Kyrgyzstan Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Kyrgyzstan is a country located in Central Asia. With the capital city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan has a population of 6,524,206 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. 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.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Kyrgyzstan.

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 data.

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 been implemented.

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 seats.

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 Russia.

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 disappointment”.

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 opposition.

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 southern Kyrgyzstan.

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 demanded.

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 the minority.

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 of Bakijev.

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).

Kyrgyzstan Modern History