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WILL THE KYRGYZ "REVOLUTION" TRIGGER CHANGE IN OTHER CENTRAL ASIAN REPUBLICS?

RIA Novosti

Moscow-- (RIA Novosti commentator Pyotr Goncharov).

The events in Kyrgyzstan surrounding the parliamentary election and the subsequent resignation of President Askar Akayev are being interpreted as the result of "the domino effect." Numerous experts are examining the developments in Kyrgyzstan within the context of the "velvet" revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine and asking themselves whether the precedent of the change of power in Kyrgyzstan will trigger change in other Central Asian republics.

When discussing how valuable the precedent of the velvet revolution in Kyrgyzstan will be for the whole region, it is worth noting that the US and the EU started preparing the ground for such a change of power in Kyrgyzstan well in advance. Not only had various international "democratic" institutions already appeared, but a powerful network of "non-governmental organizations" was set up in the republic, most of which were, and continue to be, financed by the US. Nevertheless, the crowning event of the revolution in Bishkek, when unidentified protestors seized the main government building and then handed it over to the opposition, can hardly be called a success for the US. Even taking a very broad view, this cannot be described as the victory of "the velvet" opposition, and therefore its "democratic" value is also called into question.

On the other hand, the events in Kyrgyzstan were not accidental but rather resulted from the deepest social and economic crisis in the republic. All was not rosy in the "island of democracy." The market reforms carried out were largely directed at the managerial sphere, rather than the production sphere, and as such did not bring about economic stability. Kyrgyz economists say that what has resulted is not a Western-style market economy, but an economy modeled on the "bazaar" and propped up by lavish foreign loans.

The rampant corruption, which affected all state departments and reached, as Akayev complained, "the sixth of the seven floors of the government building" was one of the main reasons for the rapid drop in Akayev's ratings. So while it is possible that the events in Kyrgyzstan could trigger change in another Central Asian republic, this will only happen if the "Kyrgyz prerequisites" are met.

Kazakhstan is widely believed to be the next potential victim of "the Central Asian domino effect," and not only because the presidential election in the republic is scheduled for December of this year.

Kazakhstan is an economically successful and socially stable former Soviet republic, in which, as in Kyrgyzstan, there are various international foundations and "democratic" institutions. With its exceptionally advantageous geopolitical situation and vast raw material and energy resources, the republic is undoubtedly of particular interest to the US.

By "taming" Kazakhstan and "knocking" it out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US would solve many of its own problems - from the question of Caspian energy resources to establishing control over trans-regional gas and oil pipelines, including those extending to China. It remains only to change "the Nazarbayev regime."

Unlike Akayev's, Nazarbayev's candidature in the election will be quite legal. However, by western standards, the Nazarbayev "regime" is not without its weak spots. The republic is notoriously corrupt, and although that is hardly surprising given the one leader has been in office for nearly 16 years, it is likely to prove problematic.

However, there are other, much more important factors. In particular, both the oil and gas pipeline and the space industry have given rise to oligarchic factions. These people are possibly even less in favor of western democratic values than Nazarbayev. However, given their "oligarchic" nature, they will inevitably join the struggle for power.

Nazarbayev, who says that what happened in Kyrgyzstan was the result of Akayev's weak domestic policy, will have drawn the necessary conclusions for himself. Although the US will be careful when picking the next republic for its "game of dominoes", there are no guarantees that the tested "velvet" revolution format will not misfire, at least in Kazakhstan.

Another important point is that although the corrupt regime in Kyrgyzstan collapsed as quickly as it did in Georgia and Ukraine, the question of whether Russia or the US should be the preferred strategic partner was not (and is not) as controversial in Kyrgyzstan as it was in these other two republics. Moreover, even under the new government, Kyrgyzstan has remained "under Moscow's influence", and there are reasons for this.

Muratbek Imanaliyev, a former Kyrgyz foreign minister and professor at the American University in Bishkek, believes that some former Soviet republics in Asia see Russia not only as the state which historically has borne responsibility for regional stability, but also as "the guarantor" of the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and ethnic identity gained by these republics. So it is likely that the US, to a greater or lesser extent, will come up against the "Russian" factor in other Central Asian republics too.

And it is always possible that, in some cases, Russia will not shy away from assuming its perceived historical role.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the RIA Novosti editorial board.



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