Last month witnessed more bloodletting in Kyrgyzstan, poorest of the Central Asian republics. Sandwiched between Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, its borders were arbitrarily drawn up by Joseph Stalin.
Last month witnessed more bloodletting in Kyrgyzstan, poorest of the Central Asian republics. Sandwiched between Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, its borders were arbitrarily drawn up by Joseph Stalin. A substantial number of Uzbeks were left in Kyrgyzstan’s south and live in the second largest city, Osh.
Opportunistic politicians exploited these ethnic differences creating an explosive situation leading to fighting in which some 2,000 people were killed. The government in Bishkek barely managed to restore control after Russia refused to help quell the rioting. The one-week long ethnic fighting also created an exodus of refugees — Uzbeks fleeing across the border into Uzbekistan.
There is little doubt that ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev instigated his supporters to make trouble for the new government led by Interim President Roza Otunbayeva who had taken over only in April. Relations between Uzbeks, a sedentary community, and the largely nomadic Kyrgyz were always tense and periodically erupted into clashes over land disputes but this time corrupt, self-serving and partisan politics played a larger role.
In the absence of an Islamic movement to create the environment in which people will rise above ethnic loyalties, Kyrgyzstan is likely to witness more problems in the future. There is a strong Islamic movement in Uzbekistan but it needs to unite people under the banner of Islam, not ethnicities. This will prevent opportunist politicians from exploiting such differences for narrow personal interests in the future.