Author:Joseph Serio

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Official country name: Kyrgyz Republic

Capital: Bishkek

Geographic description: Located in Central Asia, it borders China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan

Population: 5,146,281 (est. 2005)


At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century Russians slowly took over many of the villages of the Kyrgyz lands. The Kyrgyz tolerated it until they rose up in revolt in 1916, which was heavily put down by the Russian Army. Kyrgyz lands became part of the Turkistan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Russian Federation in 1918, then a separate Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast in 1924 and, finally, a Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936.

Kyrgyz industry, built on abundant hydroelectric potential and large coal resources, developed rapidly in the 1920s and 1930s. Many nomads were settled in the course of land reforms in the 1920s, and more were forcibly settled during the Stalinist collectivization campaign in the 1930s. By 1940 Kyrgyz coal mines were producing 88 percent of the coal used in the Central Asian republics. Besides coal production, a number of other industries were developed in this period, including nonferrous metallurgy, sugar refining, mercury processing, and various light industries.

Joseph Stalin's collectivization of the land was probably one of the most comprehensive changes wrought in Kyrgyzstan after the Bolshevik Revolution. Through collectivization the Soviet authorities intended to gain a firmer grip on the somewhat uncontrollable nomadic population. The government saw it as absolutely necessary to gain control of those areas of the Soviet Union that bordered on non-Soviet states. Collectivization was, therefore, more thorough in the border states than in central parts of Russia. In the course of the 1930s, practically all the Kyrgyz were affiliated with a collective or state farm.

With a view to winning the widest possible support among the Kyrgyz population, the authorities appointed Kyrgyz people to leading positions in the collective farms. Since the Soviet power structure could not simply be incorporated into the egalitarian Kyrgyz political structure, some of the leaders had problems in getting support from their own people. They were given an appointment to which they could not say no and at the same time they were often looked on as traitors by family and friends.

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The nomads resisted collectivization, but soon had to capitulate in the face of superior force. Those opposing collectivization, mainly large and small landholders, were either killed, imprisoned, or left to starve. The result of this process was the establishment of approximately 300,000 small collectivized livestock enterprises in Kyrgyzstan.

The centralization of the keeping of livestock led to the forcing of many animals into an ever smaller area. The consequent overgrazing laid waste to huge areas and brought about a sharp decline in the number of domestic animals and more suffering by the population.

During the Stalin purges, which reached their height between 1936 and 1938, virtually the entire academic and creative intelligentsia was destroyed, and almost all of Kyrgyzstan's Muslim clerics were imprisoned or executed. One of the most disastrous facets of the purge was the Soviet government's attempt to destroy all books and manuscripts written in the Arabic script, a campaign that destroyed much of Kyrgyzstan's cultural heritage.

These profound challenges to Kyrgyz society, combined with a strong, centralized, Soviet administrative-command economy, produced widespread shortages of resources and a distinct propensity for corruption that exists to this day.

Despite conservative Kyrgyz leadership during perestroika, several groups were founded to fight unemployment and homelessness—some activists going so far as to seize vacant land and build houses on it. Land and housing were in fact at the root of Central Asia's most infamous "ethnic" violence, between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks around the city of Osh in 1990.

Elections were held in traditional Soviet rubber-stamp style to the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet in February 1990, with the Kyrgyz Communist Party walking away with nearly all the seats. After multiple ballots, Askar Akayev, a physicist, was installed as a compromise president. In August 1991 the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet reluctantly voted to declare Kyrgyzstan's independence. Six weeks later, Akayev was reelected president, running unopposed. By the end of the year, Kyrgyzstan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States. In May 1993 a new constitution was passed.

Akayev made his priorities the privatization of land, the restoration of Russian as a national language, alongside Kyrgyz, as a means of stemming the continuing exodus of skilled Russians, and the preservation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which is of great economic value to Kyrgyzstan. Akayev also sought to ensure that Kyrgyzstan remained a secular state and to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism from neighboring states such as Tajikistan. Meanwhile, close ties were established with the neighboring states of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, with whom Kyrgyzstan had forged an economic, social, and military union during 1994. The republic also endeavored to develop close relations with Turkey, with whom it shares linguistic traditions.

A referendum in 1996 endorsed a constitutional amendment that granted the president increased powers. In January 1997 President Akayev signed a decree allowing private ownership of land. He was reelected president in October 2000, although independent monitors criticized the conduct of the election.

Structure and Organization

Law enforcement responsibilities are divided among the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) for general crime, the National Security Service (Sbor Narodni Bezpecnosti, SNB) for state-level crime, and the procurator's office for both types of crime. Civilian authorities generally maintain control of the MIA and the SNB and hold full control of the State Border Guard Service.

In the 1990s the republic's police system was largely unchanged from the Soviet era. Still called militia, the police were under the jurisdiction of the MIA. At the time, the force was estimated at 25,000 individuals. Throughout this period the republic's police suffered the same large-scale resignations because of low pay and bad working conditions as have other former Soviet republics lacking resources to support internal security. In April 1995 the national power company shut off power to the Central Police Force headquarters for nonpayment of electric bills, leaving the capital without even emergency police service for five hours. The poor equipment of the police further hampered their ability to respond to crime. Police personnel were frequently implicated in crime. Nearly 700 police officers were caught in the commission of crimes in the two months after Akayev replaced the entire administration of the MIA in 1995.

While the introduction of technology has helped modernize policing in the Kyrgyz Republic to some extent, by and large serious shortages remain and fundamental attitudes are still prevalent. Corruption is widespread, budgetary funds are scarce, and the relationship between the police and the community is strained.

Today, the MIA, policing, armed units, and special forces are believed to number approximately 19,000. The MIA is the largest armed organization in the country, and is much bigger than the 11,000-strong army, which is responsible solely for external defense.

Within the MIA there are nine regional offices, one in each of the seven provinces (oblast) and the cities of Bishkek and Osh. Under them are town and local police departments. These regional offices and their suboffices

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A police officer guards the remains of a shopping mall that was destroyed and looted in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, March 26, 2005. The damage was caused by widespread protests that happened two days earlier, when demonstrators clashed with riot police before rushing the presidential compound and forcing President Askar Akayev from power. Opposition to Akayev had grown amid allegations of election fraud, causing him to flee to Russia where he formally resigned as president on April 4. AP Images. report to both the MIA and to their respective local authorities such as the governors of the oblasts and town mayors. This dual subordination is dependent primarily on the personal relationships of the local leaders, their relationships with national political leaders, and the informal agreements made among them

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