The purpose of this thesis is to test the contrasting theories of Paul R. Brass and Donald L. Horowitz of ethnic violence as elite-led and mass-driven respectively, through the case of the interethnic violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010. The rationale for this research is two-fold; through the analysis of Brass´ and Horowitz´ approaches, it seeks to highlight and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of narratives claiming either that the interethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan was the result of the premeditation and deliberate organization of various elite actors from the domestic Kyrgyz scene, or that it is better explained as the result of deep seated tensions inflamed by precipitating events and actuating circumstances.
Findings from in-depth interviews with experts with experience from the field suggest that although views that the violence was premeditated and organized are widespread, a weakness of the top-down approach is its failure to explain how the threshold from political intent to violent mobilization was crossed. Moreover, it fails to accurately explain how such a broad mobilization of participants could take place. Conversely, the research lends support to the bottom-up approach, which views the violence as a relatively spontaneous expression of mass hostility combining both heat-of-the-moment sentiments and underlying feelings of the participants. However, the support for Horowitz does not imply disproving Brass, and certain features of the violence, notably the element of organization, is better captured by the top-down approach.