Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Kyrgyzstan Erupts In a Ball of Fire And Chaos

Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Central Asia by Dan on April 8, 2010

Photos courtesy of ForeignPolicy.com

Another one of the “Stans” is in extremely hot water.  And no, it isn’t a major Taliban counterattack in Afghanistan or another deadly suicide-bombing in Pakistan.  Nor is it another government-sponsored suppression of protests in Uzbekistan.  No, this national development is occurring in Kyrgyzstan, a semi-isolated Central Asian nation of a meager 5 million citizens.

So what’s the big news?  Well, take a look at any twitter feed (especially this one) or blog out there and you will come to the conclusion; ordinary Kyrgyz residents have taken to the streets and have beaten back Kyrgyzstan’s formidable security and intelligence services in the capital city.  I guess people are sick and tired of living in a desolate a corrupt environment with no economic opportunity; an astounding 33 percent of the Kyrgyz population is under the poverty line.

I personally have no in-depth knowledge or understanding of Kyrgyzstan…or Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan for that matter.  Central Asia is largely a blur to me, but thanks to the good folks over at registan.net, this ignorance is starting to go down considerably (over time, I’ve come to appreciate the unique political culture of these ex-Soviet republics).  But I do know a few things.

For one, the pictures of the riots are much more violent than I ever imagined.  When I heard of this supposed coup-attempt, I quickly jumped to the conclusion that it was yet another branch of the existing government trying to pressure a current president to resign.  But this could not be further from the truth; people are dying on the streets, the security forces are firing their guns towards large crowds without a slice of concern over casualties, and people are picking up arms themselves and firing in return.  74 people have been killed so far, and that figure is sure to rise as the night progresses.

But with the violence escalating, and with rumors of the government collapsing under the weight of the protesters, you have to wonder what’s next for Kyrgyzstan.

I’m always a little skeptical of street protests, regardless of where they occur. On the one hand, the people of Kyrgyzstan are exercising what should be their democratic rights in denouncing and protesting the government’s corruption and ineptitude. On the other hand, dozens of people are being killed. There are so many things going on up-to-the-minute that it’s downright impossible to say that the opposition has won.

The ironic thing is that street protests haven’t really been all that useful for the Kyrgyz’s before. The administration being driven out today is the same administration that was brought to power by protests in 2005.

Check out the #freekg twitter feed and registan.net for up-to-the-second news, because the situation is getting interesting.  The United States may even be shaking in its boots.  After all, a large sum of NATO’s supplies trickles into Afghanistan from Kyrgyzstan.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of Nathan Hamm at Registan.net**


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10 Responses

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  1. AS said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    also an interesting interview on the Roberts Reports with exiled Kyrgyz politician Edil Baisalov

    http://roberts-report.blogspot.com/2010/04/what-is-happening-in-talas-kyrgyzstan.html

  2. Bigfoot said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    It is one of those classical revolutions that devours its own children. I anticipate more people from Kyrgyzstan will leave for Russia or Kazakhstan looking for safer life. Most people do not like revolutions, whether they are “red”, “tulip”, “orange”, or “rose”.

  3. reader said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I knew a woman whose relatives participated in the last Kyrgyz rebellion. For her it was basicalyl giving those Northern Kyrgyz what for and taking the government buildings. Didn’t have the heart to explain that the buildings have symbolic value, but that’s not where government happens.

    These color revolutions do reflect frustration with economics and regimes, and plain-old familial jealous. But importantly, there isn’t an broad-based intellectual element to these movements. These revolutions are just about getting at “bad apples”, not at systemic changes that demand something from everybody. Nobody questions society as a whole, so you just replace one crook with another. Beyond a small engaged few, Westerners never seem to get this. When the color revolutionists yell for freedom, they are just parroting words (if the truth be known, the same could be said of many Westerners see Tea Party). There is a very small group, but growing, of young people who are genuinely committed to change. But based on my impressions they end up completely disillusioned and emigrate, or are hopelessly unrealistic, or they buy into the system and offer platitudes, which you know they can’t believe.

    • Oldschool boy said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:24 pm

      Do not be naive. All revolutions are like that. I am not talking about Ukraine and Georgia, because they weren’t really revolutions. But at the end the result is similar – frustration and reaction.

      Only few people really believe in change and they are the most disappointed ones, most participants are thugs who like violence. There are lots of criminals who escape from prisons and do all the looting and robbery. Majority of population are just victims, hostages of those revolutionists.
      So, there will be killing, raping, burning, looting, lost homes, destroyed businesses, lost jobs, and etc. Instead of old thugs in power there will come new ones, it’s a vicious circle.
      It is sad.

      • reader said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm

        “Do not be naive. All revolutions are like that.”

        I’d disagree on the revolutions, but if you look at what I wrote, you’d see I’m basically in agreement on this. Insofar as authoritarian regimes go, the problem is a natural human tendency towards authoritarianism that is exacerbated because of a lack of cultural or structural checks against abuses of power.

      • Fnord said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

        “Only few people really believe in change and they are the most disappointed ones, most participants are thugs who like violence. ”

        With all due respect, thats bull*. If you look at the Romanian, Serbian, and for that sake the Icelandic revolution, you will se that that the level of violence seems to be in a direct scale to the level of violence that the government is willing to resort to. The schwerpunkt of any revolution are the armed forces, if they dont agree to kill their mothers and/or friends, then the revolution will usualy win.

  4. Jay said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Here’s the latest I’ve heard. New government is now being put into place at this moment. Bakiev left a few hours ago in his own personal plane. Rosa Otunbaeva is heading up a four person commission to lead the country until a president can be either elected or appointed. There are calls for Tekebaev to be the new president.

  5. Metin said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    just wonder why Americans have their military base in a volatile country like Kyrgyzstan. The regimes be it more democratic (Akaev, who btw puts blame for revolution in his country on americans), or less (Bakiev) were changing their choices based on who pays more. The latter ended up with bases of both russians and americans, kind of prostitute sleeping with two clients at once. What will be like if regime changes – probably nothing will change dramatically.
    seems like americans do not care that much about reliability of partners. Otherwise they wouldn’t have left more stable/reliable Uzbekistan.

    • Grant said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      God forbid that a state pressured by two very powerful states try to get a good deal from them. And I note that you seem to push the concept of Uzbekistan as a stable partner regardless of the topic.

  6. […] that brief post I put up a week ago about the uprising in […]


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