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Kathleen Collins

Associate Professor of Political Science
Faculty Affiliate in Islamic Studies
University of Minnesota


Author of


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A sweeping history of Islamism in Central Asia from the Russian Revolution to the present through Soviet-era archival documents, oral histories, and a trove of interviews and focus groups


A deep exploration of the Soviet-era roots of clan networks and their political and economic role in undermining reform during the post-Soviet transition in Central Asia




A selction of journal articles and book chapters:

“Building a Social Base through Islamic Ideas and Spiritual Authority: The Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, 1999-2015,” special issue, Percorsi constituzionali, (Italy), 1-3.2020: 95-126.

“Corruption, Clientelism, and Clans: The Political Economy of Informal Politics in Central Asia,” in Reuel Hanks and Dilshod Achilov, eds., Routledge Handbook of Central Asian Politics, 1st ed., (London: Routledge, in press).

“Corruption and Popular Support for Democracy and Government in Transitional Contexts: The Case of Kyrgyzstan,” with Robert Gambrel, Europe-Asia Studies (October 2017).

Kathleen Collins, “Faith and Reason: Explaining Christians’ Political Behavior in Central Asia,” Review of Faith & International Affairs, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2017, special issue.

"The Limits of Cooperation: Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the New Silk Road,” Asia Policy (January 2014).

“Islamic Religiosity and Regime Preferences: Explaining Support for Democracy and Political Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus,” with Erica Owen, Political Research Quarterly  65, 3 (September 2012), 499-515, blind refereed.

“After the Kyrgyz Spring: Challenges to Democratic Deepening,” Brown Journal of World Affairs (Winter 2012), 21-44 (lead article).

"Kyrgyzstan’s Latest Revolution,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 22, no. 3 (July 2011).

“Economic and Security Regionalism among Patrimonial Authoritarian Regimes: The Case of Central Asia,” Europe-Asia Studies (March 2009, volume 61, issue 2): 251-283.

“Ideas, Networks, and Islamist Movements: Evidence from Central Asia and the Caucasus,” World Politics Vol. 60, No.1 (October 2007): 64-96.

“The Logic of Clan Politics: Evidence from the Central Asian Trajectories,” World Politics Vol. 56, no. 2 (January 2004): 224-261.

“The Political Role of Clans in Central Asia,” Comparative Politics (January 2003): 171-190.

“Clans, Pacts, and Politics in Central Asia,” Journal of Democracy vol. 13, no. 3 (July 2002), 137-52.

“Tajikistan: Bad Peace Agreements and Prolonged Civil Wars,” book ch., in Chandra Sriram, ed., The Prevention of Violent Conflict, (Boulder: Lynne Reinner, 2003): 267-306.

“Central Asia: Defying Great Game Expectations,” with William Wohlforth, book chapter, Strategic Asia (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003): 291-317.

“Central Asia: Defying Great Game Expectations,” with William Wohlforth, in K Santhanam and Ramakant Dwivendi, eds., India and Central Asia: Advancing the Common Interest, Asia Security Series, Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (New Delhi, India: Anamaya Publishers, 2004), reprint.

“The Transformation of Central Asia’s Post-Soviet Regimes: The Rise of Clan Politics,” book chapter, in Edmund Herzig and Annette Bohr, eds., The Cambridge History of Inner Asia: The Modern Age (London: Cambridge University Press).

“Political and Institutional Constraints and Opportunities for Regional Cooperation,” chapter 7, in Johannes Linn, et al., eds., Bringing Down the Barriers: Regional Cooperation for Human Development and Human Security, Central Asia Human Development Report 2005 (UNDP, Bratislava, Slovakia and New York, 2005): 165-184.

“Islamic Revivalism and Political Attitudes in Uzbekistan,” Working Paper, National Council for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Research, Washington, DC (December 2007).


Remarkable in scope and depth, drawing on everything from interviews in the Ferghana Valley to jihadi propaganda in multiple languages, Collins' book is a contender for the definitive work on the rise of militant Islamism in Central Asia.

A groundbreaking study of Islamism's evolution in Central Asia, Kathleen Collins' remarkable feat of scholarship should be required reading for all serious analysts and observers of this important region. Collins' book offers irrefutable evidence that religious freedom is the best counterterrorism policy.

Collins achieves something extraordinary in this masterful and careful analysis of Islamism in Central Asia....Without demonizing Islam or sensationalizing Islamism, Collins enriches our understanding of both Soviet and post-Soviet religious repression and its unintended consequences: making Islam more resilient and fostering a religious basis for political opposition.


Senior Research Fellow, Oxford University, and author of 
The Caravan: Abdallah Azzam and the Rise of Global Jihad and Jihad in Saudi Arabia

US government counterterrorism
official (ret.)


Politicizing Islam ... is based on a massive amount of sustained original research. Collins'  use of interviews and focus groups allows her to bring society back in into the analysis.  

Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor of Asian Studies and History, Carleton College, author of
Making Uzbekistan and Islam After Communism

Associate Professor of the Practice of Human Rights, University of Southern California

In The Press

 Clan Politics and Regime Transition in Central Asia is a stunning piece of scholarship on regime transformation. It is, by far, the best work to date on the dynamics of Central Asia's weak states. Collins' empirical research is impeccable and based on an array of sources gathered during three years of fieldwork. One can only hope that her attention to empirical detail will become the new standard among scholars of comparative politics.

This is political science at its best! Combining careful fieldwork in Central Asia with a firm grasp on the theoretical literature, Kathleen Collins has produced an extraordinary and insightful study of current Central Asian politics. A unique scholar with deep local knowledge, she introduces and elevates the study of clans, so central to politics in the region, to a key explanatory variable.

Kathleen Collins has produced a deeply researched, well argued, and gracefully written book about a very important topic on which there is relatively little scholarly literature. Collins compares the late-communist and post-communist trajectories of political change in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan....Through a careful tracing of the processes by which both the initial divergence and the subsequent convergence took place, Collins demonstrates that the driving force behind both outcomes was clan politics.


Professor, Director of the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, University of Toronto

Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago and Professor of History, University of Michigan

Professor of Political Science, University of California Berkeley

BIO and CV

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Collins received her B.A., summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa, with a dual major in Russian Language and Literature and Government and International Studies from the University of Notre Dame. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University, with a focus on post-Soviet Russia and Muslim Eurasia. Collins was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University, at the Davis Center for Russian Research.  



Kathleen Collins is Associate Professor of Political Science and an Affiliate Faculty of Islamic Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Collins is recipient of the national Carnegie Scholar Award for innovative research in the area of international security, and of the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship Award. She won the national S. M. Lipset Award for the best dissertation in Comparative Politics or Sociology. She has published two books, scholarly articles, chapters  in edited books, and policy reports. Collins teaches doctoral and undergraduate courses on Central Asian politics, Russian/Soviet history and politics, Afghanistan's wars, political Islam, Islam and democracy, and religion and politics.

Additionally, she has worked on projects with or consulted for the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Program, the International Crisis Group, the National Bureau of Asian Research, and Freedom House.


Collins has presented her work to multiple US government agencies, including the Helsinki Commission, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense, as well as to academic audiences across the U.S. and internationally.


Click here for  Collins' department site, CV, and research interests.



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The Break-It-Down Show

Media and Outreach on Ukraine

Recent Media Interviews

Watch a discussion of her new book, Politicizing Islam in Central Asia

Other lengthy radio/livestream interviews include multiple appearances on the Minnesota

Al Travis Show:

Al in the Morning, and

Al in the Afternoon

Click to read Collins' August 2021 op-ed on the Afghanistan pullout,  and Collins' discussion of Afghanistan one year later, August 2022 in the Tokyo News.

Click to read Collins' speech at the "Stand with Ukraine" Rally at the Minnesota State Capitol

Click to read Collins' op-eds on Ukraine: Putin's Invasion of Ukraine Has Been a Long Time Coming, March 5, 2022 


Support Ukraine’s Victory out of Moral Necessity and for National Security, March 21, 2023.


The Dangers of Ceding Territory For Peace, July 7, 2023,


Biden's Ukraine Policy Needs to be Fixed Not Ended, July 9, 2023

Collins will host a panel discussion on Ukraine with colleagues from Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltics, sponsored by the Department of Political Science, in September 2023. Check back for zoom information. 

Please consider support and donations to our Ukrainian fellow citizens and allies in Ukraine.

 For local events, see: 

The Ukrainian American Community Center

Click to watch two Minneapolis news interviews on KSTP TV: Putin's endgame and the one-year anniversary of the Afghanistan pullout


Collins has also been interviewed by NPR, Voice of America, Radio Free Liberty/Radio Free Europe, WABC (NY), WNDU (IN), TV 22 (IN), TV 16 (IN), Minnesota Public Radio, Kaare 11 News (MN), CBC News Toronto, Al Jazeera (English, Washington, D.C.), Fox 9 (MN)

Collins has been an expert interviewee for articles in The New York Times (Rukmini Callimachi on Tajiks in ISIS), US News & World Report, Business Week, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, Bilim Yol (Azerbaijan, in Russian), Caucasian Knot (in Russian), (Russia), Pravda (Slovakia), Central Asia Newswire, The Epoch Times (NY), Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Boston Globe, BBC, and The Atlantic Monthly

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Presentations to the U.S. Helsinki Commission


Professor Collins rotates the following different classes:

1)   Religion, Ethnicity, and Conflict, advanced lecture course, 3410 
2)   Theoretical Approaches to Identity Politics in the Middle East and Eurasia, 8000, Ph.D. seminar
3)   Islamist Politics: Political Islam in the Middle East, Eurasia, and Africa, 3410/3475
4)  Islam and Democracy: The Debate about Compatibility, freshman seminar, 1905
5)   Theories of Religion and Politics, 8660, Ph.D. seminar
6)   Soviet and Post-Soviet Russian Politics, 3410
7)   Soviet and Post-Soviet Russian Politics, 3410, 3474 level    
8)   Case Studies and Qualitative Methods in Comparative Politics, 8621, Ph.D. seminar
9)   Communism, Democracy, and Islamism in Central Asia, 1911, freshman seminar
10) Afghanistan’s Endless Wars, advanced undergrad lecture, 3410
11) Dictatorship and Violence in Central Asia, advanced undergrad lecture, 3000 level
12) Russian Foreign Policy (to be scheduled for 2024)
13) Introduction to Comparative Politics 

Professor Collins also supervises numerous undergraduate research projects (register for DURP) and senior honors theses, and offers directed readings to both undergraduate and graduate students. 

Professor Collins advises Ph.D. students working on political Islam, religion and politics, social movements, democratization, civil conflict, and authoritarianism, particularly in Eurasia and the Middle East. 


For any inquiries, please contact Kathleen Collins:

Department of Political Science


Mailing address:

University of Minnesota

1331 Social Sciences Building

267 19th Ave. S.

Minneapolis, MN 55455

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