Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Susan L. Woodward

Committee Members

Vincent Boudreau

Julie George

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics


State formation, bureaucratic centralization, center-periphery politics, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan


This dissertation examines state formation in newly or recently independent states. Why are state authorities able to exert control over provincial areas in some cases but not others? How do the national authorities of newly independent states build centralized bureaucracies, control state cadre, and ensure deference among their regional subordinates? Why do they sometimes fail? I answer these questions by focusing on the social ties of state officials in the periphery. Specifically, I argue that where the state’s regional officials are socially embedded in local communities, the process of administrative centralization will proceed unevenly and incompletely. It is only by dislocating state personnel from local social structures that they become, as Weber described them, “servants of the state.”

While framed within theories from the literature on state formation, this study demonstrates how the contemporary historical context reshapes processes of state development. International policy prioritizes decentralization and regional representation over administrative centralization and can have the unintended effect of creating social bases of support for the state’s regional cadre, bolstering their independence, and undermining the state’s administrative hierarchy. The argument is presented through a comparative analysis of two post-Soviet Central Asian states—Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan—during their first two decades of independence, from 1991 to 2013.