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  • 01 May, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

Kyrgyztan – Tajikistan border issues

Kyrgyztan – Tajikistan border issues

What is the issue?

  • The genesis of the issue lies in World History and the disintegration of the USSR. (Given below also)
  • The latest conflict erupted when Tajik officials attempted to mount surveillance cameras to monitor the water supply facility in the Kok-Tash area amid the tensions over water distribution, and Kyrgyz residents opposed the move. Both sides began hurling stones at each other and troops quickly entered the fray.
  • Kok-Tash is an area which is claimed by both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and has a water supply facility. This dispute is dating back decades to when they were both parts of the Soviet Union.
  • The current configuration of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border is the product of Soviet mapmakers drawing the dividing lines for Soviet republics, after the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) collapsed in late 1991.
  • The meandering boundary between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is particularly tense as over a third of its 1,000-km length is disputed.
  • Restrictions on access to land and water that communities regard as theirs have often led to deadly clashes in the past.

Recent updates

  • A ceasefire on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was largely held on Friday following a day of intense fighting between the two ex-Soviet Central Asian neighbours that killed 39 people and wounded more than 175.
  • More than 7,000 Kyrgyz residents have been evacuated from the area engulfed by the fighting as troops from the two countries exchanged gunfire around a water supply facility near the village of Kok-Tash, located in western Kyrgyzstan on the border with Tajikistan.
  • A large part of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border remains unmarked, fuelling fierce disputes over water, land and pastures.

Prelims PT Pointers

  • Capitals
  1. Kazakhstan – Nur us Sultan
  2. Uzbekistan – Tashkent.
  3. Turkmenistan – Ashgabat
  4. Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek
  5. Tajikistan – Dushanbe
  • Both Kyrgyztan and Tajikistan borders Uzbekistan and China.
  • Communism peak is a mountain between Kyrgyztan and Tajikistan.
  • Issyk Kul is in Kyrgyztan.
  • Ishfara is a city in Tajikistan.
  • Lake Balkash is in Kazakhstan.
  • Aral Sea is shrinking and it is between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
  • Amu Darya and Syr Darya drain in Aral Sea.
  • Ust-Urt plateau is between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
  • Only Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan borders Caspian sea.
  • Karakum Desert is in Turkmenistan.

World History – Central Asia division

  • Russia conquered Central Asia in the 19th century by annexing the formerly independent Khanates of Kokand and Khiva and the Emirate of Bukhara.
  • After the Communists took power in 1917 Russian Revolution and created the Soviet Union it was decided to divide Central Asia into ethnically-based republics in a process known as National Territorial Delimitation (or NTD).
  • This was in line with 2 things
  1. Communist theory that nationalism was a necessary step on the path towards an eventually communist society, and
  2. Joseph Stalin definition of a nation as being "a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture".
  • Historians regard NTD as a deliberate measure by Stalin to maintain Soviet hegemony over the region by artificially dividing its inhabitants into separate nations and with borders deliberately drawn so as to leave minorities within each state.
  • They did it because they were concerned with the possible threat of pan-Turkic nationalism, as expressed in their handling of the Basmachi movement of the 1920s.
  • The Soviets aimed to create ethnically homogeneous republics, however many areas were ethnically-mixed (e.g. the Ferghana Valley) and it often proved difficult to assign a ‘correct’ ethnic label to some peoples (e.g. the mixed Tajik-Uzbek Sart, or the various Turkmen/Uzbek tribes along the Amu Darya).
  • Furthermore, NTD also aimed to create ‘viable’ entities, with economic, geographical, agricultural and infrastructural matters also to be taken into account and frequently trumping those of ethnicity.
  • The attempt to balance these contradictory aims within an overall nationalist framework proved exceedingly difficult and often impossible, resulting in the drawing of often tortuously convoluted borders, multiple enclaves and the unavoidable creation of large minorities who ended up living in the ‘wrong’ republic.

  • NTD of the area along ethnic lines had been proposed as early as 1920.
  • At this time Central Asia consisted of two Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSRs) within the Russian SFSR:
  1. The Turkestan ASSR, created in April 1918 and covering large parts of what are now southern Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as Turkmenistan, and
  2. The Kirghiz ASSR, was created on 26 August 1920 in the territory roughly coinciding with the northern part of today's Kazakhstan (at this time Kazakhs were referred to as ‘Kyrgyz’ and what are now the Kyrgyz were deemed a sub-group of the Kazakhs and referred to as ‘Kara-Kyrgyz’ i.e. mountain-dwelling ‘black-Kyrgyz’).
  • There were also the two separate successor ‘republics’ of the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva, which were transformed into the Bukhara and Khorezm People's Soviet Republics following the takeover by the Red Army in 1920.
  • On 25 February 1924 the Politburo and Central Committee of the Soviet Union announced that it would proceed with NTD in Central Asia.
  • The process was to be overseen by a Special Committee of the Central Asian Bureau, with three sub-committees for each of what were deemed to be the main nationalities of the region (Kazakhs, Turkmen and Uzbeks), with work then exceedingly rapidly.
  • There were initial plans to possibly keep the Khorezm and Bukhara PSRs, however it was eventually decided to partition them in April 1924, over the often vocal opposition of their Communist Parties (the Khorezm Communists in particular were reluctant to destroy their PSR and had to be strong-armed into voting for their own dissolution in July of that year).
  • Originally the border was much longer, as the Uzbek SSR included the Khojand region as well as the rest of what is now Tajikistan as the Tajik ASSR.
  • The border assumed its current position in 1929, with Tajikistan gaining Khojand and becoming a full SSR.
  • The Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast was originally within the Russia SSR in October 1924, with borders matching those of modern Kyrgyzstan. In 1925 it was renamed the Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast in May 1925, then became the Kirghiz ASSR in 1926 (not to be confused with the Kirghiz ASSR that was the first name of Kazak ASSR), and finally it became the Kirghiz SSR in 1936.
  • The boundary became an international frontier in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the independence of its constituent republics.
  • There were tensions in the post-independence era over border delimitation and policing, and especially after an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) incursion into Kyrgyzstan from Tajik territory in 1999/2000.

Source: TH

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