Asian or Eurasian Century? The Emergence of a Media Trend or a Multipolar world

 

asia-map
Russia is the world’s largest country in landmass and China the largest in population

Daniele Carminati

The Asian Century is a debated concept which posits the idea that the 21st century will be led by the Asian continent from an economic, political, and cultural perspective. Supposedly, the previous 19th and 20th centuries, have been the British (European) and the American centuries respectively. The Asian Development Bank is so confident of such an accomplishment that it published a report in 2011 titled “Asia 2050: Realizing the Asian Century.”

The plausibility of such development is disputed, especially when considering that the main actor of this transformation, China, appears to be experiencing an economic downturn for the first time in quite a number of years.

The implications are plentiful and, unsurprisingly, global. Yet this article aims to move one step beyond the above discussion. Over the past few weeks, several articles have focused on the possibility of a shift of power in Eurasia, from different angles. The first piece, “Black Wind, White Snow: Imagining Eurasia” by Casey Michel was published on The Diplomat website, which referred to a recently released book reflecting on the Russian concept of “Eurasianism.” The notion was apparently coined, or at least, co-opted by the Kremlin and surrounding bodies as a way to promote and promise a brighter future to the disillusioned post-Cold war generations. The outcome of this attempt at normative construction has been mixed, according to Michel, but an overall aura of pessimism is perceivable across the book, suggesting that the imagined Eurasia may stay in the Kremlin’s mind.

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Military Parade in Russia’s Kremlin

Still, due to its strategic position and regional influence, it is crucial to consider the role of Russia in any potential Eurasian ‘coalition’.

The second and third articles tackle the issue from a more inclusive perspective and, perhaps startlingly, depict two opposite scenarios. The first one is from George Friedman, an expert in intelligence and international geopolitics, who wrote an article for Forbes claiming that the “Last time Eurasian Instability Was This Bad Was Before World War II”, describing several factors to justify such a dire prediction. A few examples are the supposed failure of the European Union, followed by the Russian and Middle Eastern crisis, in addition to the aforementioned slowdown in both China and Japan’s economies. The only exception, according to the author, is India, but that country alone will not be able to stop a ‘grand’ destabilization affecting the whole Eurasian continent.

Such a vision, in my opinion, is rather unconvincing, especially when considering the economic and geopolitical self-interest of the majority of the Eurasian countries. Their goal is, mostly, to pursue peaceful means of gain, being well aware that armed conflicts can bring far more disadvantages than benefits. A notable exception may be North Korea, for obvious reasons.

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Russia is by far the EEU’s biggest player and maybe its biggest benefactor

The last article, which I particularly enjoyed, provides a more optimistic view on the phenomenon. Graham E. Fuller, a former senior CIA official, wrote for The World Post (partner of the renowned Huffington Post) an article entitled “The Era of American Global Dominance Is Over.” Such a bold statement from an American citizen may sound preposterous to some. Yet it is another piece covering the position of Eurasia, seen as an increasingly relevant one in this article. The author recognizes that the term itself may remind the readers of a geographical feature more than a political one, Eurasia as a sole, vast landmass. The author sees it as more than that. The central reason why Fuller thinks that the US is failing to deal with Eurasia is its stubbornness in ignoring the mega-continent “rising force” which is attracting more and more nation-states to its sphere. The article then mentions several economic, military and political reasons that support the author’s well-articulated stance. Nonetheless, the recurring theme is that the current century has seen the demise of Western global dominance and that the US should accept it now in order to take advantage of such power shift, while is still happening.

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Barrack Obama, President of the United States of America meets Putin at the G20 Summit in China

This last article appears to be the most convincing when you look to the latest global developments. A change is indeed happening, and although it does not mean that the US is not going to occupy a predominant position, their position is certain to be less hegemonic.

The above articles may not follow a common pattern and they likely originated from different pitches. Still, they have all been published in the past few days which may be a peculiar coincidence or a hint of an upcoming geopolitical trend. Regardless of that, it is unquestionable that the current European situation may benefit from additional transcontinental collaborations and a more balanced, multipolar power redistribution may benefit all the global players in the long run.

Click here for more by Daniele Carminati.

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Where are you from? Uzbekistan?!

Sunset at Registan Square, Samarkand
Sunset at Registan Square, Samarkand

Suzanna Fatyan│susanna202001@yahoo.com

I am from Uzbekistan, a country with ancient history, amazing people and an unforgettable atmosphere. When I studied in Europe and travelled around, I met people who, surprisingly, had never heard of my country. Frankly speaking, it made me embarrassed! Ever since then, I have wanted to write about my country, at least briefly, although that is almost impossible. Especially in two pages! I would like for people hearing the name of Uzbekistan to have certain pictures and associations, even flavours with my country.. Thus, I will try to be very basic and clear: I will not follow any chronological order and will jump from one epoch to another. Why? Because, I would love to inspire everyone to research the rest through books, documentaries, memories, personal visits, and even Wikipedia! Before I start, I would like to note that the facts I am intending to list are not my personal discoveries. They are mere facts. They came to my mind with the aim to expose a certain image existing in my consciousness. I hope to succeed in expressing it.

“Fabulous cities from “Arabian Nights” such as Samarkand and Bukhara are found in Uzbekistan…”

First, note that the fabulous cities from “Arabian Nights” such as Samarkand and Bukhara are found in Uzbekistan. Now, I guess it becomes more or less clear where we are: In a fairy tale! Shaherezade, Alauddin and Sezam are familiar names in Europe, I am sure.

Despite its ancient history, Uzbekistan is a rather young country: it was established in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For this reason it is frequently perceived as part of Russia. There are influences of Russian culture in Uzbekistan, however the country, located in Central Asia has its own peculiar authentic traditions, heritage, identity and history. The Uzbek cities are located in valleys and oases and have attracted people for centuries. At one point, these cities turned into important commercial and cultural centres of the Great Silk Road. Thus, the Uzbekistani people have never lived in a homogeneous society. For centuries it has been known for its diversity and multiculturalism. It absorbed the best from the world and created its own face, its own peculiarity.

“For centuries it has been known for its diversity and multiculturalism…”

The most famous ancient civilizations associated with Uzbekistan and Central Asia are Bactria, Sogdiana and Khoresm. They had powerful political, cultural and economic influence over the Great Silk Road. Through trade they served as key players in establishing connections between the East and the West. Silk, velvet, spices, fruits, jewelleries and leather were all good reasons for merchants from both east and west to travel thousands of kilometres through deserts, mountains and other obstacles for years. (Remember Marco Polo?! Many centuries later. But I promised to jump from one epoch to another)

Fragment of tileworks in Samarkand
Fragment of tileworks in Samarkand

Science is another field that made Uzbekistan famous worldwide. Worldwide we study math and use words as algorithm and algebra in our vocabulary. Yet, did you know much of what we study with maths stems from Uzbekistan? Algorithm or Algoritmi is a Latin transcription for al-Khwarizmi, who is the famous mathematician from Khwarezm (Khorezm), while Algebra, or Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala is one of his major works. Avicenna or Ibn Sina, Alberonius or Beruni, Alpharabius or Farabi – these are just a few names that explain everything about the incredible passion for knowledge of our people..

Quite importantly, the mentioned scholars along with many unmentioned ones preserved the Hellenistic heritage for the future generations. Their scientific achievements and their translations from Greek had an incredible impact on the world of science. After reaching Europe, those achievements managed to change the essence of the latter by triggering the development of the European Renaissance.

“Uzbekistan raises associations with many heroic personalities…”

Besides the Great Silk Road and various scientific achievements, Uzbekistan raises associations with heroic personalities, the most notorious of whom is Tamerlane. The genius general united almost the whole world. His glorious campaigns are described in history books, novels, operas, poetry (for example, “Tamburlaine the Great” by Christopher Marlowe). Europeans perceived Tamerlane as liberator from the Bayazid and the Mongols. In his homeland, the ruler is praised as the creator, reviving the city of Samarkand, after the Mongol invasion. In Samarkand Tamerlane established the capital of his empire, where the wise Amir gathered the best scholars, architects and craftsmen. Since that time Samarkand has become renowned for its amazing azure domes, beautiful mosques and madrasahs decorated with intricate lace ornaments.

The descendants of Tamerlane inherited his talents. Mirzo Ulughbek, the grandson of Tamerlane, established an astronomical observatory in Samarkand where he calculated the coordinates of a thousand and eighteen stars just with his bare eyes, using a giant sextant (astronomical instrument)! He wrote the book “Zij Guragani”, which for centuries served as the main manual on astronomy.

Many Europeans admire the masterpieces of the Mughal Dynasty in India, but almost nobody knows that Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty and Empire, was a descendant of Tamerlane and his origins were from Uzbekistan, in particular form Andijan in Ferghana valley. For that reason in exploring Uzbekistan and India, a connoisseur of Oriental culture would immediately notice common features in numerous aspects.

Gur Emir (Tomb of Tamerlane), Samarkand
Gur Emir (Tomb of Tamerlane), Samarkand

Now I would like to skip several epochs and travel to recent history. The early 20th century was a difficult period: it brought World War I, the revolution in Russia and other tragic events. After becoming annexed by the Russian Empire in the 19th century, in 1924 the territory of Uzbekistan turned into a national state – the Soviet Socialistic Republic of Uzbekistan. Like in previous periods, Uzbekistan served as a refuge for intellectuals, artists, aristocracy and clergy men, but no longer for trade routes due to the challenges of humanity faces because of the wars. During World War I and World War II, Uzbekistan helped thousands of evacuated and deported people – something, which I know from my family history. Being Crimean Tatar, my grandmother was deported by Stalin to Uzbekistan from Crimea, while my grandfather’s Armenian family came to Samarkand from Nagorny Karabakh. Both of my grandparents saved their lives and found a motherland in Uzbekistan thanks to the amazing warmth and hospitality of the Uzbek people. The Uzbeks opened the doors of their houses and hearts, adopted orphans and accepted everybody in need. Kindness is a major feature of Uzbek people.

“Kindness is a major feature of Uzbek people…”

If you were to land in Uzbekistan today, you would feel such warmth as if you were among your closest family members. Like in the past, neighbours in the Uzbek mahallahs (city quarters) visit each other for a chat and a cup of green tea under the vines in cosy courtyards. If you are a guest from far away you would be welcomed with even more passion. Understandably, the most beautiful and comfortable room in the Uzbek house is the mehmonhona, the guestroom. And the most delicious food is also for guests: Plov, manty, chuchvara, shorpa, norin to name a few.The Uzbeks appreciate good and substantial food. As you know, history is an important ingredient in the Uzbeks’ nature. You would proudly be introduced to the incredible creations of our ancestors: the Registan Square, Shakhi Zinda, Poi Kalon, Samani Masoleum, Ark, Ichan Kala. Beautiful verses by Uzbek poets like Alisher Navoi, Babur, Nodira would be quoted to you.You would be charmed, seduced and could suddenly fall in love with this country named Uzbekistan…

Figs at Siab Bazaar
Figs at Siab Bazaar

If you liked Suzanna’s article, also read https://euroculturer.eu/2013/05/01/my-memories-of-krakow-the-heart-of-polish-culture-and-cuisine/

suzannaSuzanna Fatyan, Contributing writer

Suzanna is from a city of Oriental fairy tales – Samarkand in Uzbekistan. She studied English language and literature in Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages for BA. In 2008, Suzanna graduated MA Euroculture from Jagiellonian University in Krakow and Deusto University, San Sebastian. Suzanna works as tour guide in Samarkand, writes blog for Uzbek Journeys in Australia and travels as much as possible.