Mujahedeen victory in Afghanistan has given a boost to the disparate factions eager to dislodge unreconstructed communists from power in Soviet Central Asia. The president of Tajikistan has already been deposed and a coalition of Islamic and secular opposition groups is in power. If unrest sweeps the region, old-line communist leaderships in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also may experience a challenge by Islamic groups.
It may be a long time before the Central Asian situation is sorted out. We are now witnessing the undoing of an empire Russian czars forged in the 19th century. This is historical re-orientation for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In the absence of a strong central government in Moscow, these republics are returning to their natural geo-political context. As this process continues, they may develop close links to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and China, which once shared goods and wisdom with the region as partners of the ancient Silk Route.
Under communism, the Central Asian republics were supposed to be Moscow's ideological show window to Third World countries. Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, became a propaganda center, where thousands of foreign students attended the university and Third World-oriented conferences on myriad topics were held.