Maria Merkulova's Blog

Relax and say “yes” to decline of US interest in Central Asia

December 27, 2013

This week we saw several articles demonstrating serious concern about inevitable cuts in fundings of Central Asian studies in U.S. Let us try to consider it as a positive thing. How this cuts could affect scientists and, what is most important, Central Asian countries?



The first and most obvious result of research funding cuts is change in the composition of participants. Like Laura Adams notes, we are to lose most of the language studies and international scholars. So here we are, looking first of all on a work of market dynamics in science. It is an unpleasant reality - your research should have a demand, Central Asian research seems to have too much of a supply. There is more - the region is perceived as almost studied, which means that there is no need in more research, instead we should have more analysis and monitoring.



For scientists it means that to remain in the field and to continue their Central Asia research they have to be devoted - programs are going to lose people who are studying region just because it’s popular and well funded. Losses in language studies do not necessarily mean losses in social and political ones, so the latter ones should keep at least some moderate activity and fundings. Also, the cuts are unlikely to affect the researches being done by international think tanks and World Bank, as well as other research initiatives funded not by United States. The year 2013 was rich for articles and books (like one by Marlene Laruelle and Sebastien Peyrouse) on the issue of who the main players in the region are and how the geopolitics there works. There are at least three countries that are going to fund the regional studies - Russia, China and Turkey.


As for the Central Asia itself, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and financial crisis should have rang the bell - the interest in the region would decline. Moreover the narrative of a “Great Game” seems to be almost ready for overcoming. This means there will be a new geopolitical discourse which may not include the pivotal character of Central Asia. This idea should be taken into account by the governments of the Central Asian states and not only in the year 2014, because such changes don’t happen overnight. The long-term strategy (if they want any) should be created with understanding that, no matter how the geopolitics shape the region or “games” around it, the region itself can hold with a help of cooperation, transparency, reforms and careful economic policies. That of course requires different attitude in governance, national building, and political will. Pessimistic observer would say that path-dependency won’t let this happen, but the opportunities these changes can bring are greater than any foreign-aid-dependancy can bring.

Share this article

Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
For business
For researchers
For students