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Area ( 


ethnic groups
Kyrgyz 52.4%
Russians 21.5%
Uzbeks 12.9%


Kyrgyz Som 

Askar Akayev


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, inter-ethnic relations, and terrorism. 

Update No: 270 - (26/06/03)

Under Uighur fear
The Kyrgyz are in a quandary. They are faced with Uighur separatists from China's Xinjiang province. The Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) has been held accountable for numerous bombings in Xinjiang. The main targets tend to be cinemas, transport links and hotels, as well as department stores.
The ETIM has limited operations in Kyrgyzstan, but is the main public menace. Any government has to take them seriously or lose face with the public.
The Kyrgyz and the Chinese have an especial fear of the Uighurs. The Uighurs are the Kurds, as it were, of Central Asia, totally ignored or maltreated for millennia. They inhabit an odd corner of Central Asia, covering parts of China, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. That is the rub.
The Chinese and the Kyrgyz are united against Uighur 'terrorists,' that is against those striving for a better life for the Uighurs against their Chinese oppressors. The Kyrgyz, among whom the Uighurs are in an extreme minority, under 1% of the population, are against the Uighurs. That is one of the government's strongest causes.

IMU infiltration of borders
Another cause is combating the incursion of Islamicist zealots into the southern province of Osh. The militants belong to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). There have been 36 such violations this year.
Naturally, the Kyrgyz are seeking help from abroad to combat the intruders. One base in the country, Manas near Bishkek, is occupied by the US with a full complement of personnel of 3,000. It is mainly involved in surveillance activity, both in Afghanistan and China. IMU operate from Afghanistan.
Another base, this time with the Russians in charge, is to be opened at the Kant airport. Su-25 and Su-27 fighter aircraft will be deployed there, reinforcing the collective rapid deployment in Central Asia.
A big programme of tighter border control is under way, financed by the US and the EU. It is in everyone's interest in the region to keep IMU at bay excepting of course IMU itself and its small band of supporters. The Kyrgyz, as a traditionally nomadic people, are not prone to fundamentalism. Indeed after seventy years of communism, Kyrgyzstan is a largely secular society.

The premature Westerner
In the early 1990s Kyrgyzstan was in Western good books. The president, Askar Akayev, is the only Central Asian leader who was not an earlier communist autocrat. He was a mathematics professor, who was obligatorily in the communist party from 1981 to 1991, when he resigned.
A known liberal he was elected as executive president in October 1990, as a compromise candidate, after the communist leader (for whom the post had been designated) failed to win a majority.
Margaret Thatcher espoused him as one of her own, 'one of us.' From that moment he became a favourite of the international financial institutions. But that has led to a colossal debt - overhang. The Western banks perhaps should have read Kipling: "The East is East. The West is West. Never the twain shall meet." But perhaps not; that is exactly their destiny, to twine the East and the West. They could not have a better job on their hands than Kyrgyzstan.

President Akayev to retire
He is now to retire. This is the first instance of a voluntary retirement among the Central Asian leaders (excepting one occasion in Tajikistan when a civil war was raging). Akayev is the most civilised of the leaders of the region.
Akayev lived for 17 years in Leningrad, as St Petersburg then it was. It is understandable if he finds Bishkek a provincial backwater. He must be fed up with being a big fish in a small pond, one with only too many headaches.
Kyrgyzstan vies with Tajikistan for the unenviable role of being the poorest FSU republic. Its one asset the Kumtor gold mine, is responsible for nearly 10% of GDP, but was playing up last year, reducing GDP growth to 1.9%. Problems abound.

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Kyrgyz foreign debt increases by over 3 per cent in 2002 

Kyrgyzstan's foreign debt increased by US$53m last year, reaching US$1,731m, the country's National Bank has said. The country's foreign debt was equal to 95.1 per cent of GDP at the beginning of the year. Most of the foreign loans, i.e. 88.6 per cent, were received under state guarantees, Kyrgyz-Press International News Agency has reported. 
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as Japan and Russia, remain the country's major creditors. 
Understanding that almost US$156m will not be repaid in the near future, Russia is setting up joint ventures in Kyrgyzstan quickly, first of all, in the defence complex. 
The only quality commodity in the country, electricity, will also be sold. In accordance with an agreement signed previously, Kyrgyzstan will supply electricity to the Siberian Federal District. To increase power generation in the country, the Russians have voiced their willingness to take part in joint projects to build new electric power stations, in which Kazakstan and China will also join. 

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Kyrgyz premier asks for US help to prevent natural disasters 

During a 3rd June meeting in Bishkek with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev asked for US financial assistance for a programme designed to help avert natural disasters such as the landslides and avalanches that have plagued Kyrgyzstan in recent months, reported. 
Tanaev also asked Pascoe to ensure that Kyrgyzstan is included in the economic revival programme for Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz prime minister said that although his country was not participating in the tenders for the programme, it could produce goods for the programme and deliver them to Afghanistan. Tanaev also noted that the redeployment of part of the international anti-terrorism coalition from Bishkek's Manas airport to a site further from the capital will benefit Kyrgyzstan by providing jobs. He said that the United States is investing US$37m in the redeployment project. Pascoe in turn said that Kyrgyzstan will achieve prosperity only when it meets International Monetary Fund requirements, carries out reforms, and attacks the corruption that is undermining the entire economy. 

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Kyrgyz foreign minister asks for role in Iraq 

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov, in the United States on a working visit, has asked for U.S. help in ensuring that Kyrgyzstan participates in the reconstruction of Iraq, reported on 10th June. 
Aitmatov's request was made during talks with Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Aitmatov was reported to have said that Kyrgyzstan has specialists who could play a useful role in Iraq. According to, Aitmatov received a promise that his request will be considered. Aitmatov also expressed concern about the worsening of the security situation in Afghanistan and about indications that extremist groups are becoming more active in the Central Asian region. 

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