Saturday, October 7

Osh City 34

 Luxory at its finest
Osh - back to civilisation (outside our hotel, assured the best in the city; we are happy to enjoy a "modern" break). 

Kyrgyzstan faired relatively well, of Central Asia's 15 countries, following the Soviet collapse - there was no civil war, for instance (Jryghal informs that the Mujahideen maintained control of Tajik districts until 2005 despite the elections). 

From 1991, factories and trade stopped ("like Afghanistan when the Americans left, 24 hours only") and there was virtually no economy. What did people do? "Drinking, sleeping and fucking" for two years. Fair enough. The first election in Kyrgyzstan was in 1992 bringing stability by 1995.

Kyrgyzstan survived this period due to its abundance of water - more than any other Central Asian country - and gold, which it has in abundance. Its commercial borders remained open and its ties to Russia strong - the US made some efforts in Central Asia post the Soviet collapse, including sponsoring Kyrgyzstan's acceptance into the WTO (1999) but following 9/11 the Americans took a greater interest in the region, and opened the (military) Transit Center at Manis (Kyrgyzstan) in December 2001, to Russia and China's horror. Under pressure, Kyrgyzstan closed the base in 2006.

The US relations have been difficult here at best, Russia is the center of gravity, yet there is an American embassy in Bishkeck. To me, it seems China is the real worry. Next door, China has lent Tajikistan tons of development money, including to pave the Pamir Highway, and eventually it will absorb the mineral-laden territory in return. Indeed it is happening already as 60% of mined gold in the Fan mountains going to China.