“It’s revolution here,” observed a taxi driver as the people of Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia rose up and overthrew President Bakiyev last week.
“The cops are scared to show their nose in the streets. You can do whatever you want, no one can do anything to you!”
Rapidly rising energy prices have been one cause of the rebellion. Russia’s decision to impose new import duties on the oil and gas it supplies the country is the main reason for the price hike.
The revolt began in the northern town of Talas on 6 April when a crowd took over the mayor’s office. The movement spread across the country in the next 24 hours.
The opposition managed to seize control of the television station in the capital Bishkek, and go on air, live.
After roof top snipers fired at a crowd protesting at the parliament building an enraged crowd stormed the building.
When they attempted to take over the government offices the police and the national guard used fierce repression against them.
The police fired live bullets while protesters used stones and Molotov cocktails. Then the people captured an armed personnel carrier and took weapons from the police.
Official reports put the number of people killed at more than 75 and those wounded at more than 1,500.
The protesters won the day, forcing the government to resign. To replace it, the opposition formed what has been called a “government of people’s trust”.
Former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva heads this new administration.
The struggle between Russia and the US for dominance over the Central Asia region shaped the revolution.
But the events of the past few days are not reducible to the conflicts between the major powers.
Russia has been agitating against Bakiyev since he declined to host its military base in the country, even though it is the site of a US base.
The revolt shook the US establishment because this base in Manas is a key staging post for the war in Afghanistan.
Otunbayeva, who has declared herself the country’s “interim leader”, has been cultivating Russian support.
But Russia’s influence in Kyrgyzstan is not much greater than that of the US.
The underlying cause of the crisis is that Bakiyev embarked on exactly the same programme of privatisation as his predecessor, who was overthrown in 2005.
This is despite the fact that he had opposed privatisation while he was in opposition.
His government’s reliance on US backing, as well as its continued support for the military base, generated massive public opposition.
The spark for mass mobilisation in 2005 was the regime’s efforts to block a number of wealthy elites from gaining seats in parliament.
This time round simmering anger at the grassroots of society triggered the protests.
The people have demonstrated that the state does not possess a tight control over the means of violence, and that popular demands cannot be ignored or suppressed.
But the new government looks too much like the previous two to suggest that it will bring change.
That can only come from the people who brought down the government last week.
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