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Cambridge Central Asia Forum


Connectivity in Central Asia and the Caucasus


6th-9th of December, 2021


Cambridge Central Asia Forum, Jesus College, University of Cambridge

COMPASS- Cambridge Winter Meeting (Hybrid)




CONCEPT: Connectivity has long been associated with the region of Eurasia whether in the guise of the historic Silk Road(s) or the transport, communications and energy corridors that now in the modern era are synonymous with the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus. Eurasia with the exception of the period since 1991 remained connected in one form or another from the 13th century. Throughout history the diverse groups inhabiting Eurasia have been wide-ranging and have knowledge production along with exchanges of goods and peoples which has been at the heart of progress through time and space. Since 1991, there has been little to no realisation of the potential of the region and has led to limited to no development in the areas of concern (education, economy, healthcare). We have witnessed a renewed sense of great power politics in the wider Eurasian region since the Soviet Union ceased to exist and far from becoming well integrated into the world system, the suspicion and threat ascribed to actions of Russia and China and the threat they pose to Europe and the USA is slowly but steadily spreading into Central Asia which is fast becoming an obstacle for Eurasia as a region.


The opportunities and challenges of today’s nation-states in Central Asia and the Caucasus are impossible to heed without considering the physical connectedness of the region let alone the shared historical legacies. From water sharing to climate problems and issues pertaining to being landlocked and doubly-landlocked, modern-day independent countries increasingly feel the need to reconnect. There is little to no progress for any country unless the neighbouring countries are also prosperous. The Eurasian space naturally stands as a global system which has room for a majority of players to participate rather than be self-sufficient. With this in mind the conference wants to explore and highlight the shared legacy of Eurasia which is far more reverberating than its separateness. Within this context and at this important juncture of thirty years since independence we invite papers and panels on the themes of connectivity and disruption in the Eurasian region. We welcome individual and panel submissions on history, archaeology, anthropology, politics, society, economics, international relations, diplomacy and regional organisations with a special focus on Central Asia and Caucasus in any time period





The GCRF COMPASS project (ES/P010849/1, 2017-21) is an ambitious UK government capacity-building funding initiative, aiming to extend UK research globally, to address the challenges of growth and sustainability in the developing countries. Notably, the COMPASS project at the University of Kent, together with Cambridge University as research partner, seeks to establish ‘the hubs of excellence’ at the top-level HEIs in Belarus, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, to enable them to become the centres for knowledge sharing and transfer for research integration, impact governance, and sustainable communities.


Keynote Speakers:

Prof Meruert Abusseitova

Prof Adeeb Khalid

Prof Magnus Marsden 

Prof Scott Levi


Registration link:


 ***Please use @GCRF-COMPASS and @CCAForum for social media*** DAY 1 Monday 6 December 2021 Please note, the time of the programme is local (UK)

Day 1: 6 December 

10:30-11am Official Welcome 

Moderator: Dr Siddharth S Saxena (University of Cambridge, Co-I GCRF COMPAS)

Professor Elena Korosteleva, University of Kent, Principal Investigator, GCRF COMPASS project

Professor Magnus Marsden, University of Sussex & Advisory Board Member, GCRF COMPASS project

Professor Shailaja Fennell, University of Cambridge, Director, Centre of South Asian Studies

Mr Shakeel Shah, Director of CAREC Institute

Mr Nick Ray, Convenor Central Asia Forum & Fellow, Jesus College, Cambridge

11am-1pm GCRF COMPASS Capacity Building Panel 

Moderator: Professor Elena Korosteleva (University of Kent)

Dr Nargis Nurulla-Khojaeva, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia, The capacity of strangers and the inexplicability of borders

Abbas Babayev, ADA University, Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani youth in transition: Is the state youth policy effective enough?

Jakub Csabay, University of Cambridge, Institutional Dynamics of State-Minority Relations in the Broader Post-Soviet Space: Case Study of Slovakia and Azerbaijan

Dr Akram Umarov, UWED, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Taliban takeover in Afghanistan: the view from Central Asia

Dr Anastasiia Kudlenko, University of Kent, Emergence of peoplehood: Comparing Ukraine (2013-2014) and Belarus (2020-2021)

Alexandr Rytov, Belarusian State University, Belarus National Erasmus+ Office Belarusian HEIs in capacity building in higher education instrument of Erasmus+ EU programme (2015-2020)

1-2pm Lunch 

2-4pm GCRF COMPASS Resilience and Fragility in Eurasia 

Moderator: Dr Muzaffer Kutlay (University of Kent)

Prajakti Kalra, University of Cambridge, Locating Central Eurasia’s inherent resilience

Dr Irina Petrova, University College London & University of Kent, What makes communities resilient in times of complexity and change?

Dr Anar Valiyev, ADA University, Azerbaijan’s Pandemic Response & Resilience

Dr Serik Orazgaliev, Nazarbaev, University Democracy, fragmentation and social media: case studies

Yingfeng Ji, University of Cambridge, Multi-Stakeholder Partnership in China’s Belt and Road Initiative - empirical evidence from Kazakhstan

4-4:30pm Tea/Coffee 

4:30-6pm Keynote 

Professor Magnus Marsden, Director Asia Centre, University of Sussex

Commerce, cuisine and cultural exchange in Afghanistan, Eurasia and beyond

Day 2: 7 December 

11-1pm GRN Panel: Science and Diplomacy in Eurasia

Moderator: Prajakti Kalra (University of Cambridge)

Professor Boram Shin, Jeonbuk National University, South Korea, Role of Soviet Science in UNESCO’s Promotion of National Science Governance in 1960s-1970s

Professor Chokan Laumulin, Kazakh British Technical University, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Science Diplomacy in Soviet Central Asia: Forming An Intertwined Triple Helix Innovation Model

Dr Albina Muratbekova, Eurasian Research Institute, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Looking into Asia: From Oriental Studies to Area Studies in Central Asia,

Professor Boram Shin, Jeonbuk National University, South Korea (on behalf of Prof Moon), Soviet-South Korean Science-Technology Diplomacy in the late 1980s-1990s 

1-2pm Lunch

2-4pm Post 1991 Economic Landscape in Eurasia

Moderator: Dr Siddharth S Saxena (University of Cambridge)

Dr Balihar Sanghera, University of Kent, Rentier capitalism and social suffering in Central Asia

Dr Lorena Lombordozzi, The Open University, Challenges and perspectives of structural transformation in Uzbekistan

Dr Kuat B. Akizhanov, KazGUU University, Nur Sultan, Post 1991 socio-economic landscape in Kazakhstan: (un)sustainable development under neoliberal hegemonic project

Dr Bahtiyor Eschanov, Management Development Institute of Singapore in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Infrastructure financing and sustainable development in Uzbekistan

Dr Olga Malashenkova, Belarusian State University, Belarus in Eurasian Economic Union: achievements and challenges

4-4:30pm Tea/Coffee

4:30-6pm Keynote

Professor Adeeb Khalid, Carleton College, USA

Central Asia: A New History from the Imperial Conquests to the Present

Day 3: 8 December 

10am-12pm Keynote

Prof Meruert Abusseitova, Orient Studies Institute, Kazakhstan

Documentary and archival heritage of the common history and culture of Central Asia

12-1pm GCRF COMPASS Research Panel

Moderator: Dr Diana Kudaibergenova (University of Cambridge)

Professor Munira Shahidi, Tajik National University, Poetics of civil society as an art of governance in Central Asia and Caucasus: classics and modernity

Dr Artsiom Nazaranka, Belarus State University, Belarus in Cross-Regional Capacity Building in Research and Education in 2017-2021

Sinead Mowlds, Cambridge Central Asia Forum, Spatial data for complex and collaborative decision-making in Uzbekistan

1-2pm Lunch

2-4pm Environment and Climate Change through the ages in Eurasia

Moderator: Dr Miljana Radivojević (University College London & Cambridge Central Asia Forum)

Ms Callie Berman, University of Cambridge, Knowing fish: a cultural case study and portrait of resource understandings in Caspian Eurasia

Ms. Nina Shatberashvili, Caucasus Network for Sustainable Development of Mountain Regions, Conservation frameworks in the Caucasus

Ms Tina Schivastcheva, University of Cambridge, The National Innovation System of Kazakhstan: prospects and challenges

Dr Aliaksandr Burachonak, Belarusian State University, European investments in Belarus: historical experience of late XIX-early XX centuries

4-4:30pm Tea/Coffee

4:30-6pm Keynote

Professor Scott Levi, Ohio State University, USA

Early Modern Connections: Global Integration and the 18th-Century Bukharan Crisis

Day 4: 9 December 

11am-1pm CAREC Research Roundtable 

Moderators: Professor Peter Nolan, CBE, Director China Centre, Jessu College, Cambridge  & Dr Iskandar Abdullaev, Deputy Director CI 

Dr Hans Holzhacker, CAREC Institute, China-Europe corridors and BRI

Mr Shakhboz Akhmedov, CAREC Institute, Central Asia- New potential corridors in Central Asia

Dr Dina Azhgaliyeva, Asian Development Bank Institute, Caucasus- Potential of Trans Caspian Corridors

Dr. Ghulam Samad, CAREC Institute, Central Asia-South Asia Corridor

1-2pm Lunch

2-4pm Crisis in Eurasia: Imported or Endemic?

Moderator: Prof Munira Shahidi, Tajik National University

Zalmai Nishat, Sussex Asia Centre Afghanistan as the missing link of connectivity between West, Central and South Asia

Dr Artsiom Nazaranka, Belarus State University Migration crisis on the border of Belarus and EU of 2021: imported or endemic?

Dr Siddharth S Saxena, Director Cambridge Central Asia Forum, Jesus College, University of Cambridge Grand Design, Complexity and Crisis Creation

4-4:30pm Tea/Coffee


Early Career research Workshop

Moderator: Prajakti Kalra, University of Cambridge

Anushka Sisodia, University of Cambridge, What would one evaluate as the three most disruptive moments of Eurasian History?

Ainsley Trahan, University of Cambridge, To what extent do disaster risk reduction efforts driven by international organisations in Central Asia hinder or help earthquake preparedness and responses in the region

Katie J M Brennan, University of Cambridge, How can Tajikistan-led water cooperation in Central Asia lead to renewable energy developments in the region?

Gary S.P. Xie, University of Cambridge, Do'stlik and Realpolitik: Uzbekhistan’s New Relations with the Taliban

Samson L. Anton, University of Cambridge, Compare Czarist and early-Soviet ethnic policy

Andrea Komova, University of Cambridge, Civil Society in the Caucasus 

Caroline F Rouse, University of Cambridge, Physical and Political Consequences of Soviet Legacy in Central Asia's Electricity Infrastructure

6-6:30pm Conlcuding Remarks 


Thursday, 9 December, 2021 - 10:00 to 18:30

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