Apr 26, 2010
In Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, one of the five ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia, the crowd put tulips on the graves of the victims of the demonstrations that just forced President Bakiyev to flee to the south of the country.
Bakiyev served as Prime Minister under former dictator Akayev, the ex-head of the local Soviet republic, who remained in control after the breakup of the USSR. Then, just five years ago, through a coup d’état called “the tulip revolution,” Bakiyev removed Akayev and took power with a coalition of officials from Akayev’s regime.
This coalition made up of rivals soon broke apart, as Bakiyev and his clan monopolized all posts by removing their former allies. In this little mountainous country the size of Nebraska without resources to sell, the best way to get rich is to monopolize power. Of course, the risk is that those kicked out will turn against the one in power.
That’s exactly why Roza Otunbayeva, named interim president after serving in the governments of both Bakiyev and Akayev, denounced her predecessors. It seems they and their relatives grabbed up all the riches, leaving nothing behind for her family.
The western powers found no fault with these dictatorships. First of all, Bakiyev was kind enough to let the U.S. army have an air base to use for their operations in Afghanistan.
As the Bakiyev regime moved further from Moscow than its predecessor, the U.S. and European governments were hardly worried about how the population could survive under such a regime.
But the recent price increases, especially of energy, cut sharply into the already miserable wages – far less than $100 a month for those with a job in Kyrgyzstan.
This ignited the explosion, as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets. A murderous police counterattack killed 80 protesters. Still other protesters seized the presidential palace and other symbols of the hated power. They paid a heavy price to drive out the dictator. Bakiyev’s old allies didn’t risk their lives and die, but they still make up the transitional government, from which the population can expect nothing good.
Kyrgyzstan’s big neighbors, Russia and China, have their own reasons for supporting the eviction of this more or less pro-western dictator, who managed to antagonize most of the country.
On the other hand, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, two more populous ex-Soviet states next door, offered aid to the deposed dictator, closing their borders. The situation of their people certainly isn’t as terrible as it is in Kyrgyzstan, but their leaders have no illusions about what their populations think of them. It’s especially true in Kazakhstan: For several weeks ten thousand workers at the country’s largest industrial complex in the region have held out in their own struggle against those in power, despite repression.
So the leaders of these two neighboring states fear that the Central Asian powder keg – only two steps from Afghanistan and Pakistan – could blow up on them, like what happened to their former colleague Bakiyev.