This unique work provides the only sustained political history of independent Kyrgyzstan, explaining events in the context of its society and the broader international order. Drawing on three decades of personal encounters with ordinary citizens and leading public figures, Eugene Huskey takes readers on a journey through the unlikely birth and tumultuous development of Central Asia's most open society. Starting with the heady, romantic first days of independence and moving through the popular uprisings and inter-ethnic violence of recent years, he chronicles the struggles of a new state to establish a democratic order and to find its place in the international community, while caught between China, the Middle East, and the Russian world. At the center are the very human stories of leaders and citizens trying to navigate the transition from communism, where identities, property, and the rules of the political game were constantly in dispute. With citizens of independent Kyrgyzstan stripped of their Soviet identity, the book illustrates how alternative loyalties based on kinship, geography, statehood, and religion competed for prominence in ways that often complicated the new country's political, social, and economic development.