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Dynamics in Central Asia: Islam, Soviet Heritage, and US Policy

Fri, Jul 29, 2016, 4:00pm - 5:30pm

You are cordially invited to a lecture on the topic of

Dynamics in Central Asia: Islam, Soviet Heritage, and US Policy

Ulan Bigozhin
Visiting Scholar, George Mason University

Friday, July 29
4:00 PM

The Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street NW
Washington, DC

Registration for this event is now closed.

Turkestan 380x204About the lecture:

Central Asia is little understood, despite its geostrategic importance. Kazakh anthropologist Ulan Bigozhin will discuss several of the key dynamics in a region that is undergoing dramatic change. One of the most important of these is the evolution of the role of Islam in the region, which is impacting the manner in which Muslims perceive the relationship between their faith and their citizenship. The rise of a conservative brand of Islam within Central Asia is under-appreciated by many Western scholars who continue to believe that the legacy of atheism and secularism left by the Soviet system will continue to define the relationship between Islam and the Central Asian states for the foreseeable future. As we have seen in Turkey, however, this could change rapidly, with broad implications for the rest of the world.

The Soviet heritage in Central Asia does remain strong in certain areas, including the Russian influence in mass media and how that influence shapes popular views of Russia and the rest of the world, as well as the cultural influence Russia retains given the fact that the Russian language remains the lingua franca of the region (this despite the growth in the importance of English through the region).

Ultimately, Mr. Bigozhin urges the US and its Western allies to keep a strategic foothold in the region in order to not cede the region to its two giant, authoritarian neighbors, Russia and China, and also to help influence its political and social development and evolution as much as possible.

About the speaker: 

Ulan Bigozhin is a Visiting Scholar at George Mason University, and a PhD candidate in anthropology at Indiana University. His scholarship focuses on Islam, state-society relations, and sacred families in Kazakhstan. He will defend his PhD dissertation, “State, Shrine, and Sacred Families in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan,” in 2017.