“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
– Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Today marks four years since the Second Kyrgyz Revolution, and the entire city seems redirected and emptied, the dust being caught in the drizzling April wind. In the past week, opposition movements and isolated cases of violence have emerged in the mountains near Talas, on the shores of Issyk-Kul, and in villages and towns in the Ferghana Valley. People have avoided talking about it, or do so in hushed and quiet tones, like bringing it up will remind them of the dark days of violence that followed, that corruption and discrimination remains rampant, that poverty and unemployment limit opportunity, just as thousands of Kyrgyzstani kids’ growth is limited by malnutrition. They are conflicted about revolutionary acts in the Ukraine, in Moldova, in the Middle East – they recognize that the promise of revolution is fragile. That, four years later, there remains work to be done.
The statue in the above pictures is one of my favorite public art pieces in Bishkek, representing the fight of protestors against corruption – pushing the dark history of corruption and oppression away from a bright future for Kyrgyzstan. On the gates of Kyrgyzstan’s White House hang the names of protestors who were killed on April 7th, less than 200 feet from where Kyrgyz women sell ice cream and Coca-Cola from handcarts, and university students wander through Ala-Too square, holding hands and talking about their own bright futures. I walked to the square this morning, blocked off by the militsia to prevent larger protests, and the statue was still dripping with the early morning spring rain, its shadow extending deep into the Square.
You can read more about the Second Revolution here, and the Tulip Revolution of 2005 here. And from The Diplomat, “Is Kyrgyzstan the next Ukraine?” You can read more about the violence in Osh from an evacuated Peace Corps Volunteer here.