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Central Asia Fellows 2014

Slavomír Horák, Department of Russian and Eastern European Studies, Institute of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

"Ideology and Regime-Building in Turkmenistan. The Writers, Players and Customers"
(May 2014)

Biography:
Slavomír Horák has a tenure track position as the Research Fellow at the Department of Russian and East European Studies of the Institute of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague. He holds a PhD in International Area Studies from the same institute. Horák’s research covers political, social, and economic issues in the former USSR, with a focus on Central Asia, particularly on Turkmenistan's domestic issues, such as informal politics, as well as state- and nation-building. Horák is an author of several books on Central Asian and Afghanistan internal developments. He has also published numerous articles in Czech, Russian and English scholarly journals including Problems of Post-Communism, The China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, Central Asia and the Caucasus and Politeks.

Abstract:
The creation and building of new regimes in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union were accompanied by many significant changes in the political, social or economic spheres. New elites and, in particular, new presidents gradually transformed themselves from regional Soviet communist party bosses into enthusiastic promoters of nationalism. This phenomenon manifested itself publicly in the creation of a new system of values whose aim was to compensate and substitute for the ideological vacuum that emerged after the collapse of communism.

The penetration of the new national ideologies into the everyday life of the Central Asian peoples through mass media or education, together with the lack of pluralism and access to alternative viewpoints, has gradually formed the way of thinking in these societies. Thus, ideology, along with the country’s political culture, political or party system, and economy or social system, has become the key instrument of regime-building.

Central Asian ideologies are (at first glance) not connected to international politics and seem only to serve the internal purposes of the regimes. However, the existing outcomes of the project have shown that both the internal and foreign policies of the respective countries are often based on the ideology which determines the regime’s character.

The current project aims to analyse the correlation between elite formation (with the central figure of the president) and their image-making in case of post-Soviet Turkmenistan. The research starts with an analysis of the local elites and their transformation into de facto super-personal regimes, i.e. finding out the reasons for such concentration of power in the hands of one single person. The first part of the research focuses on the factual rise of president Niyazov of Turkmenistan, the creation of his entourage, the mechanisms of cadre changes, and the crystallization of his innermost circle, which was (as I assume) crucial for creation of his image. In the second part, the ‘achievements’ of the process of ideology creation in Turkmenistan are analysed, and in the third part I focus on the customers of the ideology.

Considering the complex character of the project and its focus on Turkmenistan as the least -researched country in the region, the project is unique in the worldwide context.

Email: slavomir.horak@post.cz

Academic host at the Aleksanteri Institute: Hanna Smith and Suvi Kansikas