News and General Information on Kyrgyzstan:
English-language information on Kyrgyzstan is sparse and dominated by stories of bride-kidnapping and revolution. While both topics are important, they are only a small part of Kyrgyz society, culture and (its present) politics. One exception is the excellent reporting by the team at Eurasianet.org. Note that they have reporting on all of the Central Asian states. Similarly, Radio Free Europe (a.k.a. Radio Liberty) has detailed reporting on Central Asia.
For Russian speakers perhaps the best source of news on Kyrgyzstan is Вечерный Бишкек. The paper has a northern, urban focus. (I’m still looking for a good local paper from Osh or Batken – suggestions are welcome). Those looking for the Kyrgyz government’s take on a given issue can turn to Kabar, its main news portal.
Kyrgyz speakers will find the BBC’s Kyrgyz-language service interesting. It reports stories that may be of particular interest to the Kyrgyz diaspora (primarily in London, Moscow and Chicago) and international news relevant to Kyrgyzstan. For local news and the Kyrgyz take on international stories, Koomduk Birinchi Kanal is indispensable. Its TV broadcast reaches the entirety of Kyrgyzstan, in contrast to most other channels and news sources which are only available in Bishkek. KBK is the channel that most Kyrgyzstanis rely on for their news and its coverage is comprehensive, but note: it is considered to be reliant on the government and therefore favourable to government interests. For reliable, independent and up-to-date Kyrgyz language news, I’d recommend either Super KG or Azattyk Ynalgycy (RFE’s Kyrgyz Language Service).
Law Resources (Russian and Kyrgyz language only)
The Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice offers a free, comprehensive database of Kyrgyz law – including the Constitution, statutes, government orders, local government regulations, etc. – at its information bank. The database went online at some point in the past two years, and is a huge step forward in terms of citizens’ access to Kyrgyz law.
Toktom, a for-pay database with laws available in both Kyrgyz and Russian, is also a comprehensive and reliable resource. Another for-pay website, CIS Legislation, claims to have all of the “important legislation” of the 11 CIS countries in both Russian and in an auto-generated translation to English.
The Kyrgyz Parliament’s website has copies of some select laws, updates on committee meetings and members, parliamentary news and issues under consideration, etc. The information is available in both Kyrgyz and Russian, and the website is frequently updated and improved. Their website also has links to other government organs’ websites.
The Kyrgyz Supreme Court’s website has a copy of the country’s constitution, laws relating to the judiciary and the current status of courts and the judiciary system in Kyrgyzstan. The SOT website (“court” in Kyrgyz) also claims to have a searchable database of cases and court meetings, though I’ve never managed to get any information from it no matter how broad of a search I try.
Historical & Sociological Resources:
One of my favorite websites is the online Kyrgyz photo archive. With thousands of free photos from the past 150 years and copies of historic documents, maps and books, it’s a joy to explore and an amazing (free) source of historic information on Kyrgyzstan. This is especially useful given the administrative hurdles to accessing the Kyrgyz National Archives. Currently available only in Russian.
A fascinating, insightful study of Kyrgyz customary law, Kojonaliev’s Суд и уголовное обычное право киргизов до октябрьской революций [Courts and customary criminal law of the Kyrgyz before the October Revolution] (1963) is both a thoughtful exploration of Kyrgyz customary legal norms and a reflection of the Soviet academic trends under which it was written. For a more recent work on a similar topic, see Chinara Ryskulbekovna Israilova-Khar′ekhuzen, Traditsionnoe obshchestvo kyrgyzov v period russkoi kolonizatsii vo vtoroi polovine XIX–nachale XX v. i sis- tema ikh rodstva [Traditional Kyrgyz society under Russian Colonization in the Second Half of the 19th and Early 20th Centuries and Their System of Relationships] (1999).
A few interesting English-language pieces have been written about Central Asian legal practices under Russian rule. Virginia Martin, of the University of Alabama, writes about Kazakh experiences of Russian Imperial courts in her piece “Kazakh Oath-Taking in Colonial Courtrooms: Legal Culture and Russian Empire-Building” (2004). It’s available on Project Muse. If you enjoy her article, you may want to read her full book Law and Custom in the Steppe: The Kazaks of the Middle Horde and Russian Colonialism in the 19th Century (2001). Robert Crews’ book For Prophet and Tsar (2006) places such location-specific case studies into an overarching narrative of Russian interaction with Muslim peoples. While his focus on Islam leads him to downplay the role of non-religious courts (i.e. Courts of Elders in northern Kyrgyzstan as opposed to Sharia courts in southern Kyrgyzstan), his writing is insightful. The anthropologist Judith Beyer has written several articles on Courts of Elders specifically and Kyrgyz society more broadly. Her full list of publications includes citations to her work on these topics.