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Central Asia: Cosmetics, Culture and Politics
By: Gregory Grishchenko
Posted: March 3, 2011, from the March 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.
Central Asia today consists of five independent republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, and covers an area of almost 4 million square kilometers, which includes some of the most sparsely populated regions in the world.
Its population of nearly 52 million people includes more than 100 different ethnic groups, from Russian, Germans and Austrians to Tibetans and Koreans. The largest ethnic group is the Uzbeks. There were some 10.6 million Russians living in Central Asia in 1992, but there has been a large-scale exodus of Russians from all Central Asia, especially Tajikistan and Uzbekistan because of fears of ethnic violence and violence stemming from Islamic fundamentalism.
While Tashkent and Ashkhabad, the capitals of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, have long urban histories, the other three capital cities (Dushanbe in Tajikistan, Alma Ata in Kazakhstan and Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan) were created by the Soviet planners to give a sense of ethnic identity to the prevailing regional nationalities. For similar reasons, the same planners actually have drawn the state border lines for their creations that gave a sense of fictional independence for local communist parties executives-in-charge.
Since gaining independence in 1991, after collapse of the Soviet Union, all five Central Asia countries started to change—introducing political parties, privatizing state owned companies and implementing market economy models with an emphasis on Western style banking, tax laws and global trade. The results were mixed from the beginning, due to the absence of previous statehood experience, strong power grip from the former communist leaders and growing tribalism.
After separation from more industrious Russian regions of the former Soviet Union, the independent countries of Central Asia chose to rely on their own natural resources—such as raw materials, livestock or agriculture. Because the entire Central Asian region is currently a low-income domain, it is inevitable that consumer expenditure on beauty is far from high. With the absence of noticeable local cosmetics and toiletries manufacturing, the region depends on imports.