Asia

Kyrgyzstan: A Libertarian Solution?

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On Thursday night, Radio Free Europe's Washington offices hosted a panel discussion on Kyrgyzstan. James Kirchick and scholars Erica Manat and Jeff Goldstein gave their read on the country's alarming disintegration this summer, when clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and the country's Uzbek minority displaced nearly 400,000 people. Kyrgyzstan had been considered the most democracy-friendly country in Central Asia, a region of police states (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) and dictatorships somewhat less severe than police states (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan). In 2005 and 2010, disaffected Kyrgyzstanis took to the streets and successfully ousted their corrupt and dictatorial leaders, both of whom had reneged on promises of greater political freedom and government transparency. Goldstein emphasized that the country has "the strongest civil society in the region."

But the current, Kyrgyz-dominated state structure seems intent on making sure that Kyrgyz and Uzbeks continue to live in mortal fear of one another. "I don't think I spoke to a single Uzbek who was the least bit positive about their future prospects in the country," said Kirchick, who reported from the southern city of Osh after this summer's riots. "They're terrified of their neighbors, of the police and security forces, and of the mayor. And they have very little trust in the central government."

Luckily the chaos has created a small but growing space for economic and political alternatives. Kirchick said that when he was in Kyrgyzstan, he met with members of the Central Asia Free Market Institute, a small group of Kyrgyzstanis in their mid-20s who believe that increased economic and political freedom are crucial to the country's future. "It's a very impressive group," said Kirchick. "They're 23, 24 years old, and it was a very inspiring thing to meet them."

I think this was the only time that any of the panelists used the word "inspiring" to describe anything related to Kyrgyzstan. But a look at the group's website offers reason for some optimism. The CAFMI'ers are technically literate, deeply idealistic, and practical about how libertarian ideas can transform their troubled region—for instance, they believe that "more people trading translates into increased prosperity with a greater stake in peace."

The hope is that the CAFM provide a sense of urgency in promoting an alternative to the divide-and-conquer strategy of Kyrgyzstan's government before it's too late. "There's a feeling in the air" said Kirchick. "You just sense that the place could explode again."

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  1. Oh wow, I never thought about it that way before.

    http://www.online-privacy.eu.tc

  2. Kyrgyzstan, buy a vowel!

    1. A, e, I, o, u and sometimes y.

    2. y is a vowel! In Kyrgyzstan.

  3. That’s 8 consonants in. a. row.

  4. To comment here is like an infantryman trying to explain the intricacies of diffusing a ticking bomb.

    1. Without vowels.

      1. Vowels? We don’t need no stinkin’ vowels!

        1. At last we reach the core of our conflict.

  5. Hey, this is the intern! So, he’s got the Kyrgyzstan beat. Interesting.

  6. They have one of the toughest citizenship tests in the world, and it’s only one question:

    1) Spell our country’s name correctly

  7. But the current, Kyrgyz-dominated state structure seems intent on making sure that Kyrgyz and Uzbeks continue to live in mortal fear of one another.

    Not surprising at all: the current US System is tailored to keep the Reds and Blues in mortal fear of each other . . . and if not, the political class simply comes up with other artificial classifications and hobgobblins to keep people divided against each other or in constant, submisive fear (blacks vs whites, libs versus cons, Coke vs Pepsi, you name it…)

    1. “””the current US System is tailored to keep the Reds and Blues in mortal fear of each other “””

      That system has been around far longer then the US has been around and was created in Kyrgyzstan primarily by the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks with help by the old Soviet Union.

      I have no problem blaming the US government for what it does but its really pushing it to blame Kyrgyzstan on the US.

      1. Re: DJF,

        You seem to have missed the point: That governments, no matter where they come from or how they came about, make their living through keeping the populations in constant fear of groups of their own devise or other hobgoblins. It is not a Soviet thing or a US thing, it is a State thing.

        1. And prior to there being state the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks were fighting each other. You can blame the State for many things but fighting and group warfare pre-dates the State. Or to put it another way, fights between groups helped create States. The groups usually being family groups, which is what the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks are.

          And even the overthrow of the Kyrgyzstan governments has lots to do with fighting between clans within the Kyrgyz. One clan gets power and grabs all the wealth and then the other clans overthrow them.

          1. Re: DJF,

            Read the post again: “Kyrgyz-dominated state structure seems intent on making sure that Kyrgyz and Uzbeks continue to live in mortal fear of one another.”

            It is one thing that these two groups have deep-sitted mistrust of each other, quite another the actions of the State.

            There was a lot of mistrust between European settlers and Native Americans, yet they did many times come together and trade, create relationships, even fight together against a common enemy. The State, however, made sure there was ALWAYS a rift between the two populations through State-sponsored warfare and plundering.

            The State lives off fear.

  8. “They’re terrified of their neighbors, of the police and security forces, and of the mayor. And they have very little trust in the central government.”

    Certainly, those Bell, CA folks are a restless bunch . . . Oh, wait, you meant Kyrgyzstan. Sorry, my bad.

  9. Does anyone know of an audio recording of this panel discussion? I’d be very interested to hear it, but can’t seem to find a copy of it on the Radio Free Europe website. Thanks to anyone with a link!

  10. “Kyrgyzstan had been considered the most democracy-friendly country in Central Asia”

    By whom exactly? I get annoyed when journalists use the passive voice like this. This is an excellent example of journalism attempting to obfuscate rather than clarify.

  11. I just visited the CAFMI website, which has been maliciously hacked. It’s a great group, with a lot good activities, such as Free Market School, IdeaNight in Bishkek, etc., etc. I hope that they can correct this malicious activity soon. And it is worth visiting after the hacking has been corrected. They are heroes of freedom in Central Asia

  12. The recent conflicts between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz did not arise from historical rivalry or deeply rooted resentment as some ignorant analysts claim. Historically, these nations were in symbiotic relationship: Uzbek transferred some of their farm goods for livestock that Kyrgyz provided in exchange. Furthermore, these nations are genetically VERY close as has been numerously reported in genetic studies.

    The recent bloody events are symptomatic of arbitrary demarcations, which is not specific to Central Asia.

    As far as CAFMI activities are concerned, the contributions of these young men and women will have a lasting effect on Kyrgyz State.

  13. Correction: Erica Marat

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