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Michael Coffey graduated with an M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies from George Washington University. He studied in an RSL program through SRAS at American University – Central Asia during the 2006-7 school year, where he followed the complex political developments in Kyrgyzstan closely. Michael Coffey also contributed many of the photographs included here.

This article was originally written in 2007. It was updated in 2009 by Rakhat Ashimov, a Kyrgyz scholar living in the US, and again in 2010 (post-revolution) by SRAS Assistant Editor Erin Decker.

This resource discusses many place names in Kyrgyzstan. Geography is important to Kyrgyz politics, which are marked by a distinct north-south split (Russian culture and language dominates the north, local cultures and languages dominate the south) and marked by clan ties. See this political map of Kyrgyzstan for reference. See also Wikipedia's entry on Kygyzstan for more info.


Who's Who In Kyrgyz Politics
13 Names to Know as of April, 2010
by Michael Coffey, et al.

Roza Otunbayeva votes in the election that made her Kyrgyzstan's official president.Roza Otunbayeva was born in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh on August 23, 1950. She graduated from Moscow State University in 1972 with a Master’s in Philosophy and went on to teach philosophy at Kyrgyzstan State University for six years. She entered politics in 1981 when she assumed the post of Second Secretary of the Communist Party for the Bishkek Region. She went on to serve as head of the USSR’s delegation to UNESCO and as the Soviet Ambassador to Malaysia. In 1992, she was appointed by then-President Akayev to be Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign and Deputy Prime Minister and shortly thereafter was appointed Ambassador to the United States and Canada. She later lived in London while working as Kyrgyzstan’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Otunbayeva returned to Kyrgyzstan in 2004 and founded the opposition party Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) along with several other opposition members from the Kyrgyz parliament. She had a falling out with President Akayev over what she believed was his increasingly authoritarian rule and attempt to turn the presidency into a "monarchy." She had hoped to run in the February 2005 parliamentary elections but was not allowed to because of a law that stipulated that all candidates had to reside in the country for at least five years prior to elections.

Otunbayeva participated in the March 2005 "Tulip Revolution" which overthrew Akayev as president. She called for Russia to cut off support for Akayev's corrupt regime. She was subsequently appointed Acting Foreign Minister in the new administration of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. However, she only occupied this position for a short time before being replaced by Felix Kulov (listed below). She failed to get confirmed to the post, which she largely blamed on former Akayev allies in the Kyrgyz parliament. Although her Fatherland party had helped bring Bakiyev to power, she eventually became critical of him as well for continuing a legacy of corruption and nepotism similar to Akayev.

Otunbayeva was elected to parliament and has served as the head of the parliamentary group for the opposition Social Democratic Party since October of 2009. When riots broke out in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek in early April 2010, Bakiyev was ousted as president and Otunbayeva was chosen to head the new provisional government until official elections are held. She is described as politically moderate and many believe that she will uphold western-style democratic reforms. However, unlike her predecessor, she may give relations with Moscow more importance than relations with Washington. She has close ties with members of Russia’s ruling United Russia party and her first conversation with another leader after coming to power was with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who expressed support for her leadership.

Kurmanbek Salievich Bakiev - Official photo from the Kyrgyz gov't. Kurmanbek Salievich Bakiyev was the president of Kyrgyzstan from 2005-2010, having come to power during the March 2005 "Tulip Revolution" that ousted former leader Askar Akaev. His presidency has been complicated by the continued north-south divide that helped spark the 2005 turnover, competing demands from Russia and the U.S., as well as internal corruption, slow economic development, and a large (and growing) foreign debt, which currently stands at about $2.1 billion.

Bakiyev was born on Aug. 1, 1949 in Masadan, Jalal-Abad. After studying at a polytechnic institute, he worked as an electrical engineer. He entered local politics in 1990, elected first secretary of the town council of Kok-Yangak, a small coal mining town in the province of Jalal-Abad.

Governorships of Jalal-Abad and Issyk-Kul followed. He moved on to the post of prime minister in 2000, a position he resigned in May 2002 following a riot that saw five anti-government protesters shot in the southern town of Aksy.

In October 2002, Bakiyev was elected to the Zhogorku Kenesh (parliament) to fill a vacancy. Two years later he created a People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan (NDK) opposition party and announced his intention to run for the presidency.

Early 2005 saw Bakiyev's NDK form a coalition along with several other groups, including: Ata-Jurt "Fatherland," Jany-Bagyt "New Course," the People's Congress of Kyrgyzstan (that at the time included Almaz Atambaev and Felix Kulov - also on this list) and a citizens’ union called "For Honest Elections."

With a united opposition pressuring him, in March of 2005 President Askar Akaev was ousted from power in what has become known as the "Tulip Revolution." Bakiyev, as an opposition leader, became the interim president until July elections saw the southerner receive 88 percent of the popular vote.

Bakiev dissolved the parliament in October 2007 and called for party-list parliamentary elections to be held December 16, 2007. He formed the party called "Ak Jol," or "Genial Path," which won 71 out of 90 available seats in the new parliament.

His rule began to get rocky, with regular demonstrations taking place in the capital of Bishkek. According to some political analysts in Kyrgyzstan, the administration's nepotism, corruption and crackdowns on the political opposition showed some signs of similarity to the later years of the Akaev regime.

Immediately after accepting $2 billion in aid from Russia in February 2009, Bakiyev announced that Kyrgyzstan would not renew the lease on the base for the US military. However, in June 2009, Bakiyev agreed to allow the US to stay after it offered to pay $60 million to continue leasing the base. Many saw this as a slight to Russia. Bakiyev was also accused of diverting the aid his country received from Russia into private hands, namely those of his six brothers and two sons, who had together essentially come to run the entire government. His son Maxim, who is suspected of having ties to organized crime, had been appointed Head of the Central Agency for Development, Investment, and Innovation – which controlled vast swaths of the Kyrgyz economy.

In July 2009, Bakiyev was re-elected with 76% of the vote in an election criticized by the Kyrgyz opposition and the OSCE.

Public opinion of Bakiyev fell as unemployment and rates on housing and public utilities continued to rise. Starting in early 2010, several Kyrgyz news outlets were shut down for running "damaging" reports on the president and his son. On April 7, 2010, when it was reported that three leaders of the political opposition, Omurbek Tekebayev, Temir Sariev, and Almaz Atambayev, had been placed under arrest, crowds began forming in front of the White House calling for their release and opposition supporters stormed the parliament building after government forces opened fire on the crowd, killing dozens.

Bakiyev fled to the southern city of Osh where it was initially suspected that he was trying to amass and arm his supporters to return to Bishkek and resume the presidency. Bakiyev refused to step down as president until the new interim government announced that it would issue arrest warrants for him and his family if he did not. Bakiyev finally submitted his official resignation as president of Kyrgyzstan on April 16, 2010 and left the country, however he still maintains that the revolution which overthrew him was illegal.

Akaev speaks at a UNESCO confrence. Photo from Akaevich Akaev rapidly ascended the rungs of political power in Kyrgyzstan. He joined the Kyrgyz Communist party and entered politics in 1986. Four years later he was president of the newly independent republic. Born Nov. 10, 1944 in Kyzyl-Bayrak, a small town in central-north Kyrgyzstan not far from the capital of Bishkek. He attended school in St. Petersburg, received a Ph.D., and acquired some distinction as a scientist and intellectual.

He became president of Kyrgyzstan in 1990, when the country was still part of the Soviet Union. Direct elections made him the first president of an independent Kyrgyzstan in 1991, and returned him to office again in 1995 and 2000. However, the last election was seen as less than open and honest, and most importantly, was seen in this light by the people who had cast the ballots.

In February 2003, Akaev moved to expand his presidential powers, provoking more popular criticism. Parliamentary elections in February and March of 2005 were marred by gross violations and sparked protests in major cities like Osh, Jalal-Abad and elsewhere. Protests turned to riots in Bishkek, forcing Akaev to flee to Russia and allowing Bakiyev to assume the interim presidency.

Akaev's daughter, Bermet Akaeva, has returned to Kyrgyzstan and is attempting to regain her position as a deputy in the Zhogorku Kenesh, representing the Keminsky district where her father was born. Akaev currently works as a professor and senior researcher at the Prigogine Institute for Mathematical Investigations of Complex Systems at Moscow State University. Kyrgyzstan's provisional government has also recently announced that Akaev will be allowed to return to the country after formal elections take place in October 2010.

Azimbek BeknazarovAzimbek Beknazarov hails from southern Kyrgyzstan, having been born and raised in the village of Kara-Soo. After serving in the army, he went to Uzbekistan to study law and returned to Kyrgyzstan to work as an investigator in the Prosecutor General's Office for the Jalalabad Region. From 1996 to 1999, he worked as a judge in the Oktyabrsky Regional Court until he decided to enter politics. In 2001, Beknazarov was elected to the Kyrgyz parliament and served as a member of the Committee on Judicial Affairs. It was during this time that Beknazarov became an outspoken critic of then-President Akayev, accusing him of corruption and abandoning democratic reforms he promised during the 2005 coup that brought him to power.

In 2002, Beknazarov was arrested for "abuse of office" after he allowed the release of a man who was accused of murder without making him stand trial. His arrest sparked a number of protests from other opposition members in Jalalabad and Bishkek. After about two months in prison, Beknazarov was released after agreeing that he would not leave the country. He continued to call for President Akayev to step down and shortly after his release, he personally attempted to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president.

In 2004, Beknazarov became a deputy to Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who at the time was the chairman of the "People's Party" political opposition movement. During the 2005 Tulip Revolution, he played an active role and supported Bakiyev when he subsequently assumed the presidency. Beknazarov became the chairman of the United Front, an umbrella group which sought to unite all of the country’s opposition movements. Bakiyev appointed him Prosecutor General of the new government. Beknazarov’s contributions to the new government earned him the nickname "The Bulldozer of the Tulip Revolution."

However, the cooperation between Bakiyev and Beknazarov did not last long. By August of that year, Beknazarov had already been relieved of his post as Prosecutor General for "allowing gross violations of law" and "acting in [his own] personal interest." Beknazarov returned to the ranks of the political opposition and succeeded in being re-elected as a member of parliament. He began to speak out more often against Bakiyev, accusing him of cronyism and corruption.

Beknazarov began to work closely with fellow opposition figure Roza Otunbayeva when the two served as co-chairs of the Asaba opposition movement from 2006 to 2007. Although Beknazarov returned to working as a lawyer shortly thereafter, he remained politically active and Otunbayeva appointed him as a deputy in charge of law and security for Kyrgyzstan’s interim government established after the April 2010 coup that overthrew Bakiyev.

Almaz AtambaevAlmaz Sharshenovich Atambaev was born Sept. 17, 1956, in the village of Arashan, in the Chui Oblast of north Kyrgyzstan. He was educated at the Moscow Institute of Management in Moscow, after which he went into business, which including directing a manufacturing company called "Forum" and a stint as general director of Kyrgyzavtomash, Kyrgyzstan’s main auto manufacturer.

Atambaev has chaired the Social Democratic party of Kyrgyzstan since he helped to found the organization in 1993. By 1995 he was elected to parliament and had joined the Reform bloc. In 2000, Atambaev ran for the presidency and got six percent of the vote, enough to secure third place behind Omurbek Tekebaev (listed below) and the incumbent Askar Akaev (listed above).

For several months in 2005 and 2006, Atambaev headed the Ministry for Industry, Trade, and Tourism. He resigned his post, accusing Bakiev of blocking political reforms and supporting criminal elements and corruption.

His Social Democratic party participated in political opposition rallies against Bakiev in April and November of 2006. This made him an ideal compromise candidate for the post of prime minister in March of 2007, when Bakiev was looking to replace the short-lived Azim Isabekov, who lasted just two months in office.

Atambaev's appointment was seen both as a concession to the opposition (which, however, began demonstrating just two weeks after Atambaev's March 30 appointment) and as a chance to co-opt some of the northern-led opposition groups considered more open to negotiation.

Also a member of the Writers' Union, Atambaev shocked national audiences in late April 2007 by using foul street language on national television to describe the opposition demonstrators that had been dispersed from central Bishkek days earlier.

In November 2007, Atambayev resigned as Kyrgyzstan's prime minister, citing Bakiyev's nepotism, corruption, and rolling back of democratic reforms. Atambayev registered as a presidential candidate for the 2009 elections and received about 8% of the vote. He joined in a chorus of opposition members who claimed there were mass violations in the elections, but these protests were largely unsuccessful.

On April 6, 2010, Atambayev, along with Omurbek Tekebayev and Temir Sariev, was arrested during a demonstration protesting Bakiyev's utilities rates hikes and calling for his resignation as president. The arrest of the opposition leaders set off riots in the capital of Bishkek and soon the opposition was in control after storming the parliament building and taking over Kyrgyzstan’s major television channels. Atambayev, Sariev, and Tekebayev were released shortly thereafter. After Roza Otunbayeva emerged as Kyrgyzstan's interim leader, she appointed Atambayev as one of her deputies, to act as economic minister for the next six months until elections are held.

Omurbek Tekebaev speaks at a political rally in Bishkek in 2007. Photo by Michael Coffey.Omurbek Tekebaev hails from the southern Ichkilik clan grouping and was born in Jalal-Abad in 1958. Clans play an important role in Kyrgyz politics, so it is not surprising that the long-time opposition leader hails from this powerful group. He spent his early working years in academia, rather than in business or politics.

After graduating from Kyrgyz State University, specializing in physics and the instruction of physics, he went on to teach for several years at a school in Akman Bazar-Korgonskyj, a village in Jalal-Abad in western Kyrgyzstan. In 1994, Tekebaev graduated from the law faculty at Kyrgyz State National University (KGNU).

Tekebaev's first significant stride into politics came in February 1991 when he formed the Erkin Kyrgyzstan party (Free Kyrgyzstan). A year later, Tekebaev entered parliament and the Erkin party split. Tekebaev's wing was renamed Ata-Meken.

In 2000, he was picked to be the vice-speaker of the Zhogorku Kenesh. That year also saw him explore a potential tandem that would have pre-dated the highly effective Bakiev-Kulov duo by five years. Tekebaev united Ata-Meken with Kulov's Ar-Namys to run for the presidency and observers suggested that Kulov (then imprisoned) would have received the post of prime minister.

However, in his run against the powerful incumbent President Akaev, the opposition leader garnered only 14 percent of the vote. Following the 2005 overthrow of Akaev, Tekebaev was elected speaker of the new parliament which he held until a conflict with President Bakiev in February 2006 spurred his resignation. Tekebaev resumed his role as opposition leader by creating the For Reforms movement that has since held multiple rallies in the center of Bishkek.

Tekebaev recently made international headlines when he was arrested in Warsaw on Sept. 6, 2006, en route to an international economic conference. Polish customs officials found 595 grams of heroin in a matroshka in Tekebaev's luggage. However, a Polish court acquitted Tekebaev within days, citing probable political intrigue.

A Kyrgyz parliamentary commission later confirmed this intrigue, finding that SNB Deputy Chairman Janysh Bakiev, the president's brother, had ordered the deputy chief of security at Manas airport to execute a "special operation," involving Tekebaev's luggage. Videotape evidence showed that Tekebaev's suitcase disappeared for 15 minutes into the security official's office.

In April of 2007, Tekebaev’s For Reforms movement joined with Kulov's United Front to oppose Bakiyev, but the duo has proved no more successful than they did in 2000. April's "unending" meeting was dispersed by security forces on April 19, following a riot said by many to be the work of hired provocateurs.

After Tekebayev’s 2006 resignation as speaker of parliament, he founded the For Reforms Party, demanding from then-President Bakiyev constitutional and electoral reforms, as well as a crackdown on crime and corruption in the country. He stepped down as chairman of the party in March 2007 but remained a member and participated in a large-scale demonstration in April 2007, calling for Bakiyev's resignation. He remained politically active and an outspoken critic of Bakiyev until he was arrested briefly on April 6, 2010 for his participation in another rally. He was released later that same day after protests turned violent. He helped lead the storming of the Kyrgyz parliament building on April 7. He is part of Kyrgyzstan's interim government, having been appointed by the interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, to serve as a Deputy in Charge of Carrying out Constitutional Reforms.

Sariev marching with demonstrators in 2007. Photo by Michael Coffey.Temir Sariev is the co-chair of the For Reforms opposition movement that has advocated constitutional reform, intensified measures to counter corruption and increased powers for the Zhogorku Kenesh as a balance to presidential authority.

After two years in the Soviet army, Sariev went to work in a fur factory located in Alamedin (not far from Bishkek) as an economist and logistical expert. He went on to open several cafes and discos and, from 1995-2000, helmed the financial-industrial firm Toton as general director.

2000 saw Sariev take his first significant step into politics, with his election to parliament. He was reelected in 2005 as representative for the Shopokovskyj Okrug. In parliament, he sided with the Jibek Joly bloc. On April, 4, 2005, Sariev joined a parliamentary delegation that traveled to Moscow to convince the exiled Askar Akaev to resign. The delegation was successful.

In 2006, Sariev made a run for Tekebaev’s speakership, but after a first round of voting in which he received 19 out of 62 votes, his vote tally subsequently declined. Several rounds of voting passed before Marat Sultanov was finally elected speaker, with 45 of 75 deputies' support. Sultanov, however, is a compromise candidate in every sense of the word and is not expected to be a major force for Kyrgyz politics in the near future.

Sariev made headlines in January 2007, when customs officials stopped the deputy at Manas airport, allegedly attempting to leave the country for Istanbul with $100,000 in cash. For Reforms officials called the allegation politically motivated. On March 26, 2007, Sariev was selected as one of nine co-chairs in the For Reforms movement.

On April 10, 2007, Sariev announced his exit from the Social Democratic party of Kyrgyzstan. Simultaneously, he announced his support for the creation of a Union of Democratic Forces party and his support for parliamentary elections by list.

When government security forces broke up April's "unending" meeting on the 19th, Sariev was one of the few opposition leaders to be seen that evening in Bishkek. However, his presence in the city center on Ala-Too square failed to calm demonstrators or the police. He, along with thousands of other protesters, fled tear-gas canisters and noise grenades.

Sariev's bid for president in the 2009 elections ended with him receiving about 6% of the overall vote. Although he and many others claimed the elections were rigged, no evidence was found affirming this and Bakiyev continued to serve as Kyrgyzstan's president for a second term.

In early 2010, Sariev and other members of the opposition began to press Bakiyev to reverse the increased rates that he had just put in place on household utilities, namely electricity and heat, and to remove his relatives, who occupied the majority of key government posts and were accused of abusing their authority. On April 6, Sariev was returning from Moscow when he was placed under arrest at the Bishkek airport. Opposition leaders Omurbek Tekebayev and Almaz Atambayev were also detained, and their arrests sparked further unrest in the Kyrgyz capital which turned violent. The three were released later that night after the opposition had assumed nominal control over the capital. Interim president Roza Otunbayeva appointed Sariev Minister of Finance in the temporary government, and he has pledged to create a commission to expose the extent to which Bakiyev and his family illegally privatized the country's land and government assets for their own personal benefit.

Kulov, speaking at a political rally in Bishkek, 2007. Photo by Michael Coffey.Felix Sharshenbayevich Kulov is a former Soviet-era security services colonel who took a leading role in the formation of an independent Kyrgyzstan following the breakup of the Soviet Union. From 1990-1999, Felix Kulov served variously as minister of internal affairs, vice-president, governor of the Chui Oblast (located in the north and which contains the capital, Bishkek), minister of the national security service (SNB), and finally as mayor of Bishkek.

Kulov moved into political activism with the creation of the political party Ar-Namys "Dignity" in July of 1999. In February of 2000, Kulov declared his intention to run for president, but was arrested by SNB officers on March 22, 2000, for alleged abuses of his position while serving as minister of the SNB.

On Jan. 22, 2001, Kulov was found guilty of various crimes connected to his service as SNB chief from 1997 to 1998. He received a seven year sentence, but this seemed to only increase his standing with the opposition, and in November of 2001 Kulov was elected chair of the People's Congress of Kyrgyzstan, a political bloc that included Ar-Namys, Ata-Meken "Homeland," the People's Party and Erkindik "Freedom" political parties. He initially served in this position from prison. 

When protesters ousted Akaev in 2005, one of their first acts was to release Kulov.  The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan overturned the convictions against Kulov on April 11, 2005, legally undoing what the U.S. government had called a "politically motivated" prosecution. Kulov then joined with Bakiev in 2005 to form the "tandem" that united northern and southern Kyrgyzstan in a unity government that had Bakiev as president and Kulov as prime minister.

This alliance lasted until January 2007, when Kulov failed to secure a parliamentary vote to maintain his post as prime minister. Kulov then rejoined the opposition under the United Front movement and began to speak out against the corruption he had witnessed in Bakiyev's administration. He spoke of the former president as "a man who does not keep his word" and called for his resignation along with the rest of the opposition movement.

In 2008, Kulov published memoirs of his political and personal life in a book entitled "На перевале" ("In the Passageway.")

Kubatbek Baibolov at an opposition rally in 2007. Photo by Michael Coffey.Kubatbek Baibolov is a retired KGB colonel turned business man, opposition politician, and parliamentary deputy. He heads the Union of Democratic Forces, which is aligned with the For Reforms movement. He may not be quite a Kyrgyz Jefferson, but if there's a constitution to amend or draft, look for Baibolov's handwriting.

In November 2006, opposition leaders lead a demonstration in central Bishkek calling for constitutional reform and other changes by the Bakiyev administration. On Nov. 7, a constituent assembly was formed in parliament to draft a new constitution. Kubatbek Baibolov was elected the group's chairman.

However, deputies loyal to Bakiyev undid the constitutional compromise that ended the November demonstrations just a few weeks after they had been approved.

In April 2007, Bakiyev's administration received a proposed draft constitution approved by the United Front and written by Baibolov. He argued that his draft created a hybrid system that better balanced power between the prime minister and president. However, most agree that, especially after the breakup of the "unending" demonstration in April, the likelihood of these reforms being adopted is minimal.

Baibolov said that there were grounds to impeach Bakiyev for "stalling systemic reforms as well as constitutional changes for two years." According to the opposition deputy, Bakiyev was holding the country back, as he was more concerned with maintaining his grip on power than improving governance.

In January of 2008, Baibolov announced that he was withdrawing from politics, saying "my conscience is clean, and for my family, our six children and five grandchildren are more important than any political preoccupations."

Melis Eshimkanov at an oppostion rally in 2007. Photo by Michael Coffey.Melis Eshimkanov is a key player among opposition politicians. He is a Zhogorku Kenesh member of the For Reforms movement and was the chief editor of the opposition newspapers Agym and Asaba, before the papers were closed by government actions.

His pro-democracy bonafides date back to the mid-1980s, when he founded the Kyrgyz pro-democracy movement after returning from the Baltics, where he learned firsthand about other anti-communist campaigns. The KGB persecuted Eshimkanov for his actions and eventually he lost his job as a news anchor.

Eshimkanov ran in the 2000 presidential elections, representing the People's party, but he collected a scant two percent of the popular vote. In December 2004, Eshimkanov announced the dissolution of the People's Party and its unification with the Social Democratic Party and his assumption of the deputy chairman post for the social democrats.

Despite his active role in opposition politics, Eshimkanov failed to gain a position with the new Bakiyev government in 2005. Sensing a desire to rejoin an opposition movement, reports emerged that Eshimkanmov was prepared to initiate a vote of no confidence against the president. This came after voting irregularities were found in six precincts, including Eshimkanov's own Asanbaevskij Okrug No. 6, resulting in the president ordering a commission to investigate.

Eshimkanov continued to clash with Bakiyev in 2006, calling for an account of some $25 million that Bakiyev's son Maksim had invested. The opposition leader accused the president's children of illegally privatizing government assets and claimed that Bakiyev was surrounded by "Akaev's team."

On Feb. 18, 2007, Eshimkanov joined with Kulov to support the United Front opposition umbrella group which aimed to secure Bakiyev's resignation, early elections, and constitutional reform. The United Front began what was to be an "unending" demonstration in Bishkek in April 2007, but the government dispersed the protesters on the 19th of that month.

That same night, security forces seized printing equipment from the Center for Media Support, effectively closing Eshimkanov's Agym newspaper, as well as three other newspapers. Eshimkanov’s other paper, Asaba, had been previously shut down in April, 2001.

However, in October of that year, Eshimkanov was appointed head of the Kyrgyz National Broadcasting Corporation (NTRC) by then-President Bakiyev, much to the surprise of Eshimkanov's fellow opposition members. The media speculated that Eshimkanov received his post as a "reward for initiating the abolition of the November 2006 constitution. Employees of the NTRC have not been happy with Eshimkanov's leadership and have periodically called for his resignation because of everything from unjustified layoffs to what they see as Eshimkanov "turning a state media outlet into his own personal property" by only broadcasting programs he produces. Despite employee grievances, Eshimkanov remains chairman of the NTRC.

Bolotbek Nogoibaev at the April demonstrations in Bishkek. Photo by Michael Coffey.Bolotbek Berdibekovich Nogoibaev is not a leading politician of Kyrgyzstan, but the recent dispersal of demonstrators on April 19, 2007, has thrust this career security officer into the limelight of the stage of Kyrgyz politics. Nogoibaev was born Nov. 10, 1955, in the Panfilov region of Chui Oblast in north Kyrgyzstan.

Following military service (1973-1975), he began working with the Internal Security Forces and the police in posts that included detective department commander and deputy commander. By 1987 he was heading up the Pishkek Internal Affairs Station.

He continued to climb the ranks in the 1990s, and by 1999 he was the deputy minister of internal affairs for Kyrgyzstan. In February of 2005 he spent time as chief inspector for Kyrgyzstan's security council and later that year he took over as chief of the Kyrgyz Counter-Narcotics Agency – an organization almost wholly funded and supported by the U.S. government.

On Feb. 6, 2007, Bakiyev appointed Nogoibaev to head the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Just weeks later, an "unending" demonstration was initiated by opposition groups in the center of Bishkek in April. At first, opposition groups and Nogoibaev's security forces, numbering some 3,000, coexisted peacefully.

However, on April 19, violent demonstrators attacked Nogoibaev and other security forces protecting the White House. In a matter of hours, thousands of demonstrators were cleared from the city center. After this dispersal, government authorities began seeking prosecutions against opposition leaders and security forces shut down several opposition newspapers.

In January 2008, Bakiyev removed Nogoibaev as head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and appointed him head of the Drug Control Agency. However, in October 2009, he was also dismissed from this post due to reorganization within the agency.

Omurbek Suvanaliev after his arrest. Photo from Isaakovich Suvanaliev aka “Comissar Cattani” was born July 31, 1960 in the city of Talas, in the Talas Oblast of north-western Kyrgyzstan. In 1995, he was elected to the Zhogorku Kenesh to represent Talas' 28th region. While in parliament he headed up a commission to battle corruption and organized crime. He holds the rank of police major general and is known affectionately as Comissar Cattani – after the police inspector that fights the Italian mafia in the movie "La Piovra" – for his consistent efforts to battle organized crime in Kyrgyzstan.

In 1997, Suvanaliev headed up the Osh Oblast branch of the Ministry of National Security during which he helped seize a 700-ton shipment of weapons sent from Iran and destined for Afghanistan and arrested the murderer of a vice mayor of St. Petersburg. However, after a year in the post, he resigned after the government pulled the rug out from under an investigation concerning smuggled weapons and ammunition. Suvanaliev continued his anticorruption campaign in 2003, when he was appointed director of the Ombudsman's Department for Kyrgyzstan.

After the March 2005 overthrow of Akaev, the Commissar was appointed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs' top position in Bishkek while he served as deputy minister of internal affairs. In July of 2005, Suvanaliev handed in his resignation, but he returned to his post in October.

Since that time, his security forces have arrested some 30 leading members of organized crime. One special operations group even netted Aibek Narmatov, a contract killer responsible for at least seven contract killings according to police.

Unfortunately, Roman Shin – a deputy known for his multiple casino operations in Bishkek – initiated a parliamentary committee campaign against Suvanaliev’s reappointment. Some say Shin is linked to organize crime and his efforts are related to these links. Commissar Suvanaliev was ousted from his post in early 2007.

Near the end of 2007, he was appointed governor of the country's Narynsky District until Bakiyev removed him in November 2009 without disclosing the reason for his removal. Suvanaliev is currently courting Roza Otunbayeva's interim government, which ousted Bakiyev in April 2010, in the hopes of resuming his post as head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Edil Baisalov at a recent rally in KyrgyzstanEdil Baisalov is the president of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society in Kyrgyzstan, a coalition of Kyrgyz non-governmental organizations. He is perhaps the best-known advocate for Kyrgyzstan's civil society inside the country. Baisalov was born in 1977 in Bishkek, where he attended the American University of Central Asia, an institution founded with the assistance of the American government.

In February 2003, Baisalov was scheduled to attend a Freedom House-sponsored roundtable, but government authorities hospitalized the rights activist, forcing him to undergo a bizarre three-day eye examination.

On April 12, 2006, Baisalov survived an assassination attempt outside his organization's office early in the evening. He suffered a blow to the back of his head from a metal bar, but was immediately rushed to the hospital by his driver. This came just days after Baisalov had led protests in Bishkek calling for stepped up government action against organized crime.

It was suggested that Baisalov's specific opposition to Ryspek Akmatbayev, a crime boss who was running for parliament, had served to earn the activist a warning.

In 2007, Baisalov began to note the disappointment with which reformers came to view the Bakiyev administration. "Two years after March 2005, we have to say that many if not most of the slogans of the Tulip Revolution have not been realized," he said, as reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Summing up the years since the overthrow of Akaev, only "a few nameplates on some of the highest floors" of the White House have changed.

Baisalov joined the opposition Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan in August 2007 but left the country only a few months later, explaining his actions only by saying he felt unsafe and that he was "the victim of a political vendetta." He moved to Sweden and only returned after Bakiyev was ousted as president in April 2010. He currently serves as Chief of Staff to the head of the interim government, Roza Otunbayeva.

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