Events Calendar

Murad Ismayilov – (Homogenising) Hybrid Intentionality and the Dialectics of Elite Attitudes to Islam: Towards a Re-Sacralisation of the Political Space in Azerbaijan @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Jan 9 @ 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Murad Ismayilov - (Homogenising) Hybrid Intentionality and the Dialectics of Elite Attitudes to Islam: Towards a Re-Sacralisation of the Political Space in Azerbaijan @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Azerbaijan’s independence came after seven decades of militant atheism of the Soviet modernization project and emerged into staunch secularism of Western modernity, two factors that, on a par with the country’s precarious neighbourhood, promised a sustained indigenous effort towards a desacralization of the country’s political space and the associated exclusion of religion from politics, a modern blueprint that the Azerbaijani state and its society have stood united to diligently follow over the cause of the country’s independent existence.  Yet the specific dynamics facing the country in the third decade of independence and the changing contours of its international engagements have gradually been working to loosen up the latter formula and lay the groundwork for a quintessentially Azerbaijani pathway of statehood to follow, one combining the nation’s historical embeddedness in an Islamic milieu with its century-old practical experience of modern policy making.


Murad Ismayilov is a doctoral researcher at Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies (PPSIS) at the University of Cambridge. He holds an MSt in International Relations from the University of Cambridge and an M.A. in International Relations from Baku State University (Azerbaijan). He has been awarded fellowships and research and visiting scholar grants from Open Society Institute Europe Foundation, Aleksanteri Institute, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Michigan State University’s Center for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (CERES), and NATO Studies Centre (Bucharest, Romania). His research interests include political and social theory, the politics of modernity, postcolonial theory, sociology and political economy of post-Soviet transformation, social movements, sociology and political economy of power, sociology of class, sociology of intellectuals, sociology and security of the Middle East, sociology and political economy of religion, as well as Islamic theology and Islamic political thought.

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Central Asia Fellows Seminar. Social, Cultural and Spatial Inequalities in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan @ Linder Commons, Suite 602
Jan 12 @ 4:30 PM – 7:00 PM
4:30pm. Opening
Marlene Laruelle (Director, Central Asia Program)

4:45pm. Presentations
Savia Hasanova (Kyrgyzstan)
Income Inequality in Kyrgyzstan: The Redistributive Effect of Social Benefits
Berikbol Dukeyev (Kazakhstan)
Ethnic Return Migration in Kazakhstan: Shifting Dynamics and Changing Perceptions
Serik Jaxylykov (Kazakhstan)
Migration Policy and Patterns in Kazakhstan: When the Southern People Meet the Northern Region
5:30pm. Discussion

6:00pm. Q&A
6:30pm. Reception

Savia Hasanova is an economic expert at the Public Association “The Investment Round Table” in Kyrgyzstan. She is also a project manager at the Public Association “Women’s Forum Kurak.” She has worked on different research projects related to human development, particularly of vulnerable groups. Her recent experience involves drafting the UNDP report on human development and trade in Kyrgyzstan, including issues of sustainable economic development. She holds an MS degree in economics and management science from Humboldt University in Berlin. During her fellowship, Savia will study the effects of different types of social benefits on income inequality in Kyrgyzstan. The research will draw attention to rising income inequality in the country, as well as assess the effectiveness of current social policy with respect to monetary inequality reduction.

Berikbol Dukeyev is a Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy and International Security Department at the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies (KISI) under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He obtained an M.A. in Security and Politics at OSCE Academy in Bishkek and a B.A. with honors in Political Science at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. Previously Berikbol worked at the Kazakhstan Center for Humanitarian and Political Trends in Almaty. He was a research fellow at the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan Public Policy Initiative in 2014.  His research areas are security issues in Central Asia, postcolonial theory application in Central Asia and Kazakhstan nation building. During his fellowship, Berikbol will explore the push and pull factors of the repatriation of ethnic Kazakhs from China, particularly issues of socio-economic integration and changing public perception towards the repatriation program.


Serik Jaxylykov is a sociologist and works at a private research company in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He earned his M.A. in Sociology from the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. Most of his professional background lies in sociology in different areas including socio-economic, socio-political studies (for the World Bank, UNDP, Oxford Policy Management, and the European Training Foundation) and marketing research for private companies. He was a fellow at the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan Public Policy Initiative in 2015-16. During his fellowship, Serik will research Kazakhstan’s internal migration issues, and examine government’s policy aimed at smoothing out the difference between the overpopulated South and the shrinking population in the North.
Zuhra Halimova – Foreign Aid to Eurasia: Donors’ Agendas, Local Perceptions, and Lost Illusions @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Mar 9 @ 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Various donor agencies have become active players in defining and drafting strategies of transition from communist heritages and pasts to modern democratic societies and market economies, as well as in funding the implementation of these strategies.   However, after a quarter century of independence, most of Eurasia’s political elites have transformed into more autocratic regimes, with high level of corruption effectively undermining reforms, democracy development agendas, media freedoms, access to information, the independent judiciary, and the rule of law. In her presentation, Zuhra Halimova will discusses donors’ agendas and local perceptions of them, while proposing different possible reassessments of what seems to have been predominantly a failure of foreign aid in many post-Soviet countries.

Zuhra Halimova is a visiting scholar at IERES. From 1997 to 2016, she worked as the Executive Director of the Open Society Institute in Tajikistan.  A graduate of the Department of Oriental Studies at the Tajik State University and the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi, India), she has served as a member of the International Harm Reduction Program Advisory Board and of OSF’s International Youth Program and Education Support Program Advisory Boards for several years.  She has also been a member of the Council of the Global Fund for Women and of the Asian Women in International Affairs Initiative for many years.

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Ninth Fellows’ Seminar: Development Challenges and Evolving Identities in Central Asia and Azerbaijan @ Alumni House
Jun 1 @ 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM

2:00pm. Introductory remarks
Marlene Laruelle, Director, Central Asia Program

2:15-4:00pm. Panel 1. Identities, Ideologies and Religion in Flux

Zhar Zardykhan (KIMEP, Almaty)
Between Two Worlds: The Ambiguities of Kazakhstan’s Search for its New Identity

Kamal Gasimov (CAAF, Azerbaijan)
The Salafi Multimodal Engagement with Electronic Media in Azerbaijan

Alexandra Tsay (CAAF, Kazakhstan)
Contemporary Art as a Public Sphere in Kazakhstan

 Rafael Sattarov (CAAF, Uzbekistan)
“Spirituality and Enlightenment’”: State-backed Ideological Policy in Uzbekistan


4:00-4:15pm. Coffee break

4:15-5:30pm. Panel 2. Social Development and Inequalities

Daniyar Kussainov (CAAF, Kazakhstan)
Inequality in Kazakhstan’s Secondary Education: Towards a Fragmented Society?

Dinara Nurusheva (CAAF, Kazakhstan)
In Search of Better Performance: Local Governance Challenges in a Kazakh Mining Town 

Nazik Imanbekova (CAAF, Kyrgyzstan)
Strengthening the Participation of Local Communities in the Mining Sector: The case of Talas, Kyrgyzstan


5:30pm. Reception

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Kamal Gasimov is a researcher in the field of Islamic Studies from Azerbaijan. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Oriental Studies (Persian language and literature) from Baku State University (Azerbaijan). He has also studied Arabic language and literature at Kuwait University. His research has mainly concentrated on Islamic social movements, particularly quietist Salafi trends and their interaction with Islamists or jihadis; the transnationalization of Salafism and its connection with local (post-Soviet) actors; and Islamic legal theories. His interests lie primarily in contemporary Islamic groups in Syria, Iraq and the Gulf countries. During his fellowship, Kamal will consider transformations in the Islamic landscape of Azerbaijan.

Nazik Imanbekova is a transparency and open government activist from Kyrgyzstan, who has worked at various organizations from local NGOs (Public Foundation ElNaz, EITI public reception, EITI NGO Consortium, Human Development Center Tree of Life) to IGOs (UNDP). As the head of EITI public reception in Talas region, she developed a dialogue platform, which the national government to adopted and led to the establishment of periodical meetings with local communities. She holds a Specialist Diploma with Honors in Economics from the Academy of Management under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic. During her fellowship, she will study the impact of mining contracts and government’s policy. The research will focus on the effects of current policies and contract clauses on local communities around the mining value chain in Kyrgyzstan.

Daniyar Kussainov currently works as a program assistant for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Sub-regional Coordination Office for Central Asia and was a research fellow at the Soros-Kazakhstan Foundation Public Policy Initiative in 2014. Daniyar holds an MA degree in Politics and Security (Central Asia) from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek. His professional and academic interests include migration, education, and elections. Prior to joining the IOM Office in Almaty, he worked for local and international NGOs, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Missions, OSCE Secretariat and the World Bank. During his fellowship, Daniyar will study state educational policies and their potential effects on rising socio-economic inequality in Kazakhstan.

Dinara Nurusheva is co-founder of PaperLab Research Group and was a research fellow at the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan Public Policy Initiative in 2014. She graduated from Abylai Khan Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages with a Bachelor in International Relations. She obtained her master’s degree in Global Political Economy at City University London through the Bolashak scholarship. She has experience working in the analytical department at Nazarbayev Centre in Astana and the Center for Humanitarian and Political Trends in Almaty. Her research interests include institutionalism and the social and economic development of Kazakhstan’s regions. During her fellowship, Dinara will study the social and economic implications of living in a mining city, focusing on Tekeli, a city in Almaty oblast.

Rafael Sattarov is a political analyst. He is a graduate of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He has a Master’s degree from the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He is a columnist of several editions in Russia and Kazakhstan and has edited articles on economics and politics in Forbes Russia,, and Russia Beyond the Headlines. He was a delegate of the Young Educational Leaders Program of NATO. His research interests include reforms of the socio-political and economic systems in the post-Soviet space, U.S.-Russia relations after the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy in Central Asia, international relations in Eurasia and the geopolitics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. During his fellowship, Rafael will look into the rise of conservative values and so-called spirituality in Uzbekistan and their relevance in modern-day Uzbek society.

Alexandra Tsay is an independent research fellow in cultural studies and an art curator based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She is involved in PaperLab: Public Policy Research Laboratory and Open Mind. Previously, she worked as a Senior Lecturer at International Information Technologies University in Almaty. Alexandra is an alumni of University of Warwick (UK), where she earned an MA in International Cultural Policy and Management, and KIMEP University (Kazakhstan), where she earned a BA in International Journalism and Mass Communication. She was a research fellow at Public Policy Initiative Program of Soros Foundation Kazakhstan in 2014-2015. During her fellowship, Alexandra will explore the cultural public sphere in Kazakhstan. Her hypothesis is that the cultural public sphere and artistic expressions are becoming an important arena for public debates, criticism and inventions of counter-discourses in societies with restricted freedom of the press and a shrinking political public sphere.

Zhar Zardykhan is an Assistant Professor of International Relations and Regional Studies at KIMEP University (Almaty, Kazakhstan) and the Deputy Director of the Central Asian Studies Center (CASC). In 2007, Dr. Zardykhan completed his Doctoral dissertation on Pan-Islamic and Pan-Turkic appeals and propaganda in Ottoman-Russian confrontation during the First World War, with a special focus on the Muslim population of Central Asia and the Caucasus. He has been a Visiting Doctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, where he carried out a research project on the trans-ethnic relationship between members of supra-ethnic clans in Central Asia. His primary research interests include Eurasian history, ethnic and religious conflicts, nationalism, minorities, and identity formation, and he has published in a number of prominent journals, including Middle Eastern Studies, Asian Ethnicity and Central Asian Survey. He is fluent in several European, Middle Eastern and Inner Asian languages.

Russia’s Approaches to Afghanistan and its Implications for Central Asia @ Voesar Conference Room, IERES
Jun 6 @ 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM

Stephen Blank, American Foreign Policy Council

Russia’s Policy toward Afghanistan and the Taliban and its Impact on Central Asia

Stephen Blank is an internationally known expert on Russia and the former Soviet Union who comes to AFPC from the US Army War College, where he spent the last 24 years (1989-2013) as a Professor of National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, PA.  Dr. Blank’s expertise covers the entire Russian and post-Soviet region. He has also written extensively on defense strategy, arms control, information warfare, energy issues, US foreign and defense policy, and European and Asian security.

Amin Mudadiq, head of RFE/RL’s Pakistan service

The Impact of Russia’s Afghan Policy on the Northern Provinces of Afghanistan

Amin Mudaqiq is the Director of RFE/RL’s service to Pakistan’s tribal regions, Radio Mashaal. Originally from northern Afghanistan, Mudaqiq formerly served as Kabul bureau chief for RFE/RL’s Afghan Service from 2004 to 2011. Prior to joining RFE/RL, he worked in the U.S. consulate in Peshawar as an Information Assistant, and as editor of “Ittilaat,” the U.S. government’s Dari/Pashto publication.

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An event organized in partnership with RFE/RL