Universiteit Leiden

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Development and Modernization in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Periphery

Friday 25 September 2015 - Saturday 26 September 2015
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

The conference will draw comparisons between the Soviet and the post-Soviet experience of development and modernization. The papers will engage in debates across anthropology, sociology, economics, and history and compare institutions, discourses, and practices of the Soviet Union, the independent post-Soviet states, and international organizations. The conference is being organized with the support of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Dutch Royal Academy of Science (KNAW), the Central Asia Program at the George Washington University and the AMT Central Asia Initiative at Leiden University.

The conference is free of charge, however seats are limited. If you would like to attend, please send a message to Artemy Kalinovsky at a.m.kalinovsky@uva.nl


Since their incorporation into the Russian Empire in the 19th century, Central Asia and the Caucasus have been the target of various schemes for economic and social improvement. Whether dealing with water management, transportation, education, or medicine and hygiene, the region became a frontier where Russian reformers could try out schemes they were often unable to carry out close to home. In the Soviet period, ideas of modernization became tied up with revolution, and the region gained new importance as an example Moscow could hold up to the colonial and post-colonial world. Local elites were often the driving force of various schemes and projects. The Soviet legacy is ambiguous, however. Clear gains in areas like literacy, health, and infrastructure stand in contrast to environmental pollution, new kinds of inequality, and dislocation caused in part by Soviet social policies. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, these regions have once again become a destination for development, this time from international institutions like the World Bank and various NGOs with more narrowly defined agendas. Originally welcomed by post-Soviet elites looking for help to transition to a post-socialist economy, their activities have been seriously circumscribed over the past decade, as their agendas have been found to be incompatible with the practices of ruling regimes.


Day 1

Introduction – 9:00 – 9:30

Panel 1 – 9:30 – 11:00

1. The Foundations: Economic Knowledge and Development Discourses

Beatrice Penati (Nazarbaev University, Kazakhstan)- “Minuia kapitalizma? Colonial heritage, territorial planning, and industrialization in the  debates on the development of Central Asia (1920s).”

Christian Teichmann (Humboldt University) - "Doing Away with Technology: Irrigation, Local Knowledge, and the Soviet State, 1920s to 1940s"

Hanna Jansen (University of Amsterdam) - “Soviet Oriental Studies and the toils and trials of intra-Asian cultural development projects during the Cold War”

Chair: Gabrielle van den Berg (Leiden University)

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

Panel 2 – 11:30 – 1:00

2. Implementation

Patryk Reid (University of Illinois) - "Lasting Development:  Soviet Aid, Infrastructure, and Dependency in Tajikistan's Vakhsh River Valley, 1931-1941"

Artemy M. Kalinovsky (University of Amsterdam) - “Planning, Improvisation, and the making of Nurek”

Elena Paskaleva (Leiden University) - “Tourism and the redevelopment of Shahr-i Sabz”

Chair: Marianne Kamp (University of Wyoming)

1:00 – 2:00 Lunch

Panel  3 – 2:00- 3:45 PM

3 . Trustees and Subjects

Mohira Suyarkulova (University of Central Asia) - "Labour as Ownership Claim: heroic narratives of Nurek and Roghun HPPs construction"

Jeanne Féaux de la Croix (University of Tubingen)- “Activists for a Better Future: a Comparison of young Muslim Mission and Development Workers in Kyrgyzstan”

Masha Kirasirova (NYU – Abu Dhabi) – “Central Asia as Soviet Development Spectacle”  

Chair: Gabrielle van der Berg (Leiden University)

Panel 4 – 3:45 – 5:30

4. Human Capital

Muzaffar Olimov (Institute of Oriental Studies, Academy of Sciences of the Republics of Tajikistan) - “The transformation of education in Soviet and Post-Soviet Tajikistan”

Negar Elodie Behzadi (Oxford) and Lucia Direnberger - “Women Workers in Soviet Tajikistan – a Feminist Post-colonial Perspective”

Tuychi Rashidov (Institute of Oriental Studies, Academy of Sciences of the Republics of Tajikistan) - “The Boarding School (Internat) as a Factory of Communists in 1950s-1960s Tajikistan”

Chair: Juliette Cleuziou (Université Paris-Ouest) 

Day 2

Panel 1 – 9:00 – 10:45

5. Cities

Heather de Haan (Binghamton University) – “Modernization and Community in Soviet and post-Soviet Azerbaijan”

Zayra Badillo y Castro  (SOAS) – “Inventing the East and a Housing Project: Soviet Central Asia and a Design to Modernise the Old Towns”

Adrien Fauve (Science-Po) - "From urban towards sustainable development? From Teslingorad 1961 to Astana 2017”

Nikolaos Olma (University of Copenhagen) - "Tashkent is dead," long live Tashkent: Urban redevelopments and belonging in the capital of Uzbekistan

Chair: Julie McBrien (UvA)

10:45 – 11:00 Coffee Break

Panel 2 – 11:00 – 12:30

6. Environment

Niccolò Pianciola (Honk Kong) - “The Water Governance Crisis in Central Asia: The Syr Darya Valley and the Aral Sea (1960-1975)”

Moritz Florin (Universität Erlangen-Nurnberg) - "Emptying lakes, filling up seas. Soviet high modernity and the environment in Kyrgyzstan 1961-1985"

Amanda Wooden (Bucknell University) - “Moving Rocks and Glaciers, Shifting Resistance & Identities: Mining Developments and Discourses in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan (1998-2015)”

Chair: Christian Teichmann (Humboldt University)

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch

Panel 3 – 1:30 – 3:00

7. Remaking the Countryside

Guljanat Kurmangaliyeva Ercilasun (Gazi University) - “Collectivization and Everyday Life: Oral Histories from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan”

Sergey Abashin (European University) - “Kolkhoz economy and the economy of collective farmers in Tajikistan in the post-Stalin period”

Marianne Kamp (University of Wyoming)  "We had enough of everything, and it was cheap: Collective farm memories of 1950s abundance in Uzbekistan"

Irna Hofman (Leiden University) - “The periphery after the kolkhoz: state divestment, debt and de-modernization in "Kolkhoz-obod"

Chair: Madeleine Reeves (Manchester University)

3:00-3:30 Coffee Break

Panel 4 - 3:30 – 5:00

8. New Regimes

Karolina Kluczewska  (St. Andrews)- “The Enemy, the Benefactor or the Industry? Perceptions of International Organizations in Tajikistan”

Morgan Liu (Ohio State) - "Hydrocarbons and the Good Society?: the Emerging Shape of Petroleum-fueled Development in post-Soviet Central Asia & South Caucasus"

Julie McBrien (University of Amsterdam) - “Conflicting matters of concern – bride abduction and human rights in Kyrgyzstan”

Chair: Artemy M. Kalinovsky (UvA)

5:15 – 5:30 Concluding Remarks


This conference is being organized with the support of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the Dutch Royal Academy of Science (KNAW), the Central Asia Program at the George Washington University, University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Central Asia Initiative at Leiden University set up by the Leiden research cluster Asian Modernities and Traditions (AMT).





Artemy M. Kalinovsky (University of Amsterdam)

Marianne Kamp (University of Wyoming)

Marlene Laruelle (George Washington University)

Elena Paskaleva (Leiden University)

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