Below you can find a series of supporting online video-recorded lectures presenting handbook topics in an accessible way for learners and teachers. These can serve as e-learning materials for the handbook.

Below you will find a series of expert lectures on Central Asian history, politics and society. These lectures, given by CAS experts and scholars thematically overlap with the handbook. They correspond to 17 major topics in the handbook and are grouped into three categories: lectures on Central Asian (1) Societies, (2) History and (3) Politics.

The lectures are normal length, academic lectures (about 90 min each), targeted at Master student level, on topics crucial to understand various aspects of Central Asian political culture and history.

Our experts have designed them around specific topics and balance their narrative between detailed insights and the larger picture, which is optimal for class-based lectures. They are uploaded on YouTube and thus easy to share.

All lectures can be found on our YouTube channel Eurasian Insights.

Disclaimer: Co-funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union. The European Union cannot be held responsible or liable for the contents of these works.

Lectures are published under a CC BY-NC-ND License – This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creators.

Lectures on Central Asian Societies

Abel Polese – Memory, identity and informal nationalism in post-Soviet spaces

The lecture is about how identity is constructed, reproduced, accepted with focus on Central Asia and former Soviet spaces. It shows that identity construction is not only a top-down process performed by political elites but it is renegotiated at the bottom level by middle actors and common people.

Abel Polese – Informality in post-Soviet spaces, from corruption to its political significance

The lecture looks at informality in both its economic and political significance. It suggests that informality (and the degree to which it Is present in a country), can be used as a proxy of quality of governance in that country

Bhavna Dave – Labour Migration from Central Asia to Russia: Laws, Policies and Effects

The lecture examines key legal, institutional mechanisms and informal processes that characterise labour migration from Central Asia to Russia. It explains how Russia has emerged as a major destination for labour migrants from Eurasia in last two decades and details processes that have led to the shift from an informal to a coercive regulation of labour migration in Russia, leading to an increasing securitization of migration. It describes the laws and policies that in fact make it difficult for migrants to obtain a fully legal status in the face of pervasive corruption and anti-migrant attitudes fuelled by state officials and media. Finally, it discusses the effects of labour migration on the sending states, their social structures and family, the debates about Islam-based radicalization of Muslim migrants in Russia and concludes with some observations on the prospects for integration of migrants in Russia.

Jeremy Smith – Ethnicity, Class & Clan Politics in Central Asia

Central Asian countries are, for most of the time, ruled with a firm hand by well established leaders. But societies remain divided along ethnic, social, and traditional lines. Rulers both need to keep these divisions in check and are able to exploit them to reinforce their own positions and mobilise popular support. This lecture explores the relevance of ethnicity, class and clans in Central Asia, as well as dispelling common myths about them. It introduces the general concepts before explaining how they operate in politics, and then goes into some case studies where these factors have been most visible in post-Soviet Central Asia.

Sebastien Peyrouse – Religion in Central Asia: Diversity & Challenges

Religions have played a significant role in the history and culture of Central Asia and in the lives and identity of Central Asian people. This lecture presents the history and evolution of Islam and minority religions and explains that the religious revival which has taken place in the Central Asian countries since their independence is not just a resurgence of these religions, which supposedly were suppressed by the atheistic Soviet regime and restored by the newly independent “democratic” governments, but rather a diversification of approaches to and practices of religions. This has been demonstrated by the increasing religiosity of Central Asian populations in the context of their domestic cultural and historical legacies and their current political, economic and socially troubled situations. This lecture also highlights the impact of globalization on religions in Central Asia, where traditional and local beliefs and practices compete with increasingly globalized ones, and, although in a more limited way, with processes of politicization of religion. Finally, it discusses how the states of Central Asia are still far from implementing the right of individuals to practice the religion of their choice and from recognizing the diversity of approaches to religion, and in particular to Islam. The strict control of religion by the current political authorities has led in some cases to a reduction of religious freedom more drastic than during the latter part of the Soviet regime and led some believers to interpret it as an assault on religion and especially on Islam.

Rano Turaeva – Decolonizing Gender Studies in Central Asia

The lecture traces trajectories of gender transformations explained through the frame of women agency in post-Soviet Central Asia. This presented process of gender role transformation will be embedded into the contexts of migration from Central Asian (largely male outmigration), economic crisis, lack of social welfare, state fragility and political crisis. The lecture introduces a general outline of the gender debates and the relation of the concept to the situation in the region. The lectures followed the argument made corresponding handbook chapter which states that despite post-Soviet challenges for the women in Central Asia they continue to play important roles in coping and innovating under worsening economic, political and social conditions. The lecture is based on the chapter which highlights the complexity of these transformations of the labour market, family structures, and women’s institutions.

Lectures on Central Asian History

Bruno De Cordier – The Original Islamization of Central Asia (650-1000)

This lecture basically explains how the Central Asian region acquired its present religious geography. It examines how the Islamic faith and -ideology, which originated in Arabia and began as an essentially Bedouin movement, was implanted and spread in Central Asia in a time span roughly from the mid-seventh century to the year 1000. It goes deeper into the factors, circumstances and the societal actors which enhanced the conversion to a new faith, and into the question how this faith eventually remains a central element of social and cultural self-identification among the majorities of the region’s populations and societies many centuries after the departure of its original bearers and champions.

Svetlana Gorshenina – Orientalism, Postcolonial and Decolonial Frames on Central Asia

The aim of this lecture is to give a very brief overview of existing postcolonial and decolonial approaches and their applicability to the cases of imperial Russia, the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Central Asia. First, the lecturer outlines the main ideas of Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism,’ the context of their emergence and their critique in the Western academic realm. Second, she presents a history of colonial and anti-colonial discourses in the Tsarist empire and the Soviet Union. Next she analyses the acceptance or rejection of Orientalist ideas in the post-Soviet context, from the former Soviet centre and colonial periphery, to Europe’s so-called ‘overseas’ of ‘far abroad,’ America and Japan. Fourth, arguments pro and contra on the most debated issues in postcolonial theory in relation to the post-Soviet space will be presented, such as the possibility of not analyzing imperial Tsarist Russia through the lens of Orientalism, the definition of ‘Soviet’ as imperial, neo-imperialist, colonial, anti-colonial, post-colonial or postcolonial, and the decolonization of post-Soviet, post-socialist and (or) postcolonial Central Asia. The attention is focused on the Central Asian ‘post-Soviet’ space. Svetlana Gorshenina is a research professor (Directrice de recherche) at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, Eur’Orbem, Paris). As an historian, art historian and historiographer, she is mainly involved in the history of Turkestan of the 19th to the early 20th century and the early years of Soviet rule in the region. She is particularly interested in the cultural heritage in Central Asia (from archaeology and architecture to photography and contemporary art), the mechanisms of its elaboration, the use for political or ideological purposes and the means of protection. She has curated several exhibitions of 19th and early 20th-century photographs and the history of Central Asian archaeology, and co-founded the international Alert Heritage Observatory.

Vincent Fourniau – Central Asian Culture Complex – Part 1 Nomadism, Sedentarity, Central Asia proper

This lecture done in two recordings started by elaborating on Central Asian’s spatial scope in order to identify and present its unique cultural, and even more importantly, historical characteristics. The lecture was structured along with the nine keywords selected for this related chapter. It firstly introduced several key aspects of the Region’s environment in relations to its inhabitants lifestyles, economies and cultures, mostly the two ‘poles’ of its economic models, i. e. pastoral nomadism and sedentary agricultural and city life. Their long-lasting interaction throughout historical times based on ‘circulations’, resulted in multifaceted phenomena of acculturations. The illustration of these acculturation processes was presented through some historical cases. Each recording started with a specific introduction, and presented specific documents or pictures. The comments on one of the maps which will be published with the chapter helped to better locate the regions, cities, and historical processes talked about.

Lectures on Central Asian Politics

Scott Newton – Law, Constitutionalism and the Central Asian State

Constitutionalism in Central Asia is flourishing—only not as unconventionally understood. Constitutional structure and dynamics are essential both to the instrumentality (the network governance or patronalism common to post-Soviet systems) and the performativity (the legitimation procedures of both ‘liberal market democracies’ and internal state-building) of the Central Asian state. This lecture examines the centrality of constitutionalism for Central Asian state development both in utero (the constitutional architecture and dynamics of the USSR) and post-partum.

Luca Anceschi – Political Economy of Central Asia

This lecture profiles the political economy of resources and trade in post-Soviet Central Asia, paying particular attention to the series of legacies bequeathed by the Soviet dissolution over the development of independent economic structures and strategies in Central Asia.

Adrien Fauve – Parties and Elections in Central Asia

This lecture is about the role of political parties and elections in authoritarian regimes, based on cases from Central Asia. Several concepts are introduced to the audience: presidential continuity (leaders remain in power despite the collapse of the Soviet Union), presidential longevity (rulers stay a long time in office) and constitutional instability (reforms are implemented to consolidate authoritarianism). Finally, the lecture proposes a comparative framework named “4+1 pattern,” meaning that in many respects, Central Asia demonstrates strong similarities between four countries, which in turn underline one contrasting case, but the latter can vary depending on the examined issue (longevity in Kyrgyzstan, continuity in Tajikistan etc.).

Slavomír Horák – Historical Geopolitics of Central Asia

This lecture proposes a critical view on geopolitics, the history of the principal geopolitical concepts and the history of geopolitics regarding the Central Asian region. It provides a critical assessment of the classical geopolitics as a highly volatile and biased discipline while mentioning critical geopolitics as scientific rather than the practitioner’s issue. The topic raises several geopolitical concepts that involved the Central Asian region as an example. Then it leads to the historical overview of Central Asian which covers a kind of “geopolitics before the geopolitics” and proving that classical geopolitics existed from the earliest history of the region. The lecture demonstrates insight (in-out) perception of the region as well as external (out-in) geopolitical and geostrategic views on the region in the past and today.

Natalie Koch – Environmental Geopolitics in Central Asia

This lecture introduces “environmental geopolitics” and how it can be applied to analyze the politics of environmental issues in Central Asia. As a framework in political geography, it emphasizes how nature-society relations always involve the intertwining of scales – binding together individuals, materials, institutions, and ideas across space and time. Environmental geopolitics prioritizes “human security” to challenge sensational narratives about environmental issues leading to conflict. The lecture shows how the “environmental conflict” thesis applied to Central Asia after the break-up of the Soviet Union, but through a case study of the Aral Sea disaster, explains why the international predictions of “water wars” were misguided. It instead advocates for a perspective that moves beyond global-scale, state-centric approaches to security to instead give more attention to human-scale, local politics. A second case study traces a similar tension between global and local perspectives on nuclear weapons testing in Semipalatinsk and its legacies for the people of Central Asia.

Jeroen Van den Bosch – Political Regimes in Central Asia

This video looks at Central Asia’s political history from pre-modern times to the present, and applies three distinct, complementary theoretical frames to study political regimes then and now. Through the lenses of ‘personalist rule,’ ‘patronalism’ and Weber’s theory of ‘rulership’ it is possible to trace the transformation of these polities under Tsarist and Soviet rule, but at the same time also debunk some common myths about how such regimes operated.

1- Analytical Frames

2 – Pre-modern Politics (+ Tsarist period)

3 – Soviet Period

4 – After Independence

Catherine Poujol – International Relations in Central Asia

How have Central Asian states entered the international community since the moment of their independence? How has each of them built out its own Foreign Policy (FP) and entered into a dialogue with foreign partners from 1991 until 2020. What doctrines have been driving these states for thirty years? How can one explain these choices and analyze their consequences at various levels (global, regional, and domestic)?

Bernardo Teles Fazendeiro & Maria Raquel Freire – Terrorism and Security in Central Asia

The lecture draws on international security to frame the issue of terrorism as a threat to and in Central Asia, highlighting how narratives’ labeling and political appropriation, along with materialistic approaches, might be insufficient to grasp regional dynamics. To this effect, the lecture highlights a few definitions and debates surrounding the practice of security and terrorism. It then focuses on how Central Asia was and is linked to this broader international security concern, demonstrating how the concept of terrorism was propounded as well as appropriated by Central Asian authorities, who often spoke of terrorist threats – mainly Islamic extremism – before it became a widespread international concern. To put it briefly, it was both the global focus on terrorism and Central Asian leaders’ political agendas that helped consolidate the relationship between the region and terrorism. The lecture offers then a few concluding remarks as to how readers of the region can potentially approach the issue.

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