For the leaders of Central Asian states surrounding Kyrgyzstan, the early April upheaval in Bishkek constitutes a nightmare scenario: an angry mob looting the capital, marching on the seat of government and driving an authoritarian-minded leader from power. It is a fate no other Central Asian president wants to see happen elsewhere, and regional leaders are moving quickly to try to ensure that it doesn’t.
Central Asia’s rival powerhouses, namely Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, may share the same general opinion about Kyrgyz developments, but they have responded differently to the situation. Predictably, the region’s most autocratic rulers in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan opted immediately for isolation, the leadership and state-controlled media remaining largely silent on the political convulsions in the Kyrgyz capital.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.