Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Why the Tulip Revolution Matters

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Stephen Schwartz provides an excellent analysis of Kyrgyzstan's "Tulip Revolution" and its impact:

The geographical importance of the Tulip Revolution mainly originates in the jigsaw arrangement of borders in the Fergana Valley, a rich agricultural region carved up by the Soviets between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Fergana has an Uzbek majority and a strong orientation toward traditional Islam, and has been a magnet for Wahhabi missionaries, HuT's sectarian radicals, and recruiters for the al Qaeda-allied Islamic Movement of Turkestan (IMT), which has slid into decline since the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But Kyrgyzstan potentially has even broader significance. There is no reason Kyrgyz people should not aspire to the same social and economic advances--a free market economy, representative and accountable institutions, free media--now emerging in Georgia and Ukraine. The Tulip Revolution may spell the beginning of a cautious but authentic transition throughout the region. For just that reason, apparently, coverage of the Kyrgyz upheaval was barred from media in neighboring Kazakhstan, with Internet access blocked along with television and radio coverage. This was surprising, since Kazakhstan, the least oppressive dictatorship in Central Asia, in fact boasts a genuinely independent media. Still, Kazakh ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev briefly threatened, if in ambiguous language, to intervene in Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgyz revolution may not only undermine the neighboring post-Soviet governments in Central Asia, but may also produce a kind of double-ringed encirclement. Democratization in the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union could stir citizen activism in Russia itself, but also in the Arab core of the Muslim world.

The Kyrgyz Take Their Stan
(Republished by Frontpage Magazine)

Kyrgyzstan is much more than a far away place with a hard to spell name. Recent events there provide a direct link between the long-delayed democratization of post-Soviet Eurasia and the nascent pluralist changes underway in the Muslim Middle East. Both processes will make America and the world safer in the long-term.


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