Kyrgyz Girls Really Knock Me Out

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The Christian Science Monitor's Fred Weir hears echoes of Kyrgyzstan's revolution:

Recent days have seen a spate of copycat protests launched by opposition groups that were perhaps hoping their own local authorities might fold and flee under pressure, as did Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev when demonstrators stormed his Bishkek complex last week.

About 1,000 people rallied last Friday in the capital of Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko runs the last Soviet-style dictatorship in Europe, to demand his resignation. Police quickly dispersed the crowd and dispatched the ringleaders to prison.

Two Russian ethnic republics, Ingushetia and Bashkortostan, have seen mass street demonstrations this week directed against Kremlin-installed leaders. Even in remote Mongolia, the former USSR's Asian satellite, hundreds of protesters gathered last week to "congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers" and demand a rerun of last June's disputed parliamentary polls.

Didn't Mongolia already have a people-power revolution back in 1990? Well, if at first you don't succeed…

Ironically, the post-Soviet countries that have so far been rocked by revolution have been among the most liberal and relatively democratic in an admittedly tough region. "Akayev, to his credit, allowed a fairly permissive environment for NGO's to work," says Stuart Kahn, Kyrgyzstan project director for Freedom House, which is partly financed by the US government. The danger, he says, is that other Central Asian leaders may see Akayev's concessions to democracy as the Achilles' heel of his regime. "The lesson they may draw is that the permissive, or semi-repressive environment Akayev created is antithetical to maintaining the status quo."

There have been protests in Uzbekistan as well, which if they spread could become a headache for the White House. One of the most repressive regimes in the area, the Uzbek government is also an American ally.