About how a member of the USSR Foreign Affairs Ministry collegium became the first female president in the CIS and created the first Parliamentary Republic in Central Asia.

August 7, 2013, 06:00

Ironically, the life and career path of the "Iron Lady of Kyrgyz Spring" bears little resemblance to biography of her revolutionary, as is commonly believed, brothers Victor Yushchenko and Mikhail Saakashvili, but it has a lot in common with the stages of development of autocratic leaders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Roza Otunbayeva is familiar with Islam Karimov and Nursultan Nazarbayev from Soviet times. In 1986, Gorbachev's perestroika wind moved the second secretary of the Party’s City Committee of Frunze (PhD, thesis "A Critique of falsification of Marxist-Leninist dialectics by philosophers of the Frankfurt School") to the office of the deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic (part - the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic). Islam Karimov, in the same year was appointed the first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Uzbek SSR and led the Planning Commission, and Nursultan Nazarbayev chaired the Council of Ministers of the Kazakh SSR. However, she was much younger than them – even in the restructuring, 36-year-old ministers were the exception rather than the rule.

Three years later, in 1989, Soviet Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Shevardnadze took Roza Otunbaeva to Moscow. She represented the Soviet Union at UNESCO and was a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR - one of the most powerful agencies of superpowers at that time (perhaps, only the Department of Defense had the same "weight").

And twenty years later, after the bloody carnage of the second Kyrgyz revolution, in the burning and hid itself from looters Bishkek ambitious men, not once moved from power to the opposition and back, unconditionally gave their leadership to the only woman among them. However, for that time she was the oldest and most experienced.

There is, apparently, something in this small (by eye is one meter fifty) woman that identifies and escalates her to the era of change. Perhaps it is the ability to take on responsibility at a time when there were not others wishing to do it. And then to bring it straight to the point, where the responsibility of the sprouts begins to break opportunities and those to share the burden start to appear. In a word, the political crisis-manager,

Roza Otunbayeva says Forbes that in the spring of 2010, she deliberately went to the short duration of her presidency: "On the referendum on the introduction of the new Constitution the law, according to which I was given the authority of the President for a transitional period, and the government led by me called technical was approved”. You know, we already had a bad experience with Bakiyev, when as a result of the overall victory man, settled him in the chair, and immediately usurped power. We could not allow that to happen again we paid too high price for these changes. The people suffered a lot from the wild privatization, unemployment, "family" governance, controlled elections. So when all the politicians went to the parliamentary elections, I remained "on the farm" in order to create equal opportunities for all. I mean, I was like a bridge through which the country had to move from a presidential to a parliamentary republic. Yes, I'd probably cut off my own political career with this. But someone had to do it".

In the former Soviet Union space, few people believed that she would really go away. Chairman of the Russian Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov even argued with a journalist Arkady Dubnov for a box of brandy. Churov is said to give his loose back though not immediately, but to give.


After the collapse of the Union Askar Akayev called Otunbayeva to the Motherland, and she once again took the helm of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the rank of deputy prime minister. "You may remember, as if all of our economics were as if cut off from the umbilical cord and we fought like a fish, thrown to out to the shore. We had to pay pensions and salaries, feed the people, and find sources of revenue for the budget. It was necessary to establish new contacts and seek investment, "- she said. So after six months Otunbayeva was sent to the United States to open embassy there and build relationships with international donors: the World Bank and the IMF. However, two years later she was forced to go back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - the parliament did not approve candidate replacing her for the post of Minister of foreign affairs.

Roza Otunbayeva calls the first Parliament of independent Kyrgyzstan "legendary" and agrees that, by "early" Akayev "shoots of democracy were planted and raised". But soon everything changed, she says: "We worked day and night, tongue over her shoulder – we put our own country on the world map. But somewhere from the 95th felt slack of the leader. Cap of Monomakh slipped on one side, the family and attendants became to confuse their own pocket with the public one and it became the norm of society. I.e., the family lived with Swiss standards, while the country plunged into poverty".

It is difficult, however, to agree with Rosa Isakovna that the weakness of the presidency of Akayev was precisely in the appetites of his relatives - in which one of the CIS countries it evolved differently? However, some of his colleagues are still tightly holding the reins of power in the hands, while others had lucky enough successors for not ascertain post factum standings of their relatives.

It seems that in the case of the first Kyrgyz President, the word "weakness" was a simple original meaning. In the early 90's I had to go to Jalalabad in the south, where Kurmanbek Bakiev then assembled his march to Bishkek. In the office of the mayor of the city, plump man with cold eyes, a portrait ... of Nursultan Nazarbayev hung. Apparently, my confusion was evident, and outside the door his deputy explained: "You see that our mayor has great respect for your president." It was hard to imagine any akim of the Kazakhstan, so respectful of the president of another country to hang a portrait of him not at home but in the office.

Recently Askar Akayev’s wife Mayram gave an interview to a Kyrgyz sites in Geneva, in which called Otunbayeva (along with Bakiyev) in the number of people who the first Kyrgyz president would never forgive. It makes Roza Otunbayeva laugh: "She said, as if they have given birth, brought up, put me in the right way. Look, I worked as a secretary of the capital city committee, when Akayev was head of the department at the Polytechnic Institute. We began to pull on him to party plenums, well, they say, has revealed. With the beginning of perestroika, when I was deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers, he came to the department head of the Central Committee. In 1989, when I went to Moscow, he became the president of the Academy of Sciences. When first president was electing, he was a new man in the then political establishment, far from the contradictions and clashes that erupted particularly hot after the flood in time of the publicity. We needed a neutral person, and therefore chose him. So I do not owe anything to him".

Otunbayeva considers that Askar Akayev could not resist the temptation of power, partly because he didn’t have neither the party governing experience, no experience of political struggle (as, for example, Vaclav Havel): "We once passed through the sieve of selection and education - we were taught not to let ourselves too much, never accepting expensive gifts. I remember in the late 80's Suleymenkul Chokmorov (famous actor and artist in SSSR- Forbes), whom we have a lot of help in treatment, insisted me to take his painting "Women in the apple orchard" on memory. Of course, I refused (it is now worth a fortune.) But here, you know, the government itself has fallen into the hands, as a result of the "wild" privatization and denationalization everything flows as a river directly "into the house." He relaxed and decided that this is as it should be".


Disappointed with Akayev, Otunbayeva has still not gone into opposition: "Because the people still believed in its first president. People said, "Give him to complete reforms," believed that the positive changes would begin soon. And I did not deliberately tear, but insisted on the own, went from the post of minister aside".

In 1997, she went to open an embassy in the UK, where she worked for 5 years. During this time there were Aksy events, shooting demonstrations, protesting against the arrest of the deputy of Zhogorku Kenesh Beknazarov (according to media reports, 6 people were killed, 30 were shot and wounded). Askar Akayev has again won presidential elections, and Otunbayeva went to work at the UN as a deputy special envoy of Secretary General to Georgia to resolve the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict. She returned to her homeland only in summer, 2004, on the eve of the parliamentary elections.

Marxist-Leninist philosophy, which launched the careers of our heroine, does not attach much significance to the role of the individual in history, giving priority to social laws and the role of the masses. But, you see, not every post-Soviet candidate who has received refusal to register (in the morning Otunbayeva was registered in the University district of Bishkek and in the evening deregistered - Bermet Akaeva run for deputy in this county) would stand outside in the January cold to protest against the evident, in her sight, injustice.

She still gets excited, remembering that story: "Ambassadors of Kyrgyzstan, including me, were not allowed to go to the elections on the pretext that we were missing the last five years in the country. This is absurd: you represent your country there, award the credentials from the Head of State, but in your own country you are zero! That said the University District, at the university where I taught for six years, records Akayev's daughter, who did not work a single day in Kyrgyzstan and did not receive salary in soms! Did I have to put up with it? "

She came to the square in front of the parliament building with her support team, and then opposition joined them: in the beginning they demanded the resignation of the CEC, and then, Akayev himself: his two adult children and wife's sisters run for deputy.


During and after the parliamentary elections (many places, Otunbayeva said, were simply bought), the country held mass rallies, and in Jalalabad, Bakiyev's brothers (he has six) have occupied the regional administration. Then the same thing happened in Osh.

The movement of Roza Otunbayeva "Ata-Jurt" worked in conjunction with a block of Kurmanbek Bakiev, but she denies that she was his companion: "All of us who were in the opposition, have teamed up to go against Akayev. I misknew Bakiyev - he worked as the region's governor, it was not necessary to contact in a professional capacity, and then I was not in the country during seven years. Many prominent politicians - members of my movement "Ata-Jurt" disfavored him, but I considered it as minor, because then saw the source of evil in the power of Akayev".

After the "Tulip Revolution" Otunbayeva was appointed the head of the Foreign Ministry, but the parliament elected under Akayev has not approved her. She again went to opposition, now to Bakiyev. In 2007 she joined the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan of Almazbek Atambaev and already ran from it during the next election. In the parliament Otunbaeva has become a leader of a small opposition bloc. She was turned off the microphone, but she got out bring own megaphone and went on to say: "Why should I be afraid? I do not have a business, you can not scare me, I'm a bird freestyle. I knew that I fight, I knew that our cause is just"

Opposition spoke not only in Parliament, she went to the regions, to hold so-called kurultais. Bakiyev - not Akayev, acted harshly. A number of political assassinations, including the territory of Kazakhstan (journalist Gennady Pavlyuk was killed in Almaty, now there is a monument for him in Bishkek) is associated with his name.

The younger son of the president Maxim Bakiyev (before he was a famous man in business circles) became the most influential businessman in the country, occupied as it was known now, money Boris Berezovsky ($ 50 million on lawyers), and enjoyed playing cards deck of pure gold. About swift "maximization" of business reports and the U.S. ambassador, referring to a certain Andy Lewis (documents WikiLeaks): «Maxim Bakiyev achieved more in three months than his predecessor ove+-r the years." The Ambassador explained that the "precursor" - is a son of the last president of Kyrgyzstan Aidar Akayev, who also had an interest in the business, but still not as extensive. A little later, the ambassador reported that the family plans to privatize assets in the energy sector and a significant increase in utility tariffs.

However, the United States supported Bakiyev in return for maintaining the base "Manas".

Opposition to the U.S. Embassy, according to the documents WikiLeaks, do not complain and do not take seriously. "Like much of the political opposition, Otunbaeva suppressed and looks at the events as if from the outside. We are in a very small degree trust to her information, and even less of its analysis "- wrote in 2009 Ambassador Tatiana Gfeller-Volkoff. And later, after the presidential election, where Bakiyev won more than 90% of the vote, "Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister and now a member of parliament from the Social Democratic Party in a meeting with an attorney criticized the OSCE and the United States and other Western countries for being they responded with silence to electoral fraud ... She tells, that many of the leaders are in jail or under investigation ... We will continue to discuss the handling of the opposition to the non-public meetings with the government, but it is unlikely that our efforts will have a significant effect in the medium term. "

On April 7 opposition movements intended to spend big kurultay in Bishkek. But on April 6, clashes broke out in Talas, and all the leaders of the opposition, that is, almost all of the current government of the country, including Almazbek Atambaev were arrested. Otunbayeva, as experienced underground fighter, that night did not go home, and so remained at large. Relative, though - her whereabouts calculated on the cell phone and outside the door officers of national security were on duty.

But the people of the regions were driving to Bishkek. "Angered by the arrest, they went to the White House. Moreover, there was no one to control them - the leaders at that time were in prison. You see, thousands of people on edge (according to rough estimates of the media, then there were about 30 thousand people at the square - Forbes). They demanded the immediate resignation of Bakiyev, started shooting into them, "- says Roza Otunbayeva.

However, experts argue that the unrest and crime sided with good reason - one of the first captured objects before the White House, were the Tax Inspectorate and the Prosecutor General's Office, which immediately began to burn documents and criminal cases.

However, the dislike of Bakiyev’s at this time covered and completely law-abiding segment of the population - in Kyrgyzstan is still remembered with indignation double increase in electricity tariffs after privatization of the family's energy assets. In a poor country that was enough to make even the security forces protecting the power, as they say, without fanaticism. In Talas and Naryn, as once in Jalalabad and Osh, the administration was expelled before the events in Bishkek, on April 6 - the story, as she likes to repeat itself, but, contrary to the well-known expression, after the farce of tragedy - 87 people were killed at the square.

Otunbayeva managed to escape from the flat only in the evening of April 7, when the National Security Council withdrew from the entrance. She went to her deputy's office, and from there - to the beleaguered White House: "We had to stop the shooting and murder. We, several opposition leaders were admitted to the 7th floor of the building, a crowded with military. Security officials sitting lost, on Usenov (Prime Minister - Forbes) was not the person. I demanded the resignation of the government and the cease-fire, he asked for an hour of time, said that for the report to Bakiyev. An hour later we went back and he handed me his resignation to the government. "


On the iron fence of Bishkek’s White House hanging wreaths – ordinary, cemetery. Nearby, on the black marble slabs - lists of the dead. "When over an area were shot over 87 fellows, no one has given any statement to the world. And when the same started in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, the world surged up. But we are also tore totalitarianism"- says bitterly Roza Otunbayeva.

When it comes to Kurmanbek Bakiev, her voice appears dislike and epithets become stiff. However, this is she ordered to release him, a fugitive from the country: "The time was critical. He sat down in his home country, in the south, gathered strength. At that time from Washington, where at that time held a conference on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, called Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbayev. He said that along with Presidents Obama and Medvedev, they discussed the situation in the Kyrgyz Republic, and believe that in order to stabilize the situation is let out of Bakiev. I had reported this to the Provisional Government, but all refused to take responsibility. Then I ordered myself. I think I did the right thing”.

Kazakhstan held its border with Kyrgyzstan closed more than 40 days, citing the fact that Kyrgyz security forces have lost a lot of weapons. “Then we had a very difficult time - says Roza Otunbayeva. - A lot of emotional forces had to deal with the families of the victims, were keenly security, Bakiev’s took out different ways possessions and money. And then there's the food, which is always carried in Kazakhstan are not admitted. They deteriorate, the economy is hanging by a thread ... Now I do not remember how to explain the situation the neighbors, I have been hearing blunted because I was focused on the own internal affairs, but the explanations are not very coherent. Maybe the work of diplomatic channels was not quite sincere, they’ve all been people of Bakiyev. "

Experts estimate that over 80% of light and the dairy industry in Kyrgyzstan is sold abroad and exported almost exclusively through the territory of Kazakhstan. The losses were estimated then to be worth about $ 1 billion. Seems to look the situation of Kazakh business if the border with Russia would be closed ...

Kyrgyz argument was cut, "according to the laws of the revolutionary time" (his author was called Almazbek Atambaeva who was responsible for the economy then) –on May 18 Kirov reservoir, feeding irrigation water to Kazakhstan, stopped the water release at the same time turning off their phones. After day the border was opened.

Fergana fault

And then there was Osh, the wounds have not healed yet. Residents of Kyrgyzstan said to Forbes, that between Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs there is no previous relationship still now.

"Could we stop this? The mission is almost impossible ... The fire broke out immediately and dramatically. In 1990, the same thing happened, and in fact there was the Union, the CGS, the Soviet army, the huge state-party machine "- says the former president. She is grateful to President of Uzbekistan for the fact that, as he had promised, tightly closed the border and did not allow anyone to Osh from his side.

Strange, but the warehouses did not have any special equipment. Kazakhstan did not respond to a request for water cannons and tear gas. "Everything was burning at that time but we managed. Now I know that in such matters it is necessary to rely only on ourselves "- says Roza Otunbayeva.

After the events Islam Karimov demanded the international investigation, but members of the Kyrgyz government were against the creation and tolerance of an international commission. Then Otunbayeva has decided to single-handedly. The Commission found guilty of past and present government of "nationalist politics", has found signs of "crimes against humanity", but did not find genocide and war crimes.

By the way, when the United States and the European Union demanded an international investigation into the Andijan events in 2005 (whereas, according to official figures, 187 people died), Karimov has categorically denied.

The Ferghana Valley has the highest population density in Central Asia - about 360 people per 1 sq. km (in the most populous region of Kazakhstan, South Kazakhstan - 17 people per 1 sq. km.) Osh events '90s were explained by mistaken national policy of the Soviet leadership, poverty and overpopulation in the region. After 20 years, the same thing happened with astonishing accuracy, even the approximate number of victims. Here live the poorest Kyrgyz households - according to the UN World Food Program in Jalalabad proportion of households with low food security is the highest in the country is 52%. It's hard to say whether something fundamentally changed in this parliamentary democracy, never grows in the Fergana Valley ...  

The first parliamentary 

"The interim government did not recognized by anyone, we have not participated - or CSTO nor the SCO. On June 27, when a referendum was held and I was elected as president, I was the only legitimate person in the state. The whole country was hanging on my neck from June 27 until October 10 until parliamentary elections were held, "- said Roza Otunbayeva, and adds:" You know, we restored branch of authority one by one, and not a single step was impossible to cross - we wanted that it was a system. "

Somehow extinguished Osh, the interim government has passed the basic test. The second exam new government passed in the autumn of the same year, having spent the parliamentary elections without a new round of confrontation. Kyrgyz know-how - to mark the voter with indelible ink to prevent double voting. Democratic elections were recognized by both international and local observers.

Roza Otunbayeva said that the transitional government led by her has fulfilled all its promises: "We have said that in three months we will give a new draft of the Constitution and we bring it to a referendum that in six months we will hold parliamentary elections, which will form a government, then we will choose the president. And we all did it, and I transferred power. Hence, in Central Asia, everything is possible "

The new Constitution introduced in Kyrgyzstan a parliamentary form of government, and in it there is an article that no changes of the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament can not be made within 20 years from the date of adoption.

Many experts believe that the parliamentary system in a poor country only leads to chaos, and the population of Central Asia because of their mentality is not ready for western-style democracy. Roza Otunbayeva is annoying: "Well, let's sit and wait when mature! Even if we lose in the short term, but the long-term - we are forming now a different political culture of the people, another order of solutions of national and local issues. And on the shore do not learn to swim. We've already had this - only the president dictates. Why did not the country grew rich, and rich only the neighbors of those presidents? We - the people, and we do our history. Life - a process, and democracy - a process. We learn the culture of cohabitation, when the government, preparing a decision, knows that the parliament will oppose. It is a system of checks and balances, we have positions of the two vice-speakers, leaders of the major committees in the parliament - the budget and finance, security and order - occupied by representatives of the opposition, that is, it is included in the power. "

It recognizes that different business groups are trying to lobby for their interests through the deputies, but believes it is natural: "The whole world is cut out of the rich and the poor, the miracle of nowhere. Simply, we are trying to convey the controls vertically down, trying to bring to the grassroots social wealth and finances. So it was a real revolution - we have changed the form of government in the country. Think of how many were in France, while there firmly established their current democracy ».

What are the guarantees that the story of the usurpation of power will not be repeated for the third time? "Now we just have a rocker, where everyone is trying to represent the interests of their support groups, but together they form an equilibrium. We have five parties in parliament and the relationship between them is not easy, so you can be sure - if the same Atambayev start abusing the noise rise at once. But there is nothing there, but he has 1,5 years the president. And before that, the talk was who for what business is worth "- the ex-president.

Money likes silence


Meanwhile, no progress is observed while at the economy of Kyrgyzstan. In 2012, the government forecasts growth of almost 7%, but instead, GDP fell by 0.9% to $ 304.4 billion soms ($ 6.3 billion), despite the fact that in 2011, GDP grew by 6%. What happened to this in 2012? And just at the Kumtor felt gold production. And 5% of GDP as had happened ... But in spite of this, almost fatal dependence of the national economy from the situation in one field in February of this year, Parliament demanded ... denounce the agreements reached by the Canadian investor in 2009 (the state has to develop the field of public CenterraGold, (shares listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange) 32.75%). The lawsuit drags on this day, so that the fate of GDP in 2013 is not yet clear.

Kyrgyzstan in 2010 revoked the license Visor Capital to develop gold deposits Jeruy. The company filed for arbitration at the World Bank. Roza Otunbayeva said that the Kazakh company failed to meet its contractual obligation to the timing and amount of investment. However, the competition to develop the nationalized deposit, which would be held in mid-May, has been declared invalid - the application was only one instead of two authorized by law: investors are not eager to take possession of the asset, hobbled by litigation.

A few days ago, and the Canadian «StansEnergyCorp» informed the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic on the transfer of the claim to international arbitration. The company has invested $ 19 million, has a license for the development and exploration of rare metals, has won several lawsuits against the country's relevant government agencies, but these solutions are not implemented.

Reputation, as you know, creates very long, and losts quickly. Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan would be worth more gently with investors - the country still does not have a sovereign credit rating, which automatically puts any business in its territory in the category of high risk: banks are not lending projects either at all or - at a very high rate of interest.

Among domestic investors only Kazakhmys has not canceled his plans for Kyrgyzstan. According to Forbes in the company, the completion of construction of the mine and the start of production at the gold and copper Bozymchak scheduled for the second half of 2013. The total cost of the project - $ 330 million (2018), of which $ 70-100 million - this year.

Leave to remain

Roza Otunbayeva is adamant that she has no plans to return to power: "I see that, and so can benefit the country."

In December 2011, she handed over presidential powers, February 2012 has opened the fund "Initiative Roza Otunbayeva." The Foundation is engaged in the development of education. "In Kyrgyzstan from the population of 5.5 million 800 thousand - children up to 7 years. In this case, pre-school education reached only 13% of them. That is to say that we are very thankful to the development of intelligence age are missing. But each dollar invested in stores later age 7-8 dollars on training skilled worker "- she distressed and says that in Kyrgyzstan there is a long-standing problem - in Soviet times the coverage of pre-school institutions was 30%.

By the way, at the May meeting of the Foreign Investors Council the speech of the Head of the Russian Sberbank German Gref also focused on, oddly enough, early childhood education, apparently, it is some global trends.

Roza Otunbayeva is actively involved at governmental program to introduce compulsory education of children to the school in the country. The Foundation also announced a competition for the best poems and songs for little in the Kyrgyz language, trying to connect all the cultural institutions to work with children. Now conservatory provides free classical music lessons, museum of Pictorial arts - painting lessons. On May’s holiday Fund held in Bishkek "Festival of Education", which presented its services to all potentially interesting educational centers.

In school education, she intends to focus on the exact and natural sciences, and information technology. Membership in the Madrid club, which includes more than 90 ex-leaders of the 56 countries in the world, it greatly increases the possibility of finding sponsors of humanitarian projects.

The ex-president concerned with labor migration issues, but sees at this not only challenges but also opportunities: "In New York,in the Museum of Immigration I saw the 1860's ad " Irish people do not take on the job "- they were considered the most unskilled workers . And 100 years later Kennedy, a man of Irish roots, became president of the United States! Last year, my Foundation held a forum "Mekendeshter" (Nationals), which was attended and "white collar" workers, I want them to be handed their country its experience, knowledge and technology. "

We did not interrogate the Roza Otunbayeva pose with the Order of the Legion of Honor, which she gave in the last year the President of France, and on the question of political idol she replied, laughing: "I'm too sober to have idols."

Forbes Kazakhstan. июнь 2013, # 6 (22)