During the anti-Gorbachev coup in August 1991, most communist leaders from Soviet central Asia backed the plotters. Within weeks of the coup’s collapse, those same leaders—now transformed into ardent nationalists — proclaimed the independence of their nations, adopted new flags and new slogans, and discovered a new patriotism.
How were these new nations built among peoples without any traditional nationalist heritage and no history of independent governance? Roy argues that Soviet practice had always been to build on local institutions and promote local elites, and that Soviet administration—as opposed to Soviet rhetoric—was always surprisingly decentralized in the farflung corners of the empire. Thus, with home-grown political leaders and administrative institutions, national identities in central Asia emerged almost by stealth.
Roy’s analysis of the new states in central Asia—Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikstan, Kirghizstan and Azerbaijan—provides a glimpse of the future of an increasingly fragmented and dangerous region.