Work has caught up with me, and now it’s time for me to catch up with this blog. And to steal back some time. On this first day of June, 3,000 miles away from Bishkek, it’s time write about a weekend in April. And about how people in two cities in Kyrgyzstan remembered the events that changed the country’s history three years ago.
On April 7, people in Bishkek remembered the 2010 Revolution, which led to the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. At the White House, next to the memorial dedicated to those who died in the violence, people sat in front of the plaques inscribed with the names of the dead. They were sitting silently, some praying and crying, and some were hugging each other, sharing their grief. Some who walked by briefly stopped and paid tribute to those who had been killed.
New wreaths had been put up. People left flowers, bouquets and single red roses and carnations, at the White House fence and at the memorial.
By coincidence, I happened to be in the city of Talas the day before, on April 6. In the small, remote city in northwestern Kyrgyzstan, one of the country’s agricultural centers, where the 201o Revolution started exactly three years ago. From this small city, with a population of less than 35,000, cut off from the rest of the country by a massive mountain range, a revolution spread. Public events commemorating the revolution took place in Talas on April 6; many people, all dressed up, were out and about on the streets in the early morning. And lots of stories were told, that weekend. Of the extreme economic hardship that people endured; of persistent electricity outages; of skyrocketing utility costs; of the bitter knowledge of being cheated and abandoned by the corrupt government; of tensions rising in light of the increased visibility of government forces that had poured into the city in anticipation of an uprising. Of the breaking point, when people would not, could not, take it any longer. Of violence.
Here, too, a memorial reminds of the events of April 2010:
As I walked home from Bishkek’s Ala-Too Square that Sunday, April 7, away from the memory work, there was other work going on in the city. Public workers were busy with urban spring cleaning. They planted flowers:
They added a new coat of paint to the pedestrian crosswalk markings:
And workers built houses:
Bishkek on a Sunday, three years after a revolution.