Opening Pandora’s Box: Ethnicity and Central Asian Militaries

Author: LTC Dianne L Smith

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The author examines whether ethnic consciousness affects military service and the specific roles played by ethnic groups within the armed forces, or if military institutions affect ethnicity. The Soviets used military service as a tool to break down ethnicity and create a “New Soviet Man.” They failed. Do Central Asian armed forces break down ethnic divisions and serve as a vehicle for social integration or do they reinforce ethnic consciousness within minorities and therefore sharpen ethnic polarization? Ethnicity tore the Soviet Union apart. Can the Central Asian states avoid that fate? Will their military forces help or hinder that process? Can the U.S. armed forces, which have a well-merited reputation for managing diversity, provide a role model to help promote stability in this increasingly important, energy rich, region?