The Declining Role of Political Elites in Revolutions in Post-communist Eurasia: The October Revolution in Kyrgyzstan

In: Central Asian Affairs
Arzuu Sheranova PhD, Independent Researcher Budapest Hungary

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Marat Uraimov PhD Candidate, Department of International Relations, Doctoral School of International Relations and Political Science, Corvinus University of Budapest Budapest Hungary

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In October 2020 the world witnessed the third sudden change of power in Kyrgyzstan since its independence. In 2005, 2010 and 2020 repeated mass protests led to the violent fall of the political regimes of Akaev, Bakiev and Zheenbekov. Although these events were more or less similar in terms of the conditions contributing to the protests, they were different in the way the political elites were viewed by the protesters. The aim of this contribution is to critically analyse the role of political elites during these three revolutions. This piece underlines the declining role of these elites on the one hand, namely in terms of the decline of the political capital of the leaders, and points out the rise in public grievances and worsening of socio-economic life on the other hand. These latter processes have led to an increase in distrust toward the political establishment and the emergence of populist leadership after October 2020. In contrast with the previous Kyrgyz revolutions, the October 2020 revolution failed to establish clear leadership from among the established elites and was chaotic. In the paper we challenge the existing scholarship on protests in Central Asia as elitist and reductionist, as they completely ignore the roles of society and social grievances. Instead, we suggest that the role of the political elites in protests and their political capital are diminishing, and they are not the rigid and powerful actors that they seem. The study is based on 20 in-depth interviews with Kyrgyz political elites and leaders of three revolutions, 10 interviews with representatives of society, online ethnography (online observation of three Kyrgyz revolutions, including available live-streams) and news sources.

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