Saturday, March 13, 2021

Protests in Central Asia More Numerous, Widespread and Diverse than Many Assume, ACLED Report Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 11 – Data collected by the Armed Conflict Location and Even Data Project since the beginning of 2018 shows that protests in the five countries of Central Asia are more numerous, more widespread, and more diverse in their forms than is usually assumed, Ermek Baysalov, editor of the Central Asian Bureau for Analytic Reporting, says.

            The ACLED data is available at It shows using sources in the local languages, Russian and English that between early 2018 and the end of 2020 there were 2874 events in Central Asia that can be classed as protests, 1589 in Kazakhstan, 814 in Kyrgyzstan, 336 in Uzbekistan, 97 in Tajikistan and 38 in Turkmenistan

            According to Baysalov, in Kyrgyzstan between January 1, 2018 and February 9, 2021, a slightly longer period than the ACLED data set covers, there were 1064 protest actions in Kyrgyzstan, two thirds of which were peaceful ( But 27 percent involved violence of one kind or another.

            Forty-four percent of the protests occurred in the capital of Bishkek, but in second place was Batken Oblast which borders Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and also includes an exclave. There, the protests more often turned violent and involved gunfire. In other oblasts, there were fewer protests and less violence as well.

            Protests followed a seasonal pattern, with most in the fall, fewer in the winter, and fewer still in the spring and summer, the reflection of the country’s agricultural base and the scheduling of elections and other political events, Baysalov suggests.

            “If one looks at a map,” he continues, “then over the last three years, a large part of the clashes occurred between residents of Kyrgyz border settlements Ak-Say and Kok-Tash and Tajik residents of the Vorukh enclave. Gun fights and mass disorders involving the throwing of stones are already a daily event for the residents of these areas.”

            This pattern makes it especially unlikely that Bishkek will agree to plans to federalize the country by giving Batken and other oblasts the right to have quasi-state institutions and make decisions about life on their territories. Such an arrangement would likely lead to more protests and possibly secession (

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