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Elections and Ethnicity in the South of Kyrgyzstan

During Kyrgyzstan's post-election period, most attention has focussed on the demonstrations staged by supporters of two opposition leaders, Daniyar Usunov and Felix Kulov. Meanwhile, a potentially more explosive situation in southern Kyrgyzstan has gone virtually unnoticed by the international community, even though it raises the spectre of interethnic conflict among Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

Ethnic tensions have been on the rise in the southern regions of Osh and Jalalabad for several months. The increased outflow of ethnic Russians following last summer's Batken hostage crisis has had a destabilising impact on interethnic relations. Uzbeks have suddenly emerged as the second largest ethnic group in the country after the titular majority, a fact that has unsettled many Kyrgyz. The ethnic balance also has been influenced by the formation of a new Batken oblast, an act that has diluted the ethnic Kyrgyz majority in Osh oblast, where the bulk of the Uzbek population lives in and around the regional capital of Osh.

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Elections and Ethnicity in the South of Kyrgyzstan

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