Although this blog's name is inspired by Sauti Kubwa ("Big Voice"), the late lead singer of Rumba Japan, a band that played in Nairobi in the early years of this century, it won't focus unduly on Swahili nicknames, rumba music or indeed any other African issues.


Sunday, 13 June 2010

Kyrgyzstan - what's Russia up to?

On Friday afternoon (11 June), as the violence in Osh that had started the previous night had clearly not been quelled, I thought to myself: what'll happen next is that the interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, will appeal for Russian military aid, and Putin will be only too happy to oblige with some "fraternal assistance" in double-quick time. (Yes, I know that Putin, as PM, isn't suppose to control the armed forces, but we know the score.)

Sure enough, on Saturday, Otunbayeva made precisely such an appeal, saying government forces had lost control of the situation in Osh.

But, to my surprise, Russia very quickly replied that it was an internal matter and said it had no immediate plans to send troops.

Ethnic clashes, ghastly as they are, often burn out of their own accord, leaving things very tense but with little further systematic violence. But it's now Sunday evening in Osh, and things still don't look quiet. It's unclear where this is is going to end. I still think foreign troops - Russian? Uzbek? - are likely to be part of the picture sooner or later.

The BBC's Rayhan Demytrie has been doing a great job in reporting the story from southern Kyrgyzstan. The English-language pages of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty's Kyrgyzstan service are also a good source.


  1. There was also an excellent summary of the ethnic factors at play in this worrying development, from a local correspondent on BBC Radio 4's "Today" on 16th June. It should be available on BBC i-player, both within the UK and elsewhere, until 23rd June. It was transmitted at about 07.20, i.e an hour and 20 minutes into the programme.

    I suppose Britons in particular could take several attitudes to this story. Sadly, in our geographical ignorance, the Little Englander mentality, it's all too easy to trivialise it and say something like "Gosh, Osh",as if there could ever be a capital city with that name. Taking a more honest view of it, as the correspondent did this morning, is to see the same influences at work, perhaps, as led to the tragedy that was the Balkan wars of the 1990s in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. The correspondent (sorry, I can't remember his name) suggested that what we are seeing is in part a response to post-USSR conditions, albeit 20 years after the break up of that entity.

    Let us only hope that we do not have another Chechnya/South Ossetia on our hands. That would be too tragic for words.

    Enjoying the blog, Sauti. May it long continue!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Foghorn! The blog may take a little time to find a comfortable voice and tone. It's a matter of steering between pomposity and whimsicality.

    There are plenty of views now on the web about Kyrgyzstan. I'm going to try to keep off the subject in this blog for a while, unless there are major developments that I could make something of - e.g. something regarding the media.