Friday, April 9, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Kyrgyz Events Points to ‘High Level of Instability’ across Post-Soviet Space, Senior Muslim Leader in Russia Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 9 – “The events in Kyrgyzstan have become yet another piece of evidence of the high level of instability” across the former Soviet space, according to one of Russia’s most thoughtful Muslim leaders. And his observation has been echoed by other analysts who are now debating in just which country a similar set of events might take place next.
In a comment on the portal yesterday, Damir-khazrat Mukhetdinov, the deputy chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of European Russia, focuses on the specific features of Kyrgyz social and political life but suggests that the triggers for the uprising are to be found in circumstances that afflict most of the states in the region.
“The world economic crisis,” he begins, “objectively fulfills the role of a winnower of the undergrowth of a forest, hitting particular hard the weak regimes” whose populations have become impoverished while the powers that be have become corrupt regardless of their “former ‘revolutionary services” (
If the country involved “is sufficiently close to European culture,” the Muslim historian continues, “then the leader leaves his post as a result of the first round of presidential elections. That is what happened with Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine,” the incumbent who finished far down the list in a race ultimately won by his opponent Viktor Yanukovich.
Elsewhere in the former Soviet space, the situation is different. “In the Caucasus which is marked by eternal conflict, it is possible to declare that the Fatherland is in danger as [Georgian President] Mikhail Saakashvili has done.” But “in the Turkic Muslim tradition, the ruler is supposed to be concerned about his subjects.”
And in this regard, “official Bishkek became the classic counter-example.” While he and those around him took advantage of the situation to enrich themselves, the population grew poorer and, lacking normal channels of communication with and influence on the powers that be, the people ultimately took to the streets.
While some observers might point to the relatively short time that Kyrgyzstan has existed as a state as a major cause, Mukhetdinov adds, that is not the real reason. The republic has enormous resources, including both water and gold, and it even has “sufficiently developed Soviet industry.” But the rulers there did nothing to build on that.
Instead, they destroyed “the traditional economy in the mountains which Chingiz Aitmatov sang of, they destroyed the Soviet factories, but they did not build a contemporary market economy.” As a result, Kyrgyzstan has seen the rise of “a generation of young people who do not have any training and do not know where to apply themselves.”
These trends led to the end [in 2005] of the rule of Askar Akayev, who apparently “was a good scholar but a poor ‘father of the nation.’ But if Akayev recognized that if you don’t feed someone, you must give him some distractions, Kurmanbek Bakiyev” who the current movement appears to have ousted operated without any such understanding.
And that kind of corruption, which filled the pockets of his clan and its allies, left the ordinary people in a terrible situation. Nonetheless, Mukhetdinov points out, they would not have listened to the opposition had the situation not been so bad and had the “lack of perspectives” not generated “a desire to protest.”
Because the powers that be in Bishkek had driven the people into this dead-end, “the succeeding events with the uprisings and seizure of government buildings [in the Kyrgyz capital] became a logical outcome.” Now, “the people, having made a revolution once before, will not forget that experience”: If the government does not deliver, it must be changed.
Because of Kyrgyzstan’s location, Mukhetdinov continues, many outside powers are very concerned about what happens there. As far as Russia is concerned, the Muslim leader said that Moscow “really has not interfered in the internal affairs of Kyrgyzstan, it is not interfering [but at the same time] it is not particularly helping either.”
Elements of Mukhetdinov’s analysis are found throughout the Russian media and blogosphere. Most experts have acknowledged that they were surprised by the outbreak of violence despite all the preconditions (; others blame one or another factor or outside actor (
But the three most intriguing themes in these discussions about events that are still far from over are these. First, many analysts are talking about the nature of the so-called color revolutions, noting in some cases that they can be repeated ( And others saying that they can be reversed (
Second, again extending the logic of Mukhetdinov’s argument, many have suggested that what is taking place in Kyrgyzstan now either could happen elsewhere or should serve as a warning to the powers that be in the various post-Soviet states of what will befall them unless they become more responsive to the population’s needs.
Except for Ukraine, all 11 CIS countries plus Georgia have been said by one or another analyst to be at risk. And there has been an intense discussion as to whether there could be a Kyrgyz-style uprising in the Russian Federation, with some saying yes ( and others no (
And third, the events in Kyrgyzstan, triggered by popular desperation about a regime that was ignoring the needs of the people, has led to discussions about when people have the right to revolt against the powers that be which take care only of themselves even as the claim to act in the name of the nation (

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