Ethnic Riots and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan
By Anselm Hager, University of Konstanz, Krzystof Krakowski, Collegio Carlo Alberto, and Max Shaub, WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Riots reduce community cooperation: A new study investigates the 2010 Osh riot in southern Kyrgyzstan, which saw Kyrgyz kill over 400 Uzbeks. The authors show that the riot led Uzbek victims to cooperate less frequently with other community members. Importantly, victims not only reduced their cooperation with the perpetrators, but also with other victims. To explain the surprising reduction of cooperation among victims, the authors put forth two explanations. First, Uzbek victims were disappointed that their coethnics failed to support them during the riot. Victimization thus created a feeling of having been “let down” by other co-ethnics and an urge to punish the perceived betrayal. Second, Uzbek victims expressed suspicion that they, not other Uzbeks, had been targeted. Victimization thus eroded trust within the Uzbek community, leading to reduced cooperation that continues to this day. The authors arrive at this conclusion by combining qualitative interviews and experimental evidence. The causal nature of the argument is corroborated using an instrumental variable, which exploits variation in the distance of victimized neighborhoods to armored military vehicles, which were instrumental in orchestrating the riot.