Ask an ethnic Kyrgyz in the cramped village of Tash-Tumshuk what country he lives in and he will reply confidently, “Kyrgyzstan.” Shout over the mud-brick fence to the ethnic Tajik next door and he will, with equal conviction, say he lives in Tajikistan, in a village called Hojа Alo.
In this fractured rural community in the fertile Fergana Valley, where the border has been disputed for more than 20 years, the homes of Kyrgyz and Tajiks stand in a checkerboard pattern and citizenship almost always coincides with ethnicity.
“We don’t have a border. Whoever is Kyrgyz is a citizen of Kyrgyzstan. Whoever is Tajik is a citizen of Tajikistan. The same goes for the property. If a Kyrgyz lives there, it’s Kyrgyzstan. If a Tajik, it’s Tajikistan,” Mirzapar Ismailov, a 39-year-old resident of Tash-Tumshuk, told EurasiaNet.org.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor. Natalia Yefimova-Trilling is a freelance journalist who writes about Central Asia and the Caucasus.