Apr 17, 2021
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Kyrgyzstan – Uzbekistan – Tajikistan: what to do with these borders?

The special system of enclaves that has survived in the republics of Central Asia has become a specific legacy of the past. Inside Kyrgyzstan, there are Sokh, Shakhimardan, Chon-Gara and Dzhangail, which belong to Uzbekistan, and Vorukh and Western Kalacha, which belong to Tajikistan; and inside Uzbekistan – the Kyrgyz enclave Barak and the Tajik Sarvak.

Enclaves of Central Asia

Enclaves of Central Asia

With the collapse of the USSR, these enclaves became a bone of contention between the country of location and the national population of the enclave, which often led to bloody events and military clashes. These conflicts are seen as wild dissonance within the military (CSTO) and customs-economic (EAEU) unions.

Most of the enclaves are located in Kyrgyzstan. It so happened that with each change of leadership in Bishkek, the new government tried to resolve border-territorial conflicts with its neighbors. Japarov is also trying. In March, Kyrgyzstan was happily reported that negotiations on the delimitation of the border with Uzbekistan had been successful and the issues on the exchange of territories had been resolved.

Another chatter or a real shift?

Kyrgyz media write that the Uzbek side has expressed its readiness to no longer claim the Unkur-Too area, disputes over the Orto-Tokoy reservoir and Kempir-Abad (Andijan) reservoirs have been resolved. There are advances in the opening of ground and air communication with the Uzbek enclave of Sokh, located on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. Roughly speaking, Kyrgyzstan received land, Uzbekistan received water and helped its own in Sokh. Tashkent is more restrained in the negotiations, but recognizes certain successes.

The rather complicated issue of customs inspection at the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border, which aroused optimism among the opponents of the EAEU, also found a solution – Kazakhstan opened a huge updated Ak-Zhol PPK, which significantly increased its throughput.

However, in the case of Tajikistan, the “cavalry attack” by the head of the State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan Kamchybek Tashiev was in vain.

History of the conflict

In 1924, the authorities of the then Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Region of the RSFSR asked to expand their territory at the expense of the Isfara and Sokh administrative units of the Uzbek SSR, which included Tajikistan. The question was not immediately resolved by laying a time bomb. Having received the status of a union republic, Tajikistan became the owner of a territorial wedge inside Kyrgyzstan in the Fergana Valley. The lack of a clear demarcation turned Vorukh into a zone of disputes between Tajik and Kyrgyz farmers; the first clashes took place in the late 1930s. People shared fertile lands and pastures. Then it was time to share the water.

During the construction of the Tortkul reservoir, part of the lands of the Isfara region of Tajikistan was transferred to Kyrgyzstan, which was not ratified by the Supreme Soviet of the Tajik SSR. Then there were some decrees on the transfer of territories. The development of the territory led to the emergence of Kyrgyz settlements, in particular the village of Ak-Sai.

The ill-fated enclave

The ill-fated enclave

In 1974, the first armed clash was recorded, which was investigated by the Prosecutor General of the USSR R. Rudenko. Then the territorial issue was “shaken”, but not resolved.

In the summer of 1989, a dispute broke out over the use of the watershed of the Ifarinka River between the residents of Vorukh, Khojai Alo, Samarkandek and Ak-Sai. Shooting started, people were killed; the Perm special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs had to intervene in the matter.

Then the so-called. a parity group at the level of the leadership of the Council of Ministers of the two republics, but the Tajik side stubbornly stood on Vorukh’s belonging to her, refusing to exchange the proposed territories. As they say today in Dushanbe, Moscow (Gorbachev) pressed. A member of the Politburo of the Central Committee A.N. Girenko, but the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Tajik SSR Makhkamov and the head of the Council of Ministers Hayoyev, as before, did not agree to abandon Vorukh. The problem survived the collapse of the USSR. With gaining independence, conflicts became more severe, and the Vorukh jamoat turned into an enclave within the territory, which was now considered as foreign. Conflicts became armed, reaching the point of using machine guns and mortars. During the period 2018-2021, only 9 major incidents were recorded on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border, minor ones were no longer counted.

Conflict of 2013

Conflict of 2013

For the sake of fairness, we note that the Kyrgyz side has always been more active, even aggressive in this matter, but for Dushanbe the transfer of Vorukh is a serious loss of reputation. The Tajik side systematically “proves” that Vorukh is the historical heritage of Aria and Sogdiana, and hence of Tajikistan.

Smugglers add to the problem. They use the border confusion, because the “Vorukh wedge” cuts through Kyrgyzstan, turning the distant Leilek region into a communication dead end.

In 2007, Dushanbe gave the go-ahead to connect the Batken and Leilek districts with a leased road, but the level of the conflict only increased. Now the most popular way of confrontation has become blocking the roads. Tajiks block the Isfana-Batken road, the Kyrgyz block the Voruh-Isfara highway passing through Ak-Sai, turning the 35,000 population of Vorukh into hostages.

Geopolitical crossroads

Geopolitical crossroads

In July 2019, after another bloody conflict and road closures, the presidents of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Rakhmon and Jeenbekov, tried to come to an agreement, even met in Vorukh, but the matter did not move.

Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Emomali Rahmon in Vorukh, summer 2019

Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Emomali Rahmon in Vorukh, summer 2019

Will Vorukhskaya turmoil end?

Encouraged by his successes with Uzbekistan, Tashiev began closed negotiations in Guliston in mid-March with the head of the Tajik State Committee for National Security of the Republic of Tatarstan. Saimumin Yatimov clearly had no idea what would cause such irritation in Dushanbe. The reason is Tashiev’s mistake to make public the details of the negotiations. He offered his colleague two options – turning Vorukh into an enclave closed by the state border, like West Berlin, or exchanging the Vorukh enclave for an equal plot in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan.

Bishkek paused negotiations in anticipation of a referendum, but immediately launched the Security-2021 military exercise in Batken region. And on March 26, Tashiev said that the government had given 90 days to resolve the border issue, which already looked like an ultimatum.

Tashiev’s excessive persistence and demonstration of military force were perceived in Dushanbe as an attempt to exert pressure, which looked, to put it mildly, provocative within the framework of the CSTO.

The result was not hard to imagine. Earlier, Tajikistan did not recognize Vorukh either as an exclave or an enclave, and on April 9, Emomali Rahmon arrived there. Formally, the reason was the opening of a school and a palace of culture; in fact, the president arrived to reject the Kyrgyz proposals.

Rahmon flew to Vorukh

Rahmon flew to Vorukh

“The thief will never be exchanged, he will remain a part of Tajikistan. For 19 years, the question of replacing Vorukh with another territory has not been and cannot be. I urge you to remain calm and not give in to emotions, because such issues are resolved exclusively through negotiations. There is no other way “, – said Rahmon.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan Khamrokhon Zarifi spoke harshly against Tashiev: “No matter how he choked on Tajik soil! And the land of Vorukh is rocky and does not like “rocky persons”. The territory of Tajikistan and its border is not a fence of the White House, so that you can climb over it with drunken friends and expel the next legally elected president of Kyrgyzstan. “

However, later both Tashiev and Zarifi posted posts on the network expressing respect for the neighboring peoples, and Rahmon again stressed that territorial issues can only be resolved through negotiations.

While Bishkek is thinking about new proposals, on April 17, the media reported about another “water conflict”. In all likelihood, intermediaries from Moscow will come into play.

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