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This week’s front page editor

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Behind the rise of the private surveillance industry in Central Asia

Multinational companies–including two listed on the NASDAQ–have been quietly providing Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with increasingly sophisticated surveillance technology to aid state repression.

Kazakh banking – devaluation, consolidation and bad loans

Kazakh banking is in a state of disarray, as banks assimilate the consequences of a recent 20% devaluation of the tenge. But there is also consolidation taking place, adding to the flux; and those bad loans…

Berlusconi’s l’amico Nursultan, and the Shalabayeva affair

Silvio Berlusconi has had lots of friends, or so he says – l’amico George (Bush), l’amico Tony (Blair), and now l’amico Nursultan (Nazarbayev) of Kazakhstan. The Shalabayeva affair has exposed the cost of this particular friendship.


Will Russia pivot East or West?

Russia-watchers have long been interested in her place on the international arena. Now, with China at the centre of the growing power game, the question is how Russia will seek to position herself in the Pacific Century. Jonas Parello-Plesner considers some of the options. 

Change put on hold in Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan

President Nazarbayev has been head of state in Kazakhstan for 23 years (before, and since, independence in 1991). The 2011 election effectively confirmed his life tenure, which has put the country into a state of suspended animation and stagnation. Change will have to wait, says Luca Anceschi

Russia, EU and ECU: co-existence or rivalry?

The creation of the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) could well enhance Russia’s position in the post-Soviet space at the expense of the EU. However, as the most important battleground,Ukraine would have to be persuaded to abandon its EU Association Agreement to join the ECU instead, say Rilka Dragneva and Kataryna Wolczuk.

Getting by as a gastarbeiter in Kazakhstan

The stream of migrants from Central Asia seeking work in Russia is considerable, but racism and the migration laws there make them vulnerable to intimidation and exploitation. Many prefer to stay within their cultural and religious framework by working in Kazakhstan. Life there isn’t easy either, says Bhavna Dave.

Kazakhstan's Democracy Gap


Over its two decades of independence Kazakhstan has made enormous progress. Economic reforms, energy exploitation and interethnic harmony are major gains. Democratic reforms, however, lag behind. William Courtney writes about the “democracy gap” that is putting the country’s future at risk.

Central Asia: succession planning in dictatorships

Kyrgyzstan aside, recent elections in Central Asia would appear to indicate that the regions’ leaders are aiming to stay in power for life. But what will happen to their regimes when infirmity strikes, wonders Luca Anceschi?


Decapitated dogs and burning bureaus: the year Kazakhstan did democracy

Kazakhstan’s 2010 chairmanship of the OSCE has not passed without controversy. Reforms promised at the beginning of the year never happened, press harassment continues and things could get worse when Kazakhstan is no longer in the glare of international scrutiny, laments Ryan Gallagher

Dreaming of the sea, or a holiday in Moynaq

Daniel Metcalfe's book ‘Out of Steppe’ describes his journey through Central Asia. In this excerpt he describes the Karakalpak landscape around the Aral Sea. The Soviet tourist destination, previously the centre of a successful fishing industry, is now depopulated, polluted by the chemicals used to prop up the failing cotton industry and by a landscape of devastation and desperation.

Belarusian "godfather" falls out with his masters

On the eve of a Customs Union agreement between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russian state television began an information war against Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. By the ferocity of this campaign, it seems Russian leaders have finally lost patience with their one-time ally.

Kazakhstan: warm up for the OSCE

In 2010, Kazakhstan takes over the chair of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Increasingly strident attempts to muzzle independent voices in the Kazakh media suggests how the government is preparing itself, says Irada Huseinova
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