International,  Nationalism,  Russia

Wilted Tulips


With the exception of Khrushchev handing the Crimean peninsular to Ukraine, all modern ethnic conflicts in the former Soviet Union can be assumed to have been caused to the madness of the web-toed demon, Stalin.

It all looked so good when the tulips were repotted in the Tian Shan, and the not-so-benign autocrat Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled to the arms of another head of state who, in a previous life, would have been his factory supervisor; and Kyrgyzstan entered an interim Government under Roza Otunbayeva. Alas, this being part of the former Soviet Union which is not on the Baltic, the weather report has been received and it is “Showers of Bastards Everywhere”.

Unlike Harriet Harman, maybe, Otunbayeva explicitly has eschewed Executive power for herself, but was stepping into the breach to save her country from a major break-down of civil order. Judging by the gender-dynamics in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, and even Russia, it was unlikely that the Kyrgyz (more on this ethnically precise term shortly) would have tolerated a female leader before a female Regent under a powerful male leader.

Following George Galloway’s saddest day, the Republic of Kyrgyzstan formed but soon was renamed as the Kyrgyz Republic, with the implicit suggestion that this was principally a state for ethnic Kyrgyz (bolstered by the restriction of dual-citizenship option only to this group).

Bakiyev’s power-base had been in the southern regions adjacent to the Feghana Valley, with a large Uzbek minority. In 1990, the regional city of Osh had been the scene of previous rioting in which ethni Uzbeks and others (not least the Crimean Tartars and Meshketians) were targetted, with Soviet troops being deployed to maintain order.

On 10 June this year, further deadly riots were sparked in Osh leading to the reported deaths many Uzbeks, with accounts of masked gunmen patrolling in vehicles without registration plates. And from there it has descended into greater mayhem, as tens of thousands of Uzbeks fled.

In response, Bishkek has instigated a shoot-to-kill policy in attempts to regain control. Although Osh has a significant number of Chinese migrants who are leaving temporarily, there have been no suggestions of anti-Chinese violence (similar to some of the causes behind the Urumqui Riots of July 2009).

Although the region has been a minor incubation tube for Hizb ut Tahrir activity (and cited as a reason by Beijing for its policy towards Xinjiang), the local ethnic groups wear their Islamic faith lightly and are more likely to chunter on with ‘soft’ ethnic cleansing as they have over the previous two decades: the Kyrgyz Republic for the Kyrgyz; Uzbekistan for the Uzbeks; Russia for pretty much everyone else.

The beleaguered Uzbeks need not expect Tashkent to take an interest in the Kyrgyz Republic , even as opportunism. Papa Karimov will more likely continue border disputes with the even more impoverished Tajikistan, whilst Karimova entertains Gordon Sumner.

The latest developments have included Uzbek militia taking control of an oil-depot in Uzgen, near Osh and threatening to sabotage it unless Bishkek is able to guarantee their safe passage and foreign peacekeepers are deployed (presumably, Mother Russia if willing: a pig in the poke if ever there was one).

Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s son, Maxim has arrived in Britain; only to be arrested on request of Bishkek for directing the Osh Riots. It is unclear why he left Latvia, although fear of FSB and option for directing regional wars in the safety of British streets are not entirely unlikely.