chapter  4
Transitional context, events and processes
Pages 28

This chapter emphasizes the importance of events and processes as important causal factors in the eruption of conflicts, in interaction with some structural factors identified in the previous chapter. It argues that perceptions of power are not determined by structural factors alone, but can be changed by political processes made up of the interactions between and within governing and opposition groups. While structural factors determined initial perceptions of power and were important in influencing elite behaviour, these perceptions changed as a result of events in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it was the newly emerged perceptions that ultimately determined whether civil war would finally erupt. Thus, Tajikistan was not destined to have a civil war simply because it had one dominant elite network. If the imbalance of power had remained as it was in Tajikistan, there might not have been a war, because the opposition’s perceptions of its own power would not have been high enough to enable it to challenge the dominant faction. In the case of Uzbekistan, if initial perceptions had remained the same, sooner or later actors with more or less equally high estimations of their own power could have attempted to test their power against that of their adversaries. Developments in the transition period changed the existing power perceptions. Whereas events in Tajikistan strengthened the ruling elite’s already high perception of its power and increased the opposition’s perception of its own power, the events in Uzbekistan weakened the opposition’s perception of its power and strengthened the Karimov regime’s perceptions of its own power. A number of factors raised the probability of conflict in Tajikistan, by changing

power perceptions. These included: 1) purges, 2) ethnic clashes, 3) continuity versus discontinuity of leadership, 4) the actions of Tajikistan’s acting President, and 5) different power-consolidation processes on the part of the Presidents of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. I will argue that all of these are related, and that each of them influenced

events that followed. For example, the purges in Uzbekistan had the effect of uniting the native elite, which encouraged its members to agree on a new leader; in turn, the specifics of Karimov’s rise to power influenced how he acted once he was in power. The absence of major purges and ethnic clashes in Tajikistan helped maintain the position of the existing leadership and did

not foster a perception among them that their positions were threatened. Instead, the elimination of the existing intra-Party opposition bolstered the power perceptions of the Tajik Communist Party elite. As a reaction to acting President Aslonov’s actions, which will be discussed below, they decided to bring Nabiev and other members of the old guard to power. Nabiev, sharing the same perceptions, began a crackdown against the entire opposition. As a part of my analysis of the transitional context, I will also look at the

similarities in the two republics during this period. I will argue that, in both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the structure and agenda of the opposition parties and movements, the policies toward Islam and nationalist revival, and the republican Communist Party leadership’s adoption of the agenda of the opposition movements were all very similar, and therefore do not appear to explain the different outcome in the two republics.