Demarcation in Pictures

by Nathan Hamm on 9/23/2004 · 2 comments

However one understands border demarcation in Central Asia, the way they’ve been drawn and formerly administered has led to some fairly significant problems. [This point of view (which tackles a strawman explanation and substitutes it with a slightly pollyanna-ish one) is more unorthodox. As my parenthetical might suggest, I find the truth to be somewhere between the poles.]

These photos might be the most vivid representation of just how much of a mess border demarcation continues to be 13 years after independence.

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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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Laurence September 24, 2004 at 9:46 am

Actually, the author makes a pretty good case. To pan-Turkic and pan-Islamic ideologues, the current borders are “arbitrary.” But, if that is the case, so are the borders of the USA–how many Spanish-speakers do we have in the Southwest in former Spanish Territory that might be claimed by Mexico, had it not been for the Mexican-American War, for example? Or French-speaking Acadians in Vermont? Not to mention our own Civil War…

Nathan September 24, 2004 at 10:07 am

My issue with the explanation is that I’m skeptical about the amount of power he ascribes to locals. I don’t know, I just have a hard time with that. I would love to check out his sources.

I don’t think the borders are arbitrary at all, and I certainly think Stalin had a strong hand in drawing them and exaggerating cultural differences (which I know certainly did exist). Instead, he deals with a strawman version of the Stalin argument (and I have to do this from memory because I can’t get to his site right now) rather than the divide and rule one. I seem to remember Ben saying his explanation answers that theory. It fails to do so to my satisfaction, so we have competing, perhaps non-exclusive theories.

Where his fails for me is in accounting for the strange inclusions of large Tajik populations in Uzbekistan and large Uzbek populations in Tajikistan. He addresses the former, but not really the latter. If Tajikistan was an AO under Uzbekistan and the lion’s share of the power was with the Uzbeks, I have a hard time understanding why Khojand is in Tajikistan.

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