American University of Central Asia - AUCA - Monocities


Dealing with Uncertainty: Socio-Economic Survival Strategies of Local Residents in post-Soviet, mono-industrial Towns in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

Zarina Adambussinova


Main Goals of the Project:

  • to examine the post-socialist transition process in the conduct of everyday life, especially
    in its socio-economic dimension, in the face of urban challenges in small-seized mono-
    towns in post-Soviet Central Asia (Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan);
  • to identify and analyse the existing forms of survival socio-economic strategies
    developed by remaining residents to cope with challenges of uncertainty in unsecure
  • to contribute to academic discourse on economic transition of single-enterprise towns in
    post-Soviet space;
  • to explore the role and contribution of the EU in building community resilience in the
    former uranium mono-industrial monotowns in Kyrgyzstan by taking into account both
    levels: international organizations and local population (the joint paper);
  • to develop recommendations in the form of policy papers for each case study.


Short Description of the Project:

The postdoctoral research project is aimed at exploring survival strategies developed by remaining residents in post-Soviet, mono-industrial towns in Central Asia. Single-enterprise towns and settlements, known as monogorod, are seen as a creation of Soviet-era industrialisation and urbanization policies. Such urban areas were commonly built in a geographical periphery around a single industry specializing in the mining of different natural resources, such as oil, coal, iron, copper, and phosphate, and directly supported from Moscow through considerable subsidies (byli na moskovskom obespechenii). The collapse of the Soviet Union and its commanded-based economy brought severe, irrevocable changes into the stable socio-economic life of such urban areas and their residents, turning a number of single-enterprise towns into economically marginalized areas. The former symbols of Soviet modernity nowadays became objects of ongoing heated debates about their future fate, including a variety of stakeholders. Due to decline of industrial production, a high level of unemployment, and uncertainty, most single-enterprise towns of Central Asia continue struggling with a wide range of different issues, ranging from massive losses of industrial jobs, impoverishment and out-migration and environmental hazards and health issues to violence and social tension. At the same time, in the context of lacking stable, financial environments such places are seen as a space of uncertainty and opportunities for local individuals. The project includes two case-study: Tash-Komyr in Kyrgyzstan and Arqalyq in Kazakhstan. Combining household survey and ethnographic approach, the study attempts to identify and analyze the current, non-institutionalized, economic practices of remaining residents of both cities developed for coping with challenges of uncertainty in conducting their daily life.

As a part of the cooperation with University Bielefeld (Germany), specifically together with Dr. Chiara Pierobon we look at the notion of community resilience in former mono-industrial settlements affected by uranium legacy and radiation in Kyrgyzstan, such as Kadji-Sai, Orlovka and Ak-Tuz.

American University of Central Asia
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Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic 720060

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