A border dispute between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan the caused tension between the former Soviet republics. Both sides disagree over the route of the 300-kilometer (190-mile) frontier. The dispute is complicated by the fact that the two states, formerly part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, never shared a border as sovereign states in the 20th century before independence in 1991. Experts on both sides disagree which Soviet maps should be used for demarcation since the frontier was moved several times during the Soviet period.
The Ferghana Valley is located in the middle of Central Asia and is shared by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The current political divisions that run through the valley are remnants of the Soviet border delimitation of 1924 – 1926. In the process of creating borders, the Soviets attempted to divide the area by ‘scientific’ means, via the geographical features and local ethnic and language groups. As a result, the semi-nomadic Kyrgyz were sectioned off into the mountains while the Uzbeks occupied most of the valley. As an ethnic group, the Uzbeks are characteristically a sedentary agriculturalist society with a history of established, devout Islamic faith.
Kyrgyzstan’s part of the valley starts at the top of the valley basin and circles around the side until the Alai mountain chain division between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The main sources of irrigation for the valley are from reservoirs in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. While administration of the valley took place in Tashkent during Soviet times, the current lack of centralized water resource planning and distribution is a constant point of conflict in Ferghana Valley international relations .
The second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, Osh city is located in the south close to the Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan border. Osh city is also the provincial capital of Osh province, which is the most populated province in the country. A majority of Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic Uzbek population resides in Osh city and the villages of Osh province. The city was the center for bloody inter-ethnic conflicts in 1990.
Jalalabad is the third largest city in Kyrgyzstan. It is located in the south, close to the Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan border, and just north of Osh city. President Bakiev claimed it as his hometown. Jalalabad city is also the provincial capital of Jalalabad province. Jalalabad province has the second largest ethnic Uzbek population in the country.
Ethnic Kyrgyz in Osh City have the most positive opinions on promoting “Kyrgyz nationalism” through television, language, culture and education. Ethnic Uzbeks in Uzgen rayon vocalize the most significant opposition to attempts to eliminate the space for ethnic and national minorities to speak their own mother tongue, live in their own communities and practice religion as they chose. This conflict issue had the clearest distinction in responses by ethnicity, with the most polarized responses being between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks. Multi-ethnic communities tended to stress the historical reality of ethnicities inter-marrying and coexisting while mono-ethnic communities stressed the fear of coming into contact with the other ethnicity.
Kyrgyzstan on 24 March 2016 accused neighboring Uzbekistan of building up its troop presence along the border in retaliation for Kyrgyzstan's attempt to reclaim a disputed water reservoir.
Kurbanbay Iskanderov, a Kyrgyz government envoy for border demarcation, told reporters that the tensions were triggered by his government's decision to reclaim its control over Kyrgyz facilities in Uzbek use, including the reservoir 10 kilometers from the border. "There are disputed portions on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border that should be Kyrgyz but they are used by Uzbekistan," Iskanderov said. He said the Uzbek military were called to the border a few days after Kyrgyzstan denied Uzbek workers access to the reservoir in Ala-Buka.
Uzbekistan has rejected accusations of a military buildup, saying that it was tightening security checks at the border ahead of the celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian New Year that both countries observe. Uzbekistan stationed two armored personnel carriers and about 40 soldiers last week in an area where its Namangan region borders Kyrgyzstan's western Jalalabad region. Kyrgyzstan, in turn, reinforced its own side.
Kyrgyzstan is home to a sizeable Uzbek minority, and ethnic tensions have simmered there for years. In 2010, at least 400 people were killed and thousands injured in unrest in the Kyrgyz city of Osh. On June 10, 2010, violence erupted between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the southern city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, and later spread to the city of Jalalabad, leaving at least several hundred dead and thousands injured. The outbreak of violence forced as many as 400,000 people to flee their homes, including an estimated 100,000 women and children who faced desperate conditions along the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border.
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