Independent since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan is an extremely mountainous, landlocked country. The Tien Shan mountain range occupies the whole country with over 90 percent of land being over 1000m above sea level. Ranked only 111th in the world in terms of population, 36 percent of the 5.4 million inhabitants live in urbanised areas. The country is currently trying to recover from a fall in GDP caused by a decrease in gold prices after a few years of successful growth. Other concerns restricting development include endemic corruption, interethnic relations, privitisation of state owned enterprises and continuing negative trends in democracy and political freedom.
Despite officially being a parliamentary republic, recently ousted President, Kurmanbek Bakiev while in office consolidated a great deal of power through constitutional change and despite being re-elected in 2009, these elections did not meet international standards resulting in a great deal of harassment of Bakiev’s opponents and the media. Kyrgyzstan is yet to accept compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.
The economy of Kyrgyzstan is predominantly agricultural, despite only 6.5 percent of land being classed as arable. Kyrgyzstan has been progressive in market reforms since independence, becoming the first CIS state to join the World Trade Organisation in 1998, aided by US support. Tax reforms in 2005 went some way to improve the fiscal situation but in spite of this, 40 percent of the population remains below the poverty line. Restructuring domestic industry and success in attracting foreign investment will be important for economic growth in the future.
Kyrgyzstan has fostered links with Turkey and furthered regional cooperation by participating in joint military exercises with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Since 2001 it has also been the site of the Manas Transit Center, which is a key logistical hub for the coalition effort in Afghanistan.