiased infor ma t ion and analysis of the events in this area largely cut-off from the outside world and rife with rumors and ugly ethnic stereotypes. So doing, Radio Liberty would help advancerethnic tolerance and non-violence, which are essential preconditions for democr a cy and free markets in the region Radio Liberty, in exceptional cases can play a pacifying role directly, as when it broadcast an appeal this June 6 for the peaceful resolution of the Kirgiz-Uzbek conflict in the Osh Region by the preeminent Kirgiz writer Chingiz Aitmatov An additional $195,000 for Radio Liberty would: double the hours of broad casts in each of the five languages of Central Asia; double from eight to sixteen the number of "stringers or part-time free-lance local correspondents, in Central A sia; and enable the station to hire two additional broadcast producers Identif). and aid Central Asian political organizations that advocate democracy and secularism. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED a U.S.-funded organization chartered to help d e mocratic forces all over the world so far has ignored Central Asia. Yet democratic organhations exist in the region that merit NED'S help. Examples: Erk in Uzbekistan, Kyrgvzst~ in Kirgizia Tadzhik Democratic Party inTadzhikistan andAgzy6irlik inTurkmenia . These or ganizations are poorly funded and lack office space and elementary communica tion and printing equipment.They badly need advice on how to organize grass roots political organizations. In the current free market exchange rate of 15 rubles for one d ollar, a few thousand dollars from NED would provide each of those or ganizations with a computer and a printer and thus encourage the inchoate move ment of Central Asian democracy Help establish a Western economic presence in Central Asia. This would ser v e as an example of private entrepreneurship for local free-marketeers to emu late and would provide jobs. Central Asia is rich in natural resources, including gold and oil. Uzbek Prime Minister Shuhllah Mirsaidov disclosed last spring that between 59 tons and 81 tons of gold are extracted in the republic each year worth between $790 million and $910 million.a6 (By comparison, the total Soviet annual gold production is#hated at between 250 tons and 350 tons and that of South Africa at 650 tons TheTengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan was the world's largest oil discovery of the last decade: it is estimated to hold two-and-one 25 The only other Western radio to broadcast in a Central Asian language is Voice of America, which broadcasts two hours in Uzbek dai l y 26 RFEJRL DaiIy Report, May 21 1990, p. 9 27 Izvestia, November 30,1988 17 half times as much oil as Prudhoe Bay in Alaska.The oil deposits of Kazakhstan have already attracted the attention of Western firms.This summer, the San Fran cisco-based Chevron Corporation entered into a 5 billion joint venture with Kazakhstan to explore theTengiz oil field in Western Kazakhstan. Oil prgduction which will begin next year, is expected to be at least 60,000 barrels a day.

The Central Asians are eager for Western investment. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev travelled to the U.S this July for talks with U.S. officials and private businesses His goal: to attract U.S. capi'tal.

One way to encourage American business to explore opportunities in Central Asia is to apprise them of the potential of the areaThis could be done, for ex ample, by including information on Central Asia in the briefing package on doing business in the U.S.S.R which is distributed by the Office of East European and Soviet Affairs of, the I nternational Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce 4 4 Promote ties between Turkey and Central Asia. With the exception of the Tadzhiks, the Central Asian peoples are of Turkic origin. Throughout Central Asia, the upsurge of Turkic national p r ide has created a desire for greater unity among theTurkic peoples and an interest in the history, culture, and political in stitutions of the only democratic secular Turkic state in the world -Turkey. As a democracy and a member of NAT0,Turkey could be h eld up by the West as a more constructive alternative than the theocratic and repressive model of Iran.

Military and economic aid toTurkey for fiscal 1990 was $564 million. Several mil lion dollars of this amount should be earmarked to promoteTurkey's ties to fellow Turks in Central Asia 4 4 Expand cultural and scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Central Asia to increase knowledge of American democratic institutions and the free market economy American cultural and scientific exchanges with Central A s ia are minimal. Though the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) targets no programs specifi cally at Central Asia, representatives of Central Asia have participated in several USIA-supported programs. These programs, which should be expanded, are A joint arid l a nd study run by the University of Arizona and Turkmenia, begun in 1989.The program could be expanded to include other Central Asian republics An annual trip to the U.S. by ten undergraduates from the Alma-Ata Kazakhstan) Pedagogical Institute.The number o f students should be increased and should include students from Kirghizia,Tadzhikistan Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan 28 The New York 'limes, July 30,1990 18 The High School Partnership program that brings ten to fifteen high school students from Dushanbe,Tadzh i kistan, and Tashkent, Uzbekistan every year to the U.S An expanded version of the program could include students from Alma-Ata, Ashkhabad (Turkmenia and Frunze (Kirghizia Provide medical, ecological and agricultural assistance to Central Asia Such.humanit a rian.assistance, one of the greatest traditions of U.S. foreign policy is badly needed in Soviet Central Asia to help stabilize the region and make its in dependence from Moscow more peaceful. U.S. assistance is especially needed in Obstetrics to reduce t h e high infant mortality rate Soil rehabilitation to regenerate wheat, hit, vegetable and rice production on former cotton fields Detoxification of soil and water, poisoned by defoliants, especially around the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan U.S. aid must not be ch a nneled through Moscow or the local Communist Party or state institutions. It should be distributed by the U.S. with the help of pro democracy political organizations (such as Agzrbirlik inTurkmenia, Enk in Uzbekis tan Kern in Kirgizia and Tadzhik Democrat i c Party inTadzhikistan) or democratically elected local leaders CONCLUSION The end of Moscows colonial empire in Central Asia is in sight.That is the good news. The bad news is that this could be accompanied by violence. A severe economic crisis, rampant u nemployment, grinding poverty, ecological disaster, and explosive population growth are factors beyond Moscows power to contain, much less rectify, and they are fueling the fires of independence throughout Soviet Central Asia. Barring a re-establishment o f a powerful and lasting Stalinist regime in Moscow, Central Asia could be independent in as little as two years.

The political and economic future of a post-Soviet Central Asia, however, is far from bright. The rise of religious fundamentalism, the histor y of ethnic hostility and violence, and the lack of democratic tradition could prevent the region from evolving peacefully into democracy and a free market economy.The result could be a string of impoverished, authoritarian, belligerent, Islamic fundament alist states. This would roil the Middle East even more.

Creating a Stable Confederation. But this is not the only alternative. What could emerge is a confederation of Muslim states, dedicated to stability and closer to regional U.S. allies such asTurkey t han to Iran. It is in Americas interest that this occur.To promote this, Washington should aid secular democratic forces in Soviet 19 Central Asia by supplying communication and printing equipment and by provid ing advice on grass-roots politics. To promo te democracy and peaceful solutions to ethnic problems, the U.S. should increase funding for Radio Liberty, the only Western station that broadcasts regularly in the languages of Central Asia.

Another task is to establish and expand the Western economic pr esence in the region by encouraging U.S. entrepreneurs to start exploring investment oppor tunities. Finally, increased U.S. humanitarian assistance to Central Asia could con tribute to the political stability as the republics of Central Asia make their w ay to independence.

The Soviet Muslim journalist Timur hlatov wrote on August 5 in the flagship newspaper of ghmst, the weekly Mmcow News It is extremely important now to find, support and develop such democratic forces in the region that could become a co unt lwei t to those who may throw the Central Asian society far back in time a8 U.S. interests require that this plea for help be heeded Leon Aron, Ph.D.

Salvatori Senior Policy Analyst in Soviet Studies Heritage Foundation Research Assistant Ivan Lozowy contributed to this study 29 Moscow News, August 5,1990 20


Bryan Johnson

F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy