As late as 1993 political analysts saw Akayev as a "prodemocratic physicist."
He obtained a doctorate in 1981 from the Moscow Institute of Engineering and Physics, having written his dissertation on holographic systems of storage and transformation of information. In 1984, he became a member of the Kirghiz Academy of Sciences, rose to vice president of the Academy in 1987 and then president of the Academy in 1989. He was elected as a deputy in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in the same year.
Two days later, on October 27, the Supreme Soviet selected Akayev - who was effectively a compromise candidate - to serve as the republic's first president. In 1991, he was offered the post of vice-president of the Soviet Union by President Mikhail Gorbachev, but refused. Akayev was elected president of the renamed republic of Kyrgyzstan in an uncontested poll on October 12, 1991. He was reelected twice, amid allegations of ballot rigging, on December 24, 1995 and October 29, 2000.
Akayev was initially seen as a liberal leader. He commented in a 1991 interview that "Although I am a Communist, my basic attitude toward private property is favorable. I believe that the revolution in the sphere of economics was not made by Karl Marx but by Adam Smith." ("Akayev: 'All of a Sudden I Become President'", Christian Science Monitor, 10 January 1991) He actively promoted the privatization of land and other economic assets and operated a relatively liberal regime compared with the governments of the other Central Asian nations. He was granted lifelong immunity from prosecution by the Lower House of Parliament in 2003.
Askar Akayev is an Honorary Member of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
Riot police clashed with protesters in Bishkek in May during demonstrations in support of Beknazarov. Police in the capital's Parliament square kicked protesters and dragged people away to break up the 200-strong crowd. They made several demands including the resignation of Akayev. This was again repeated in November of the same year when scores were arrested as the opposition marched on the capital. Protests continued, albeit on a smaller scale, at various points over the next few years.
The results of the elections were disputed, with allegations of vote-rigging. Two of Akayev's children won seats. Serious protests broke out in Osh and Jalal-Abad, with protesters occupying administration buildings and the Osh airport. The government declared that it was ready to negotiate with the demonstrators. However an opposition leader said talks would only be worthwhile if the President himself took part.
Akayev refused to resign, but pledged not to use force to end the protests, which he attributed to foreign interests seeking to provoke a large-scale clamp-down in response.
That day, Akayev fled the country with his family, reportedly escaping first to Kazakhstan and then to Russia. Russian president Vladimir Putin invited Akayev to stay in Russia. There were early reports that he had tendered his resignation to opposition leaders before his departure. However, his formal resignation did not come until 4 April, when a delegation of members of parliament from Kyrgyzstan met him in Russia.
The Kyrgyz Parliament accepted the resignation on 11 April 2005, after stripping him and his family members of special privileges that had been granted to him by the previous parliament. He was also formally stripped of the title of "first president of Kyrgyzstan". He now works as a math professor at Moscow State University.