Central Asia, Democratization, Former soviet, Karimov, Kazakhstan, Nazarbaev, Post soviet, Transitional government, Uzbekistan


This thesis explores the reasons behind the stagnation in the transition to democracy in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. According to their constitutions, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are democracies. In actuality, however, there is little evidence to support that these are democratic systems. These states' post-Soviet constitutions outline them as democracies - yet they lack a free press; freedom of association is suppressed; religious freedom is limited; and free speech is constrained as well. While these two countries hold popular elections, much of their electoral processes are under the control of the executive branch of government - calling into question whether or not Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan really hold fair and competitive elections. In sum, in both of these states, democracy is de jure rather than de facto. Why is this so? Why are Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan not the democracies in practice that they are on paper? Many scholars and policy-makers blame the stagnation in these states' democratic transitions on the firm hands used by the countries' presidents to maintain their current power and even to increase it. Other scholars point out that Central Asia has never been democratic and thus does not know how to be so. These scholars refer, in particular, to the region's history as part of the Russian Empire and later, as part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Using frameworks drawn from Dahl's Polyarchy (1971) and Huntington's The Third Wave (1991), this thesis finds that not only are Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan straying from their constitutional democratic starting points, no single factor is to blame for the stagnation in the transitions to democracy in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Rather, it is the combination of multiple factors - both internal and external - that provides the most comprehensive explanation of these states' failure to become full-fledged democracies. Combining the elements of strong dictator-like presidents with a lack of democratic history is but the tip of the iceberg. Internal factors such as political culture and external factors such as the influence of the international community also play major roles in the current state of affairs in these Central Asian states.


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Graduation Date





Jungblut, Bernadette


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Degree Program

Political Science








Release Date

August 2004

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences