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 Dear SEnECA Friend,
SEnECA will organize a two-day free photo exhibition, showing the beauty, culture and traditions of Central Asian countries at the Centre for Fine Arts "Bozar" in Brussels on 4 and 5 April 2019.

Furthermore, SEnECA has released three policy papers, analyzing the relations of Central Asian states and the European Union in terms of political and security, economic and cultural relations.

Happy and enlightened reading!
In this Newsletter you will find:
The SEnECA EDITORIAL by Dr. Susann Heinecke
 EVENTS, PUBLICATIONS & MORE from the Consortium
An introduction to our CONSORTIUM MEMBERS
More info ABOUT EU-Central Asia relations

Stay connected with SEnECA:

The Soviet heritage in Central Asia
from the SEnECA Blog series

In the European public view, the five Central Asian states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are perceived as post-Soviet countries still struggling to manage their economic and political transition – as many former Eastern Bloc countries did and still do.

Certainly, besides cultural and historical aspects, the common Soviet past is one of the constituent elements of Central Asia as a region today. However, this attribute seems to be mostly assigned by others and not by Central Asian countries themselves. But what does the Soviet heritage mean for the five countries concerned? How have Central Asians experienced the times when they were part of the USSR, and how is that era perceived now? Is the Soviet heritage an obstacle for today’s development or a fruitful ground in terms of regional integration for instance? These questions are interesting to me not only as a European ‘post-Eastern Bloc citizen’, but also – in the light of a ‘new regionalism’ in Central Asia – to me as a researcher.

It is no secret that for Central Asia the Soviet rule mainly meant communist rule with Moscow as its political centre, a centrally planned economy with an artificial and high interdependence within the different entities of the USSR. Further, Soviet rule is associated with an industrialisation that pushed back traditional and nomadic life in many parts of the region, a skewing of their ethnic mixture through Stalin’s ‘national delimitation’ that was characterized by significant national migration and resettlements, a ‘russification’ and suppression of local languages and cultures.

After their independence in 1991, Central Asian countries saw territorial, political and ethnic conflicts resurge that had been kept down during the Soviet rule. Examples of such conflicts are especially the civil war in Tajikistan 1991-1997, unrest in Andijan/Uzbekistan 2005, and the revolution in Kyrgyzstan in 2010. Also, the disputes over water resources rekindled after the Soviet Union fragmented into separate national entities which first of all focused on their own further development. Prominent examples are the controversies over the Aral Sea located in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, or the Rogun dam project of Tajikistan that provoked opposition of neighbouring Uzbekistan and, to a minor extent, Kazakhstan. After Uzbekistan’s recent “regionalist turn”, many see a chance to further pacify the region. One might consider at least the positive experiences of technical and economic cooperation during the Soviet period as a starting point after years of non-cooperation and regional disintegration of the post-Soviet period.



Today, the Soviet past widely seems to be perceived as negative, focusing on the lack of freedoms and the suppression of the local peoples. However, being confronted with the economic and social constraints of a globalised economy, the citizens of Central Asian countries experience a nostalgic desire for certain aspects of Soviet life such as stability, the quality of human relations, and social security. They also experience the desire for the feeling of pride that stands in sharp contrast to the economic and political decline of their countries’ economies after independence that had shaped the past quarter-century.

Undoubtedly, the issue of Central Asia’s Soviet past cannot be deliberated without touching upon Russia’s role in the region then and now. The Soviet past is an important aspect of Russia’s Eurasian integration ambitions via the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). From a Russian perspective, nostalgic desires are probably a helpful tool to advance this kind of integration. Insofar, Central Asian states should be aware of the manipulability of collective memory, and reflect about how to perceive and present the Soviet stage of their national histories. A conscious commemorative culture would also contribute to reviewing their relations with Russia, a process that is still hampered by the unsettled view on the past.

Studying the Soviet past and issues of nostalgia is often regarded as being oriented towards the past and as not yielding new incentives for the future. The elderly people’s nostalgia about the past is comprehensible, but seldom constructive. Nevertheless, as Central Asia is still struggling with its identity, political orientation, relationship with its neighbours and in particular its relation to Russia, it seems crucial that the region’s countries come to terms with their past in order to be able to create their future.


Dr. Susann Heinecke
Centre International de formation européenne

Partners from Central Asia:
Institute for Strategic Studies (Kazakhstan)
Center of Sociological Research “Zerkalo” (Tajikistan)
Kyrgyz National University (Kyrgyzstan)
University of World Economy and Diplomacy (Uzbekistan)
Ynanch-Vepa - non-profit organization (Turkmenistan) 

Partners from Europe:
University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany)
Institut für Europäische Politik (Germany)
Centre international de formation européenne (France)
Trans European Policy Studies Association (Belgium)
Royal United Services Institute (United Kingdom)
Latvian Institute of International Affairs (Latvia)
WiseEuropa - think tank (Poland)
SEnECA seeks to improve research cooperation and to strengthen capacities in research and policy advice in the EU and Central Asia, having recognised the importance of Central Asia for Europe.

 SEnECA has four main objectives:

1. to establish an interdisciplinary network of researchers working on Central Asia in Europe and on European integration in Central Asia

 2. to provide recommendations on the revision of the EU-Central Asia Strategy 

3. to deepen existing relations between both regions

4. to promote the relevance of Central Asia to European researchers, policy-makers, media and civil society
SEnECA Photo Exhibition “Daily lives in Central Asia” in Brussels on 4-5 April 2019

On 4 and 5 April 2019, SEnECA will organise a two-day free photo exhibition at the Centre for Fine Arts “BOZAR” in Brussels. It will show the beauty, culture and traditions of Central Asian countries, portraying the daily lives of their inhabitants and stimulating a reflection on the differences and similarities between Europe and Central Asia. The photos to be displayed have been selected on the basis of a transnational photo contest gathering more than 300 pictures. The exhibition will be opened on 4 April with two panel discussions on the topics of connectivity and culture and education. Find more about the photographers here.

SEnECA Midterm Conference and Scenario Workshop took place on 29-31 January 2019 in Almaty

The second international conference of the Horizon 2020 project SEnECA was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from 29 to 31 January 2019. The conference comprised high-panel podium discussions, an academic policy advice training and a scenario building workshop on EU-Central Asia relations. It was the third event during which the SEnECA consortium members from eleven involved countries could meet in person, discuss the project progress and develop new ideas. The conference was organised by the Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies (CAISS), a Kazakh think tank based in Almaty. Find more about it here

In-depth analysis EU–Central Asia relations – Policy Papers and infographics are out!

SEnECA has released three policy papers which contain a profound analysis of the current relations between the five Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and the European Union (on supranational and national level). The analyses are based on the SEnECA mapping papers on EU-Central Asia relations that were published in 2018. You can access all of them here, including the related infographics and summaries. 

SEnECA is also on Twitter and Facebook: make sure to follow us! Hashtag: #H2020SEnECA 


The Royal United Service Institute (RUSI)

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), established in 1831, is a well-established UK think thank at the cutting edge of political and security-focused research. RUSI covers a wide-range of issues, including international security and geo-politics, proliferation and nuclear policy, national security and resilience, financial crime, military sciences and defence procurement...CONTINUE READING



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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 770256.

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