THE COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION prompted many observers of the Central Asian scene to speculate on whether the new countries would "return" to their Islamic roots. Russia's renunciation of many obligations toward its former Asian empire and its pursuit of an active role in Europe eliminated a major external constraint to a revival of Islamic traditions. Nonetheless, there is little conclusive evidence that the Central Asian successor states, having finally gained the freedom to shape their own domestic and external policies, find Islam to be the most natural ingredient of their cultural-national identities.

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