Kyrgyzstan , officially is the Kyrgyzstan Republic is located in Central Asia. Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and southwest, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan’s recorded history spans over 2,000 years, encompassing a variety of cultures and empires. Although geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain, which has helped preserve its ancient culture, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road and other commercial and cultural routes. Though long inhabited by a succession of independent tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under foreign domination and attained sovereignty as a nation-state only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Kyrgyzstan is bordered on the east and southeast by China, on the north by Kazakhstan, on the west by Uzbekistan and on the south by Tajikistan. The borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the Ferghana valley are rather difficult. One consequence of the Stalinist division of Central Asia into five republics is that many ethnic Kyrgyz do not live in Kyrgyzstan. Three enclaves, legally part of the territory of Kyrgyzstan but geographically removed by several kilometers, have been established, two in Uzbekistan and one in Tajikistan.
The terrain of Kyrgyzstan is dominated by the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain systems, which together occupy about 65% of the national territory. The Alay range portion of the Tian Shan system dominates the southwestern crescent of the country, and, to the east, the main Tian Shan range runs along the boundary between southern Kyrgyzstan and China before extending farther east into China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Kyrgyzstan’s average elevation is 2,750 meters, ranging from 7,439 meters at Peak Jengish Chokusu to 394 meters in the Fergana Valley near Osh. Almost 90% of the country lies more than 1,500 meters above sea level.
The mountains of Kyrgyzstan are geologically young, so that the physical terrain is marked by sharply uplifted peaks separated by deep valleys. There is also considerable glaciation with the largest glacier being the Engilchek Glacier. Kyrgyzstan’s 6,500 distinct glaciers are estimated to hold about 650 cubic kilometers of water and cover 8,048 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) or 4.2% of Kyrgyzstan. Only around the Chuy, Talas, and Fergana valleys is there relatively flat land suitable for large-scale agriculture.
Because the high peaks function as moisture catchers, Kyrgyzstan is relatively well watered by the streams that descend from them. None of the rivers of Kyrgyzstan are navigable, however. The majority are small, rapid, runoff streams. Most of Kyrgyzstan’s rivers are tributaries of the Syrdariya, which has its headwaters in the western Tian Shan along the Chinese border. Another large runoff system forms the Chui River, which arises in northern Kyrgyzstan, then flows northwest and disappears into the deserts of southern Kazakhstan. Ysyk-Köl is the second largest body of water in Central Asia, after the Aral Sea, but the saline lake has been shrinking steadily, and its mineral content has been rising gradually. Kyrgyzstan has a total of about 2,000 lakes with a total surface area of 7,000 km², mostly located at altitudes of 3,000 to 4,000 meters. Only the largest three, however, occupy more than 100 km² each. The second- and third-largest lakes, Songköl and Chatyr-Köl (the latter of which also is saline), are located in the Naryn River Basin.
Natural disasters have been frequent and varied. Overgrazing and deforestation of steep mountain slopes have increased the occurrence of mudslides and avalanches, which occasionally have swallowed entire villages. In August 1992, a severe earthquake left several thousand people homeless in the southwestern city of Jalal-Abad.
The country’s climate is influenced chiefly by the mountains, Kyrgyzstan’s position near the middle of the Eurasian landmass, and the absence of any body of water large enough to influence weather patterns. Those factors create a distinctly continental climate that has significant local variations. Although the mountains tend to collect clouds and block sunlight (reducing some narrow valleys at certain times of year to no more than three or four hours of sunlight per day), the country is generally sunny, receiving as much as 2,900 hours of sunlight per year in some areas. The same conditions also affect temperatures, which can vary significantly from place to place. In January the warmest average temperature (−4 °C or 25 °F) occurs around the southern city of Osh, and around Ysyk-Köl. The latter, which has a volume of 1,738 cubic kilometers (417 cu mi), does not freeze in winter. Indeed, its name means “hot lake” in Kyrgyz. The coldest temperatures are in mountain valleys. There, readings can fall to −30 °C (−22 °F) or lower; the record is −53.6 °C (−64.5 °F). The average temperature for July similarly varies from 27 °C (80.6 °F) in the Fergana Valley, where the record high is 44 °C (111 °F), to a low of −10 °C (14 °F) on the highest mountain peaks. Precipitation varies from 2,000 millimeters (78.7 in) per year in the mountains above the Fergana Valley to less than 100 millimeters (3.9 in) per year on the west bank of Ysyk-Köl.
Kyrgyzstan is divided into seven regions (singular: област – oblast, plural: областтар – oblasttar). The capital, Bishkek, is administratively an independent city (shaar), as well as being the capital of Chuy Province. Osh also has shaar status.
The National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic serves as the Central bank of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan was the ninth poorest country in the former Soviet Union, and is today the second poorest country in Central Asia. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2011, a third of the country’s population lived below the poverty line. According to UNDP, the level of poverty will continue to grow: in 2009 31% of the population lived below the poverty level while in 2011 this figure rose to 37%.
Despite the backing of major Western lenders, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Kyrgyzstan has had economic difficulties following independence. Initially, these were a result of the breakup of the Soviet trading bloc and resulting loss of markets, which impeded the republic’s transition to a demand economy.
The government has reduced expenditures, ended most price subsidies and introduced a value-added tax. Overall, the government appears committed to the transition to a market economy. Through economic stabilization and reform, the government seeks to establish a pattern of long-term consistent growth. Reforms led to Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 20 December 1998.
The Kyrgyz economy was severely affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting loss of its vast market. In 1990, some 98% of Kyrgyz exports went to other parts of the Soviet Union. Thus, the nation’s economic performance in the early 1990s was worse than any other former Soviet republic except war-torn Armenia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, as factories and state farms collapsed with the disappearance of their traditional markets in the former Soviet Union. While economic performance has improved considerably in the last few years, and particularly since 1998, difficulties remain in securing adequate fiscal revenues and providing an adequate social safety net. Remittances of around 800,000 Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia represent 40% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.
Agriculture is an important sector of the economy in Kyrgyzstan (see agriculture in Kyrgyzstan). By the early 1990s, the private agricultural sector provided between one-third and one-half of some harvests. In 2002, agriculture accounted for 35.6% of GDP and about half of employment. Kyrgyzstan’s terrain is mountainous, which accommodates livestock raising, the largest agricultural activity, so the resulting wool, meat and dairy products are major commodities. Main crops include wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, vegetables, and fruit. As the prices of imported agrichemicals and petroleum are so high, much farming is being done by hand and by horse, as it was generations ago. Agricultural processing is a key component of the industrial economy as well as one of the most attractive sectors for foreign investment.
Kyrgyzstan is rich in mineral resources but has negligible petroleum and natural gas reserves; it imports petroleum and gas. Among its mineral reserves are substantial deposits of coal, gold, uranium, antimony, and other valuable metals. Metallurgy is an important industry, and the government hopes to attract foreign investment in this field. The government has actively encouraged foreign involvement in extracting and processing gold from the Kumtor Gold Mine and other regions. The country’s plentiful water resources and mountainous terrain enable it to produce and export large quantities of hydroelectric energy.
The principal exports are nonferrous metals and minerals, woollen goods and other agricultural products, electric energy and certain engineering goods. Imports include petroleum and natural gas, ferrous metals, chemicals, most machinery, wood and paper products, some foods and some construction materials. Its leading trade partners include Germany, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
In regards to telecommunication infrastructure, Kyrgyz Republic ranks last in Central Asia in the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator for determining the development level of a country’s information and communication technologies. Kyrgyz Republic ranked number 118 overall in the 2014 NRI ranking, unchanged from 2013 (see Networked Readiness Index).
The 1993 constitution defines the form of government as a democratic unicameral republic. The executive branch includes a Supreme Chancellor and Vice Chair. The parliament currently is unicameral. The judicial branch comprises a Supreme Court, local courts and a Chief Prosecutor.
In March 2002, in the southern district of Aksy, five people protesting the arbitrary arrest of an opposition politician were shot dead by police, sparking nationwide protests. President Askar Akayev initiated a constitutional reform process which initially included the participation of a broad range of government, civil and social representatives in an open dialogue, leading to a February 2003 referendum marred by voting irregularities.
The amendments to the constitution approved by the referendum resulted in stronger control by the president and weakened the parliament and the Constitutional Court. Parliamentary elections for a new, 75-seat unicameral legislature were held on 27 February and 13 March 2005, but were widely viewed as corrupt. The subsequent protests led to a bloodless coup on 24 March 2005, after which Akayev with his family fled the country and was replaced by acting president Kurmanbek Bakiyev (see: Tulip Revolution).
On 10 July 2005, acting president Bakiyev won the presidential election in a landslide, with 88.9% of the vote, and was inaugurated on 14 August. However, initial public support for the new administration substantially declined in subsequent months as a result of its apparent inability to solve the corruption problems that have plagued the country since its independence from the Soviet Union, along with the murders of several members of parliament. Large-scale protests against president Bakiyev took place in Bishkek in April and November 2006, with opposition leaders accusing the president of failing to live up to his election promises to reform the country’s constitution and Transportation many of his presidential powers to parliament.
Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a league of 56 participating states committed to peace, transparency, and the protection of human rights in Eurasia. As an OSCE participating State, Kyrgyzstan’s international commitments are subject to monitoring under the mandate of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
Kyrgyzstan is among the twenty countries in the world with the highest perceived level of corruption: the 2008 Corruption Perception Index for Kyrgyzstan is 1.8 on a scale of 0 (most corrupt) to 10 (least corrupt).
Kyrgyzstan favors close relations with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, particularly Kazakhstan and Russia.
While Kyrgyzstan was initially determined to stay in the ruble zone, the stringent conditions set forth by the Russian Government prompted Kyrgyzstan to introduce its own currency, the som, in May 1993. Kyrgyzstan’s withdrawal from the ruble zone was done with little prior notification and initially caused tensions in the region. Both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan temporarily suspended trade, and Uzbekistan even introduced restrictions tantamount to economic sanctions. Both nations feared an influx of rubles and an increase in inflation. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan’s hostility toward Kyrgyzstan was short-lived, and the three nations signed an agreement in January 1994 creating an economic union. This led to the relaxation of border restrictions between the nations the following month. Kyrgyzstan also has contributed to the CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan.
Turkey has sought to capitalize on its cultural and ethnic links to the region and has found Kyrgyzstan receptive to cultivating bilateral relations. The Kyrgyz Republic also has experienced a dramatic increase in trade with the People’s Republic of China, its southern neighbor. Kyrgyzstan has been active in furthering regional cooperation, such as joint military exercises with Uzbek and Kazakh troops.
In January 1999, a new OSCE office opened in Bishkek; on February 18, 2000 the OSCE announced that an additional office will be opened in Osh to assist Bishkek in carrying out its work. Kyrgyzstan is a member of the OSCE, the CIS, and the United Nations.
Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country’s 5.7 million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. Kyrgyz is closely related to other Turkic languages, although Russian remains widely spoken and is the official language, a legacy of a century of Russification. The majority of the population are non-denominational Muslims. In addition to its Turkic origins, Kyrgyz culture bears elements of Persian, Mongolian and Russian influence.
The Constitution and the law provide for freedom of religion in Kyrgyzstan, and the Government generally respected this right in practice; however, the Government restricted the activities of radical Islamic groups that it considered threats to stability and security and hampered or refused the registration of some Christian churches. The Constitution provides for the separation of religion and state, and it prohibits discrimination based on religion or religious beliefs. The Government did not officially support any religion; however, a May 6, 2006 decree recognized Islam and Russian Orthodoxy as traditional religious groups.
Although most religious groups and sects operated with little interference from the Government or each other, there were several cases of societal abuse based on religious beliefs and practices. There was an increase in tensions between Muslims and former Muslims who had converted to other religious groups. In one case, a mob upset at a Baptist pastor’s conversions of Muslims to Christianity publicly beat the pastor and burned his Bibles and religious literature (see section 3).
According to David C. King, Scythians were early settlers in present-day Kyrgyzstan.
The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uyghur Khaganate in 840 A.D. From the 10th century the Kyrgyz migrated as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years.
In the twelfth century the Kyrgyz dominion had shrunk to the Altay Range and Sayan Mountains as a result of the Mongol expansion. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century, the Kyrgyz migrated south. The Kyrgyz peacefully became a part of the Mongol Empire in 1207.
Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the early Kyrgyz as red-haired with white skin and blue eyes, which is indicative of ancient Indo-European tribes like the Slavic peoples. The descent of the Kyrgyz from the autochthonous Siberian population, on the other hand, is confirmed by recent genetic studies.Because of the processes of migration, conquest, intermarriage, and assimilation, many of the Kyrgyz peoples who now inhabit Central and Southwest Asia are of mixed origins, often stemming from fragments of many different tribes, though they now speak closely related languages.
Issyk Kul Lake was a stopover on the Silk Road, a land route for traders, merchants and other travelers from the Far East to Europe.
Kyrgyz tribes were overrun in the 17th century by the Mongols, in the mid-18th century by the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, and in the early 19th century by the Uzbek Khanate of Kokand.
In the late nineteenth century, the majority of what is today Kyrgyzstan was ceded to Russia through two treaties between China (then ruled by the Qing Dynasty) and Russia. The territory, then known in Russian as “Kirghizia”, was formally incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1876. The Russian takeover was met with numerous revolts against Tsarist authority, and many of the Kyrgyz opted to move to the Pamir Mountains and Afghanistan.
In addition, the suppression of the 1916 rebellion against Russian rule in Central Asia caused many Kyrgyz later to migrate to China. Since many ethnic groups in the region were (and still are) split between neighboring states at a time when borders were more porous and less regulated, it was common to move back and forth over the mountains, depending on where life was perceived as better; this might mean better rains for pasture or better government during oppression.