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Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan: Blurry Borders, Unhappy Neighbors

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Men bathe in a canal near Arka, Kyrgyzstan. Locals say the canal marks the border with Tajikistan.

For over 20 years now, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the two poorest republics to emerge from the Soviet Union, have failed to agree on the location of their border in the most densely populated parts of the Ferghana Valley.

Thousands of families live along the disputed border. Neighbors in this agriculture-reliant region quarrel over water and land. Youths fight. Border guards sent in to keep conflicts to a minimum sometimes only cause additional anxiety.

When problems arise, villagers turn to their respective governments. But in remote border communities, getting officials to deliver basic legal protections or public services is even harder than elsewhere, since responsibility is often unclear.

Aid workers and scholars worry that projects to boost tolerance won’t take root without good governance and prosperity.

The porousness of the border and price differences on the two sides fuel a robust shadow economy. One hot commodity is petrol; another is believed to be drugs from nearby Afghanistan.

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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.

Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan: Blurry Borders, Unhappy Neighbors

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