Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 303 - (27/03/06)
No more "colour revolutions" in Central Asia -
No more "colour revolutions" will hit Central Asia in the near future,
the former president of Kyrgyzstan said on March 22nd, a year after he was
driven from his homeland after being toppled in an uprising, reported RIA
Novosti the same day.
Askar Akayev, who was deposed in what became known as the "tulip
revolution" in March, 2005, said the West's desire to encourage the
democratic process in the former Soviet Union and to change the old generation
of presidents with new politicians had been the main cause of a series of
political upheavals in the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose union of
A little more than a year ago, Akayev was forced to flee to Russia, new
pro-Western authorities had swept to power on the back of popular uprisings
after disputed presidential elections in the former Soviet republics of both
Georgia and Ukraine in what became known as the "rose" and
"orange" revolutions, respectively.
The former leader said Kyrgyzstan was the only Central Asian country where a
"colour revolution" had occurred because it had a developed civil
society and political freedoms, which allowed a strong opposition to exist,
which is not untrue. "It was the first and, I hope, the last experience of
colour coups," he said.
According to Akayev, the purpose of the uprisings was to weaken integration
processes in the former USSR and to undermine the role of Russia, which has
traditionally had extensive interests in the area.
Although he said he hoped to return to his homeland, Akayev, who currently lives
in Moscow, said he would only return to Kyrgyzstan if the security of his
family, some of whom face criminal charges, was guaranteed. He added that his
arrival in Kyrgyzstan would be possible as soon as the incumbent authorities
stopped "the anti-Akayev hysteria and persecution."
The ex-leader said the criminal cases against him and his family had no
foundation and were designed to prevent him from returning to Kyrgyzstan, one of
the poorest former Soviet states, and his children from pursuing political
"My wife was setting up education centres for children throughout
Kyrgyzstan and as a result the number of criminal cases that were opened against
her equalled the number of schools for children she managed to open," the
He also said the FBI had been searching for millions allegedly stashed away by
his family at the request of the country's incumbent authorities, but had found
only US$69,000 that had been transferred to a US account for educational
Akayev is not quite as blameless of abuses of power as he makes out. But he may
have been marginally less corrupt than other central Asian rulers, and was by
far the most emollient. Hence why the revolution could happen.
He said a new criminal case had been launched against him, but dismissed it by
saying the move was connected with the failure of the Kyrgyz authorities to
achieve any success in the year since the coup.
Kurmanbek Bakiyev's aide: The president has a lot of advisors
Is this last sideswipe true? Who wields the clout within the highest
echelons of state power? Whose advice do presidents heed?
In a most illuminating interview with the leading political analyst in
Kyrgyzstan, Ferghana.Ru met with Valentin Bogatyrev, Director of the Kyrgyz
Presidential International Institute of Strategic Studies. The interview began
with the banal question on the shape of the so called Kulov-Bakiyev Tandem,
respectively the premier and the president.
Valentin Bogatyrev: The tandem is getting better and better but I do not think
that the term "tandem" applies. I'd rather call it normal relations
between the president and his prime minister. Not the way it was at first when
Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Felix Kulov were equals in an alliance. This tandem or
whatever you choose to call it was formed before the election. It boosted its
participants' image, abated political tension, and convinced the population that
their political masters were a monolithic team.
The relations between them normalized and I do not consider it odd at all.
Paradoxically as it will undoubtedly sound, I'd say that the president and his
prime minister grew closer to each other than they had been before. In the past,
their tandem was something of a necessity. These days, it is a properly
functioning arrangement of working relations. I'd say that it makes their
alliance even steadier than it was, say, last July.
Ferghana.Ru: Kulov said in an interview with Ferghana.Ru last December that
"Bakiyev is trying to do his earnest best." Would you say he has
learned to be the president?
Valentin Bogatyrev: He has solidified his positions indeed. It was truly a
demanding school, you know. Bakiyev was forced to learn whatever had to be
learned despite the powerful resistance put up by all sorts of political forces.
It is only now that he is getting to wield a certain political resource. It is
only now that he began demonstrating his ability to hold the situation in check.
Ferghana.Ru: Shall we call the election of the new chairman of the parliament
Valentin Bogatyrev: I would not discuss it in these terms, you know. Bakiyev was
not fighting Tekebayev in the capacity of parliament chairman. His grievances
were absolutely different. He believed that instead of minding its own business
(i.e. legislation) the parliament was generating political problems. For
example, the parliament interfered in a quarrel between two structures of the
executive branch of the government. The parliament brought up some matters that
should remain the province of law enforcement agencies... What really irked the
president was that when the parliament was discussing this years budget, it
began with itself - autos, apartments, and so on. It enraged the president but
he did not demand Tekebayev's resignation even then. Tekebayev has only himself
to blame for it.
As for the resignation as such, it was a banal show, a political show like the
one involving conflict between the Interior Ministry and National Security
Service over Ismankulov's arrest. Tekebayev would have been the chairman even
now had he not aggravated the situation deliberately. Sure, there had never been
any love lost between Bakiyev and Tekebayev, but it was the latter that went
personal and got the worst of it.
Marat Sultanov, the new chairman, is a man of a different generation. He is a
politician of a new type with Moscow education. He spent years in the national
bank and the finance ministry, the establishments where modern technologies are
used. That's what makes him different. Sultanov thinks in terms of free-market
technologies and does not care for emotions or ideological factors. A pragmatic
as he is, Sultanov will have the parliament doing what it is supposed to be
doing in the first place. Even if his election the chairman may be appraised in
terms of contest, then it was a contest organized by the parliament itself, not
by the president.
As a matter of fact, a lot of lawmakers in this country promote the idea of a
parliamentary republic. That's the widespread idea, you know. Russia tried it
once and it ended in tanks in Moscow streets. Well, the parliament lost in the
battle struggle. Bakiyev did not gain anything. He has only what he has had and
no more. In fact, so far as I know he even intends to delegate some powers to
others. His latest proposals stipulate more independence for the parliament than
it currently enjoys.
Ferghana.Ru: What power factions exist in Kyrgyzstan? Pro-Russian? Pro-American?
Valentin Bogatyrev: There are four factions that I know of.
Faction One includes Askar Akayev's state officials, the men who have been in
their positions since before Akayev's downfall and who fear dismissal or even
imprisonment for that. Azimbek Beknazarov suggests their imprisonment.
Faction Two consists of the men who made their fortunes under Akayev and owe it
to their loyalty or servility. They are not state officials. They are
businessmen and deputies afraid that their wealth and assets may be confiscated
now. There are lots of these men in the parliament, you know.
Faction Three comprises the new officialdom. They were elevated to the positions
of power by the revolution and they want everything under their own control now.
Not that they intend to do away with the first two factions overnight. No, they
want control without any dramatic measures. Kyrgyzstan is a small country where
everybody are either relatives or acquaintances of everybody else. So, these men
are content to take over quietly. This faction mostly consists of the
Southerners probably because they were vastly outnumbered by the Northerners in
the corridors of power of the previous regime. This is probably the only episode
of territorial inequality nowadays. Well, the Southerners want justice restored,
they want positions of power for themselves now. Besides, many revolution
leaders are Southerners too, and the revolution itself began in the south. And
so these men believe that they are entitled to it all now. Practically all men
comprising Bakiyev's inner circle are Southerners.
The last faction comprises radical revolutionaries. They are Beknazarov, Roza
Otumbayeva, and others. These radical democrats are convinced that the
revolution should continue, that the first faction should be imprisoned and the
second deprived of everything it possesses.
That's all in terms of the Kyrgyz establishment. I may only add that all these
faction include pro-Russians and pro-Americans.
In the meantime, all these factions may be viewed as Bakiyev's adversaries.
Whoever fears imprisonment is afraid that the new regime will become so strong
one fine day as to lock them up. Whoever fears that their property may be
confiscated do not want a strong president who may order an investigation into
exactly how they came to possess it all in the first place. The new nomenclature
is sabotaging the regime's promises to arrange a revolution and eradicate
corruption. These people are where they wanted to be and any dramatic changes
nowadays are the last thing they need. As for radical revolutionaries, they are
against the president because he does not keep his promises to imprison, to
sack, to nationalize... That's what I mean when I say that Bakiyev has found
himself in a tight corner. He was compelled to operate all alone, without a
political team to rely on or political resources to draw on.
The president is taking some serious steps nowadays. He says, for example, that
we should put an end to the witch-hunt and fix the outcome of privatization and
legalize capitals. Bakiyev is even enlisting the services of radical
revolutionaries. Baibolov will reorganize law enforcement agencies. Beknazarov
will be in charge of the constitutional reforms. The president is trying to
include the opposition in his team. In fact, I believe that Bakiyev is going to
sack some particularly odious men from his inner circle soon and fill the
vacancies with more adequate people.
Ferghana.Ru: Describing the establishment, you missed a certain faction that is
seen in Russia as powerful indeed. I'm talking of the underworld and men like
Aziz Batukayev, Ryspek Akmatbayev, Nurlan Motuyev...
Valentin Bogatyrev: Like Bakiyev, I'm convinced that seriousness of this
particular factor is way too exaggerated. One constantly hears the deliberately
spread rumours that the president has the underworld's support and so on. I'd
say that the actual state of affairs is absolutely different. Whenever the power
of the state weakens, the underworld always grows stronger. It is only logical.
Besides, the underworld itself was in involved in mob wars in the course of this
period. These episodes with Bajaman Erkinbayev, Surabaldiyev, Akmatbayev - there
were episodes of these mob wars. When the new regime was installed, kingpins
went after each other in attempts to expand their spheres of influence. All of
that had its effect on the situation with the state power.
Last but not the least, the impression that the corridors of power and the
underworld are really close to each other was augmented by the fact that victims
of contract killings were deputies of the national parliament. They all had been
kingpins once but they became deputies. They were killed when the country knew
them as lawmakers and that created the illusion of some political ulterior
motives. In the meantime, there was nothing political about these murders...
Well the conflict between Akmatbayev and Kulov also played its part in creation
of the myth. As a matter of fact, it was Kulov himself who had asked for it with
his impulsive words concerning Akmatbayev's brother Tynychbek.
Ferghana.Ru: Is the president strong enough to withstand all of that?
Valentin Bogatyrev: Bakiyev has a certain weakness (for want of a better term)
that will eventually prove to be his strength. What I'm talking about is his
insistence of solving every problem by the law. That's what the radical
revolutionaries condemn him for.
Ferghana.Ru: The president is compelled to manoeuvre in foreign politics between
Russia, Uzbekistan, America, and other geopolitical players, right?
Valentin Bogatyrev: Of course. The situation is extremely difficult. The
president is experiencing pressure from every conceivable direction. I'd say
that he is trying not to take someone's side on any particular matter only
because Kyrgyzstan has always had warm relations with Russia. Or because
Kyrgyzstan should not spoil its relations with the West. Or because it needs
better relations with Uzbekistan. In short, there is a whole tangle of factors
to be considered in every particular episode so as not to affect relations with
somebody else. That's difficult. Choosing the line of conduct, I mean. Consider
the episode with the military base in Manas when the Shanghai Organization of
Cooperation decided all of a sudden that all US military bases should be ousted
from the region. From Kyrgyzstan's point of view, validity of the decision was
highly questionable. Indeed, why oust the base which earns the national budget
I cannot wait to see all elections everywhere organized and done away with. That
includes Russia too - with its fears of a revolution and attacks on
non-government organizations. In Kyrgyzstan, non-government organizations were
never harassed even under Akayev. There were practically no problems with them,
you know. Of course, Akayev himself maintains these days that he was toppled
with such ease precisely because of all the non-government organizations in the
country. Well, there are lots of them indeed and the West helps them greatly. At
the same time, I'm telling you right here and now that these non-government
organizations were not directly involved in the last year events in Kyrgyzstan.
They were not directly financed the way non-government organizations in Georgia
and Ukraine had been (or so I hear). That is why we do not really understand
what the matter is when Russia is putting its non-government organizations under
pressure or accuses them of espionage or whatever. We do not understand why it
is that we are expected to follow suit. The Uzbek authorities are fairly harsh
on non-government organizations in their country too. The latter are compelled
to operate under total surveillance. Not so in Kyrgyzstan. From this point of
view, mutual understanding with our neighbours is difficult indeed. In any case,
so far as I understand the president does not plan to change anything in this
respect... Well, we like the way we live. Travel to Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan and
you will feel a wholly different atmosphere there. We feel free in Kyrgyzstan.
Ferghana.Ru: I hear that the nostalgic longing for Akayev's era is gradually
mounting in Kyrgyzstan. Is it?
Valentin Bogatyrev: There is a certain nostalgic longing but that's because of
the pogroms and the effect they had on everyone. Particularly in southern
Kyrgyzstan. There is practically no nostalgia in the north to comment on. The
northern regions of the country are fairly optimistic with regard to the
existing state of affairs. In the meantime, I cannot say I ever heard any
outright demands for having Akayev back. What everybody only says is that
Bakiyev should finally restore order.
Ferghana.Ru: What is your International Institute of Strategic Studies about?
Valentin Bogatyrev: It is about analysis. We are supposed to list the existing
and potential and offer solutions to each and every one of them. I worked with
Akayev too, you know. My directorship persuaded me that presidents do heed our
advice and recommendations but only the ones they themselves agree with.
Generally speaking, presidents always do what they think should be done. For
example, I met with Akayev shortly before March 24 and suggested several
options. It was on March 18. One of the solutions I suggested stipulated
Tanayev's replacement with Bakiyev. Akayev turned the idea down. He took
somebody else's advice. Well, all presidents have a lot of advisors.
Kyrgyz vote with their feet to go abroad
In a quiet referendum on the achievements of Kyrgyzstan's revolution,
citizens are voting with their feet -- leaving the country in search of better
economic opportunities elsewhere. According to some estimates, the number of
emigrants from Kyrgyzstan is surging. The exodus is fast approaching the point
that it could cause long-term damage to the Kyrgyz economy, some experts warn.
The overwhelming majority of migrants are heading to Russia and Kazakhstan in
search of jobs. Between 350,000 to 500,000 Kyrgyz nationals, out of an overall
population of roughly 5 million, work either seasonally or full-time in foreign
countries, according to some estimates. Kyrgyz MP Kubanychbek Isabekov, who
chairs parliament's Labour Migration Committee, told EurasiaNet in an interview
that an increasing number of departing Kyrgyz have no intention of returning.
"Besides ethnic Slavs, the number of ethnic Kyrgyz leaving country forever
increased three fold," Isabekov said, adding that roughly 90,000 Kyrgyz at
present are in the process of obtaining Russian citizenship.
Labour migrants have been keeping the country financially afloat in recent
years. According to the official estimates, labour migrants remitted nearly
US$200 million in 2005 to family members back in Kyrgyzstan, a figure that is
roughly half the state's budget. Remittances, according to Isabekov, have risen
steadily year-on-year, providing further evidence of an explosion in labour
migration. "Labour migrants in Russia sent US$160 million via Western Union
[back to Kyrgyzstan] in 2004," he said. "During the first half of
2005, our citizens transferred US$124 million."
Souren Hayriyan, the CEO of Unistream, a Moscow-based cash-transfer system, said
the volume of his company's traffic between Russia and Kyrgyzstan rose 400
percent in 2005, reaching a total of $83 million. "The money transfer
market is growing incredibly," Hayriyan said. "The CIS market grew
from 25 to 30 percent over the past year and we expect further growth. The main
reason for this is that the Russian economy is growing and more people from CIS
countries tend to stay and work here."
Some observers believe the actual volume of remittances from Kyrgyz labour
migrants could be much higher than officially reported totals. Many Kyrgyz
migrants, especially those living in more remote parts of the mountainous
Central Asian nation, tend to shun wire transfer systems. Instead, they quietly
repatriate their foreign-earned income without officially declaring it,
Recent changes in Russia's citizenship legislation, initiated by President
Vladimir Putin, have helped encourage a significant number of Kyrgyz to seek a
permanent place in Russia. The changes make it possible for all former Soviet
citizens who have legal residency status to be eligible for fast-track Russian
citizenship. In addition, Russia's Federal Migration Service announced in late
last year that it would seek to legitimise up to 1 million illegal migrants from
the CIS in 2006.
Russia's population is projected to decline by about 1 million people per year
over the next couple of decades. Thus, Moscow is increasingly eager to attract
immigrants to fill gaps in the country's labour pool, especially low-paying and
menial jobs. The changes would seem to have the added benefit of increasing the
Kremlin's political leverage with CIS states.
Kyrgyz are rushing to take advantage of the Russian changes in order to reap
economic rewards. Isabekov, the Kyrgyz MP, noted that with legal Russian
residency or citizenship, Kyrgyz stand to earn higher incomes. In addition, they
would be less prone to police extortion. Foreign nationals in Russia, especially
those from the Caucasus and Central Asia, are often subjected to police document
checks. Those whose papers are not in order must pay hefty bribes to escape
detention and possible deportation.
Some migration experts say that Kyrgyzstan over the near term will benefit from
the Russian changes -- mainly in the form of a rising amount of cash
remittances. But there is a considerable danger to Kyrgyzstan's economic
stability over the medium- to long-term, experts add. Instead of continuing to
remit earnings back home, economic migrants over time might opt to bring loved
ones to Russia. "Kyrgyzstan faces irrevocable migration," said Bermet
Moldobekova, a national program officer at the International Organization for
Migration's Bishkek office. Isabekov added that much of the working-age
population in some Kyrgyz areas, such as the Osh Region's Alay District, have
already gone to Russia.
The Kyrgyz government should take immediate steps to ensure that Kyrgyz labour
migrants retain strong ties to their homeland, some officials and experts say.
Isabekov and others suggested the Kyrgyz parliament should consider legislation
providing for dual citizenship. Before his ouster last March, former president
Askar Akayev indicated that he intended to submit a dual citizenship bill - a
move that, at the time, was primarily driven by a desire to stem the outflow of
Slavic residents from Kyrgyzstan. The dual citizenship issue has largely been
ignored since Akayev's abrupt departure from power. Other suggestions include
reforms to Kyrgyzstan's tax code to encourage Kyrgyz migrants to keep sending
both cash and goods back home, and the creation of a diplomatic post at the
Kyrgyz embassy in Moscow that specifically works on labour-migration-related
The Kyrgyz government should additionally take steps to improve the ability of
Kyrgyz to compete in Russia's labour market. Moldobekova, the IOM
representative, said that after 15 years of independence, many Kyrgyz do not
have a solid knowledge of Russian. "If Kyrgyzstan wishes to export its
labour and benefit from it, then it should [confront] the issue of continuing to
teach people the Russian language," Moldobekova said.
India and Kyrgyzstan sign the MoU to set up IT center in Bishkek
On 20th March, in a ceremony held in Bishkek, India and the Kyrgyz Republic
signed an MoU to set up an Indian-Kyrgyz Centre for Information Technology,
AKIpress News Agency reported.
The IT centre, to be set up in the Kyrgyz capital by M/S HMT International
Limited, an Indian undertaking, aims at providing training in modular short-term
proficiency courses in computer application software, training officials of the
Kyrgyz government in IT, upgrading the skills of IT faculty in the universities
of Kyrgyzstan, imparting state-of-the-art training in software, design and
development etc. Apart from creating a pool of knowledge workers and generating
employment opportunities, the centre, conceived as an institute of excellence in
software learning and development to usher in knowledge economy, would be
creating world class IT professionals to attract investment into Kyrgyzstan and
generating revenues through exports, and would also assist in establishing
The Indian-Kyrgyz centre for information technology, one of the several
India-assisted projects in the Kyrgyz Republic, is a testimony to the close and
multifaceted cooperation between India and the Kyrgyz Republic. Both the
countries share strong historical and cultural ties and are actively engaged in
diversifying relations and expanding cooperation. India is also engaged in
executing other cooperation projects in Kyrgyzstan, in fields such as
agro-processing, high altitude medical research, technical cooperation and
Kyrgyzstan to build railway link to China
Kyrgyzstan has a big stake in launching the construction of a railway link to
China, Interfax News Agency reported.
"But before the construction is launched, a decision must be made in
principle, a feasibility study drawn up and funding provided," Kyrgyz Prime
Minister, Felix Kulov, told the Cabinet recently.
"A group of investors are prepared to put money into the project if
Kyrgyzstan and China come to terms on when the construction will begin,"
the prime minister said.
"Prior to drawing up a feasibility study, talks must be held with the World
Bank to secure a soft credit. And then ways of repaying the credit must be
discussed with investors," Kulov said.
Transport and Communications Minister, Nurlan Sulaimanov, said "the
construction of a 268-kilometer railway is estimated at some US$1.3 billion and
is to last for six years."
"To get started, an agreement must be signed with China and a route
negotiated. The railway could run through southern Kyrgyzstan and further to
Uzbekistan, or through Kyrgyzstan's northern part towards Kazakhstan,"