Kyrgyzstan on the Brink

Home to the sole U.S. forward operating base into Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan maintains strong ties to Russia. With a compromised press, a bankrupted economy and intense religious tensions, the country is in danger of rolling back its few democratic advances.

Edil Baisalov, an activist who led Kyrgyzstan's 2005 Tulip Revolution and recent protests for government reform, now finds himself in a strange situation. Once the darling of U.S. pro-democracy funders, Baisalov has lost their support for being too brazen in his push for reform. Baisalov, who faced an assassination attempt for exposing government corruption, tells the story of Kyrgyzstan's struggle to remain an "islet of democracy" in an oil-rich authoritarian region.

Reporter Alexandra Poolos travels to Kyrgyzstan to examine Baisalov's work and his ties to U.S. democracy funders, revealing both the regional struggle and a different style of democracy promotion than the one the U.S. is currently pursuing in Iraq.

This Central Asian nation is now proving key to the establishment of democracy across the region. But as the struggles of activists like Baisalov symbolize, the survival of democracy in Kyrgyzstan is truly at a crossroads.

Kyrgyz Politics: Exiled Reformer Returns

Alexandra Poolos, for the Pulitzer Center

When I traveled to Kyrgyzstan a few years ago, I had reservations about meeting with Edil Baisalov. At the time, he had lost his funding support through a major U.S. democracy organization and pointed the finger at organization leaders reluctant to further aggravate declining U.S.-Kyrgyz relations. I wasn't sure what to expect from this young reformer or the remote Central Asian country that happens to house the sole U.S. forward operating airbase into Afghanistan.