Osh riots (1990)

The Osh riots were an ethnic conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks that took place in June 1990 in the city of Osh, part of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic (Kyrgyz SSR).

Contents

Historical Background

Prior to the Soviet period, the inhabitants of the Osh region of the Fergana Valley referred to themselves as Kipchaks. In 1920s, using language as the key determinant of ethnicity, Soviet ethnographers classified the lowland Kipchaks as Uzbeks and the highland Kipchaks as Kyrgyz.[1] Although in the 1930s, Stalin divided the rich Fergana Valley among the Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Tajik SSRs, nationalities were not necessarily confined to the borders drawn for them. Along the “Kyrgyz” side of the Tentek-say River, there was a significant population of Uzbeks. [2] Because of the region’s oil reserves, the local intelligentsia was able to obtain a significant degree of affluence, but infrastructure remained underdeveloped. During the Khrushchev era most of the deportees from the 1930s onward left to find better work elsewhere. By the late Brezhnev era, there were already signs of unemployment.

By the late 1980’s, the economic situation between both Kyrgyz and Uzbek populations had markedly noticeable differences. Uzbeks, who were traditionally the merchants and farmers of the region, benefited from the market conditions of the Gorbachev era; Uzbeks also made up the largest number of workers in the most profitable industries, such as commerce and transportation.[3] Perestroika had the opposite effect on the much larger Kyrgyz population. As collectives were disassembled and unemployment in the region grew, the Kyrgyz, who traditionally practiced animal husbandry, felt the brunt of the rising economic downturns--there was a housing deficiency and an unemployment rate of 22.8%. [4]) In addition to economic discrepancies, the ethnic ratios of the region’s administrative posts did not respond to the demographics of the population. In 1990, the Uzbeks made for 26% of the region’s population with the Kyrgyz at 60%, but only 4% of the key official posts were held by Uzbeks.[3]

In the late 1980s several inter-ethnic disputes had already plagued the Fergana region. Around June 1989 in the neighboring Uzbek SSR, ethnic Uzbeks launched a series of pogroms against Meskhetian Turks, the cause of which was believed to have been rooted in the existing economic disparities between the two ethnicities. Similarly, in the Tajik SSR, there were clashes between local Tajiks and Armenians who had recently been deported from Nagorno Karabach.[5] In the Kyrgyz SSR, ethnic tensions began to simmer in the spring of 1990 when Adolat (Uzbek for “justice”), an Uzbek nationalist group that claimed a membership of over 40,000, began to petition the Osh government for greater representation and the freedom for Uzbek language schooling, publications, and culture. [6] At the same time, Osh Aymaghi, a Kyrgyz nationalist group, was petitioning for its own demands, the foremost of which was the redistribution of land belonging to an Uzbek collective farm. The group was on the verge of seizing the land on its own when authorities finally agreed to redistribute of some of the land, but their final decision to reallocate a large portion of Uzbek land to the Kyrgyz denomination with little compensation for the original inhabitants pleased neither party.[3] Uzbek and Kyrgyz demonstrators gathered around the collective farm to protest the party’s decision.

The Riots

The violence actually began on June 4 in the city of Uzgen, where the local militsiya (the local Soviet police force) used considerable force to quell the demonstrations. Some of the local militias expressed loyalties to their own ethnic counterparts by taking part in the riots.[7] Although supplies vehicles used in the attacks were predominantly stolen by the young rioters, some local Kyrgyz elites who did not openly take part in the violence lent supplies and vehicles to the demonstrators.

The worst of the large-scale clashes occurred in the cities of Osh and Uzgen. The violence was not just confined to urban zones; in the villages surrounding Uzgen and the Osh countryside, Kyrgyz herders, often going by horseback, terrorized Uzbek farmers with rape, murder, and property destruction.[8] In the foothills of Baka Archa, four Uzbek shepherds rode many miles to kill an Uzbek beekeeper.[9] Uzbek tea houses were also targeted as several reports involve the abduction and rape of female tea house-goers.[10] In Frunze (now Bishkek), protesters demanded that the leaders of the Kyrgyz SSR resign. On June 6, Gorbachev finally called in the Red Army under the Soviet Ministry of Interior to enter the area of the conflict and stay stationed only within cities. The Uzbek-Kyrgyz border was sealed off to prevent Uzbeks from the neighboring Uzbek SSR from joining the riots. [11] At total of 120 Uzbeks, 50 Kyrgyz, and one Russian were killed.[12] According to witnesses and personal testimonies, most of the rioters were young males, 29% of which were teenagers.[13] More than 5,000 crimes were committed ranging from pillaging to murder. Personal testimonies from victims, witness and participants revealed chemical intoxication was a significant influence on the rioters' actions.

Aftermath

The Osh riots were the only ethnic conflict from the former Soviet Union to have actually undergone a court-led investigation.[14] From the 1991 trials conducted by the new independent Kyrgyz government, 46 of the 48 participants were found guilty, with sentences ranging from 18 years in a maximum security prison to suspended sentences. Most of the defendants were Kyrgyz. This in great contrast to the Osh riots of 2010, where those arrested and sentenced were mainly ethnic Uzbeks. With the 1991 independence of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbeks were not ensured much autonomy in the new government of Akayev and were held with deep suspicion from the general populace. In the mid 1990s they occupied only 4.7% of the Osh regional posts.[15] The economic depression following independence only heightened ethnic tensions in coming years. When law enforcement broke down in 2010, these hidden tensions were uncontrollable. That is one of the many reasons why speculators believe that the riots in 2010 were not just merely a repeat of those of 20 years ago, but a continuation of the conflict.[16]

See also

References

  1. ^ Lubin, Nancy (199). Calming the Ferghana Valley: Development and Dialogue in the Heart of Central Asia. New York, NY: The Century Foundation Press. p. 47. 
  2. ^ Recknagel, Charles. "Ferghana Valley: A Tinderbox For Violence". Radio Free Europe. http://www.rferl.org/content/Why_Is_The_Ferghana_Valley_A_Tinderbox_For_Violence/2074849.html. Retrieved 7/17/2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Lubin. Calming the Ferghana Valley: Development and Dialogue in the Heart of Central Asia. p. 47. 
  4. ^ Kaplan, Robert D. (1997). The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia - a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy. Vintage Books. ISBN 0679751238. 
  5. ^ Lubin. Calming the Ferghana Valley: Development and Dialogue in the Heart of Central Asia. pp. 45–9. 
  6. ^ Luong, Pauline Jones (2004). The Transformation of Central Asia : States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. pp. 154-46. ISBN 0-8014-4151-x. 
  7. ^ Tishkov, Valery (May 1995). "'Don't Kill Me, I'm a Kyrgyz!': An Anthropological Analysis of Violence in the Osh Ethnic Conflict". Journal of Peace Research 32, No. 2 (2). 
  8. ^ Tishkov. "Don't Kill Me, I'm a Kyrgyz!': An Anthropological Analysis of Violence in the Osh Ethnic Conflict," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 32, No. 2. p. 136. 
  9. ^ Tishkov. "Don't Kill Me, I'm a Kyrgyz!': An Anthropological Analysis of Violence in the Osh Ethnic Conflict," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 32, No. 2. p. 138. 
  10. ^ Tishkov. "Don't Kill Me, I'm a Kyrgyz!': An Anthropological Analysis of Violence in the Osh Ethnic Conflict," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 32, No. 2. p. 139. 
  11. ^ ШУСТОВ, Александр (2008-02-02). "Межэтнические конфликты в Центральной Азии (I)" (in Russian). http://www.fondsk.ru/article.php?id=1192. Retrieved 2008-10-25. [dead link]
  12. ^ Tishkov. "Don't Kill Me, I'm a Kyrgyz!': An Anthropological Analysis of Violence in the Osh Ethnic Conflict," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 32, No. 2. pp. 134–5. 
  13. ^ Tishkov. "'Don't Kill Me, I'm a Kyrgyz!': An Anthropological Analysis of Violence in the Osh Ethnic Conflict". Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 32, No. 2: 134–5. 
  14. ^ Tishkov. "Don't Kill Me, I'm a Kyrgyz!': An Anthropological Analysis of Violence in the Osh Ethnic Conflict," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 32, No. 2. p. 135. 
  15. ^ Lubin. Calming the Ferghana Valley: Development and Dialogue in the Heart of Central Asia. p. 49. 
  16. ^ Ismailbekova, Aksana. "The glimmer of hope in bloody Kyrgyzstan". Fergana.news. http://enews.fergananews.com/article.php?id=2654. Retrieved 5/12/2011. 

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