Skip to main content Accessibility help

Ethnic Riots and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan



Do ethnic riots affect prosocial behavior? A common view among scholars of ethnic violence is that riots increase cooperation within the warring groups, while cooperation across groups is reduced. We revisit this hypothesis by studying the aftermath of the 2010 Osh riot in Kyrgyzstan, which saw Kyrgyz from outside the city kill over 400 Uzbeks. We implement a representative survey, which includes unobtrusive experimental measures of prosocial behavior. Our causal identification strategy exploits variation in the distance of neighborhoods to armored military vehicles, which were instrumental in orchestrating the riot. We find that victimized neighborhoods show substantially lower levels of prosocial behavior. Importantly, we demonstrate that the reduction is similarly stark both within and across groups. Using qualitative interviews, we parse out two mechanisms that help explain the surprising reduction in ingroup prosociality: Victimized Uzbeks felt abandoned by their coethnics, and variation in victimization created a feeling of suspicion.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Ethnic Riots and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Ethnic Riots and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Ethnic Riots and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan
      Available formats


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Anselm Hager, Assistant Professor of Political Economy, Graduate School of Decision Sciences, University of Konstanz,
Krzysztof Krakowski, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Collegio Carlo Alberto,
Max Schaub, Research Fellow, WZB Berlin Social Science Center,


Hide All

The authors are grateful for feedback from Delia Baldassari, Paul Bauer, Bernd Beber, Fabrizio Bernardi, Tilman Brück, Alicia Cooperman, Elias Dinas, James Fearon, Diego Gambetta, Edoardo Grillo, Guy Grossman, Hanno Hilbig, Macartan Humphreys, Joldon Kutmanaliev, Horacio Larreguy, David Laitin, Egor Lazarev, Leonid Peisakhin, Alex Scacco, Jesko Schmoller, Tara Slough, and Jason Wittenberg. The research was supported by grants from the WZB Social Science Center Berlin, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, and the European University Institute. Zhamila Zhalieva, Salima Abdumomun, Jeyhun Alizade, and Thomas Tichelbäcker provided superb research assistance. The authors would also like to thank Damir Esenaliev, Nathan Hamm, David Laitin, Kanayim Teshebaeva, and Ruslan Umaraliev for generously sharing their data. The study was pre-registered at EGAP (ID: 20170926AA). Authors are listed in alphabetical order. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



Hide All
AAAS. 2010. High-Resolution Satellite Imagery Assessment of Osh. Kyrgyzstan: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Aidt, Toke S., and Leon, Gabriel. 2016. “The Democratic Window of Opportunity: Evidence from Riots in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 60 (4): 694–717.
Allworth, Edward A. 2013. The Modern Uzbeks: From the Fourteenth Century to the Present: A Cultural History. Stanford, CA; Hoover Press.
Arjona, Ana, and Chacón, Mario. 2018. “The Impact of Selective Violence on Political Participation: Evidence from Colombia.” Unpublished Manuscript.
Axelrod, Robert. 1985. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.
Bauer, Michal, Blattman, Christopher, Chytilova, Julie, Henrich, Joseph, Miguel, Edward, and Mitts, Tamar. 2016. “CanWar Foster Cooperation?The Journal of Economic Perspectives 30 (3): 249–74.
Bauer, Michal, Cassar, Alessandra, Chytilová, Julie, and Henrich, Joseph. 2014. “War’s Enduring Effects on the Development of Egalitarian Motivations and In-Group Biases.” Psychological Science 25 (1): 47–57.
Beber, Bernd, Roessler, Philip, and Scacco, Alexandra. 2014. “Intergroup Violence and Political Attitudes: Evidence from a Dividing Sudan.” The Journal of Politics 76 (3): 649–65.
Becchetti, Leonardo, Conzo, Pierluigi, and Romeo, Alessandro. 2014. “Violence, Trust, and Trustworthiness: Evidence from a Nairobi Slum.” Oxford Economic Papers 66 (1): 283–305.
Bellows, John, and Miguel, Edward. 2009. “War and Local Collective Action in Sierra Leone.” Journal of Public Economics 93 (11–12): 1144–57.
Blattman, Christopher. 2009. “From Violence to Voting: War and Political Participation in Uganda.” American Political Science Review 103 (2): 231–47.
Bohlken, Anjali Thomas, and Sergenti, Ernest John. 2010. “Economic Growth and Ethnic Violence: An Empirical Investigation of Hindu-Muslim Riots in India.” Journal of Peace Research 47 (5): 589–600.
Bowles, Samuel, and Gintis, Herbert. 2004. “Persistent Parochialism: Trust and Exclusion in Ethnic Networks.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 55 (1): 1–23.
Brück, Tilman, Esenaliev, Damir, Kroeger, Antje, Kudebayeva, Alma, Mirkasimov, Bakhrom, and Steiner, Susan. 2014. “Household Survey Data for Research on Well-Being and Behavior in Central Asia.” Journal of Comparative Economics 42 (3): 819–35.
Camerer, Colin. 2003. Behavioral Game Theory: Experiments in Strategic Interaction. Princeton, NJ; Woodstock: Princeton University Press.
Cassar, Alessandra, Grosjean, Pauline, and Whitt, Sam. 2013. “Legacies of Violence: Trust and Market Development.” Journal of Economic Growth 18 (3): 285–318.
Cecchi, Francesco, and Duchoslav, Jan. 2018. “The Effect of Prenatal Stress on Cooperation: Evidence from Violent Conflict in Uganda.” European Economic Review 101: 35–56.
Choi, Jung-Kyoo, and Bowles, Samuel. 2007. “The Coevolution of Parochial Altruism and War.” Science 318 (5850): 636–40.
Collier, Paul, ed. 2003. Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy. Washington, DC; [New York]: World Bank; Oxford University Press.
Dercon, Stefan, and Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana. 2012. “Triggers and Characteristics of the 2007 Kenyan Electoral Violence.” World Development 40 (4): 731–44.
Dumitru, Diana, and Johnson, Carter. 2011. “Constructing Interethnic Conflict and Cooperation: Why Some People Harmed Jews and Others Helped Them during the Holocaust in Romania.” World Politics 63 (01): 1–42.
Dyrstad, Karin. 2012. “After Ethnic CivilWar: Ethno-Nationalism in the Western Balkans.” Journal of Peace Research 49 (6): 817–31.
Eisenberg, Nancy, and Mussen, Paul Henry. 1989. The Roots of Prosocial Behavior in Children. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Fearon, James D., Humphreys, Macartan, and Weinstein, Jeremy M.. 2009. “Can Development Aid Contribute to Social Cohesion after Civil War? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Post-Conflict Liberia.” The American Economic Review 99 (2): 287–91.
Gilligan, Michael J., Pasquale, Benjamin J., and Samii, Cyrus. 2014. “Civil War and Social Cohesion: Lab-In-The-Field Evidence from Nepal.” American Journal of Political Science 58 (3): 604–19.
Gneezy, Ayelet, and Fessler, Daniel M. T.. 2012. “Conflict, Sticks and Carrots: War Increases Prosocial Punishments and Rewards.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279 (1727): 219–23.
Gupte, Jaideep, Justino, Patricia, Tranchant, Jean-Pierre, Balcells, Laia, and Justino, Patricia. 2014. “Households amid Urban Riots: The Economic Consequences of Civil Violence in India.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 58 (8): 1445–73.
Hadzic, Dino, Carlson, David, and Tavits, Margit. 2017. “How Exposure to Violence Affects Ethnic Voting.” British Journal of Political Science: 1–18. Published online December 4, 2017.
Horowitz, Donald L. 2001. The Deadly Ethnic Riot. Berkeley: University of California.
Human Rights Watch. 2010. Where Is Justice? Interethnic Violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan and Its Aftermath. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Human Rights Watch.
Huskey, Eugene. 2003. “National Identity from Scratch: Defining Kyrgyzstan’s Role in World Affairs.” In Ideology and National Identity in Post-Communist Foreign Policy, eds. Fawn, Rick. New York, NY: Routledge.
International Crisis Group. 2012. Kyrgyzstan: Widening Ethnic Divisions in the South. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: International Crisis Group.
Ismailbekova, Aksana. 2013. “Coping Strategies: Public Avoidance, Migration, and Marriage in the Aftermath of the Osh Conflict, Fergana Valley.” Nationalities Papers 41 (1): 109–27.
Iyer, Sriya, and Shrivastava, Anand. 2018. “Religious Riots and Electoral Politics in India.” Journal of Development Economics 131: 104–22.
Kijewski, Sara, and Freitag, Markus. 2018. “Civil War and the Formation of Social Trust in Kosovo: Posttraumatic Growth or War-Related Distress?Journal of Conflict Resolution 62 (4): 717–42.
Kishi, Roudabeh, Raleigh, Clionadh, and Linke, Andrew M.. 2016. “Patterns and Trends of the Geography of Conflict.” In Peace and Conflict 2016, eds. Backer, David, Bhavnani, Ravinder, and Huth, Paul. New York: Routledge.
Kopstein, Jeffrey S., and Wittenberg, Jason. 2018. Intimate Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms on the Eve of the Holocaust. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Krakowski, Krzysztof. 2018. “Pulled Together or Torn Asunder? Community Cohesion after Symmetric and Asymmetric Civil War.” Unpublished Manuscript.
Kutmanaliev, Joldon. 2015. “Public and Communal Spaces and Their Relation to the Spatial Dynamics of Ethnic Riots: Violence and Non-Violence in the City of Osh.” International Journal of Sociology & Social Policy 35 (7/8): 449–77.
Kutmanaliev, Joldon. 2017. Ethnic Violence and Peace in Southern Kyrgyzstan: Intragroup Policing and Intergroup Non-Aggression Pacts. Florence, Italy: European University Institute.
Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission. 2011. Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into the Events in Southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission.
Liu, Morgan Y. 2012. Under Solomon’s Throne: Uzbek Visions of Renewal in Osh. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Megoran, Nick. 2013. “Shared Space, Divided Space: Narrating Ethnic Histories of Osh.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 45 (4): 892–907.
Mironova, Vera, and Whitt, Sam. 2018. “Social Norms after Conflict Exposure and Victimization by Violence: Experimental Evidence from Kosovo.” British Journal of Political Science 48 (3): 749–65.
Mitra, Anirban, and Ray, Debraj. 2014. “Implications of an Economic Theory of Conflict: Hindu-Muslim Violence in India.” Journal of Political Economy 122 (4): 719–65.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Memorial Human Rights Center, and Freedom House (U.S.). 2012. A Chronicle of Violence: The Events in the South of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 (Osh Region). Oslo, Norway: Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Nunn, Nathan, and Wantchekon, Leonard. 2011. “The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa.” The American Economic Review 101 (7): 3221–52.
Ostrom, Elinor, Gardner, Roy, and Walker, James. 1994. Rules, Games, and Common-Pool Resources. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Petersen, Roger D. 2002. Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Raleigh, Clionadh, Linke, Andrew, Hegre, Håvard, and Karlsen, Joakim. 2010. “Introducing ACLED: An Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset Special Data Feature.” Journal of Peace Research 47 (5): 651–60.
Rohner, Dominic, Thoenig, Mathias, and Zilibotti, Fabrizio. 2013. “Seeds of Distrust: Conflict in Uganda.” Journal of Economic Growth 18 (3): 217–52.
Ruttan, Rachel L., McDonnell, Mary-Hunter, and Nordgren, Loran F.. 2015. “Having ‘Been There’ Doesn’t Mean I Care: When Prior Experience Reduces Compassion for Emotional Distress.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 108 (4): 610.
Smirnov, Oleg, Dawes, Christopher T., Fowler, James H., Johnson, Tim, and McElreath, Richard. 2010. “The Behavioral Logic of Collective Action: Partisans Cooperate and Punish More Than Nonpartisans.” Political Psychology 31 (4): 595–616.
Tedeschi, Richard G., and Calhoun, Lawrence G.. 2004. “Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence.” Psychological Inquiry 15 (1): 1–18.
Varshney, Ashutosh. 2002. Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Voors, Maarten J., Nillesen, Eleonora E. M., Verwimp, Philip, Bulte, Erwin H., Lensink, Robert, and Van Soest, Daan P.. 2012. “Violent Conflict and Behavior: A Field Experiment in Burundi.” The American Economic Review 102 (2): 941–64.
Weiner, Myron, and Teitelbaum, Michael S.. 2001. Political Demography, Demographic Engineering. New York: Berghahn Books.
Welter, Friederike, Smallbone, David, and Isakova, Nina B.. 2006. Enterprising Women in Transition Economies. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.
Whitt, Sam, and Wilson, Rick K.. 2007. “The Dictator Game, Fairness and Ethnicity in Postwar Bosnia.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (3): 655–68.
Wilkinson, Steven. 2004. Votes and Violence: Electoral Competition and Ethnic Riots in India. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wilkinson, Steven. 2009. “Riots.” Annual Review of Political Science 12: 329–43.
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Hager et al. supplementary material
Hager et al. supplementary material

 PDF (15.5 MB)
15.5 MB
Supplementary materials

Hager et al. Dataset


Ethnic Riots and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed