By Arslan Sabyrbekov (11/26/2014 issue of the CACI Analyst)
On November 17, the American business magnate and philanthropist George Soros paid two days visit to Kyrgyzstan. Soros is Chairman of the Open Society Foundation, a global network of institutes aiming to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, legal and economic reforms. In Bishkek, several dozens of pro-Russian activists held a peaceful rally near the U.S. Embassy, protesting Soros’ visit.
The initiators of the rally are activists from the Union of Russian Compatriots Russkiy Mir (Russian World) and members of Kyrgyzstan’s Communist Party. Participants were mostly elderly people, holding posters in both Russian and Kyrgyz languages reading, “U.S. hands off from sovereign Kyrgyzstan;” “Kyrgyzstan+Russia = Customs Union;” “Soros, please let us live in peace” and many others.
In an interview to local journalists, Union of Russian Compatriots chairwoman Nadejda Ladojinskaya emphasized that Soros finances local non-governmental organizations aimed at destabilizing the socio-political situation in the country and is one of the main initiators of the so called “color revolutions” in the post-Soviet space. In her words, “America should listen and accept the choice Kyrgyzstan has made. We support the policy that our government has taken and its growing partnership with Moscow. We are against those who try to prevent these positive developments and brainwash our people against Russia.” The rally participants demanded Embassy representatives to come out and speak with them. However, there was no response and the small crowd dispersed within an hour.
The Kyrgyz public and local experts have taken varying positions on the demonstration by pro-Russian activists. According to Kyrgyzstan’s former State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov, the rally should be regarded as a complete disgrace for the country and there is no evidence whatsoever pointing to sabotage activities by George Soros or his Institution.
The Soros Foundation has been active in Kyrgyzstan starting from the first days of the country’s independence and continues to strongly advocate democratic governance reforms by launching and supporting initiatives in all spheres of public life. Moreover, Soros has stood at the forefront of creating the American University of Central Asia, which has become a renowned regional educational institution, training future leaders and offering a multi-disciplinary learning community in the American liberal arts tradition. As part of his visit to Bishkek, Soros also met with the president and student body of the American University and inspected the University’s new campus, built by his donation.
It seems that Bishkek’s growing partnership with Moscow contributes to a growing activism among pro-Russian forces in Kyrgyzstan. This is not the first rally conducted by the Union of Russian Compatriots. Recently, Union activists have also protested in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Bishkek, urging Kiev to stop military actions. But unlike the dozens of young people who recently protested the government’s decision to join the Russia-led Customs Union, the security forces did not take any actions against the Union members, describing the entire Ukrainian nation as “fascists.” According to MP Omurbek Abdrakhmanov, this is indicative of the current power holders’ tacit agreement with or even direct involvement in these processes.
However, the developments around Soros’ visit to Bishkek did not prevent the country’s President Atambayev to meet the man who over the course of Kyrgyzstan’s independence invested around US$ 80 million in various social and educational projects. According to the President’s press service, they briefly discussed the activities of the Soros Foundation and of the American University of Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan’s president expressed his gratitude to Soros for remaining Kyrgyzstan's good friend and a great supporter of democratic reforms.
In the end of October, the multi billionaire investor published the article “Wake up, Europe” in the New York Review of Books, warning Europe’s democracies against the threat that a resurgent Russia poses to the continent. Soros wrote that “The Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the entire European union and its principles of governance,” and called for more economic and military support for Ukraine, as well as for the abandonment of the Eurozone’s current austerity programs.
The author writes in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the views of the organization for which he works.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.