The Avengers vs the Orcs: Social media nuances in Kyrgyzstan's (almost) third revolution

PhD Candidate Rashid Gabdulhakov publishes a commentary for the Oxus Society

What are the Avengers and the Orcs doing in Central Asia? In this commentary for the Oxus Society, I explore the role of social media amid the current political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan. The country experienced two revolutions since gaining independence in 1991, one in 2005 and another one in 2010. What makes current events different is the spread of social media and smart devices. These technologies allow for political influence, coordination of revolutionary and other forces, while also providing global visibility to developments in the country.

References to popular culture and science fiction have been prevalent across social media platforms in the posts addressing current events in Kyrgyzstan. Citizens relied on fictional characters to promote change in the real world, to frame the confusing events in a comprehensible manner, and to define “who is who” with the help of familiar popular characters.

Sometimes, several different series were used in a single narrative, creating new stories with cross-penetration of heroes and villains. For instance, the “good guys” protecting the city were proclaimed to be The Avengers, while the looters and provokers were compared to the Orcs.

From referring to politicians freed from prison cells as “the prisoners of Azkaban” to comparing the power-grabbing operations in the country to The Game of Thrones, with a thorough and detailed presentation of prototypes of each character among the Kyrgyz political elite, social media users unleashed their creativity and imagination.

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The Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs is a DC-based non-profit organization dedicated to fostering academic exchange between Central Asia and the rest of the world.

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R. (Rashid) Gabdulhakov