A Neighborhood vs. Ethnic Violence

Via Fred Clark comes a fascinating story out of Kyrgyzstan, and how one neighborhood kept recent ethnic violence at bay.

In one neighborhood of diverse ethnic groups, about two dozen people — Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Russian — were chatting over tea, munching apples from their orchards and talking about how they remain scared.

Despite a growing sense of calm, there are still reports of sniper attacks. Some Uzbek enclaves have been hit by gunfire in recent days.

“Here, it’s defense with no weapons,” said Bakhtiyar Salidzanov, an Uzbek and the leader of this tiny neighborhood of a few hundred people.

No one has been leaving or going to work.

When people approach the street, if they are Kyrgyz, the neighborhood sends a Kyrgyz neighbor to talk to him, Salidzanov explained.

“They go there to sort of cover us Uzbeks. They explain to them, ‘Just go because we all live here together.’ But if Uzbeks come, then we go talk. From morning till night we stay here on duty. This is our street,” he said.

Salidzanov’s friend, standing with him, is a Kyrgyz named Abdomomet Joldushov.

“The trust between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, in this street we don’t lose. Still we trust each other,” he said.

This in the middle of ethnic violence. It’s just astounding the capacity human beings have to be decent when they are willing to put aside ancient, meaningless grudges and issues of this kind.

Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Michael says:

    Have you ever read the book “Safe Area Gorazde?” It’s a fitting show of contrast. The author Joe Sacco demonstrates Serbs and Muslims turning on each other when they had been neighbors during the authoritarian regime of Tito. The shots are gruesome, to say the least, but Joe Sacco ends up having normal wonderful experiences in the town of Gorazde, a United Nations designated safe area.