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March 24, 2005
The unrest in Kyrgyzstan shows that mass opposition to dictatorship can work in the "Stans" (the former provinces of the Soviet Union that became five independent nations; Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan). The Stans had never been democracies. When the Russians conquered them in the 19th century, the local governments were monarchies or tribal forms. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, former Soviet officials held elections and manipulated the vote to get themselves elected "president for life." But many people in the Stans want clean government and democracy. It appears that the same kind of mass, and generally peaceful, protests that liberated Eastern Europe from tyranny in 1989, could work in Central Asia as well.