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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 10:48 GMT
Why Kyrgyzstan could break the mould
By Steven Eke
BBC News

Crowds in Kiev
Some have likened the situation to Ukraine's revolution
The latest reports from Kyrgyzstan suggest a fluid and rapidly changing situation in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad, where the opposition has taken control of a number of official buildings.

There have been inevitable comparisons between the unrest in Kyrgyzstan and the much larger, more organised movements that led to regime change in Georgia and Ukraine.

But many analysts have pointed to the mixed results of Kyrgyzstan's reforms, its move away from democratisation, and its internal divisions as powerful influences creating a groundswell of popular discontent.

Although touted by some as the latest in the series of "coloured revolutions" to have swept parts of the former Soviet Union over the last 18 months, the situation in Kyrgyzstan is somewhat different.

For in terms of politics and society, Kyrgyzstan is far removed from Ukraine and Georgia - despite the superficially similar Soviet inheritance.

Kyrgyzstan has never plunged to become a failed state, which is where Georgia found itself on the eve of its Rose Revolution.

Equally it does not have an organised, disciplined opposition movement similar to the one that carried out Ukraine's Orange Revolution.

That is not to downplay just how many members of Kyrgyzstan's political class have fallen out with President Akayev. Some have even joined the opposition, including former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva.

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, Feb 2005
Askar Akayev sometimes sounds more like a father than a head of state

The recent elections were a test for those who would like to see Kyrgyzstan return to the dynamic reforms that characterised the first half of the 1990s.

The opposition's moral case received some support from a report on the elections by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. While the international monitors said the vote itself was generally satisfactory, they strongly criticised unequal access to the media and the disqualification of opposition candidates.

Kyrgyzstan currently appears to be in a state of suspended animation.

Any sort of revolutionary situation is very unlikely while the capital, Bishkek, remains calm.

One of the major reasons why the Ukrainian and Georgian scenarios seem unlikely for Kyrgyzstan is that the country's modernisation has been limited.

Like the other former Soviet republics, it was closed off from the outside world during communism. But Kyrgyzstan's traditional clan structures remained untouched by the imposition of Soviet - and therefore Russian-European - structures and values.

Analysts have often remarked that when President Akayev criticises the opposition, he sounds much more like a father scolding his children than a head of state.

Generally stable

Clans, traditional values and patriarchal hierarchies make for stable societies, even when poor.

There has also been talk about the ethnic divisions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks being exacerbated by the current crisis.

Many still remember the bloody clashes between the two groups in Osh in 1990 and the tensions have never quite been smoothed over.

Many ethnic Uzbeks say they continue to face ongoing discrimination, and one of their main demands, for the Uzbek language to be made official, is off the agenda.

Indeed, there have often been localised clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek youth.

Yet members of both ethnic groups appear to have taken part in the demonstrations in Osh and Jalal-Abad.

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26 Nov 04 |  Europe
Profile: Askar Akayev
22 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Frontrunners for Kyrgyz top job
22 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Why Kyrgyzstan matters
21 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
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21 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
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13 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Kyrgyzstan
23 Feb 05 |  Country profiles


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