Kyrgyzstan around the Axis of Revolutions

Cansu ARISOY
19 April 2010
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Kyrgyzstan, country of the Kirghiz… This land-locked state is surrendered by Kazakhstan at north, Uzbekistan at west, Tajikistan at southwest and People’s Republic of China at southeast.  The country gained its independence in August 1991 from the Soviet Union. In 21 December 1991 Kyrgyzstan officially joined Commonwealth of Independents States (CIS). In 1992 the country became one of the members of the United Nations and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).


In Kyrgyzstan the revolutions happen violently like the last one that made Otunbayeva the woman in power. In the country once again the opposition overthrew the government. The demonstrations were started on 6th April 2010 by the opposition party and these turned into rebellion on the next day. The police shoot the demonstrators in Bishkek. The demonstrators countered back by capturing the guns of the police and lynching them. Kirghiz Minister of Internal Affairs was suspected to be beaten and killed by the protestors.


Actually Kyrgyzstan has never been a quiet country. Political fluctuations, even suicides conducted the dynamics of Kyrgyzstan. Each time in Kyrgyzstan the rebellions came to an end by the resignation or overthrowing of the leaders who are characterized as authoritarian by their opponents. In 2005 President Askar Akayev was forced to resignation because of the claims about his corrupted government. 5 years ago Akayev was exiled to Russia on 24th March. According to the general view he had to be banished because of all the corruptions, nepotisms, pressures upon opposition and the media. Of all the complaints about Akayev administration, the most striking one was the public anger at corruption. Bakiyev came to the power by promising that he would fight against cronyism that was inherited from the Akayev-era. Akayev government was overthrown by the opposition leaders after 15 years of ruling. By taking 89.5% of the votes, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Prime Minister Felix Kulov, gave the new Kirghiz government its very shape. This was called as the Tulip Revolution.


The Dynamics of the Kirgiz Revolutions:
Kirghiz Spring, Pink Revolution or Tulip Revolution
The Tulip Revolution (it is also called as the Kyrgyz Spring or Pink Revolution) was inspired from the Serbia’s Bulldozer Revolution on 2000, Georgia’s Rose Revolution of 2003 and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004; which were also called as the “coloured revolutions.” This was a revolutionary wave, what some observers call and they are nonviolent resistance against the corrupted governments. The aim of these revolutions is to achieve democracy in an authoritarian regime.


Although the revolutions were inspired by the revolutionary waves in the CIS and Balkan states, they do not have so much in common. First of all neither the Tulip Revolution nor the last insurrection was nonviolent. On the contrary there are hundreds of death and wounded. One of the reasons of this is the lack of NGOs in Kyrgyzstan. NGOs and students are the indispensable factors in creating nonviolent and effective resistance against the power. Unlike the coloured ones, both revolutions in Kyrgyzstan were succeeded because they were violent. Kirgiz rebellions were lacking the “structural conditions for a successful people power revolt” (1).


Moreover Kyrgyzstan has a more rural structure than Ukraine or Georgia. For example during the Tulip Revolution the Bishkek protests were actualized by the villagers not city dwellers. Also the opponents of government were not civil society groups but “elites lacking broad-based support” that had come together for strategic benefits. Kirgiz revolutions were different that the Georgian, Serbian and Ukraine because the engines of social change were weak in Kyrgyzstan: “A large urban population, a strong civil society, a national level student movement” did not exist in the country like in other Central Asian republics (2).


The Tulip Revolution was ended with a popular insurrection. As a result of this chaos, a woman, Rosa Otunbayeva, took the power on 9th April 2010. Interestingly during the Tulip Revolution, Otunbayeva had a role in Bakiyev’s rise to ascendance. The riot was started because President Bakiyev assigned the administration to his son without any election. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The opposition incited thousands of Kirghiz, made a raid to the Parliament and took the control of the army. Consequently President Bakiyev who came to power with The Tulip Revolution, fall from power with a public rebel. During the events while thousand of people were wounded, a hundred Kirghiz died. After the insurrection has settled, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, current President Otunbayeva declared that they will stay in power for the next 6 months. This temporary government’s Minister of Defense Ismail Isakov underlined that, they have the control of the army and front guards. He added that military power will never ever again be used for to solve the inner problems of the county (3).


According to the news, the source of the last rebel in Kyrgyzstan was Russia. Russia is making economic pressures and it was supporting the opponent party (4). This brought the end of Bakiyev government. Few weeks ago before that the Bakiyev government has overthrown, Russian media started to make negative propaganda about Bakiyev and his family. These broadcasts were showing the former President and his family as dictators and racketeers that siphoning billions of dollars from state treasury.


Did Revolutions Bring Democracy to Kyrgyzstan?
The hope that democracy might have a chance to develop in the country of the Kirghiz made the revolutions come to life. However the country did not recognize a Western kind of democracy during the Tulip Revolution. Akayev’s successor Bakiyev’s words are like a proof to this view. He mentioned that Western kind of democracy is not suitable for everyone and Kyrgyzstan should act according to its very own traditions (5).


However 5 years ago the promises that brought Bakiyev in the power were different than the current situation. In the last 5 years Kyrgyzstan could not made a progress for the development of the democratic institutions. The current regime in the country could not be qualified as a healthy one. In the promised land of Bakiyev, the Constitution would be changed; most of the authority of the President would be consigned to the parliament.


On the contrary the government became much more authoritarian. There was pressure upon the media: opponent newspapers were closing. Bakiyev government was preventing the journalists and defenders of human rights. As a result social problems in the country became more and more serious (6). The ones who were complaining about the Akayev government now were complaining about Bakiyev’s. These factors brought the end of Bakiyev government by Otunbayeva supporters. This means that the Tulip Revolution could not meet the expectations of the Kirghiz people; the Tulip Revolution could not satisfy the Kirghiz. As a result, country of the Kirghiz lived its shortest honeymoon which last just 5 years. Instead of bringing a new and fresh breath to the politics of Kyrgyzstan, it has worsened the country’s instability, with rising numbers of assassinations and violent demonstrations. “A new and more democratic spirit” that Kyrgyzstan needs could not be achieved by the March events on 2005, at least in the short term (7).

 

In fact, Russia is the only country that supports this governmental change in Kyrgyzstan. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that they are giving full support to Kyrgyzstan and they are ready to help. Medvedev, Russian Head of the State declared that this rebel is a sign for the anger of the public against the regime.

 


Conclusion

Current case in Kyrgyzstan can be understood by paying close attention. In post communist, former Soviet countries, revolutions, insurrections, power shifts, downfalls of governments, changes of regimes should be examined by avoiding from misleading comparisons. Because the conditions that brought revolutions in Georgia or Ukraine are not all the same in Kyrgyzstan. Today Kyrgyzstan’s problems- are privatization of state-person enterprises, developing of democratic and political freedoms, poverty, inter-ethnic affairs, and corruption. Also nepotism like in the Akayev and Bakiyev cases.

 

In fact post-Soviet politicians are now worried about the spread of the revolutions to the detriment of themselves. In case of a transnational spread of these rebels, counter-measures were started to be taken. Today the post-Soviet region is the land of fear. This is the fear of revolutionary change and its consequences. Exporting democracy might lead to governmental repression to civil society and the media, ethnic conflicts, insurrections and even civil wars.

 

Kirghiz case shows that long-established habits take too much time to change. In a society where blood ties are so strong, it is hard to deal with nepotism or cronyism. If the causes that prevent Kyrgyzstan from becoming a more democratic society would not be eliminated the country’s long-term expectations would be rushingly defeated.

 

The hopes about a democratic Kyrgyzstan can be achieved by developing a long-term strategy to struggle with the rooted problems in the country. Nonetheless there are some immediate measures that Kirghiz government has to take as soon as possible. First of all, bribery stroke roots in the country. For a more stabile Krygyzstan, defeating bribery that affected the country deeply should be one of the most immediate steps that the government should take. Because as long as corruption and nepotism continue; Kyrgyzstan will remain as a disappointment of democracy. Secondly the government should win the trust and hearts of its citizens by increasing the political transparency. For instance, removing of two popular governors by former President Bakiyev caused reactions. This act turned Bakiyev allies into enemies. Such prompt and enigmatic acts of governments shake the prestige of the politicians and make them precarious. Also the decrease in transparency delegitimizes the authority of the government and lead to instability of the country.

 

Furthermore increasing police salaries and breaking down on crime can create a more stabile Kyrgyzstan. However this seems little far away in short term. Right now the country swings between authoritarianism and democracy. In this process of search for democracy, hopefully the country will never ever experience anarchy once again. For now the only thing that we can talk about is Russia’s benefits from this rebel in Kyrgyzstan. With the help of this chaos, Moscow could find a chance to send a very important message to the authoritarian regimes which are placed at its backyard. Moreover it gained the right to have more saying in the future of the USA base in Afghanistan which is very crucial for the NATO operations.

 


Sources
1-http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=155&print=1
2- Radnitz, S. (2006): What Really Happened in Kyrgyzstan? Journal of Democracy. Volume 17, Number 2, April, p. 132-146.
Available at: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_democracy/v017/17.2radnitz.pdf
[Accessed in 19 April 2010]
3-http://www.tumgazeteler.com/?a=6067215
4-http://arama.hurriyet.com.tr/arsivnews.aspx?id=14397766
5-http://www.diplomatikgozlem.com/haber_oku.asp?id=4037
6-ibid
7-Radnitz, S, op cit.

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