Political economy of conflicts in Kyrgyzstan since the 2000s


Identify literature on the political economy of conflicts in Kyrgyzstan. Focus on the March 2005 and April 2010 conflicts and their implications for the way the country is governed today.


A fundamental finding, widely shared among authors, is that it is not only the national level that matters, but also regional and local ones, in violent and non-violent conflicts. In recent and older history, local conflicts sometime develop into national ones.

Other key findings of the literature review include:

  • The root causes of both conflicts are largely similar and form a structural system of “institutionalized instability” in politics, economy and society, which generates both popular and elite discontent (Gullette 2010). Contributing factors are: high levels of inequality, poverty and unemployment; neo-patrimonial rule and competition among elites; and repression and violence by those in power against opposing parties, the media, NGOs and protesters.
  • Some of the proximate causes of both conflicts centre on the growing involvement of the presidents’ families in politics and the economy, to the detriment of ordinary citizens and former allies.
  • Additional indications on the proximate causes of the April 2010 conflict include economic policies that were particularly poor and made worse by economic crisis in Kyrgyzstan, Russia and globally. In particular, rising prices for food, water, gas, electricity, heating and telecommunications are often identified as important factors in discontent.
  • The main trigger for the 2005 mobilisation was the rigging of parliamentary elections and the accompanying repression of opposition. In April 2010, it was the shooting to death of ordinary people in Bishkek by the police.
  • The main players who have been contesting Kyrgyzstan’s political economy since 2010 have largely been drawn from the same elite circles who come in and out of power and state institutions since at least the early 2000s.
  • Two actors that the literature identifies as likely to cause conflict in the future are the state itself, and Kyrgyz ruling elites. Both have failed to address economic and political problems, still risk the mobilisation of geographic and ethnic identities for violence, and do not necessarily have control over the police and military.



Suggested citation

Combaz, E. (2016). Political economy of conflicts in Kyrgyzstan since the 2000s (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1339). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.