[Documents menu] Documents menu


BBC Country Profile, 3 May 3001

    [Kyrgyzstan map]
A small, mountainous, rural country, Kyrgyzstan became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, one decade later it has yet to achieve its stated aim of creating a fully-functioning market economy and a self-confident democracy.


Kyrgyzstan is a multi-ethnic state comprising Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Ukrainians and Germans, and a small number of Uighur, Dungan (Chinese Muslims) and Koreans.

However, there is tension between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities over access to land and housing, and inter-ethnic relations generally have been aggravated by official discrimination in favour of Kyrgyz speakers.

Such discrimination has created a steady exodus of skilled Russians, which in 2000 the authorities tried to stem by making Russian an official language and by promising the Russian minority dual citizenship.

The Russian exodus has compounded a dire economic situation created in part by Kyrgyzstan's failure to complete the transition from communism. As a result, factories remain closed, unemployment has soared, the national product has plummeted and malnutrition is rife. According to the United Nations, around 88% of Kyrgyzstan's population live on less than $4 a day.

For a while after independence, Kyrgyzstan was seen as the most democratic state in Central Asia. But this reputation has been dented by flawed parliamentary and presidential elections in 2000 and, since then, by the harassment and imprisonment of opposition leaders and the closure of opposition newspapers.

To compound matters, since 1999 Kyrgyzstan has had to increase its defence spending and to seek Russian military assistance in the face of incursions by guerrillas, said to be members of the Islamist opposition in Uzbekistan using the country as a transit point.


Population: 5 million
Capital: Bishkek
Major languages: Kyrgyz, Russian
Major religions: Islam, Christianity
Form of government: Multi-party republic
Monetary unit: 1 som = 100 tyiyns
Main exports: Fruit, vegetables, gold, tobacco
Internet domain:.kg
Time zone: GMT+6
International dialling code: +996


President: Askar Akayev

President Askar Akayev
Born in 1944, Askar Akayev headed the Academy of Sciences before becoming president in 1990. He was re-elected by direct popular vote shortly after independence in 1991, and again in 1995.

Akayev considers his main task as consolidating what has been achieved so far and ensuring the irreversibility of democratic processes.

In October 2000 he won a third term in office after conducting a campaign where he was accorded 90% of radio and television time. International observers described the elections as undemocratic.

Although six other candidates contested the election, several opposition leaders had been barred for failing a rigorous Kyrgyz language test or on technicalities.

  • Prime Minister: Kurmanbek Bakiyev
  • Foreign Minister: Muratbek Imanaliyev
  • Interior Minister: Tashtemir Aytbayev
  • Finance Minister: Temirbek Akmataliyev


Once seen as the most liberal in Central Asia, the Kyrgyz media have been experiencing increasing pressure. This was especially the case in the run-up to the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2000. This included threats against journalists, and official pressure in the form of tax inspections and law suits entailing large fines.

Several opposition newspapers have been closed while others have now substantially softened their stance in the wake of such pressure.

The press

  • Slovo Kyrgyzstana - government-owned, published three times a week
  • Vecherniy Bishkek - private, pro-government daily
  • Litsa - mouthpiece of the opposition Ar-Namys Party
  • Delo No - opposition weekly
  • Liberalnaya Gazeta - private, opposition-leaning weekly
  • Obshchestvennyy Reyting - independent weekly
  • RIF Obozreniye - independent weekly

Television and radio

  • Kyrgyz State National Television and Radio Broadcasting Corporation
  • Piramida - private television and radio broadcasting company, covers the capital, Bishkek, and neighbouring regions
  • VOSST - private television and radio broadcasting company, covers Bishkek and the northern Chuy Region
  • Asman TV - private television broadcasting company, covers the Bishkek area
  • KOORT - independent public educational television, mainly rebroadcasts Russian Public Television (ORT) programmes to the Bishkek area
  • NBT - Independent Bishkek Television broadcasting company, covers the Bishkek area
  • Ekho Bishkeka - independent radio broadcasting station, covers the Bishkek area
  • Almaz - independent radio broadcasting company

News agencies

  • Kabar - national news agency
  • AKIpress - provides a regular digest of the Kyrgyz press