Monday, June 14, 2010

Joseph Stalin is to blame for the Kyrgyz-Uzbek violence

In order to control his large Soviet empire, Stalin used the divide-and-conquer policy on the Central Asian republics, especially those in and around the heavily populated Ferghana Valley.  He sprinkled enclaves all over the region.  There are:

  • one Tajik enclave in Uzbekistan, 
  • two Tajik enclaves in Kyrgyzstan,
  • four Uzbek enclaves in Kyrgyzstan, and
  • one Kyrgyz enclave in Uzbekistan.

In the weeks before the violence that is taking place now, Uzbeks living in Uzbek enclaves within Kyrgyzstan have been arguing with neighboring Kyrgyz about the use of disputed land for grazing.  The tensions escalated and now almost 200,000 ethnic Uzbeks have become either refugees in neighboring Uzbekistan or become internally displaced people.

No one wins, except ousted leader Bakiev.  He may not have instigated this, but he definitely has something to gain if this chaos leads to the collapse of the weak and perhaps incompetent interim government.  I think current leader Roza Otunbayeva is a good and honest (maybe too honest) person, but she is not the right person for Kyrgyzstan right now.  You do not want your leader to publicly say that a part of your country is out of control and you need a third party's military, i.e. Russia, to come and help.

What is more disconcerting than the Russian army coming in is what the potential reaction from Uzbekistan could be.  As the refugees settle in, stories of brutality and violence perpetrated by the Kyrgyz will be spread.  Uzbeks will want to avenge their brothers' suffering and take it out on the Kyrgyz population in Uzbekistan.  If nationalistic sentiments fan out of control, Uzbekistan may send troops over the border and use protection of ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan as a pretense for the invasion.  Of course, this Uzbek military scenario is very, very unlikely.  The possibility, nevertheless, is scary.

Here is a picture of Bakiev at a press conference in Minsk today, where he is living in exile.  Just look at that smile.  Bastard.

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