As in other regions of the world, Central Asia has struggled to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some governments moved relatively swiftly and decisively to close borders and impose strict social distancing measures, while others adopted similar measures but were slower to implement them. Still others have been reluctant to even acknowledge that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to their citizens. How has the threat of COVID-19 and the government’s response to it affected popular attitudes in Central Asia? Specifically, how has it affected trust and confidence in political leaders, religious leaders, healthcare systems, and local communities? I explore these questions based on an original online and telephone survey conducted in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan during the height of the pandemic. I argue that the pandemic has had inverse effects on trust and confidence in these two countries and that this may be linked to differences in the stability of their respective regimes.
Pauline Jones is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum at the University of Michigan (UM). She has published in several leading academic and policy journals, including the American Political Science Review, Annual Review of Political Science, Current History, Foreign Affairs, Europe-Asia Studies, and Resources Policy. She has authored five books: Institutional Change and Political Continuity in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Power, Perceptions, and Pacts (2002); The Transformation of Central Asia: States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence (2003); Oil is not a Curse: Ownership Structure and Institutions in the Soviet Successor States (2010), Islam, Society, and Politics in Central Asia (2016), and most recently The Oxford Handbook on Politics in Muslim Societies (forthcoming).