The summer 1990 Kyrgyz-Uzbek ethnic violence in former Soviet Central Asia is studied using microlevel socio-anthropological analysis of the texts of the criminal court's sentences as the major source material. Ethnic violence is examined in terms of space, time, the actors, the motives and the forms of manifestation. Some general conclusions are drawn and some Soviet and Central Asian specifics are established. Rumours and myths based on socially constructed perceptions and on informational simplicity, as well as a situation of group social paranoia, were found to be key elements in precipitating ethnic violence. These findings suggest the reconsideration of existing ontological and positivistic interpretations.