Preventing armed conflict in Kyrgyzstan


The measures taken by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Kyrgyzstani people and organisations helped to prevent political crises and social unrest from escalating into armed conflict in 2010.

In 2010, Kyrgyzstan was confronted with a series of major political crises that threatened to spark a civil war. The incumbent president was forced from office during violent street protests in April and his administration was quickly replaced with an interim government which pledged to implement a democratisation agenda.1 After several incidents of violence throughout May, tensions between southern Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities quickly escalated. Fed by the ambitions of rival political elites vying for power in the region, these tensions came to a head in the city of Osh between 10 – 15 June. During riots and armed clashes, over 400 people were killed, up to 2,000 were injured, and 300,000 were forced to flee from their homes as much of the city was destroyed.2

Both the Confederation of Independent States and UN considered deploying peacekeepers to Kyrgyzstan but ultimately left the resolution of the crisis in the hands of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which at the time was chaired by neighbouring Kazakhstan. A Kazakh OSCE Special Representative was dispatched to investigate events and begin facilitating dialogue between the belligerent parties. Meanwhile, diplomatic pressure to contain the violence mounted as the EU and UN called for a return to constitutional order and sent their own officials to support the OSCE. Further support was offered by the Russian and US governments, which both offered their full support to the Kazakh-led initiative in the country.3 High-level actions taken by the OSCE were complemented by the tireless work of local peacebuilders, who successfully prevented the violence from escalating further in southern Kyrgyzstan. In the city of Aravan, for example, local leaders formed the Aravan Committee for Restoring Stability and implored gathering crowds to not resort to violence. In addition to preventing violence, the Committee also supported local traders and farmers, thus minimising the impact of the crises on the population. Although hundreds of people died as a result of the unrest, the escalation of the crises into an armed conflict was prevented thanks to the preventive Diplomacy of the OSCE and the actions of local peacebuilders.4

1 Franco Galdini. “The June 2010 ‘Events’ Four Years On: Past, Present, Future.” Norwegian Institute of International Affairs Central Asia Security Policy Briefs, No. 15. (2014)

2 Freedom House. A Chronicle of Violence: The events in the south of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 (Osh Region). (Freedom House, 2012)

3 Center for Strategic Studies & International Studies and Institute for New Democracies. “The OSCE and the 2010 Crisis in Kyrgyzstan.” Policy Brief and Case Study. (2010) Available at: (Accessed 22/10/2020)

4 Alisher Khamidov, Nick Megoran, & John Heathershaw. “Bottom-up peacekeeping in southern Kyrgyzstan:

Start Year


End Year




UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Horizontal (non-state) intrastate conflict, Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict

Type of Initiative

Diplomacy, Local action

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

Local people and organisations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.




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