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Photo: “Bishkek 03-2016 img11 Chuy Prospekt.jpg“, by Alexander Savin licensed under Free Art License 1.3. Hue modified from the original

Sullivan, Charles. “The Crumbling Kyrgyz Republic.” Asian Affairs (2021): 44-61.


Although Kyrgyzstan has recently withstood two coup d’états (or so-called “revolutions”) and a bout of ethnic violence, the politicization of the legal system by successive presidents portends a troublesome future. The 2017 transition from Almazbek Atambaev to Sooronbai Jeenbekov gave way to the former’s arrest and imprisonment. A series of other prior arrests and incarcerations of (former) parliamentarians indicate that Kyrgyzstan’s presidents are regularly manipulating the legal system to persecute and neutralize their rivals. This article posits that the repetitive rupturing of legal institutions will usher in an era of heightened illiberalism, elite uncertainty, and the further discrediting of the political system, thereby placing the state on the brink of failure. The mass uprising in response to the October 2020 parliamentary electoral results and most recent coup d’état indicate that the prospects of the Kyrgyz Republic suffering a collapse are real.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.