Central Asia's Tulip Revolution

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The Soviet Empire didn't split apart just so local autocrats could then lord it over the various states once under Moscow's thumb. Starting early in Eastern Europe, democracy has taken root one nation at a time, and this week it was Kyrgyzstan's turn.

That small, mountain state in Central Asia has followed the pattern of last year's revolution in Ukraine: A powerful leader tries to stay in power through a rigged election only to see street protests weaken the resolve of security forces and bring a pro-democracy opposition to power. Thursday, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev was forced to flee as the "tulip" opposition took over the capital and took steps toward new, clean elections.

It's a pattern that should worry President Vladimir Putin as he tightens his hold on Russia's already constricted democracy. And Kyrgyztan's revolution should also serve as a call for the leaders in other Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union to stop stifling dissent and trying to prolong their rule.

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Creating a democratic region in the underbelly of Russia - as well as on the western flank of China - could do as much for peace in the world as might the US drive to bring democracy to the Middle East.

Still, Kyrgyzstan's path ahead may not be easy. It has ethnic divisions to overcome as well as a threat of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. But the US and Europe have helped build up many civic groups in the country over the past 15 years. And the ousted president, Mr. Akayev, did foster democracy in his early rule before he turned autocrat in the late 1990s.

Both Russia and the US have military bases in the country. Now is not the time for either one to meddle. A people-power revolution should stay with the people.

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