I once met an Uzbek political scientist from Tashkent who was visiting Osh. Among many other things we discussed the potential for violence in the Ferghana valley.
I was arguing the position that post-Soviet Central Asians did not appear to be violent people and that I doubted the potential for wide-spread social violence in the Ferghana valley.
Eventually he said something that chilled my heart and bears repeating in light of the recent events in Osh:
“You foreigners don’t know us. You look at us with rose-colored glasses. We are mean. We can be evil and brutal to each other. If the lid comes off this valley, or if Karimov dies in Uzbekistan, it will be a bloody mess.”
I have thought about this chance encounter many times since that day in 2005. And while I still love and trust my many Central Asian friends, of several different nationalities, I must admit that this man probably knew his own people better than I, the outsider. I can only hope and pray that what just happened in Osh is an anomoly, because otherwise this could get really ugly.