Momentum Change

by Myles G. Smith on 5/17/2010 · 15 comments

As has been reported widely by,,, and even the New York Times, the Provisional Government has retaken control in the South almost as quickly as they lost it. As one commenter noted yesterday, this is an encouraging sign. The Counter-Revolution was previously scheduled for May 17, so many are hoping that it has fallen apart before it started. In what may interpreted as a sign of the pro-Bakiev forces underlying weakness, several homes belonging to the family were burned in their home village of Teyit.

There seems to be two lines of intent to the conspiracy. One, as stated by Bakiev’s ‘grassroots’ supporters in the South, was that the Counter-Revolutionaries would declare an Autonomous Southern Krygyz Republic, which would maintain its own separate security forces but share foreign and trade policy.

This version is in keeping with the attempts by Bakiev to divide and conquer since his downfall, calling for a partition of the country or his own reinstatement in order to prevent the civil war that he appeared to be fomenting himself. The ‘North-South’ divide of popular lore does not appear to be getting traction among the people. Perhaps not coincidentally, such a republic would control the main heroin runs from Tajikistan. Many anti-Bakiev figures have claimed that the former ruling family was directly involved in the drug trade.

The second theory was voiced by PG head Otunbayeva yesterday, who asserted that their eventual intent was to retake control in Bishkek using supporters of the popular former Mayor of Bishkek Tyuliev. Then, Communist Party leader Masaliev would reform parliament and elect Bakiev back into office. She asserts that they were financed from Almaty by Marat Bakiev, and coordinated on the ground by former Bakiev staffer Usen Sydykov. The PG also released tapes purporting to be of Sydykov giving orders to operatives within the country.

Some people here are finding the Tyuliev-Bakiev connection hard to swallow, as he came out against the utility tariff hikes that were so unpopular. There is also near-uniform agreement that the city’s administration improved dramatically during his tenure. Otunbayeva has been adament that Tyuliev had business connections with the Bakievs, and if he were innocent, he should give himself up and prove as much.

Its also possible that both versions are at least somewhat true, with the Bakiev faction trying to take the South first, then use that momentum to move on Bishkek. If they could not get the whole pie, they would at least have a slice. Judging by how quickly they collapsed, especially outside of Jalalabad, it appears that their forces are weak or uninspired. At the same time, judging by the feeble resistance offered by security forces, the same might be said of the PG in the South.

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This post was written by...

– author of 12 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Myles G. Smith is a project manager, consultant, and independent analyst based in Central Asia. His writing appears regularly at, the Jamestown Foundation, and the Central Asia and Caucasus Institute. He is currently based in Kyrgyzstan, has lived in Turkmenistan and Russia and worked throughout the former Soviet Union. In the process of his work, he regularly consults a wide range of experts, officials, activists, journalists, academics, diplomats and entrepreneurs in the region. He is proficient in Russian.

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Samantha May 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I don’t think the PG capturing of the South is any indicator of long-term stability. I don’t even think it is a monumental change. Granted, they did recapture the south, where all of Bakiev’s supporters are, but the country is still experiencing violence. I don’t know if we can say whether or not the PG is succeeding yet. It is too early to tell.

I still think that PG’s forces are weak and their influence is even weaker. The security forces in the South idly sat by as protesters seized government buildings. Their lack of action reveals that maybe they are not so keen on the PG and that they are not in support of it. Without the security forces enforcing law and order, the PG has no chance of surviving.

tictoc May 19, 2010 at 12:30 am

“Otunbayeva has been adament that Tyuliev had business connections with the Bakievs, and if he were innocent, he should give himself up and prove as much.”

Shouldn’t the burden fall on Otunbayeva (or the PG) to prove he’s guilty? Already, this government doesn’t seem that different from the last. Arrest people and presume they’re guilty of something unless the accused can prove otherwise.

Myles May 20, 2010 at 4:36 am

No argument here. But, the Soviet system taught everyone that justice = guilty until proven innocent.

It certainly would be nice to see her evidence, and strategically smart to release it if the evidence is air-tight.

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tictoc May 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

tictoc: great point. I read from a news source that Roza intended to round up all of Bakiev’s supporters and throw them in jail and anyone who doesn’t agree with her. I guess this is a type of “Russian democracy.” If she intends to throw everyone in jail, she has no true governing power and therefore weak.

Roza is trying to elilminate the opposition completely. If she were a true democrat–like everyone says she is–she would allow them to remain in the country and have the Kyrgyz people pick their leaders/representatives. I think the results would be shocking. I think a lot of people in Kyrgyzstan other than protesters still support Bakiev but are afraid to express their support.

Samantha May 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Tictoc, I got a little ahead of myself. haha. Sorry.

Grant May 19, 2010 at 3:27 pm

It may be overplayed, but the 2002 protests in Aksy and the larger 2005 ones were definitely based in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Should we argue that the location was accidental and the protests were more dependent on other variables?

Metin May 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Roza is trying to elilminate the opposition completely.
if this is true then Roza is no different from her predecessor.
Just curious, Kyrgyzstan allegedly has ‘the strongest civil society’ among the Central Asian states. How come civil society is comfortable with new kind of dictatorship it has brought to power?

Grant May 19, 2010 at 8:48 pm

We can’t be sure of her intentions yet, the same way outside observers couldn’t be sure of Akaev or Bakiyev in their early years. In the case of trending towards liberalism or authoritarianism actions certainly speak louder than words.
However, if we work with the assumption that she will be much the same as her predecessors than should we expect her to last long? In Kyrgyzstan the central government seems to have a limited ability to control the country.

Myles May 20, 2010 at 4:58 am

I would say I haven’t found anyone in Bishkek who believes that Otunbayeva calls most of the shots within the PG. Many local folks in Bishkek suspect that she is was a compromise choice by the other members of the opposition, who would be quickly welcomed by both Russia (worked in USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the 80s, prefers speaking Russian) and the US (speaks English, was ambassador to US and UK).

As the theory goes, Sariev, Atambayev, Tekebayev, etc., put her up as the ‘clean face’ representing change and an end to pillaging of the state while they divide real power among themselves behind the scenes. Many here trust her, but suspect that she has little lasting support among the other power brokers, and that she is not ‘strong’ enough to stabilize the country. She does not appear to be particularly wealthy either, and money buys power here as elsewhere.

Samantha May 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Metin. Kyrgyzstan does have the strongest civil society in all of Central Asia. But look at the other Central Asian Republics. Kyrgyzstan is not a bastion of democracy in any respect, but it is a lot better than the governemnts of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

To answer your question is a political philosophical one. When change comes people automatically assume that it will be for the better. Kyrgyz citizens believe that civil society (and I use that term in a plain way) will improve because their ineffective and corrupt leader is out and a new one is in. If there is a new government then things must get better. This is a logical fallacy. Just because something is new does not mean it is good.

Myles May 21, 2010 at 7:02 am

Its funny, a young Kyrgyz friend of mine was following the news from his office in Bishkek on April 7 with unrestrained excitement. He cheered on the ‘democracy’ of the revolution, and was sure that ‘the future would be better for Krygyzstan now’. The thought never crossed his mind that a few hundred protesters does not a democracy make, nor the possibility that what replaced Bakiev could actually be worse, despite the fact that Bakiev himself was worse than Akaev.

Myles May 21, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Try to stay on topic. Somewhere in some far-flung unvisited corner of the Internet, there must be a place for your Scientology/Nationalist/Anti-Everybody/Summerian-Semi-Historical conspiracy theories. Certainly, this is not it.

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