Kyrgyzstan remembers 2010 uprising victims

AP News
Posted: Apr 07, 2011 8:54 AM
Kyrgyzstan remembers 2010 uprising victims

Memorial ceremonies were held across Kyrgyzstan on Thursday to mark the first anniversary of a bloody uprising that led to the ouster of the Central Asian nation's authoritarian leader.

President Roza Otunbayeva and other senior government representatives laid wreaths at the Ata-Beit cemetery in the capital of Bishkek, where many of the 87 people killed in last year's clashes are buried.

While officials have played up the heroism of the dozens that died during the revolt, some remain uneasy at the lack of noticeable improvements and bemoan a growing ethnic nationalism.

Protests erupted last year amid anger over stagnating living standards and perceived corruption under then-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was blamed for the ex-Soviet nation's relentless descent into authoritarianism.

After a memorial prayer at the cemetery, Otunbayeva spoke in praise "of compatriots who laid down their lives for freedom, for democracy, and the future of their country."

Meanwhile, a crowd gathered in the capital's Ala-Too square, where government opponents were gunned down by troops during street protests, to observe a minute's silence.

Several thousand people walked from the headquarters of Prime Minister Almaz Atambayev's Social Democratic Party to a government building in the center, retracing the route taken by demonstrators last year.

"In the future, April 7 should become a great holiday," Atambayev said in an address to the procession. "But we must recognize that the revolution has not achieved its goals."

Those mixed feelings are widely reflected among mainly Muslim Kyrgyzstan's 5 million-strong population. The economy has continued to struggle and the ruling coalition government is riven by internal disputes.

"Over this year, not much has changed. The main thing is that they have lowered tariffs for electricity and heating, and they have promised to increase pensions," said retiree Ryksybay Duyshenbiyev.

Early attempts by a hastily assembled interim government to restore order were dashed by a wave of ethnic violence in June. More than 400 people were killed in clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in the southern Osh and Jalal-Abad regions.

Businesswoman Olga Fedotova said the country's resurgent ethnic Kyrgyz nationalism over the past twelve months has alarmed many minorities, like her own ethnic Russian community.

"Half of my friends have left the country. Nationalism is strong, and it has become difficult for us Russian-speakers to live here," Fedotova said.