Nationalism in the Balkans and Central Asia
After the collapse of Yugoslavia, tensions between national groups, which had been building for some time in the lead-up to state collapse, led quite quickly to conflict, segregation, and, in the worst cases, violence between national groups in newly sovereign states. In Central Asia, particularly in the more heterogeneous republics, Soviet ideologies of national cooperation and brotherhood lasted significantly longer and, for the most part, helped to prevent open conflict between and among national groups within newly sovereign states. However, both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan appear in the recent past to be undergoing “stealth” processes of titular nation nationalism which may well be leading to a reproduction of Balkan post-communist patterns, though in less obvious ways. This lecture will focus on nation-building efforts, particularly in Central Asia, to determine whether and to what extent these processes can be considered something like ‘the Balkans in slow motion’.
Andrew Wachtel is the president of the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Previously, he was dean of the graduate school and director of the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies at Northwestern University. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Wachtel’s interests range from Russian literature and culture to East European and Balkan culture, history, and politics to contemporary Central Asia. His most recent published books are The Balkans in World History (Oxford UP, 2008), Russian Literature (with Ilya Vinitsky, Polity Press, 2008), and Remaining Relevant After Communism: the Role of the Writer in Eastern Europe (U. of Chicago Press, 2006). He is also active as a translator from Russian, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, and Slovene. Wachtel is currently working on a project related to processes of national consolidation in Kyrgyzstan.