Human ecology in Kyrgyzstan: the Soviet legacy and the dynamics of transition

Kalia Moldogazieva, Max Spoor

Research output: Working paperAcademic

15 Downloads (Pure)


This paper focuses on some aspects of human development in Kyrgyzstan, one of the Newly Independent States (NIS) of the Former Soviet Union (FSU). The Soviet model of industrialisation and the inter-republican division of labour between the 'centre and the 'periphery', with 'ruthless exploitation of the country's abundant mineral resources, such as gold, uranium, antimony and mercury, determined much of the current structure of the Kyrgyz economy. The impacts of this model on human development, analysed from a human ecological perspective, were until recently a 'terra incognito'. However, during the late 1980s, and in particular after independence in 1991 research in this field has begun to develop.
The paper first investigates the conditions of 'high mountain environment', to which native inhabitants adapted their human physiology. However, these conditions -at the high altitudes where most of the Kyrgyz mines are located- turned out to be quite hostile for the many new comers (soldiers, miners and other workers), in particular when the environmental pollution caused by the mine exploitation is taken into account. Age-gender data are presented for three regions (oblasts) and three villages, located at different altitudes. It is shown that the 'hidden' environmental disaster of 1964, caused by a heavily polluted mud-slide -originating in the Ak-tuz mine (of polymetal ores)- that swept through the Kichi-Kemin valley, is clearly visible with its demographic echo.
Second, the transition period is discussed in light of the negative development of some important indicators of human development, such as birth and death rates, infant mortality and life expectancy. During the transition access to food diminished, public health systems collapsed and rural-urban migration increased unemployment and poverty. While the severe contraction of the economy, in particular in the industrial and mining sectors, caused an initial reduction in environmental pollution, such as in the emission of air pollutants, the current socio-economic crisis dramatically worsened human livelihood conditions in Kyrgyzstan.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1997

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


Dive into the research topics of 'Human ecology in Kyrgyzstan: the Soviet legacy and the dynamics of transition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this