As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the collapse of Soviet rule, it is fair to say that the initial transition phase from communism has ended, encouraging us to rethink the assumption that the political, social, and economic developments in Central Eurasia are still largely in flux. Pre-Soviet and Soviet legacies already limited the variety of possible paths that post-Soviet societies were likely to take after 1991. The policies and institutions that have been adopted after 1991 have further reduced the range of available choices. Early winners of the transition period-frequently, the old Soviet elite that enjoyed a head start in 1991-have largely succeeded (albeit not in every country) in their attempts to secure their interests by putting favorable policies and institutions in place. In turn, this assumption implies that challengers will face a difficult time trying to upset the status quo, which leads us to further conclude that paths once taken are unlikely to be challenged and abandoned fast or frequently. Historical institutionalists refer to path dependence as “the dynamics of

self-reinforcing or positive feedback processes in a political system” (Pierson and Skocpol 2002: 699). Once these paths are unearthed, current developments in Central Eurasia become more comprehensible, making predictions about future developments less uncertain. As Pierson (2004: 11) reasons, “Exploring the sources and consequences of path dependence help us to understand the powerful inertia or ‘stickiness’ that characterizes many aspects of political development … .” Old paths are abandoned and new ones are frequently taken at critical junctures, dramatic events that make following existing paths difficult or impossible. The disintegration of the Soviet Union certainly was such a critical juncture. However, the end of the Soviet Union was not a historical rupture. In other words, post-Soviet societies did not start from scratch. Instead, their transitions from communism were embedded in numerous social, economic, and political legacies. These legacies of the Soviet and pre-Soviet past have continued to shape developments of the post-Soviet present, as many contributors to this volume have demonstrated. While the time of critical junctures in Central Eurasia reached its zenith in

the late 1980s and early 1990s, the dramatic political events in Georgia (2003 and 2008) and Kyrgyzstan (2005) have demonstrated that surprises are still in

the wings. Although we need to be careful not to overemphasize the importance of these events as potential critical junctures, at least Georgia does not look the same today as it did in the 1990s. We need to account for departures from seemingly stable paths to explain continuity and discontinuity in Central Eurasia. Historical institutionalists emphasize the importance of conjunctures-“interaction effects between distinct causal sequences that become joined at particular points in time” (Pierson and Skocpol 2002: 702). The joining of these distinct sequences can reinforce existing interests, identities, and power structures. Yet they can also cause interests and identities to shift radically and severely redistribute power resources, thereby upsetting power structures. Conjunctures thereby become critical junctures. If we want to engage in the daring venture of prediction, we will have to identify conjunctures and assess their importance as potential critical junctures. In this concluding chapter, we summarize and discuss the studies of this

book. Our contributors have identified a great number of continuities but also variations and nonlinearities of political, social, and economic developments and policy outcomes in the region. Using their insights individually and in combination, we reveal possible path dependencies but also critical junctures that account for the nonlinearities. Building on the insights of our contributors, we identify some factors that might help future studies of the region to analyze the sources and consequences of path dependencies and critical junctures. We are thereby specifically interested in identifying those dynamics that might upset current political and economic trajectories, allowing us to answer questions about the future of Central Eurasia’s conflicts and authoritarian regimes, the future directions of economic reforms and social welfare programs, and the protection of civil rights.