Gorbachev and Collapse of Soviet Union

The resurgence of Islamic expression throughout the Soviet Union in the 1980s was a direct result of Gorbachev’s policies of Perestroika and Glasnost. Such policies relaxed the Soviet Union’s rigid authoritarianism and permitted a modicum of free expression to exist. Thus in republics like Uzbekistan, Islamic practices and sentiments to resurface.[10] This is particularly noteworthy. In many other areas of the Soviet Union, such as the Baltic’s and the Caucasus, the 1980s produced an upsurge in nationalist feeling. This embryonic Islamic resurgence was felt in those areas that were traditionally deeply religious, such as the Fergana Valley. [11] For Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz this was an extremely important development. It showed their desire to break with the Soviet Communist ideology as well as Russian and Slavic culture and a desire to reassert their own cultural identity and belief systems. There was a great upsurge in the study of Islam and Arabic, with many Central Asian youth studying Islamic courses abroad.[12]

The Collapse of the Soviet Union

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Central Asian states had independence thrust upon them. They did not actively seek it. Furthermore, there no were strong nationalist movements in Central Asia seeking independence. None of the Central Asian states had a history of national existence prior to either the Soviet Union or that of the Tsarist Empire. Hence, the primary source of loyalty of Central Asian peoples under the Soviet Union was not the Communist State. Rather, a multiplicity’s of loyalties existed and continue to do so. These loyalties range from the clan, tribe, family, republic and to Islam, with Islam having a powerful influence on social mores and identity.[13] Upon independence, Islam competed with peoples loyalties to the new states.