Oil and Drugs

Not only are developments in oil deals, investment and discoveries of obvious merit but oil and minerals may also shape the political future. If the big money round the corner actually appears, the republics could be looking at the established oil states with interest. They could end up with a petro-dollar elite, with the masses in penury or they could use the cash to maintain the old Soviet ideals alongside a democratic style of government. Or an autocratic style of government. Everything is still up for grabs.

Lots of drugs grow wild here, and there’s a tradition of using opiates along with tea. Kazakstan alone has hundreds of thousands of acres of opium poppies – and hemp. Borders are pretty patchy, hard cash is short, and even pensioners have been growing poppies to make ends meet. At the moment, drug control is not a high priority because other demands are so pressing. But it probably will become so, especially if some remote or dissident areas develop independent economies through drugs – eg Badakhshan on the Afghan-Tajik border.

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