/kir'gi stahn"/, n.
official name of Kirghizia.

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Introduction Kyrgyzstan -
Background: A Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864; it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Current concerns include: privatization of state-owned enterprises, expansion of democracy and political freedoms, interethnic relations, and combating terrorism. Geography Kyrgyzstan
Location: Central Asia, west of China
Geographic coordinates: 41 00 N, 75 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 198,500 sq km water: 7,200 sq km land: 191,300 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than South Dakota
Land boundaries: total: 3,878 km border countries: China 858 km, Kazakhstan 1,051 km, Tajikistan 870 km, Uzbekistan 1,099 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: dry continental to polar in high Tien Shan; subtropical in southwest (Fergana Valley); temperate in northern foothill zone
Terrain: peaks of Tien Shan and associated valleys and basins encompass entire nation
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Kara-Daryya (Karadar'ya) 132 m highest point: Jengish Chokusu (Pik Pobedy) 7,439 m
Natural resources: abundant hydropower; significant deposits of gold and rare earth metals; locally exploitable coal, oil, and natural gas; other deposits of nepheline, mercury, bismuth, lead, and zinc
Land use: arable land: 7.04% permanent crops: 0.39% note: Kyrgyzstan has the world's largest natural growth walnut forest (1998 est.) other: 92.57%
Irrigated land: 10,740 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: NA Environment - current issues: water pollution; many people get their water directly from contaminated streams and wells; as a result, water-borne diseases are prevalent; increasing soil salinity from faulty irrigation practices Environment - international party to: Air Pollution,
agreements: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: landlocked; entirely mountainous, dominated by the Tien Shan range; many tall peaks, glaciers, and high- altitude lakes People Kyrgyzstan -
Population: 4,822,166 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 34.4% (male 838,224; female 821,230) 15-64 years: 59.4% (male 1,403,328; female 1,459,914) 65 years and over: 6.2% (male 113,861; female 185,609) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.45% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 26.11 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 9.1 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.51 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.61 male(s)/ female total population: 0.96 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 75.92 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 63.56 years female: 67.98 years (2002 est.) male: 59.35 years
Total fertility rate: 3.16 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.01% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ less than 100 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Kyrgyzstani(s) adjective: Kyrgyzstani
Ethnic groups: Kyrgyz 52.4%, Russian 18%, Uzbek 12.9%, Ukrainian 2.5%, German 2.4%, other 11.8%
Religions: Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
Languages: Kyrgyz - official language, Russian - official language note: in December 2001, the Kyrgyzstani legislature made Russian an official language, equal in status to Kyrgyz
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 97% male: 99% female: 96% (1989 est.) Government Kyrgyzstan -
Country name: conventional long form: Kyrgyz Republic conventional short form: Kyrgyzstan local short form: none former: Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic local long form: Kyrgyz Respublikasy
Government type: republic
Capital: Bishkek Administrative divisions: 7 provinces (oblastlar, singular - oblasty) and 1 city* (shaar); Batken Oblasty, Bishkek Shaary*, Chuy Oblasty (Bishkek), Jalal-Abad Oblasty, Naryn Oblasty, Osh Oblasty, Talas Oblasty, Ysyk-Kol Oblasty (Karakol) note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
Independence: 31 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 31 August (1991)
Constitution: adopted 5 May 1993; note - amendment proposed by President AKAYEV and passed in a national referendum on 10 February 1996 significantly expands the powers of the president at the expense of the legislature
Legal system: based on civil law system
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Askar AKAYEV (since 28 October 1990) head of government: Prime Minister Nikolay TANAYEV (since 22 May 2002); note - Prime Minister Kurmanbek BAKIYEV resigned on 22 May 2002 when five demonstrators were killed in clashes with the police cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister election results: Askar AKAYEV reelected president; percent of vote - Askar AKAYEV 74%, Omurbek TEKEBAYEV 14%, other candidates 12%; note - election marred by serious irregularities elections: president reelected by popular vote for a five-year term; elections last held 29 October 2000 (next to be held November or December 2005); prime minister appointed by the president
Legislative branch: bicameral Supreme Council or Zhogorku Kenesh consists of the Assembly of People's Representatives (70 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) and the Legislative Assembly (35 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) election results: Assembly of People's Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; percent of vote by party - NA; and Legislative Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - NA; note - total seats by party in the Supreme Council were as follows: Union of Democratic Forces 12, Communists 6, My Country Party of Action 4, independents 73, other 10 note: the legislature became bicameral for the 5 February 1995 elections; the 2000 election results include both the Assembly of People's Representatives and the Legislative Assembly elections: Assembly of People's Representatives - last held 20 February and 12 March 2000 (next to be held NA February 2005); Legislative Assembly - last held 20 February and 12 March 2000 (next to be held NA February 2005)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are appointed for 10-year terms by the Supreme Council on the recommendation of the president); Constitutional Court; Higher Court of Arbitration Political parties and leaders: Agrarian Labor Party of Kyrgyzstan [Uson S. SYDYKOV]; Agrarian Party of Kyrgyzstan [Arkin ALIYEV]; Ata-Meken or Fatherland [Omurbek TEKEBAYEV]; Banner National Revival Party or ASABA [Chaprashty BAZARBAY]; Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan or DDK [Jypar JEKSHEYEV]; Democratic Women's Party of Kyrgyzstan [T. A. SHAILIYEVA]; Dignity Party [Feliks KULOV]; Erkin Kyrgyzstan Progressive and Democratic Party [Tursunbay Bakir UULU]; Justice Party [Chingiz AYTMATOV]; Movement for the People's Salvation [Jumgalbek AMAMBAYEV]; Mutual Help Movement or Ashar [Jumagazy USUPOV]; My Country of Action [Almazbek ISMANKULOV]; National Unity Democratic Movement or DDNE [Yury RAZGULYAYEV]; Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan or KCP [Absamat M. MASALIYEV]; Party of the Veterans of the War in Afghanistan [leader NA]; Peasant Party [leader NA]; People's Party [Melis ESHIMKANOV]; Republican Popular Party of Kyrgyzstan [J. SHARSHENALIYEV]; Social Democratic Party or PSD [J. IBRAMOV]; Union of Democratic Forces (composed of Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan or PSD [J. IBRAMOV], Economic Revival Party, and Birimdik Party Political pressure groups and Council of Free Trade Unions; Kyrgyz
leaders: Committee on Human Rights [Ramazan DYRYLDAYEV]; National Unity Democratic Movement; Union of Entrepreneurs International organization AsDB, CCC, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECE,
participation: ECO, ESCAP, FAO, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM (observer), OIC, OPCW (signatory), OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIK, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Bakyt ABDRISAYEV FAX: [1] (202) 338-5139 consulate(s): New York telephone: [1] (202) 338-5141 chancery: 1732 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador John M.
US: O'KEEFE embassy: 171 Prospect Mira, 720016 Bishkek mailing address: use embassy street address telephone: [996] (312) 551-241, (517) 777-217 FAX: [996] (312) 551-264
Flag description: red field with a yellow sun in the center having 40 rays representing the 40 Kyrgyz tribes; on the obverse side the rays run counterclockwise, on the reverse, clockwise; in the center of the sun is a red ring crossed by two sets of three lines, a stylized representation of the roof of the traditional Kyrgyz yurt Economy Kyrgyzstan
Economy - overview: Kyrgyzstan is a small, poor, mountainous country with a predominantly agricultural economy. Cotton, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products and exports. Industrial exports include gold, mercury, uranium, and electricity. Kyrgyzstan has been one of the most progressive countries of the former Soviet Union in carrying out market reforms. With fits and starts, inflation has been lowered to an estimated 7% in 2001. Much of the government's stock in enterprises has been sold. Drops in production had been severe since the breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991, but by mid-1995 production began to recover and exports began to increase. Growth was held down to 2.1% in 1998 largely because of the spillover from Russia's economic difficulties, but moved ahead to 3.6% in 1999, 5% in 2000, and 5% again in 2001. Despite these gains, poverty indicators are no better in 2001 than in 1996. On the positive side, the government and the international financial institutions have embarked on a comprehensive medium-term poverty reduction and economic growth strategy. In November 2001, with financing assurance from the Paris Club, the IMF Board approved a three-year, $93 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $13.5 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2,800 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 38% industry: 27% services: 35% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: 55% (2001 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 2.7%
percentage share: highest 10%: 31.7% (1997) Distribution of family income - Gini 40.5 (1997)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 7% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 2.7 million (2000) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 55%, industry 15%, services 30% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 7.2% (1999 est.)
Budget: revenues: $207.4 million expenditures: $238.7 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1999 est.)
Industries: small machinery, textiles, food processing, cement, shoes, sawn logs, refrigerators, furniture, electric motors, gold, rare earth metals Industrial production growth rate: 6% (2000 est.) Electricity - production: 14.677 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 7.62% hydro: 92.38% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 9.818 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 4.153 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 321 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: tobacco, cotton, potatoes, vegetables, grapes, fruits and berries; sheep, goats, cattle, wool
Exports: $475 million (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: cotton, wool, meat, tobacco; gold, mercury, uranium, hydropower; machinery; shoes
Exports - partners: Germany 28.7%, Uzbekistan 17.7%, Russia 12.9%, China 8.7%, Kazakhstan 6.6% (2000)
Imports: $420 million (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: oil and gas, machinery and equipment, foodstuffs
Imports - partners: Russia 23.9%, Uzbekistan 13.5%, Kazakhstan 10.3%, US 9.7%, Turkey 4.8% (2000)
Debt - external: $1.6 billion (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $50 million from the US (2001)
Currency: Kyrgyzstani som (KGS)
Currency code: KGS
Exchange rates: soms per US dollar - 47.972 (January 2002), 48.378 (2001), 47.704 (2000), 39.008 (1999), 20.838 (1998), 17.362 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Kyrgyzstan - Telephones - main lines in use: 351,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: NA
Telephone system: general assessment: poorly developed; about 100,000 unsatisfied applications for household telephones domestic: principally microwave radio relay; one cellular provider, probably limited to Bishkek region international: connections with other CIS countries by landline or microwave radio relay and with other countries by leased connections with Moscow international gateway switch and by satellite; satellite earth stations - 1 Intersputnik and 1 Intelsat; connected internationally by the Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line Radio broadcast stations: AM 12 (plus 10 repeater stations), FM 14, shortwave 2 (1998)
Radios: 520,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: NA (repeater stations throughout the country relay programs from Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey) (1997)
Televisions: 210,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .kg Internet Service Providers (ISPs): NA
Internet users: 51,600 (2001) Transportation Kyrgyzstan -
Railways: total: 370 km in common carrier service; does not include industrial lines broad gauge: 370 km 1.520-m gauge (1990)
Highways: total: 30,300 km (including 140 km of expressways) paved: 22,600 km (includes some all- weather gravel-surfaced roads) unpaved: 7,700 km (these roads are made of unstabilized earth and are difficult to negotiate in wet weather) (1990)
Waterways: 600 km (1990)
Pipelines: natural gas 200 km
Ports and harbors: Balykchy (Ysyk-Kol or Rybach'ye)
Airports: 50 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 4 over 3,047 m: 1 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 46 2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 914 to 1,523 m: 6 under 914 m: 32 (2001) Military Kyrgyzstan -
Military branches: Army, Air and Air Defense, Security Forces, Border Troops Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 1,234,457 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 1,001,274 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching military males: 50,590 (2002 est.)
age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $19.2 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.4% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Kyrgyzstan - Disputes - international: territorial dispute with Tajikistan on southwestern boundary in Isfara Valley area; dispute over access to Sokh and other Uzbek enclaves in Kyrgyzstan mars progress on boundary delimitation; disputes over provision of water and hydroelectric power to Kazakhstan; periodic target of Islamic insurgents from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan
Illicit drugs: limited illicit cultivator of cannabis and opium poppy, mostly for CIS consumption; limited government eradication program; increasingly used as transshipment point for illicit drugs to Russia and Western Europe from Southwest Asia

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officially Kyrgyz Republic

Country, Central Asia.

On the southeast, the Kok Shaal-Tau Range, part of the Tien Shan, forms the border with China. Area: 77,200 sq mi (199,900 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 5,002,000. Capital: Bishkek. The Kyrgyz make up about half of the population; the remainder consists of Russians and Uzbeks as well as Ukrainians and Germans deported from Russia during World War II (1939–45). Languages: Kyrgyz, Russian (both official). Religion: Islam (Sunnite). Currency: som. Kyrgyzstan is a largely mountainous country. At its eastern edge rises Victory (Pobedy) Peak, which at 24,406 ft (7,439 m) is the country's highest point of elevation. The country's valleys and plains, occupying only one-seventh of the total area, are home to most of its people. The economy is based largely on agriculture, including livestock raising and the cultivation of cereals, potatoes, cotton, and sugar beets. Coal mining and industries such as food processing and the production of machinery are also important. It is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president, assisted by the prime minister. The Kyrgyz, a nomadic people of Central Asia, settled in the Tien Shan region in ancient times. They were conquered by Genghis Khan's son Jöchi in 1207. The area became part of the Qing dynasty of China in the mid 18th century. It came under Russian control in the 19th century, and its rebellion against the Soviet Union in 1916 resulted in a long period of brutal repression. Kirgiziya became an autonomous province of the Soviet Union in 1924 and was made the Kirgiz S.S.R. in 1936. Kyrgyzstan gained independence in 1991. It subsequently struggled with creating a democratic process and with establishing a stable economy.

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▪ 2009

199,900 sq km (77,182 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 5,281,000
Head of state:
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev
Head of government (appointed by the president):
Prime Minister Igor Chudinov

      Despite large amounts of international assistance to the development of its economy, Kyrgyzstan continued in 2008 to flounder both politically and economically. According to the country's National Statistical Committee, by September more than $1 billion had been poured into Kyrgyzstan in the form of foreign investment and grants. Increasing numbers of Kyrgyzstani citizens were searching for work abroad, and in February the National Migration Agency reported that 250,000 Kyrgyz were employed in Russia—a figure that did not include the number working in Kazakhstan and other neighbouring countries. The World Bank noted that remittances from labour migrants made up 37% of Kyrgyzstan's GDP.

      Popular dissatisfaction with life in Kyrgyzstan was exacerbated by the perception that the “Tulip Revolution” of 2005 had led to worse conditions rather than to an improvement in any area of life. Despite government commitments to fighting corruption, little was achieved in practice, and Pres. Kurmanbek Bakiyev continued to appoint his relatives to prominent posts. In January, Miroslav Niyazov, former head of the National Security Council, warned that the security situation in the country was deteriorating because the opposition had no legal means of political struggle, there was a growing distrust of the authorities in the population at large, steep rises in the price of basic commodities were worsening social vulnerability, and religious extremism was increasing.

      Throughout the year the fragmented political opposition appeared to agree on one issue—the need to remove President Bakiyev. In June, Bakiyev signed legislation that mandated that the broadcast media (which had asked him to veto the bill on the grounds that it violated the country's democratic policies) produce at least 60% of the programming in Kyrgyzstan. Opponents warned that the legislation flouted the rights of viewers to choose what they wanted to watch or hear.

      In January and February, Kyrgyzstan, along with the rest of Central Asia, experienced the coldest winter in decades. While the consequences were not as severe as in neighbouring Tajikistan, fears for the 2008–09 winter mounted, especially as an unusually dry summer reduced the amount of water that could be stored for winter power generation. Inhabitants of Kyrgyzstan were warned to expect major power shortages that might result in the closure of the country's hospitals. In September, in an effort to save resources for winter, Minister of Energy Saparbek Balkibekov proposed a cutback in the supply of electricity to 14 hours daily.

Bess Brown

▪ 2008

198,500 sq km (76,641 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 5,317,000
Head of state:
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev
Head of government (appointed by the president):
Prime Ministers Feliks Kulov, Azim Isabekov from January 29, Almazbek Atambayev from March 29, Iskenderbek Aidaraliyev (acting) from November 28, and Igor Chudinov from December 24

 The political situation in Kyrgyzstan worsened in 2007, with the deterioration reminiscent of the last months of former president Askar Akayev's tenure, before his flight from the country precipitated the 2005 “Tulip Revolution.” By 2007 there was general agreement that the revolution had been a failure. The political opposition asserted that Pres. Kurmanbek Bakiyev was worse than Akayev had been, and frequent demonstrations called for Bakiyev's resignation, usually on grounds of corruption and favouritism. Another reason for disenchantment throughout the country was continuing economic stagnation.

      Increasing numbers of Kyrgyz citizens were forced to find work abroad. When Russia adopted stricter regulations (effective in January) on the employment of foreigners, Bakiyev immediately appealed to Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin to raise Kyrgyzstan's assigned quota of migrant workers to half a million. Labour migration was increasingly serving to relieve economic and social pressures that could lead to another political collapse. At the end of May, Bakiyev told a forum of international financial institutions that Kyrgyzstan would need a growth rate of 8–9% in order to reduce the poverty level to 30% of the population; he promised to encourage the development of small business and to seek foreign investment in energy-development projects. His objective, he had said earlier, was to prevent the country's foreign debt from increasing.

      In March, protests in Bishkek calling for Bakiyev's resignation turned violent, with beatings of police as well as demonstrators, destruction of property, and the arrest of prominent activists. In later protests, demonstrators promptly called for the release of the activists as well as the resignation of Bakiyev.

      On January 15 Bakiyev signed a series of constitutional amendments that expanded the powers of the president. In September the Constitutional Court declared the amendments unconstitutional on the grounds that they had not been confirmed by popular referendum. Official results in the October 21 referendum showed 80% of votes cast approved the new constitution, but observers from the nongovernmental Fair Election Association and other NGOs reported seeing numerous cases of ballot-box stuffing.

      Parliamentary elections were held on December 16. Bakiyev's Ak Zhol (Bright Path) party scored a resounding victory in the elections, capturing 71 of the 90 seats in the legislature. The opposition Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan won 11 seats, and the pro-government Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan claimed 8. Opposition groups, however, accused the government of ballot fraud, demanded a vote recount, and staged a series of protests in Bishkek and elsewhere. On December 24 the new parliament convened for the first time and confirmed Igor Chudinov as the new prime minister.

Bess Brown

▪ 2007

198,500 sq km (76,641 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 5,192,000
Head of state:
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev
Head of government (appointed by the president):
Prime Minister Feliks Kulov

      Relations between the government and opposition in Kyrgyzstan worsened throughout 2006 as opposition politicians more and more frequently accused the leadership, particularly Pres. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, of having failed to solve any of the ills that led to the country's “Tulip Revolution” of 2005. Tensions reached a high point with the detention of Omurbek Tekebayev, one of the most influential opposition leaders, in Poland on September 6 after drugs were found in his luggage. On September 22 the parliament officially approved a report that characterized the Tekebayev affair as a provocation intended to discredit the opposition. Tekebayev had resigned as speaker of the parliament in February after an abusive verbal exchange with the president. Bakiyev had earlier accused Tekebayev of making “rash proposals” that Bakiyev asserted could reduce the country to anarchy.

      Popular demonstrations continued to be a prominent part of political life throughout the year, and the level of violence attributed to extremist groups rose significantly. After an exchange of gunfire between militants and police in the southern Kyrgyz town of Jalal-Abad in July, the National Security Service warned that extremists were trying to provoke ethnic conflict. An antiterrorist operation by Kyrgyz and Uzbek special forces on August 6 in Osh resulted in the death of a prominent religious figure, which caused opposition parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov to warn that antiterrorism methods being employed by the Kyrgyz security service were fueling antigovernment sentiment among the Uzbek population of south Kyrgyzstan.

      Throughout the first part of the year, Kyrgyzstan's relations with the United States were complicated by a disagreement over the amount of compensation to be paid to the former for use of the military air base near Bishkek, which provided support to antiterrorism coalition forces in Afghanistan. At one point Kyrgyzstan demanded a hundredfold increase, apparently in response to pressures from some members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to force the U.S. military out of the region. In mid-July agreement was reached on an annual payment of $150 million in aid and monetary compensation, at almost the same time as two U.S. diplomats were expelled from Kyrgyzstan on charges of spying; two Kyrgyz nationals were expelled from Washington in retaliation. Kyrgyz nongovernmental organizations demanded that the government explain the expulsions and that the media stop repeating anonymous assertions by unnamed security officials that NGOs were involved in illegal and antistate activities.

Bess Brown

▪ 2006

198,500 sq km (76,641 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 5,146,000
Head of state:
Presidents Askar Akayev (de jure to April 11; actually deposed March 24), Ishenbay Kadyrbekov (acting) on March 24–25, and, from March 25, Kurmanbek Bakiyev
Head of government (appointed by the president):
Prime Ministers Nikolay Tanayev, Kurmanbek Bakiyev from March 25, and, from August 15, Feliks Kulov

      Kyrgyzstan drew international attention in March 2005 when it became the first Central Asian country in which popular disaffection had forced the post-Soviet regime out of office. The anger of large segments of the population had been growing for many years; there was a widespread conviction that the millions of dollars of international aid that had been given to the country to counter the effects of the post-1991 economic collapse and resulting poverty had been siphoned off by corrupt relatives and cronies of Kyrgyzstan's first president, Askar Akayev.

      A parliamentary election was held on February 27, preceded by a campaign in which Akayev accused the political opposition of trying to destabilize the country. Prime Minister Nikolay Tanayev called on international organizations not to try to import revolution to Kyrgyzstan, and other top officials warned of the possibility of a civil war. Opposition rallies and the independent media were severely harassed. Election authorities disqualified a number of popular candidates, including former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, sparking demonstrations in various parts of the country. The day after the election, large-scale protests against alleged vote rigging began in Bishkek and in the south.

      On March 4 some 300 protesters stormed the regional administration building in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, while 2,000 protesters in the main square called on the president to resign. Akayev reacted by asserting that “irresponsible politicians” were fomenting unrest. On March 18 protesters in Osh, the country's “southern capital,” set up an alternate administration headed by a prominent opposition member. On March 24 protesters in Bishkek stormed government buildings; Akayev and his family fled the country. The unrest in Bishkek and other cities was accompanied by massive looting and a number of fatalities; Kurmanbek Bakiyev (Bakiyev, Kurmanbek ) (see Biographies), a former prime minister and head of the opposition People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan, took over as interim leader with the blessing of the Constitutional Court. He formed an interim government of prominent opposition figures. Opposition leader Feliks Kulov was released from prison and entrusted with responsibility to restore order.

      A presidential election was set for July 10, at which Bakiyev received almost 89% of the vote. In a preelection deal with his most credible rival, Bakiyev had promised the premiership to Kulov. Stresses appeared in the new government within a few months, however, and in September the parliament elected in February rejected several of Bakiyev's ministerial appointees, sparking rumours that Kulov too would be forced to resign.

Bess Brown

▪ 2005

199,945 sq km (77,199 sq mi), including about 1,250 sq km (480 sq mi) ceded to China in May 2002
(2004 est.): 5,081,000
Head of state and government:
President Askar Akayev, assisted by Prime Minister Nikolay Tanayev

      Throughout 2004 political life in Kyrgyzstan remained polarized between supporters and opponents of Pres. Askar Akayev. Pleas by Akayev to opposition forces not to begin parliamentary and presidential election campaigns prematurely (both elections were scheduled for 2005) were largely ignored. Akayev stated repeatedly in public that he would not seek another term in office, but pro-government politicians and parties urged him to reconsider. In January primitive listening devices were discovered in the offices of six opposition members of the parliament. Although national security chief Kalyk Imankulov denied that any government agency had been involved in the bugging, the opposition politicians called for the resignation of Imankulov and other security officials and laid ultimate blame for the affair on Akayev and his supporters. Relations between the government and opposition worsened after the decision by the Supreme Court in mid-April to acquit the officials who had been held responsible for the killings of demonstrators in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2002.

      In April police broke up a rally of members of the prominent opposition Ar-Namys party in Bishkek. The party was seeking to draw attention to the continued imprisonment of its leader, former vice president Feliks Kulov, who was serving a jail term on charges of abuse of office that his supporters said were politically motivated. Ar-Namys activists became convinced that Kulov would be released, but only after parliamentary elections scheduled for February 2005. The party and independent journalists also accused the government of restricting freedom of the media by closing down the independent Pyramida TV and Osh TV stations; U.S. financier George Soros intervened personally with the Kyrgyz president, and Pyramida was back on the air by the end of April.

      In early May Akayev called on the newly formed Consultative Council for Fair Management to make a genuine effort to fight the corruption that was widely acknowledged to be damaging the country's economic development. A television report noted that 284 officials were facing charges of corruption and abuse of office. By mid-July the president was boasting to a conference attended by international donors that direct foreign investment in the first six months of 2004 had reached the high point achieved in 1996 and that foreign investors were shifting their interest from extractive industries to other sectors of the economy.

Bess Brown

▪ 2004

199,945 sq km (77,199 sq mi), including about 1,250 sq km (480 sq mi) ceded to China in May 2002
(2003 est.): 5,059,000
Head of state and government:
President Askar Akayev, assisted by Prime Minister Nikolay Tanayev

      Kyrgyzstan's reputation as the Central Asian state that had moved farthest on the road to democracy suffered in 2003 from the increasing authoritarianism of Pres. Askar Akayev and his government. Among opposition demands that the government was unwilling to meet were prosecution of the officials responsible for the killing of five antigovernment demonstrators by police in 2002 and the release from prison of former vice president Feliks Kulov, who was serving a 10-year sentence for crimes allegedly committed during his government service—a sentence widely believed to have been politically motivated because of his opposition to Akayev.

      In a report published in April, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Asian Development Bank—all of which had provided financial support to the country since its independence—declared that Kyrgyzstan was the most corrupt of the seven poorest members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the only one where corruption had worsened since 1999. The previous month Akayev had told his National Security Council that many citizens considered corruption to be the reason for Kyrgyzstan's economic ills, a point many opposition figures had been making for years. A National Council for Good Governance was set up in April, but the opposition jeered that the government was the source of the corruption. In September the National Statistical Committee reported that 54% of the population was living below the poverty line.

      Official figures continued their practice of trying to silence criticism in the independent media by suing journalists and publications for criminal libel and demanding huge monetary damages, which caused the bankruptcy of a number of publications, including the popular newspaper Moya Stolitsa, which was forced to cease publication after Prime Minister Nikolay Tanayev won a libel case against it in June.

      Kyrgyzstan continued to host the U.S.-led international antiterrorism coalition air base near Bishkek, from which coalition forces supported military action in Afghanistan. After months of negotiations, the Kyrgyz government agreed to the establishment of a Russian air base some 30 km (18 mi) from the coalition base. The Russian base was ostensibly part of the CIS rapid reaction force, but some Kyrgyz observers suggested that it was intended to keep an eye on coalition forces, particularly the Americans.

Bess Brown

▪ 2003

199,900 sq km (77,200 sq mi), including about 1,250 sq km (480 sq mi) ceded to China in May 2002
(2002 est.): 5,002,000
Head of state and government:
President Askar Akayev, assisted by Prime Ministers Kurmanbek Bakiyev and, from May 22 (acting until May 30), Nikolay Tanayev

      Kyrgyzstan in 2002 continued to host a large international military presence, mostly American and French, at Bishkek's Manas International Airport in support of the antiterrorist coalition. Opposition parliamentarians questioned the existence of a foreign air base on Kyrgyz soil, but government leaders asserted that it was to the country's benefit to help crush international terrorism. Although there were no assaults by extremist groups on Kyrgyzstan such as had occurred in previous years, the security services warned that the danger was still there. Some officials explained that restrictions on the media were motivated at least in part by the fact that extremist literature was being published in Kyrgyzstan for distribution in the rest of Central Asia.

      It was unclear whether official references to the existence in Kyrgyzstan of groups such as Hezb-e Tahrir, an international movement that hoped to establish a medieval-style Islamic caliphate in Central Asia, or the extremist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were motivated by genuine fear of religious extremism's spreading, particularly in the south of the country, or were intended to discredit the political opposition. Opposition parties, human rights activists, and citizens disgusted by the government's inability to improve living conditions for most of the country's population were more vocal and active in 2002 than ever before. The authorities reacted with repression on the independent media. Civil disobedience spread throughout the society, which led to warnings that the country was in danger of civil war.

      The trigger for much of the unrest was the arrest in January of parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov, apparently for his criticism of an unpopular border agreement with China that transferred some 1,250 sq km (480 sq mi) to Chinese sovereignty. Opposition members of the parliament protested the arrest, and activists began picketing and demonstrating in Bishkek and elsewhere. In February human rights activist Sheraly Nazarkulov died after a hunger strike, which intensified the popular unrest. On March 17 five people were killed and many were wounded in a clash between police and protesters in the southern district of Aksy. Recriminations between the government and opposition over the punishment of those responsible dominated political life for the rest of the year.

      The government resigned about two months after the Aksy shootings; an official commission was formed to investigate what had happened; and several police officers were arrested. Nevertheless, popular anger continued to run high amid charges that the top officials responsible for the tragedy were not being held to account. There were even calls for the resignation of Pres. Askar Akayev.

Bess Brown

▪ 2002

199,900 sq km (77,200 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 4,883,000
Head of state and government:
President Askar Akayev, assisted by Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev

      In mid-January 2001 Kyrgyzstan's Defense Council concerned itself with repelling the continuing attacks by Muslim extremists. Top priority was given to strengthening defense, and Kyrgyzstan joined the Central Asian rapid reaction force that was set up in Bishkek in August.

      In July fighting was reported in the south between Kyrgyz troops and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Tajikistan, whence the militants were supposed to have come, questioned the accuracy of the reports, however, and the head of Kyrgyzstan's National Security Council asserted that the fighting had actually involved an armed gang of drug smugglers. Later reports emerged of an attempt by presumed militants to seize control of a television relay station in the mountains of Batken region.

      There was also growing concern in Kyrgyzstan over the possibility that extremism would develop among the population in the southern part of the country, which had a large Uzbek component and had long felt itself neglected by the more developed north. In April Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev stated that many mosques had been built recently in the south and the government was intensifying its supervision of religion. The state commission on religious affairs was moved to Osh, the “southern capital,” in an effort to counter extremist tendencies, including the growth of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir sect. A number of persons in the south were put on trial for their membership in the sect, which was officially regarded in all Central Asian states as a terrorist organization, although its adherents insisted that they rejected violence and sought to set up an Islamic state through peaceful means.

      Kyrgyzstan's relations with neighbouring Uzbekistan remained cool throughout the year, partly because of the Uzbek practice of shutting off the gas supply to Kyrgyzstan in order to pressure the smaller state. A Kyrgyz proposal to exchange gas for water was rejected by Tashkent. In February the Kyrgyz government signed a secret memorandum that would give Uzbekistan easier access to an exclave in southern Kyrgyzstan, but the Kyrgyz parliament rejected the transfer of land that would be involved and sharply criticized the government for its secret dealings. Lawmakers also attacked the leadership for striking an agreement with China to settle a long-standing border dispute by handing over some mountainous territory. In September the parliament refused to ratify an agreement with Uzbekistan on fighting terrorism, demanding that the Uzbeks first remove their land mines from the common border. In December the parliament approved the useof the Manas Airport by the U.S.-led antiterrorist coalition.

Bess Brown

▪ 2001

199,900 sq km (77,200 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 4,895,000
Head of state and government:
President Askar Akayev, assisted by Prime Minister Amangeldy Muraliyev

      In 2000 Kyrgyzstan again found itself in conflict with Uzbek Islamic militants based in Tajikistan and Afghanistan who sought to reach Uzbekistan's Fergana Valley by crossing Kyrgyz territory. In February the Kyrgyz government announced increased security on its southern border after Uzbek militant leader Juma Namangoni was sighted in Tajikistan. By July half the Kyrgyz army was reported to be deployed on the Tajik border. Fighting started at the beginning of August, and additional Kyrgyz troops were sent to the southern border region. On August 20 Kyrgyz Pres. Askar Akayev hosted a summit of Central Asian heads of state to discuss common measures against terrorism. Kyrgyzstan called for air strikes against militant bases in Tajikistan, but the other Central Asians were unwilling to agree. Subsequently, the Russian Federation provided military assistance to Kyrgyzstan to help stop the incursions.

      At the beginning of the year, political life in Kyrgyzstan was dominated by the two rounds of parliamentary elections, in February and March. The opposition Communist Party received the most votes, followed by the Union of Democratic Forces and the Democratic Women's Party. All the deputies from the Democratic Women's Party were later disqualified on technical grounds, though the party had the president's support.

      International observers criticized the elections as falling short of international standards, owing at least in part to interference by government officials. The exclusion of one prominent opposition activist from the second round and the failure of opposition leader Feliks Kulov to gain a parliamentary seat resulted in popular demonstrations. These intensified when Kulov was arrested for alleged actions when he had been national security minister. Prominent human rights activists were subject to severe government harassment because of their roles in the protests; the office of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights was sealed, and its leader fled the country.

      Kulov was acquitted in August after a closed trial, and he announced his intention to run for president against incumbent Akayev in the election at the end of October. Kulov was refused registration as a presidential candidate because he was unwilling to undergo a test of his knowledge of the Kyrgyz language. Several other potential candidates, including the Communist Party candidate, failed the test and complained that it had been invented by the Central Electoral Commission as a way of excluding credible opponents of the incumbent president, whose own candidacy violated the constitutional limit of two terms in office. Kulov was widely regarded as the most likely to prevail over President Akayev.

Bess Brown

▪ 2000

199,900 sq km (77,200 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 4,761,000
Head of state and government:
President Askar Akayev, assisted by Prime Ministers Jumabek Ibraimov, Boris Silayev (acting) from April 1 to 12, and, from April 12, Amangeldy Muraliyev

      In 1999 Kyrgyzstan faced the most serious threat to its security since the country gained independence. At the end of July, Islamic militants who had fled to Tajikistan from Uzbekistan after bomb attacks in Tashkent in February began trickling into a remote part of southern Kyrgyzstan. On August 6 a small band of Uzbek militants was involved in a gun battle with police in a village in the Batken district. The following week a group of Uzbek militants took several officials hostage in the same area, demanding that the authorities provide them with money, food, and free passage to Uzbekistan's Fergana Valley. The militants later seized four Japanese geologists who were prospecting for gold, blew up a bridge, and took control of at least three villages in the Batken district. The number of militants who invaded Kyrgyzstan during August was officially estimated at 600–700; according to Kyrgyz government sources, at least some of them had been fighting with the Islamic opposition in the Tajik civil war.

      For his failure to put an end to the crisis in southern Kyrgyzstan, the country's defense minister was fired. Russian news media observed that the Kyrgyz armed forces were ill-equipped to cope with the situation, having had no training in fighting a guerrilla war. Kyrgyz officials later asked the Russian Defense Ministry for advice, but no Russian troops were to be sent. Russia had withdrawn most of its border troops from Kyrgyzstan in May, though a few were left in place to assist in stopping the illegal drugs traffic. On August 28 the foreign and defense ministers of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakstan met in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan to devise joint measures to crush the disturbances. A statement issued at the end of the meeting asserted that some of the militants were from outside Central Asia; this was cited as evidence of the involvement of international terrorism. The following day, Pres. Askar Akayev appealed to the country for calm.

      Claims that the militants had seized control of one or more of the Uzbek enclaves in Kyrgyzstan were denied by the Kyrgyz government. Although sporadic fighting continued into October, Kyrgyz government forces were unable to crush the invaders completely. By November, after lengthy negotiations, all hostages had been freed and the militants had retreated to Tajikistan. They vowed they would return in spring, however, to continue their assault on Uzbekistan.

Bess Brown

▪ 1999

      Area: 199,900 sq km (77,200 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 4,691,000

      Capital: Bishkek

      Head of state and government: President Askar Akayev, assisted by Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov, from March 24, Kubanychbek Jumaliyev, and, from December 25, Jumabek Ibraimov

      In Kyrgyzstan months of vigorous controversy led up to the referendum on Oct. 17, 1998, on a series of constitutional amendments. Proposals to limit the immunity from arrest of parliamentary deputies as well as their control over the country's budgetary process were actively opposed by many legislators and political activists, who interpreted the proposals as a weakening of the legislative branch and a strengthening of the presidential administration.

      An amendment introducing private ownership of land was a response to pressure from international lending agencies, which expected that private owners could then use their land as collateral to obtain loans for improvements. Many agriculturalists opposed private ownership, however, fearing that owners would be forced by economic necessity to sell to speculators and proponents of agribusiness. The creation of a private market in land was opposed in the southern part of the country on the grounds that it could stir up tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, which already had led to bloody riots over land and water in the summer of 1990.

      There was a further shake-up at the end of the year, when the Cabinet was dismissed by Pres. Askar Akayev for failing to address the country's economic problems including, presumably, a corruption scandal that had led to the arrest of a dozen top government officials. Jumabek Ibraimov was confirmed as prime minister on December 25, and he announced the members of his new Cabinet on December 30.

      Kyrgyzstan's economy slowly improved during 1998, but pensions and salaries of civil servants were frequently in arrears. There was a high level of popular resentment against those who were doing well in the new market economy. A spillage of poisonous wastes from a Kyrgyz-Canadian gold mine stirred up controversy over the exploitation of the country's natural resources for the benefit of the few.

      Throughout the year Kyrgyzstan's independent information media came under pressure from government officials infuriated by accusations of corruption. Many filed libel suits against journalists or editors, who in turn, whenever a judgment went against them, charged that the judicial system was under government control. One of the constitutional amendments submitted to referendum in October prohibited the passage of laws restricting freedom of information.


▪ 1997

      A landlocked republic of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan borders Kazakstan to the north, China to the southeast, Tajikistan to the south and west, and Uzbekistan to the west. Area: 198,500 sq km (76,600 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 4,521,000. Cap.: Bishkek. Monetary unit: som, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 13.4 som = U.S. $1 (21.1 som = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Askar Akayev; prime minister, Apas Jumagulov.

      In February 1996 Kyrgyzstan's voters overwhelmingly approved changes to the constitution giving greater powers to Pres. Askar Akayev. Once considered the most democratically minded leader in Central Asia, Akayev issued a decree in March allowing regional governors appointed by himself to suspend the decisions of local authorities and enterprises if these contradicted decisions of the central authorities. The following month the president fired the chief editors of two of the country's most important newspapers.

      After Kyrgyzstan entered a customs union with Kazakstan, Belarus, and the Russian Federation in March, Russia's state-owned energy firm offered Kyrgyzstan help in developing desperately needed hydroelectric facilities that had been started prior to the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.

      Kyrgyzstan joined Kazakstan and Uzbekistan in setting up a peacekeeping force under UN auspices. The new regional force, the first of its kind in Central Asia, was to be trained under the NATO Partnership for Peace program. (BESS BROWN)

      This article updates Kyrgyzstan.

▪ 1996

      A landlocked republic of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan borders Kazakhstan to the north, China to the southeast, Tajikistan to the south and west, and Uzbekistan to the west. Area: 198,500 sq km (76,600 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 4,483,000. Cap.: Bishkek. Monetary unit: som, with (Oct. 4, 1995) a free rate of 10.86 som = U.S. $1 (17.26 som = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Askar Akayev; prime minister, Apas Djumagulov.

      Kyrgyzstan approached the end of 1995 with a currency that was one of the most stable in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); the economic decline that had characterized its first years of independence had almost stopped. A report from the International Monetary Fund issued in May stated that Kyrgyzstan led the states of the CIS in market reforms. This assessment led to a pledge by international donors of $680 million in credits in 1995 and 1996.

      Parliamentary elections on February 5 resulted in only 13 seats being filled in the new 105-seat bicameral parliament because there were so many candidates registered in most constituencies. A runoff on February 19 filled most of the rest of the seats, with 8 of Kyrgyzstan's 13 registered parties represented in the legislature. By mid-April relations between Pres. Askar Akayev and the parliament were strained, as the legislature sought to establish its authority by refusing to confirm some of Akayev's ministerial appointments and defying the president's wishes in other ways.

      The issue of a referendum on extending Akayev's term in office resurfaced throughout the year and was finally squelched in September when the Legislative Assembly, the house of parliament that remained in permanent session, set December 24 as the date for a presidential election. Opposition parties called on Akayev to step down during the electoral campaign, as his incumbency was seen as giving him an unfair advantage. His chief rival for the presidency, former parliament chairman Medetkan Sherimkulov, challenged the election date and referred the question to the courts. Turnout was high (82%), and Akayev won a convincing 60% of the votes.

      In September heads of state from six countries, including Pakistan and Turkey, gathered in Kyrgyzstan to celebrate the millennium of the Kyrgyz national epic, the Manas. (BESS BROWN)

      This updates the article Kyrgyzstan.

▪ 1995

      A landlocked republic of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan borders Kazakhstan to the north, China to the southeast, Tajikistan to the south and west, and Uzbekistan to the west. Area: 198,500 sq km (76,600 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 4,488,000. Cap.: Bishkek. Monetary unit: som, with (Oct. 3, 1994) a free rate of 10.20 som = U.S. $1 (16.22 som = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Askar Akayev; prime minister, Apas Dzhumagulov.

      Kyrgyzstan's reputation as the most democratic state in Central Asia suffered as the result of clashes between the country's liberal president and the legislature, which was a holdover from the Soviet era. The economy progressively weakened as most industrial enterprises had to reduce production or close down for lack of materials from other Commonwealth of Independent States countries. Unemployment increased and living conditions worsened. Foreign investors were frightened off when the parliament raised charges of corruption against those involved in a Canadian-Kyrgyz venture that was to develop the country's gold resources.

      In May local journalists charged that Soviet-style censorship had returned with the passage of a new law on state secrets. It prohibited media discussion of a wide range of topics, including price increases, livestock deaths, and the condition of roads. The same charge was raised in July after Pres. Askar Akayev charged that irresponsible media were stirring up political and interethnic conflict. Shortly thereafter a Bishkek court closed down the parliamentary daily. In the resulting crisis, more than half of the Supreme Soviet refused to attend a final session to set a date for parliamentary elections, and the government of Prime Minister Apas Dzhumagulov, which had been in power since Dec. 17, 1993, resigned. The election, originally scheduled by the president for December 25, was postponed to Feb. 5, 1995. Akayev warned that political turmoil would benefit only the Kyrgyz Communist Party. (BESS BROWN)

      This updates the article Kyrgyzstan.

▪ 1994

      A landlocked republic of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan borders Kazakhstan to the north, China to the southeast, Tajikistan to the south and west, and Uzbekistan to the west. Area: 198,500 sq km (76,600 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 4,526,000. Cap.: Bishkek. Monetary unit: som (introduced May 10, 1993), with (October 4) a free rate of 5.83 som = U.S. $1 (8.83 som = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, Askar Akayev; prime minister, Tursunbek Chyngyshev.

       Kyrgyzstan was among those states that suffered most as a result of the disruption of the relationships with other former Soviet republics. The country's president, physicist Askar Akayev, was steadfast in his commitment to creating a democratic state, but economic problems and wrangling between Kyrgyzstan's political parties complicated the realization of his goal. Consequently, on Nov. 29, 1993, the president called for a late January 1994 referendum on his rule. Akayev's most vocal opposition came from the reconstituted Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan, which increasingly dominated the national legislature and opposed his reforms at every opportunity. The Communists played a leading role in forcing an investigation of a Kyrgyz-Canadian joint venture in gold mining. Akayev, fearful that needed investment would be frightened off, appealed for an end to political infighting.

      In May, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, Kyrgyzstan became the first Central Asian state to introduce its own currency, the som, and to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) ruble zone. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan reacted immediately by suspending trade. At least in the short run, the introduction of the som only worsened Kyrgyzstan's already catastrophic economic situation. Kyrgyzstan joined the newly established CIS economic union in September but declared its intention to keep its own currency. (BESS BROWN)

      This updates the article Kyrgyzstan.

* * *

officially  Kyrgyz Republic , Kyrgyz  Kyrgyz Respublikasy , formerly (1936–91)  Kirgiziya , or  Kirghizia , or  Kirgiz Soviet Socialist Republic 
Kyrgyzstan, flag of   country of Central Asia. It is bounded by Kazakhstan on the northwest and north, by China on the east and south, and by Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on the south and west. Most of Kyrgyzstan's borders run along mountain crests. The capital is Bishkek (known from 1862 to 1926 as Pishpek and from 1926 to 1991 as Frunze).

      The Kyrgyz, a Muslim Turkic people, constitute more than half the population. The history of the Kyrgyz in what is now Kyrgyzstan dates at least to the 17th century. Kyrgyzstan, known under Russian and Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) rule as Kirgiziya, was conquered by tsarist Russian forces in the 19th century. Formerly a constituent (union) republic of the U.S.S.R., Kyrgyzstan declared its independence on Aug. 31, 1991.

The land (Kyrgyzstan)

  Kyrgyzstan is, above all, a mountainous country. At its eastern extremity, next to the Uighur Autonomous Region of Sinkiang, China, rises Victory (Pobedy) Peak (Victory Peak), at 24,406 feet (7,439 metres) Kyrgyzstan's highest peak. Mount Khan-Tengri (Khan Tängiri Peak) (22,949 feet) is on the border with Kazakhstan. These mountains stand in the core of the Tien Shan system, which continues eastward into China. On the southern border lie the Kok Shaal-Tau, Alay, Trans-Alay (Zaalay), and Atbashi ranges.

      To the southwest are two great hollows, the Fergana Valley and another valley close to Mount Khan-Tengri. The latter valley is bounded by the westward-thrusting arms of the Kungey-Alatau and Terskey-Alatau ranges and contains Lake Ysyk-Köl (Ysyk, Lake) (Issyk-Kul), whose clear, deep waters are fed by the snow-covered peaks. The rugged mountain-and-basin structure of much of the country, and the high alpine plateau of the central and eastern regions, are separated from the Fergana Valley on the west by the Fergana Range, running southeast to northwest, which merges into the Chatkal Range. The Chatkal Range is linked to the Ysyk-Köl region by a final enclosing range, the Kyrgyz. The only other important lowlands in the country are the Chu and Talas river valleys in the north, with the capital, Bishkek, located in the Chu. The country's lowland areas, though occupying only one-seventh of the total area, are home to most of its people.

      Snow and ice perpetually cover the crests of Kyrgyzstan's high mountain ranges. The Naryn River, draining into the Fergana Valley, continues northwestward as a tributary of the Syr Darya. The Chu River runs parallel to and forms part of the northern boundary with Kazakhstan. Both the Chu and the Naryn are of major importance to the country.

      Kyrgyzstan's great distance from the oceans and the sharp change of elevation from adjacent plains strongly influence the country's climate. Deserts and plains surround Kyrgyzstan on the north, west, and southeast, making the contrast with the climate and landscape of its mountainous interior all the more striking. The lower parts of its fringing ranges lie in belts of high temperature and receive hot, drying winds from the deserts beyond. The amount of precipitation the country's westward- and northward-facing slopes receive increases with their height. The valleys have hot, dry summers, with a mean July temperature of 82° F (28° C). In January the average temperature is −0.5° F (−18° C). Annual precipitation varies from 7 inches (180 millimetres) in the eastern Tien Shan to 30 to 40 inches in the Kyrgyz and Fergana ranges. In the most populous valleys, rainfall ranges from 4 to 20 inches a year.

Plant and animal life
      Woodlands run along the lower valleys and on slopes of the north-facing ranges. These are coniferous forests, containing the striking Tien Shan white spruce and occupying 3 to 4 percent of the country's area. The brown bear, wild pig, lynx, gray wolf, and ermine live in the woodlands. Wooded ravines and the valleys of the mountainous steppe regions provide the abode of the argali, a mountain sheep, along with mountain goats, deer, and snow leopards. In the desert, yellow gophers, jerboas, hares, and a large-eared hedgehog are typical.

Settlement patterns
 Between 1926 and 1989 the urban portion of the Kyrgyz population grew from almost nothing to more than one-fifth, though the Kyrgyz remained a minority in most cities and towns. During this period fewer than one-fourth of the inhabitants of the capital, Frunze (now Bishkek), were Kyrgyz; Slavs made up more than half of the city's population. Town dwellers, largely non-Kyrgyz, comprise less than two-fifths of the country's total population. Southern Kyrgyzstan tends to be rural and Islāmic, but the more urbanized, Western-oriented north has traditionally dominated the country.

The people
      The Kyrgyz (Kyrgyzstan) speak a language belonging to the northwestern, or Kipchak, group of the Turkic languages. They were formerly a transhumant (nomadic) people who were settled into collectivized agriculture by the Soviet regime. Besides Kyrgyz, the country's population includes minorities of Russians, Uzbeks (Uzbek), Ukrainians, and Germans (exiled to the region from European parts of the Soviet Union in 1941), as well as Tatars (Tatar), Kazaks (Kazakh), Dungans (Hui) (Hui; Chinese Muslims), Uighurs (Uighur), and Tajiks (Tajik). Since independence in 1991, many Russians and Germans have emigrated.

The economy
      The people of Kyrgyzstan have traditionally raised livestock and engaged in farming. By the late 20th century the republic had become a source for nonferrous metals, notably of antimony and mercury ores, and a producer of machinery, light industrial products, hydroelectric power, and food products. Gold mining has increased in importance, and Kyrgyzstan possesses substantial coal reserves and some petroleum and natural gas deposits. Hydroelectric power provides more than three-fourths of the country's electric energy.

      Industrialization has stimulated the mechanization of agriculture in Kyrgyzstan, and many types of machines necessary to cope with the largely mountainous terrain are manufactured in the republic. Unlike other Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan does not suffer from a lack of water; irrigation canals have increased agricultural output substantially, especially cotton production in the Fergana Valley, the country's main source for that crop. Livestock raising, the cultivation of cotton, fruit, vegetables, cereal grains, and tobacco, and wool production are the leading branches of agriculture.

      Most of the arable land is devoted to pasturage for livestock and to growing hay. Livestock consists mainly of sheep and goats, along with milk and beef cattle, notably in the Chu valley and the Ysyk-Köl littoral. Horses serve as draft animals as well as a source of meat; the Kyrgyz like to drink koumiss, fermented mare's milk, and use it in courses of treatment at health resorts.

      Tobacco is cultivated in the Naukat Valley in the south and also in the Talas Valley of the north. Horticulture and viticulture are developed in the Chu River valley and the Fergana area, with the mulberry trees of the latter supporting the raising of silkworms.

      The chief industries are the manufacture of machinery and electronic components, but food processing and light industries are also important and utilize local agricultural materials such as meat, fruit, and vegetables. Wool is the most exportable product, and mills weave cotton and silk fabrics, worsted cloth, and knitted garments. Leather goods are also produced.

      Before 1924 the only railways in Kyrgyzstan were two narrow-gauge lines leading from the border areas to the coal deposits of Kok-Yangak and Sülüktü. The construction of a line from Bishkek through the Chu valley and over the border to Lūgovoe in Kazakhstan joined the north of the republic to the Turkistan-Siberian main railway line and, through it, to southern Kazakhstan and the entire railway network of the U.S.S.R. In 1948 a link extended the line up the valley from Bishkek (then called Frunze) to Ysyk-Köl (then called Rybachye) at the western tip of Lake Ysyk-Köl. Southern lines reached the coal mines at Tash-Kömür and Kyzyl-Kyya.

      Highways, nevertheless, have been developed as the basic answer to the topographic problems confronting land transportation. One main route climbs from Bishkek to Ysyk-Köl (with extensions along the north and south shores of Lake Ysyk-Köl), then swings south across difficult central terrain to Naryn and proceeds through the high Torugart Pass across the frontier with China and down to the city of Kashgar in China. The other major artery, the “route beyond the clouds,” from Bishkek to Osh, crosses the Kyrgyz-Alatau crest through a 10,500-foot tunnel. An important southern link is provided by the road joining Osh, via the Alay Pass, to the Pamir region of Tajikistan. An offshoot runs eastward through Irkeshtam to Kashgar.

Administration and social conditions

      Kyrgyzstan's 1993 constitution, which replaced the Soviet-era constitution that had been in effect since 1978, recognizes numerous rights and freedoms for citizens. It establishes legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government but gives the president, who is the head of state, the ability to implement important policies or constitutional amendments through a national referendum.

      The new constitution originally created a unicameral parliament, but in 1994 voters approved a bicameral legislature, with a lower chamber (the Legislative Assembly) consisting of 35 nationally elected deputies and an upper chamber (the Assembly of People's Representatives) consisting of 70 regionally elected, part-time members. The president, elected directly for a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms, appoints the prime minister, the cabinet, and members of the high courts, subject to approval by the parliament. The president also appoints the administrators of Kyrgyzstan's six oblasti (provinces). The judicial branch includes local courts and three high courts: the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Economic Court, for commercial cases.

      During the Soviet period, the Communist Party of Kirgiziya (CPK), a branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), determined the makeup of the government and dominated the political process. The CPK transformed itself into the People's Democratic Party during the Soviet Union's collapse and declined in influence after Kyrgyzstan, in contested elections in 1989, had gained its first democratically elected president, Askar Akayev, a former university professor and computer scientist. Informal political groups such as Ashar (“Solidarity”) have since helped to open up the political process further.

      Kyrgyzstan's schools and colleges have undergone a drastic reorganization since emerging from the ideological control of the Communist Party. The republic made Kyrgyz (Kyrgyz language) the official state language in 1989, and since that time Kyrgyz has begun to play a primary role in education; whole generations of students previously received much of their training entirely in Russian (Russian language), which was obligatory. As a consequence, the Kyrgyz language lacked a thoroughly modern technical vocabulary. Another obstacle to research and scholarship is the general lack of competence in European languages among educated Kyrgyz. After independence Kyrgyzstan's contacts with the outside world increased dramatically, with Kyrgyz students, scholars, and officials traveling to Middle Eastern and Western countries for specialized and technical training. The Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences and Kyrgyz State University, both in Bishkek, are the major institutions of higher education.

Health and welfare
      Kyrgyzstan, along with the other Central Asian republics, suffers from one of the highest rates of infant morbidity and mortality among the world's developed countries. Medical care is substandard; Kyrgyzstan's standard of living and educational and economic levels are among the lowest of the former Soviet republics.

Cultural life
      Starting in the 1920s and '30s, several Kyrgyz-language newspapers appeared regularly in the republic, but they were subject to Soviet censorship. With the collapse of Moscow's control over the press, the editorial policies of the republic's publications have changed noticeably, and new press outlets have appeared, though press freedom has occasionally been curtailed. Kyrgyzstan has a television network, extensive radio broadcasting, cinemas, and theatres. Kyrgyz cultural life has been greatly influenced by the rich oral literary tradition (including epic cycles and lyric poetry) of the region, by the development of a modern literary language, and by the change from the Arabic alphabet to Roman and finally to Cyrillic (with diacritical markings added) beginning in 1940. The Kyrgyz planned a return to the Roman alphabet in the 1990s, in concert with the other Turkic-speaking countries of Central Asia. Kyrgyz folk singers still recite the lengthy verse epic Manas and other heroic and lyric poetry, often to the accompaniment of the three-stringed komuz, which is plucked like a lute.

      During the Soviet period Kyrgyz poets strove to adjust their writings to communist ideology and the tenets of Socialist Realism. But the character of Kyrgyz cultural life has undergone considerable change in the wake of the dissolution of the Communist Party and the cessation of its tight ideological controls.

      The Kyrgyz take pride in the renown of Chingiz Aytmatov (Aytmatov, Chingiz), a novelist and storywriter who wrote mainly in Russian but also in Kyrgyz. His Povesti gor i stepey (1963; Tales of Mountains and Steppes) and the more recent I dol'she veka dlit'sia den' (1980; The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years) and Plakha (1986; The Place of the Skull) have received wide circulation in Russian and in English translations. Aytmatov's play Voskhozhdenie na Fudziiamu (1973; The Ascent of Mt. Fuji), written with Kazak playwright Kaltay Muhamedjanov, discusses rather openly the moral compromises made under the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. This play created a sensation when it was first staged in Moscow in 1973 and later in English-language productions abroad.

      State-sponsored folk dance troupes, a theatre of opera and ballet, and the Kyrgyzstan Philharmonic Orchestra perform in concert halls and theatre buildings erected during the Soviet period. The Museum of History and the Arts is located in Bishkek.

Edward Allworth

      Kyrgyz history can be traced at least to the 1st century BC. The probable abodes of the early Kyrgyz were in the upper Yenisey River valley of central Siberia, and the Tashtyk culture (1st century BC–5th century AD), an amalgam of Asiatic and European peoples, may have been theirs. Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the Kyrgyz as red-haired with fair complexion and green (blue) eyes. They were viewed as a forest-dwelling “northern” people who used skis and practiced shamanism. In the mid-9th century the Kyrgyz, by then certainly Turkic-speaking, overthrew the Uighur empire in Mongolia but did not settle there; they essentially remained a people of the forest. According to the Persian geography Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam (982), the Kyrgyz lived at the edge of the “Uninhabited Lands of the North”; the 11th-century grammarian Maḥmūd al-Kāshgharī mentions that their language was Turkic. Because of their secluded habitats, the Kyrgyz remained outside the mainstream of Inner Asian history, a fact that allowed them to survive the Mongol (Yuan dynasty) deluge that completely altered the Inner Asian political landscape. In 1207 the Kyrgyz surrendered to Genghis Khan's son Jöchi. By so doing, they not only escaped destruction but also remained beyond the immediate reach of Islam. In the late 16th century shamanism was still flourishing among them.

      By the 16th–17th century most of the remaining Kyrgyz tribes lived in the Tien Shan range as mountain nomads (nomadism), divided into two wings (left and right), though the advancing Russians still encountered remnants of the Yenisey branch of the Kyrgyz. In 1703, under pressure from the Dzungars (Dzungar) (a tribe of western Mongols), the Yenisey Kyrgyz moved to the Semirechye, but hostilities between the two peoples continued until China's defeat of the Dzungar leader Amursana in 1757. In the mid-18th century, nominally at least, the Kyrgyz became part of the Qing (Manchu) empire of China. Between 1825 and 1830 they were conquered by Muhammad ʿAli, the khan of Kokand; Bishkek (Pishpek), the future capital city of the Kyrgyz, was built by that khanate. Through these contacts, Islam was gradually adopted by the more-southern Kyrgyz, although it has remained merely a veneer on the national culture.

      Between 1835 and 1858 two Tien Shan Kyrgyz tribes, the Sarybagysh and the Bugu, engaged in a fratricidal war in which both sides alternately sought and obtained Kokandian or Russian help. In 1855 the Bugu voluntarily submitted to the Russians, and it was at their request that the Russians built the fort of Aksu in 1863.

      The Kyrgyz tribes thus entered the modern era divided, harassed by Russians and Kokandians alike. The periodic revolts of the southern Kyrgyz against the Kokand khanate in the mid-19th century received no Russian support. But Russian immigration into Kyrgyz territories, rather than warfare, posed the real threat to Kyrgyz existence. Poor Russian peasants escaping from servitude and famine appropriated the winter pasturelands of the Kyrgyz, forcing them to move into the mountains. The Russian colonists did teach the Kyrgyz some new agricultural techniques, but on the whole their impact was nothing short of disastrous. In 1916 Kyrgyz discontent erupted in a serious revolt, which was met with brutal and prolonged repression that continued even after the fall of Russia's tsarist regime.

      Under Soviet rule the Kyrgyz found it difficult to assert themselves as a separate national entity. Confusion concerning their very name persists in the West because, under the tsars, the Kyrgyz were wrongly labeled Kara-Kirgiz in order to distinguish them from the Kazaks (Kazakh), whom the Russians called Kirgiz to distinguish them from the Cossacks (Cossack) (Russian: Kazaky). In 1924 an autonomous Kirgiz oblast (province) was created within the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. In 1926 its status was transformed into that of an autonomous republic, and in 1936 a full union republic was created, the Kirgiz Soviet Socialist Republic, often called Kirgiziya.

      In the second half of the 20th century, economic progress and general modernization did not succeed in eradicating tensions between Russians and Kyrgyz. Among the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), Kyrgyzstan was perhaps the most eager to obtain full independence. After more than 1,000 years of disunity, statelessness, and foreign subjection, Kyrgyzstan joined the world's independent countries on August 31, 1991.

Denis Sinor
      Under President Askar Akayev, Kyrgyzstan developed all the institutions of a modern democracy, including an open press, an independent judiciary, and a freely elected parliament. Yet the new country experienced numerous challenges. Kyrgyzstan saw a sharp economic decline beginning in the mid-1990s, in part because of a shortage of raw materials and the emigration of many Russian and German professionals. Moreover, Akayev's government was accused of widespread corruption, and the president was denounced for abusing his power. The press, though ostensibly free, was subject to official intimidation and, from 1995, to a series of state regulations. The country's main external threat was the infiltration of large numbers of Islamist guerrillas moving between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. In 2001 the government granted U.S. and allied forces the right to use a Kyrgyz air base to conduct operations against Muslim militants in Afghanistan. A Russian air base was established in Kyrgyzstan in 2003 to support a Commonwealth of Independent States rapid reaction force intended to combat Muslim guerrillas. Flawed parliamentary elections in 2005 and a widespread perception of government corruption led to mass demonstrations in March of that year. These protests, quite surprisingly, led to the sudden and rapid collapse of the Akayev government. The president fled the country on March 24 and resigned several days later. In July elections, which were largely deemed free and fair by Western observers, Kurmanbek Bakiyev was chosen president.

 The period following Bakiyev's election was marked by political instability as the new president worked to assert his authority. Although Bakiyev employed a number of authoritarian practices to consolidate his power—including undermining the opposition and promoting associates and relatives to important posts—he neither achieved full authority nor moved Kyrgyz politics firmly into authoritarianism. Bakiyev faced emerging criticism on a number of key issues, however, including a perceived increase in corruption, which had been a central factor leading to the demonstrations against the government he had been elected to replace. In addition, the parliament installed under Akayev by the flawed elections of 2005 remained a locus of political instability, and Bakiyev's failure to hold new parliamentary elections was widely criticized.

      In October 2007 a referendum proposing a new code of electoral law and a series of significant constitutional changes was overwhelmingly approved in an election criticized by observers for its failure to meet international standards. The referendum increased the number of seats in parliament and provided for their allotment on the basis of party lists rather than individual candidacy; this was widely seen as a move by Bakiyev to bolster his newly formed Ak Zhol party and further undermine the opposition. The referendum also granted the president the right to dissolve the government at will. Bakiyev accordingly did so immediately following the announcement of the referendum results and called for early elections, which were held in December. Ak Zhol won the majority of the seats, controlling nearly four-fifths of the newly expanded Kyrgyz parliament. Although Bakiyev lauded the election proceedings, both local and international observers expressed concern about reports of widespread violations, including purchased votes and the elimination of opposition candidates from the election.


Additional Reading

A travel guide that provides a general overview of the region is Bradley Mayhew, Simon Richmond, and Richard Plunkett, Central Asia, 2nd ed. (2000), a Lonely Planet guide. Accounts from travelers to Central Asian countries include Philip Glazebrook, Journey to Khiva (1992); Georgie Anne Geyer, Waiting for Winter to End: An Extraordinary Journey Through Soviet Central Asia (1994); Colin Thubron, The Lost Heart of Asia (1994); and Charles Undeland and Nicholas Platt, The Central Asian Republics: Fragments of Empire, Magnets of Wealth (1994). Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile: Kyrgyz Republic (annual), contains accurate, up-to-date information on the economy, resources, and industry.

Complete histories of the Kyrgyz in western languages are elusive. A guide to earlier Soviet publications is V.P. Sherstobitov, K.K. Orozaliev, and D.F. Vinnik, Soviet Historiography of Kirghizia (1970). On early Kyrgyz history there is a brief survey by Denis Sinor, “The Uighurs in Mongolia and the Kyrgyz,” in the UNESCO publication History of Civilization of Central Asia, vol. 4, part 1, The Age of Achievement, ed. by M.S. Asimov and C.E. Bosworth (1998), pp. 191–200. Works dealing with the history of Central Asia as a whole invariably incorporate material on Kyrgyz history. René Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia (1970; originally published in French, 1939), although dated, is still the most comprehensive and basically sound survey of the region in English. Geoffrey Wheeler, The Modern History of Soviet Central Asia (1964, reprinted 1975), can be consulted with profit. The best short sketch on the region's history is found in Eshan Yarshater (ed.), Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 5, fascicles 2–3 (1990–91), pp. 159–242. Various topics on Central Asia's history and culture are treated on a high scholarly level in The Encyclopaedia of Islam new ed. (1954– ). On later developments the following are of interest: Martha Brill Olcott, Central Asia's New States: Independence, Foreign Policy, and Regional Security (1996); Michael Mandelbaum (ed.), Central Asia and the World: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan (1994); Hafeez Malik (ed.), Central Asia: Its Strategic Importance and Future Prospects (1994); and Robert A. Lewis (ed.), Geographic Perspectives on Soviet Central Asia (1992).Edward Allworth Denis Sinor Ed.

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