In the early 1990s, the West was unanimous in the view that Kyrgyzstan constituted ‘an island of democracy’ in the post-Soviet space, and particularly in Central Asia. There was a complete absence of censorship and restrictions on the opposition or on dissidents, and the term ‘political prisoner’ had been essentially forgotten. This was not a purely intuitive assessment on the part of Western politicians and leaders, or of specialists and other figures sympathetic to President Akayev. It was reflected in the objective findings of Freedom House, a well-respected, non-governmental organization based in the US, whose primary purpose is to evaluate the standards of freedom in any particular country, according to a scale developed by the organization’s staff. Freedom House analysts rated civil liberties in Kyrgyzstan over an extended period, placing it in a category with countries such as Germany, Japan and Greece.1