Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Geography (MS)

Degree Level





Edward C. Holland

Committee Member

Fiona M. Davidson

Second Committee Member

Thomas R. Paradise

Third Committee Member

Jeffrey R. Ryan


Central Asia, Drug Trafficking, Kyrgyzstan, Narcotics Trafficking, Post-Soviet, State Capacity


Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the newly independent states of Central Asia faced numerous challenges. These included cultivating new national identities and state capacity, managing new borders, and addressing issues of conflict and political violence. Converging with these challenges – a booming trade in opium and heroin originating in neighboring Afghanistan. Central Asia quickly became a key route for opiates originating in Afghanistan and transiting to Russia and Europe. The Kyrgyz Republic lies at the southeastern corner of this region, along one of the world’s busiest drug trafficking routes.

This thesis examines state and societal responses to narcotics trafficking in the Kyrgyz Republic with a specific emphasis on the role of ethnicity, religion, kinship, and patronage networks. In doing so, it seeks to discern the role played by narcotics trafficking in the broader political-geographic space of the Republic, paying specific attention to state capacity. Likewise, it is interested in how these processes both shape and are shaped by political-geographic space. It relies on publicly available data provided by the Kyrgyz Government as well as the UNODC. More importantly, it derives context from a series of interviews and observations obtained during fieldwork in the Kyrgyz Republic during the summer of 2018. These interviews – conducted with officials from academia, non-governmental organizations, international governmental organizations, diplomatic missions, and the Kyrgyz government, provide critical context to broader research efforts and previous work conducted on this subject.

This thesis ultimately supports some recent scholarship conducted on narcotics trafficking in the Republic, while also challenging the premises of older discourse on the drug trade in the region. In doing so it hopes to reinvigorate scholarship and policy debates on the Eurasian narcotics trade and broader illicit geographies.