Bishkek Explodes, Friends Watch and Wait

Bishkek Explodes, Friends Watch and Wait

Brian Brivati: Violence in Kyrgyzstan

All day emails and texts have been coming in from friends and former fellows of the trust I run who have been witnessing the events in Kyrgyzstan. They come from across the political divide, from government and from the ngo/oppositional sector. They all agree on one thing: the island of democracy in central Asia is sinking fast. The militia are on the streets, locals are organising to fight looters, the capital is being ruined. Economic hardship, the massive Chinese economic presence, the recent hardening of relations between the government and the opposition have all contributed to the most extraordinary scenes of violence.

But this is central Asia, not Eastern Europe. These scenes, in this region, are new for the post-Soviet era and should bring to the surface a number of central and deeply troubling truths for the prospects for democratic consolidation in the region. First, that these are not monolithic and stable societies in closed and fixed systems. Rather they are dynamic and changing social structures facing unaltered political apparatus. Where reform has begun, for example in Turkmenistan, it is in part in recognition of this need to change. Second, the great game is being played out in this region and the inherit social instability that cuts across this geopolitics can have terrible consequences for the people. This was once the great hope for central Asia. That hope now lies in ruins and there is no energy or wealth to help in the reconstruction.

As I am writing this a message comes in that the looting is getting worse, that the border with Kazakhstan has been closed, and that the fear now, as they try to get some sleep, is civil war. If that happens it will be a generation before this little country recovers.

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