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Kyrgyzstan: Uzbeks Shedding Ethnic Identity

A Kyrgyz border guard checks passports at a roadblock near Osh in southwestern Kyrgyzstan shortly after the deadly ethnic violence in June 2010. In the first three years after the 2010 clashes, the number of 16-year-olds taking “Uzbek” as their ethnicity upon applying for a first passport fell steadily. (Photo: David Trilling)

It has been over four years since ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan’s southern provinces caused widespread death and destruction, and the wounds are still raw. Members of the Uzbek community, which suffered disproportionately in the violence, complain about being treated like second-class citizens and many are adopting documents stating they are ethnically Kyrgyz in an attempt to keep career and social opportunities open.
 
Like Soviet documents before them, all Kyrgyzstani passports contain a line – now called the “sixth point” – marking the bearer’s ethnicity. By default throughout Central Asia children usually obtain their father’s ethnicity. But statistics show that in Kyrgyzstan, an increasing number of young people are choosing not to identify as Uzbek when they get their first passports at age 16. Some are also changing their names to sound more Kyrgyz.
 

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Kyrgyzstan: Uzbeks Shedding Ethnic Identity

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