Archive for April 14, 2010

Bewilderment Continues about Bishkek’s “Un-Tulip” Like Revolution

I just can’t seem to move on to everyday events that make my life seem normal in Astana, Kazakhstan (if that is possible) when people south of us in Kyrgyzstan are still patching things up after a bloody revolution. Difficult to move off this topic of the “UN-Tulip” revolution of what happened just a week ago in Kyrgyzstan even though I have other material to write about Kazakhstan. I have anecdotes and photos to show of sweet Kazakh students and also a traditional Kazakh concert Ken and I attended at the Pyramid concert hall.   I still wait for some American friends to respond to my queries about how they are doing, still no word from them.

I appreciate what this author, Alisher Khamidov had to write from his perspective, I’m quoting the last half of his article.  This revolution does impact us in Kazakhstan, it’s too close.

“In particular, three factors served to turn mass dissatisfaction into protests. They were the arrest of several opposition leaders by the Bakiev regime in relation to mass disorder in the town of Talas, where protesters occupied a government building; a steep hike in utility prices, which hit the population in the remote northern regions the hardest; the exclusion of a number of important northern elites in the Kurultai, or informal gathering of all Kyrgyz, by the Bakiev administration in March; and economic sanctions by Moscow such as the introduction of higher prices for gasoline.

That move was seen as Moscow’s way of punishing the government for reneging on a 2009 agreement under which Kyrgyzstan would receive close to $2 billion in loans and aid in exchange for evicting U.S. forces from the air base in Manas. Bakiev got some of the Russian money, but then extended the lease for the base under a different status. The Russians were livid. As a result, the Russian media offered negative coverage of the Bakiev regime, a contributing factor to his sagging reputation.

Yet another notable difference between April 2010 and March 2005 were the “engines” behind the change. During the March 2005 protests, demonstrations were organized by wealthy elites who felt that their bids to gain seats in the parliament were threatened by the incumbent Akaev regime. Such elites then mobilized their supporters in their towns and villages, relying on local networks and offers of cash. The protests we saw on 7 April were sporadic and chaotic. In many ways, they appeared to be more an uncoordinated grass-roots revolt by a disenchanted population than an elite-driven and planned campaign.

As a result, the speed with which the protests erupted and spread was surprising, not only to international observers, but also to many locals.

The administration and some opposition leaders seem to have not appreciated the extent of popular anger and were themselves taken aback. In other words, because there was no credible information about the distribution of power before the protests, there was little room for opposition factions and the incumbent regime to come to a negotiated settlement.

Neither the government nor opposition factions are in full control of the crowds. Already, there are reports of destruction of property and marauding in Bishkek and the regions that have seen protests. This is a bad sign for opposition factions because it discredits them.


Whatever the outcome of the protests, it is clear that Kyrgyzstan has plunged into deep chaos. It will take months, if not years to recover from this. The concern is that instability in Kyrgyzstan is already spilling over to its neighbors. Kazakhstan has closed borders as scores of Kyrgyz are trying to cross the border and find refuge in Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan is most likely to follow suit.”

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