Resources Research

Making local sense of food, urban growth, population and energy

The Great Game all over again?

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Ethnic Uzbeks gathered near the Kyrgz-Uzbek border in southern Kyrgyzstan in June, trying to seek refuge in Uzbekistan following violence in the city of Osh. According to official estimates, 370 people died there after the Kyrgz went on a rampage against the Uzbeks, and vice versa. The true figure is likely more than 2,000. Some 75,000 people fled to Uzbekistan. Photo: Der Spiegel

 

The Deutsch news magazine Der Spiegel certainly thinks so. It has begun a special series which will explore Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In these countries, once the center of the ‘Great Game’, a bitter struggle over natural resources and strategic bases between the British and Russian colonial powers, history is being repeated, says Der Spiegel.

“The Pamir, Hindu Kush and Tian Shan mountain ranges and the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers border a region in which two world religions, Islam and Christianity, collided, astronomy blossomed and eminent doctors taught. Central Asia is one of the eternal hot spots in world history, a place where Darius I and Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane left their marks. The British and Russian colonial powers followed suit when they embarked on the “Great Game,” a bitter struggle over natural resources and strategic bases.”

The news magazine says that today the major powers’ interests in the region range from military bases for waging the war against the Taliban to oil and gas pipelines and drug prevention. One of the most important heroin smuggling routes passes through a part of Central Asia controlled by Islamists.

“For these reasons, the world is now witnessing a new version of the Great Game, this time involving both the former players, Russia and Great Britain, and new players, the United States, China and Iran. None of the countries within their field of vision is stable, eccentric dictators are in control almost everywhere, corruption is rampant and many nations are at odds with their neighbours.”

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