REPLACEMENT OF LENIN STATUE HEATS UP NEW POLITICAL SEASON IN KYRGYZSTAN

By Aisha Aslanbekova (09/10/2003 issue of the CACI Analyst)

On August 11, on the threshold of celebration of the Independence Day and the 2200th year of Kyrgyz statehood, the Kyrgyz government adopted a decree “On the reconstruction of the main square “Ala-Too”. The decree made provision for transferring Lenin Statue erected in 1984 from the main square of Bishkek to the old square and replacing it by a Statue of Liberty, which is meant to symbolize independent Kyrgyzstan.

The government’s decree immediately evoked not only resolute protest on the part of the Communist party of Kyrgyzstan, but it also evoked sharp criticism from the Socialist party “Atameken”, the “Jangy Kyrgyzstan” party, and the “Erkin Kyrgyzstan” and “Asaba” parties. They demanded the resignation of the Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev and the whole cabinet. In their opinion, by issuing a decree and removing Lenin Statue unilaterally, the Kyrgyz government violated the law on Lenin Statue, which was adopted by Parliament and signed by the President in 2000.

The government, in its turn, started running a PR-campaign, claiming that it was receiving telegrams and letters from citizens, work collectives, and public organizations all over the country, in which the Kyrgyzstani people support the government’s decision. The PR-campaign conducted by the government in an attempt to justify its action may have ensured a “peaceful” celebration of the holidays, but it did not and could hardly ensure a long-term resolution of the issue.

The dismantlement of Lenin Statue and the government’s corresponding decree was the first issue that the Legislative Assembly started to discuss after summer recess. The Leader of the communists, the Chairman of the parliamentary committee on state structures Absamat Masaliev expressed his protest, saying that “the government violates laws, is illiterate, and does not have the right to remain”. It is remarkable that the initiative of the “Communists of Kyrgyzstan” to dismiss the government has been supported by non-communist deputies and, what is more remarkable, is that it has been supported by traditionally pro-governmental deputies. The Leader of the “Ata Meken” party, deputy Omurbek Tekebaev labeled the government’s action a historical and political mistake. Deputy Turdakun Usubaliev thinks that “the government, which does not take public opinion, the Constitution and laws into consideration, does not have a right to stay in power and should immediately resign”. In the opinion of another deputy, Ishenbai Moldatashev, the issue of removing the Lenin Statue to a new place is not the point; the point is the violation of the law adopted by the Parliament by the government. At the same time, some deputies think that the government made the right decision as times change and Lenin is the symbol of the old era.

The government, in its turn, does not think that there was a violation of the law. Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, who participated in the session of the Legislative Assembly on September 4, said that the decision on reconstruction of the main square was adopted two years ago at the initiative of architects, cultural workers and already then a working group had been formed by the government’s decree. According to Tanaev, replacement of the Lenin Statue meets the requirements of modern architecture, and logically puts an end to the construction of the old square and establishes a link between different time periods. In the opinion of the Prime Minister, the government did not violate any law because there is no legal document, which marks the borders of the “Ala-Too” square; therefore the old square is also a part of the main square.

As for President Askar Akaev’s position on the issue, he has not expressed any opinion. But people from the “President’s circle” such as State secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov think that there was no violation of any law and the resignation of government would be embarrassing for the Parliament. Meanwhile, some radical opposition figures such as Azimbek Beknazarov propose the resignation of the President on the grounds that he is the initiator of the entire affair while the Prime Minister is just the “executive figure”. This is a too ambitious proposal, while the resignation of the government itself is very unlikely, say local observers.