Wednesday, March 30, 2005

From (thank you, Nathan and Laurence):

- Elnura Osmonalieva's translation of Akayev's bullshit Radio Ekho Moskvy interview;


- an op-ed on Kyrgyzstan in the New York Times, by University of Alaska Professor Elinor Burkett


Ms. Burkett argues that while Georgians and Ukrainians protested against corruption and a rigged election, people in Kyrgyzstan "were venting their frustration over the grim economic situation." At one point, she calls what happened in Bishkek a "so-called revolution."

Back in November, I remember feeling very reluctant to call our own situation a revolution, orange or whatever, primarily because the word brings to mind the bloodshed and futility of 1917. 'Revolution' is a fearsome word. We were spared (thank God and our wonderful people) - but it proved to be much tougher for the Kyrgyz: 15 or 20 people lost their lives and all that looting occurred. And it could've been much worse.

Still, revolution is defined as 'the overthrow of one government and its replacement with another' - and "a so-called velvet revolution" would have been a better way to describe the one in Kyrgyzstan.

As for the reasons and motivations, I'm sure that the degrees of poverty in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan differ, somewhat, but it's poverty nevertheless, and it's closely connected with the corruption in the government and with the ruling folks' belief that once they get on top, they can do whatever they want, fearing no consequences. This is why Ms. Burkett's analysis seems superficial to me, and a bit too abstract:

Look at the facts. In Georgia, President Eduard Shevardnadze was swept out of power when thousands of organized protesters surged into the Parliament and demanded an end to corruption. In Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Akayev's 15-year reign was endedby a motley crowd of 20,000 who began the day in Bishkek's Ala-Too Square chanting "Akayev is dirt," then moved on to loot not only the main government building - called the White House - but also supermarkets, Internet cafes, the wholesale food market, beauty salons and A.T.M.'s.

Likewise, Ukrainians rebelled against a rigged election that threatened to install Moscow's favorite in the presidency; but the Kyrgyz mobs that seized the provincial capitals of Osh and Jalalabad before moving on Bishkek weren't demonstrating against the flawed parliamentary elections in February and March. Rather, they were venting their frustration over the grim economic situation of a nation dependent on foreign exchange coming largely from a single gold mine and two foreign military bases, one Russian and one American.

Ms. Burkett makes totally valid points about Kyrgyzstan's new leadership - they all have too much history in both the Soviet and Akayev's past, and they do not necessarily agree with each other on everything.

But I don't think the Kyrgyz should be either more pessimistic or more optimistic about the future than we, Ukrainians, or the Georgians are: our new leaders haven't descended from heaven, either. And the way the Kyrgyz seem to fit into "the paradigm du jour" is this: just like Georgians and Ukrainians, they have shown their leaders - both old and new - that they're capable of dissent, and that it's safer not to try their patience for too long. And, hopefully, something good will eventually come out of it all.

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