A Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, most of the territory of present-day Kyrgyzstan was formally annexed to the Russian Empire in 1876. The Kyrgyz staged a major revolt against the Tsarist Empire in 1916 in which almost one-sixth of the Kyrgyz population was killed. Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic in 1936 and achieved independence in 1991 when the USSR dissolved. Nationwide demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar AKAEV, who had run the country since 1990. Former Prime Minister Kurmanbek BAKIEV overwhelmingly won the presidential election in the summer of 2005. Over the next few years, he manipulated the parliament to accrue new powers for the presidency. In July 2009, after months of harassment against his opponents and media critics, BAKIEV won reelection in a presidential campaign that the international community deemed flawed. In April 2010, violent protests in Bishkek led to the collapse of the BAKIEV regime and his eventual flight to Minsk, Belarus. His successor, Roza OTUNBAEVA, served as transitional president until Almazbek ATAMBAEV was inaugurated in December 2011, marking the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in independent Kyrgyzstan's history. Continuing concerns include: the trajectory of democratization, endemic corruption, poor interethnic relations, border security vulnerabilities, and potential terrorist threats.Under the 2010 Constitution, ATAMBAEV is limited to one term, which will end in 2017. Constitutional amendments passed in a referendum in December 2016 include language that transfers some presidential powers to the prime minister. Disagreement over the constitutional amendments compelled ATAMBAEV’s Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan to dissolve the ruling coalition and create a new majority coalition in the Jogorku Kenesh that excluded opposition parties critical of the amendments.
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked, mountainous, lower middle income country with an economy dominated by minerals extraction, agriculture, and reliance on remittances from citizens working abroad. Cotton, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products, although only cotton is exported in any quantity. Other exports include gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas, and - in some years - electricity. The country has sought to attract foreign investment to expand its export base, including construction of hydroelectric dams, but a difficult investment climate and an ongoing legal battle with a Canadian firm over the joint ownership structure of the nation’s largest gold mine deter potential investors. Remittances from Kyrgyz migrant workers, predominantly in Russia and Kazakhstan, are equivalent to over one-quarter of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.Following independence, Kyrgyzstan rapidly implemented market reforms, such as improving the regulatory system and instituting land reform. In 1998, Kyrgyzstan was the first Commonwealth of Independent States country to be accepted into the World Trade Organization. The government has privatized much of its ownership shares in public enterprises. Despite these reforms, the country suffered a severe drop in production in the early 1990s and has again faced slow growth in recent years as the global financial crisis, declining oil prices, and regional economic headwinds have damaged economies across Central Asia. The Kyrgyz government remains dependent on foreign donor support to finance its annual budget deficit of approximately 4 to 5% of GDP.Kyrgyz leaders hope the country’s August 2015 accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) will bolster trade and investment, but slowing economies in Russia and China and low commodity prices continue to hamper economic growth. While joining the EAEU has increased Kyrgyz labor mobility within member states, large-scale trade and investment pledged by Kyrgyz leaders has been slow in developing since accession. Kyrgyz entrepreneurs and politicians alike often contend that non-tariff measures imposed by other EAEU member states, particularly Kazakhstan, are negatively impacting sectors of the Kyrgyz economy that enjoy a comparative advantage, such as meat and dairy production. Since acceding to the EAEU, the Kyrgyz Republic has continued harmonizing its laws and regulations to conform to EAEU standards, though many local entrepreneurs have criticized this process as disjointed and incomplete. The keys to future growth include progress in fighting corruption, improving administrative transparency, restructuring and diversifying domestic industries, and attracting foreign aid and investment.