Go to contents

“People Power” Has Nothing to Fear From Kyrgyzstan’s “Bottom-up Democratic Revolution”

“People Power” Has Nothing to Fear From Kyrgyzstan’s “Bottom-up Democratic Revolution”

Posted July. 21, 2005 03:05,   


“The desire for independence that glowed 20 years ago has now been changed into the desire for democratization and economic prosperity.”

This was the scene in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on July 18. Citizens of Kyrgyzstan, who voted in their country’s presidential elections a week ago and completed the “Lemon Revolution,” the third civil democratic revolution in a former republic of the Soviet Union, looked very proud.

The vice-dean of the International Relations School of Slav University, Zamir Shermateva, showed excitement, saying, “The second great revolution beyond perestroika (reform) has finally started in the Central Asia region.” This means the passion for democracy could spill over to neighboring countries.

The Perestroika policy advocated by the then general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 changed not only Russia but also the fate of other former Soviet republics. With the appeasement of the Soviet system, repressed aspirations for freedom and independence started to burst.

However, financial difficulties, chaos, and authoritarian regimes following the independence of 15 republics after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 diluted the meaning of independence.

These former Soviet republics are now experiencing a second convulsion. Democracy fever is sweeping the whole region from Georgia and Azerbaijan in the Kavkaz (Caucasus) region to Ukraine in Europe to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

On the other hand, these countries have also posted remarkable economic growth thanks to resource development and the outcome of their openings.

While perestroika was “top-down reform” achieved by political leaders’ resolve, the change sweeping over the region is “bottom-up reform” led by public sentiment.

With its geopolitical importance becoming ever-more conspicuous, the battle for leadership and influence in the region between the U.S., Russia, and China is intensifying day by day. Recently, the three countries have been engaged in a war of nerves over the withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

In a separate case, the U.S. and Russia were at odds over an oil pipeline for crude oil extracted from an oil field in the Caspian Sea.

Under the circumstances, Kyrgyzstan, one of the world’s poorest countries, has taken its first step toward democracy, along with Ukraine and Georgia, through civil revolution. Yet, there are still many other countries that have not yet accomplished democracy and reform, just like Uzbekistan.

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com