Surveying The Damage

by Nathan Hamm on 3/27/2005

As calm begins to return, Bishkek is surveying the damage from looting:

The main department store, TsUM, posted “No stock. Closed” signs over its doors. Young men wearing red armbands patrolled behind a makeshift barricade – but there was little to tempt even window-shoppers. All visible shelves and racks were bare, and some of the windows were punctured by stone-sized holes.

Further along the road, a line of Kyrgyz formed outside the looted Beta Stores shopping center to snap pictures near a torn felt portrait of Akayev, lying discarded on a heap of garbage.

“I don’t understand what is happening. This isn’t a revolution; this is vandalism,” said a woman who would only identify herself by her age, 70, as she stood near Beta Stores, looking at the empty and shattered hulk of what was once the pride of Bishkek: its first Western-style shopping center, personally opened by Akayev.

Martbubu Jumakanova, 48, however, surveyed the broken mannequins littering the sidewalk and called it justice. “The people took back what was theirs,” said Jumakanova, who said she was a cousin of opposition leader Felix Kulov, who is now in charge of coordinating law enforcement.

It’s good to hear that few think that the looters were seeking justice. A welder whose business of putting bars in windows is now booming, told the AP,

“What happened here showed that we can be strong and decisive and stand up for our rights,” the welder said. “The destruction and damage – that is not a consequence of the revolution but of the government we’ve been living with for 15 years.”

Not a plan, not justice, not the chaos of democracy, but what one might expect when a weak government collapses after years of corruption and malaise.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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