History of Kyrgyzstan

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The history of Kyrgyzstan, the only democracy in Central Asia

The origins of the Kyrgyz people

The first human remains in today’s Kyrgyzstan even date back to a date between 200,000 and 300,000 BC, however for the first written testimony it will be necessary to wait at least the first century, the year in which they made their appearance in Sima’s Shiji Qian, albeit under the name of Jiankun. According to some recent discoveries, however, the Kyrgyz and other Turkish populations are the descendants of some agricultural communities in the north-east of China which, starting from the 3rd millennium BC, migrated to Mongolia. Here in the space of about 2000 years they completely lost their agricultural traditions, adapting to nomadic and pastoral life. From here they would have moved towards the banks of the Enisej river, thus forming the Kyrgyz people of the Enisej, a population that will then be part of the great Tiele confederation, which will push these people further south. among the Turkish tribes, participating both in the creation of the Göktürk Khanate and in that of the Uighurs.

The Kyrgyz Khanate at its maximum expansion

It will be precisely by defeating the latter that the Kyrgyz will see their maximum splendor going to form a khanate that lasted until 925 even if, it must be said, once their reign is over it will be necessary to wait for the Mongols Kara Khitan. There are not many written testimonies regarding the Kyrgyz of the Enisej, but it seems that they had excellent relations with Arabs, Chinese and Tibetans, clashing de facto only with the Uighurs.

Kara-Khitan and Mongols

The Kara Khitan were a Sinicized Mongolian population who had already established themselves on the territories of today’s China thanks to the Liao dynasty, which had taken advantage of the internal problems of the Tang dynasty to be able to emerge as a regional power. However, due to some heavy and long struggles against the Jin dynasty, Yelü Dashi, the last legitimate ruler, was forced to flee more and more to the Northwest, managing in a short time to subdue Xinjiang and Kashgaria, the last remnants of the two great previous khanates. At this point Yelü Dashi exploited the internal problems of the Karakhanid Empire to quickly take over the Jetysu region, conquering its capital, Balasgun, taking over most of the territories today in Kyrgyzstan. In 1220 the Mongols of Genghis Khan arrived here and immediately put this area under their dominion.

The Kara-Khitans

In 1207 the Kyrgyz territories of Altaj, Enisej and Tuva had already fallen and from that moment their inhabitants will also be linked to the Mongols, following them both in the first conquests and in the Golden Horde. It must be said, however, that the relationship with the Mongols will be somewhat conflicting, so much so that, for much of their history, the Kyrgyz will spend more time rebelling against their rulers than following them into battle. They will then be conquered by Tamerlane, who managed to pacify and subdue the Kyrgyz people of the South, but will have much more difficulty with the populations of the North, who always maintained their own autonomy.

Between Russia and the Soviet world

At the beginning of the 19th century, Kyrgyzstan fell under the control of the Uzbek Khanate of Kokand, giving way to a series of problems and political tensions that will only be resolved with the arrival of the Russians. The Kyrgyz people, in fact, although still divided between North and South, could not bear the domination of the new arrivals and both the first ambitions of “a Kyrgyz union” and Kurmanjan Datka, the last local leader before the arrival of the Russians. Kurmanjan, already legendary for tenacity at an early age, became the wife of Alimbek Datka, lord of the Alai mountains and the first to start a Kyrgyz reunification campaign against the Uzbek leadership of Kokand. In 1862, her husband was murdered and she was recognized as the new lady of the Alai by both the Emir of Bukhara and the Khan of Kokand, obtaining a power which, however, would have a very short life.

Kurmanjan Datka

As early as 1872, the Russians will arrive in today’s Kyrgyzstan and, to avoid unnecessary suffering to their people, Kurmanjan will find herself forced to bow to the yoke of Moscow, even witnessing the public execution of one of her sons, who in the meantime has become an arms smuggler. With the arrival of the Soviet Union, the alphabet passed from the Arabic to the Cyrillic alphabet and there was a great economic and cultural development. The problem is that such progress was closely linked to the Russian community recently arrived in the country and, as in the case of Tajikistan, this will become a problem for the country over time.

Kyrgyzstan and the Akayev era

1990, the year before independence, will prove to be crucial for the country’s fate, preparing it, in a sense, for what awaited it later. In 1990 Absamat Masaliyev was elected secretary of the local Communist Party, who will witness the Osh riots, in which between 600 and 1000 civilians between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks were massacred. The causes of these riots are to be found in the chaos wrought by the Soviets in giving each minority a specific territory, something that will only be possible in part and that will provoke violent rebellions. Specifically, in this region the Uzbeks found themselves to be a rich and mercantile population but with an infinitesimal political role, while, on the other hand, the Kyrgyz people will be exaggeratedly represented but without being able to boast of Uzbek economic power. Also in light of these events, at the end of that same year there were new votes, which this time saw the winner Askar Akayev, who will then be re-elected the following year as the first president of independent Kyrgyzstan.

Askar Akayev

The problems for the new president will begin in 1993 when cases of corruption began to emerge so serious that his prime minister resigned. Even if his image was not so compromised, as early as the second election it was increasingly evident that Akayev was interested in imitating other Central Asian leaders in securing power. The proof of this is that in 1996, a few months after his election, he attributed new powers to the president, including that of dissolving parliament, a political body which had hitherto been independent from the executive area. From that moment on most of the elections in the country came under heavy pressure in the government; however, the situation will change dramatically in 2005 with the Tulip Revolution.

The Tulip Revolution and Bakiyev’s victory

Taking advantage of the wave of “color revolutions” that were shaking the rest of the former Soviet Union, the leaders of the Kyrgyz opposition took heart and began to bring more and more people to the streets to protest against the corrupt Akayev government. On March 20, 2005, the opposition forces peacefully entered the government buildings and after just 4 days Akayev found himself forced to flee first to Kazakhstan and then to Russia, resigning on April 3, accepted on the 11th of the same month by the new interim government. The 2005 election saw the winner Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former interim president during the transition period.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev

The latter seemed to be the answer to the many problems that animated the Kyrgyz people, but in a short time he too seemed to adopt an approach very similar to that of Putin or Nazarbayev, which in a short time alienated much of his sympathy, so much so that already in 2007 people resumed taking to the streets. On April 11, Bakiyev signed a constitutional amendment that limited presidential powers and this appeased the people enough to re-elect him in 2009. That year the country suffered particularly from blackouts and energy shortages, with the cost of energy always increasing. more, so much so as to lead to a new revolution called “melons”.

Contemporary Kyrgyzstan

On April 6, the first protests were recorded which, unlike the previous ones, quickly turned into violent, so much so that Bakiyev found himself fleeing to Kazakhstan only 9 days later, consequently resigning his resignation. However, Bakiyev continued to consider himself as “unjustly ousted” and for this reason he will feed a climate of tension and violence that from 10 June exploded in all their power. Indeed, the Uzbek question had never been resolved and the president’s departure will provide many with the right incentives to proceed with barbarism. From that date, the regions of Osh and Jalal Abad gave birth to an incessant series of inter-ethnic pogroms, so much so that only 2 days later Roza Otunbayeva, the new interim president, was forced to declare a state of emergency.


On June 13, the police were allowed to shoot to kill, which will further complicate the pacification maneuvers, also following numerous testimonies in which the police defended the Kyrgyz without having problems shooting even when not necessary. Specifically, many cases were recorded in which policemen shot civilians to steal all their belongings, as well as making arbitrary arrests, violations of defense lawyers and other sad things that fueled the fire of violence. On June 15, Alik Orozov, the president of the National Security Council found himself saying: “People have gone crazy, they are fighting each other. The situation has become uncontrollable, it is real chaos.” The official numbers will speak of 893 and between 100’000 and 200’000 refugees but, according to various humanitarian associations, there are about 400’000 refugees and over 2000 dead, several of whom burned alive and raped. From 2011 to 2016 Almazbek Atambayev will be the only president to conclude a term without protests as his successor Sooronbay Jeenbekov will be forced to resign after new protests erupted in October 2020 following a major corruption scandal.

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