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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 108, 00-06-05

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 108, 5 June 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN LEADERS REASSURE WORLD BANK...
  • [02] ...AND IMF
  • [03] ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE CLEARED OVER PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS
  • [04] RANSOM DEMANDED FOR UN OFFICIALS IN GEORGIA
  • [05] COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMISSIONER MEETS WITH CHECHEN REFUGEES IN
  • [06] KYRGYZ PROTESTERS TAKE PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES TO COURT
  • [07] TAJIK AMBASSADOR TO KAZAKHSTAN RETURNS 'TEMPORARILY' TO
  • [08] KYRGYZ SECURITY OFFICIAL ANTICIPATES ISLAMIC MILITANT
  • [09] REGIONAL OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED IN TAJIKISTAN
  • [10] OSCE CHAIRWOMAN VISITS UZBEKISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] MODERATE SERBS LEAVE KOSOVA COUNCIL...
  • [12] ...CALL FOR STRONGER POLICE PRESENCE
  • [13] SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WANTS KOUCHNER TO RESIGN
  • [14] KOUCHNER SHUTS DOWN ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE DAILY
  • [15] BELGRADE PROTESTS TO SKOPJE
  • [16] JUL'S BELGRADE OFFICE RANSACKED
  • [17] SERBIAN REGIME MAKES MORE ARRESTS
  • [18] ALBRIGHT BACKS DJUKANOVIC
  • [19] BULATOVIC: DJUKANOVIC ACTING UNDER WESTERN ORDERS
  • [20] PLAVSIC SETS UP NEW POLITICAL PARTY
  • [21] FIRST MUSLIMS RETURN TO SREBRENICA AREA
  • [22] LOW TURNOUT IN ROMANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS
  • [23] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REPLACES RADIO-TELEVISION LEADERSHIP
  • [24] BULGARIA SAYS MEDICS TORTURED IN LIBYA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [25] LANGUAGE AND ETHNICITY IN KYRGYZSTAN

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN LEADERS REASSURE WORLD BANK...

    Recently appointed

    Prime Minister Andranik Markarian assured World Bank regional

    director Judy O'Connor in Yerevan on 2 June that his cabinet

    will continue the strategy of economic reforms agreed on by

    the bank and the two previous governments, RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported, citing Markarian's press office. The premier

    said he hopes that the World Bank will release the promised

    structural adjustment loans that are to cover about half of

    the government's budget deficit. Release of two separate loan

    tranches totaling $55 million is conditional on the

    privatization of four energy distribution networks, which the

    parliament voted in late April to suspend (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 26 April 2000). Government officials have said the

    privatization will go ahead, despite legislators' opposition.

    LF

    [02] ...AND IMF

    Also on 2 June, President Robert Kocharian met

    with a senior IMF delegation headed by the deputy director of

    the fund's European department, Thomas Wulf. Wulf was said to

    have expressed concern over Armenia's most recent

    macroeconomic indicators, including first quarter GDP growth

    of less than 1 percent. Kocharian attributed those

    disappointing figures to the tense political situation during

    the first few months of the year and expressed confidence

    that the situation will improve over the next few months. The

    IMF and the Armenian authorities have reportedly been

    negotiating a new Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility, a

    low-interest loan designed to strengthen the country's highly

    unfavorable balance of payments. Both Kocharian and Markarian

    responded to expressions of concern over corruption, vowing

    to implement a comprehensive "anti-corruption program"

    intended to create a more favorable business climate in

    Armenia. LF

    [03] ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE CLEARED OVER PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS

    The military prosecutor investigating the 27 October Armenian

    parliament shootings has closed the criminal case brought

    against presidential aide Aleksan Harutiunian in connection

    with that incident, citing a lack of evidence, RFE/RL's

    Yerevan bureau reported on 2 June. Harutiunian had been taken

    into custody in late December and charged with "inciting" the

    five gunmen who perpetrated the killings, but he was released

    in mid-April after a Yerevan court ruled that there were no

    grounds for detaining him further. Also on 2 June, Armenian

    National Television Deputy Director Harutiun Harutiunian (no

    relation to Aleksan) was released from pre-trial detention

    after similarly spending almost six months in jail on charges

    of complicity in the 27 October killings. But the charges

    against him have not been dropped, and he was required to

    sign a pledge not to leave Yerevan or to divulge details of

    the investigation. Two other persons accused of "helping" and

    "inciting" the killers are also likely to be freed shortly,

    following the retraction by the gunmen's leader, Nairi

    Hunanian, of his previous testimony. LF

    [04] RANSOM DEMANDED FOR UN OFFICIALS IN GEORGIA

    The as yet

    unidentified men who on 1 June abducted two Danish army

    officers serving with the UN observer force in Georgia, two

    employees of the Halo anti-landmine NGO, and their Abkhaz

    interpreter in Abkhazia's Kodori gorge, released one of the

    Halo employees on 3 June. Interfax quoted Veselin Kostov, who

    is political secretary at the UN mission in Georgia, as

    saying that the kidnappers are demanding a ransom for the

    release of the remaining four hostages. He did not cite a

    figure, but unofficial reports say the sum is between

    $300,000 and $500,000. In a telephone conversation on 3 June,

    Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leader

    Vladislav Ardzinba pledged to coordinate the efforts of their

    respective security bodies to obtain the hostages' release.

    Abkhaz Security Service chief Raul Khazhimba on 2 June blamed

    the kidnapping on Georgian guerrillas operating in western

    Georgia, but a spokesmen for the guerrillas denied

    responsibility. Kodori Governor Iveri Chelidze, who mediated

    in previous abductions in Kodori in July and October 1999, is

    trying to establish contact with the abductors. LF

    [05] COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMISSIONER MEETS WITH CHECHEN REFUGEES IN

    GEORGIA

    Alvaro Gil-Robles, who is the Council of Europe's

    human rights commissioner, met on 4 June with Chechen

    refugees now living temporarily in Georgia's Pankisi gorge,

    which borders on Chechnya, Interfax reported. Some of the

    refugees complained that the humanitarian aid they receive is

    inadequate. Local residents have complained that the so-

    called refugees included Chechen fighters. On 2 June, former

    Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani warned that the

    presence of Chechen fighters on Georgian territory could

    provoke Moscow to launch air strikes against Georgia,

    Interfax reported. He claimed those fighters engage in

    abductions and drug trafficking. LF

    [06] KYRGYZ PROTESTERS TAKE PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES TO COURT

    Several

    permanent participants in the ongoing picket in Bishkek have

    brought a libel suit against parliamentary deputies,

    including speaker Abdygany Erkebaev, who claimed in an open

    letter to the U.S. Congress in April that the demonstrators

    were being paid to stage their protest, RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau reported on 3 June. Participants in the picket, which

    entered its 81st day on 4 June, are demanding the release of

    arrested opposition Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov and

    the annulment of the parliamentary poll held in February-

    March. Some 30 voters from the southern town of Kadamjai

    joined the core of permanent protesters on 3 June to demand

    repeat elections in their constituency after the Osh Oblast

    court upheld a local court ruling that their candidate,

    Nooman Arkebaev, was defeated in the 12 March runoff. Also on

    3 June, Kulov's lawyer Lyubov Ivanova told an RFE/RL

    correspondent in Bishkek that Kulov's trial on charges of

    abusing his official position while he occupied the post of

    national security minister may begin before the end of this

    month. LF

    [07] TAJIK AMBASSADOR TO KAZAKHSTAN RETURNS 'TEMPORARILY' TO

    DUSHANBE

    Sadullodzhan Negmatov, in whose official car Kazakh

    security officials found some 86 kilograms of heroin in a

    search late last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 26 May

    2000), has returned to Dushanbe, Interfax reported on 3 June,

    citing the Kazakh Foreign Ministry. Kazakhstan's National

    Security Committee had reported the previous day that

    Negmatov had "fled" Kazakhstan. Five Tajik citizens remain in

    custody in Almaty in connection with the drug haul. The Tajik

    Foreign Ministry has formally denied that Negmatov is in any

    way involved in drug smuggling. LF

    [08] KYRGYZ SECURITY OFFICIAL ANTICIPATES ISLAMIC MILITANT

    INCURSION

    General Bolot Januzakov, who is secretary of the

    Kyrgyz Security Council, told an RFE/RL correspondent in

    Bishkek on 2 June that 2,000-5,000 Islamic rebels are being

    trained at military bases in the Tavildara province of

    neighboring Tajikistan and could invade Kyrgyzstan at any

    time. He said that although Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

    leader Djuma Namangani is currently in Afghanistan, most of

    the approximately 800 people who accompanied him there from

    Tajikistan in late April were elderly people or children.

    Namangani's fighters remained in Tajikistan, he added.

    Djanuzakov said that Kyrgyzstan is capable of repelling any

    attack by the militants. LF

    [09] REGIONAL OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED IN TAJIKISTAN

    Sergei

    Davlatov, a member of the ruling People's Democratic Party,

    was shot dead by unidentified assailants on 3 June while

    returning from Dushanbe to Garm Oblast in eastern Tajikistan,

    where he held the post of local governor, AP and Reuters

    reported. His driver and bodyguard were also killed. Davlatov

    had earlier supported the United Tajik Opposition. LF

    [10] OSCE CHAIRWOMAN VISITS UZBEKISTAN

    On the final leg of her

    tour of the Central Asian states, Austrian Foreign Minister

    and OSCE Chairwoman in Office Benita Ferrero-Waldner held

    talks in Tashkent on 2 June with Uzbekistan's President Islam

    Karimov on the domestic political situation and the situation

    in neighboring Uzbekistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov

    assured Ferrero-Waldner that the Taliban claims that Uzbek

    war planes violated Afghanistan's airspace several days

    earlier are untrue. Ferrero-Waldner also discussed with Uzbek

    Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov bilateral cooperation

    between Uzbekistan and Austria and between Uzbekistan and the

    OSCE, Interfax reported. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] MODERATE SERBS LEAVE KOSOVA COUNCIL...

    Father Sava, who is a

    leader of the moderate Serbian National Council (SNV) in

    Kosova, said at the Gracanica monastery on 4 June that the

    SNV's 62 members have suspended their participation as

    observers in the UN's transitional advisory council for the

    province. Sava added that the SNV will consider rejoining the

    UN's council after a delegation of SNV members returns from

    an upcoming meeting with the UN Security Council in New York,

    AP reported. The monk stressed that the recent deaths of

    eight Kosova Serbs in four incidents within a week or so have

    demonstrated the unwillingness or the inability of the UN's

    representatives in Kosova to combat "Albanian terrorism" and

    "take on the ethnic Albanian leaders suspected of

    involvement...in ethnic violence and organized crime,"

    London's "The Guardian" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2

    June 2000). "What we have...is not only individual acts of

    revenge, but attempts to organize the expulsion of Serbs from

    [Kosova], as well as other non-Albanian communities...in

    order to create better preconditions for the declaration of

    independence" of the province, Sava added. PM

    [12] ...CALL FOR STRONGER POLICE PRESENCE

    Sava also said in

    Gracanica on 4 June that "the [international community's]

    entire strategy has to be changed. KFOR is a military force.

    They are not trained to fight against the Mafia and organized

    gangs. There are not enough policemen, especially policemen

    trained to fight organized crime," AP reported. Sava added

    that Kosova needs specially-trained anti-terrorism units that

    will be able to "identify perpetrators and groups who are

    trying to destabilize the situation." The monk did not say

    where he expects the understaffed UN police force in the

    province to find such forces. But he added that the SNV

    "cannot allow the international community to stand by and do

    nothing. They should fight this organized crime just as they

    fought [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic and his state

    terrorism," Reuters reported. PM

    [13] SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WANTS KOUCHNER TO RESIGN

    Vladan

    Batic, who is one of the leaders of the Alliance for Change

    in Serbia, said in an open letter that Bernard Kouchner, who

    is the UN's chief administrator in Kosova, should resign if

    he is unable to better defend the interests of the province's

    Serbs, "Danas" reported on 5 June. Batic added that resigning

    is the only morally appropriate thing for Kouchner to do if

    he cannot better protect all the inhabitants of the province,

    as he promised to do in 1999 when he arrived in Kosova. PM

    [14] KOUCHNER SHUTS DOWN ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE DAILY

    UN police and

    KFOR soldiers occupied the Prishtina offices of the daily

    "Dita" on 3 June. Kouchner ordered the newspaper temporarily

    closed down because it published an article in April alleging

    that Serbian UN worker Petar Topoljski committed atrocities

    against Kosovars during the 1999 conflict. UN officials have

    suggested that there was a link between the article and the

    murder of Topoljski in May (see "RFRE/RL Newsline," 18 May

    2000). A spokeswoman for Kouchner stressed that persons

    seeking justice must use the legal system and not take the

    law into their own hands, AP reported. "Dita's" publisher

    Behlul Beqaj, who is a long-standing political adviser to

    Kosovar leader Hashim Thaci, argued that the paper published

    "facts" and that "if we cover up the facts, we will provoke

    more hatred." Beqaj stressed that journalists have a "moral,

    professional, and national responsibility" to present

    evidence against "criminals," dpa reported. PM

    [15] BELGRADE PROTESTS TO SKOPJE

    Officials of the Yugoslav

    Foreign Ministry presented a demarche to the Macedonian

    ambassador on 3 June to protest the recent visit by Prime

    Minister Ljubco Georgievski to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    29 May 2000). The Macedonian government rejected the note,

    saying that Belgrade had been officially informed in advance

    of the visit, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

    Georgievski and Thaci discussed the opening of a Macedonian

    commercial office in Prishtina and possibly a diplomatic

    mission as well. Belgrade insists that Kosova is an integral

    part of Serbia and that Kosova's foreign relations are

    Belgrade's affair. PM

    [16] JUL'S BELGRADE OFFICE RANSACKED

    Unknown persons broke into

    and ransacked the offices of the United Yugoslav Left (JUL)

    in Belgrade's Zvezdara district on 3 June. The ultra-leftist

    party, which is headed by Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic,

    issued a statement blaming the opposition: "This is the way

    those who call themselves the democratic opposition are

    trying to teach democracy lessons to JUL with the help of

    their shock troops whom they call [the student movement]

    Otpor (Resistance).... Like their NATO mentors did a year

    ago, they are waging their dirty little war against our

    country and our people, targeting those who prove all the

    time how much they care about this people and this country,"

    Reuters reported. PM

    [17] SERBIAN REGIME MAKES MORE ARRESTS

    A court in Pozarevac ruled

    on 3 June that opposition supporters Momcilo Veljkovic and

    Radojko Lukovic must remain in detention for another month in

    a case stemming from a brawl with several bodyguards of

    Milosevic's son (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 2000). The

    judges argued that freeing the men would "upset the public,"

    "Danas" reported. Pozarevac is the hometown of the Milosevic

    family and known among opposition supporters as the

    "forbidden city." Meanwhile, police in several towns in

    various parts of Serbia continued to arrest and detain Otpor

    and other opposition activists. On 2 June, some 20 Otpor

    members were detained in Smederevska Palanka alone. In

    Ivanjica in south-central Serbia, police detained an 11-year-

    old boy who waved an Otpor flag in public. Police also

    questioned his father, who is an Otpor supporter. PM

    [18] ALBRIGHT BACKS DJUKANOVIC

    U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine

    Albright told Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Berlin

    on 3 June that Washington is concerned following the recent

    slaying of a Djukanovic aide (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June

    2000). PM

    [19] BULATOVIC: DJUKANOVIC ACTING UNDER WESTERN ORDERS

    Yugoslav

    Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who is Milosevic's chief

    backer in Montenegro and Djukanovic's arch-rival, said in a

    telephone interview from Belgrade on 3 June that "the

    Montenegrin authorities are acting under direct instructions

    of the governments that attacked Yugoslavia" in 1999, Reuters

    reported. He stressed that NATO's aim is to "destabilize

    Yugoslavia." In Montenegro, representatives of Milosevic's

    Socialists arrived from Serbia to make joint campaign

    appearances with Bulatovic's backers in connection with the

    upcoming local elections in Podgorica and Herceg Novi,

    RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 June. PM

    [20] PLAVSIC SETS UP NEW POLITICAL PARTY

    Former Republika Srpska

    President Biljana Plavsic narrowly lost a vote of confidence

    at a meeting of her Serbian National Alliance (SNS) in Banja

    Luka on 3 June. Many SNS members blame her for the party's

    poor showing in the April municipal and local elections. On 4

    June, Plavsic said that she and her backers have agreed to

    form the Serbian National Alliance--Biljana Plavsic. She

    blamed interference from leading Belgrade politicians,

    including the Socialists' Nikola Sainovic and the Radicals'

    Vojislav Seselj, for her defeat, "Oslobodjenje" reported. It

    is unclear if Dragan Kostic, who is the SNS's new leader,

    will keep the party in the governing coalition. Elsewhere in

    Banja Luka, Socialist Party delegates re-elected Zivko

    Radisic as their chairman on 3 June. PM

    [21] FIRST MUSLIMS RETURN TO SREBRENICA AREA

    Some 80 Muslim

    families returned to the village of Suceska near Srebrenica

    on 3 June, Reuters reported. They are the first sizeable

    group of Muslims to go back to the area since the massacres

    of Muslims by Serbian forces in 1995. One elderly Muslim

    couple has returned to Srebrenica "to die." PM

    [22] LOW TURNOUT IN ROMANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS

    Less than 45 percent

    of the more than 17 million registered voters cast ballots in

    the first round of the local elections held on 4 June,

    according to the latest figures available from the Central

    Electoral Bureau. Exit polls indicate that in Bucharest, the

    opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania's mayoral

    candidate, Sorin Oprescu, has a large lead (44 percent) over

    Democratic Convention of Romania and Democratic Party

    candidates Calin Catalin Chirita and Traian Basescu (17

    percent each). A runoff, however, will be needed. The polls

    also indicate that in Cluj, extreme nationalist Mayor

    Gheorghe Funar, running on the Greater Romania Party ticket,

    has secured re-election with more than 50 percent support.

    Also re-elected is Iasi Mayor Constantin Simirad, leader of

    the Moldovans' Party, who is reported to have nearly 52

    percent support. MS

    [23] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REPLACES RADIO-TELEVISION LEADERSHIP

    The

    parliament on 2 June voted to dismiss Tudor Olaru as chairman

    of the Teleradio-Moldova company, Constantin Rotaru as

    director of national radio, and Arcadie Gherasim as director

    of state television, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The

    Party of Moldovan Communists accused the three of a "lack of

    professionalism" and of condoning biased reporting. The move

    was supported by the opposition For a Democratic and

    Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PDAM), a member of the opposition

    Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR) umbrella

    organization. ADR Chairman Alexandru Mosanu responded that

    the ADR still exists but might decide to expel the PDAM from

    its ranks. Communist deputy Iulian Magaleas was appointed new

    Teleradio-Moldova chairman. The new television director is

    Anatol Babel, editor-in chief of the PDAM's daily organ,

    while the new radio director is Vasile Gribincea, until now

    deputy editor in chief of the station's news department. MS

    [24] BULGARIA SAYS MEDICS TORTURED IN LIBYA

    Justice Minister

    Teodosii Simeonov told journalists in Sofia on 2 June that

    the six Bulgarian nationals on trial in Libya for allegedly

    infecting children in a Benghazi hospital with the HIV virus

    have been tortured, Reuters reported. He said one of the

    accused, a nurse, had confessed but later withdrew the

    confession, saying it was made under duress. Simeonov added

    that the transcript of the interrogations were written in

    Arabic and Bulgarian suspects were forced to sign them

    without understanding their content. He also said that during

    the investigation "there was pressure to convert to Islam."

    In response, Libya called on Bulgaria to "avoid controversy"

    and not to interfere with the justice system. Meanwhile, on 4

    June, the trial was postponed for the fourth time. It is to

    be resumed in September. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [25] LANGUAGE AND ETHNICITY IN KYRGYZSTAN

    By Nick Megoran

    Two recent events in Kyrgyzstan--the adoption of a law

    making Russian an official language of the republic and the

    announcement that Bishkek will resettle displaced Afghan

    Kyrgyz--highlight the continuing tensions between civic and

    ethnic nationalism that have marked Kyrgyz politics since

    independence.

    The language law is clearly a step toward the goal of

    creating a civic society for all, regardless of ethnicity,

    which is enshrined in President Askar Akaev's oft-quoted

    slogan: "Kyrgyzstan is our common home." But the acceptance

    of the Afghan Kyrgyz suggests that Kyrgyzstan remains

    primarily the ethnic homeland of the Kyrgyz. This second

    trend is highlighted by the continuing use of the legendary

    Kyrgyz warrior-hero "Manas" as a cornerstone of state

    ideology.

    The tension between these two approaches has its origins

    in linguistic imperialism during the Soviet times. Although

    Kyrgyz is a rich and ancient language, Soviet officials

    relegated it to second place behind Russian. Knowledge of

    Russian became the key to social advancement, and Russian

    education was given more priority in development planning.

    CPSU General-Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of

    "glasnost" was seen by many as an opportunity to reverse some

    of these past injustices and restore a sense of dignity to

    the Kyrgyz people. It also facilitated the adoption in 1989

    of a law making Kyrgyz the state language. The intention was

    that intellectual and political life in the republic should

    be slowly switched into Kyrgyz.

    The celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the

    language law in fall 1999 clearly showed, however, that this

    intention was not fulfilled. In spite of upbeat talk

    (government newspapers ran headlines such as "Kyrgyz language

    is becoming an Internet language"), few non-Kyrgyz tried to

    learn the language. Moreover, many Kyrgyz themselves remained

    more comfortable with the Russian language in the workplace.

    One independent newspaper warned that Kyrgyz was becoming

    "the language of the old and the villagers," and professor of

    linguistics Sherali Japarov warned that Kyrgyz may soon end

    up a dead language, just like Latin and Sanskrit.

    The passage in late May of legislation giving Russian

    the status of "an official language" was thus recognition of

    the failure of the 1989 law to achieve its aims and an

    affirmation of the status quo. Although presented as a

    measure to stem the outflow of Kyrgyzstan's Slavic

    population, the move has essentially two political goals:

    garnering support from the Russian-speaking population in the

    run-up to the presidential vote this fall, and winning

    Moscow's support for Bishkek.

    The Russian language law has indeed won plaudits from

    Russian speakers, but at the same time it has generated a

    strong reaction from Kyrgyz nationalists who worry about the

    fate of their language. This was predictable, and it may well

    be that President Akaev's intention is to win support from

    urban Kyrgyz communities and the non-Kyrgyz population as

    well as to present himself as a liberal, intelligent leader

    who alone blocks the nationalist hordes.

    Indeed, the pro-Russian factor may have been important

    in determining Bishkek's latest actions. Kyrgyzstan's

    relationship with the West has soured following sharp Western

    criticism of Kyrgyzstan's March parliamentary elections. As a

    result, many in Kyrgyzstan view Putin as a potentially more

    reliable and understanding ally. And perhaps it is no

    coincidence that also in the same week as the language law

    passed, the Soviet-era Komsomol youth league was re-launched,

    and a pressure group campaigning for Kyrgyzstan's entrance

    into the Russia-Belarus union was founded.

    But the most important reason for Bishkek's actions may

    lie in the increasing self-confidence among the Kyrgyz as a

    nation. Since 1989, the Kyrgyz have achieved dominance in the

    country, as wealth and political power have shifted into

    their hands and educational possibilities increased. They

    feel less threatened by other groups--who have generally

    accepted their hegemony--and are therefore secure enough to

    countenance the language law. Such a scenario would be harder

    to imagine in contemporary Uzbekistan, where state

    nationalism is very strong, or in Kazakhstan, where Turkic

    domination over the Slavic population is less firmly

    established.

    Many foreign observers saw violent conflicts between

    Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, and Tajiks in the early 1990s as augurs of

    even worse conflicts. But Kyrgyzstan has generally avoided

    the level of ethnic tensions that has existed over its

    borders in Eastern Turkestan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan over

    the last decade. This is because it has been able to tread a

    careful path between asserting the repressed ethnic identity

    of the Kyrgyz while seeking to develop a state with a strong

    and inclusive civic identity. Anthropologist Nienke van der

    Heide has commented on the way Kyrgyzstan's leaders move

    between these two contradictory doctrines. This approach--

    putting Manas in charge of the "common home," so to speak--is

    surely one that bodes well for the future.

    The author is a PhD candidate at the Department of Geography,

    Cambridge University.

    05-06-00


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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