Kyrgyzstan’s New Flag Unveiled Amid Public Backlash and Political Distractions

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The current Kyrgyz flag (left) and the one just approved by Kyrgyz lawmakers (right)

By ISSG Staff

As the dawn of 2024 arrived in Kyrgyzstan, a new flag was hoisted over Bishkek, bearing subtle but distinctive changes. The rays on the sun, a central element of the national flag, appeared straighter, reflecting alterations approved by the Kyrgyz parliament. However, the move has not been without controversy, as the government’s priorities come under scrutiny.

The process of flag modification was set in motion on November 29 when the parliament initiated the first reading of a bill proposing changes to the design. Despite facing public backlash, the parliament proceeded swiftly, adopting the bill on December 20 after just two readings. The altered design maintains the core elements of the Kyrgyz flag – a yellow tunduk (the iconic top of a yurt) within a sun with forty rays against a red background. Notably, the sun’s rays are now straight instead of wavy, and the tunduk has four slats crossing four, compared to the previous three.

The hasty approval of the flag change sparked criticism, with Deputy Nurzhigit Kadyrbekov questioning the decision during an unnoticed speech in parliament. Kadyrbekov pointed out the public discord caused by the proposal and referenced the arrest of Aftandil Zhorobekov, a young man detained for calling protests against the flag modification. Despite the opposition, the changes were pushed through, reflecting potential political insensitivity to public sentiment.

Colleen Wood, in a previous analysis, highlighted that the proposed alterations were relatively minor compared to earlier attempts to change the flag. The administrative transition to the new flag design is expected to be gradual. Official documents remain valid until expiration dates, and existing images of the national flag can be used until state bodies plan their replacement. However, the new design is already appearing on government flagpoles.

President Sadyr Japarov publicly acknowledged his role in initiating the flag change during the People’s Kurultai on December 15-16. The Kurultai, resurrected as a political forum in the 2020 referendum, remains a controversial and unelected assembly.

Wood’s earlier analysis pointed out that public sentiment views the flag change as a distraction from pressing societal issues, such as rising taxes, inflation, domestic violence, and deteriorating infrastructure. The debate around the flag modification has sparked questions about the government’s priorities, with critics suggesting that pressing challenges facing the nation deserve more attention than cosmetic changes to a national symbol.

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