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State

Capital

Kirgizia

Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan

former Frunze

Currency unit

Som

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History

Less than half of the population are Kirgiz, a Turkic speaking people. The others include Russians, Uzbeks (15%), Ukrainians, Germans (deported there by Stalin from the Crimea but now leaving). The country was conquered in the later 19th century. It was not prominent in USSR affairs and was closed to foreigners for a long time. Although most of the native inhabitants are Muslim, Islam came to the area late (in the 19th century) and is reported not to be encouraging political action.

The borders were set by Stalin and, like many colonies, paid no regard to the actual ethnic composition. Thus the borders include Uzbeks within the state. Perhaps, as in Yugoslavia, the borders, as local government borders within the USSR, did not matter. The Uzbeks claim that they have had an urban merchant culture since the days of the "Silk Road" whereas the Kirgiz were nomads. Thus the hostility between the two peoples is like that of many other areas where a single linguistic group is divided between an urban and plains settled group and a mountainy rural group. Nevertheless the two languages have much in common, and with Kazakh, further west.

Can it be successfully independent? Probably not alone but perhaps as a member of a Turkic federation. Probably more likely is a closer relation with Russia, amounting to Russian domination. There is now a Russian military base (air force) quite near to a large US base. Is this a Russian move to prevent the country falling into the hands of the Americans, along with the other former Soviet Central Asian states? It looks like a new version of the 19th century Great Game - the competition between Britain and Russia for influence in the area. China is also interested in these former Soviet states.

The northern part is said to be more "Russified" while the southern area is more traditional.

Ethnic cleansing has broken out in the southern city of Osh where Uzbeks were attacked, their houses burned and the people expelled or murdered.

Languages

Turkic langs.

Russian

German

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Politics

The President, in 2000, Askar Akayev, was the only one in the former Soviet Union who was not previously a communist. When he first took power after the collapse of the Soviet Union he seemed to be following a democratic policy including privatization. However, as he himself admits, the people have no experience of either democracy or private business, and both are therefore problematic.

In many ways, however, this has developed into just another dictatorship. An election in March 2005 resulted in a suspiciously large majority for Akayev's own party.

In March 2005 opposition people started demonstrating and took control of cities in the southern part of the country. Is this the prelude to a civil war, or is it the first sign of a democratic revolution as in Georgia and Ukraine? By 28 March Akayev had fled and the opposition was arguing about which parliament should sit - the one elected recently or its predecessor.

April 2010 demonstrations in the streets - by no means peaceful, with armed citizens - seemed to be bringing the regime to an end. What would replace it if they succeed?

A provisional government has been set up.

More violent actions in June 2010. The fighting seems to be mainly between Uzbeks and Kirgiz and between north and south. Russians have been invited to restore order.

How far have these disturbances been encouraged by Russia? So far, the cause is unclear.

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Economics

The industries were set up during Soviet times and are probably not sustainable outside the Soviet Union. The agriculture is confused following the abolition of the collective farms. The farmers don't have the capital to farm privately. This points to the need for outside assistance, perhaps from Korea or Japan, or from the Muslim Gulf states - or reabsorption into the Russian system, as Putin would like.

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Green/Ecology

Serious pollution from the Soviet era, including radioactivity from Uranium mines. Results are a high rate of cancer. Deforestation in a very mountainous country leads to erosion and flooding.

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 Green

Human Rights

Probably bad.

Last revised 21/06/10


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