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article imageKyrgyzstan drops Soviet-era holiday on eve of 1917 centenary

By AFP     Oct 27, 2017 in World

Ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan is scrapping a holiday marking the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in favour of two national holidays that risk controversy with close ally Russia.

As the world prepares to mark the centenary of the revolution that brought Vladimir Lenin and his communist allies to power in Russia, the office of Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev on Thursday ordered that the country stop commemorating the event because "the date is losing its significance."

Kyrgyzstan should instead use November 7 to honour the victims of a bloody Tsarist crackdown in the region in 1916, the order said.

November 8 is set aside to remember the Kyrgyz victims of Stalinist repression.

The move leaves Belarus as the only country in the former Soviet Union still marking the October revolution after Russia abandoned the holiday in 2005.

Atambayev's order said that nowadays the October revolution is weighed down by unpleasant associations, including "massive repressions" and "loss of cultural experience" that cast a shadow over "achievements of the Soviet period."

He acknowledged however that modern-day Kyrgyzstan owes its existence to the Bolshevik Revolution.

The country's borders were defined during the Soviet era and the country was not recognised as a full Soviet republic until 1936.

A debate is currently raging in Russia -- a close ally of Kyrgyzstan where up to a million Kyrgyz work -- over how to remember the turbulent events of 1917.

Many still recall Communist times fondly, while others prefer to revere Nicholas II, the last tsar of the Romanov dynasty, who was executed with his family in 1918.

While Moscow has not officially protested the move, Atambayev's order potentially puts the country of six million on the wrong side of both these camps.

The 61-year-old leader, who is stepping down in December, already riled pro-Russia groups in the country last year by officially marking the centenary of the Kyrgyz uprising against Tsarist authorities.

Earlier this week, Russian lawmaker Igor Lebedev of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party criticised Atambayev's order as "an extremely unfriendly step" and proposed tightening restrictions on Kyrgyz migrant workers.

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