When Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to the Russian nation on February 21 and described Ukraine as “historically Russian land,” and also announced that Moscow would be recognizing the Russia-backed separatist regions in Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine as independent countries, it sent a chill down the spines of many in Central Asia.
Central Asia was not only part of the Soviet Union but for decades before that was part of the Russia Empire also.
And Russian officials, including Putin, have said publicly that there never was such a thing as a Kazakh state, for example.
There is still a large Russian population in northern Kazakhstan in areas along the Russian border. During the 1990s, a small but vocal group of them called for the Russian annexation of areas in northern Kazakhstan, similar to the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk.
As for separatism in Central Asia, there is Karakalpakstan in western Uzbekistan, where some have been calling for independence for 30 years; and Tajikistan’s far eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region, where many would at least like greater autonomy from the Tajik government.
And due to maps drawn in Soviet times, there are large diasporas in every Central Asian state.
On this week's Majlis podcast, RFE/RL media-relations manager Muhammad Tahir moderates a discussion on the ramifications for Central Asia of Putin’s comments and also what the ripple effects will be for new sanctions being imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
This week’s guests are: from Washington, Erica Marat, an associate professor at the National Defense University in Washington and author of many works on Central Asia; Paul Stronski, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment’s Russia and Eurasia program; from Prague, Alisher Sydyk, director of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik; and Central Asia analyst Bruce Pannier.
Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes or on Google Podcasts.