In the tenth century, nomadic Kyrgyz tribes began to migrate south from the region of the Yenisey River in Siberia to present-day Kyrgyzstan. This migration accelerated in the thirteenth century as invading Mongols pushed them south. The Kyrgyz were overrun in the seventeenth century by the Kalmyks, in the eighteenth century by the Manchus, and in the nineteenth century by the Uzbek Kokand Khanate.
The Russians moved into the area in the mid-nineteenth century and by 1867, the Kyrgyz were assimilated into the Russian empire as part of Russian Turkestan. After the Bolsheviks defeated local opposition forces in 1919, Kyrgyzstan was made part of the new Turkestan Autonomous Republic. In 1924, the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast (region) was established, renamed the Kyrgyz Autonomous Republic in 1926. In 1936, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin upgraded the status of Kyrgyzstan to that of a Union Republic. While some local self-rule was allowed in the 1920s, by the early 1930s, Stalin had begun a process of Russification in Kyrgyzstan, including massive purges of local cadres and forced collectivization of the largely nomadic society. For many decades, Russians remained disproportionately represented and very influential in the Communist Party leadership of Kyrgyzstan.
The Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan was largely discredited in 1990 and 1991 for opposing sovereignty, democratization, freedom of the press, and market reforms. The long-time Kyrgyz Communist Party leader, Absamat Masaliyev, was rejected by a nationalist and reformist bloc of deputies in the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet in his bid to become president in October 1990. He later resigned from the party leadership. Instead, the deputies narrowly elected Askar Akayev to the newly created post of president. In December 1990, the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet passed a declaration on state sovereignty, the last Soviet republic to make such a declaration because of Masaliyev's opposition, and changed the republic's name to Kyrgyzstan.
Akayev resolutely opposed the August 1991 Soviet coup attempt against Gorbachev, in contrast to other Central Asian leaders who actively or tacitly supported the coup. After the coup attempt, the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet declared Kyrgyzstan an independent democratic state and scheduled direct presidential elections for October 1991. With the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined most other former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on 21 December 1991.