Global Voices on Pluralism

A History of Pluralism in Kyrgyzstan

Publication Date: April 2018

Askar Mambetaliev

Director of the Newstan Continuing Education Center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and a Lecturer at the International University of Central Asia in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan

This paper studies the history of peaceful co-existence of various ethnic and religious communities in a number of settlements in Chui and Osh oblasts. The rationale for conducting this research is that there are very few analytical publications, especially in local languages, that study the issues and perspectives of ethnic and religious diversity in Kyrgyzstan.

The author has drawn a conclusion, based on the information from serious documents and the visits to historical sites that the roots of pluralism in Kyrgyzstan go deep into its history. According to the author, the artefacts in museums represent another evidence of the long co-existence of quite diverse communities on this territory. The author claims that in certain periods of history the ethnic and cultural pluralism along the Silk Road was much stronger than it is today.
The paper describes the results of his observations, surveys, and conversations, which identified the conditions and concerns of various ethnic and confessional groups in the recent history of Kyrgyzstan. The paper gives examples of quite sensitive interpretations of the history, which have a potential to lead to serious disputes and conflicts in the future. The research also identified cases of various types of discrimination that have been preserved in the memory of people, which can harm the mutual trust among people and the peaceful development of the country.

The paper also shares conclusions that are based on the researcher’s meetings with community leaders and experts in interethnic and interconfessional relations. The author identified several communities, which had never had cases of conflict with other groups and therefore serve as examples of peaceful co-existence. These findings are valuable for Kyrgyzstan as they will give an opportunity to the leaders and the activists to focus their efforts on certain issues.
The paper has collected the information about both positive and negative tendencies in the promotion of pluralism in Kyrgyzstan; gives the overview of theories of well-known scholars about pluralism and the conditions necessary for preserving the peaceful co-existence of different communities; reveals the results of the research conducted in a number of settlements in Chui oblast and Osh city; and suggests ways to solve issues which would be useful for future research, education policies and promotion of pluralism.