About Kyrgyzstan
written by Jonathan Barth circa 1998

Kyrgyzstan is an isolated nation of 4.5 million located in the Central Asian region of the former Soviet Union. This small independent nation is almost the size of South Dakota or the Island of Great Britain.  The Kyrgyz  barely make up a majority of the population.  The remainder of the population consists of a wide variety of ethnic groups including: Russian, Uzbek, Tatar, Ukrainian, Kazak, Tajik, German, Korean and more.  Many of these groups were forcibly moved there by Stalin to break up potential pockets of opposition. 

On August 31, 1991, within a few days of most of the other former Soviet Republics, Kyrgyzstan declared its independence.  The images of toppling Lenin statues in the media gave me the impression that all of the new republics were eager to rid their countries of Communism.   But when I arrived in Bishkek, the capital city, I was surprised to see a huge Lenin gracing the public square and smaller Lenins everywhere.  Unlike the Baltic republics, Kyrgyzstan never had an opposition movement, and there wasn't a rush to forget the past while creating a new nationalistic identity as Uzbekistan did. 

Over the course of the two years I lived in Kyrgyzstan, I never met a person who resented his/her Communist past.  Most long for the days when they had a stable job and a sufficient, steady paycheck to buy cheap products.  Even the few who are better off now, such as the mafia, some entrepreneurs, and people working for western companies, say life was better then. 

Its small size, remoteness and lack of significant natural resources is a hindrance to Kyrgyzstan.  Yet, it's trying to join the modern world economy after abandoning (or being abandoned) by the Soviet's planned economy.  Corruption, human rights abuses and restrictions on the press stand in the way of building a stronger democracy.

For more thorough and up to date information on Kyrgyzstan, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyrgyzstan .

About the photos

The photos here don't represent Kyrgyzstan in its entirety.  This selection is more of a display of the traditional life that may be unique to outsiders.   For example, instead of a soccer game, I included a game of ulak.   Rather than showing packaged foods in an import store, I've shown the fresh foods in the bazaars.  Enjoy. 

Jonathan Barth

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Jonathan Barth
175 Willoughby St. #2H
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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All photos and design by Jonathan Barth and Jonathan Barth.  No form of reproduction, alteration or manipulation of these digital photo files, or web page design elements  is authorized unless accompanied by a written sales invoice from Jonathan Barth.