Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Mark J. Gasiorowski


This dissertation seeks to explain variation in political liberalization among three post-communist Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. These countries share several common political outcomes such as the dominance of the executive and a high degree of statism. Yet they also witnessed significant variation in political liberalization within a short period of time after their independence in 1991. The fact that these countries share several common political, socioeconomic, cultural, and historical features makes the rise of this political variance more intriguing than the rise of the above, however, salient, common political outcomes among them within few years of their independence. An intriguing question arises here: Why these countries which share several common features experienced significant variation in political liberalization within few year of their independence? This study seeks to answer this question---a question which has been glaringly ignored in the recent scholarly political literature on Central Asia. In order to explain variation in political liberalization among thew countries, this study emphasizes three variables: (a) Russian minority, (b) elite structure, and (c) political orientation and strategic behavior of political leadership. It argues that these countries show systematic variation in these three variables which account for variation in political liberalization among them. Each of these explanatory variables is important in its own right and produces a significant separate effect on political liberalization. This study also makes a bold claim that this theoretical scheme helps explain not only variation in political liberalization among than but also aberrations in the political liberalization processes within them. It further argues that influences other than these three variables produce, if at all, only short-lived relaxation of political restrictions in the republics.