The DOC, together with the French Institute for Central Asian Studies, will hold a webinar on 14 May at 1pm CEST on the topic “Central Asia during the pandemic: probable consequences for the region.”
The current COVID-19-pandemic has not only had a significant impact on Central Asian countries themselves, but will also have a knock-on impact on neighboring countries.
Available information on the situation in these countries is often unreliable, and there is almost no official reporting from countries like Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
Regional and cultural specifics of these societies (including large families and inter-clan relations) make the introduction of effective self-isolation measures difficult, meaning that stricter measures are required in order to contain the mobility of the population. This could inevitably have a lasting impact on the contemporary way of living. Another complicating factor is the return en masse of labour migrants, as well as local religious practices. While the total number may have declined, many Muslims continue to visit mosques, especially for Friday prayers. Representatives of the Islamist opposition are calling for this.
The situation is challenging, and volatile. If we consider the consequences (particular socio-political) for the region, we see two major scenarios.
The first scenario, in which it will be possible to contain the situation and to move towards easing the restrictive measures in the short-term, will likely not bring any fundamental changes to the societies, and local political elites might try to strengthen their positions by declaring victory.
The second scenario, in which the spread of the virus continues, will see huge casualties and an economic catastrophe, which in turn will lead to a social explosion. This will play into the hands of the radical opposition.