In the pre-Soviet era the social status of an individual, among the nomadic Kazakhs, Turkmen and Kyrgyz, was determined almost solely by the place occupied by his tribe in the hierarchy of a specific horde and by his own status within that tribe. This meant that even where intra-horde or intra-tribal traditions contained elements of a protodemocratic nature, the ultimate political authority was anything but democratic.1 The primarily sedentary peoples of the region — the Uzbeks and Tajiks — who since the Middle Ages had lived under rigidly despotic, centralized regimes, were familiar only with the rudimentary forms of democracy which existed, for instance, in the mahalla.2