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The new Fellows and Research Topics of the Eurasia Lab & Fellowship Program

Source: Unsplash

From Civic activism in Kazakhstan during Covid-19, to the impact of the pandemic on gender-based violence in Uzbek­isten and Kyrgyzstan and digital activism in Turkmenistan: These are the topics of the Eurasia Lab research teams from September to December 2021.


“The impact of COVID-19 on civic activism in Kazakhstan” by Viktoriya Nem, Anna Klimchenko and Kamila Smagulova

The research project aims to inves­tigate how the COVID-19 pandemic affected citizens’ activism in Kazakhstan. The key purpose is to explore the challenges that citizen activists in Kazakhstan faced due to the pandemic, as well as to learn how they adapted (or failed to adapt) their work processes and what role, if any, digital technologies played in facil­i­tating civic engagement.

The team members are affil­iated with the PaperLab Research Center based in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Viktoriya Nem is a researcher whose areas of interest include education, gender equality, and sustainable devel­opment. She graduated with a Master Degree in Public Policy (MPP) from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Anna Klimchenko holds a Master’s degree for the completed joint study programme “Sociolin­guistics and Multi­lin­gualism” from Vytautas Magnus University and Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. Her fields of expertise include language policy, education, and human rights. Kamila Smagulova received her Master of Public Policy degree from Graduate School of Public Policy, Nazarbayev University. As a young researcher, her field of interests include national identity, civic activism, and education.


“The COVID-19 pandemic and gender-based violence in Central Asia” by Svetlana Dzardanova and Niginakhon Uralova

The project aims to assess the efforts of the state, local civil society, and inter­na­tional actors in Central Asia in addressing violence against women during the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing specif­i­cally on the two countries Uzbek­istan and Kyrgyzstan. It will look at good practices, lessons learned, and obstacles encoun­tered by the respon­sible actors that prevented them from responding more effec­tively. The research will offer a better under­standing of the efforts and role of the state and non-state actors during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will furthermore contribute to better design policies and practices for the prevention of gender-based violence in Central Asia.

Niginakhon Uralova, MA in Politics and Security (Central Asia) and in Human Rights and Democ­ra­ti­zation in the Caucasus, is an adjunct assistant professor at Webster University in Tashkent, Uzbek­istan. Her key areas of research interest include studies of Central Asia, human rights issues, and questions surrounding legit­imacy of a government in contem­porary Islamic political thought.

Svetlana Dzardanova is an Associate at the Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies. Previ­ously, she worked as Program Manager of the MA Program in Politics and Security and earlier as Research and Training Coordi­nator at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She has written on a broad spectrum of inter­secting and regionally focused topics of peace and security, resources, cooper­ation and inter­na­tional involvement in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Currently, Svetlana is inter­ested in topics of migration and mobility, a variety of gender issues, including economic inclusion and sustainable human development.


“Digital Civic Activism in Politically Restricted Space and its Democratization Potential: a case study on Turkmenistan” by Rustam Muhamedov

The research project aims to provide a compre­hensive assessment of the expanding Turkmen online civic activism of the past few years in connection to the budding civic activism in wider Central Asia. The project seeks to system­atise data on these initia­tives, identify their causes and mobil­i­sation strategies, capabil­ities and weaknesses, positive impact, and potential for laying the groundwork for prospective democ­ratic trans­for­mation in the country. The objective of the study is to contribute to discus­sions on democracy promotion, social media’s role in disrupting hegemonic narra­tives in author­i­tarian states, to under­stand internal dynamics of civic protest movements and their evolution, and provide recom­men­da­tions to relevant actors, including those supporting democ­ratic trans­for­ma­tions in author­i­tarian states.

Rustam Muhamedov is an independent researcher who focuses on political and security devel­op­ments in Turkmenistan and wider Central Asia. He is a former national researcher on Turkmenistan for the Global Data Barometer 2021 project and a non-resident research fellow at the George Washington University as part of its Central Asia-Azerbaijan Fellowship Program (Spring 2021). He is also an author of several analytical articles on political devel­op­ments in Turkmenistan. He is a graduate of the Master’s program in Inter­na­tional Relations with a focus on Politics and Security in Central Asia from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek (2019).