Handbook on the Politics of Small States
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Handbook on the Politics of Small States

Edited by Godfrey Baldacchino and Anders Wivel

Comprehensive and timely, this Handbook identifies the key characteristics, challenges and opportunities involved in the politics of small states across the globe today. Acknowledging the historical legacies behind these states, the chapters unpack the costs and benefits of different political models for small states.
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Chapter 18: Small states in post-Soviet Central Asia: navigating between two great power neighbours

Flemming Splidsboel Hansen


The five post-Soviet Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan find themselves in a region very much defined by the immediate presence of two great powers: Russia and China. Caught in highly asymmetric relationships, these five states all operate within various ‘small state’ conditions. On the one hand, the region as a whole is less democratic and less liberal than at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Part of the reason may lie in the authoritarian nature of the Russian and Chinese regimes, setting relatively clear limits to how far more reform-oriented national elites may go. On the other hand, the five states seem to have secured for themselves an action space large enough for them to occasionally go against the policies of their more powerful neighbours. This is seen, for instance, in the opt-outs of Russian-led integration projects. When used skilfully, the immediate presence of two great powers seems to offer certain opportunities as smaller states may take advantage of policy differences between them.

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