Term Paper: Islamic History in Russia

Pages: 5 (1441 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Two years after his election, Niyazov instituted processes that would make him officially ruler of Turkmenistan for life, with the only avenues of removal being health limitations or death. (Anderson)

Meanwhile, foreign affairs in Turkmenistan also suffered a rapid deterioration. Visitors to the country, especially news media, were made to feel most unwelcome. Many were even jailed or beaten upon arrival. An official censor position was instated to ensure that the flow of information to the people was closely controlled. Additionally, attempts at the formation of political parties in opposition to Niyazov's rule were effectively quelled. These combined restrictions in effect transformed Turkmenistan's emerging democracy into an authoritarian state. (Anderson)

Kazakhstan's attempts at the institution of democracy brought about a different set of challenges. In addition to the aforementioned ethnic diversity and consequent lack of national unity, Kazakhstan has historically been controlled by political hierarchies. Nowhere in the history of the Kazakh people have there been instances of mass political participation, and the very prospect of democratic inclusion presents an alien concept to its citizens. (Bremmer)

Though initially it seemed that Kazakhstan would succeed where the rest of central Asia had failed, it became obvious that the country experienced the same instances of political conquering and rights violation as its neighboring republics (Bremmer, 179). Russian residents of the area, who comprise nearly the same percentage of the population as the native Kazakhs, further complicate the situation by refusing to live under Kazakh rule, giving their original inhabitation of the area as reason for their lack of cooperation (Bremmer, 182).

Though analysis of the region and its history and policies clearly show that a democratic state is the most promising structure for central Asia's new regime, it is equally clear that without massive, sweeping and enforceable reform, the model of democracy will fail to take root in these new republics.

IV. The Role of Islam in Russia and Central Asia

Islamic representation in central Asia has always been a staple of the region. However, the nature of Islamic fundamentalism in itself presents a nearly insurmountable block to the democratic process. The new republics have taken different and conflicting approaches to this impediment, with varying results.

Niyazov in Turkmenistan and his contemporary, Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan, have both sought to severely limit the influence of Islam in their countries. With Niyazov succeeding to a greater degree, both leaders have blocked the formation of an opposing Islamic Party, citing the "need to avoid the spread of 'fundamentalism' (Anderson 515)."

Particularly in Turkmenistan, the Islamic religion is under tight control. As recently as 1986, there were only four mosques open in the country. Since then, with the allowances of Niyazov, the number has grown to over 100; however, the religion is still regarded as something of a separate caliber from government. Regardless, the authorities of the Turkmen government present themselves to the rest of the world as "good Muslims" while stressing loyalty to Niyazov and the government above prayer. (Anderson)

By comparison, the atmosphere of the Islamic faction in Kazakhstan is considerably relaxed. Despite evidence that fundamentalism poses a threat to democracy merely by its existence and intrinsic laws, its Kazakh members project no such endangerment. (Bremmer)

The religion of Islam in Kazakhstan is kept within the family unit and does not interfere with the workings of the government. Although elements of Islam are incorporated into traditional practice, the fundamental properties are not inherent to its governmental structure. Independence has produced a natural increase in religious interest, but the resulting participation has been limited to family and community involvement. (Bremmer)

As with any democratic society, the new republics must make allowances to tolerate diversity of race and religion if they wish to progress toward their ultimate goal. Islamic inclusion will be a necessity in the reformation of central Asia.

Though we are unable to predict what the future holds for the once-mighty Russian region, past performance indicates that the attempts to institute democracy are considerably endangered by a number of factors. Perhaps a carefully structured program of tolerance, human rights and national unification can be implemented to bring success; until then, we can… [END OF PREVIEW]

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