The Wilting of the Tulip: Kyrgyzstan's Revolution One Year On

Tuesday, April 4, 2006
1219 International Affairs Building

Tom Wood (International Foundation for Election Systems-IFES)

A year has passed since the Tulip Revolution in March 2005 ousted Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akayev, incumbent since independence in 1991. When protestors took to the streets of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in the spring of 2005 the country's president, Askar Akeyev, and the world at large saw revolutionaries on the march and responded accordingly. Akeyev contemplated resistance but eventually fled before a new, post-revolutionary regime could catch him. Outsiders, meanwhile, projected the kind of political changes that revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia had wrought but recently and sat back to await their actualization. A year later they are still wondering where the Kyrgyz revolution really was. Arguably the so-called Tulip Revolution was more of reorganization than a revolution. The country's existing political, civic and social institutions had already adapted in ways that precluded the need for more radical change. When put to the test these institutions were able to meet the challenges posed by the protesters and -- to the discomfort of many foreign observers -- continue on much as they were. Rejecting the idea of a failed revolution and focusing thematically on the role of social and political forces this presentation will take a closer look at what has and has not happened over the past twelve months.

Based in Washington DC, Tom Wood is Program Officer for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) overseeing a portfolio of civic education and election-related projects. During 2005 Wood was in Kyrgyzstan during the Presidential elections. Prior to IFES, Wood was with the Civic Education Project (CEP), managing fellowship and higher education exchange programs in the former Soviet Union. From 1997-2000 teaching international relations at the American University-Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, he served as Chair of the International and Comparative Politics Department and led the development of a successful BA program in International Affairs. In May 2005, Wood received his Ph.D. from the Fletcher School, Tufts University with a dissertation on Kyrgyz foreign policy. His research interests include democratization and politics in Central Asia, the former Soviet Union and Turkey.