Ethnic tensions between native Kyrgyz and the Uzbek minority still simmer in Kyrgyzstan. The country of 5 million is an obscure Central Asian nation, one that only the most geographically astute would be able to pinpoint on a map. It is home to just one of literally dozens of ethnic conflicts that have wracked former Soviet Union countries.
A year ago, the tensions reached a deadly boiling point, culminating in riots and pogroms that left 400, mostly Uzbeks, dead. Though the unrest was quelled, the Uzbek community still live in fear, voluntarily ghettoised as they fear for their safety when leaving their various enclaves. There has been an exodus of wealthy and educated Uzbeks.
The Soviet Union represented the most ambitious attempt in history to mix a mass of different racial, ethnic, national and linguistic groups together, whether they liked it or not. ‘Multiculturalism’ was alive and unwell there long before it became the mantra of the West. This giant empire once comprised of, besides Russia itself, what have now become 15 independent countries.
From Mongolia in Asia to Lithuania in Europe, a myriad of different ethnic groups and religions were subsumed into the USSR, and mandated to think of themselves not as Kyrgyz, Latvians, Muslims or Orthodox Christians, but as “Soviet Citizens.” Read more