Authoritarian learning and diffusion: protests in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in 2022



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Tartu Ülikool


In this thesis I study the authoritarian learning and authoritarian diffusion processes that served as a basis for some of the repressive measures taken by Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in response to mass protests in 2022. The thesis attempts to address the question as to ‘whether different types of authoritarian regimes are more amenable to learning or learn in different ways’ (Hall and Ambrosio 2017,154). It focuses on authoritarian regimes specifically in Central Asia. This study uses process tracing and content analysis in order to analyze the diffusion and learning mechanisms during and in the aftermath of the mass protests. I formulate 2 mechanisms for learning and diffusion that are not mutually exclusive and usually go in parallel in the Central Asian context. I analyze newspaper articles from news media outlets such as Radio Liberty Kazakh and Uzbek Services, Eurasianet, and In addition, I analyze citizen journalism source, Youtube channel БАСЕ to make the process tracing more accurate. My findings are 1. Authoritarian learning and diffusion processes go in parallel, mostly diffusion framing authoritarian learning processes in Central Asia. 2. Kazakh and Uzbek regimes engage in authoritarian diffusion by initially framing mass protests as of socio-economic nature and instantly switching to framing them as a disorder organized by terrorists. 3. Diffusion process within the regional security organization (CSTO) context is more nuanced and needs to fit into the objective of fighting three evils: extremism, separatism, and terrorism. 4. Kazakh and Uzbek regimes engage in authoritarian learning when they base their calculations on when to switch to a terrorist threat narrative on the previous learning success or failure cases. 5. Kazakh and Uzbek regimes engage in learning from each other and domestic learning.