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Bordering Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and China, Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous and landlocked central Asian country. The political situation since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 has been unstable, with a succession of popular overthrows of governments perceived as autocratic or corrupt. The most recent of these occurred in 2010, alongside outbreaks of armed conflicts between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the south of the country, which incurred widespread reports of human rights abuses. Other major issues in Kyrgyzstan include attacks on and arrests of journalists and human rights defenders, human trafficking and the use of child labour.
Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous and landlocked country in central Asia and shares borders with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and China. The capital city is Bishkek.
Population and language
The country is home to 5.3 million people, a figure that has been steadily rising since the 1980s. Population growth has slowed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but has settled at an annual rate of around 1 per cent. Around 70 per cent of the population are ethnically Kyrgyz, and there are substantial communities of Uzbeks and Russians.
The Kyrgyz language and Russian are both widely spoken in the country, while the former is the designated the State language, the latter is an official language.
History and politics
Kyrgyzstan became part of the USSR in 1924, a full republic of the Union in 1936 and remained so until it gained its independence in 1991. President Akar Akayev led the country following independence until he was ousted in the “Tulip revolution” of 2005, in which he was replaced by Kurmanbek Bakiev. President Bakiev was himself overthrown in April 2010, following growing protests surrounding his reforms to the power of the presidency, and what was perceived from some quarters as increased limitations on personal freedoms.
Significant political reforms took place after the removal of Bakiyev, during which the political system was transformed into a Parliamentary democracy. A referendum led to the creation of a new Constitution and the election of a new Parliament in October 2010. Three parties are currently governing in a coalition: the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, Ata-Meken and Respublika. Almazbek Atambayev was elected President in October 2011 under the new Constitution, but OSCE observers reported “significant irregularities”.
Under the 2010 Constitution, a 120 seat unitary Parliament is elected every five years, and a President for a single six-year term. No party may hold more than 65 seats in the Parliament.
Kyrgyzstan is among the poorest countries in the former Soviet Union and, indeed, the world. The country's economy was badly damaged by the collapse of the Union and the consequent loss of it as a market. In 1995 production began to recover and national exports increased, but the country has negligible petroleum and natural gas reserves compared to its neighbours, and the economy has a significant reliance on the production of rare-earth metals: GDP varies significantly with the national production of gold. Agriculture remains a key economic activity in the country, accounting for around a third of GDP.
Corruption also presents a significant problem for the country. In their 2011 Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International rated Kyrgyzstan 164 out of 182 countries.
Media and civil society
Media freedom suffered significant set backs under the rule of President Bakiyev, particularly during his 2009 re-election campaign. Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has highlighted a wide range violations of media freedom and free expression, including state sanctioned closures of a TV station, attacks on ethnic Russian-Kyrgyz journalists, and allegations that the secret police were involved in the death of the journalist Gennady Pavliuk. All of these factors led RWB to rate Kyrgyzstan 159 out of 178 countries in its 2010 Press Freedom Index.
RWB has continued to raise concerns about the situation for journalists in the country since the revolution of 2010. In particular, the organisation criticised the State for adopting a resolution in June 2011 ordering the prosecutor general to block access to online news agency, Ferghana.
Human rights and children's rights
During 2010, inter-ethnic conflict broke out in the provinces of Osh and Jalalabad, which led to the deaths of around 470 and to the displacement of more than 100,000 people. Reports of rape and sexual violence were common during the conflict, as were allegations of mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement officials. The situation in the south of the country has calmed significantly since 2010, but reports indicate that the situation is still fragile.
- UNDESA, Population Statistics 2011
- Kyrgyzstan Census 2009
- Constitution of Kyrgyzstan, Article 5
- Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Kyrgyzstan Presidential Elections, October 2011
- Reporters Without Borders, "Link to victim's work ignored in trial of Kyrgyz journalist's accused murderers" 8 June 2011
- Reporters Without Borders, "Kyrgyz Parliament orders blocking of news website or record" 17 June 2011
- Human Rights Watch, "World Report 2011", p. 452
- OHCHR, Kyrgyzstan Homepage
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Kyrgyzstan Country Profile
- UNICEF, Statistics: Kyrgyzstan
- BBC, Country Profile: Kyrgyzstan
- Reporters Without Borders, World Report: Kyrgyzstan
- Hauser Global Law School Programme, Sania Battalova, "UPDATE: A Guide to the Legal System and Legal Research in the Kyrgyz Republic"
- Transparency International, "Corruption Perceptions Index 2011"