Friday, June 18, 2010

Kyrgyzstan / Russia / Stalinism

Stalin's Latest Victims
The Economist, June 17, 2010
"Faced with the difficulty of ruling a region as tumultuous as Central Asia, Stalin divided it into a patchwork of states whose borders were designed to fracture races and smash nationalism. He succeeded in preventing ethnic groups from uniting against him, and also in ensuring that each state is a hotbed of ethnic rivalry. The latest victims of his legacy are the Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan. Hundreds have been killed, and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes, in a pogrom against the ethnic minority in this poor country of 5.4m people. Inflamed by economic hardship and the rise of radical Islam, the conflict could spread. The fear is that this is not an isolated explosion of interethnic tension, but the future of Central Asia.
In April Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, said Kyrgyzstan might be a 'second Afghanistan.' At the time that seemed self-serving alarmism. ... But the Russian gloom now looks prophetic. And if the region does indeed descend into the flames, then stability in Afghanistan itself would look even more distant. Not surprisingly, the outside world is unwilling to intervene in another distant, mountainous trouble-spot. Even Russia, normally all too willing to interfere in what it regards as its sphere of influence, refused the request from Kyrgyzstan's interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, for troops to restore order. Presumably the idea of being dragged into another Central Asian quagmire discouraged it. The neighbours are still less keen to help. Apparently fearing that Kyrgyz democratisation might spread, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in April both closed their borders. And America, nervous about its access to a 'transit centre' important for operations in Afghanistan, has seemed wary of the interim government's Russian links. The time for such geopolitical caution is past. The interim government needs and deserves help. Although the bloodletting seemed to be subsiding as The Economist went to press, the misery of the refugees needs to be alleviated. [...]"

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