Organized crime before and after the Tulip Revolution: the changing dynamics of upperworld-underworld networks

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More than a decade of post-Soviet transition has given rise to political-criminal clans in Kyrgyzstan, thus blurring the boundaries between the legitimate sector and the criminal underworld. The Tulip Revolution, which is frequently referred to as an ‘anti-crime’ and an ‘anti-corruption’ event, was followed by increasing political violence and more powerful organized crime groups. This article looks at the reasons for these developments. It argues that the involvement of criminal figures in the revolutionary process, the weakness of the political opposition to Akaev's outgoing regime and post-revolutionary uncertainty and chaos were the main factors. After temporary confusion, the incoming elites mobilized resources, revitalized the corruption pyramid schemes and fought back criminal leaders in order to reassert themselves. Following the assassination of two of the most influential underworld leaders in unclear circumstances, the incumbent regime and new ruling family are progressively consolidating their power. So far, however, the increased power of the ruling regime has not strengthened the Kyrgyz state. The state-crime nexus is still in place, now mainly dominated by political and administrative elites rather than by previously powerful criminal leaders. Judging from three years of post-revolutionary developments, the Tulip Revolution has failed on the anti-corruption and anti-crime fronts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-299
Number of pages20
JournalCentral Asian Survey
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2008


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