Staunton, August 4 – The beating of an ethnic Russian boy by his Kyrgyz coevals because he ate pork, didn’t respect Allah, and was a Russian has prompted fears that Kyrgyzstan is about to follow the course of other Central Asian countries like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and reduce the status of the Russian language and drive ethnic Russians out.
These fears have grown not only as a result of this violence, Lenta journalist Dmitry Plotnikov says; but also and even more because the new generation of Kyrgyzstan’s leaders in sharp contrast to their predecessors who governed in the 1990s and early 2000s believes in “Kyrgyzstan for the Kyrgyz” rather than for all (lenta.ru/articles/2021/08/04/russkie_sa/).
Despite this and despite the recent attack, the Russian journalist says, “tehre are no objective signs of a growth of anti-Russian nationalism in Kyrgyzstan, all the more so given that the current president has devoted real efforts for the development of the Russian language and the establishment of Russian language schools there.”
As the number of Russians has declined – they now form only about five percent of the population – many of them feel that that their rights and equal status are being ignored or even violated (24.kg/obschestvo/163875_stoimost_bileta_vsolyanuyu_shahtu_chon-tuz_zavisit_otnatsionalnosti/).
Increasingly, ethnic Kyrgyz are occupying positions that ethnic Russians had in the past, and as the number of the latter has fallen, that has become increasingly the case. Moreover, because of their small size, the ethnic Russians typically keep themselves apart and do not side with one political group or another even when it is in their interest to do otherwise.
While the Russian position in universities remains relatively strong, Plotnikov says, Russian-language schools are no longer available in many places given that “70 percent of the territory” is dominated by the Kyrgyz. Worse, with the decline in the number of Russian schools, there has been a decline in their quality of instruction.
Of greater concern are efforts by the leaders of some Kyrgyz politicians to deprive Russian of official status. The first two, in 2011 and 2015, failed to gain support. But now a third effort is being made, the Lenta journalist says; and there are no guarantees that it won’t prove more successful.
Plotnikov suggests that the Kyrgyz should recognize that they are harming their own interests and that Moscow has leverage, including its ability to defend or not defend the Central Asian republic against attacks from the outside and inside as well. He suggests that Moscow ought to signal that it is willing to use this leverage to protect ethnic Russians there.