Above: incoming volunteers gather around a giant map of Kyrgyzstan to await news of their permanent assignments.
RBM is to assist instructors at a university in Osh, Kyrgyzstan's oldest city and the scene of power struggles in recent days, the Peace Corps announced today. Past volunteers posted to the same institution have co-taught subjects ranging from lexicology, grammar and phonetics to methodology, journalism and American literature. The local population of 300,000, “is a fabulous mix of peoples,” notes Stewart and Weldon's Kyrgyz Republic (2008). Their entry continues:
A market town to its very heart, [Osh's] bazaar has apparently occupied the same spot on the banks of the Akbura river for 2,000 years. The rich history of the oasis lies hidden beneath the avenues of socialism and little remains to be seen. History's cultures, religions, and wars have disappeared from memory. The founding of the city is variously attributed to Alexander the Great, the Prophet Suleiman and even Biblical Adam. The most enduring tale is that of Suleiman who, when he reached the blade of rock at its centre, shouted “khosh” (“that's enough”).Surrounding Osh is the Fergana valley, a verdant lowland renowned for its watermelons and framed by the Pamir Alay to the south and the Chatkal range to the north. With Uzbekistan just five miles to the west, enclaves also abound among the region's Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Kurds, Uighurs, and other ethnicities. Physical isolation tends to exacerbate the valley's divisions, write Stewart and Weldon, along with "unemployement, poor housing, population pressure ... [and] the failure of the goverment to ensure fair and even distribution of land and resources."
"About 40 percent of the population of Kyrgyzstan's Fergana territory is Uzbek; people who report feeling like outsiders in Kyrgyzstan but who are considered Kyrgyz by Uzbeks in Uzbekistan. All of these destabilising influences make people more susceptible to the influence of Islamic extremism from the south."