Thursday, August 30, 2018

Journalists and Prejudice Kill Off ‘First Kyrgyz Village of Russia’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 30 – Until recently, no one beyond its closest neighbors had ever heard of the village of Klishina in Tula Oblast, but in 2016, it became a media sensation when journalists said “the first Kyrgyz village of Russia” was being built there and Moscow officials warned that this was a threat to inter-ethnic peace and even the territorial integrity of the country.

            At that time, the Russian realtor who owned the land sold an allotment to Baarikan Aiylchiyeva, an ethnic Kyrgyz whose late husband was an ethnic Russian. Having lived in Russia for more than 30 years, she and three of her children have Russian citizenship and some of her children and grandchildren have been baptized as Russian Orthodox Christians.

            “Nevertheless,” Tatyana Zverintseva of the Fergana News Agency, “the Kyrgyz lady did not forget about her roots and continued to be in contact with her compatriots.” Soon her relatives and acquaintances began to purchase land in the same place. And then “acquaintances of those acquaintances” (

                Soon it became obvious to the landlord that he was selling mostly to Kyrgyz, “although there were exceptions – some of the plots were acquired by Russians, Moldovans and Armenians.” 

            But unfortunately for what happened next, the Kyrgyz residents didn’t conceal what was occurring but instead began to call their village unofficially Ala-Too, launched a Facebook page ( and even created their own Ala-Too web page (

            Construction of housing in the village went slowly, far slower than the media attention the villagers soon received.  On May 16, 2018, the Kyrgyz news service covered the appearance of “the first Kyrgyz village in Russia” in a celebratory way (

            Within days, Russian outlets covered the same story but in a far more negative way, openly speculating as to what the appearance of a Kyrgyz village within the borders of Russia could mean ( and

            But it became a country-wide issue when Komsomolskaya pravda published an article about the village shortly thereafter ( The paper’s journalist interviewed both Kyrgyz and Russian residents, both of whom stressed that there were no problems between them and that the whole thing was being blown out of proportion. 

            Howvever, Sverintseva says, this was too little and too late, because the Moscow paper featured a caricature “on which an individual of obvious Asiatic appearance sets up on his wooden house the Kyrgyz flag and a tablet reading ‘Pasolstva” thus misspelling the Russian word for embassy.

            That article in turn article was followed by a comment from Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, that “the authorities of Russia were very nervous about the growth in the number of mono-ethnic settlements around Moscow. He didn’t mention Ala-Too by name but he might as well have (

                And at about the same time, Rossiiskaya gazeta picked up the story, with its reporter saying he was frightened about going into this Kyrgyz aul, fearing that it would be something like “the slums of Shanghai or worse Mumbai and certain the Kyrgyz residents were violating the law by raising food (

                “The scandal in the media continued with new force, the Fergana journalist says. “Now people were talking not about ‘the seizure by migrants of Russian land from time immemorial’ but about ‘the violation of rights’” because of the ethnicity of the purchasers – even though many of the ethnic Kyrgyz had Russian citizenship.

            The Kyrgyz were thus being attacked “not as citizens of another country but as representatives of a ‘non-titular’ ethnos;” and because of that, the liberal media got involved, attacking this violation of the Russian Constitution (

But local officials, pressed by local media and by suggestions in Moscow that Radio Svoboda and the BBC’s Russian Service ( were behind the problem, came up with a uniquely Russian solution: they redrew the lines of the village and gave the land back to the original owner.

Many of the villagers suspect they are the victims of a behind the scenes struggle among various clans; and not surprisingly both they and the Kyrgyz of Russia and the Kyrgyz of Kyrgyzstan are upset. In sum, Zverintseva says, they were “welcomed to their new motherland” where everything is very complicated.”

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