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April 29, 2010

ACNIS Assesses the Recent Unrest in Kyrgyzstan:
Are There Lessons For Armenia?

Yerevan—Following the recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan that resulted in the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiev’s government, the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a roundtable discussion to analyze the situation in Kyrgyzstan and to assess the implications, if any, for Armenia. The roundtable was attended by over forty guests, including representatives from the diplomatic community, international organizations and a number of prominent Armenians experts, analysts and journalists.

Extending his greetings to the participants, ACNIS Administrative Director Dr. Karapet Kalenchian noted that “the events in Kyrgyzstan are of serious concern for the post-Soviet countries, including Armenia and its ruling circles.” In Kalenchian’s view, “it has now become clear that ‘stability,’ about which our authorities like to talk a lot, can be breached very quickly and unexpectedly. And in the case of Armenia, which is surrounded by enemies, this peril is increased twofold.”

The first presentation was by Grzegorz Michalski, the Head of the Politico-Military Programme at the OSCE Office in Yerevan, who offered a broad overview of the situation in Kyrgyzstan.  Although his comments were unofficial and did not necessarily represent the position of the OSCE, he noted the geopolitical significance of Kyrgyzstan and also discussed the role of the country’s two foreign military bases, the American base at Manas and the Russian military base at Kant.  He stressed that “the strategic interest by many outside powers, like Russia and the US, means that events in Kyrgyzstan are especially important.”  He also added that “the establishment of stability and security are the most serious challenges now facing the new Kyrgyz government.”  Michalski has extensive experience in the region and is recognized as an expert on Turkey.  He has also served as the Head of the OSCE Mission’s Tskhinvali Field Office.

Following Michalski, ACNIS Senior Analyst Manvel Sargsian analyzed, from several angles, the large-scale turmoil that started in Kyrgyzstan on April 7, 2010, and the process that led to the Kyrgyz government’s overthrow. According to Sargsian, these events first and foremost are qualitatively different from the post-election “velvet revolutions” of the years past. “It is difficult to say that what occurred was an ordinary political revolution, because it resulted in the collapse of the country’s entire state system,” he noted. “In actual fact, what happened in Kyrgyzstan is a people’s insurrection, and the new forces that came to power have little impact on the people’s frame of mind. In addition, the events in Kyrgyzstan are devoid of the ‘Western trace,’ which has now become fairly ordinary and, in principle, a new political phenomenon is evident whose repercussions can later be felt in other post-Soviet countries.”

For his part, ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian presented an analysis of the unrest in Kyrgyzstan and noted that the main reasons for the uprising stemmed from three factors. First, the Kyrgyz people were seriously disappointed by the failure of the Bakiev government to keep its promises to implement real democratic reform and fight corruption. Second, the population’s demands for real change and greater democracy were ignored by the Kyrgyz authorities.  And third, the mounting pressure from the country’s economic crisis only fueled the people’s desperation for change.  “Most significantly, each of these three factors is now present in Armenia as well, although to varying degrees. And these are the lessons for Armenia from what happened in Kyrgyzstan,” Giragosian warned.

The presentations were then followed by a series of questions and answers, and featured a lively exchange among the discussants.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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