For the third time in 15 years, protesters in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek have seized and set fire to the “White House,” the seat of parliament and presidential staff. The chaotic situation has toppled President Jeenbekov and is still rapidly evolving, with political actors jockeying for power. It’s a scene all too familiar to Kyrgyzstan, which since 2005 has experienced several cycles of protests and calls for advancing democracy followed by backsliding into authoritarianism. But this time around, even with all the familiar players and moves, there are also strong differences that are worth thorough assessment.

Join USIP for a discussion of the ongoing situation in Kyrgyzstan and its implications for peace and stability in Central Asia. The conversation will examine how organized crime, youth mobilization, social media, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have factored into the crisis. The discussion will also analyze how the United States and the region, including Kyrgyzstan’s Central Asian neighbors and Russia, are assessing and responding to the developments.  

Take part in the conversation on Twitter with #KyrgyzstanUSIP.

Speakers

Scott Worden, welcoming remarks
Director, Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs, U.S Institute of Peace 

Dr. Mariya Omelicheva
Professor of Strategy, National War College

Jonathan Henick 
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau for South & Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Dr. Ivan Safranchuk
Leading Research Fellow, Institute for International Studies, MGIMO

Keneshbek Sainazarov
Central Asia Program Director, Search for Common Ground

Dr. Gavin Helf, moderator
Senior Expert, Asia Center, U.S. Institute of Peace

Related Publications

Looking for Trouble: Sources of Violent Conflict in Central Asia

Looking for Trouble: Sources of Violent Conflict in Central Asia

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

This report offers a road map for understanding the most likely sources of violent conflict in the post-Soviet nations of Central Asia—ethno-nationalism and nativism, Islam and secularism, water resources and climate change, and labor migration and economic conflict. The analysis draws from emerging trends in the region and identifies the ways in which Central Asia’s geography and cultural place in the world interact with those trends. It suggests that the policy goals of the United States, Russia, and China in the region may be more compatible than is often assumed.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

In Kyrgyzstan, It’s Easier to Start a Revolution than to Finish It

In Kyrgyzstan, It’s Easier to Start a Revolution than to Finish It

Thursday, October 8, 2020

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

For the third time in 15 years protesters in the Kyrgyz Republic capital of Bishkek have seized and set fire to the “White House,” the seat of parliament and presidential staff. The situation is chaotic with multiple political actors claiming to be in charge and the threat of chaos expanding to the provinces. It is a scene all too familiar to Kyrgyzstan in the last 15 years, leading to a cycle of protests and calls for advancing democracy followed by backsliding into authoritarianism. While working to stabilize the situation in the short term, the United States and regional actors should be cognizant of the country’s deep regional and ethnic fault lines and support actors in Kyrgyzstan who will address them so that this time the cycle does not repeat itself.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Central Asia and Coronavirus: When Being Nomadic Isn’t Enough

Central Asia and Coronavirus: When Being Nomadic Isn’t Enough

Friday, April 3, 2020

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

“Do you know how nomads prevent conflict?” a Kazakh friend once asked me. “I turn this way; you turn the other way. We start walking.” In ordinary times in Central Asia, this traditional “social distancing” may be enough to avert friction. But in a time of pandemic, it isn’t. Like elsewhere, the novel coronavirus is challenging Central Asian states and societies in new ways and revealing a great deal about the character of peoples and their governments. Here’s a look across the region at how the crisis has affected its states and how leaders have responded.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Global Health

Ukraine-Russia Conflict Colors View of Civic Roles in Central Asia

Ukraine-Russia Conflict Colors View of Civic Roles in Central Asia

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

By: Hanne Bursch

Ukraine and the countries of Central Asia wouldn’t seem to have much in common other than their former Soviet past. But post-Soviet Russian ambitions may be linking them in unexpected ways. The outcome of Ukraine’s current effort to consolidate its democracy, against Russia’s resistance, has ramifications for whether the Central Asian countries view civil society and democracy as a driver of instability or a force for reform.  

Type: Analysis and Commentary

View All Publications