Where the “stans” stand

The Central Asian region is for many a mysterious area, often superficially identified as a homogeneous block of countries. No wonder it has become a preferred setting for novels and films which are set in remote and dangerous countries – usually “virtual” countries whose names regularly end in “-stan.” Such limited knowledge of the area is also a result of its relative stability, as – despite recent crises in Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan – no major changes have taken place in those countries since they gained independence from the USSR in 1991. Because of this stability and the longstanding rule of most leaders of the region, some observers have made a comparison between Central Asia and the area caught up in the Arab spring. Perhaps it would help to understand who the leaders of these countries are and how they see the future of their homeland, especially with respect to the Arab Spring. Whether or not the situations are analogous, this is an area the international community should increase its focus on. With its immense resources, Central Asia is an indispensable actor in promoting global energy security. It also maintains a crucial geostrategic position between the US, Europe and “new” powers like China and India, without forgetting Russia. In short, the Great Game has gone global.