1st Edition

Central Asia's Economic Rebirth in the Shadow of the New Great Game

By Djoomart Otorbaev Copyright 2023
    416 Pages 99 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume describes the unique development of Central Asia as defined by its landlocked geography. Particular attention is paid to the achievements and challenges of the region’s post-Soviet economic and political transformation, as well as to its relationship with the participants in the New Great Game – Russia, China and the West. Located as it is in the geographical centre of booming Asia, and with the opportunity to become a key logistics bridge connecting the world’s largest economies, Central Asia is well placed for rapid development. However, the region faces a range of complex problems that are explained and analysed in the volume. The Eurasian powers that encircle Central Asia look certain to become the engines of global economic growth, but how will this affect the region? Will Central Asia join the powerful locomotive of history, or will it remain on the sidelines?

    Foreword by Michel Camdessus




    Part I. Great History is Behind Us

    1. The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust

    2. Thirty Years after the Soviet Union

    Part II. Post-Soviet Transformation

    3. Economic Transformation

    4. Leading Economic Players

    5. Infrastructure

    6. Transport Resistance and Logistics

    7. Eurasian Railway Revolution

    8. The Future of Rail: Lessons from China

    9. Energy

    10. Water

    11. Governance and Institutions


    Part III. Political Challenges

    12. The Fergana Valley and its Conflicts

    13. Political Upheavals

    Part IV. Neighbourhoods

    14. Eurasian Economic Integration

    15. The Belt and Road Initiative

    16. China's Loans to the World and Central Asia

    17. Afghanistan: Continuation of War or Revival of Greater Central Asia?





    Djoomart Otorbaev is a former Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic (2014–15). He also worked as a Senior Adviser in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, based in London (2006–11). He is an honorary member and invited speaker at numerous boards and forums on development and investment.

    "We live in a world that is in the grip of transformation: profound political, economic and ecological changes are taking place. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is calling into question many aspects of cooperation between East and West, and old patterns of thinking about confrontational blocks in a bipolar world are re-emerging. But cooperation across continents remains important and necessary. For the global challenges we face can only be mastered by acting in concert. Djoomart Otorbaev draws our attention to the states of Central Asia and to a region that has always been a bridge between East and West. What is its potential? What opportunities for cooperation are opening up? Pursuing these questions and enhancing our knowledge about the Central Asian region is indeed a worthwhile pursuit."

    Professor Dr Horst Köhler, former President of Germany.


    "With this book, Mr Otorbaev undertook to fill a big gap in the literature, namely the economic history and challenges facing Central Asia. A region that has been and may again become geopolitically crucial. By its ambitious depth and breadth, this book is a major undertaking. And Mr Otorbaev `nailed it'. I only wish it existed when I was the World Bank's Regional Vice President for Europe and Central Asia. But finally, here it is. A great read for the general public interested in the region at the heart of Eurasia. The book is a `must read' for decision-makers in the public and private sector directly or indirectly involved with Central Asia."

    Philippe Le Houérou, Chairman of the French Development Agency (AFD), former Vice-President of the World Bank (WB) and CEO of International Finance Corporation (IFC).


    "Yes… Central Asia does exist and deserves a place on the world’s strategic map.

    Indeed it is time to address the situation in Central Asia in particular in those countries located east of Caspian Sea. In a changing world, fraught with hazards affecting international peace and security as well as stability and wellbeing of human beings in all areas without exceptions and exclusions, attention should be given to such areas not so well known to the general world public. Developments in Asia are moving to occupy central stage on the global peace, security and developments map. In this connection, it is important to underline that for the countries situated to the east of the Caspian Sea the neighbours that surround them include China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The list of neighbours does not stop here, it also includes Turkey and Iran as well as the countries of South Caucasus like Azerbaijan and Armenia. Such geopolitical map shows how sensitive and dangerous to leave that area out of the world’s close attention.

    I therefore welcome the news brought to me in a letter from my dear friend Djoomart Otorbaev, former Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan informing me that he is currently finishing a book on the post-Soviet transformation of Central Asia. I consider such a book to be a vital contribution coming at a crucial moment for all of us wherever we come from. Such a book will certainly fill a gap in the general knowledge of a vital geographic area which lies at the heart of Asia, the continent of the future. I was privileged to read the introduction to the book as well as its outline and table of contents which made me so keen to read the book in full and enjoy the knowledge it adds to me of such a vital area. This short comment should be considered as an enthusiastic endorsement for that important book."

    Amre Moussa, former Secretary-General of the Arab League and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Egypt.



    "The book is an essential reading for anyone who wants to learn something about Central Asia. It was written by the sophisticated academician, former important politician in one of the countries of the region. He knows the history as well as the current era, he understands all the pitfalls of the difficult transition from communism, he is aware of the geographical context (and, therefore, limitations) of the undergoing development process, as well as its great potential."

    Václav Klaus, former Prime Minister and President of the Czech Republic.


    "Until recently, there was no in-depth description of the Central Asian region in the post-Soviet period, written by a real insider. Djoomart Otorbaev's book makes up for this deficiency. A gifted, effective modern leader for an emerging country. I do not doubt that the book will be an excellent guide for a wide range of readers."

    Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel.


    "It is commonly known that we have to learn from history politically, economically, socially and military. It is important to design and to plan our future actions for development. Unfortunately, we don’t do that often. This book is a good exception. The author has explored a wide scale analysis of lessons learned in Central Asia with its very specific geography and development of its history. This book is very valuable source for politicians and business people not only locally but worldwide; since we live in an interconnected world. Knowing more about each other will benefit us all."

    Valdis Zatlers, former President of Latvia.


    "Through the presentation of the post-Soviet transformation of Central Asia in this book Otorbaev offers a vision of the transformation of the connectivity of the entire world. This book takes us through a mysterious region's recent history and points out the fundamental interconnection of relations between Central Asian states and how these connect all four points on the global compass. His focus on the railway revolution makes a strong case for the need for a revolution in global connectivity in which Central Asia can play a central role. As one of the most prominent experts about this part of the world, Otorbaev takes us on a journey through the past and leads to perhaps the most important crossroads on the way to the future development of the whole world, with precise instructions about what each turn at that crossroad entails."

    Boris Tadić, former President of Serbia.


    "As the center of gravity of the world economy shifts to the east as Asian economies rises, can the Central Asia use this opportunity to grow and regain the luster of the Golden Age when the region flourished with the most advanced science and mathematics in the world? The author takes readers to the deep history from the Silk Road to Soviet era, and discusses economic and political challenges after the independence, complicated issues of transport, energy, and water for the landlocked countries separated by mountainous terrain, and how the region can cultivate cooperations between them and with international partners. The author says ‘this book is about a hope’, and concludes it is up to the people of the region whether it can become "a key logistics bridge" connecting east and west and avoid remaining ‘on the sidelines of history’."

    Takehiko Nakao, former President of Asian Development Bank.

    "Djoomart Otorbaev, combining the skills of an accomplished prime minister, economist/analyst, and international banker, offers an attractive and feasible economic future for his native Kyrgyzstan and all Central Asia. Locating the region at the cross-roads between great emerging power centers in the heart of Asia, Otorbaev foresees a prosperous future built on trade, logistics, and the transport of both goods and energy. These, he argues, will undergird the region’s independence and at the same time provide the economic drivers for economic and social development in many spheres."

    S. Frederick Starr, Chairman Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Washington.


    "A magnificent book about a region which has been unreasonably overlooked until now.

    Formally dedicated to five landlocked countries in Central Asia, this insightful and absorbing work actually poses the most important question of our time - the question of the connectivity and interdependence of our world."

    Petar Stoyanov, former President of the Republic of Bulgaria.