Decaying beauty? Image(s) of the European Union in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

  • Zhanibek Arynov

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis comparatively examines perceived images of the European Union (EU) in two countries of Central Asia (CA): Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The study departs from the point that the literature on Central Asian geopolitics, as well as on EU-CA relations in particular has paid little attention to the role that the Central Asians play in international interactions in the region. Taking a constructivist approach as an umbrella framework, the thesis argues that how Central Asians perceive the EU is an integral part of its identity and its roles in the region, as well as of the outcome of its policy. Therefore, examining the Central Asian perspective to the EU and EU-CA relations should be an equally important aspect of scholarly attention. Having justified the importance of studying perceived images, the thesis goes on to draw from Image Studies to conceptualize the notion of ‘image’. It claims that the image is a complex phenomenon consisting of various internal components, but the core of image in International Relations is constituted by two components: (1) perceptions of the Other’s power/capability and (2) perceptions of whether the Other poses a threat or represents an opportunity. The empirical analysis of the thesis develops around these two aspects. The objective of the thesis, however, is not just to reveal what the perceptions are, but also to answer how these perceptions come into being by identifying the factors influencing perceptions. Finally, as images are relative notions and become fully meaningful only through comparison, this thesis also analyzes self-images of the EU and reflects on to what extent the EU’s perceived images contrast to its self-images. The thesis concludes by arguing that in many respects, the EU is perceived positively in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. However, this positivity is being slowly diminished as a result of an increasing image of ‘Decaying Europe’.
Date of Award25 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorCaron Eileen Gentry (Supervisor) & Filippo Costa Buranelli (Supervisor)

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