Osh Conflict of 1990
The Kyrgyz Republic struggled with internal, low-intensity conflict before, during and after their history with the Soviet Union. Local, informal, community-based conflict resolution mechanisms were able to sustain the low intensity of the conflict.
The contextual variable for the southern three oblasts of the Kyrgyz Republic is based on a geographic reality: they are inter-linked with the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Tajikistan. This geographic puzzle known as the Ferghana Valley connects these three former Soviet Republics without delineated borders and with personality-driven, cross-border, cooperative initiatives that donít foster confidence in its sustainability.
A particularly egregious incident of intra-state conflict in Kyrgyzstanís past was the 1990 rioting in the Uzbek dominated city of Osh and surrounding villages (commonly referred to as the Osh conflict of 1990).
Central Asian history has alternated between long periods of quietude and bursts of intense turmoil. After the Russian conquest was largely completed by the late 1880s, the Central Asians made sporadic violent efforts to throw off Moscow's rule from 1916 to the early 1930s. This unrest culminated in the Basmachi revolt, which at its height in 1922-23 controlled substantial territory.
Decades of repression, forced calm, and a degree of economic progress followed until 1986, when riots broke out in Alma-Ata and other cities in Kazakhstan over the appointment of a Russian party secretary. Since then, the area reentercd what seemed likely to be a prolonged period of unrest. By 1989 sporadic violence had become widespread throughout the region. Initially, the incidents seemed to be spontaneous interethnic brawls among youths, but increasingly they had taken on a political character.
The bloody skirmishes of interethnic violence originate from controversy over property ownership rights. In May 1990, the Kyrgyz government undertook a program to distribute privatized land in a way that favored the ethnic Kyrgyz over the ethnic Uzbek citizens. The events unfolded as plots of lands were distributed to the landless Kyrgyz from the land-owning Uzbek community. This communal disagreement escalated into retaliatory violence that could not be contained by local security forces.
By the end of the conflict, at least 220 had been killed and 1,000 were hospitalized. Unofficial estimates ranged from 600 to 1,200 killed and thousands more wounded and displaced. The consequences of this event echo in current property disputes, namely regarding the tenancy of land and settlement of landless people.
Beginning as a clash between young Kirghiz trying to seize land to buildhousesand ethnic Uzbeks who were farming the same land, the riots spread throughout the oblast as ethnic bands hunted each other and crowds burned police and public buildings. Some 3,000 troops were required to restore order and seal off the Uzbekistan border, preventing a crowd of 15,000 Uzbeks from seeking revenge in Kirghiziya. In Frunze, the Kirghiz SSR capital, nationalist groups led 5,000 students in several days of demonstrations, prompting the republic leadership to declare a state of emergency.
In September 1990 the US CIA assessed that Central Asia faced what is likely to be a prolonged period of unrest. Underlying the sporadic but intense violence that had erupted in 1989 were deteriorating economic and ecological conditions, the rising expectations of a predominantly youthful population, and emerging grass-roots protest and nationalist movements.
The rapidly growing populations had large proportions (over 20 percent) of young adults, whose needs for housing, jobs. and educational opportunities stress weak government capabilities and who provide a large pool of recruits for political agitators. Past CIA research indicated that, when the proportion of the population in the 15- to 24-yeanold group rises above 20 percent of the total, social unrest often increases sharply, partly because of intensified competition for available education, jobs, and land, and partly because of higher levels of emotional volatility among young adults.
The Tulip Revolution of March 24, 2005 marked a change in the tension between nationalism and ethnic identity in the Kyrgyz Republic. The ousted Akaev administration (1991 Ė 2005) merged elements of multi-ethnicity with its Kyrgyz nationalism. After the Tulip Revolution, the Bakiev administration focused more sharply on single-ethnicity Kyrgyz nationalism, and unlike Akaev, never officiated any policies regarding ethnic minority rights or inclusion. Rather, policies set forth under Bakievís administration actively exclude non-Kyrgyz citizens of Kyrgyzstan through limited political representation and infringements of religious freedoms.
By 2010 constant changes in the Bishkek-based national government, including two political revolutions in five years and the formation of a Parliamentary structure which left political parties and political actors fighting to divide-up key power positions in national institutions, left local and oblast-level officials restrained (both financially and through constant change over in human resources) in their ability to effectively manage and run their community-based issues. This was especially true for those issues relating to security and judicial sector corruption and harassment of local ethnic and national minorities.
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