I just wanted your opinion about what happened, or rather what you think happened this time (in Kyrgyzstan) in comparison to the previous revolution of 2005.
This time I don’t know because I haven’t been to Kyrgyzstan for years, but this time it looks like this was a real revolution because they had no real opposition. I don’t know…
The last time this happened you said that it was organized?
That was definitely more organized by someone, I don’t know who. Someone was interested in creating a situation of unrest in Central Asia because Kyrgyzstan don’t transport that many drugs but the drugs come from the south – from Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan – and Kyrgyzstan was a perfect trafficking road. Therefore when one has an unstable situation it is better to manipulate.
And that was 2005?
And what happened then?
The former president - Akayev – was so extremely corrupt, like a king, but with him the situation is Kyrgyzstan was stable. One knew that you had to pay out bribes everywhere – a bit of money under the table- and you could get everything that you wanted. You knew where, when and how much. It was a legal corruption. But a legal corruption is very simple- a side-effect of a bad ++conception++ or bad ++conception++ government. That was very comfortable. After President Kurmanbek Bakiyev began to govern then it became a huge bordello, because the people said that everyone can get his own post, anyone can be president, no ++point de la repaier?++ you know- checkpoint?
Another question: Your mother said and in the media they said that the people were unsatisfied because of electricity prices in recent times. What happened with that?
That is a wonderful story. Actually there is a water reserve in Kyrgyzstan that is huge, it is extremely large – it is called Taktagul – in the last few years someone- or, I don’t know if it is because of climate problems or if someone just sold off the water, and the dam couldn’t function anymore, therefore they had to turn off the electricity in the whole city for half of the day so that the water could re-collect itself. But the people are very unsatisfied because they have always paid for water. Normal people have always paid for water, and the rich people in palaces have been stealing the electricity.
So they had electricity and no one else?
No, no one has electricity because that has provoked a ecological crisis. It is ridiculous. The people live in a city with one million inhabitants where there are hospitals and night clubs and they shut the lights off.
They shut all the power off?
All the power is shut off. The whole city is without power.
There isn’t any warning? Do you know when that is coming?
They say that this and that and so-on will happen on television .
And who does that? The government? Who has control of turning the electricity on and off?
The government does that.
And that has been since when? Or was it always like that?
No, it has been like that for approximately three years.
You’d also said that the last quasi-revolution in 2005 was theoretically supported by the Americans?
Theoretically- there was a theory that was supported that it was definitely supported by someone, there was also a theory that it was supported by the Americans because the simple people who live in the mountains and work hard all day, why would they want to drive so far all the way to the capital to make a revolution? For these people it doesn’t matter at all who governs. They are in the mountains with their yurts and their sheep just like they were 500 years ago - they live the same life. Why would they travel so far to change President A for President B? It doesn’t make sense.
I was at university and we got flyers which intended to provoke us For example: “all big stores actually belong to our president. He owns everything.”
No, these huge stores.
They nationalized them?
No, they weren’t nationalized. It is a strange story. For example in Kyrgyzstan they build a huge hotel – a Hyatt hotel - the Turks built it and it cost 6 million dollars or euros or more, I’m not entirely sure of the price. The Turks built it and after it was complete then the Kyrgyz said “ok, now that belongs to us.” And it was a bit like that everywhere.
The government just took it for themselves?
Yes. Akayev surely did that as well, but with him it was a bit more loose. There was a lot of intelligence- a lot of intellectuals – in the government. They couldn’t do anything without corruption but they also acted with thought. For example, they knew that this businessman class brings money. Everywhere- they bring in money for common people because then jobs are created, and foreign investment as well and that brings money to the government through taxes or corruption taxes and so on. But when Akayev was gone and Bakiyev came it became much worse because they completely replaced the whole government, and the new government was really hungry, they wanted more and more without realizing how much the true cost was. They didn’t come there to make a revolution. They just came there with the thought “ok, Akaiev stole so much, why shouldn’t we steal? And we can steal even more!” And they really stole more from the people - from the business class.
That government to follow stole more?
They stole more and they made more of a bordello out of it. Previously it functioned a bit like the Italian Mafia. It is a mafia, but you know that if you have a problem then you can find justice/law somewhere because that was a system. That was ok. It wasn’t the French constitution but it was its own Mafia justice. But for example, if you want to open a shop in Kyrgyzstan there is nothing, no rights/law. No mafia law, no normal rights - nothing. You don’t know if someone will come to you the next day and say “ok, this is all mine now.” This certainly played a role in the whole Kyrgyz economy, and the first people to feel it were the common people.
Therefore do you think that this revolution is out of frustration as a result of that? It it was so bad and hopeless regarding normal life in recent times…
One could say that but you would also have to study the economy to find this cause, if it really comes from the people or not…
Regarding 2005: You started to tell a story about you being in university…
Yes, they passed out flyers everywhere that said “Everything belongs to your president” and so one- that that this wasn’t not ok, that this is a monarchy. That the president of the republic has the largest businesses. What would you call that? The president owns all the businesses. Ok, we weren’t slaves…
The students did this? They passed out these flyers?
No, where would students get enough money to make flyers?
Where did the flyers come to the university from?
No one knew where they came from but someone did that.
Just to provoke people? To point out that it is a “monarchy” and you have no rights?
Yes, whoever did that had money because they also transported people from the countryside to the capital and that costs money, too. And the people who were in the revolution were paid. Everyone got 1,000 Som (KGS) – which is about 20 Euros, but in Kyrgyzstan that is a lot of money- sometimes that is minimum wage for a month.
And these people got money..?
To make a revolution. They recieved money, and alcohol and drugs.
What kind of drugs?
I don’t know. But when I was in the university our dean said that everyone had to go to the main square to protest. I said I didn’t want to and he said that he said that if I don’t go then I would get a “0” for the day.
He would give you a bad grade?
He would write that I missed university.
So he was under pressure from someone else?
Certainly. But one also has to discuss Kyrgyz mentality. They are such calm, simple people. They live in the countryside and live off the land. They are slow, and as long as one has food and a horse and a yurt – that is enough for a lifetime. They are really pacifists, it is in their nature. These aren’t French people who hit the streets to protest every little thing. It is a much different mentality, you understand? For example a farmer who works in his village all summer then suddenly people come and say “come on, let’s make a revolution!” –why should he come? He doesn’t give a damn. He doesn’t pay taxes, he lives off the land. The people were definitely paid to get them to leave their fields and come with.
And that was 2005, - do you have any ideas about this 2010 revolution?
I can imagine that President Bakiyev’s government and how electricity prices have increased so extremely much in recent times and the whole economy goes into (gallopie/inflation?) and so forth I can imagine that it was a real revolution because the people were so unsatisfied.
Roza Otunbayeva, bishkek