Soviet Ethnic Policies Split Kyrgyzstan

There are reasonsThe following is a list of suggested resources. December Special IssueThis year marks the 30th anniversary the fall of the Soviet Union. We are exploring the legacy of this evil empire around the world and trying to ensure that it does not continue. Not forgetting the terrible effects of communism is not easy

Before the Soviet Union officially fell, Kyrgyzstan had already begun to separate from the Soviet Union. The Kyrgyz Opposition Movement was established in June 1990. It declared its independence in August 1991. That’s four months prior to the resignation of President Mikhail Gorbachev. However, violent protests were still possible decades after Soviet ethnic policies had ended.

Askar Akayev, a former physicist was Kyrgyzstan’s first president. While he earned a good reputation for trying to establish a true liberal democracy, his stance on economic policy was more conservative.

His rule was extended to 2005 when Akayev’s administration collapsed amid violent revolution. Kurmanbek Bakiyev was his successor. He was overthrown by another revolt in 2010. Tribalism, nepotism, corruption, and the meshing of government with organized crime—the nation produces and is a transit point for heroin in international markets—have been hallmarks of Kyrgyz politics for much of the post-Soviet period.

Independent Kyrgyzstan was praised by outsiders for its human rights record, and Western-style democracy. It had many political parties, and a relatively free press. In Central Asian terms, the predominantly Sunni Muslim country was considered to be an excellent state in freedom of religion. Similar treatment was given to Uzbeks from other ethnicities.

The balance was either fragile or illusionary in one horrible week of June 2010. Small gangs made up of Uzbeks, Kyrgyzstanis, and Uzbeks fought in Osh casino, which is home to the majority of Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbek population. It sparked days of horrendous violence. People were set on fire by the instigators. To punish Uzbeks who had at least some advantage during the initial fighting, groups of Kyrgyz arrived from nearby villages. Somewhere around 500 people were killed and more than 100,000—some estimates say nearly four times as many—were displaced.

The Kyrgyz suppressed and denied any evidence that they were complicit in violence over the past decade. Although Uzbeks were the majority of victims, very few non-Uzbeks have been charged with murders in that period of chaos. According to international observers, the Uzbeks arrested were subject to serious misconduct by police and prosecutions. This included torture. The Kyrgyz security force did not stop violent attacks and the burning of thousands Uzbek dwellings and buildings.

Some of the conflicts between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz erupted when the Soviet Union created internal borders among various ethnicities in the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. This partitioning led to various ethnic minorities being left behind in countries dominated predominantly by large majorities who did not welcome or even fully accept their civic participation.

After Soviet rule for decades and the impositions of artificial national boundaries, tribal and familial identities that were previously shared by groups more divided by nomadism than sedentary farming (Uzbek), became ethnically politicized. In order to conquer the land it annexed, the Soviets created a nationalistic divide among Central Asian tribes that were largely Turkic. In a Soviet-era system of ethno-nations, minorities became unwelcome foreigners.

These ancient patterns were destroyed by Soviet-era command-and control agricultural policies. Many ethnic Kyrgyz began to live in cities and towns among Uzbeks. This created conflict over water and land. The Soviets prevented ethnic tensions that they had created from spiraling into violence by preventing them. However, this constraint ended up being a distant memory in 2010. An earlier violent bout of Kyrgyz vs. Uzbek conflict happened in June 1990, killing an estimated 300–600, as Soviet power was visibly fraying. It was believed that Uzbek collective farmland had been given to Kyrgyz.

Uzbeks continue to be unfairly targeted in Kyrgyzstan today, according to human rights organisations. The government may arrest them for vague offenses like “extremist activity” and “possession or extremist materials”. Sometimes, it could simply be liking any social media posts the government considers dangerous. They are also more likely to suffer torture once they have been imprisoned.

Uzbeks are only 2% of the civil servants in Kyrgyzstan, even though they make up roughly 15% of its population. Kyrgyzstan’s political landscape is currently marred by ethnic injustice, corruption and mistrust caused by violence of 2010 and Soviet policies.