Zhyldyz Urmanbetova, D.Sc. (Philos.), Professor at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University and the Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)


An analysis of the sociopolitical situation in the Kyrgyz Republic speaks of a crisis of the democratic idea in Central Asia. The nearly twenty years of the republics sovereignty and democratic development have supplied us with an idea of democracy local style: two revolutions of sorts in the last five years and a constitution subjected to frequent changes. Anyone wishing to summarize this experience inevitably arrives at the following legitimate questions: Should we continue along the same risky road, and will this not lead to complete loss of our statehood?

The Theory of Democracy and Kyrgyz Reality

As befits neophytes, the newly independent states willingly embraced the theory of democracy as a remedy for totalitarianism and became resolved to build a law-governed state. This made the 1990s a symbol of another democratization wave which swept the world (according to Samuel Huntingtons conception).

In Kyrgyzstan, the democratization process was theoretically divided into stages, each being a breakthrough expected to promote democracy and deepen the democratic changes.

At the early stages of sovereignty, transitology was all the rage in the Central Asian states. The brainchild of Western political scientists and sociologists, it described the process of transition to a sustainable democratic state built with the instruments devised and used in the West.

Zbigniew Brzezinski demonstrated how each of the Central Asian states (the democratic prospects of which were described as fifty-fifty) should move toward democratic standards and employ development mechanisms. As could be expected, however, Western academics (who relied on Western criteria) were baffled by reality in the regional context.

For a long time, the Kyrgyz academic community remained riveted to the Western democratic criteria and measured the local processes with Western yardsticks.

On the other hand, a careful analysis of the reforms underway in the republic convinced many of the Kyrgyz academics that the democratic standards should be adjusted to the local conditions lest society reject them as totally alien.

This means that transitology is not universal and that its standards should, therefore, be made to fit the regional context and the states cultural and historical specifics.

In the first years of its independence, Kyrgyzstan was the regions pacesetter: it introduced national currency and was one of the first among the Soviet successor-states to join the WTO, a sure sign of its prompt response to the need to develop a market economy, the economic linchpin of a democratic society. Among the neighbors, which tended toward strong authoritarian power, Kyrgyzstan with its relatively independent opposition looked like a politically democratic society.

It was its quasi-democratic nature, however, which caused two coups in Kyrgyzstan that drove the republic economically and socially back into past; the coups frightened off investors and lovers of

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