The collapse of the USSR in 1991 marked the end of but one era in the long, complex history of Central Asia. For the purposes of this chapter, the states of Central Asia include Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. This era dates back to the nineteenth century, when Russia undertook systematic efforts to bring this region under its sway. In the Soviet period, efforts to ensure Moscow's control intensified through the creation of Soviet-style administrations and the implementation of central planning. These political and economic legacies of the Soviet era create serious hardships for the current leaders of the newly independent Central Asian states. At the same time, recent events indicate, that more than one hundred years of Russian and Soviet rule could not erase the regional, ethnic, tribal, and religious forces that have traditionally been the wellspring of Central Asia's political life. In fact, Central Asia's first year of independence illustrates the potency of these so-called traditional forces at a time when Central Asian leaders are trying to eliminate the vestiges of the Soviet legacy and to create new states. Indeed, it is the combination of the Soviet legacies and these traditional forces that seem to work against the creation of both political stability and the emergence of pluralism in Central Asia. Ultimately, the Central Asian experience since the demise of the USSR raises serious questions about the interrelationship of the problems of political development and the emergence of democratic pluralism.