Jew-Baiting Kyrgyzstan

by Joshua Foust on 8/30/2010 · 48 comments

RFE/RL “Writer-at-large” James Kirchick has a novel theory to explain this summer’s upheaval in Kyrgyzstan.

But looking back on the turbulent events that this country – which I have visited twice in the past five months – has experienced, I realize that a foretaste of the June disturbances was already evident in early April, just days after Kyrgyzstan’s autocratic and corrupt president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was violently ousted from power by an angry mob. Hanging from the gate of the burned-out presidential office compound was a large, white banner with the words “Kyrgyzstan has no place for dirty Jews and the likes of Maxim,” a reference to the ousted president’s son. And the evening after Bakiyev fled Bishkek, the capital, a group of vandals attacked the city’s only synagogue, a tiny, decrepit compound serving a minuscule community of mostly Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian Jews who have been living in Kyrgyzstan since Soviet times.

In case you were wondering, that’s it. That’s his evidence for anti-semitism in Kyrgyzstan, and how it’s a harbinger of greater worries and instability. Of course, the fact that the decidedly non-Jewish Uzbeks bore the brunt of the violence, that all of the displaced people were Uzbek, and that people didn’t hate Jews but rather Maxsim Bakiyev’s thuggery and national theft (and the Russian Jew who enabled him)… well “meh” to that in James’ world.

But to prove Kirchick’s point, that anti-semitism exists in any unique way in Kyrgyzstan, he must reach out to well-known race scholar Christopher Hitchens, who notes that race-hatred against the Tamils or Tutsi didn’t involve global financial conspiracy. While that’s undoubtedly true, as long as we’re drawing baseless analogies, then surely the Tamils are just like the Palestinians because both have used suicide bombing? And the Hutus must be just like Hamas because they believe in genocide?

Of course they’re different—some Palestinians hate Jews, and because of Europe’s experience with violent anti-Semitism, that’s afforded an entirely different class of victimization. Nevermind that, unlike the Jews, the Tamils and Tutsis have experienced actual holocausts over the last 20 years. So what about anti-Semitism within Kyrgyzstan itself?

When I interviewed the community’s rabbi, Arieh Reichman, about a week after the revolution, he was quick to place the blame for the anti-Semitic incidents on a handful of thugs. “The Kyrgyz people are very hospitable and warm-hearted,” he insisted. “This is confirmed by the fact that Jews have lived here untroubled.” …

To be sure, there was no overt connection between April’s anti-Semitic incidents in Bishkek and the ethnic violence in the south two months later.

Oh right, after setting up this huge important point about hating Jews, Kirchick has to admit it doesn’t really exist in Kyrgyzstan and the actual Jews who live there don’t believe in it. So what’s the point? “The way a society treats its Jews,” Kirchick explains, “is a barometer of its health.” Uhh, show your work please?

Two weeks after April’s anti-Semitic incidents, a Kyrgyz mob burned down dozens of houses belonging to Russians and Meskhetian Turks. Something has gone deeply wrong in Kyrgyz society, which has begun to manifest an ethnic nationalism the likes of which the country has never shown before.

Well, race riots happen. Was American society deeply wrong, broken, even, during the race riots in Los Angeles in 1992? France has issues with people committing anti-Semitic violence as well… but they also commit anti-Arab and anti-African violence as well (and those groups have responded in kind). Is French society deeply broken?

Notice that no Jews were attacked during the riots, apart from the defacement of that one single synagogue weeks beforehand. Kirchick saw Uzbeks being beaten and harassed with his own eyes, but he thinks it’s really about Jews. Does that make sense?

I have a different theory: contra the always-cogent Hitchens, racism is vile and disgusting everywhere it is expressed. When I lived in Kazakhstan, I heard people say horrible things about Uzbeks; in Afghanistan, Pashtuns repeated blood-libel against Hazaras; in Rwanda, the Hutus believed the Tutsis part of a conspiracy to take over and rule the country (something Hitchens and Kirchick are smart enough to have known). Whether against Jews or anyone else, it is an ugly, terrible thing, that becomes doubly so when expressed violently.

But let’s make a new rule, yes? Even if you have to publish a certain number of op-eds a month, let’s try to avoid pandering to an Israeli newspaper’s thirst to create a global anti-Semitic movement next time? I don’t blame the editors of Haaretz for not knowing enough about Kyrgyzstan to evaluate Kirchick’s ridiculous appeals to anti-Semitism… but I do blame Kirchick for so shamelessly Jew-baiting an otherwise tragic and complicated and very non-Jewish problem like Kyrgyzstani politics. That’s just low.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 48 comments }

Turgai Sangar August 30, 2010 at 9:06 am

“(and the Russian Jew who enabled him)”

Beeeep. Be careful that this doesn’t get you the wrath of Jarvik of the Ziocon though police.

Oxus August 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

Great post. I think your criticism of Hitchens (especially in the second paragraph) is a bit misplaced though. Asking whether anti-semitism takes a distinct form from or somehow has different causes than other outgroup prejudices is a worthwhile question and it is not his fault that Kirchik exploits his quote to make a vapid, false claim.

Joshua Foust August 30, 2010 at 9:14 am

That’s a fair comment I suppose, though I still think Hitchens needlessly exaggerates anti-semitism as a distinct form of racism as compared to other, equally murderous forms of race hatred… at least, post-WWII. The current quest on the American right to create a secret Muslim global conspiracy to destroy America is one example of how such things are not just limited to Jews.

Turgai Sangar August 30, 2010 at 9:38 am

Exactly. Islamophobia is today what anti-Semitism used to be until the mid-twentieth century. This means that the quest for Khilafah is not absurd or illegitimate.

http://www.khilafah.com/index.php/the-khilafah/issues/9805-khilafah-hope-for-the-ummah

Oxus August 30, 2010 at 11:26 am

Yes. I agree that the causes of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are linked, especially in contexts where there are very few of the outgroup (such as central Tennessee). But I also think that it is worth emphasizing that anti-Uzbek sentiment in southern Kyrgyzstan, anti-Tutsi sentiment in Gikondo, anti-Roma sentiment in Hungary and anti-African American sentiment in rural Arkansas are often born out of direct contact, observation, and perceived slights (and inequity) not just tall tales about Zionist overlords. That is to say, there are likely distinct causes and distinct effects of different categories of outgroup prejudice.

Oxus August 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

opps, I meant second-to-last paragraph.

Turgai Sangar August 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

“I don’t blame the editors of Haaretz for not knowing enough about Kyrgyzstan to evaluate Kirchick’s ridiculous appeals to anti-Semitism…”

Actually, the ones who first led a major stink in the Israëli media were IzRus, a portal for ex-Soviet Jews and quite close to the Liebermann movement.

jane August 30, 2010 at 9:59 am

Excellent post! Thank you for putting my sentiments into writing!

Kzblog August 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I see your major points, but I wonder if you would feel there was no racism evident if Tea Party people held up signs saying we don’t need this dirty black guy and then explained that they simply have strong feelings about Obama’s policies. It would be odd if even family of victims of murders used racial designations. Also saying there’s no overt anti- Semitism isn’t the same as saying there is none. And one rabbi’s opinion is not the same as the entire Jewish community.

Joshua Foust August 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Well, that’s basically what the Tea Party does right now, and I’d say that’s pretty obviously racially tinged.

As for the anti-semitism thing – I’m not discussing whether anti-semitism exists to a certain degree in Kyrgyzstan. Hell, it exists in the U.S., alongside a bundle of other unacceptable forms of bias, racism, and prejudice (think again, of the Tea Party). My point here is two-fold:

1) There’s no evidence that anti-Semitism is rampant as a major social force within Kyrgyzstan; and

2) There’s no evidence anti-Semitism was even a minor factor in this summer’s riots in Osh

Since those two points form the basis of Kirchick’s op-ed, I feel pretty comfortable accusing him of cynically Jew-baiting the whole thing.

Kzblog August 30, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Yeah, I definitely agree with those two points. Race in the former USSR is difficult to suss out. It seems to me that in the West, we are taught to ignore race and call no attention to it. And certainly we are taught particular sensitivity to the Jews. Hard to know what to make of the CIS where people are comfortable saying, ” This is my friend Maxim. He’s a Jew.”

Shannon August 30, 2010 at 4:51 pm

According to the same newspaper, all of 12 Jews were evacuated from Kyrgyzstan by Israel during June’s unrest, and nothing in the article even hints that they left because they were harassed or targeted. Kirchik’s piece is unhelpful and irresponsible.

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/israel-rescues-12-jewish-refugees-from-war-torn-kyrgyzstan-1.297311

I would be interested in knowing more about the remaining communities of Jews in Central Asia. I’m pretty fascinated by that old guy thought to be the last Jew in Kabul.

AJK August 31, 2010 at 4:47 am

That’s one of my pet theses if I ever have time to write, like, 6 dissertations. I think Tashkent still has a somewhat strong community, at least in the three digits. Also, their integration into Israel (and, to be fair, New York) is pretty interesting, re: them not quite being Slavic and not quite being Persian.

Caomengde August 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm

“Whether against Jews or anyone else, it is an ugly, terrible thing, that becomes doubly so when expressed violently.”

Funny, I used to recall very same Joshua Foust who barely a year ago was blaming Han Chinese for getting their throats cut on the street of Urumqi.

Joshua Foust August 30, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Indeed, I did so as recently last week. Or, you could read what I actually wrote and notice that I said nothing of the sort. I have never endorsed or excused ethnic killing or racism.

Caomengde August 31, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I did. You are justifying killing of innocent Han civilians because Uyghurs are merely “riot against a racist authoritarian regime.”

Because apparent those Han shop keepers and office workers going about their lives are making life so miserable for Uyghurs, that killing these unwanted Han is a understandable response.

“… that the Han Chinese create an intolerable living situation for the Uighurs in Xinjiang””

Sounds like what an average writers for People’s Daily would describe LA riot of 1992.

“…that the White people created an intolerable living situation for the Blacks in South Central…the people of the ghetto rose up against the racist regime in Washington”

Nice, Really Nice.

M August 31, 2010 at 3:17 am

In the last couple years I’ve heard a few anti-semitic comments, sure.

But this is a failing country with a heterogeneous population. I’ve heard plenty of slurs by the Kyrgyz against the devious Uzbeks, the haughty Slavs, the imperious Russians, the selfish Americans, or the plotting Chinese. As the ethnic tension gets worse, we’ve all already forgotten the earlier divisions of North vs South, Issyk-Kul vs Bishkek, Osh vs Jalal-abad or any other form exclusivity serving to pass blame for shared failures and misfortunes.

Titular nations of failing countries rarely look in the mirror for their scapegoats. Yugoslavia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Rwanda in the 90s all probably sounded similar at the time, with the names of the subversive nation changing but not the reasoning behind the derision.

Boratino August 31, 2010 at 9:42 am

Before going into deep jungle of semitism,antisemitism, zionizm, else, check out Nikolai Starikov’s page. Rule is simple “Follow the money”. Hahahahhaa

http://nstarikov.livejournal.com/

Boratino August 31, 2010 at 9:43 am

We Kyrgyz, are Aryans. Learn what is R1A before blaming us to be antisemites. Most jews are indeed descended from Khasarian Turks and our Aryan Bros. Hahahhahahah

Turgai Sangar August 31, 2010 at 10:22 am

“We Kyrgyz, are Aryans.” I wonder what role this kind of views ployed in the southern ethnic cleansing.

Nathan August 31, 2010 at 10:29 am

Like a shared haplogroup ever stopped people from being dicks to one another.

Caomengde August 31, 2010 at 2:03 pm

There are plenty of African-Americans with R1b Y haplogroup. some are legacy of centuries of slavery. Do they qualify as Western European by your logic?

In fact, there are plenty African-Americans with R1b Y haplogroup AND a Mitochondria haplogroup originate in Europe. So they are wholly European right?

Y chromosome and Mitochondria only tells a part of the story (your direct patrilineal and matrilineal descent) not nothing about the vast group of people who are also your ancestors, like the branch of your maternal grandfather or paternal grandmother.

Learn some genetics might help.

Boratino September 1, 2010 at 2:02 am

there are plenty African-Americans with R1b Y haplogroup

Hahaha. This, in fact, proves that Western Europeans are indeed Blacks, and not Aryans.

Kzblog September 1, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Yes. We are all Africans if you go back far enough. So what?

Caomengde September 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Hahaha. Sorry Bro, I read you wrong. I actually thought your post was serious. My bad. Your piece is hilarious, Hahaha.

tictoc August 31, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Joshua, you seem to be deliberately misinterpreting Kirchik’s essay. Kirchik does believe that anti-Semitism exists in Kyrgyzstan, and views it as a sign of serious problems in Kyrgyz society because the actual number of Jews in Kyrgyzstan is so small. As for the rabbi saying nice things about the Kyrgyz people, what did you expect him to say? Minorities in Kyrgyzstan are usually afraid to voice publicly anything that could be portrayed as “defaming the Kyrgyz people.”

I don’t buy Kirchik’s “canary in the coal mine” argument, but he is making a very good point about the very troubling rise in ethnic nationalism. How can you simply dismiss this with, “Well, race riots happen.” Seriously? What you’ve written is more of a steaming pile of crap than what Kirchik wrote.

You talk about the Tamils and the Hutus. Well, Sri Lanka and Rwanda could hardly be considered healthy, well-functioning societies. Did Los Angeles have serious problems in 1992 (the United States is a big country, so let’s not conflate this to encompass the entire land mass)? Yes, Los Angeles, and more specifically, its police department, had serious problems in 1992. Guess you weren’t there. I think many people would categorize the LAPD in 1992 as “deeply broken.”

Oxus September 1, 2010 at 9:15 am

If Kirchik was trying to write an essay on the disturbing rise of ethnic nationalism and indeed ethnic outbidding amongst political candidates in Kyrgyzstan, he failed. And he failed because of a narrow focus on supposed anti-semitism and a desire to connect to a global narrative on how treating Jews is a barometer of the health of a society.

By any measure, his article added nothing to the broader understanding of the dynamics that led to the violence we witnessed in June or the root of the continuing and growing ethnic tensions in the country. Worse than that, it potentially obfuscated our understanding by making weakly supported claims about Kyrgyzstani societies supposed worrying anti-semitic streak.

It represents opportunistic journalism at its worst and deserves to be scrutinized just as severely as the garbage written by Tedd Rall.

Helian September 1, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I’m R1A, too, but we lose track of our origins in the male line after my 7th great grandfather arrived in America in the 1640’s. Who know we were Kyrgyz? Should I be wearing a special hat?

Joshua Foust September 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm
Boratino September 2, 2010 at 6:55 am

Not neccesarily. Helian might have R1A of Scandinavian origin and could be needing to wear Viking hat. Or Russian fur hat.
Hahahahha.

Boratino September 2, 2010 at 7:20 am

You might even be a Kyrgyz Jew. And thou shalt know what hat should be wearing.

http://www.zazzle.com/obama_jewish_hat-148072679810809971

http://www.jogg.info/11/coffman.htm
In point of fact, the Levites were shown to have a common set of genetic markers – just not the CMH. These markers were not even part of the same J1 haplogroup as found in the Cohanim. The majority of Levites shared a common haplotype, indicating a shared common ancestor among them, but this haplotype occurred within haplogroup R1a and, more specifically, within subgroup R1a1. Furthermore, this haplogroup was found only in the Ashkenazi Levites; it was not shared with the Sephardic Levite population in the same fashion as the CMH. Given the fact that the Ashkenazi Levites did not share R1a with their Sephardic counterparts, it appeared that this haplogroup had entered the Jewish population sometime during the Diaspora.

Uzbekistan September 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm

All over the world people want to have black & white answers to their questions. One of the issue which i specially promoted and always gets attention from the media is Antisemitism. My experience of living in Central Asia tells me that there is no Antisemitism in Ex Ussr Republics. Isolated cases are exceptional.
People generally tell so many jokes about Sarah and Abraham. There are atleast 10,000 jews srill living in Uzbekistan and they are fully assimilated. Naturally every body is looking for economic progress so many Jews immigrate to Erope, USA for economic reasons and not because of antisemitism. But when they apply for immigration they tell in USA, Canada stories of Antisemitism. JUST TO GET LEGAL STATUS.
But Jewish lobbies are always trying to highlight even some isolated exceptions just to get donation and support.

Toryalay Shirzay September 1, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Boratino,

Someone needs to set the record straight here. You say the Kyrgyz are Aryans? bullshit. My research suggests the Kyrgyz are Mongols which makes sense when you look at the Kyrgyz and notice their phenotype is the same as Mongols.Not only this,when you look at the kyrgyz behavior in Osh and Jalalabad in June,they behaved in exactly the same manner as their Mongol forefathers in the 12th century,very brutal,very satanic,very bloodthirsty criminal thugs.This is indeed what the whole world witnessed in June:mobs and mobs of crazed bloodthirsty Kyrgyz thugs attacking innocent people in their houses,killing them,burning their houses and even burning people alive.And now you come here and try to put a veneer of repectability on the filthy Kyrgyz.I don’t think people are that naive to be fooled by your clever avoidance of the Kyrgyz bestiality and brutality.You and the other Kyrgyz must realize your evil nature and you all be better off by trying to learn how to be civilized and learn some humanity.

Metin September 2, 2010 at 10:50 am

+1 !
From what I have watched on TV (Discovery, BBC) Mongols and Kyrgyz are very alike in physical appearance, way of life, cuisine culture indeed.
Of course, it is irritating when someone tries to be the one who is not. Claims that Kyrgyz are Aryans and have 3 thousands years history sounds really weird. Someone here suffers from inferiority complex because of his/her look.

Boratino September 3, 2010 at 6:25 am

Pathetic posting. I pity you. The word Kyrgyz survived thousands of years. For some, 100 miles is long distance, for some, 100 years is deep history. The word Uzbek derives itself from the name of Monghol khan.

Boratino September 3, 2010 at 6:43 am

@Toryalay Shirzay

So, ignorance is bliss. I shall enlighten you and send your soul to the hell. The name Uzbeg itself derives from the name of Mongol Khan. If you despise Mongols, invent new name for your ethnicity.

We aren’t denying our Mongolian looks, besides who said that Aryans ought to be Indoeuropean, blue eyes, blonde and all that BS? That’s another racist bullshit originated fron Western Europe and USA.
Aryans are just people of Andronovo culture, who lived in Siberia. They have nothing to do with Hitler and his next of kins.

Boratino September 2, 2010 at 6:48 am

@Toryalay Shirzay

Well, do not confuse terms. Do not mix phenotype with genotype.
Learn that indeed Kyrgyz haplogroup R1a originates from Urals region, where legendary Aryans lived once upon time. There’s also
Chinese and Mongol influence.

As for Osh troubles – I know very well what really happened. Uzbek Govt knows that as well. Karimov was not pleased with Osh Uzbeks, was he? Learn some Geopolitics.

Алла Пугачева September 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I know, as a casual acquaintance, a Kyrgyz woman who teaches in a Western university, is artistic, articulate and by all superficial accounts, civilized. When the story broke about the racial rioting in Osh, I asked her what the deal was. She launched into a bizarre anti-Uzbek diatribe which forked into a lecture on Manas and the allegedly ancient Aryan folklore of Kazakhstan. I asked what Uzbek folklore was like and she said, “The Uzbeks have no folklore. They are animals.” Wow.

Aren’t Kazakh and Kirghiz mutually intelligible?

Boratino September 3, 2010 at 6:28 am

Boom, kaboom. Kazakh, Kirhiz, Uzbek, Turkish, Bashkir, Tatar are all mutually intelligible in some extent.

Besides, we, Kyrgyz, genocided Native Americans too? Bizzare.

Dilshod September 3, 2010 at 4:07 am

@tictoc, I share your reading of the article and it’s clear to me, it’s an early warning, with Uzbeks gone who’s next? (as I mentioned in one of my posting, one of the problems in CA expertise is about cultural difference, or adequate interpretation of signals, messages).
@Toryalay Shirzay, yes my friend they are Mongoloid by race and there’s nothing wrong with that. But they keep insisting they are just different type of Caucausians with round faces, tiny eyes and flat noses. And even there I see no problem, I see problem with their identity, they seem to have a very vague idea about their identity, about their values. Identity crisis.

Boratino September 3, 2010 at 6:34 am

Pathetic. So ignorant. Uzbek is the name of Monghol Khan. Such ethnicity never existed before his rule.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uzbeg_Khan
Sultan Mohammed Öz-Beg, better known as Uzbeg or Ozbeg (1282–1341, reign 1313–1341), was the longest-reigning khan of the Golden Horde, under whose rule the state reached its zenith.[1] He was succeeded by his son Jani Beg.

He was the son of Toghrilcha and grandson of Mengu-Timur, who had been khan of the Golden Horde from 1267–1280.

Dilshod September 3, 2010 at 7:42 am

@Boratino, and don’t forget Titanic, Twin Towers and Unibomber, when you talk about conspiracies by Uzbek government. You are soooo right. As we say, you are so insightful that “if not for the walls you could see the streets”.
Btw, story of Ozbegkhan is one of the versions it’s not the final and definitive. And still I see no problem with that. I see problem with your insistence on ethnicity. It speaks for itself.

Boratino September 4, 2010 at 5:21 am

You started the trend. I followed the suit. Ozbegkhan is Monghol. Like Tores in Kazakhstan. If you see Monghols as inferior, well change your name to, errm, say, to Heavenly Sarts, or whatever.
I dont see Monghols as inferior. They ruled empire bigger han British once upon a ime. I considr Japanese women a most beautiful on the planet.

Sooo….? Did we, Kyrgyz, murdered JFK? Genocided Native Americans? Antisemited jews? What else?

Dilshod September 4, 2010 at 7:44 am

I don’t think you are getting what I’m saying. I will simplify it: you keep making references to some haplogroup thing that presumably proves the Aryan origin of the Kyrgyzs, to me it means that they are ashamed to be considered Mongoloid and they . I’m saying I have no problem with that (though it sounds really childish), you can define yourself they way you want, but the issue is if it’s accepted by others. I’m saying that when you place too much of an emphasis on race and ethnicity, it means there’s something wrong with you world outlook. That it is basically racist and nationalistic.
You Kyrgyzs did murder, burnt alive, raped and mutiliated hundreds and dozens of hundreds of my fellow Uzbeks. This is what you did. In addition to be super simple-minded (you guys uttered no word of repentance, no fuc*en single sorry) you have a nerve to say that Uzbeks and/or Uzbek gov’t staged those murdereous acts. Yes, “the victim committed a suicide as three stabbed wounds on his back indicate.”

Toryalay Shirzay September 4, 2010 at 9:29 pm

The main issue and the most important issue about the Kyrgyz is their actions and their behavior.Nobody really cares about the Kyrgyz being Mongoloid or their ethnicity,but people do care about what actions they do.A new report by the International Crisis Group,Aug23,2010,titled”The Pogroms in Kyrgyzstan” details the the actions and the behavior of the Kyrgyz.Here,it is well documented that it wasn’t just the ordinary Kyrgyz who were murdering innocent Uzbek families,but that the Kyrgyz military ,the Krygyz police and the politicians were taking direct action in wholesale massacre and burning of Uzbeks.This is how the stink of the Kyrgyz personality and behavior come through and also the Nazi-like attitude of Boratino comes through his writings.Thus the Kyrgyz have demonstrated once and for all not only they are ugly outside but that they are ugly inside indeed.If you noticed how the Kyrgyz nowadays continue to lie about their satanic deeds and accuse the victims and international organizations , then you can see why the Kyrgyz have made themselves into the ugliest beings on face of this planet Earth.And this all of their own goddamn doings!!

Turgai Sangar September 5, 2010 at 8:07 am

I refuse to take sides along ethnic lines. But if there is no strong reaction among the Kyrgyz against nationalism, the Kyrgyz will indeed discredit themselves.

In wider Kyrgyz society, I observed a kind of tacit embarassment. But it is not outspoken because people are either bullied by loud-mouthed nationalists or because they suppress things by blaming others, either a. ‘external forces’ (e.g. ‘Tajik and Afghan mercenaries’) or b. ‘marginals’ in their own group (e.g. ‘the atrocities were committed by these illiterate hillbillies from Alay, not by people like us’).

This is exactly the sort of reactions that I observed among part of the people in Bosnia just after the war there.

To blame it all on mercenaries and marginals is bollocks of course. For a start, like in the Balkans at the time, racialist and nationalist theories have been circulating among part of the Kyrgyz intelligentsia, media and government apparatchiks for years. One person from Bishkek who was never in the south even found that what happened was necessary because ‘many Uzbeks are Islamic extremists and need to be stopped’. I guess that line also suits some beyond Kyrgyzstan, doesn’t it?

Dilshod September 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

It didn’t take that long, did it? http://www.ferghana.ru/news.php?id=15509&mode=snews

Dilshod September 9, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Briefly: in the evening of Sep 9, an hour before celebration of Jewish New Year, local Bishkek synagogue was bombed with explosive device. Kyrgyz police reports no victims. Synagogue refused to comment.

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