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Post-colonial politics and resurgent heritage: the development of Kyrgyzstan's heritage tourism product

Thompson, K.J. (2005) Post-colonial politics and resurgent heritage: the development of Kyrgyzstan's heritage tourism product. In: The Politics of World Heritage: Negotiating Tourism and Conservation. Channel View Publications, pp. 90-103. ISBN 1845410092

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Abstract

In 1991 the Kyrgyz Republic secured its political autonomy from the USSR and set out on the road to cultural and economic independence. Tourism was high on the development agenda, not least because of the country's abundance of natural assets, its experience with health and recreational tourism during the Soviet period and its lack of viable alternatives. During the post-colonial period, tourist activity has been based mainly on the country's mountains and lakes. More recently attempts to develop a heritage tourism product have mirrored the resurgence of ethnic Kyrgyz nationalism and Turkic culture throughout Central Asia. The paper identifies ethnic diversity and nationalist revivalism as potential constraints to the development of heritage tourism in Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, the issue of dissonant interest groups in the protection of the heritage of Kyrgyzstan is addressed. Much of the international interest in Kyrgyz heritage has been directed at the epos of the nomads of the Steppes and it is their protection, rather than that of tangible heritage sites, that has attracted sponsorship from UNESCO and other bodies. Additionally, the tangible heritage sites that have been proposed by the Kyrgyz government for World Heritage status are of domestic and regional, rather than international interest. Implications for the strategic development of Kyrgyzstan's heritage tourism product are discussed, with specific reference to world heritage.