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The Bishkek Revolt

April 11th, 2010 | 4 min read

By Tex

The only reason you are reading anything about Kyrgyzstan on a blog primarily devoted to Christian thought, culture, and the occasional recent news item may be because I happen to be staying a few miles from the national capital, Bishkek, and the site of the overthrow of the government. To most Americans, Kyrgyzstan is not a word found in their vocabulary and its possible that, after doing a bit of simple research on the country, many Americans might very well shrug at the nation’s current political instability, convinced that it is the inevitable fruit of a country long-influenced by communism and secularism.

It is notable, however, that the country has undergone two revolutions in five years and both revolts have been spurred on by a dissatisfaction with the ruling powers who have acted according to their own interests, stolen from the people, and refused to develop transparent political processes or give power to the people. It seems that the Kyrgyz people are infected with a democratic impulse of sorts that refuses to allow their leaders to run roughshod over their self-determining desires. They currently are demanding the resignation of their president, have placed an opposition leader in power, and are emphasizing their rights to fair and equitable government. They are in revolt because they have been treated unfairly, not because they feel like the government owes them more than it has given. Nothing to complain about here, right?

On the surface, no. Being the citizen of a country that has enshrined liberty, self-determination, and freedom in its founding documents and remain fundamental to its identity, it is hard to criticize others with similar leanings. However, and here’s the other reason you are reading about Kyrgyzstan on this blog, it is almost a truism that a bad tree never bears good fruit. A popular uprising gaining momentum as it overthrows the rule of law and discovers its ability to determine events through violent resistance does not bode well for the longevity, security, or prosperity of the governments they form. Disregarding the common peace and resorting to violent attacks to remedy a variety of troublesome but by no means insoluble issues, the people of Kyrgyzstan have underscored their commitment to the rule of the majority and, unfortunately, to the rule of the mob. It is worrisome that a throng armed with stones and anger was able to depose their governmental leaders in one night of rioting; it is more worrisome that the people of Kyrgyzstan and the newly installed government officials think that this sort of revolt is heroic and will result in prosperity and freedom. Their goals may be laudable; their means, however, are atrocious.

A democratic government is a fragile thing and in order to function properly it must maintain the trust of the people. A democratic people is likewise fragile and they must maintain the trust of their government. Without this relationship of mutual trust the government and people are likely to divide into various factions set on grabbing whatever power or resources they can wrest from each other for the sake of personal security or advancement. Mob rule, or the rule of a simple majority (or violent minority), undercuts trust and underscores a selfish impulse that refuses to be limited by law. Rather than work through established avenues for redress, appealing to the government itself or even requesting assistance from othe interested external powers such as Russia, the United States, or the United Nations, the people of Kyrgyzstan attacked their own government, set fire to government buildings, and threatened the lives of their appointed leaders. These actions are not ones meant to inspire confidence, but only to strike fear in the hearts of current and future governmental leaders as they realize that the people they rule have little respect for the law and, if angered, will lash out and destroy the very means that have been provided to produce peace, concord, and the context for lasting reformation.

The democratic impulse, generally speaking, is laudable as it expresses a desire to be free from oppression and injustice. However, the democratic impulse is sometimes little more than the movement of a soul towards selfish egoism. To differentiate between democracy as self-interest and democracy as freedom for virtue at times requires judicious evaluation and a keen eye. Other times the difference is obvious. Unfortunately for the Kyrgyz Republic, the current democratic movement resembles the temper tantrum of a passionate child rather than the reasonable move of a seasoned chess player. The utter disregard for the rule of law, the willing turn to violence to depose an elected official, and the resulting chaos in the streets of Bishkek point to a country of individuals ready to break down order without a plan for rebuilding in peace. Democracy should be valued and implemented, not as the means for everyone to get to do what they think best, but as the safest and most reliable means to protect individuals from injustice. The likelihood of establishing the latter sort of democratic government on the impetus of the former democratic impulse is improbable.