Monday, February 20, 2006


Last year. Kyrgyzstan overthrew their soviet style leader Askar Akeyev. He subsequently sought asylum in Russia.

He was supposed to step down after party elections. The elections were, as these things tend to be, rigged. Opposition candidates were disqualified. Nepotism was rife, the parliament was stacked with his family and friends.

The Akeyev clan had been in power since the end of the Soviet era in 1991. Now following in the footsteps of colour-coded people power elsewhere (the Orange revolution in Ukraine and the Rose revolution in Georgia following purple reigns in Prague) the people of Kyrgyzstan were taking to the street wearing pink and yellow armbands heralding a lemon tulip revolution.

I looked in my Times Concise Atlas of the World 1990 and the weariness of the years showed – I could not find the capital city Bishkek in it. My similar vintage dictionary (Collins English c1992 talks about ‘The Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic – an administrative division of south central Soviet Union annexed by Russia in 1864. Capital: Frunze.)

Frunze is not on my map and appears to be where today’s newspaper places Bishkek. Another victim of post-victory renaming syndrome. Just like poor old Sankt Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad, it must have a real identity problem.

The current opposition leader Kurmanbek Bakayev was installed as acting president and he won the election in July 2005.

Russia, the local power (and ex-annexer) has given tacit support to the new regime (despite offering asylum to Akeyev).

The Americans with their itchy trigger fingers are keeping an equally close eye. They have brought out the hoary old chest-thumper of Al Queda. “A terrorist organisation with links to Al Queda may be planning may be planning terrorist acts against US interests”. Yawn.

But if they do plan them, then there’ll be plenty of firepower to meet them on homesoil. Both the US and Russia have military bases in Kyrgyzstan.

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