Posted by: Borderless Borderguard | October 23, 2007

Kyrgyzstan is being claustrophobic…

South is reigned by Uzbeks, who are sometimes pictured as radical Muslims in comparison with tolerant russified Kyrgyz. In the East there is a new Chinese “Beast” moving inwards in fast pace. Now Tajiks are expanding their territories on the border areas through buying emptied houses. Kyrgyzstan seems to be sandwiched and fears of losing its statehood.

There are not only geographical reasons for south-north divide: South works for Uzbekistan, North – for Kazakhstan; social, educational and health institutions lack behind in the south. South is generally underdeveloped in comparison with the North.
The north is more advanced economically and more homogeneous. Ethnic Kyrgyz and Russians reside in the north. South is more religious, less educated, poor and has a number of minorities, the largest ones Uzbeks. South has experienced bloody conflict on ethnic basis in the early 90s. Kyrgyz and Russian press published a number of articles on south-north divide of the republic. Many sound quite harsh: Коммерсантъ “The North ain’t a friend to the South. Kyrgyzstan preparing for the civil war”, Российская газета “South can be lost” to name a few. Abdumomun Mamaraimov writes about the exaggeration of the south-north conflict. He critically analyses articles published on the matter, and the way south-north divide is represented. He also reminds us of the war in Tajikistan, and the contribution of the media into the war. He hopes for establishment of correct and responsible journalism in Kyrgyzstan. There are speculations and fears in the Republic on Kyrgyzstan being divided between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and losing its statehood and sovereignty.

New old neighbours in the east, the Chinese are playing a growing role in the local economy of Kyrgyzstan. Ulugbek Babakulov traces the whole route from Irkeshtam to the largest Central Asian market in Karasuu. He reports about fears and dissatisfaction of the Kyrgyz on the growing number of Chinese trucks on the roads, on decreasing number of work placements for the locals and on “peaceful conquest of Kyrgyzstan” by China.

There come another phenomenon, which makes the Kyrgyz worry about their territorial integrity and sovereignty – a large number of Tajiks buying houses on the border areas. Because South is so poor, residents tend to emigrate to the North or abroad. Many emigrate permanently, after having established a decent life abroad or in the capital. They sell their houses to Tajiks. Southern border towns and villages are unattractive for Kyrgyz residents because of social and economic devastation. But these places, according to the article published on IWPR, are more attractive to the even poorer Tajiks. And these even-poorer Tajiks have strangely more to offer for the houses than the Kyrgyz. The article mentions rumours that “…the Tajikistan authorities are deliberately giving their citizens small loans so that they can buy houses in Kyrgyzstan”. There are growing fears among the locals and politicians that Tajiks in non-demarcated border areas will soon substantially outnumber Kyrgyz. The Kyrgyz fear “that soon everyone will forget that those lands belong to Kyrgyzstan”.

The article repeatedly states that Kygyz don’t have problems with Tajiks. I think this is because the article was written together with Kyrgyz and Tajik jouranlists. A good article, though, but the weakness was that throughout the whole text there was no single voice of a Tajik-house-buyer. It seems to be a tradition to speculate on possible loss of sovereignty, which the article follows. The recent three articles I have read, all are filled with paranoia about Kyrgyzstan being invaded by Chinese or Tajiks, or being devided among Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Is there any sound ground for that? Or is it an inferiority complex based on the size of the country?


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