‘Death to Sarts’: History, injustice and a complex insult in Central Asia (Respond to this article at http://www.therai.org.uk/at/debate)



Recently published independent inquiries and detailed chronologies of the violence that occurred in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh in 2010 noted the frequent and threatening use of ‘Sart’ against Uzbek residents in the city's mahallas. This article explains the significance and potency of this insult as the confluence of perceived historical injustices, iniquities in post-independence land privatizations, and current hardships of food insecurity and poverty. It considers the significance of narratives of ‘Soviet injustice’ (outlawing of pastoralism, collectivization, and land confiscation) for contemporary nationalist agendas which emphasize Kyrgyz harm. With increasing political fragmentation and social disunity, the fear of further inter-communal violence is ever present, and it is suggested that twenty years on from independence the Kyrgyzstan government will need to find ways of openly debating such interpretations of the past without undermining national reconciliation.