Saturday, August 10, 2019

Bishkek Power Struggles Could Trigger a North-South Civil War in Kyrgyzstan, Medvedev Telegram Channel Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 8 – The struggle between the current and former presidents of Kyrgystan could easily exacerbate long-standing divisions between the northern and southern portions of the country into a civil war, something Moscow must focus on because there are a million Kyrgyz workers in Russia now, the Andrey Medvedev Telegram Channel says.

            The North and South of Kyrgyzstan are two regions traditionally in competition with one another for power in the region, the channel says. The southerners are more religious; the northerners more secular. “The southern region was part of the Kokand khanate; the northern, its uncertain vassal” (

            “In the 19th century, the southern Kyrgyz princes struggled for power in the Kokand khanate and considered themselves to have the right to control all the lands of the Kyrgyz. Among the Kyrgyz in the north, the chief tribe was the Sarybagsh; and it also aspired to total power” over the Kyrgyz north and south.

            This division and this conflict have continued since that time. In Soviet times, the Kyrgyz secretaries, initially second and then first, alternated between the two, the telegram channel says; “and it was always significant how many southerners and northerners there were in the republic Central Committee and ministries.”

            This pattern did not disappear after independence: it intensified. “In 1992 there was serious talk about splitting the country in two. The republic flag which is red is a compromise as “red is the color of the southerners,” and Akayev won over some of them by his concession on that symbolic point.

            Former president Almazbek Atambayev who is now under arrest is a northerner; incumbent President Sooronbey Zheenbekov, who arrested him, is a southerner. Zheenbekov by the way, the channel says, was governor of Osh in the south when there were clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

            What this means is that the current conflict is not simply one within the elite. “It is more serious than that, it is the South against the North,” the channel continues.   By attacking Atambayev, Zheenbekov has attacked the north; and Atambayev will get support from other northerners not because of himself but because he is one of them.

            Moscow needs to pay attention to this conflict and its dangers, the telegram channel concludes, because there are “more than a million Kyrgyz in Russia.”

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