Monday, 14 June 2010

Reaping Stalin's whirlwind

A very quick post before I go to watch the football. Today, The Economist has an excellent article on the background to the violence in Kyrgyzstan. Stalin drew borders between the then-Soviet republics in central Asia, which were set in stone after they gained independence, ratcheting up ethnic tension. I don't know whether this is a case of the borders being simply arbitrary, like the imperial-era one that give Egypt a perfect right-angle in the middle of the Sahara, or whether this was intentional.

Soviet leaders had a record of gerrymandering borders to split up populations and hinder national sentiment, while Stalin deported vast numbers of people to central Asia on the basis of ethnic ancestry. As a result, Uzbekistan's national football team has the star striker Alexander Geynrikh - the Russian transliteration of the German Heinrich, after the Volga Germans were sent east in 1942. Khrushchev gave the mostly-ethnically-Russian Crimea to Ukraine in the 1960s to dilute Ukrainian national sentiment, with the result of rows over naval bases and linguistic divides that continue to this day, sometimes violently.

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