My main reason for being in Kyrgyzstan is to research conflict along the un-delimited Kyrgyz-Tajik frontier. The area has never had a fully agreed-upon international border and it saw increasing tension over 2014, with over 30 incidents of cross-ethnic rock-throwing, shoot-outs and water-grabs (32 Kyrgyz-Tajik incidents, 5 Kyrgyz-Uzbek and 2 Kyrgyz-Kazakh). I’ve written up a few research summaries for this blog and wanted to make you aware of them:
First off, an overview of the current conflicts can be found here.
This includes a conflict map that goes into more detail about specific disputes and the Kyrgyz Parliament’s reactions to them. I’ll be visiting many of the areas highlighted in this map over the next several months to get local Kyrgyz and Tajik perspectives on the conflicts. The ultimate goal is to identify and support the local, informal justice institutions that help mediate these disputes and cool tensions.
For the historically-minded among you, I’ve dug up some neat old maps that show the changing administrative boundaries of Central Asia over the past two centuries. Check them out here. To sum up this historical material: there have never been fully delimited boundaries in many Central Asian regions, and only recently has this become a problem.
The lack of any historical basis for setting borders and the nationalistic bent of current Central Asian politics makes it hard to see how these problems will be resolved anytime soon. Resource shortages — most notably water, pasture and energy deficits, all made worse by poor infrastructure and government mismanagement — have exacerbated the tensions. This is why getting a grip on how (some) locals manage to both live with and resolve their day-to-day differences is so important; they may be the only ones able to keep the tensions under control and ensure that local skirmishes don’t devolve into international warfare.