Kyrgyzstan profile

Map of Kyrgyzstan

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.

At a glance

Kyrgyz hunter
  • Politics: First two post-Soviet presidents, Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, were swept from power by popular uprisings. Ethnic tensions have led to violence
  • Economics: Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries of the former Soviet Union
  • International: Kyrgyzstan hosts Russian and US military airbases

Country profile compiled by BBC Monitoring

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.

Instability

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.

Ethnic tension

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, and various Kyrgyz leaders have proved adept at playing the country's competing allies off against each other.

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.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in September 2012 to write off Kyrgyzstan's debt to his country, President Atambayev agreed to a 15-year extension to Moscow's lease on the Kant air base, but said that the lease on the US military base at Manas would not be renewed when it expires in 2014.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Asia stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.