Thursday, January 5, 2012


A Central Asian state bordering China, Kyrgyzstan became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

It has some oil and gas and a developing gold mining sector, but relies on imports for most of its energy needs. Resentment at widespread poverty and ethnic divisions between north and south occasionally spill over into violence, and the country's first two post-Soviet presidents were swept from power by popular discontent.

In 2005, a popular revolt sparked by allegations of government interference in parliamentary elections and fuelled by poverty and corruption swept President Askar Akayev - who had led the country since independence - from power.

Kyrgyzstan's democratic credentials were regarded as relatively strong in the immediate post-Soviet era, but this reputation was lost when corruption and nepotism took hold during President Akayev's years in office. Parliamentary and presidential elections were flawed, opposition figures faced harassment and imprisonment, and opposition newspapers were closed.

His successor after the 2005 revolt, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, failed to restore full confidence in state institutions at home or abroad. His time in office was marred by political instability and an almost constant struggle with parliament over the constitutional balance of power.

Elections held under Mr Bakiyev were criticised as being undemocratic, and human rights groups expressed concern over the curtailing of civil liberties and attacks on the media.

Civil tensions again came to a head in April 2010, when Mr Bakiyev himself was toppled and an interim government was set up under the leadership of former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva.

The Kyrgyz make up nearly 70% of the population, with Uzbeks accounting for about 15% and concentrated in the Ferghana Valley in the south. Russians have a significant presence in the north and in the capital, Bishkek.

There is tension between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the south over land and housing, and relations with Uzbekistan were strained following the flight of refugees into Kyrgyzstan after clashes in the Uzbek city Andijan in 2005.

There have been several serious outbreaks of Kyrgyz-Uzbek interethnic violence in the southern city of Osh, notably in 1990 - when hundreds were killed - and again in June 2010 following the overthrow of Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Osh had been a Bakiyev stronghold.

Most of the population of Kyrgyzstan is nominally Muslim, and there has been a growing interest in Islam among those seeking a new ethnic or national identity.

The government is worried about inroads by jihadist groups like Hizb-ut Tahrir, and there have been periodic outbreaks of fighting in the south.

Kyrgyzstan also features in the US-Russian rivalry for control of Central Asia, as both powers have military air bases in the country.

The US established an air base at the Manas international airport near Bishkek in late 2001 to support military operations in Afghanistan. President Bakiyev threatened to close it in October 2008 after agreeing to a Russian loan. He reversed the decision when the US agreed to more than triple its annual rent for the base.

Weeks later Kyrgyzstan tentatively agreed to allow Russia to open a second military base on its territory, apparently expanding Moscow's military reach to balance the US presence.

    * Full name: Kyrgyz Republic
    * Population: 5.5 million (UN, 2010)
    * Capital: Bishkek
    * Area: 199,900 sq km (77,182 sq miles)
    * Major languages: Kyrgyz, Russian
    * Major religions: Islam, Christianity
    * Life expectancy: 64 years (men), 72 years (women) (UN)
    * Monetary unit: 1 som = 100 tyiyns
    * Main exports: Fruit, vegetables, gold, tobacco
    * GNI per capita: US $880 (World Bank, 2010)
    * Internet domain: .kg
    * International dialling code: +996

President: Almazbek Atambayev
Almazbek Atambayev, a businessman and former prime minister, won more than 60% of votes in the October 2011 presidential election, trouncing his nationalist rivals.

His inauguration in December marked the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in Kyrgyzstan's post-Communist history.

At his swearing-in, he declared a "new page" in Kyrgyz history and urged unity among political camps. Without stability, he said, Kyrgyzstan had no future.

Mr Atambayev wants to guide Kyrgyzstan towards a Russia-dominated Customs Union zone, and has spoken of Kyrgyzstan's "common future" with its neighbours and Russia.

He said after his election that the US air base at Manas - a logistics hub for the Afghan conflict - should be shut down when its lease expires in 2014.

Mr Atambayev's predecessor, Roza Otunbayeva, led an interim government which was formed after ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in a popular uprising in April 2010.

She presided over a tumultuous period, which included deadly clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority ethnic Uzbek in the south. But she pursued constitutional reforms which made parliament the main decision-making body, and earned international praise for agreeing to relinquish power.

Mr Atambayev, who was deputy head of the interim government, became prime minister in December 2010 when his Social Democratic Party formed a coalition following the first parliamentary elections under the revised constitution.

He served briefly as prime minister under Mr Bakiyev in 2007, but soon fell out with the former leader.

Almazbek Atambayev was 55 when he became president. He made his fortune in the 1990s after setting up a publishing business. His support base is in the Russian-leaning north of Kyrgyzstan.

From : BBC News