The Marmot’s Central Asia post

by Nathan Hamm on 9/4/2003

The Marmot’s Central Asia post
was pretty interesting. There is a lot of good information about the
Koreans of Central Asia in there. One thing I didn’t see mentioned
about the Korean language in Central Asia was something a native Korean
speaker who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan told me, it’s
really “old.” He said that it sounded really weird compared to what he
was used to growing up, and “old” is the best description he could come
up with. But mostly what this made me think about was:
What the hell is the foreign policy of Central Asian states, especially
Uzbekistan?
I’m often confused about whether or not Central Asian leaders,
especially Karimov, are nuts or brilliant – like a harmless North Korea
with less poofy hair. I’m kind of leaning towards Uzbekistan having a
foreign policy that serves their primary domestic goal of maintaining
the grip of the regime over society. Everything they say or do
externally serves their domestic goals. When the world complains about
economic issues, they make little moves and big declarations about
convertability and structural reforms being right around the corner.
The world shuts up, and Uzbekistan changes nothing. Russia has it’s
back turned? Puff up your chest and act like your cock of the walk. If
Russia takes interest in Uzbekistan, it’s “hey we’re great friends,
everything you’re saying is a great idea.” Like I said yesterday, they
play us, and everyone else very well. I think South Korea deserves a
lot of credit for its success. They didn’t come in to “save the
Koreans” or anything like that, it’s mostly business. I don’t think
anyone would accuse Americans of being piss-poor at business
by-and-large, but we don’t do so hot in places like Central Asia. The
Sheraton in Tashkent that is entirely owned by the Uzbek government is
a testament to that. Americans are very trusting, and to put it
bluntly, Uzbeks are fabulous liars. It takes some learning for us to
understand and thrive in an economy that is driven much more by
relationships than by profit. The only successful US company I can
think of there is a mining company (Newmont?) that figured out they can
turn a profit off of gold ore that Uzbeks can’t process. Other than
that, nothing. South Korea seems to get it a lot better. Also, and I’m
no economist, Daewoo seems to be “there” in a way that no American
company but Coke is. I got the sense that Daewoo was interested in
being a part of the economy that makes and sells products locally and
in the general area rather than just there to extract profit.
The only wealthy country besides South Korea with an ethnic community
in Central Asia in Germany. I know they haven’t been as successful as
the South Koreans, but I’d be curious to see what their relations with
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are. I know that most Volga German deportees
have left the region for Germany, though I recently read many are
returning. The Mennonite Germans in Kyrgyzstan have stuck around
though. If anyone knows more, point me to it.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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