Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz: Кыргызстан, variously transliterated), officially the Kyrgyz Republic, and sometimes known as Kirghizia, is a country in Central Asia. Landlocked and mountainous, it borders China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Its capital is Bishkek. Once a republic of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has been independent since 1991. Remaining fairly stable throughout most of the 1990s, the country's young democracy showed relative promise under the leadership of former President Askar Akayev, but later moved towards autocracy and authoritarianism. At present Kyrgyzstan is in turmoil following a sudden revolution and President Akayev's resignation on April 4, 2005, and the political situation in the country remains uncertain.
Main article: History of Kyrgyzstan
According to recent findings of Kyrgyz and Chinese historians, Kyrgyz history dates back to 201 BC. The earliest ancestors of the Kyrgyz people, who are believed to be of Turkic descent, lived in the northeastern part of what is currently Mongolia. Later, some of their tribes migrated to the region that is currently southern Siberia and settled along the Yenisey River, where they lived from the 6th until the 8th centuries. They spread across what is now the Tuva region of the Russian Federation, remaining in that area until the rise of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, when the Kyrgyz began migrating south. In the 12th century, Islam became the predominant religion in the region. Most Kyrgyz are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school.
During the 15th-16th centuries, the Kyrgyz people settled in the territory currently known as the Kyrgyz Republic. In the early 19th century, the southern territory of the Kyrgyz Republic came under the control of the Khanate of Kokand, but the territory was occupied and formally annexed by the Russian Empire in 1876. The Russian takeover instigated numerous revolts against tsarist authority, and many Kyrgyz opted to move into the Pamir mountains or to Afghanistan. The ruthless suppression of the 1916 rebellion in Central Asia, triggered by the Russian imposition of the military draft on the Kyrgyz and other Central Asian peoples, caused many Kyrgyz to flee to China.
Soviet power was initially established in the region in 1918, and in 1924, the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast was created within the Russian SFSR. (The term Kara-Kirghiz was used until the mid-1920s by the Russians to distinguish them from the Kazakhs, who were also referred to as Kirghiz.) In 1926, it became the Kirghiz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic . On December 5, 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was established as a full Union Republic of the U.S.S.R.
During the 1920s, the Kyrgyz Republic saw considerable cultural, educational, and social change. Economic and social development also was notable. Literacy increased, and a standard literary language was introduced. The Kyrgyz language belongs to the Southern Turkic group of languages. In 1924, an Arabic-based Kyrgyz alphabet was introduced, which was replaced by Latin script in 1928. In 1941 Cyrillic script was adopted. Many aspects of the Kyrgyz national culture were retained despite suppression of nationalist activity under Joseph Stalin, who controlled the Soviet Union from the late 1920's until 1953.
The early years of glasnost in the late 1980s had little effect on the political climate in the Kyrgyz Republic. However, the republic's press was permitted to adopt a more liberal stance and to establish a new publication, Literaturny Kirghizstan, by the Union of Writers. Unofficial political groups were forbidden, but several groups that emerged in 1989 to deal with an acute housing crisis were permitted to function.
In June 1990, ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz surfaced in an area of the Osh Oblast where Uzbeks form a majority of the population. Violent confrontations ensued, and a state of emergency and curfew were introduced. Order was not restored until August 1990.
The early 1990s brought measurable change to the Kyrgyz Republic. The Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement (KDM) had developed into a significant political force with support in parliament. In an upset victory, Askar Akayev, the president of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences , was elected to the presidency in October 1990. The following January, Akayev introduced new government structures and appointed a new government comprised mainly of younger, reform-oriented politicians. In December 1990, the Supreme Soviet voted to change the republic's name to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. (In 1993, it became the Kyrgyz Republic.) In February 1991, the name of the capital, Frunze, was changed back to its pre-revolutionary name—Bishkek.
Despite these moves toward independence, economic realities seemed to work against secession from the U.S.S.R. In a referendum on the preservation of the U.S.S.R. in March 1991, 88.7% of the voters approved a proposal to retain the U.S.S.R. as a "renewed federation."
On August 19, 1991, when the State Committee for the State of Emergency (SCSE) assumed power in Moscow, there was an attempt to depose Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. After the coup collapsed the following week, Akayev and Vice President German Kuznetsov announced their resignations from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and the entire politburo and secretariat resigned. This was followed by the Supreme Soviet vote declaring independence from the U.S.S.R. on August 31, 1991. Kyrgyz was announced as the state language in September 1991. (In December 2001, through a constitutional amendment, the Russian language was given official status.)
In October 1991, Akayev ran unopposed and was elected President of the new independent republic by direct ballot, receiving 95% of the votes cast. Together with the representatives of seven other republics, he signed the Treaty of the New Economic Community that same month. On December 21, 1991, the Kyrgyz Republic formally entered the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
In 1993, allegations of corruption against Akayev's closest political associates blossomed into a major scandal. One of those accused of improprieties was Prime Minister Chyngyshev, who was dismissed for ethical reasons in December. Following Chyngyshev's dismissal, Akayev dismissed the government and called upon the last communist premier, Apas Djumagulov , to form a new one. In January 1994, Akayev initiated a referendum asking for a renewed mandate to complete his term of office. He received 96.2% of the vote.
A new constitution was passed by the parliament in May 1993. In 1994, however, the parliament failed to produce a quorum for its last scheduled session prior to the expiration of its term in February 1995. President Akayev was widely accused of having manipulated a boycott by a majority of the parliamentarians. Akayev, in turn, asserted that the communists had caused a political crisis by preventing the legislature from fulfilling its role. Akayev scheduled an October 1994 referendum, overwhelmingly approved by voters, which proposed two amendments to the constitution—one that would allow the constitution to be amended by means of a referendum, and the other creating a new bicameral parliament called the Jogorku Kenesh.
Elections for the two legislative chambers—a 35-seat full-time assembly and a 70-seat part-time assembly—were held in February 1995 after campaigns considered remarkably free and open by most international observers, although the election-day proceedings were marred by widespread irregularities. Independent candidates won most of the seats, suggesting that personalities prevailed over ideologies. The new parliament convened its initial session in March 1995. One of its first orders of business was the approval of the precise constitutional language on the role of the legislature.
On December 24, 1995, President Akayev was reelected for another 5-year term with wide support (75% of vote) over two opposing candidates. He used government resources and state-owned media to carry out his campaign. Three (out of six) candidates were de-registered shortly before the election.
A February 1996 referendum—in violation of the constitution and the law on referendums—amended the constitution to give President Akayev more power. Although the changes gave the president the power to dissolve parliament, it also more clearly defined the parliament's powers. Since that time, the parliament has demonstrated real independence from the executive branch.
An October 1998 referendum approved constitutional changes, including increasing the number of deputies in the lower house, reducing the number of deputies in the upper house, providing for 25% of lower house deputies to be elected by party lists, rolling back parliamentary immunity, introducing private property, prohibiting adoption of laws restricting freedom of speech and mass media, and reforming the state budget.
Two rounds of parliamentary elections were held on February 20, 2000 and March 12, 2000. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that the elections failed to comply with commitments to free and fair elections and hence were invalid. Questionable judicial proceedings against opposition candidates and parties limited the choice of candidates available to Kyrgyz voters, while state-controlled media only reported favorably on official candidates. Government officials put pressure on independent media outlets that favored the opposition. The presidential election that followed later in 2000 also was marred by irregularities and was not declared free and fair by international observers.
The most recent elections were parliamentary, held February 27 and March 13, 2005. The OSCE found that while the elections failed to comply with commitments to free and fair elections, there were improvements over the 2000 elections, notably the use of indelible ink, transparent ballot boxes, and generally good access by election observers.
Sporadic protests against perceived manipulation and fraud during the elections erupted into widespread calls for the government to resign, which started in the southern provinces. By March 24, 15,000 pro-opposition demonstrators called for the resignation of the President and his regime in Bishkek. Injuries from police clashes were reported along with widespread looting. Protestors seized the presidential administration building, after which Akayev hurriedly fled the country, first for neighboring Kazakhstan and then for Moscow. Initially refusing to resign and denouncing the events as a coup, he subsequently resigned his office on April 4. A first attempt by parliament to ratify his resignation failed for lack of a quorum.
Opposition leaders promised to move quickly to establish legitimacy, forming a broadly inclusive "Committee of National Unity" and appointing nominal heads of government.
Main article: Politics of Kyrgyzstan
The 1993 constitution defines the form of government as a democratic republic. The executive branch includes a president and prime minister. The parliament currently is bicameral. The judicial branch comprises a Supreme Court, a Constitutional Court, local courts, and a Procurator-General.
March 2002 events in the southern district of Aksy, where five people protesting the arbitrary arrest of an opposition politician were shot dead by police, sparked nationwide protests. President Akayev initiated a constitutional reform process which initially included the participation of a broad range of government, civil, and social representatives in an open dialogue, leading to a February 2003 referendum marred by voting irregularities. The amendments to the constitution approved by the referendum resulted in stronger control by the president and weakened the parliament and the Constitutional Court. Under the new constitution, the previously bicameral parliament became a 75-seat unicameral legislature following the 2005 parliamentary elections.
Interim government leaders are developing a new governing structure for the country and working to resolve outstanding constitutional issues. Presidential elections have been scheduled for July 10, 2005.
Kyrgyzstan is divided into seven provinces (singular: oblasty, plural: oblastlar). The capital, Bishkek, is administratively an independent city (shaar), as well as being the capital of Chuy Province. Osh also has shaar status.
The provinces, with their administrative capitals, are as follows:
Batken Province (Batken)
Chui Province (Tokmok )
Jalal-Abad Province (Jalal-Abad)
Naryn Province (Naryn)
Osh Province (Osh)
Talas Province (Talas)
Issyk Kul Province (Karakol)
Each province is comprises a number of districts (raion), administered by government-appointed officials. Rural communities (aiyl okmotus) consisting of up to twenty small settlements have their own elected mayors and councils.
- Main article: Geography of Kyrgyzstan
Places include: Kara-Su
Lake: Issyk Kul
Main article: Economy of Kyrgyzstan
Despite the backing of major Western donors, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, the Kyrgyz Republic has had economic difficulties following independence. Initially, these were a result of the breakup of the Soviet trading bloc and resulting loss of markets, which impeded the republic's transition to a free market economy. The government has reduced expenditures, ended most price subsidies, and introduced a value-added tax. Overall, the government appears committed to the transition to a market economy. Through economic stabilization and reform, the government seeks to establish a pattern of long-term consistent growth. Reforms led to the Kyrgyz Republic's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 20, 1998.
The Kyrgyz Republic's economy was severely affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting loss of its vast market. In 1990, some 98% of Kyrgyz exports went to other parts of the Soviet Union. Thus, the nation's economic performance in the early 1990s was worse than any other former Soviet republic except war-torn Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan, as factories and state farms collapsed with the disappearance of their traditional markets in the former Soviet Union. While economic performance has improved considerably in the last few years, and particularly since 1998, difficulties remain in securing adequate fiscal revenues and providing an adequate social safety net.
Agriculture is an important sector of the economy in the Kyrgyz Republic. By the early 1990s, the private agricultural sector provided between one-third and one-half of some harvests. In 2002 agriculture accounted for 35.6% of GDP and about half of employment. The Kyrgyz Republic's terrain is mountainous, which accommodates livestock raising, the largest agricultural activity. Main crops include wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, vegetables, and fruit. Wool, meat, and dairy products also are major commodities.
Agricultural processing is a key component of the industrial economy, as well as one of the most attractive sectors for foreign investment. The Kyrgyz Republic is rich in mineral resources but has negligible petroleum and natural gas reserves; it imports petroleum and gas. Among its mineral reserves are substantial deposits of coal, gold, uranium, antimony, and other rare-earth metals . Metallurgy is an important industry, and the government hopes to attract foreign investment in this field. The government has actively encouraged foreign involvement in extracting and processing gold. The Kyrgyz Republic's plentiful water resources and mountainous terrain enable it to produce and export large quantities of hydroelectric energy.
The principal exports are nonferrous metals and minerals, woolen goods and other agricultural products, electric energy, and certain engineering goods. Imports include petroleum and natural gas, ferrous metals, chemicals, most machinery, wood and paper products, some foods, and some construction materials. Its leading trade partners include Germany, Russia, China, and neighboring Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Main article: Demographics of Kyrgyzstan
The World Almanac 2005 reported that Kyrgyzstan's population is slightly more than 5 million, estimating it at 5,081,429. Of those, 34.4% are under the age of 15 and 6.2% are over the age of 65. The country is rural; only about one-third (33.9%) of Kyrgyzstan's population live in urban areas. The average population density is 29 people per km2 (69 people per square mile).
The nation's largest ethnic group is the Kyrgyz, a Turkic group with Mongolian and Chinese influences. The Kyrgyz comprise 69.5% percent of the population and have historically been semi-nomadic herders, living in yurts and tending sheep, horses and yaks. This nomadic tradition continues to function, and the freedoms that it assumes continue to have an impact on the political atmosphere in the country. Other ethnic groups include ethnic Russians (9.0%) concentrated in the North and Uzbeks (14.5%) living in the South. Small, but noticeable minorities include Uyghurs (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%), Dungan (1.2%) and Turks (0.9%), as well as smaller Korean (0.3%), Ukrainian (0.5%) and tiny German communities.
Main article: Culture of Kyrgyzstan
It is considered that there are 40 Kyrgyz tribes. This is symbolized by the 40-rayed yellow sun in the center of the flag of Kyrgyzstan. The lines inside the sun are supposedly a yurt.
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