During 25 years of independence, what do you consider to be the Kyrgyz Republic’s greatest achievements?
After independence, Kyrgyzstan had an opportunity to revaluate its resources and opportunities, to assess the challenges the country was facing, to become better aware of its climate and geography limitations, and learn how to manage without the imposition of external ideologies.
Over these years, our wise, freedom-loving people have experienced many difficulties: a period of independent Kyrgyzstan emerging in the 1990s, two revolutions that expelled two corrupt family regimes, and the national economy developing. Throughout this turmoil, however, the people’s strength and power has been recognised. Our citizens have become more responsible and engaged in politics, have learnt to be accountable for their own lives and welfare of their families, rather than waiting for government assistance.
The past five years have had special significance for the country. Our people have chosen the course of parliamentary democracy and respect for the rule of law. Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian Economic Union, creating new expectations for economic development and quality of life. With the introduction of the Datka-Kemin power transmission line, Kyrgyzstan achieved energy independence, meaning electricity does not need to be transported through neighbouring territories. We continue to develop other infrastructure projects, such as the construction of roads and hydropower plants. The country has managed to unite and maintain peace and stability – relying on the age-old wisdom and tolerance of the people – to build a united Kyrgyzstan and a common Fatherland for many ethnic, linguistic and religious groups.
There’s still much work to be done to strengthen economic, social and political reform, to support democratic values and to dismantle corruption and crime in society. We believe that holding regular free and fair elections will bring to power principled, spirited and professional people, who are ready to take responsibility for the future of the country.
What activities has the country and Embassy in London undertaken in order for the rest of the world to get to know the Kyrgyz Republic?
Freedom in Kyrgyzstan has awakened the creative energy of our people, revealing a multitude of talents. Nowadays the world recognises Kyrgyzstan not only as a beautiful mountainous country, but also a place where talented sportsmen, actors and performers – who win international attention – are from. For example, dance group Tumar stunned British public with its sci-fiFrankensteinstory, leaving viewers ‘queasy’ by their extreme body contortionism at the Britain’s Got Talentsemi-finals in 2016. Readers of Wanderlusttravel magazine awarded Kyrgyzstan as ‘the best emerging destination in 2017.’
The Embassy promotes our country at various cultural events, including an annual celebration of the New Year spring equinox – Nooruz. In October 2016, we organised a symposium with Cambridge University’s Central Asian Centre entitled ‘Rhythms of the Past and Tunes for the Future: A Kyrgyz Epic,’ which discussed the history and culture of the Kyrgyz people and statehood. In October 2017, the Youth Theatre Tunguch from Bishkek presented Ilegileg, a play by Sultan Raevm and in the following month, Osh Music and Drama Theatre performed Richard IIIby William Shakespeare, and we co-hosted an evening of Central Asian music, dance and songs. This year, we will host various events to celebrate the 90th anniversary of renowned Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, whose books have been translated into more than 150 languages.
The Embassy also organised the Kyrgyz-British Investment Forum, involving over 80 British companies, and a similar event ‘The Kyrgyz Republic – a true democracy open for business’ took place at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development last year, where representatives from various Kyrgyz Republic government ministries made presentations on the country’s investment climate, potential projects and cooperation proposals. I also presented various hydropower projects at the Silk Road Investment Forum at the House of Lords in April 2017.
Can you tell us about Kyrgyzstan’s hosting of the first World Nomadic Games in 2014?
Designed to celebrate the nomadic heritage of the Central Asian nations, the first World Nomad Games established 23 types of sports and disciplines, including: Alysh(belt wrestling), Salburun(a combination of falconry, mounted archery and hunting) and Er enish(wrestling on horseback). In 2016, the second games took place at a new 10,000-seat hippodrome in Cholpon-Ata on Issyk Kul, a high-altitude lake four hours’ from the capital. The opening ceremony featured hundreds of whirling nomad women, stunt horsemen galloping across the arena with their clothes on fire, guest of honour Steven Seagal clad in the armour of an ancient warrior atop a horse, dramatic music, and vast graphics telling the long and legendary history of the Kyrgyz nation. Over 40 nations competed in the Games held at an altitude of 2,000m. The most fiercely contested of the sports was kok-boru, an intense form of polo in which two teams battle for control of a decapitated goat carcass. This September, the third World Nomad Games will take place, and everyone is welcome as either a spectator or player.
Central Asia is growing in reputation and influence on the global stage. Described as ‘the Heart of Asia,’ how has the Kyrgyz Republic contributed to this?
Kyrgyz are some of the most ancient peoples of Eurasia, mentioned as far back as 201BC. Kyrgyz people say that two things have made their nation world-renowned: the epic hero of Manas and the author Chingiz Aitmatov. With close to half a million verses, The Epic of Manasis the longest in the world: it is 20 times longer than Homer’s Odysseyand Iliadcombined. Surviving the ages through oral narration, it tells the tale of Manas who united Kyrgyz people in the struggle for independence. Not only our greatest work of national folklore, but the story is also a storehouse of knowledge about the life of Kyrgyz people in the ninth and tenth centuries.
A public leader and activist as well as author, Chingiz Aitmatov’s unique works combine myths, legends and folktales in the context of contemporary life. His last novel, When the Mountains Fall Down: The Eternal Bride, was written in 2005 as a final appeal to preserve the beauty of the Celestial Mountains, which the Kyrgyz have traditionally regarded as sacred. In the novel, journalist Arsen Samanchin and an indigenous snow leopard (Jaa Bars) both become victims of international poaching in a tale of greedy and careless exploitation of the environment.
Of the five former soviet countries in Central Asia with ‘stan’ ending, Kyrgyzstan stands out in the region for its own unique history. We were the first country to introduce our own currency – som – on independence; the first to join the WTO in 1998; the first parliamentary democracy where the cabinet’s survival depends on the legislature only, and we have had the first woman President, Roza Otunbaeva. We are also the first country where democratic transition of power as a result of nationwide elections has become a norm of political life. Last year, the people of the Kyrgyz Republic elected our fifth President – Sooronbay Jeenbekov.
How has the Kyrgyz Republic celebrated its milestone of 25 years of independence?
Our 25th anniversary of independence was widely celebrated in Kyrgyzstan. A military parade took place in the main Ala-Too Square in the capital, Bishkek, in which armoured vehicles, artillery weapons, the air force and a military orchestra took part. The festive day ended with a concert, where people enjoyed a programme of domestic and international pop stars, followed by fireworks. In his speech, the head of the state at that time, President Atambayev, highlighted the great achievements of the Kyrgyz people, as well as difficult times that the country has overcome with the help of unity, mutual understanding and common aspirations. Other cultural and mass events were held throughout the country, such as exhibitions of national products and traditional equestrian competitions.
After completing a successful agenda of poverty reduction, local self-governance development, gender equality and improving the business environment in the early years after independence, Kyrgyzstan has been focused on adopting and implementing various plans, including the National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2013-2017. Kyrgyzstan also initiated and led in the following international forums in 2017:
• ‘Altai Civilisation and Related Peoples of the Altaic Language Family,’ which attracted heads of states, famous historians, archaeologists and linguists;
• ‘Islam in a Modern Secular State’ to look for solutions to achieve lasting peace and sustainable development of nations; and
• the Second International Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Forum.
What do you think is the Kyrgyz Republic’s greatest diplomatic challenge?
As a landlocked country, Kyrgyzstan’s greatest diplomatic challenge is to resolve the difficulties of transit through the territories of other states. In an effort to find creative solutions, this requires collaboration between the governmental, academic and business communities. Kyrgyzstan’s diplomacy in producing and implementing new ideas is essential. With international cooperation, plus infrastructure and technological development, this transit issue should not diminish our opportunities for international trade and commuting.