Martha Brill Olcott

Former Senior Associate
Russia and Eurasia Program and
al-Farabi Carnegie Program on Central Asia
Olcott is professor emerita at Colgate University, having taught political science there from 1974 to 2002. Prior to her work at the endowment, Olcott served as a special consultant to former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger.


PhD, MA, University of Chicago
BA, SUNY Buffalo 


English; French; Russian; Turkish


Martha Brill Olcott is no longer with the Carnegie Endowment.

Martha Brill Olcott was a senior associate with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, DC.

Olcott specializes in the problems of transitions in Central Asia and the Caucasus as well as the security challenges in the Caspian region more generally. She has followed interethnic relations in Russia and the states of the former Soviet Union for more than twenty-five years and has traveled extensively in these countries and in South Asia. Her book, Central Asia’s Second Chance, examines the economic and political development of this ethnically diverse and strategically vital region in the context of the changing security threats post-9/11.

In addition to her work in Washington, Olcott co-directs the Carnegie Moscow Center Project on Religion, Society, and Security in the former Soviet Union and the al-Farabi Carnegie Program on Central Asia in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She is professor emerita at Colgate University, having taught political science there from 1974 to 2002. 

Olcott served for five years as a director of the Central Asian American Enterprise Fund. Prior to her work at the Carnegie Endowment, she served as a special consultant to former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger.

Soon after 9/11, she was selected by Washingtonian magazine for its list of “71 People the President Should Listen To” about the war on terrorism. 

Olcott is the author of Tajikistan’s Difficult Development Path (Carnegie Endowment, 2012); In the Whirlwind of Jihad (Carnegie Endowment, 2012); Central Asia’s Second Chance (Carnegie Endowment, 2005); Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise (Carnegie Endowment, 2002); Preventing New Afghanistans: A Regional Strategy for Reconstruction (Carnegie Endowment Policy Brief 11, 2001) Getting It Wrong: Regional Cooperation and the Commonwealth of Independent States, with Anders Åslund and Sherman Garnett (Carnegie Endowment, 1999); and Russia After Communism edited with Anders Åslund (Carnegie Endowment, 1999).

  • Op-Ed New York Times March 18, 2014
    Ukraine’s Effect on a Deal for Syria: Iran Could Become More of a Player

    Putin’s annexation of Crimea may be a victory at home, but it will harm Russia’s interests in the Middle East. If Iran could get sanctions removed, it might benefit from selling gas and oil to Europe.

  • Op-Ed La Vanguardia March 5, 2014 Spanish Русский
    After Crimea: Will Kazakhstan be Next in Putin’s Reintegration Project?

    The international focus must be on checking Putin’s provocation in Ukraine and preventing him from taking another step—in Kazakhstan or anywhere else—in his reintegration project.

  • Op-Ed National Interest February 21, 2014
    Ukraine: The Bloody Death of the Post-Soviet State

    Whatever the ultimate outcome in Ukraine, Russia’s influence in its neighborhood will be substantially reduced.

  • James a. Baker III Institute for Public Policy December 10, 2013
    Turkmenistan: Real Energy Giant or Eternal Potential?

    Turkmenistan has the gas reserves necessary to realize its plan to increase production. However, several geographic and political issues may make it difficult to export Turkmen gas.

  • Article September 18, 2013 Русский 中文
    China’s Unmatched Influence in Central Asia

    Beijing is emerging as the big winner in Central Asia, displacing Washington and Moscow while ensuring that engagement with countries in the region takes place on its terms.

  • Article August 15, 2013
    Iran’s Unavoidable Influence Over Afghanistan’s Future

    As the U.S. troop withdrawal approaches, Washington should consider how improving U.S.-Iranian relations can further its long-term goals in Afghanistan and the region.

  • Op-Ed Pro et Contra June 4, 2013 Русский
    Central Asia Today: An Afterthought

    Central Asia is in a period of transition. Many tenets of Soviet infrastructure and culture have expired and rather than renew these precedents, the countries are emphasizing individual development.

  • Remarks given at conference on “Famine in Kazakhstan June 14, 2012 Русский
    Challenges in Studying Collectivization and the Famine

    The study of the Soviet drive toward collectivization in Kazakhstan and the resulting famine comes with a particular set of challenges.

  • Kazakhstan Parliament
    Article January 27, 2012
    Kazakhstan’s Political (r)evolution

    Recent violence in Zhanaozen in December has forced Kazakhstan's authorities to rethink political, economic, and social policies. Only time will tell if the changes will have their desired effect, but it is the country's population that will make the ultimate judgment.

  • Central Asia and the 'Stans
    Op-Ed Real Instituto Elcano December 28, 2011
    The "Stans" at 20

    Twenty years after the Soviet collapse, leaders of the five Central Asian republics have built functioning states but they have yet to fully implement democratic reforms, decentralize and share power, and develop strong intraregional relations.

  • Washington October 15, 2012
    Tajikistan's Difficult Development Path

    The Tajik leadership faces an urgent choice between fully embracing reform and continuing on its current failed track. Tajikistan’s decision will have very real implications for this troubled region.

  • In the Whirlwind of Jihad cover
    Washington July 17, 2012
    In the Whirlwind of Jihad

    In Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country, Islam has been an ever-present factor in the lives of its people and a contentious force for political officials trying to build a secular government.

  • Revised Edition June 1, 2010
    Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise? (Revised Edition)

    Olcott draws on her vast knowledge of Kazakhstan to provide an important contribution to understanding the current status of this country, as well as the perils of state building and the dangers these pose for regional and global security.

  • Washington August 10, 2005
    Central Asia’s Second Chance

    Early hopes for a democratic transition in Central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union were dashed, but new hope was raised as the global community re-engaged with Central Asia in the wake of 9/11. Martha Brill Olcott explains how the region squandered its "second chance," and what might happen next.

  • Washington February 15, 2002 Washington, D.C.
    Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise

    At the outset of independence 10 years ago, it appeared that democracy was beginning to take hold in Kazakhstan. A decade later, economic reform is mired in widespread corruption and a regime that flirted with democracy is now laying the foundation for family-based, authoritarian rule.

  • Washington January 1, 2000 Washington, D.C.
    Rapprochement or Rivalry? Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia

    U.S., Russian, and Chinese scholars analyze the most important issues posed by the relationship between China and Russia, and weigh the prospects for real cooperation between Russia, a severely weakened power, and China, a power on the rise.

  • Washington January 1, 1999
    Getting It Wrong: Regional Cooperation and the Commonwealth of Independent States

    Written by three of the West's leading experts on the former Soviet Union, this book offers a comprehensive assessment of how and why the Commonwealth of Independent States has failed.

  • Washington January 1, 1999
    Russia After Communism

    This book features chapters written by pairs of leading Russian and American scholars, and provides an overall assessment of what has been accomplished and what has failed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  • NPR April 9, 2010
    Kyrgyzstan: A Primer

    Public hostility toward the Kyrgyz government escalated over the past weeks, leading to the recent street protests and demonstrations that seem to have topped the government of President Bakiyev.

  • Martha Brill Olcott
    NPR's Morning Edition February 9, 2009
    U.S. Examining Options to Central Asian Air Bases

    In the wake of Kyrgyzstan’s decision to close its American airbase the U.S. must find a Central Asian location for its logistical operations outside of Afghanistan to ensure they remain uninterrupted in case the war deteriorates further.

  • Marketplace May 6, 2008
    Medvedev takes over, but Putin's close

    Carnegie's Martha Brill Olcott spoke with host Bob Moon about Vladimir Putin's legacy, the Russian economy, and the course Putin's successor Dmitry Medvedev might take.

  • The Newshour with Jim Lehrer July 3, 2007
    Presidents Bush, Putin Agree on Iran, Not on Missile Shield

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