Staunton, September 14 – Central Asians never have been happy that many in the outside world lump them altogether as “the stans” or under an even more disparaging rubric. Earlier this year, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev talked about renaming his country “Kazakh Eli,” and now some politicians in Kyrgyzstan are doing the same.
(For a discussion of Nazarbayev’s initiative and the response it received, see “Could ‘Kazakhstan’ Disappear from the Map?”)
Feliks Kulov, the leader of the Ar Namys fraction in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, at the end of last week proposed renaming the country “the Republic of the Kyrgyz” or “as a variant, the Republic of Kyrgyz El,” an action that would require a referendum in which other issues might be decided as well.
When pressed by the media about this, Kulov insisted that “this is not my idea but that of the youth wing of our party. In order to generate a reaction, they asked me to publicize these proposals which I have now done. I do not agree with them in everything but I consider that our people must become accustomed to the culture of plebiscites.”
Others in that Central Asian country queried by Nakhinur Niyazova and Darya Podolskaya of the 24.kg news agency were less charitable. Omurbek Abdyrakhmanov, a deputy from the Democrats Group, for example, said that this notion showed that Kulov “does not have any ideas for the modernization of the country.”
Shairbek Mamatoktorov, the former head of Osh TV, asked in response “what doesn’t he like about ‘Kyrgyzstan’?” adding that “one should lift up the country rather than rename it.” People should think before they talk, he said, and he suggested that such people are “pseudo-patriots and parasites.”
Begaly Nargozuyev, editor-in-chief of the Internet portal Kyrgyztoday, said he was against the idea and said that using “el” as part of the name of the land was “more suitable to subjects of a federation and autonomous state formations” like Mari El within the Russian Federation now.
And Aleksandr Knyazev, a Russian expert, said he was opposed and for even more weighty reasons: “At a time when the republic is at the brink of a final catastrophe, when the bankruptcy of the government and the president is obvious, on the eve of a cold and hungry winter, such initiatives” are either an attempt to distract attention or a reflection of complete incompetence.
Holding a referendum on renaming the country now would lead Kyrgyzstan “toward a situation like the one in Ukraine on the eve of what is happening there now.” It is possible to talk about everything, but only at an appropriate time. The present, the Russian expert suggested, clearly isn’t it.