Lines Blurred on Kyrgyz-Tajik Border

Reporter Sabir Abdumomunov travelled to the Batken region of southern Kyrgyzstan, where it is not always clear what country you are in.

Lines Blurred on Kyrgyz-Tajik Border

Reporter Sabir Abdumomunov travelled to the Batken region of southern Kyrgyzstan, where it is not always clear what country you are in.

Saturday, 21 February, 2009
In places, Kyrgyzstan’s borders with neighbouring states are not well delineated, and frontier residents in Batken fear that whole villages are being effectively joined to neighbouring Tajikistan.



Where there is uncertainty, arguments over which village belongs to which country were usually resolved in the minds of local people using the principle that if one of the two ethnic groups was in the majority there, then the settlement logically belonged to that country. So a Tajik-majority village would be regarded as part of Tajikistan.



However, things became more complicated when many Kyrgyz residents moved out, often to get jobs in Russia or Kazakstan. As Tajiks move in and buy up homes, the remaining Kyrgyz villagers fear the incomers could provide a pretext for a quiet land-grab by the neighbouring state.



For their part, the Tajiks insist they were born and bred in the locality – and it is certainly difficult to untangle border lines, which do not fit neatly with the Fergana valley’s complex patterns of ethnic settlement.



Kyrgyz police are reluctant to step in when there are property disputes, and the country’s border guards say everything will remain a mess until such time as the frontier is properly demarcated on the ground, field by field and house by house.
Support our journalists