Ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan escalated Friday and yesterday, as the new government struggles to cope. Most of the violence appears to be Kyrgyz on Uzbek, and Osh – a closely divided city in the south – seems to be taking the brunt of it. Ethnic Kyrgyz rioters are allegedly taking weapons from the military and funding from an unknown source, while the outgunned Uzbeks fight back with weapons of their own.
While the government asserts that the conflict began with a fight in a casino, the real trigger for the spread of the violence is the political instability in the country since Bakiyev’s overthrow. On his flight out of the country, the former president stopped in the south, which has given rise to rumors that he is behind the violence. Whether that is true or not, Kyrgyzstan has a history of ethnic clashes following the overthrow of governments, going back to 1990. Many Kyrgyz want to drive Uzbeks out of the country, and the violence is at its worst where the Uzbek population is largest, consistent with the “power threat” theory.
Ethnolinguistic map of Central Asia. Video from Jalalabad: