Central Asia in Transition No61

Central Asian Republics' Search For a
"Model of Development"

Rafis Abazov

Copyright (c) 1998 by the Slavic Research Center. All rights reserved.

Discussion on possible "models of development" for the Central Asian Republics (CARs) dominated intellectual discourse in the region throughout the 1990s. It was especially intensive in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan on the eve of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and during the very first stage of independence. A number of developmental models have been floated around - the Turkish secular political model versus the Iranian theocratic model, the Chinese model of gradual economic reform versus Russia's shock therapy approach, etc. On the one hand, this discussion reflected the existence of different views on the issue and the emergence of an intellectual discourse on the post-Soviet development of these republics. Also, it was a response to speculation in Russia's intellectual circles and among international experts about the prospects for success of Iranian or Turkish aspirations to guide the Central Asian route to independence.1 On the other hand, the CARs' leaders have had a strong belief in the prospects of social and political engineering, which reflected almost 70 years of Soviet modernisation in all spheres of life in the CARs. Indeed, the Soviet system has deeply changed the economic, political and even environmental pattern of development in the region. The CARs, themselves, have been the product of Soviet social and political engineering and have been created out of the Russian Tsar's domain in Turkistan. In 1924, the Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the division of the vast territory populated by Muslim people, who shared a common history and culture, into several republics. Development of their national identities began within those newly created territorial entities, although this process was limited by the Soviet ideological framework and Soviet political mythology. After the sudden collapse of the "iron curtain," the CARs' peoples discovered that the modern world was not divided only into two large competing camps of "socialism" and "capitalism." There was a wide spectrum of very different approaches to political development, economic transformation and reforms, which included the "South Korean economic miracle," "Indonesian way to successful transformation," Chinese gradual reforms and others. It was quite natural for the CARs' leaders to begin searching for the most attractive model of political and economic transformation. The presidents of the independent Central Asian states readily declared their inclination to follow those newly discovered "models of development" after their first fact-finding trips abroad in 1990-1992, especially to the East and South East Asia. Their willingness to accept one or another model even became a popular "cliche" when referring to the Central Asian states. A new impulse to the discourse was added after President Nazarbaev's presentation of his vision "Kazakhstan 2030: Prosperity, Security and Welfare Improvements for all Kazakhstanis" in late 1997. However, despite all these discussions and calls for a "model of development," there has never been any serious attempt to define the meaning and implications of such a "role model" for the domestic and foreign policies in the CARs. Nevertheless, the reference to a "model of development" became an important part of the CARs' political lexicon. It also turned out to be an important component of the national debate on the CARs' identity in the international community. Therefore, in order to understand the CARs' determination of their foreign policy orientation and their strategy in dealing with domestic political and economic issues, it is crucial to answer the following questions: what does the CARs' search for "model of development" really mean? Does it reflect a politically and economically na»ve perception of the development or does it have deeper political and economic implications? What is the current status of the "model of development" debate in the Central Asian republics and what "model of development" is on the agenda now, if any? This article is an attempt to assess the Central Asian countries' search for a "model of development" in the post-Soviet era. Firstly, the author evaluates the intellectual and philosophical background of the "model of development" discourse in Central Asia. Secondly, the political, economic and international implication of the "model of development" debate are analysed. Thirdly, the author reviews the Central Asian experts' evaluation of the "model of development" and compares the opinions of experts in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Finally, the prospects of the "model of development" issue and its future effects on the CARs' domestic and foreign policy orientation are summarised. In this article the author used the findings of a survey study conducted in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in early 1997. The discussion has been limited to three republics of Central Asia, where the "role model" was discussed more intensively. Although some discourse on the issue emerged in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the author feels that these republics did not significantly contribute to the discourse in general.

Background of the "Model of Development" Discourse

The discourse on the CARs' "model of development" was quite a unique phenomenon, not only in the region but also in the whole of the former Soviet Union (FSU), because of its intellectual implication. The Central Asian intelligentsia and policy-makers paid quite serious attention to the discussion. Various models of post-Soviet development were frequently debated in major public discussions and were regularly referred to by the CARs' think-tanks and local mass-media.
In order to understand this phenomenon, it is important to assess the historical background of debates on modernisation and to analyse the context of the two century-long intellectual debate among the Russian/Soviet intelligentsia on the issue of national identity. These debates became an important intellectual and philosophical basis to the rise of a "model of development" discourse among the Central Asian intellectuals in the modern era.
Identity: Russia's intellectuals widely believe that the reasons for the split in Russian identity originated in the policy of Russia's Tsar Peter the Great in the 18th century. The Tsar had a vision of the Russian Empire as a European state and tried to westernise the nobility in Russia. Since that time, intensive debates have continued between the Europe-oriented "Zapadniki," who emphasised western liberal values, and the "Slavophiles," who believed in the messianic destiny of Russia and the Russian people. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, "Eurasianists" joined this debate as a third group, strongly advocating the uniqueness of the Russian civilisation, which is neither eastern nor western. Their arguments added extra fuel to the discussion.2 Some Russian intellectuals believe that the idea of the possibility of "bringing" Russia to Europe and making Russia a fully "civilised" western country strongly affected Soviet ideology and policy of modernisation.3
Soviet ideologists dogmatically believed in the universal applicability of the idea of internationalism, and they considered the idea of "Sovetskii Narod" (Soviet people) as a common identity for all people in the USSR. Nevertheless, the discussion on national identity continued among the Soviet intelligentsia during last few decades of the Soviet Union, although with less fervour. The CARs' intellectuals also widely contributed to these debates.4 Since the late 1980s, the search for identity intensified and became an important part of the intellectual debate all over the Soviet Union and later the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).5 This search has had particular implications for the debate on Russian foreign policy orientation in the post-Soviet era,6 as well as on the Central Asian discourse on the issue.7 It was particularly important for the CARs' elites, because for many decades they continuously identified themselves as a part of the Eurasian superpower and with sudden collapse of the USSR they faced the necessity of establishing their own national identity and their identity in the international arena.
Modernisation: The issue of Russia's identity has been always closely related to the issue of modernisation. The "Zapadniki" strongly believed that the introduction of western political and economic institutions would modernise Russia, whereas the "Slavophiles" strongly argued that the people needed to return to their roots, that is, to traditional Russian values and institutions. During his reign, Peter the Great provided a very simple response to these challenges of modernisation: he imported western political and economic institutions and tried to implant them forcibly in the Russian soil. Almost two centuries later, the Russian Bolsheviks did practically the same by the enforced introduction of their own political institutions, and the implementation of industrialisation and collectivisation polices in the CARs.
Central Asian intellectuals have debated actively the issue of modernisation since the 19th century. The CARs' intellectual heritage also included the early 19th century deliberations between conservatives (traditionalists) and reformers (Jadidists), who discussed ways of transforming traditional society in Turkistan. On the one hand, this was an attempt to assess intellectually the reasons which had propelled their peoples, who had had rich and flourishing cultures in the past, to their present backward and poor existence. On the other hand, it was an endeavour to find a way to overcome their backwardness and modernise their nations. These issues have been discussed, for example, by the prominent Kazakh thinkers Chokan Valikhanov, Ibrahim Altynsarin, Abai Qunanbaev in the middle of the 19th century and by a circle led by the influential Tatar reformer (jadidist) Ismail Gasprinskii on the eve of the 20th century. During and after the Bolshevik revolution, young Turkistani (Central Asian) intellectuals (Faizulla Khodjaev in Uzbekistan, Sultan-Galiev in Tatarstan and others) also actively debated problems of development and modernisation. They supported the Bolsheviks mainly because of the latters' promise to modernise and develop their region.
After consolidating power in Central Asia in the 1930s, the Soviet leaders always emphasised the social and economic benefits of the Soviet model of development and presented their socio-political experiment and modernisation of the CARs as a model for the Third World countries. During the Cold War, the Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Brezhnev tried to convince the African and Asian elites of the advantages of their rigid socialist model through the example of the CARs' experience.
Gorbachev brought real changes into all ideological and intellectual discourse in the USSR. He and his followers for the first time suggested the Soviet Union follow a different model of socialism and then a different model of democracy. On the eve of the Soviet disintegration in 1991, many Russian and CARs' intellectuals and policy-makers did not consider any other form of socialism as a real alternative for further development. However, they did not have a single and clear approach to how the Soviet Union should be developed either.

Kazakhstan's leaders turned out to be admirers of the so-called "East Asian economic miracle," especially in South Korean and Japan. In fact, one of the first official overseas trips of President Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan in 1990 was a visit to South Korea. An important outcome of this visit was the appearance of Korean-American professor Chan Young Bang as a special adviser to the President and as a vice-chairman of the National Committee of Economic Experts.8 It was widely believed in Kazakhstan that it was possible to replicate the Korean economic miracle in the republic. Moreover, in one of the first comprehensive perspectives for the post-independence "strategy of rapid development," Mr. Nazarbaev himself mentioned Japan, South Korea and Singapore as models.9

Kyrgyzstan's leaders also devoted themselves to the South Korean and Japanese economic models. Kyrgyz officials who visited South Korea in 1990 were impressed by what they called the "Korean Model of economic development" and decided to explore the opportunities for joint co-operation in developing Kyrgyzstan as another "economic tiger." However, the search for a model finally evolved into President Akaev's vision of a small, peaceful mountainous country - the "Switzerland of Asia" - which would gradually become a global tourist attraction and a host for transnational corporations and banks. This vision apparently became one of the most popular references to the country in the international media.10

Uzbekistan's "own road of renovation and progress"11 has been always supplemented by a call to learn from the Chinese experience of "gradual reforms"12; to study and apply the Indonesian model of "guided democracy,"13 as well as other models. However, outside the country one of the most intensive discussions on Uzbekistan's "model of development" centred on the Turkish secular model and the Iranian theological model, because of the strong traditions of Islam in Uzbekistan. Thus, demonstrating the country's dedication to the modern and secular model of development was one of the most important tasks for Uzbekistan's foreign policy-makers. Several aspects in the "model of development" discourse have appeared gradually in the post-Soviet era: political, economic and international. The implications of all these aspects on the development of the CARs, on policy making and on public debates are discussed in the following sections.

"Model of Development" Discussion: A Political Implication

In Central Asia, discussion of the "model of development" has been important in that it has articulated the direction of political development in the post-Communist era.14 The political implication of the discussion can be highlighted by the peculiarities of the intellectual and political environment in the Central Asian republics at the end of 1980s, beginning of 1990s and through the intellectual context of the Gorbachev period.
The Central Asian elite was among the most conservative and hard-line part of the Communist party and strongly resisted the Kremlin's policy of "glasnost" (openness) and democratisation. Even during the perestroika period, the CARs' leaders perceived the appearance of opposition parties and groups in their republics as a nightmare and as a direct challenge to their position in power. They were preoccupied with the idea of preserving their republics from "unproductive and damaging reforms" and of consolidating their power without democratisation and radical changes in political and state institutions.
A search for new ideas was a controversial task during the Gorbachev period. On the one hand, the CARs' elites were searching for an intellectual alternative that would not contradict too much with the existing ideology, because at that time it was not at all clear if Gorbachev's reforms were irreversible. On the other hand, the people expected that the CARs' elites would clearly indicate what kind of political system or "model" they would like to establish (or follow) if pressure from the Kremlin weakened. This "model" should have been attractive and acceptable to all people in the multicultural and multinational society in Central Asia. We should bear in mind that in some CARs, especially in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the ruling elite had to handle carefully nationalistic ideas in order to pacify the mood of their ethnic minorities. Also this "model" should have been powerful enough to meet the challenge of rising nationalistic and democratic expectations in society. In this context, the discussion on the "model of development" was ideal, and it fulfilled a very important function. It served as an intellectual platform for a potential ideological transformation during the last days of the Soviet era and as an intellectual bridge for further political transformation in the post-Soviet period.
Reference to Chinese and other Asian "model of development" has given the CARs' elites a rare opportunity to advocate preservation of strong state institutions, capable of promoting political and economic reforms. Also, this reference was a way of limiting the influence of Moscow's radical democrats in the CARs in early 1990s. They demanded that the CARs accelerate democratic reforms and apply Russia's liberal approach in the region.
In the new post-Soviet political environment it was necessary also to find grounds for limiting democracy and the activities of opposition political parties, that could challenge the status-quo in the region. "Model of development" debates became a convenient means for rejecting the western liberal paradigm, because the CARs' leaders easily could find precedents in the "Chinese," "Indonesian" and other models for limiting democracy. For instance, President Karimov of Uzbekistan said "we have our own notion of democracy" to justify his crackdown of political opposition in the republic.15 At the same time President Nazarbaev also mentioned a need for "enlightened authoritarianism" before the introduction of democracy in Kazakhstan.
By and large, despite all of its limitations the discourse on various "model of development" had a crucial meaning in post-Soviet Central Asia. First, it was a kind of an intellectual bridge, which allowed the ruling elite painlessly to abandon the old Soviet ideological approach and introduce the idea of national consolidation. Second, it postulated that the political system in the CARs was different from that of Russia and western liberal democracies. Third, it was a means for justifying the limitations of democracy and pluralism within Central Asian society in order to preserve stability. In effect, these discussions became one of the significant tools for the relatively smooth political and intellectual transformation of the CARs' political leadership.

"Model of Development" Discussion: An Economic Implication: The discourse, which centred on the economic aspects of the "model of development," has been very important for the CARs' economic thought. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Russian economists discussed actively the prospects of economic reforms and various alternatives of economic development (Pavlov's plan, Shatalin's programme, Yavlinskii's project, Abalkin's concept, etc.). However, Central Asian economists were dwelling in a kind of an intellectual vacuum. Their discussion focused on a very limited idea of Khozraschot (self-sufficiency) in the Soviet economy in the 1980s and on a notion of reshaping economic relations within the USSR/CIS in the early 1990s. The roots of the economic part of the "model of development" discussion were related closely to the issue of modernisation of the Soviet economy. They could be traced in intellectual and journalistic debates of the 1980s on reforming the socialist economy by implementing Hungarian, Yugoslavian, Polish and other models.16 Additionally, the discussion revealed a desperate search for more-or-less sustainable development in all transitional countries. Finally, these discussions reflected a long lasting intellectual debate among international economists on the possibility of replicating the successful economic development of some Asian countries, especially those in East and Southeast Asia.17 Representatives of several international organisations, who assisted with the implementation of the reforms, believed that the experience of other transitional economies could be implemented in the region.18 The model development debates were quite intensive during the first years of the post-Soviet development of the CARs, partly because the CARs' governments had attempted to start a new round of economic reforms. Actually, the cohort of technocratic CARs leaders had been trained in, and had experience of, the Soviet command economy only and they had an obscure idea about market driven economies as well as deregulation of the state system. References to the experiences of China, South Korea and others helped the elite to justify their decision to maintain the regulatory role of the state, at least in the medium-term, and to delay radical economic changes. In 1991-1992, the CARs only partially accepted the Russian concept of "shock therapy," price liberalisation and relaxation of state institutions' activities in economic affairs. However, very soon Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan chose their "own way of development" and endorsement of the "Chinese way of gradual reforms" justified their return to strict government control and to gradual economic changes. Kazakhstan initially followed the "shock therapy" approach. However, later on its government made serious corrections and revived some level of state intervention and control. Only Kyrgyzstan, which managed to overcome initial temptations to delay reforms, consistently carried out the recommendations of the World Bank and IMF and implemented "shock therapy." The unexpected collapse of the rouble zone in 1993 put the CARs' leaders in a difficult position and urged them to adopt radical steps in both economic and social fields. After 1993, the CARs' governments were forced to implement unpopular economic measures (such as closing down unprofitable enterprises and removing subsidies for food and transportation, etc.). Reference to the "model of development" allowed them to identify with the experience of economic reforms in the Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs) and formed an intellectual and political base for these painful and unpopular reforms. On the whole, the "model of development" discourse had some important practical implication in promoting economic reforms. These debates have played a significant role in creating an intellectual environment for introducing and advancing economic changes in the CARs. For example, President Karimov of Uzbekistan had clearly indicated that he is not going to follow the Russia's "shock therapy" approach and he introduced his "own model," which emphasised the following five principles: "First, complete deideologisation of economy... Second, the state should play the role of a chief reformer during the complicated transitional period... Third, the entire process of renovation and progress should be based on a legal foundation... Fourth, Only strong and efficient mechanism of social protection and guaranties may secure dynamic advancement towards market economy with simultaneous maintenance of social and political stability... Fifth, the establishment of new economic market relations should be introduced stage by stage."19 Recently President Nazarbaev displayed a serious and genuine intention to replicate the economic growth rate of Southeast Asia,20 and he emphasised on the seven long term priorities: (1) national security and independence; (2) domestic stability political and social consolidation; (3) market economy based economic growth with high rate of investments and interior savings, health, education and welfare of Kazakhstan's citizens; (4) development of infrastructure, particularly transport and communications; (5) professional and efficient government, and others.21 President Akaev declared that Malaysian economic policy "is a good example to follow."22 In economic terms, the "model of development" discussions had two important implications in the CARs. First, reference to the "model of development" was used to preserve the role of state regulation and the power of state institutions in the Central Asian economies. Second, it was used to justify some unpopular economic decisions in order to "sell" the package of reforms to the public. Finally, there was a genuine belief in the existence of a concrete programme or "model" that may have "magically" changed the economies of the republics. Particularly in the beginning, it was believed that because the CARs were quite rich in natural resources, they would not have to pay a high social price for implementing such reforms.

"Model of Development": An International Implication

In terms of the CARs' foreign policy formulation and establishing deeper relations with the international community, the discourse on the "model of development" performed two important functions. First was the establishment of a positive image of the CARs in the eyes of the world community. Second was promotion of the republics' and ruling elites' self-identity in the international arena.
Establishing a positive image of the CARs before the world community was a complicated issue. On the one hand, the problem was that geographically the CARs are neighbours to two of the most radical Islamic regimes - Iran and Afghanistan. On the eve of independence and during the first few years after the disintegration of the USSR, many experts, especially among Russia's academics, warned that the CARs might come under the influence of Iranian or other radical Islamic groups. On the other hand, the CARs, themselves, faced political turmoil and other problems, and the ruling elites were challenged by a radical opposition in which the Islamic groups played an important role (especially in Tajikistan). Therefore, for the CARs' elites establishing an image of their republics as secular states was one of the most important tasks, as was showing the world community that the technocratic-oriented elites would firmly stay in power in the CARs. In this sense, reference to the "model of development" was one of the most effective and quick tools in demonstrating their particular features in the post-Soviet period. The articulation of the "Turkish secular model" or "South Korean model of development" had assisted the CARs' elites in displaying to the international community that they were not devoted to former communist ideas, and that they were not going to establish Islamic "fundamentalist" states either.
Another important issue was the search for self-identity in the international arena. The problem was that throughout the Soviet era the CARs' elites were persistently taught that they belonged to a special world (which was neither part of the West nor the Third World). They strongly believed that they were a part of the Eastern European - or at least Eurasian - superpower, which belonged to Asia geographically, but culturally, politically and economically was a part of Eastern Europe. In this sense, the CARs' elites found that they needed to rethink their identity when they discovered that they no longer belonged to the huge and powerful Soviet state. The painful lesson of the Belovezhskii Agreement in 1991 (when Belorussia, Russia and the Ukraine dissolved the Soviet Union) was aggravated by harsh political and economic realities when they were pushed out of the rouble zone. These two events made the issue of self-identity of the CARs especially significant. Were the CARs a part of the Third World? Could the CARs continue to be considered Eurasian states? These questions, which have been discussed frequently by the public in all of the CARs, clearly demonstrated that the CARs' elites and public were not ready to "return to Asia" and accept their "Asianess." Apparently, the CARs' elites would have liked to preserve their special status of being neither the East nor West.
In the post-Soviet era, the CARs' national elites continued to identify themselves more with Europe than Asia. Indeed, President Akaev perfectly reflected this paradox by saying, "Historically Central Asia played a special role in establishing relationships with the East and West, being a sort of link between them."23 In this respect, the "model of development" discourse was a transitional concept or a bridge for the CARs' elites and foreign policy-makers in their search for a place in the international arena and in establishing their identities.

"Model of Development": the Experts' Assessment

During the 1990s, discussions on the issue of the "model of development" were quite intensive both within and without the region. However, there was a sharp difference in emphasis on various aspects of the "model of development." Outside the CARs, the most important message was that the Central Asian elites were technocratic and oriented to secularism. Within the region, the discussion focused mainly on the "model of development" as regards the economic transformation of the Central Asian republics. Occasionally, there were references to the political aspects - such as the limitation of democracy, activities of political parties and press, etc. - and the local policy-makers frequently referred to the South Korean, South East Asian and Turkish models of economic development.
For the CARs' elites the "model of development" meant something different than for international community. The debates outlined the kind of political regime that the elites would have liked to introduce in their countries (secular as in Turkey, theocratic as in Iran, or semi-authoritarian as in the "small tigers" - Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.). Further, they clarified the type of economic regime and reforms the elites would have liked to establish (a strong, socially-oriented state like Germany, an export oriented economy as in South Korea, or the radical shock therapy of Russia). Also they indicated the elites' foreign policy orientation towards those "model" countries.
How did the CARs' policy specialists assess the different "models of development" for their republics? They were asked the following questions: "What 'models of development' are most appropriate for your republic?" A survey study, conducted in three Central Asian republics, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, found that the respondents responded in the following way.24


Several features of Kazakhstan's development have made the search for a "model of development" especially important here. During the Soviet era, the economy of the republic was transformed from predominantly pastoral agricultural to modern industrial-agricultural. Kazakhstan has been one of the most developed countries in the Central Asian region throughout the 1960s-1980s. The country has well-developed industries and a diversified economy, as well as vast natural resources. Kazakhstan is very urbanised compared to the rest of the region and the urban population is 57% (1985), but it lacks national cohesion because only 44.3% of its population are Kazakhs (there is large proportion of Russians, Germans and other minorities there). The national political elite won respect among the former Soviet leaders as one of the most well-trained elites in the region. One of the results of this achievement was that the leader of Soviet Kazakhstan, Dinmuhamed Kunaev, was admitted into the inner circle of the Kremlin decision-making apparatus and as full member of "Politburo."
Nazarbaev, leader of Kazakhstan in 1989 and president since 1990, was formerly the prime minister of the republic from 1984 to 1989. He was considered one of the most influential politicians in the all-Union political arena in the Gorbachev era. In fact, he was invited by Gorbachev himself to be the vice-president of the USSR in the late Soviet period. Nazarbaev was one of the first Central Asian leaders to begin talking about "models of development" and the only leader in the region who invited foreign experts, such as Chang Young Ban (South Korea) and the former prime-minister of Singapore Lee Kuan You, to be his personal advisers. This was why the discussion on the "model of development" was one of the most intensive debates in the republic.
The survey study found that the "Turkish model of development" was considered the most attractive (see Figure 1). Thirty four point eight percent of those questioned in Kazakhstan chose this model. Next was the "small tigers" model of development: 28.3% of the respondents marked this option. The "Russian model of development," according to the received data, was in the third place with 21.7%. It was followed by the "South Korean model of development" - 15.2%. The "Japanese model of development" was in the fifth place with 13.0%. Next was the "German model of development": 10.9% of the respondents marked this option. None of Kazakhstan's experts recognised the importance of the "Iranian model of development." 13.0% of the respondents pointed out their "own model of development."


Kyrgyzstan is one of the smallest and less developed countries among the Central Asian republics. During the Soviet era Kyrgyzstan acquired a modern industrial base (light manufacturing, agricultural machinery, electric power, metallurgy and others) and transformed its agricultural sector from pastoral to export-oriented large farms. The republic has been developing and urbanising quickly during the last three decades. The level of urbanisation reached 40% (1985). Like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan lacks national cohesion because the native Kyrgyz account for only 58.6% of the population and almost one third of the republic's population was of European origin in 1994. The national elite was traditionally trained in the local universities and institutes of higher education as well as in various Russian universities. However, since independence, an increasing number of Kyrgyz students are joining Western universities, including those in the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Turkey and other countries.
President Akaev was an academician (the vice-president and president of the Kyrgyz Academy of Science from 1987 until 1990) and the President of the republic since 1990. Dr. Akaev was considered as one of the most liberal leaders in the CARs, and he was placed among the top 100 Soviet politicians in all-Union political figures ratings in 1991. He was one of the first Central Asian leaders to leave the Communist party and he introduced the most liberal political environment compared to other countries in the region. Also he demonstrated a strong enthusiasm for initiatiating radical political and economic changes in Kyrgyzstan. International organisations such as the World Bank, IMF, EBRD etc., supported this strong devotion to reforms financially in order to produce a model for the transformation of the CARs and some other less developed transitional countries. This was why the discussion on the "model of development" was also quite intensive in the republic.
The survey study found that the "small tigers model of development" was considered as the most attractive model (see Figure 1). Forty eight point six percent of those questioned in Kyrgyzstan chose this model. Next was the "Japanese model of development": 30.6% of the respondents marked this option. The "Turkish model of development," according to the received data, was in third place with 22.2%. It was followed by the "Russian model of development" - 19.4%. The "German model of development" was in the fifth place with 11.1%. Next was the "South Korean model of development": 9.7% of the respondents marked this option. 2.8% of Kyrgyzstan's experts recognised the importance of the "Iranian model of development." 1.4% of the respondents pointed out their "own model of development."


Uzbekistan is the most populated country in the region. It inherited the cultural and intellectual centres of the great medieval civilisations of Central Asia during the nation-state delimitation in the 1920-1930s. The country has a relatively diversified industry and highly specialised agriculture. Nevertheless, Uzbekistan has been considered as one of the bastions of traditionalism and conservative cultural leadership in the former USSR.
The republic is less urbanised compared to Kazakhstan, but has a similar level of urbanisation to Kyrgyzstan of 42% (1985). But unlike its neighbours, the country is homogeneous in terms of the national composition and native Uzbeks account for almost 71.1% of the population in 1989. They considered themselves the intellectual and cultural leaders of the region.
Karimov has been President since 1990 (formerly he was first secretary of the Communist party of the republic from 1989 until 1990). He was regarded as a representative of the conservative flank of the Central Asian elite, who frequently criticised Gorbachev's political reforms in 1989-1991. From the beginning, he appealed for gradualism in implementing political and economic reforms and for consideration to be taken of the unique characteristics regarding the political and economic traditions in Uzbekistan.
As the leader of independent Uzbekistan, he has been considered conservative but very pragmatic. He widely applied the idea of "stability at any cost" in his economic and political reforms.25 Karimov was criticised by the local opposition and foreign experts for introducing a very hard-line political regime and for protracting the implementation of economic reforms. However, the republic's policy-makers, especially the president himself, frequently replied to their critics that this "stability at any cost" approach was necessary for successful development, and occasionally referred to the Chinese and other experiences of limited political freedom.
The discussion on the "model of development" was not particularly intensive in Uzbekistan, but still it was carefully considered.
The survey study found that the "small tigers model of development" was considered the most attractive model (see Figure 1). 37.5% of those questioned in Uzbekistan chose this model. Next was the "German model of development": 36.7% of the respondents marked this option. The "South Korean model of development," according to the received data, was in third place with 28.3%. It was followed by the "Japanese model of development" - 20.8%. The "Turkish model of development" was in fifth place with 13.3%. Next was the "Russian model of development": 5.8% of the respondents marked this option. 0.8% of Uzbekistan's experts recognised the importance of the "Iranian model of development." A significantly large proportion of the respondents pointed out their "own model of development": 27.5%.


The unexpected "catapult to independence" brought an enormous pressure on the CARs' elites and on society in the CARs. Unlike in the Baltic states and Transcaucasus, the CARs' elites were oriented towards integration with Russia in the early 1990s and did not have enough time to be prepared psychologically and intellectually for the challenges of independence. For various reasons they had strong feelings about belonging to what they called "Eurasia" and they did not perceive their countries as a part of Asia or the Third World. Firstly, the CARs' peoples have been taught always to identify themselves as a part of the Soviet nation and the "Second World," which was different from the West, East and also the Third World. Secondly, the existence of sub-national unity with Turkey, which is a member of NATO and a potential member of the European Union, gave the CARs a precedent to consider their republics as another bridge between Europe and Asia and as a member of European community.26 Thirdly, the presence of influential ethnic minorities of European origin (Russians, Germans, Czech, Polish, etc.) also affected the rise of the Eurasian concept and identity in Central Asia. In this sense, the "model of development" discourse directly or indirectly served as a bridge between the CARs' changing identities from European or Eurasian to Asian.
With the rise of nationalistic tendencies, democratic expectations and calls for economic liberalisation, even the CARs' elites started to realise that Soviet ideology and ideas could not serve as an intellectual basis for the further development of their countries. However, the ruling elites of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were able to keep the political debates under control in their republics, despite the complicated nature of inter-ethnic relations and the rise of radical political trends in 1990-1992. In this sense, the "model of development" discourse has served as a transitional platform which helped the CARs' leaders argue for the limitation of political liberalisation in society (as President Karimov put it, "democracy differs from country to country"27) and justify keeping opposition groups under strict control.
Evidently, the CARs' external and internal policies have been erratic. Although the CARs' elites frequently declared their dedication to the notion of a "model of development," they never put it in a clear developmental framework (with exception of Kazakhstan). The discussion on the "model of development" has had an important functional meaning. First, the discussion has clearly reflected the pragmatic and technocratic orientation of the political and intellectual elites of the CARs and it helped them to abandon the socialist economic model. Second, the "model of development" discourse justified the painful economic changes in the transitional period. And finally, the CARs' ruling elites persuaded society that they were capable of implementing the necessary political and economic changes in their countries, even though they had been a part of the former "nomenclature."
As recent debates show and the findings of the survey clearly indicate, the CARs' intellectual elites are continuously searching for a "model of development," although they have no consensus on what "models" to follow and how to implement them. In general, the continuing discussion on the "model of development" has demonstrated that the CARs' elites have remained technocratic and pragmatic. They have tried to modernise their societies and to create a stable environment for further economic and political changes. Despite all of its shortcomings, it seems that the "model of development" discourse is fulfilling the crucial task of preserving stability and the intellectual dynamics in the CARs.