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Policing Public Protest in Central Asia Open Access

While Central Asia’s Soviet-era physical infrastructure crumbles, and the quality and availability of public healthcare and education decline, the police remain the one institution that controls the state’s most remote territories. This article argues that, over the past two decades, the functions of Central Asian police forces have become increasingly punitive. Their negative influence was particularly visible in the after- math of public protests in the 2000–2010s that resulted in fatal clashes between police units and civilian population. These watershed events were followed by government decisions to overhaul their police forces to preempt a recurrence of public protest. Depending on how willing the incumbent regimes are to control political dissent and how capable the state is in performing these control functions, changes in the Interior Ministries follow. When political will is matched by the economic and administrative resource of the state, policing functions are distributed among additional state institutions. But when the regime lacks the resources to upgrade policing techniques to the desired level, it almost always requests international support to facilitate police reform.

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