Kyrgyzstan was a sub-republic of the Soviet
Union 1922–1991. During most of that period, Kyrgyz
culture and lifestyle were suppressed. Only under Soviet
leader Michail Gorbachev in the 1980s did the pressure
ease. Internal ethnic tensions instead came to the
surface, with outbreaks of violence as a result. At
independence, reform-minded Askar Akajev became
president. Intrusion of Islamic guerrillas, ethnic
strife and an increasingly authoritarian rule then
characterized the country. Akajev was deposed in 2005
and his successor Kurmanbek Bakijev was forced to flee
in 2010. Then Kyrgyzstan got a new democratic
constitution and free elections could be held.
Following the death of Soviet leader Josef Stalin in
1953, politics was liberalized in the non-Russian
sub-republics. In Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz language was
reintroduced as a compulsory school subject in 1958. But
soon the official attitude towards national culture and
religion again hardened.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Kyrgyzstan. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
With President Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of
increased openness and economic market reforms in the
latter half of the 1980s, the national feeling of the
Kyrgyz people arose, demanding self-determination. It
was about increased autonomy within the framework of the
Soviet Union - no independence movement like those in
the Baltic or Caucasus occurred.
At the same time, tensions grew between different
ethnic groups in Kyrgyzstan and in 1990 hundreds of
deaths were demanded in ethnic violence. This
contributed to the dismissal of the Communist Party's
first secretary, Absamat Masaljev.
In the fall of 1990, groups in opposition to the
Communist Party elected physicist Askar Akajev as
chairman of Kyrgyzstan's highest Soviet - in effect, the
presidential office. He advocated economic and
democratic reforms, was perceived as a modern leader of
the Western cut and quickly became popular.
Independence and market reforms
In connection with the coup attempt against Gorbachev
in Moscow in August 1991, Kyrgyz communists, with the
help of the KGB security police, tried to regain power.
Instead, when the coup failed, the Communist Party was
banned, and the independent Republic of Kyrgyzstan was
proclaimed that year. In the presidential election held
in October, Akajev was the sole candidate and received
95 percent of the vote.
President Akaiev initiated radical market economy
reforms with the support of the IMF and the World Bank.
He took an open attitude towards political opponents and
allowed the media to act freely. Akajev ruled as much as
possible with the help of referendums. In this way he
made sure to increase the power of the presidential
office. In the 1995 presidential election, Akajev
outperformed his opponents.
In the fall of 1999, Kyrgyzstan was shaken by a
security policy crisis in the Osh region on the border
with Uzbekistan. Hundreds of armed Islamists from the
Uzbek Islamic Movement (IMU) infiltrated the area, took
hostages and demanded that prisoners in Uzbekistan be
released. Subsequent fighting between Islamists and the
Kyrgyz army demanded many casualties. After that,
Kyrgyzstan began joint military exercises together with
neighboring countries (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
The city of Osj is on the outskirts of the densely
populated Fergana Valley, which is an ethnically and
politically charged area where unemployment and social
unrest create the breeding ground for radical Islamism.
The prohibited Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir received
growing support from the late 1990s. The regime worked
hard towards the supporters of the movement, but the
economic downturn, growing social divisions and
widespread corruption led to the loss of popularity of
the Akajev regime in the area.
Struggles in the Fergana Valley
In the fall of 2000, armed Islamists re-entered
Kyrgyzstan via Tajikistan from bases and training camps
in Afghanistan. The fighting between the rebels and the
government army was fiercer than the year before, with
over 150 casualties as a result, according to official
Akajev and his party Forward Kyrgyzstan won both the
2000 presidential and parliamentary elections, but
according to the opposition and foreign election
observers there were cheats. The large opposition party,
Dignity, was not allowed to stand. The party leader, the
former Vice President and Minister Feliks Kulov, were
arrested and charged with corruption. The arrest was in
fact politically motivated. Kulov was sentenced in 2001
to seven years in prison. Kyrgyzstan, which had long
been considered the most democratic country in Central
Asia, was increasingly developing in an authoritarian
direction, and the clashes intensified between President
Akajev and the opposition.
Following the terrorist attacks in the United States
on September 11, 2001, President Akajev's position in
the outside world was strengthened, not least through an
approach to the United States (see Foreign Policy and
Defense). In 2002, a series of explosive attacks
demanded several deaths in, among others, Bishkek and
Osh. The deed was officially attributed to the IMU
guerrilla, which was believed to have ties to the
al-Qaeda terror network.
The same year, Dignity leader Kulov's prison sentence
was extended to ten years by a military court. When the
opposition politician Azimbek Beknazarov was also
arrested, riots erupted, and the police killed several
protesters. The unrest led Akajev to dismiss Prime
Minister Kurmanbek Bakijev and replace him with the
ethnic Russian Nikolaj Tanaev. When Parliament then gave
impunity to the guilty police, new protests followed,
demanding Akajev's departure.
Tulip Revolution - Bakijev becomes President
By a referendum in 2003, Akajev received support to
remain in the presidential office. However, the Rose
Revolution in Georgia that same year strengthened the
Kyrgyz opposition. Its most important forces in the 2005
parliamentary elections were the Kyrgyz People's
Congress, led by the imprisoned Feliks Kulov, as well as
the People's Movement in Kyrgyzstan, with Kurmanbek
Bakijev in the lead. Several opposition politicians were
prevented from participating in the elections, and a
number of media were shut down by the regime. According
to the election authority, Akajev's party Forward
Kyrgyzstan won big. Among the elected members were
Akajev's son and daughter.
The opposition objected to widespread electoral
fraud, which was confirmed by European election
observers. Awesome demonstrations erupted in southern
Kyrgyzstan. During the Easter weekend of 2005, the
protests spread to Bishkek, and Akajev was forced to
flee the country. The Supreme Court annulled the
parliamentary election because of cheating, but
according to the election authority, the election result
was largely valid.
Parliament elected a temporary government with
Bakijev as prime minister and president, the exempt
Kulov as security officer and Roza Otunbajeva as foreign
minister. Ömürbek Tekebajev was elected President of
Parliament. Thus, the so-called tulip revolution had
In July 2005, new elections were held for the
presidential post, and Bakijev won with 89 percent of
the vote. According to observers, the election was
largely fair. Bakijev had already settled with his main
competitor, Kulov, who refrained from running for office
in exchange for becoming prime minister.
The Russian-speaking Kulov came from the north and
Bakijev from the south, and they were basically
political rivals. Kulov sought to increase the power of
parliament and government at the expense of the
presidential office. In addition, Kulov went on the
offensive against organized crime, giving him many
enemies. Three MPs with alleged ties to the mafia were
murdered, triggering demonstrations demanding Bakijev's
and Kulov's departure.
Protests and government crises
In 2006, the opposition organized itself and demanded
parliamentary rule as well as the fight against
corruption and organized crime. The regime seemed
powerless in the face of growing discontent and
extensive demonstrations. Instead, it struck militarily
against suspected Islamist rebels in the Fergana Valley.
An imam of Uzbek origin, with many audience members from
both sides of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, was killed at the
time of the attack. The death of the popular imam led to
an escalation of the conflict between the Uzbek and
Kyrgyz in the area.
After a series of government crises, Social
Democratic opposition leader Almazbek Atambayev was
appointed new prime minister in the spring of 2007. The
opposition planned protests demanding Bakijev's
resignation, but Atambayev did not support the demand.
In December 2007, a new election was held in
Parliament, and according to the Election Commission,
President Bakijev's party Right Way got 47 percent of
the vote. The opposition party Fosterlandet got 8
percent, while the Social Democrats and Communist Party
just passed the 5 percent blockade to parliament.
However, the host country did not come to Parliament,
as, according to the electoral authority, it did not
meet the requirement of at least 0.5 percent support in
all the regions of the country (see Political system).
The motherland threatened with hunger strikes and
demonstrations. All parties accused each other of
electoral fraud. A member of the electoral authority
said the election had been settled in advance.
Igor Tjudinov from the Right Road was appointed prime
minister and was able to rely on 71 of Parliament's 90
Bakijev strengthens its power
In 2008 and 2009, restrictions were implemented in
the democratic system. The right of expression in
Parliament was limited to a smaller group of members and
a new law against terrorism was criticized for violating
religious freedom. In the spring of 2009, one of the
president's critics was killed in a mysterious car
accident along with a journalist, and an opposition
leader was arrested accused of murder. In the same year,
three regime-critical journalists were killed. One of
them had reported corruption within the police force,
another had collaborated with the Fatherland.
The opposition accused the regime of political
terror. Regimental-critical protests were held in
Bishkek and several other cities. At the same time, the
country's economy deteriorated in the context of the
global financial crisis. Many Kyrgyz guest workers were
forced to return home from growing unemployment in
In the July 2009 presidential election, Bakijev won
by 76 percent of the vote, while his challenger Almazbek
Atambayev was said to have received just over 8 percent.
The opposition claimed that electoral fraud occurred and
European election monitors called the election "a
In October of that year, Prime Minister Tjudinov and
his government were forced to resign since Bakijev had
out-maneuvered the government by taking direct control
of the Foreign Ministry and the Security Service. He had
also announced major cuts in the government's
administration. Bakijev referred to security threats,
corruption and financial problems. For the new prime
minister, the president appointed one of his confidants,
Danijar Usenov, known for his tough stance on the
Bakijev is forced to flee
After a period of increased contradictions and
tougher repression from the regime, street protests
broke out in Bishkek in April 2010. When the regime
struck back with force, the situation deteriorated and
Bakijev was forced to flee to his home districts in
The opposition, led by former Foreign Minister Roza
Otunbajeva, dissolved parliament, formed a new
government, promised a new constitution and announced
presidential elections until October 2011. Otunbajeva
became acting president and Bakijev went into exile.
But the change of power triggered new unrest. In the
Bishkek area, Kyrgyz took violence over land from ethnic
Russians and Turkish people Mescheter. In southern
Kyrgyzstan, where Bakijev still had some support,
government buildings were taken in by the president's
supporters, gunfire erupted and several casualties were
In the Fergana Valley, violence again broke out
between Kyrgyz and the Uzbek (see Population and
language). A state of emergency and curfew could not
prevent rioting, looting, arson and murder. Over 400
people were killed (the majority of uz cups), thousands
injured and hundreds of thousands fled from their homes
in and around Osh and Jalalabad.
Kyrgyz accused the uz cup of triggering the violence,
but over time it became increasingly an attempt at
ethnic cleansing on the part of Kyrgyz. Nearly 100,000
uz cups fled across the border to Uzbekistan.
Bakijev and his supporters, along with security
forces and criminal forces, were accused of being behind
the violence. Uzbek demands for self-government led
Kyrgyz authorities to take over Uzbek-speaking media and
arrest ethnic Uzbek journalists who reported abuse of
New constitution and parliamentary elections
The curfew in the Fergana Valley was lifted before a
referendum in June 2010, in which over 90 percent of
participants voted in favor of a draft new constitution
that would make Kyrgyzstan a parliamentary democracy
(see Political system).
Despite the previous violence, parliamentary
elections could be held under peaceful conditions in
October of that year. Five parties passed the five per
cent block to the legislative assembly. The biggest was
the Fatherland, which wanted to stop democratization.
The party was mainly supported by Kyrgyz people in the
south who wanted to limit the Uzbek rights. Second
largest was Kyrgyzstan's Social Democratic Party,
followed by Dignity, the Republican Party and the
Fatherland. These four parties had all advocated a new
constitution and been positive to democratization.
Russia's influence in Kyrgyzstan became evident when
the leaders of the four largest parties after the
election traveled to Moscow for political talks. When
the leader of the Social Democrats Almazbek Atambayev
was elected as the prime minister (prime minister), he
chose to put the most Western-friendly party, the
Fatherland, outside the coalition. Instead, a government
was formed by the Social Democrats, the Republican Party
and the Bakijev-friendly Fatherland.
Bakijev was sentenced in February 2013 in his absence
to 24 years in prison for abuse of power during his term
of office 2005-2010. Just over a year later, he received
another 25 years in prison for attempted murder. In July
2014, a life sentence for the death of nearly 100
protesters was added in 2010. Twenty-five other people
were sentenced to prison sentences at the same time.
Among them were several relatives and close associates
Atambayev becomes president
In the October 2011 presidential election, Social
Democrats leader Atambayev, who until then had been
prime minister. He now left party politics because,
according to the constitution, the head of state must be
politically unbound. Atambayev belonged to the
Russian-friendly elite of Bishkek in the north. Among
other things, he worked to close the US airbase in
Manas, which happened in the summer of 2014 (see Foreign
Policy and Defense).