Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Analysts say Kyrgyzstan has developed a "culture of demonstrations" that is making stability elusive.

This resonates with other lessons-learned which have been offered from various civic movements around the world- for example Kmara of Georgia. They warn that the biggest mistake was losing momentum after the change in power. The naivity of believeing that simply a change of guard would automatically translate into constructive changes and a properly functioning system.

It may sound hypocritical of me to say, but while rallies and public support are critical, without institutions or a system in place to address the aftermath, it can undermine the success of a democracy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007
Kyrgyzstan: When Is The Revolution Going To End?
By Bruce Pannier

(TASS) April 12, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Whatever one chooses to call it, the "Tulip" or "People's" Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in March 2005 carried hope for many of a better era. But much of the past two years has been tumultuous, characterized by protests, quarrels within the government, and increasingly abusive language between government and opposition politicians.

The word "stability" arises in virtually any discussion of events in Kyrgyzstan, but it appears to be more elusive now than ever.

Opposition groups in Kyrgyzstan are currently holding a rally aimed at forcing President Kurmanbek Bakiev to make way for an early presidential election. The demonstrators are also demanding constitutional reforms.

An Era Of Demonstrations

There have been more demonstrations in Kyrgyzstan since independence in 1991 than in the other four Central Asian states combined. But since the revolution that ousted former President Askar Akaev two years ago, breaks between protests have been rare -- they seem to come one after another. The frequency of rallies in Kyrgyzstan has led some to comment that the country is in danger of becoming a failed state.

"Two years after March 2005, we have to say that many if not most of the slogans of the Tulip Revolution have not been realized," Edil Baisalov, the head of Kyrgyzstan's Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, said of the near-constant protests in Kyrygzstan during a recent appearance at RFE/RL offices in Washington. "For many in Kyrgyzstan, it only turned into a change of a few nameplates on some of the highest floors [of the government building]. But everything else remained; and what we hoped for was to receive a moral revolution that would, first of all,
mean not only change of regime but change in the way the people and government communicate [and] that many of the formerly acceptable levels of corruption and arrogance -- these sort of things would go away. Not only have they not gone away, but many people will tell you that they have multiplied."

This article brings up another good point- one that a friend who is a part of Sksel a brought up to me in conversation a few weeks ago. Thoughts that I echo, and will summarize here.

It’s not a revolution its "evolution". What needs improvement in our country is first and foremost the citizenry. If the government were overthrown and a new one put in place- we’d still end up in the same place so long as society is the same. What we are aiming for is a social awakening. An engaged citizenry that is alert, engaged, proactive, inquisitive and responsible and feels a sense of ownership. We want to infuse and strengthen a value system. How are we doing this? Through leading by example. Our actions and protests began with 5 and 6 people. We are creating a small model of the type of society we’d like to see. Every subsequent event that gathers us more visibility, more friends, and more interested viewers and eventually more people who join us is a step towards expanding that model a little bit larger. And a little bit larger after that. And larger still. So when people ask us what we mean by “sksel a” it is this movement we mean.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”
-Mahatma Ghandi

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's our city and we'll dance wherever we want to.

"Baghramyan Avenue is not an appropriate place to dance."
- Serge Sarkissian
(former Defense Minister, recently appointed Prime Minister), 4/12/04

On April 12, 2004, thousands of Armenian citizens filled Baghramyan avenue facing the Parliamentary building, in protest against the fraudulent elections and calling for the President's resignation. Among the masses, a group of patriotic Armenians lifted their friends over their shoulders and began a traditional circle dance in the middle of the street.

Baghramyan Ave. - April 12, 2004

Shortly thereafter, the protest was dispersed by irreprehensible, unnecessary and brutal violence by military police.

On April 12, 2007, around 7:30pm, a group of about 20 Armenians gathered at the intersection of Baghramyan and Demirchyan Avenues, once again facing Parliament, and for just a few minutes ran into the middle the intersection to form a circle and dance.

Baghramyan Ave. - April 12, 2007

The people involved (some of whom were victim to beatings in 2004, some of whom were witness, and others who were not at all present that day) organized this event yesterday to remind the country and this government of what happened just 3 years ago; that violence against peace is always wrong; to demonstrate in solidarity that peoples' freedoms must never be taken away; and to symbollically state that they will not stand for this country's government to pressure their fellow Armenians - not in 1996, not in 2004, not in 2007 and not in 2008.

article in Armenian: http://www.a1plus.am/am/?page=issue&iid=47850

Shocked and in Awe

Albania : Large Rally in Tirana in Defence of Press Freedom

Around 100,000 people gathered in Tirana's main square on 13 April in protest against government pressure on the news media. Prime Minister Sali Berisha has accused certain media of being in the service of organised crime and, a few weeks ago, the judicial authorities began investigating some news media on suspicion of tax evasion. Press representatives claim that only media critical of the government are being targeted.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Rose Revolution

After visiting Tblisi, I couldn't help but notice some very striking differences in the level of development in our neighboring Caucasian capital city. Certainly on the a very surface level the city seems very developed and european. Infrastructure exists, city-planning is paid attention to, the streets are clean, customer service is pleasant, and cops don't take bribes.

It's striking to think that perhaps thanks to the successful Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia's fate completely turned around while Armenia's attempts to revolt against fraudulent parliamentary elections were violently stamped out in the streets in 2004. How much did that supression affect the will of the Armenian people and undermine their sense of ownership to their state, and how much did the Georgian's success bolster theirs?

There are of course many other factors to consider when comparing the progress of the two countries- such as Georgia's more strategic location with access to the Black Sea, its partership in the Ceyhan-Baku oil pipeline which will undoubtedly make huge profits for the country, and it's very cozy strategic relationship with the US. I also know that Saakashvilli's tactics bordered on authoritarian during the beginning of his presidential tenure, but perhaps that hard-line approach of throwing scores of oligarchs and mafiosos in jail was just the clean-up job that was neccessary.

However, the question is how much of the changes are on the surface. How do actual Georgians' lives compare to their lives pre-rose revolution? Particularly outside of lovely Tblisi?

Just found this very informative, interactive site which discusses progress (or not) in the regions.

"Georgia: Revolution in the Regions"