Policy Memos

Competing Narratives and Violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan

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There are two challenges in accounting for the recent violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan. The first is to connect how political change at Kyrgyzstan's national level, specifically the April 2010 coup, reverberated at the local level and made violence possible. The second is to explain how intra-ethnic discord following the change in government transformed into inter-ethnic violence. A series of incremental steps, beginning with the demonstrable weakening of the state, increased the salience of ethnicity as a cleavage able to be mobilized by opportunistic politicians. Since the violence of June 10-14, 2010, ethnicity-based narratives have become deeply entrenched among the public and, worse, embraced by ethnic Kyrgyz security forces in the south, making it very difficult to restore interethnic cooperation or to prevent further violence. This memo traces the emergence, entrenchment, exploitation, and violent consequences of these narratives in Kyrgyzstan. [...]

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About the author

Associate Professor, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, Director of the Ellison Center for Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies
University of Washington