At first glance, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Central Asia appear to be remarkably similar. Both have recently experienced colonial rule; MENA under the Ottoman, French, and British empires, and Central Asia under the Soviets. As a result of these occupations, both regions have endured conflict and post-colonial authoritarian rule. In MENA and Central Asia, most citizens also share the same faith, Islam.

A closer look at both regions reveals significant differences, however. While popular protest spread across the Middle East in 2011, Central Asian regimes remained resilient. Although Islam has played a prominent role in Middle Eastern politics, in Central Asia, secular elites have maintained a tight grip on religion, and have generally outlawed faith-based parties. While the Middle East has been ravaged by war, post-Soviet Central Asia has remained relatively stable (with the exception of Tajikistan.)

Together, Muftah and Perspectives on Central Asia have collected a range of articles that delve into the similarities and differences between these two parts of the globe. In this joint special collection, authors use history to explain the differing trajectories of each region, explore similarities in land reform programs, compare the authoritarian tendencies of Kazakhstan and Turkey’s presidents, and examine the political aspects of urban development in Astana, Kazakhstan and Doha, Qatar.

We encourage you to share your thoughts and reactions to these pieces on our site, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Engage with the authors, ask questions, and share your point of view.

We look forward to continuing the conversation and exploring the relationship between the regions covered by Muftah and Perspectives on Central Asia

Central Asia and the Middle East Are Still Haunted by Their Colonial Pasts

by Raymond Hinnebusch and Sally Cummings

Envisioning the Future in Doha and Astana

by Kristin Eggeling

The Struggle for Land in the Middle East and Central Asia

by Brent Hierman

Is Turkey Falling in Steppe with Kazakhstan?

by Michael Mesquita and Jack Kennedy

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  • JTM

    Is it entirely appropriate to categorise Ottoman as ‘colonial’ in the same vein as British and French colonialism? Arguably they were fundamentally different – thus the former lasted up to 700 years whilst the latter two came and left far more quickly, leaving more bloodshed and dispute in their wake.