Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Kyrgyzstan

Period of democratic transition: 1991–1992
Pro-democracy civic movement: not present

Kyrgyzstan was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1924. In 1936, the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic became established as a full union republic of the USSR. Stalinism repressed Kyrgyz ethnic and nationalist identity in its attempt to "Russianize" the various republics.

Civic activism in the late 1980s was led by writers and academics who initially pressed for greater cultural rights primarily through Literaturny Kyrgyzstan, a periodical of the Union of Writers. However, it was the bloody rioting between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in June 1990 that played a critical part in the transition. News of the rioting spread rapidly to the capital, where students marched on the Communist Party building, initiating further violence. The simmering discontent broke out as members of the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, a loose affiliation of activists, participated in hunger strikes and highly publicized demonstrations. Communist Party members took advantage of the situation to vote against the incumbent president during the 1990 elections. None of the three candidates won a majority, and in a surprise move, Askar Akayev, head of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, was named president. Immediately after the 1991 coup against USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev was announced, President Akayev threw his support behind Russian president Boris Yeltsin, and the legislature declared independence on August 31, 1991. In October 1991, Akayev ran unopposed and was elected president of the new independent state, receiving 95 percent of the votes cast.

In the 1995 parliamentary elections, no single party won a clear majority, although later that year, Akayev was reelected president in early elections with more than 70 percent of the vote. Protests, violence, and political maneuvering have plagued elections since then, and in 2004 protesters succeeded in removing the increasingly unpopular Akayev from office. Stability remains elusive amid signs of recrudescent authoritarianism.

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