Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Kyrgyzstan: Rap Song Stokes Ethnic Hostility on Anniversary of Clashes

As Kyrgyzstan marks the second anniversary of the June 2010 events, a new rap song is stoking [ru] tension in Osh, a southern city which was the epicenter of the ethnic riots between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz two years ago. According to official sources, more than 400 people were killed and thousands lost their homes as a result of the conflict.

Global Voices reported back in 2010 about the role popular culture played in ratcheting up tensions in the southern city during the immediate aftermath of the clashes, especially when spread via mobile technology. This role was not lost on the Kyrgyz-language newspaper Ayat, which recalled [ru] in its report on the latest inter-ethnic ‘hit song':

В свое время узбекская певица-беглянка Юлдуз Усманова тоже выступала с песнями, наносящими ущерб кыргызско-узбекской дружбе, народ еще помнит, как кыргызские акыны-певцы давали ей ответ.

At the time, the Uzbek singer-fugitive Yulduz Usmanova also came out with a song aiming to impair Kyrgyz-Uzbek friendship – the people still remember how the Kyrgyz akini [singers] gave her an answer.
Osh, a city in southern Kyrgyzstan which served as the epicenter of ethnic clashes in June 2010. Image by Flickr user celichowster (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Osh, a city in southern Kyrgyzstan which served as the epicenter of ethnic clashes in June 2010. Image by Flickr user celichowster (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The latest musical release boasts of Uzbek physical superiority over Kyrgyz. The song, akinig, is reported to be in both Uzbek and Kyrgyz languages, suggesting a deliberate attempt to provoke. The news blog quoted the rap song as saying [ru]:

При встрече лицом к лицу вы [этнические кыргызы] ничего не можете ответить, и во всех районах здоровые узбекские ребята — номер один.

When meeting face-to face [with us], you [ethnic Kyrgyz] can't do anything; strong Uzbek guys are number one in all of the [country's] districts.

(The full lyrics cannot be published here because they can be regarded as inciting ethnic hatred).

Local authorities have expressed their fear that this song might trigger another round of unrest in the city, and requested aksakals – informal ‘white beard’ authorities – to fight songs propagating ethnic hatred.

During a security forum last week, President Almazbek Atambayev's adviser clarified [ru]:

В Оше распространяется рэп-песня, которая записана на всех сотовых телефонах, и ее слушают во всех школах города. Это песня антикыргызского содержания, что Ош принадлежит только узбекам, а кыргызам в этом городе делать нечего. Поэтому мы собрали несколько аксакалов и они обратились ко всей молодежи с требованием прекратить это безобразие.

There is a rap song being spread around schools in Osh, recorded on mobile phones. This song has anti-Kyrgyz content, saying that Osh belongs to Uzbeks only, and that Kyrgyz have no place in this city. That is why we have gathered several aksakals to address youth and call for an end to this nonsense.

According to's reportage, the song has engendered various reactions in Osh. Human rights defenders fear that the song may cause ethnic conflict among the youth, whereas the Youth Committee of the Osh Mayor's Office believes that the song is not dangerous and that there have not been any notable clashes between young people so far.

However, according to the human rights activist Izatillo Rakhmatillaev, there have already been several cases of conflicts among the youth over this song. He stated [ru]:

Было несколько случаев, когда молодёжь подралась по этому поводу. Проблему не с пустого места подняли, были несколько инцидентов: стычки между молодежью, подрались, поругались.

There have been several cases where teenagers have fought over this song. The problem has not been raised without reason: there have been clashes between young people, fights, and quarrels.

The song has attracted a lot of attention in the media, dovetailing as it does with the anniversary of the events. Human rights defenders fear that too much attention may only worsen the situation. Others suspect that this is a conspiracy, and that the authors of the song have ‘bosses’ who want to destabilize the situation in the already vulnerable city. The director of the Assembly of Peoples, Pulat Sabirov, said that the situation is under control and that the second anniversary of June events – beginning yesterday and continuing on until June 14 – will pass peacefully. He added [ru]:

Это дело рук некоторых людей, которые не хотят, чтобы в Оше была стабильность. Но, мы, жители Оша, не будем обращать внимание на такие провокации.

This is done by some people, who do not want stability in Osh. But we, the residents of Osh, will not pay attention to such provocations

Netizen reactions

Thankfully, the song has not led to Kyrgyz-Uzbek “comment wars” on the same scale as those witnessed shortly after the conflict itself. Back then, websites such as hosted vicious exchanges between both groups that invoked ethnic slurs and questionable interpretations of history. Nevertheless, comments posted under various articles about the rap suggest that the authorities are still correct to be concerned about the song.

Under a article about the song, one internet user, Real stated [ru]:

дону! Это ж школники они ничего не понимают , ты посмотры киргизам все дозволена они даже по телеку ушимляют узбеков и все молчать ну скажи мне это справедливо? Пусть аллах покарает виновного амин.

Well this is school kids – they do not understand, but note that Kyrgyz are allowed to do anything – even on TV they humiliate Uzbeks and everyone is silent well – is this fair? Let Allah punish the guilty – amen.

Don replied [ru] to Real:

Они распространяют провакационную песню, что Ош принадлежит только узбекам, а кыргызам в этом городе делать нечего. Как ты думаешь, кто начинает заварушку, а потом жалуются. Когда ты видел чтобы Ош, Ташкент, Андижан, Самарканд были узбекскими? Здесь проживало много народностей, это были из покон веков многонациональные города, а Ош сейчас относится к Кыргызстану.

They are spreading provocative songs, that Osh belongs only to Uzbeks, and Kyrgyz have nothing to do with the city. What do you think? Who is starting this mess and then complains. When did you ever see that Osh, Tashkent, Andijan [and] Samarkand were Uzbek [cities]? Different nationalities lived here – they were cosmopolitan for centuries, while Osh currently belongs to Kyrgyzstan.

Another user, rrr, meanwhile expressed [ru] a sense of exhaustion common to residents of Osh:

провокаторы-придурки!Чего они добиваются?

These provocateurs are fools. What are they trying to achieve?

Under the Ayat report on the song, a netizen using the anonymous identity ‘neighbour’ said [ru]:

а уроде газетенке если бы у вас было спокойствие, демократия и мир… ни кто такие песни не писал бы… эти песни пока предупреждение чтобы вы остановили апартеид в Оше.

Tabloid freaks – if you had calm, democracy and peace … no-one would be writing these songs in the first place … Let these songs be a warning to you to stop the apartheid in Osh.

But another poster reflected [ru] more thoughtfully:

И мы не должны убивать друг друга, мы все мусульмане, каждый кто затеял эту братоубийственную войну понесет наказание не в этом, так в ином мире. А защищать свою землю долг каждого мусульманина. Пртостой народ в этой войне не виновен.

We should not kill each other, we are all Muslims and everyone who started this fratricidal war will be punished – if not in this world – then in the next. To protect the land is the duty of every Muslim. Ordinary people are not guilty in this war.

Yesterday marked [ru] the first day of the June events commemoration. There is a heavy police presence in Osh, where the president is in attendance, while the Prime Minister will attend a requiem in the capital city, Bishkek. All flags were pulled down and a minute of silence was observed at 10:00 am.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.