The elite’s of Central Asia, by and large are Soviet legacies, as are the new states. Since independence Central Asia’s former Soviet elite’s have clung to power ruthlessly. Many leaders used the outbreak of the Tajik civil war in 1992 to justify the outlawing of all forms of political opposition. Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan epitomized this trend. Beginning in 1992, Karimov clamped down upon all forms of opposition. He has reserved all his ferocity for the Islamist opposition and all Muslims ‘….who practice their religion beyond the tight restrictions imposed by the government…’. Since the Uzbek regime has failed decisively answer the Islamists intellectually or politically, the regime has used mass arrests and torture in order to silence its critics. All the Central Asian regimes have reverted to the policies that the Soviet Union adopted in dealing with Islam. Each regime has sponsored a particular version of Islam which the state approves of and is non-threatening to the status quo.
Problems of State Building
Central Asian states are still embryonic and fragile. They are trying to cope with massive political, economic and social problems brought to the fore by independence. These states are extremely weak states in terms of organizing principles, ideologies and institutions. The Central Asian elite’s have not been able to coherently form a national identity, or form cohesive nation-states. They have adopted a top-down policy of state building. Hence there is intense competition in state’s like Uzbekistan between the secular elite’s and the Islamist opposition which has arisen over the course of the 1990s over the nature of the new state’s; their identity, and future course.