08 Sep 2009

Russia in Central Asia: Old History, New Challenges?

Marlène Laruelle

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Russia is a power unlike others in Central Asia, given its role as the region’s former coloniser, which started in the 19th century and even in the 18th for some of the northern parts of Kazakhstan. This legacy has its positive and negative aspects: it has been positive insofar as it has involved a long period of Russo–Central Asian cohabitation that has given rise to a common feeling of belonging to the same ‘civilisation’; it has been negative insofar as it has accrued all the political resentment and cultural misinterpretations of the coloniser–colonised relationship. Russian–Central Asian relations are therefore complex, with each of the actors having a highly emotional perception of its relation to the other. This paper looks at the prospects for collaboration between the EU and Russia in this region: How can the currently competitive mindset be turned into the atmosphere of cooperation that the Central Asian states actively call for?

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