Uzbekistan and the World

Ok, I’m feeling guilty. Back in November, when the ‘orange revolution’ was thriving in Ukraine, we were all over it here at Afoe. Now, with an estimated several hundred dead in Andizhan, Uzbekistan we’re strangely silent. Why, because it isn’t Europe? Well, we are a Europe centred blog, but I hope that doesn’t mean we are Eurocentric. In any event we are involved, one way or another: as Jack Straws comments, or lack of them, make only too plain. So I’m going to try and follow what is happening in Uzbekistan.

But there is another reason for my deciding to do something about the situation, and it came to me after reading a post by John Quiggin on Crooked Timber.
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Not your average Boom-bang-a-bang

Two of the topics that produced some of the most posts on Fistful last year – the Eurovision Song Contest and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution – have come together. Of course, we already knew that this year’s contest would be in Kiev but now Ukraine has chosen ‘Razom nas bagato!’ (Together we are many!) by Greenjolly, an anthem of the Orange Revolution, as their entry for the final. It should help to contribute to what will no doubt be an interesting night.

For a more serious look at the Orange Revolution, Blood and Treasure has some thoughts on ‘freedom as a brand management strategy.’

Certified Democrats.

Many early proponents of democracy believed that public education was of utmost importance for the people to be able to exercise democracy. I am not sure whether they thought of graduation ceremonies of the kind Viktor Yushchenko is planning to hold in Kyiv today – yet it seems that everyone wearing orange will receive a certificate of democracy – “We want everybody who is related to the Orange revolution to have one. We will give this certificate to everyone tomorrow!” said Yushchenko according to Maidan.
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An Orange Solution, Even For Putin.

Some orange in Brussels.
About a week ago, I wondered what the chances were for an explosion when hundreds of thousands of people are smoking at a gas station. Unfortunately, now their leaders seem to have begun fooling around with the gas pump handles in truly ‘zoolanderesque’ manner.

More and more commentators seem to be afraid about Russia’s hardline stance and the possible geopolitical fallout of the Orange Revolution, while such a realpolitical approach offends others for the little concern it has for the people freezing for freedom – or, more precisely, a little democracy and approximate rule of law.

As so often, it’s a little both. And to avoid an explosion, both conceptual layers need to be given the appropriate consideration: How to make sure no one, and above all the Ukrainian people, ends up paying the bill for continuing a pointless conflict when the Orange Revolution, this plebiscite on modern governance, is actually opening up a whole range of opportunities for Ukraine, Russia, and the West, and – particularly – the EU.
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A Carnival of Hope

Maybe, just maybe, this will work out right. Positive signs abound. No major violence, police units going over to the people’s side, order among the throngs, volunteers bringing food, boots, whatever the people in the demonstrations need. Crowds in Kiev still in the hundreds of thousands. Miners in thrall to the government few and far between. Rumor and tension, of course, but songs, too, festivities.

If it works out, these are the days that Ukrainians will look back on and say Yes we can. We did.

Even here in Munich, a Ukrainian I know — one from Kharkiv, in the east, and a Russian speaker — said today, “Since 1991, Ukraine has been asleep. But now. My people. Awake.”

And if it goes well, what next?
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Calm Before A Storm?

This is an intersting night. Checking news sites and blogs one last time before getting some sleep – reading about Mr Yushenko’s declaration that the “struggle had only just begun” and rumors about a $21,6m bribe to the head of the election commitee, I can’t fight the impression that the quiet winter night the live stream from Kiev is showing me as I am writing these lines is indeed the calm before something even stormier than what we have witnessed by wire since the election’s preliminary results were announced.

Like Nick in his summary below, many people are beginning to try to put the events into perspective ( for example The Economist, PBS), to broaden their historical and political knowledge of Ukraine, to locate similar events that may shed some light on the the driving forces of the orange revolution (working title): what are the underlying interests, what are the fundamental trends, and what are the chaotic elements in this situation – where the rules have run out, and the locus and balance of power can be tipped by any rumor. The Carnegie Endowment’s Michael McFaul stated in an interview today “that somebody has to blink now or there’s going to be war”. Who knows. But what are the chances of a fire when several hundred thousand people are smoking at a gas station?
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