A story of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan)
By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Almost all Central Asian states are going to celebrate their 25th Independence from August 31, 2016 to December 25, 2016.
Uzbekistan was the first Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) that announced its Independence and came out from the clutches of former Soviet Union on August 31, 1991. Other Central Asian SSRs followed Uzbekistan instantly.
Tajikistan announced independence on 9 September 1991, Turkmenistan announced its independence on 27 October 1991, Kazakhstan announced its independence on 16 December 1991 and Kyrgyzstan announced its independence on 31 August 1991 but it was recognized an Independent state on 25 December 1991.
This phenomenon of disintegration and coming out from the clutches of former Soviet Union is called as “Uzbek way” by Russian anthropologists and historians.
Kazakh SSR had biggest land volume in former Soviet Union while Tajik SSR was the smallest. These Republics were called Constituent Republics of the Soviet Union (USSR).
Almost every SSR had certain production entity except Tajikistan which was known only for water and hydel energy production. Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan were known for their oil and gas productions, Kyrgyzstan was popular for copper, iron and gold mines, and Uzbekistan ruled the former SSRs for its cotton production.
Kazakhstan had an edge of being a wheat producer and hosting Baikonur Cosmodrome which is the first and largest operational space launch facility in the world. But all SSRs had other smaller products also including uranium and iron ore. The future of SSRs was determined by their products when they decided to disintegrate from former Soviet Union and they all performed well in their respective fields except Tajikistan that fell in civil war due to its proximity and social linkages with Afghanistan. A civil war and rule of radical Islamists continued for over five years and ruined this country from top to bottom. Tajikistan has yet to come out of adverse impact of civil war and remains poorest country in Central Asia.
Almost all heads of states of newly independent states had been a part or heads of Soviet system in their respective SSR therefore they decided not to disintegrate from new Russia culturally and socially because they had fears that radicalism would be injected in their countries by United States that had been financing Jihad in Afghanistan. Almost all newly born states did not go far away from Russian orbit though some of them wishes to stay little away from the gravity of New Russia.
New Russia had no interest in Tajikistan because of it proximity and cultural linkages with Afghanistan but new Russia did not wish to disintegrate from biggest country—-Kazakhstan and biggest cotton producer—Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan fell in Western bloc soon and weak Russia let it went away farther.
Almost every new state decided to preserve certain elements and values of the “old system” therefore Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan decided to provide socioeconomic basics including free education and health care, special support to elderly people, cheaper oil and subsidies on wheat because these three countries were rich SSRs while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan could not do this without the support of new Russia because their productivity was less like of Kyrgyzstan.
One should look into political, social and financial conditions of these former Soviet Republics after they have completed their first quarter of century as independent states.
Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic (Kirghiz SSR) came into being in phases. It was first established as the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) on 14 October 1924 and then it was transformed into the Kirghiz ASSR (Kirghiz Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic) on 1 February 1926. On 5 December 1936, with the adoption of the 1936 Soviet Constitution, it became a separate constituent republic of the USSR as the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic (Kirghiz SSR).
It may be mentioned that Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was first phase of transition that ended at the formation of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) —- A union of multiple subnational Soviet republics.
Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was known as tourist resort and summer resort because of its scenic beauty and lush green valleys and pastures. Over 80% of the country is mountainous region comprising of Tian Shan Mountains and rest of 20 percent is comprising of valleys and basins.
Issyk-Kul Lake is the largest mountain lake in Central Asia with sweet water and the second largest mountain lake in the world. Heavy snowfall in winter leads to spring floods. The runoff from the mountains is also used for hydro-electricity. Less than 8% of the land is cultivated therefore food trend of people is based on livestock, vegetables and fruits. Wheat and other grains are less than 20 percent part of dining tables.
There was no big industrialization took place in this region during USSR but Soviet Union invested heavily in education and health sectors. Contrary to Tajik SSR, Kyrgyz youth took interest in education and played a positive role in the development of former USSR.
Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic continued to live with USSR without significant events and was considered as a peaceful place where ethnic Russians loved to live and settled their families. However, it came in spotlight when Osh clashes took place in 1990.
In the summer of 1989, an Uzbek political movement under the name Adalat (Court) started to send petitions to the Kremlin with the request to grant Osh the status of an autonomous “Uzbek” oblast. In response, Kyrgyz ethnic groups living in Osh formed a counter-movement namely “Osh Aimagy” (Osh Land).
Ethnic Uzbeks and Ethnic Kyrgyz had their first brutal clash in June 1990. Over 400 people were killed while estates and private property was looted and burnt. This was beginning of the fall of USSR authority in this SSR.
Following this clashe, the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet adopted a “decree” declaring “sovereignty” of the republic within the USSR, allowing free elections of a President first, to be followed by a Parliament.
Elections were held on October 27 and Askar Akayev became the first President of the Kyrgyz Republic within the USSR.
USSR continued to crumbling slowly but surely and the State Emergency Committee assumed power in Moscow on 19 August 1991. Akayev suspended Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and announced independence from the Soviet Union on 31 August 1991 as the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. However, its independence was recognized on 25 December 1991—a day before official disbanding of USSR.
New Russia was too weak to think about its former SSRs therefore its former SSRs started looking at western world —particularly Kyrgyzstan, It moved forward towards western world and totally disintegrated from former Soviet system and social norms. Akayev promoted privatization of land and other economic assets and sold out over 70% state assets instantly.
He adopted business-driven society in the absence of long-term policies and kept depending upon foreign grants, loans and money coming through Non-government Organisations (NGOs). He became part of western economy without having anything to sell to western world except granting contracts of mineral exploration.
Kyrgyzstan abandoned all “socialist” principles overnight and withdrew all social services and support to its population. Askar Akayev fulfilled all demands for applying for World Trade Organisation after fixing everything according to open market economy model. His designed resulted in economic meltdown and gross domestic product dropped by 8 per cent in 1991, by 14 per cent in 1992, by 16 per cent in 1993 and by 20 per cent in 1994. Situation has not changed significantly ever since.
Kyrgyzstan successfully developed its tourism sector through ecotourism but incidents like Tulip Revolution and Osh riots harmed credibility of Kyrgyzstan as a destination with long term investment opportunities.
Economic growth declined to 3.5% in 2015 from 4.0% in 2014. Economic meltdown in Russia due to drop in oil and gas prices strongly dented Kyrgyz economy because its over-dependence on remittances coming from Russia.
Kyrgyzstan can do well as it has minerals and gold mines including Kumtor Gold Mine which was opened in 1997. More gold mines were discovered in Jerooy and Taldy–Bulak and Tokhtonysay in late 2006. This country is also rich in coal deposits (estimated at 2.5 billion tons). Foreign firms got contracts of exploration of minerals and gold but most of them left due to litigations with the government.
Kyrgyz political experts claim that western world injected and sponsored Tulip Revolution but it also failed to help crumbling civic facilities, overall living standards and population remained living in sheer poverty.
Since its independence, economy of the country is based on overdependence on a global monetary framework with loans, grants and remittances Kyrgyz migrants are sending mostly from new Russia.
It looks that Kyrgyz people have to go a long way to get fruits of freedom because economic indicators are not in favour of social and economic growth.
A Series of articles covers 25 years of independence of all Central Asian republics. Preamble of all articles is same to give a background of Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs) so readers can understand circumstances new states went through after disintegration of former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Independence of Central Asian states caused a snow ball effect and entire USSR was disintegrated on December 26, 1991– just one day after Independence of Kyrgyzstan was recognised.
The Soviet Union was officially dissolved on December 26, 1991, as a result of the declaration no. 142-Н of the Soviet of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics and created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), although five of the signatories ratified it much later or not at all.