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The Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan faced both crisis and opportunity in their paths to independence. The Russian Empire, succeeded by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) dominated Central Asia from the 19th to the late 20th century. In 1989, the Soviet Union cut military funding and completed the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. That same year, tensions released by policies of openness and restructuring, especially in Europe, combined with nationalist aspirations and economic strain, continued to undermine the viability of the USSR as a whole. The Soviets confronted widespread demonstrations and strikes and dealt with ethnic violence in Central Asia. In 1991, Central Asian leaders reluctantly declared independence. Subsequently, major world powers such as Russia, China, and the ...

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