Kyrgyzstan Goes Bananas for Citizen No. 6 Million
Kyrgyzstan burst into a frenzy of celebrating on November 26 as news of the birth of the country’s 6 millionth citizen dominated the media.
The birth of Aylin, a baby girl, has been hailed by authorities as a sign of abiding optimism in Kyrgyzstan’s future. Others are more sanguine, however, and wonder whether money splashed out on marking the child’s arrival might not have been better spent elsewhere.
How the government decided Aylin fit the profile was far from arbitrary.
The Health Ministry announced that a group was specially tasked with monitoring information about all the babies born in the 12 hours following 6 p.m. on November 25. According to the group’s findings, 67 boys and 55 girls came into the world over that period.
A typically acerbic AKIpress editorial noted that careful consideration was given to the characteristics of the baby that would bestowed with the title of six millionth Kyrgyz citizen. After deciding on a gender and ethnicity, and place of birth and social status, the government picked Aylin, an ethnic Kyrgyz female born to a military family living in the southern city of Osh. The child is the family’s sixth.
President Almazbek Atambaev ordered that the family be rewarded with an apartment and a 1 million som (roughly $13,600) bank account. Parents of another 10 babies delivered around the same time will get 100,000 som apiece.
“The growth of the population is considered one of the main indicators of a peaceful life, people’s confidence in their future and aspirations toward welfare and prosperity,” said Atambaev.
Although the baby arrived in Osh, the big celebrations were held in the capital, Bishkek. City hall held a concert and set off fireworks in the main square — all at the cost of 800,000 som.
That caused ripples of indignation on social media.
“It is awesome that we have more and more Kyrgyzstanis, but am I the only one who thinks it is nonsense to honor this jubilee baby with such special attention and to organize a concert on the square for the occasion?” journalist Nurjamal Djanibekova wrote on her Facebook page.
But Ryskul Boronbaev, director of the national cultural center at the Culture Ministry, said the birth was indeed “a sensation for Kyrgyzstan that is worth celebrating.”
The demography of Kyrgyzstan, as elsewhere in Central Asia, has indeed been striking in the historical perspective.
Kyrgyzstan’s population has grown robustly, notwithstanding emigration. Official data show the number has risen from 4.87 million in 2000, and grew by 126,000 in 2014 alone. That is a formidable increase from 1959, when the Kyrgyz SSR still existed and the population was just 2.65 million.
According to the latest government statistics, mothers are bearing an average 3.2 children — the highest rate since independence — compared to 2.7 children in 2006.
The head of the National Statistics Committee, Akylbek Osmonaliev, said at a recent roundtable to mark the 6 millionth birth that all this contributes to an enhancement of the nation’s productivity.
As AKIpress noted in its editorial, however, the comparatively lower birthrate registered in the 1990s and early 2000s will lead naturally to a sharply reduced birthrate in the coming years as the generation born in that decade comes of age.
Unflappable social media users in Kyrgyzstan seem content for the whole business to blow over.
“Someone is bombing some country, somebody else is shooting down another country’s plane, and someone is pompously celebrating the six millionth baby. To each their own”, economist Azis Isa laconically observed on his Facebook page.