As I was in a blockade in a small “Kyrgyz” village next to the Uzbek border surrounded by four large “Uzbek” villages (the Osh airport district) I ws able to experience what it means to be trapped in an “ethnic” conflict. I was evacuated to Bishkek last Sunday by a military plane and I keep asking myself how these atrocities could ever happen in a multi-ethnic and famously tolerant Kyrgyzstan? Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers.

Everyone has been aware of daily tensions between Kygyzstan’s Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. Classical tensions over the land and water date back to Soviet times, supplemented lately by stronger claims from the Uzbek community for greater representation in the legislative and executive power. In May, Uzbek leader Kadyrjan Batyrov made an official request to create an autonomous Uzbek republic within Kyrgyzstan and make Uzbek an official language. But how could killings in recent days come from this? Is it ethnic cleansing, as some mass media covering the events from Moscow, Paris and Washington claim? Or is it rather the uncontrolled consequences of political manipulation (as it was also the case in 1990) ? Does it mean that “ethnic” tensions were real and latent and came to the surface due to the skillful orchestration of politicians?

A social survey was conducted in the south just few days before the unrest in order to examine the potential of ethnic cleavages. It has not been published yet, due to the unrest. According to respondents, ethnic cleavages were a real threat. Curiously enough, the expert community did not consider this finding as a potentially serious development. Is it because local experts do not undertake “field trips” anymore and write from their Bishkek offices? Or is it because everyone (including the population, government officials and scholars) “got used” to daily tensions as something normal in the south? Could it be that this “normalization” mislead the former governments of Akaev and Bakiev when developing and implementing their respective nationalities policies?

Already on April 7, 2010, after the second change of government, we have witnessed the desacralization of power. Taking power in Kyrgyzstan became easy. The fragility of the very state and its institutions became apparent. A colleague, Elmira Nogoibaeva, said that we were actually witnessing the crisis of Kyrgyzstan as a nation.

What we are witnessing now in southern Kyrgyzstan, two months later, may confirm this hypothesis.

Asel Doolotkeldieva is a PhD Candidate at SciencesPo in Paris, France.

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