Global Voices on Pluralism

History of the Establishment and Development of Ethnic Entrepreneurship in the Town of Karakol

Publication Date: April 2018

Janyl Bokontaeva

Associate Professor of Sociology and Head of the Department of Philosophy and Sociology at Issyk-Kul State University in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

The Town of Karakol is the administrative, education, and culture centre of Issyk-Kul oblast. Karakol town has a multiethnic community which is comprised of over 24 different ethnic groups. The establishment and development of the market relations and the notion of private property in Kyrgyzstan led to the creation of small and medium-sized businesses in different spheres of the economy.
Owners of the many small and medium-sized businesses in the sphere of industry, trade, and services are the representatives of various ethnic groups including Russians, Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Tatars, who have historically lived in this region and are connected with one another. This is what makes Karakol special and unique, since the ethnic groups not only contribute to the socio-economic development of the region, but also add a certain socio-cultural colour to the local entrepreneurship.

The objective of this research was to study the history of the establishment and development of the ethnic entrepreneurship in Karakol from the early days of Kyrgyzstan’s independence (1993-2016). During the research, ethnic entrepreneurs were surveyed based on their age, sex, education, and the place of residence. The findings of the sociological researched helped identify the social base, the motives, personal qualifications, relations between the government and entrepreneurs, as well as moral and financial incentives for running various kinds of businesses.
The establishment and development of ethnic entrepreneurship in Karakol (after the collapse of the USSR) took place in a difficult and controversial period, with the representatives of different ethnic groups finding themselves unprepared and unskilled and in a shocked state and forced to work in a new market system. As they raised their adaptive potential in the social and work sphere by engaging in private business, an adjustment to the changing social and economic circumstances occurred.

After the collapse of the Soviet system, minorities did not have any difficulties in opening and running a business. However, it must be admitted that the ethnic affiliation was an obstacle for career growth, including access to power, ownership, prestige and certain social status in government organizations and agencies. After Kyrgyzstan gained independence, the titular ethnic group, Kyrgyz, had disproportionate representation in government institutions, and in rare cases ethnic minorities had representations.

Therefore, non-declarative, but actual access of ethnic minorities (along with Kyrgyz people) to resources, power, revenues, social status and prestige would lead to interethnic accord and tolerance among the groups. For example, when hiring for a job or suggesting to managerial positions, education and professional qualities, rather than the ethnic background, of the candidates should be considered. The joint organization of holidays, festivals, competitions, and other public events that strengthen consolidation of unity among the city residents will lead to increased mutual understanding and respect in the multicultural society.