Furthering an ideological shift from national liberation to nationalism, authorities in Bishkek have removed a prominent statue called “Freedom” and will soon replace it with a statue of the mythical hero Manas. Manas, of the eponymous Kyrgyz-language epic poem, has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as Kyrgyzstan struggles to define an identity.
That task has taken on renewed urgency since ethnic pogroms against minorities --- who make up 30 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s population -- last year. But in this multiethnic state, Manas – unlike Freedom – is unmistakably Kyrgyz.
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