Andrew Wachtel is the President of the American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, Kirgizstan. Previously he was a Dean of the graduate school and the Director of the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies at the Northwestern University – where he has been professor since 1995. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has written numerous books and articles on Russian literature and culture, East-European and Balkan history, politics, and culture, as well as contemporary Central Asia.
The Balkans became “The Balkans” when a fact – these lands were characterized by a high level of ethnic diversity – became a problem. This occurred with the importation from Western Europe of the idea that the state and the nation should be isomorphic. Balkan history since the early 19th century can be considered as a series of attempts, ultimately almost completely successful, to solve this “problem.” Central Asia was characterized by a similar level of diversity, and since the collapse of the USSR it has been undergoing a process of monoethnicization comparable to that which took place in the Balkans. This lecture will explore several key questions: What are the similarities and differences between the Balkans and Central Asia in terms of nation and state consolidation? Will the outcome be substantially different in Central Asia than in the Balkans?