March 29, 2005

SHOCKWAVES AND ECHOES:

The shock waves from Kyrgyzstan’s lightning revolution are spreading around the former Soviet Union – and into the heart of Russia – leading analysts to wonder which regimes might be next to face the peoples’ wrath.
Recent days have seen a spate of copycat protests launched by opposition groups that were perhaps hoping their own local authorities might fold and flee under pressure, as did Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev when demonstrators stormed his Bishkek complex last week. . . .

Two Russian ethnic republics, Ingushetia and Bashkortostan, have seen mass street demonstrations this week directed against Kremlin-installed leaders. Even in remote Mongolia, the former USSR’s Asian satellite, hundreds of protesters gathered last week to “congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers” and demand a rerun of last June’s disputed parliamentary polls.

Some experts see a common thread among these upheavals that began 17 months ago when Georgians overthrew Eduard Shevardnadze in a peaceful revolt and continued with Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” late last year.

“Every situation is different, but a single process is unfolding,” says Valentin Bogatyrov, a former Akayev adviser and director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Bishkek. “Kyrgyzstan is a kind of trigger that will spread this unrest to our neighbors, and beyond. We are witnessing the second breakup of the Soviet Union.”

Putin can’t like this. Here’s more on Ingushetia, including the observation that it’s “on the brink of revolution.” I don’t know if that’s true, but clearly there are a lot of people interested in democracy.