When Osh’s Uzbek Music and Drama Theater opened its 94th season last month, the actors looked nervously into the audience. They had not celebrated an opening night for three years, since before the theater was partially burned amid 2010’s ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s southern capital, is calmer than it’s been in ages. The hostile vibe that has prevailed since inter-ethnic rioting in 2010 seems to be slowly dissipating -- evidenced by the fact that Kyrgyz and (some) Uzbeks can be seen strolling in the city’s parks together on weekends.
The two losers in Kyrgyzstan’s presidential poll last October are using upcoming municipal elections in the troubled southern city of Osh to make a political comeback by throwing their support behind a volatile but popular local strongman. The southerners’ united front offers fresh evidence that the central government in Bishkek has only limited influence in the country’s second-largest city.
For many in Osh, the anniversary of last year's ethnic violence offers a painful reminder of the severe strains weighing on society. But for Gulmira, an Uzbek, and her husband Saparbek, an ethnic Kyrgyz, the anniversary created an opportunity to promote reconciliation. The couple planned to gather, for the first time since the outbreak of violence, their suspicious Kyrgyz and Uzbek relatives.