Eurasianet Photo Essay

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Second, the Kyrgyz rebels killed more than 3,000 Russian settlers, which makes some scholars (both Kyrgyz and Russian) insist that it was an act of mutual aggression rather than a genocide of the Kyrgyz.

Of course, the number of the Kyrgyz victims is much higher."Speaking to Eurasia Net, the director of the International and Comparative Politics Department at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Medet Tiulegenov, said Atambayev only promoted the commemoration "because if he does not, others will make it their own."There have been growing calls in Kyrgyzstan, particularly among the nationalist minority, for an official apology from Russia.

Although many prefer to ignore the past in order to maintain the status quo of the present, a growing minority refuses to let the deaths of their ancestors go in vain and hope to transform their legacy into a symbol of struggle for future generations.

The dry bed of what was once the Aral Sea could be transformed into a new gambling zone according to reports, which state that foreign investors are in talks with the Uzbek government to create a modern casino complex on the lake’s former shores.

Aminat Chokobaeva, a Ph D student at Australia National University's Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, told TRT World that using the term ‘genocide' presents a number of problems for the Kyrgyz government."Genocide is a very fraught term, so the Kyrgyz authorities are generally reluctant to use it," Chokobaeva said.

"First of all, the Kyrgyz government wants to maintain a good relationship with Russia.An independent public commission which was set up , also demanded the incident be recognised as a genocide.But these calls were dismissed by Russian diplomatic staff in Bishkek as the demands of a "mere meager" group seeking to incite "ethnic divisions." In 2014, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Gorchakov Foundation agreed to fund a group of local Cossacks to research the incident, but Kyrgyz nationalists such as Ata-Jurt Party lawmaker Jyldyz Joldosheva, who wants to make a documentary about the Urkun, doubts such research will be objective."Lately, it has become fashionable to distort history.Today, the Bedel Pass leading to the Chinese border is littered with the bones of at least 100,000 people who died while making the fateful journey in August 1916.Some scholars say that as many as 250,000 may have died.How truthfully will the Gorchakov Foundation study this event? "I believe it was genocide."In recent years, there has been increasing curiosity about the Urkun.For the past decade, Kyrgyzstan's National Revival Party has been organising expeditions to the mountains around Lake Issyk-Kul to collect the remains of those who perished in the exodus.Following the rebellion of 1916, the Russians launched a renewed offensive which lasted till 1921.To this day, no one knows for sure how many Kyrgyz were killed during that period."There are various estimates; some put the number of victims, including those killed by the punitive expeditions and those who died of starvation, exposure, and diseases, at 40,000 people...while others claim that at least 150,000 Kyrgyz were killed by the punitive expeditions and many more died of starvation and exposure," a source familiar with the topic told TRT World.According to Uzbek media, the General Prosecutor’s Office is already looking whether the law can be rolled back.Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev spoke of repealing the anti-gambling legislation in November 2018 in a bid to revive business in the country’s western state of Karakalpakstan, which has slowly decayed as the waters of the nearby Aral Sea dried up.

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