Back to Index

Post-Soviet CIS. Kirgizstan

     A whole intellectual industry has grown up about the horrors of the Nazi and Soviet regimes and the numbers of victims involved. While these horrors are beyond doubt, we should examine the causes which produced these regimes and the consequences of replacing them, since the West faces similar situations today in much of the under-developed world.
     Kirgizstan or Kirgizia offers a good example. It is a small, poor country tucked between Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Since I do not know it, and few WAISers do, an excellent documentary produced by Deutsche Welle has a special interest. It showed the poor countryside, where nomads lived in yourts, and the capital Bishkek, which grew impressively in Soviet times under the policy of settling the nomads. It is easy to ridicule the Soviet-bloc apartment buildings, but they were homes for the nomads whose wandering life often spelled hunger and miserable cold. They found employment in the new industries. A driving force was the colony of Volga Germans who had been exiled there by Stalin.
     Now the industries have closed down, and the jobless nomads have returned to their ancient life. Capitalism has had little impact on the capital, except for Coca Cola and Pepsi signs. Some Germans remain, led spiritually by a devoted, caring Baptist minister. However, many of them have left, and their neat homes have been taken over by local people.
     Some men have gone to the mountains to pan a little river gold in miserable conditions. A Western corporation has moved in to exploit the gold with modern equipment. It provides jobs and good housing for the miners, but they wonder how long it will last.
     The people of Kirgizstan realize that the past will never return, but it is only natural that they should have mixed feeling. They take refuge in their mythical past, with folk singers reciting poems about their ancient heroes, as in the France of the chansons de geste. This is dangerous, since Hitler's Germany too sought refuge in its ancient heroic myths.

Ronald Hilton - 2/15/00