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March 26, 2005
The Laid-Back Revolution

Ian MacWilliam files a personal look at the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan with the BBC this morning which should caution us to the extent by which the Kyrgyz people demand democratization. Mostly, MacWilliam writes, the Kyrgyz people want to be left alone to return to their traditional nomadic culture:

A couple of hundred demonstrators had occupied the governor's office [in Jalal-Abad] for more than a week, but they chatted quite happily to militiamen who were also in the grounds keeping an eye on them.

One middle-aged woman told me what in essence what the whole protest was about.

"I'm a teacher, but I haven't worked for close to 10 years. The government pays teachers next to nothing, only the rich live well here in Kyrgyzstan," she said.

"Once, when we lived as nomads in the mountains, our life was clean, we lived in our yurts and kept our horses and sheep, and there was no corruption then. We want to have a clean life again."

The people of Kyrgyzstan don't actually have a tremendous drive towards any form of government, except that Jeffersonian model of the one that governs least, governs best. The Kyrgyz uprising appears to be a corrective towards decades of statism that has seriously undermined their nomadic culture and forced the Kyrgyz into an industrialization they don't particularly want. In fact, those of us who grew up in the western US will recognize a glimmer of our brand of political conservatism in how MacWilliam describes the political impulse in this Central Asian country:

It is the nomadic sprit perhaps which sets Kyrgyzstan apart from its more authoritarian neighbours.

When you live in a tent in your own mountain valley and can up sticks at will, you develop a sense of personal freedom that even 70 years of communism cannot eradicate.

Of course, it is precisely this freedom that communism hoped to stamp out with agricultural collectives and industrialization. Apparently, Akayev continued this process with only a moderate amount of liberalism thrown in, but the Kyrgyz still don't like the results: widespread corruption, disruption of their traditional culture and freedom, and nagging unemployment. It also explains why the Kyrgyz haven't thronged to Bishkek and remained to occupy the capitol as we have seen in Ukraine and Georgia.

MacWilliam also notes that the security forces which the would-be counterrevolutionary, Keneshbek Dushebayev, ran briefly before Akayev's ouster don't have much loyalty to the outgoing government. That spells failure for his efforts to lead loyalists to Bishkek and retake control of Kyrgyzstan:

A police spokesman told me politely that the protesters had every right to express their views. I could not help feeling that he was on their side really, along with most of the helmeted police men too.

Late last week, when the protest suddenly grew to a crowd of thousands who then decided to occupy the government's office, the policemen simply stood aside and let them in.

Dushebayev apparently inspires little support in the security apparatus he briefly ran. The Kyrgyz have spoken, in the terse manner that befits their national character. How does one say, "Don't Tread On Me" in Kyrgyz, anyway?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 26, 2005 10:51 AM

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