Despite the end of communism, the Central Asian republics are still controlled by family-based oligarchtes that continue to rule with an iron-fist. Dissent is ruthlessly suppressed.
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...
While political elites in Central Asia, Russia and the West try to outwit each other and benefit from the revolt in Kyrgyzstan, the people of the former Soviet Union are studying the Kyrgyz revolt from a different perspective: to emulate it...
Kyrgyzstan was an ally of the US during the 15-year rule of president Askar Aliyev, who was toppled in an unexpected uprising last year. By contrast the new president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was elected on July 10 to replace his predecessor (who had fled the country), has turned to Russia and China for support.
Kyrgyzstan has become subject to both ethnic unrest and armed conflict between the ruling elites and Islamic groups. It is not, therefore, surprising that the corrupt and autocratic rulers of the Central Asian Muslim country have allowed both Russia and the US to maintain troops there as part of the international ‘war against terrorism'.
The Muslims who had the courage to storm government offices and force president Askar Aliyev to flee Kyrgyzstan in March deserve better leaders than those replacing him after the election held on July 10. Both the new president, Kurmanbek Bakayev, and the prime minister, Felix Kulov, a former KGB officer, served as times in the Akayev government–sharing Akayev's subservience to Russia and animosity to Islam and Islamic activists, and displaying their readiness to live with corruption and practise it.
The controlled elections in Kyrgyzstan on March 13, in which parties supporting president Askar Akayev routed opposition groups, turned out to be pivotal. Fearing that Akayev would extend his third term of office (due to expire late in the year) or transfer power to his two children (a son and daughter who were members of parliament), people organised street unrest that ended in his overthrow within a fortnight.
The former Soviet republics of Central Asia are not teeming with US servicemen, but more than 1,000 troops are based in Uzbekistan, and US forces have been allowed to use air-bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
When, like Kyrgyzstan, you are a small land-locked country in a volatile region, with a poorly-equipped army, you do not engage in battle highly-motivated groups that even mighty Russia is not confident of defeating and that are not targeting you.
Following the April 23 treaty between Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in Moscow, perhaps Harvard professor Samuel Huntington should go back to the drawing board and revise his ‘clash of civilizations’ theory.