President of Kyrgyzstan
Born Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev, August 1, 1949, in Masadan, Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyzstan; son of Sali (a farm manager) Bakiyev; married; children: sons Marat, Maxim. Education: Earned degree in electrical engineering from Kuybyshev Polytechnic Institute, 1972.
Addresses: Office —c/o Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic, 2360 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008.
Served in the Soviet Army, 1974–76; began working at a factory in Jalal-Abad and became chief engineer, c. 1979, and director, c. 1990; entered politics, 1990; became first secretary of the Kok-Yangak city council, and chair of the city's Supreme Soviet; deputy chair of Jalal-Abad region, early 1990s; appointed governor of Jalal-Abad oblast, 1995, and then the Chui oblast, 1997–2000; became prime minister, 2000; resigned as prime minister, 2002; formed the People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan, 2004; named acting president by Kyrgyz parliament, 2005; elected president of Kyrgyzstan, 2005.
In 2005, Kurmanbek Bakiyev became only the second president in the history of an independent Kyrgyzstan. The former factory manager emerged that year as head of the opposition against Kyrgyzstan's longtime leader, Askar Akayev, who had been in office since 1990. After coming to power during the chaotic political coup against Akayev, Bakiyev was legitimately elected president in the summer of 2005 to a five-year term. He promised in his inauguration speech that the poor, landlocked Central Asian republic, with a centuries-old history of troubles with its larger neighbor, China, as well as with nearby Russia, would not become "a place for the fulfillment of someone else's geopolitical interests," according to the New York Times .
Bakiyev was born in 1949 in Masadan, a village in the Kyrgyzstan oblast , or province, of Jalal-Abad. The predominantly Muslim Kyrgyz are a Turkic people, as are other Central Asian ethnic groups, and had a long history of opposing foreign domination. At the time of Bakiyev's birth, however, Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet Union, and Bakiyev's father served as a manager on one of the vast collective farms common to the Soviet economic model. Much remained unchanged in Kyrgyzstan, however, with a tribal system dominating local political and economic affairs outside of the capital, Bishkek. Even Kyrgyzstan's name, which translates into "40 Clans" in English, reflected that legacy.
As a young man, Bakiyev studied electrical engineering at Kuybyshev Polytechnic Institute in Russia, where he met his future wife. He earned his de- gree in 1972, and served two years in the Soviet Army. Returning to Kyrgyzstan, he took a job with an electrical-goods factory in the town of Jalal-Abad, eventually rising to the post of chief engineer and plant director. The country experienced a major upheaval in 1990, thanks to the crumbling Soviet regime. A Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement (KDM) emerged, and Akayev, president of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, became the country's first democratically elected president in October of that year.
Bakiyev entered the political arena himself in 1990, serving as first secretary of the city council for Kok-Yangak, a coal-mining town in the Jalal-Abad province, and eventually rising to the governorship of the region in 1995. From 1997 to 2000, he served as governor of another province, called Chui, in the north of the country. Akayev was still in office, but had retained power through a crackdown on opposition groups and an independent press. There were also charges that Akayev's family members had profited handsomely by the privatization of formerly state-controlled companies in Kyrgyzstan.
Akayev had been restricted to two terms by Kyrgyzstan's constitution, but pushed through changes that allowed him to stand for a third one as the KDM candidate in the fall of 2000. He appointed Bakiyev as his prime minister on December 21, 2000, but Kyrgyzstan's economy remained moribund, and there was widespread dissatisfaction with what was perceived as the Akayev government's endemic corruption. In May of 2002, protests erupted, and Kyrgyz government forces fired upon a crowd in Aksy in the south, killing five. Bakiyev was forced to resign as prime minister because of the debacle, but Akayev remained in office. Bakiyev went on to form the People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan, a coalition of opposition parties, in 2004.
In parliamentary elections held in February of 2005, there were allegations of vote fraud that produced a favorable result for Akayev's supporters. Protests erupted, and international observers noted that events in Kyrgyzstan seemed to be following those a few months earlier in Ukraine, when demonstrations challenged and eventually prevailed over official vote fraud. The weeks-long event was dubbed Ukraine's Orange Revolution, and in Kyrgyzstan the mass protests were soon being called the Tulip Revolution.
By late March of 2005, protesters had taken over two cities in the south of Kyrgyzstan, while Bakiyev emerged as leader of the movement and tried to maintain some semblance of order. The hopes for a peaceful ouster of Akayev ended when the demonstrations moved to the capital, Bishkek, and university students leading it there were attacked by crowds of pro-government thugs sporting blue armbands and carrying wooden clubs. The anti-Akayev forces prevailed, however, and as they neared the presidential palace Akayev fled the country. The situation in Bishkek quickly descended into chaos at that point, with scores of impoverished Kyrgyz looting stores of consumer goods and food staples.
With that, Bakiyev declared himself acting president and prime minister, but promised a 90-day interim government that would ready the country for new elections. He quickly appointed cabinet ministers to crucial posts, such as defense and finance, and allied with Felix Kulov, a former Interior Minister who was jailed in 2000 thanks in part to his opposition to Akayev. Kulov was released from custody, and Bakiyev appointed him head of all lawenforcement services. Kulov, in turn, organized citizen militias to aid the pro-Bakiyev troops stationed in the capital's main shopping district.
As promised, Bakiyev announced that elections would be held on July 10, 2005, and in balloting that day he bested five other candidates for the presidency. He appointed Kulov as his prime minister. As the first anniversary of the Tulip Revolution neared, however, public opinion appeared to be turning against him as well. High-level corruption was still a problem, and the Bakiyev government was accused of doing little to end it. Early in 2006, there was a dispute over the rent paid to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan for a U.S. military base located on its soil that had been used in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and had remained a crucial outpost in the region. Bakiyev's government proposed a hundred-fold increase, from $2.70 a year to $200, and threatened to evict the U.S. military if it would not agree to the new contract terms, which international observers noted would probably be reduced in exchange for far more valuable U.S. foreign-aid dollars.
Bakiyev is married, and his official presidential website describes their college-era courtship in rather awkward, but nevertheless charmingly translated English, stating that "the modest, light-haired girl with big eyes has forever won the heart of a son of the mountains and accepted his proposal of marriage. Wedding of the couple was modest, just among a circle of close friends." The couple have two grown sons, Marat and Maxim.
Financial Times , September 23, 2005, p. 2; June 2, 2006, p. 9.
Guardian (London, England), March 26, 2005, p. 15.
Newsweek International , April 4, 2005, p. 20.
New York Times , April 3, 2005; July 11, 2005; August 15, 2005.
UPI Perspectives , March 25, 2005.
Weekly Standard , April 11, 2005, p. 12.
"Biography of Bakiev K.S.," President of Kyrgyzstan, http://eng.president.kg/president_ev/president_ev/biography_ev/ (July 26, 2006).
"Kyrgyz Leader Defends His Record," BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4837938.stm (July 26, 2006).