10

Available polling indicates that public opinion on the war is divided in Central Asia; many in the region continue to perceive Russia favorably. In one poll conducted in May and June 2022, 86% of Kyrgyz, 76% of Uzbeks, and 55% of Kazakhs surveyed said they had a favorable opinion of Russia.23 When asked who was mainly responsible for the situation in Ukraine, 28% of respondents in Kazakhstan blamed Russia, whereas 19% blamed Ukraine and 10% blamed the United States. In Kyrgyzstan, 14% indicated the conflict was Russia’s fault, 36% blamed Ukraine, and 13% blamed the United States.24 In a November 2022 poll conducted in Kazakhstan, 22% of respondents expressed support for Ukraine, 13% said they supported Russia, and 59% said they preferred to remain neutral; younger people were more likely to support Ukraine. When asked about the role their country should play, 42% of respondents said Kazakhstan should act as a peacemaker and call on Russia and Ukraine to negotiate, whereas 37% said that Kazakhstan should remain neutral.25

https://sgp.fas.org/crs/row/R47591.pdf

A report from the United States stated that the people in Central Asia, according to public polling, view Russia favourably even after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Why do people in Central Asia view Russia in a positive light? Considering that Russia has been involved militarily in the region, the example of Georgia comes to mind, I find it surprising that they have a positive opinion of Russia generally.

5
  • Seems similar to politics.stackexchange.com/questions/81254/…
    – anemyte
    Feb 29 at 13:56
  • 13
    Georgia is not in Central Asia. It's in an entirely different region.
    – alamar
    Feb 29 at 21:39
  • Does this answer your question? Why do some people support Russia's war in Ukraine?
    – Stančikas
    Mar 1 at 8:33
  • @Stančikas I think there are specific Central Asia answers to this and it's not limited to the war in Ukraine.
    – gerrit
    Mar 1 at 14:13
  • It should be taken into consideration that the US-led order has worn out its welcome in much of the Islamic world. And Russia as well as China now stand - with more than a little pride - in contrast to that order. Thus polls up by default.
    – Pete W
    Mar 2 at 2:45

2 Answers 2

30

This is hardly a "positive light". It's more of a neutral view of the situation, while not discarding a long-term strategic alliance with their closest trade partner.

I've been in that region, and the opinion I've most often heard from partners (in the VC industry) is that they are worried that Russia might decide to retake their country, but they also tend to view Russia's actions in Ukraine as defensive rather than aggressive.

The realpolitik view is that, unless you are the US, China, or Russia, you have to rely on one of the three for global political clout and defense. Russia offers a much lighter hand than China or the US. It largely leaves its allies to self-manage, as long as they don't do anything crazy, like trying to sign up with another gang.

Central Asia is experiencing moderate but steady economic growth, so most people like how it's going. Keeping their alliance with Russia gives them a way to keep their life steady and predictable. Interestingly, the public perception of the USSR, at least in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, tends to be extremely negative, since it forced total cultural and economic reforms.

Post-1990s Russia maintains a more laissez-faire approach to its partners, even as it's restricting freedoms on the inside. It also remains, particularly with the CIS included, a large and lightly regulated market for goods and labor.

There could also be other reasons. Russia's stance on religion, supporting moderate Islam and its culture, while forcefully opposing any radical sects, also resonates well with Central Asia. Putin's shift towards social conservatism might be improving rapport there as well. But offering military and economic support with minimal interference in internal affairs appears to be the main selling point.

1
  • 11
    I believe you overplay defense and underestimate economics. Russia is a top destination for their guest workers, emigrants, education and trade. Ukraine has very little utility for them. China is also very closed off for them.
    – alamar
    Feb 29 at 21:50
17

If you have ever been to Russia, you have probably noticed the large numbers of labour migrants from Central Asia doing the "unwanted" jobs (documented or undocumented). Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have economies that are highly dependent on remittances from labour migrants in Russia. Overall, remittances constitute 20% of GDP in Uzbekistan, 30% in Kyrgyzstan, and 50% in Tajikistan. Those remittances are completely dominated by labour migrants in Russia, due to geographic proximity and cultural links. In Russia, 25% of the workforce consists of labour migrants.

Although Uzbekistan has been trying to diversify by talking to governments and firms in Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, they still heavily depend on Russia. This is even more the case for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

So probably people view Russia in a positive light because they economically benefit from Russia, and spending time there, they have a network there and are subject to the Russian perspective (and Russian propaganda) on world affairs.

To a lesser degree, this also applies to the South Caucasus (including Georgia).

Source and further reading from the Caspian Policy Center.

2
  • Ukraine also has zarobitchany in Russia, 2M (only 169k official), that is 0.5% of Ukraine's GDP Mar 2 at 18:41
  • @IvanBorsuk I don't know what zarobitchany is. Although it's true that there are many Ukrainian nationals in Russia, I think that — even in the pre-2014 world — Ukraine has a different situation than Central Asia or the South Caucasus. In the past 10 and particular the past 2 years, of course everything has changed.
    – gerrit
    Mar 2 at 20:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .