Kyrgyz South: dangerous networks (Eurasiane)




Whereas after the Revolution of April 7, 2010, street had regained its usual calm in Bishkek and in most other cities of Kyrgyzstan, the situation was still confused in the Ferganese surroundings, where the former President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was cut off with his men awaiting his subsequent exile to Belarus. The waves of regular clashes between supporters of the former dictatorial regime of the Bakiyev family and the Provisional Government in the region since the Revolution then revealed the complexity of relations in Southern Kyrgyzstan.

The Bakiyev family, mafias and Islamic networks

If Askar Akayev, his predecessor, had been quick to flee after the Tulip Revolution in 2005, five years later, K. Bakiyev himself, refused to admit to be defeated by the events and was ready to mobilize its family, tribal and criminal networks to attempt to regain power, playing the risk of destabilization of the country. For that, he could count on three of its closest relatives: His son Maksim and his two brothers, Janysh and Akmat. Moreover, in June 2010, the Head of the National Security Service of the Kyrgyz Republic, Keneshbek Duishebayev, noted close relationships between the Bakiyev family, narco-traffickers mafias and Afghan Islamic movements and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Even speaking about a visit of an emissary of former President Bakiyev in Southern Waziristan (Northwestern Pakistan tribal area). This hypothesis remains plausible, but does not exclude others, like particularly simple local connections, as the drug mafias and extremist networks have converging interests in the region.

Parliamentarism and the question of the South

The adoption of the new Constitution by 90.56% of votes cast in the referendum of 27 June 2010 helped to establish a parliamentary republic in the country. However, if the new regime is better suited to the geography of this mountainous country, it fails to stem alone the rises in the South from authoritarian local leaders (K. Tashiyev in Jalal-Abad, M. Myrzakmatov in Osh, A. Madumarov in Batken) or the requirements of autonomy from the Uzbek minority by whether democratic way in Jalal-Abad or islamist way in Uzgen.

Southern Kyrgyzstan continues to form a « separate entity » connected to fact and law to the rest of the country, but keeping a strong “particularism” and self-consciousness. The new political authorities in Bishkek will as soon as possible have to admit the uniqueness of this region, affording a degree of autonomy and encouraging its South to soak faster operating mechanisms of a real and transparent democracy.

David Gaüzère
Europe Européanité Européanisation (EEE)
Centre national de la recherche scientifique / French National Centre for Scientific Research

Recovered from the Eurasiane website – originally posted on May 1st, 2012


The Kyrgyz domino (Eurasiane)




Publication date : July 2016
Author(s) : David Gaüzère E-mail
Areas : Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia

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Administrative map of present Central Asia – The post-Soviet Central Asia has 5 states, all independents
since 1991. (© 2006 / J. Felix)
Administrative map of Kyrgyzstan nowadays – Kyrgyzstan has 7 oblasti (administrative regions)
and 2 cities with autonomous status
(Bishkek and Osh).
(© 2006 / GeoAtlas, free use on the Internet)

In the aftermath of the “Revolution of April 7th, 2010”, street had regained its usual calm in Bishkek, the capital, and in most other Kyrgyz cities. At the same time, the situation remained confused in Southern Kyrgyzstan, where former President Kurmanbek BAKIYEV was entrenched with his men in waiting for his subsequent exile in Belarus. Waves of regular clashes between the supporters of the former dictatorial and clan regime of the BAKIYEV family and those of the new political power, from democratic essence, have been interpreted in spring 2010 as another episode to add to the turbulent and complex History, experienced by the Kyrgyz Republic (official designation) since its independence in 1991. This complexity results from the interweaving of regional (secular opposition North-South), local (tribal, clan-based) interests and marked geostrategic rivalries between regional (Russia, China, Turkey) and international (United States) powers.

Second Kyrgyz Revolution – April 7th, 2010 Bishkek – The second Kyrgyz revolution saw the emergence
of a parliamentary republic, but wasn’t been able to succeed in stopping
visceral and former opposition between the North and the South. (© 2010 / D. Gaüzère)

Russia and the United States are the heirs of a traditional hegemonic opposition, pulling its origins in the cold war. For Moscow, Bishkek is part of its “near abroad”. Russia has since 2003 a military airbase in Kant (30 km from Bishkek) and several other military installations. But Moscow also used the presence of 10% Russians in Kyrgyzstan and its close networks with the Kyrgyz political elite to impose its vision policy. For Washington, who had also an airbase between 2001 and 2014 (Manas Airbase) and developed there more underlying networks, Kyrgyzstan is a part of as good an advanced front conducting operations against terrorist networks from Afghanistan, as a way to « hamper » Russia in its background and to slow down Chinese economic ambitions. However, the evolution of political situation in Bishkek since April 2010 forced Americans and Russians to reconcile their views and to silence their differences on behalf of the maintenance of stability of this young Republic and fight against terrorism.

Physical map of Kyrgyzstan nowadays – With 94%
of its territory at more than 1500 m above sea level, Kyrgyzstan remains a mountainous and
landlocked country in Central Asia.
(© 2006 / GeoAtlas, free use on the Internet)
Map of actual Kyrgyz tribes -
Today, there are 21 Kyrgyz tribes,
grouped into 3 kanat or confederations,
schematically established on a regional basis
and who continually compete for the control
of political and economic power.
(© 2006 / D. Gaüzère)
  1. Russia has, April 8th 2010, formally recognized new power in Bishkek, taking position for an absolute neutrality. Moscow had some reasons to loathe former dictator BAKIYEV: personal diversion by the presidential clan of a major state loan, blackmail on the construction of a new Russian airbase in the South, interested and lucrative rapprochement from the former regime to the United States… But Russia was frustrated, on the other hand, about the possibility of a Kyrgyz « democratic contagion » to Kazakhstan and up to its own soil (notably in academic and intellectual circles in Moscow and St. Petersburg). By joining Eurasian Economic Union in August 2015, new Kyrgyz authorities have clearly demonstrated the originality of their policies, by alignment on both Russian positions (strengthening economic exchanges and military cooperation) and the game’s gamble of parliamentary democracy.
  2. The United States, on another side, were the big losers of the change of power politics in Bishkek. Washington argued the former dictator BAKIYEV, ranging up to receive his son, Maksim, and courting him the same day April 7th, 2010, prior to formally recognize the new authorities in Kyrgyzstan a week later (a week after Russia). Since, Washington had to surrender in 2014 the Manas Airbase and refocus its activities to a more hidden way (new American Embassy building, asylum and discreet support to Kamchybek TASHIYEV, the political heir of BAKIYEV, in December 2015) on-site.
  3. Regardless political changes in Bishkek, China has traditionally and consistently always pursued a policy of pragmatism and commercial agreement. Now, leading exporter of manufactured goods in Kyrgyzstan, Beijing plans on a policy of stability and neutrality towards its neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. If China has closed for a few months its border following the bloody events June 2010 in Southern Kyrgyzstan and if Kyrgyzstan can serve as a « stash » for Uighur protesters from close Xinjiang, trade between Bishkek and Beijing was in no way affected by Bishkek political upheavals. However, more and more visible Chinese economic immigration begins to arouse tensions with the part of the “Kyrgyzstanese” population, all combined ethnic groups, in the country.
  4. Turkey is still playing an essential economic and cultural role in Kyrgyzstan, but the more marked proselyte actions from Turkish religious brotherhoods since 2010 cooled relations between Ankara and Bishkek.
  5. Neighbouring Republics of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) fear with a certain dread « democratic contagion » and consequences of the formation of a parliamentary Republic in Bishkek. The Kyrgyz Republic, seen as a « Switzerland of Central Asia » for its role as a refuge to every state democratic opposition movements, frightens neighbouring states, ruled by authoritarian presidential systems and sharing a common allergy to any opening policy. Thus, a border embargo asphyxiated since April 2010 whole swathes of the Kyrgyz economy. Strangled, the new Kyrgyz Government opened in retaliation valves of several dams on the Naryn River to flood the below Uzbek and Kazakh vital plains, in order to force Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to reopen their borders. Also, with the following autumn and the back to calm, fears have been replaced by a rigorous pragmatism, which is now prevailing, facing the common challenges of the fight against drug trafficking and Islamist terrorism and the need to sharing energy resources.
  6. Jihadists from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), purchased current April-May 2010 by the BAKIYEV clan and the narco-mafia networks in the South of the country to undermine the foundations of the new political power, had quietly betaken themselves to Southern Kyrgyzstan from their base in Kunduz in the North of Afghanistan and caches in Tajik Garm and Obigarm Valleys, in an attempt to destabilize the religious and traditional Fergana Valley, divided between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. They have played such an active role in this destabilization attempt in June 2010, benefiting much local complicities, and could rely on logistics and financing of international jihadism. Their actions, since underground, remain nonetheless recurrent in the region. The IMU has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State in March 2015 and continues to meet a strong echo among the religious and desperate population of the Fergana Valley.

Physical and administrative map of the Ferghana Valley – Showcase of Soviet absurdity, the Ferghana Valley is today a volcano, ready to wake up at any moment. Populated with 10 million inhabitants, this small Central Asian deep valley is shared between three republics, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and has more than twenty enclaves. It remains a permanent zone of both inter-ethnic and inter-state tensions.
(© 2006 / J. Felix)

Kyrgyzstan still ultimately remains a weak, vulnerable state, a sort of domino, at the mercy of covetousness from its neighbours. Its landlocked-state aspect, its mountainous land – including natural geographical break between the Fergana Valley in the South and the Chu Valley in the North – and the determination of artificial borders by the young Soviet power in the 1920s (internationalized in 1991) explain that national unity is every day more and more questioning between a North, closer to the nomadic traditions of a superficially Islamic Kyrgyz people, more Russified, secularized and industrial ground, and an Uzbek-speaking, rural, conservative and religious South, which continues to form an “own entity », linked to the rest of the country by a single road, cut several months of the year in winter. Besides, the traditional political, economic and cultural fracture between the North and the South of the country is still increasing more and more every day, now taking a religious turn at the discretion of the regional struggles. Thus, Islamism is clearly progressing in the South of Kyrgyzstan, while the North is facing the growth of Protestant American and now Korean churches and sects (North Kyrgyzstan houses important Korean and German minorities). Through the alternation of regional authorities, the 2005 and 2010 revolutions have confirmed, that the digging of a gaping gap is more expanding every day between two less and less reconcilable parts of the country.

David Gaüzère
Associate member of the Centre of Studies of Modern and Contemporary Worlds (History) (University of Bordeaux 3), President of the Observation Centre of Central Asian Societies (OCCAS)

David GAÜZERE is interested since many years in post-Soviet Central Asian studies, especially in Kyrgyzstan. He did several scientific field missions and trips in Central Asia and studied the process of formation of national identity in Kyrgyzstan and the interweaving of local and tribal identities in subtle political games in this “free” Republic of Central Asia. The foundation of OCCAS in 2014 then enabled him to expand its work to the observation of forms of religious radicalization in Central Asia and their impact on the security situation in the region.

Statue of Lenin March 2016 Osh – Lenin, although less known by the younger generations,
is still respected in Kyrgyzstan, especially for having « saved » the Kyrgyz people from his extermination
in 1916 and under the provisional government. (© 2016 / B. Balci)

More about this topic

GAÜZERE David, « Kyrgyz South : Dangerous Networks », Dossier : The Pogroms in Kyrgyzstan, Two Years After, Eurasiane (e-MAP), May 1st, 2012, (recovered here:

CAGNAT René (Dir.) (in collaboration with David GAÜZERE and Sergheï MASSAOULOV), « Asie centrale, essai de prospective à court et moyen terme : « Les jeux sont faits… ou presque ! », Revue de Défense Nationale, N° 789, forthcoming in 2 times in April and May, 2016

GAÜZERE David, « Le Tadjikistan, un avant-poste stratégique convoité en Asie centrale », in CHABAL Pierre (Dir.), L’Organisation de Coopération de Shanghai et la construction de la « nouvelle Asie », Ed. P.I.E. Peter Lang, Coll. Enjeux Internationaux, Bruxelles, 2016, pp 203-220

GAÜZERE David, « D’Al-Qaïda à l’EIIL, l’évolution de la tactique de déstabilisation des États par les Organisations terroristes islamistes », Diploweb, Paris, 2015,

GAÜZERE David, « Veillée d’armes au Ferganistan », Notes de l’Observatoire Stratégique et Economique de l’Espace Post-Soviétique, Institut des Relations Internationales et Stratégiques, May 27, 2013,

GAÜZERE David, Les Kirghiz et la Kirghizie à l’époque contemporaine : La construction d’un État-Nation, Editions Universitaires Européennes, Sarrebruck, September 2010, 547 pp.


Historical Museum in Bishkek -
The Historical Museum emphasizes
in particular the exceptional historical heritage of the Kyrgyz, mainly based on nomadic culture and traditions.
The Epic of Manas with over 500,000 verses
constitute the longest epic known in the world.
(© 2016 / B. Balci)
Kyrgyz traditions Osh 2016 – Among these traditions, Nowruz (Persian New Year), also celebrated in Central Asia, perfectly illustrates the symbiosis between current Islam and oldest religions
(© 2016 / B. Balci)