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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Kyrgyzstan marks decade of independence
Kyrgyz President Akayev
The president hailed the decade's achievements
By Catherine Davis in Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan has marked the official 10th anniversary of independence from the former Soviet Union with a huge parade in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

About 10,000 people gathered in the main square to watch the procession.

The Kyrgyz leader acknowledged his country faced enormous tasks in reviving and modernising its economy.

The Kyrgyz leader, Askar Akayev, and senior government ministers were present, as well as the secretary of the Russian security council and foreign diplomats.

Celebrations in Bishkek began on Thursday night with a theatrical performance and a speech by the president.

He hailed the achievements of the past 10 years - a peaceful transition to an independent state and ethnic unity.

Sobering note

But there was a sober note to his speech too. The Kyrgyz leader acknowledged his country faced enormous tasks in reviving and modernising its economy.

People waved flags and a military band played, soldiers followed by sportsmen, students and business employees paraded across the capital's main square.

The official celebrations are now over, but many people have lingered in the city centre to savour the festive atmosphere.

Capitalist veneer

Festivities began early this year because of the anniversary's significance.

In Bishkek, bright cafes, bars and shops stand next to dilapidated apartment blocks. New cars cruise past women who eke out a living selling cigarettes and chocolate.

The capitalist veneer does not extend far; in some rural areas up to 80% of the population is unemployed.

Many people have mixed feelings about independence.

They are proud their country is a sovereign state, but see only a lucky few enjoying the benefits.

Most Kyrgyzs, even while they celebrate this holiday, will be hoping the next decade is better.

See also:

27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Kyrgyzstan
02 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Kyrgyzstan
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