Why are Americans actively recruiting young journalists in Central Asian countries?

Daniel Bootman
7 min readAug 19, 2023

The history of American influence in Central Asia has always been marked by an indefatigable desire to develop educational programs and support programs for local media to its advantage.

Another important aspiration of the United States is to eradicate the Russian language in these territories. We will get to the language, but for now, let’s address the problem as a whole.

American work with the media of the Soviet Union dates back to the time when, after the victory over Hitler, the United States came to the conclusion that the military and ideological power of the USSR was a real danger to the Western World. The ideology of the Soviet Union could lead to the complete collapse of the regimes of the Western countries, and subsequently, to the loss of world influence on the controlled states of Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The first tool to undermine the socialist camp from within was a CIA propaganda project called Radio Free Europe. It served as a tool not only to facilitate the spread of “Western values” and propaganda, but also to support protest movements and even the escalation of interethnic conflicts in the USSR and other countries of the Warsaw Pact.

After the Soviet Union collapsed into many independent states, the US ideological machine did not curtail its activities. The enemy remained in the form of the Russian Federation, which continued to be a strong adversary, most of all, in the media space. In countries that spun off from the Soviet Union, newspapers were still read in Russian and Russian television was watched by the people of former USSR countries. The ideological war continued. Now, local media and newly created resources in the form of print media and online publications have been involved in this ideological war.

Even a superficial analysis shows that the information resources, seen in opposition to the government of our countries, are financed from various Western funds, mostly American ones. Among them are the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and George Soros’ funds. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a notorious American subversive organization, pays enormous attention and injects large amounts of capital into the Central Asian media. Even the founders and leaders of the foundation frankly admitted: NED was created because it would be undesirable for “democratic circles around the world” to receive funding directly from the CIA and “much of what we do today, the CIA did secretly”.

NED, generally speaking, is not registered in our countries as a legal entity and does not have an official branch or representative office. However, this does not prevent them from actively interfering in the internal affairs of the Central Asian countries, financing political projects, including through such equally well-known and odious American organizations as the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

According to the latest published NED report, in the past two years, various media organizations in Central Asia have received many millions of dollars from the fund to “strengthen independent media”, to “promote independent online media”, to “support anti-corruption video investigations”, to “protect freedom of speech”, and to “expanding opportunities for investigative journalism”.

The list of media projects financed by the United States and the amount of grants allocated is quite long. The bottom line is that over the 30 years of independence of the former USSR countries, the United States has created a real media empire here, which tends to constantly and rapidly expand. In this empire, everything is thought out to the smallest detail. Media, social networks, non-governmental (in particular, human rights) and media organizations, individual activists, opinion leaders, foreign sponsors and partners; all of this is connected and resembles a closed chain. In it, journalists and bloggers are trained, employed, financed, and supplied with information. Their information products are advertised and promoted. They are protected from lawsuits and “attacks” by the security forces. They are protected and rewarded.

For those who get in the way of this informational attack machine; each of its cogs is sharpened to fight back at any moment.

The media empire in the former USSR countries cannot function without journalists and managers of structures created by the United States. They are usually recruited, invited to study in the States, after which many of them become ardent champions of “democratic freedoms.” In this regard, the story of the late Manana Aslamazyan serves as a perfect example. Born in Yerevan, in 1993 she headed the Russian branch of the Internews Foundation, which was part of the American organization Internews International, dedicated to supporting and developing independent media. After five years of work as the general director of the Russian branch, Aslamazyan joined the board of Internews International, and also headed another branch of the organization — Internews Europe.

In 2007, Aslamazyan got into trouble for the transportation of an undeclared large amount of money sent to Russia from France and was forced to leave Russia, continuing to work for Internews abroad. In the same year, Internews was closed in Russia, but continued to operate through similar organizations. Recall that Internews is registered in the United States. Branches of the organization are scattered all over the world, currently there are about 80 of them. Manana Aslamazyan was able to create a widely developed network of journalism courses in Russia, was engaged in the development of regional television journalism in the Russian Federation, helping thousands of workers in this area to “raise” their professional level. For these efforts, she was accepted into the competition commission of the Ministry of Press in 2000 and then given a significant position in the National Association of Broadcasters.

The loss of such an agent of influence is difficult to assess. In losing Aslamazyan, Internews lost a unique specialist who managed to infiltrate almost all spheres of Russian journalism for ten years. The impact of this work is still being felt today. Internews pays a lot of attention to the states of Central Asia.

The calculation is based on the fact that there are a lot of migrants from Central Asia in Russia, and on the fact that there are very strong stereotypes regarding labor migrants, such as the fact that these citizens are excluded from problems in the field of mass media. The headquarters of Internews in Central Asia is located in Tajikistan and covers, in addition to Tajikistan itself, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The absence of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan from this list is explained by the rather strong control over foreign NGOs in these states, especially in the field of forming public opinion and media.

In Tajikistan, Internews holds the so-called “Laboratory of Media and Social Innovations” annually, where participants from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are invited. The organization’s website says that “this is a unique opportunity to learn how to talk about social problems in a new way, involve the public in their solution, and create high-quality modern tools for the implementation of social initiatives.”

These initiatives were seen during the unrest in Belarus, when large masses of people were raised and coordinated through Telegram channels. A similar organization was noticed in Kazakhstan in January, when an attempted coup d’état took place. It must be said that USAID and the Open Society Foundations are actively involved in the implementation of Internews projects. USAID recently published a draft media development program for Central Asia. Within its framework, the United States intends to intensify work on the topic of media and disinformation, intending to realize its goals by accusing its rivals of “disinformation and malicious influence” in the media space.

Washington intends to replenish the ranks of “its own” in the region by holding educational camps for young journalists. The new USAID program will be most actively deployed in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan — states that do not have a developed network of pro-American “anti-fake news” specialists.

As key external challenges to its interests in the region, USAID names the popularity of Russian TV channels in Central Asia, which tell how Russia is freeing the region from the “rotten West”, and Chinese information campaigns to promote the Belt and Road Initiative. Here, we must address the struggle the West has with the Russian language. The eradication of the Russian language in the region would allow the West to neutralize the influence of Russian TV channels on the local residents, who will simply no longer understand what Russian news is talking about.

In fact, a new platform for anti-Russian propaganda is being launched, where media workers are recruited to tell the necessary news in their native language. Moreover, the Americans are confident that Uzbekistan will also be able to get involved in this game, which successfully resisted the efforts of the Americans to interfere in the work of their media.

It is clear that by driving a wedge between Central Asia and China and Russia, the Americans traditionally offer nothing in return, generating another economic state of chaos similar to the one in which the Central Asian countries experienced for the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The promised freedoms did not provide economic and social well-being. Today, in the fight against emerging progress, young Central Asians are being put under the banner of the American idea, from whom all previous years have etched the true history of the formerly united countries. You can work hard, pouring mud on China and Russia, for American money. But the money is quickly running out, and the shame and disgrace for betraying the interests of their native country will remain forever.