A Revolution in Kyrgyzstan?

As I write this, there is an uprising in Kyrgyzstan. I strongly suspect that about 24 hours from now, it will be a revolution. Kyrgyzstan isn’t a country that most people know much about. It’s located in Central Asia, a region that doesn’t get much attention, and it’s one of the smaller, less prosperous Central Asian countries. Kyrgyzstan has about 6 million people and it’s mostly made up of mountains. The economy is based primarily on growing cotton and sending migrant workers to neighboring Kazakhstan.

So what happened, exactly in Kyrgyzstan? We need to go back to 1991 for the whole story:

  1. Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet Union, and became independent in 1991 after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The president of the Kyrgyz SSR, Askar Akayev, became president of independent Kyrgyzstan.
  2. Initially hailed as the “Thomas Jefferson of Central Asia,” Akayez grew less committed to democracy and more corrupt over time. His family, particular his children, began to dominate all forms of commerce in Kyrgyzstan.
  3. In March 2005, Akayev’s party swept the parliamentary elections in an election that nobody thought was free and fair. It was criticized by the OSCE and led to massive protests all over the country. On March 24th, there was a bloodless coup and Akayev fled the country. This was known as the Tulip Revolution.
  4. The new president was Kurmanbek Bakiev, a former prime minister and leader of the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan. He expressed his commitment to a freer, more democratic Kyrgyzstan.
  5. That didn’t happen. Bakiev’s term in office has been marred by state sponsored violence and widespread corruption. The protests against him began in April 2007.
  6. Here and now, April 2010, the protests are starting again in Bishkek. The media is reporting that the State TV station has been occupied by protestors, and approximately 10,000 people are gathered in the nation’s main square. At least 17 people have been killed. Two provincial government offices have been occupied. They are saying on twitter that the Interior Minister was killed. Friends in Kyrgyzstan tell me that people are flooding into Bishkek from rural areas to support the protestors, and their goal is revolution.

Photo credit: zsoolt