Last updated in October 2018
Historically, the German minority in Kyrgyzstan figures prominently in bilateral relations. The first settlements of German Mennonites in the country date back to the 19th century. During the Second World War ethnic German citizens of the USSR, mostly from the Volga region, were also forcefully resettled in Kyrgyzstan. Another wave of immigration began in the 1950s, this time from Siberia when banishment ended. Of the roughly 100,000 ethnic Germans living in Kyrgyzstan in the early 1990s, an estimated 8000 have remained in the country. The German Government provides financial support to the members of the German minority, especially in the social, cultural and education sectors.
Giving Kyrgyz citizens of German extraction prospects for the future was a major objective of the declaration of principles adopted by the independent Kyrgyz Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany on 4 July 1992. In the same year, a German diplomatic mission was opened in Kyrgyzstan. As the first EU country with a fully-fledged embassy in Kyrgyzstan, Germany is the country’s most important partner in the European Union.
Kyrgyzstan’s then President Almazbek Atambayev visited Germany in April 2015 and February 2017. During the latter visit, he met Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Bishkek from 31 March to 1 April 2016 and the Federal Chancellor visited there from 13 to 14 July 2016. In October of that year, Germany’s then Food and Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt paid a visit to Bishkek, a trip that highlighted the two countries’ mutual interest in cooperation.
Overall, bilateral trade between the two countries is insignificant, with a large trade surplus in Germany’s favour. In 2017, Germany exported goods worth nearly 62.01 million euros to Kyrgyzstan and imported goods worth 13.95 million euros. Germany’s main exports to Kyrgyzstan are motor vehicles, machinery and chemical products (pharmaceuticals and cosmetics). Kyrgyzstan’s main exports to Germany are agricultural products.
There is little investment activity in Kyrgyzstan by German companies. Actors such as the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Central Asia (AHK) are promoting the development of economic relations. The German Business Day, which was mainly organised by the Almaty-based AHK, was held for the second time in Bishkek in March 2017 and received support and high-level attention from the German Government.
At the intergovernmental consultations between Germany and Kyrgyzstan held in Berlin in July 2017, the course was set for cooperation over the next two years (2017/2018). The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development made available 40.1 million euros for bilateral measures in the spheres of financial and technical cooperation. Sustainable economic development and healthcare reform were confirmed as the priority areas.
The main aim of German development cooperation with Kyrgyzstan is to provide long-term support to promote the country’s stable and sustainable development. The principle points of reference here are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Kyrgyzstan’s national development strategy. Other major issues in our development cooperation with Kyrgyzstan are climate/the environment, as well as cross-cutting themes such as good governance, inclusion or gender equality. Germany is one of the country’s principal bilateral donors. Germany also contributes substantial funding to the programmes of multilateral institutions (World Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Union and UN organisations).
Bilateral financial cooperation provided via KfW mainly focuses on the health sector. Infrastructure and equipment for maternal and child healthcare, tuberculosis, HIV and emergency medicine are funded. In addition, local infrastructure is being modernised with German support. Moreover, low-interest loans are being made available via partner banks to small and medium-sized companies in the agricultural sector.
In bilateral technical cooperation, the German Government is mainly engaged via the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the National Metrology Institute of Germany (PTB) in a programme to promote sustainable economic development and vocational training. This sustainable economic development also encompasses the fields of vocational education, the development of agricultural value chains and the relevant quality infrastructure, youth training, as well as trade and export promotion. In addition, there is a project on mother-child health which complements the financial cooperation projects. Climate and biodiversity, the rule of law and drug prevention largely fall under regional projects, in some cases with co-financing from the EU.
In addition to bilateral programmes, the German Government supports numerous other activities by NGOs, agencies engaged in social structural assistance and churches. Larger projects financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are carried out by the following organisations: the Savings Banks Foundation, the German Adult Education Association, the DW Akademie, the German Red Cross. Bread for the World is fostering Kyrgyz civil society with German Government funding. The successful and long-term work of the political foundations, in particular the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Hanns Seidel Foundation are also financed by the German Government.
Kyrgyzstan itself promptly followed up its National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2013-2017 with two further development strategies for the period 2018-2022.
Culture and education
To promote the German language, Germany’s Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) and the Goethe-Institut are providing special assistance to a total of ten schools in various Kyrgyz cities, including through teachers seconded from Germany, as part of the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH).
At eight of these schools, students can obtain the German Language Certificate I or II (DSD I or II). However, measures to promote German in Kyrgyzstan are meeting with growing difficulties. Due to the promotion and increasingly widespread use of the Kyrgyz language in teaching and the growing popularity of English at the country’s schools, the number of German learners is declining.
Since 1998, there has been a German Reading Room at the National Library in Bishkek, co-managed by the Goethe-Institut in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Since 2000, there has also been a language learning centre coordinated by the Goethe-Institut in Almaty offering professional German language courses and further training for teachers throughout the country. There are also German Information Centres in Osh and Jalalabad.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) runs an Information Centre in Bishkek. The DAAD regularly awards research and study scholarships in Kyrgyzstan to Kyrgyz students, scientists and academics. The number of DAAD scholarship holders is constantly growing. In 2017, 71 people from Germany and 458 people from Kyrgyzstan received support for academic exchange.
The DAAD has lectors working at several universities in Bishkek. There are also numerous university partnerships between the two countries, which are likewise funded by the DAAD. Every year, a total of approximately one million euros is spent on scholarships for Kyrgyz students and academic support in Kyrgyzstan.
In April 1999, a DAAD alumni association was set up by former DAAD scholarship holders, and in early 2005 an alumni association was established by former Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellows.
The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has concluded rebroadcasting agreements with numerous radio and TV stations across the country to rebroadcast DW satellite radio and TV programmes. Other focuses of the DW Akademie’s work are expanding citizens’ radio in Kyrgyzstan as well as the setting up of networks for young journalists in Central Asia.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.