Ethnic relations

An Osh neighbourhood badly damaged during the violent unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Osh, Kyrgyzstan, 2 March 2011. (OSCE/Sonya Yee)

An Osh neighbourhood badly damaged during the violent unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Osh, Kyrgyzstan, 2 March 2011. (OSCE/Sonya Yee)

The most serious ethnic problem remains the tension between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southwestern Kyrgyzstan. Another outbreak of inter-ethnic rioting took place in 2010, which left up to 2,200 dead and a reported 100,000 ethnic Uzbek refugees who had  temporarily fled to Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyz and Russians in the north

There has also been tension between Kyrgyz and Russians in the north of the country, especially over the language issue. In 1989, Kyrgyz was made the state language, with Russian relegated to the status of “language of inter-ethnic communication.” In 2001, however, Russian was given equal standing with Kyrgyz. Other conciliatory gestures toward Russian-speakers were also made, such as the opening of the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavonic University in Bishkek in 1993.

Tension between regional groups of Kyrgyz

There are also tensions between different regional groups of Kyrgyz, especially between those living in the north and those living in the south of the country. This division is pronounced in spheres such as ministerial appointments and is a popular theme in the media, but it matters little to most ordinary people.