Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic, is a country located in Central Asia.

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Kyrgyzstan (/kɜrɡɪˈstɑːn/ kur-gi-STAHN;[5] Kyrgyz: Кыргызстан, IPA: [qɯrʁɯsˈstɑn], or Кыргыз Республикасы, Russian: Киргизия or Киргизская Республика), officially the Kyrgyz Republic, is a country located in Central Asia. Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.

Kyrgyzstan is officially a democratic unicameral federal republic. A revolution in April 2010 overthrew the former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev and resulted in the adoption of a new constitution and the appointment of an interim government. The Kyrgyz Supreme Chancellor elections were held in November 2011.

Kyrgyzstan is one of the active members of the Turkic Council and the TÜRKSOY community. The national language, Kyrgyz, is closely related to the other Turkic languages, with which it shares strong cultural and historical ties.

Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Non-aligned movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Etymology

"Kyrgyz" is believed to have been derived from the Turkic word for "forty", in reference to the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero who united forty regional clans against the Uyghurs. Literally it means We are forty. At the time, in the early 9th century AD, the Uyghurs dominated much of (including Kyrgyzstan), Mongolia, and parts of Russia and China.[6]

The 40-ray sun on the flag of Kyrgyzstan is a reference to those same forty tribes and the graphical element in the sun's center depicts the wooden crown of a yurt – a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of .

History

Prehistory

Nestorian tombstone with inscriptions in Uyghur, found in Issyk Kul, dated 1312

According to David C. King, "Scythians were early settlers in present-day Kyrgyzstan"[7]

As early as the 7th century, Turkic traders introduced Islam to , including what is now Kyrgyzstan, through doing business with Arabic people.[8] The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after, under the leadership of Jordan the Superior, defeating the Uyghur Khanate in 840 A.D.[8] Then the Kyrgyz quickly moved as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years.

In the twelfth century, however, 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 were conquered by Genghis Khan 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 Iranic mountain tribes like the Pamiri people or Dardic people.[9][10] The descent of the Kyrgyz from the autochthonous Siberian population is confirmed on the other hand by the recent genetic studies.[11] Because of the processes of migration, conquest, intermarriage, and assimilation, many of the Kyrgyz peoples that 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.[12][13]

Kyrgyz yurt, 1869-1870, by Vasily Vereshchagin

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. Many historians believe that the lake was the point of origin for the Black Death that plagued Europe and Asia during the early and mid-14th century.[14]

Kyrgyz tribes were overrun in the 17th century by the Mongol Oirats, in the mid-18th century by the Manchu Qing Dynasty, and in the early 19th century by the Uzbek Khanate of Kokand.[15]

Russian Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz nomads, 1869-1870, by Vasily Vereshchagin

In the late nineteenth century, the majority part of what is today Kyrgyzstan was ceded to Russia through two treaties between China (then Qing Dynasty) and Russia. The territory, then known in Russian as "Kirgizia", 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 caused many Kyrgyz later to migrate to China.[16] 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.

Soviet Kyrgyzstan

Displays in the former Lenin Museum (now part of the National Museum) celebrated Kyrgyzstan's membership in the Soviet Union

Soviet power was initially established in the region in 1919, and the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast was created within the Russian SFSR (the phrase Kara-Kirghiz was used until the mid-1920s by the Russians to distinguish them from the Kazakhs, who were also referred to as Kirghiz). On 5 December 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was established as a full republic of the Soviet Union.

During the 1920s, Kyrgyzstan developed considerably in cultural, educational and social life. Literacy was greatly improved, and a standard literary language was introduced by imposing Russian on the populace. Economic and social development also was notable. Many aspects of Kyrgyz national culture were retained despite the suppression of nationalist activity under Joseph Stalin, and, therefore, tensions with the all-Union authorities were constant.

The early years of glasnost had little effect on the political climate in Kyrgyzstan. However, the Republic's press was permitted to adopt a more liberal stance and to establish a new publication, Literaturny Kirghizstan, by the Union of Writers. Unofficial political groups were forbidden, but several groups that emerged in 1989 to deal with the acute housing crisis were permitted to function.

In 1989 protests flared up against the discriminatory policy of the Soviet government directed at pushing ethnic Kyrgyz inhabitants out of major cities, which could then be occupied by new settlers from Russia and the other Soviet republics.[citation needed]

According to the last Soviet census in 1989, ethnic Kyrgyz made up only 22% of the residents of the northern city of Frunze (now Bishkek), while more than 60% were Russians, Ukrainians, and people from other Slavic nations (only 36 percent of Bishkek residents surveyed said Russian was their first language).[17]

In June 1990, ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz surfaced in the Osh Oblast (southern Kyrgyzstan), where Uzbeks form a majority of the population.[18] Attempts to appropriate Uzbek collective farms for housing development triggered the Osh Riots. A state of emergency and curfew were introduced[19] and Askar Akayev, the youngest of five sons born into a family of collective farm workers (in northern Kyrgyzstan), was elected President in October of that same year.

By then, the Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement (KDM) had developed into a significant political force with support in Parliament. In December 1990, the Supreme Soviet voted to change the republic's name to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. (In 1993, it became the Kyrgyz Republic.) The following January, Akayev introduced new government structures and appointed a new government composed mainly of younger, reform-oriented politicians. In February 1991, the name of the capital, Frunze, was changed back to its pre-revolutionary name of Bishkek.

Despite these political moves toward independence, economic realities seemed to work against secession from the Soviet Union. In a referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union in March 1991, 88.7% of the voters approved the proposal to retain the Soviet Union as a "renewed federation". Nevertheless, secessionist forces pushed Kyrgyzstan's independence through in August of that same year.

On 19 August 1991, when the State Emergency Committee assumed power in Moscow, there was an attempt to depose Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. After the coup collapsed the following week, Akayev and Vice President German Kuznetsov announced their resignations from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and the entire bureau and secretariat resigned. This was followed by the Supreme Soviet vote declaring independence from the Soviet Union on 31 August 1991 as the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Independence

In October 1991, Akayev ran unopposed and was elected president of the new independent Republic by direct ballot, receiving 95% of the votes cast. Together with the representatives of seven other Republics that same month, he signed the Treaty of the New Economic Community. Finally, on 21 December 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined with the other four Central Asian Republics to formally enter the new Commonwealth of Independent States. Kyrgyzstan gained full independence a few days later on 25 December 1991. The following day, 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. In 1992, Kyrgyzstan joined the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). On 5 May 1993, the official name changed from the Republic of Kyrgyzstan to the Kyrgyz Republic.

In 2005, a popular uprising known as the "Tulip Revolution", took place after the parliamentary elections in March 2005, forced President Askar Akayev's resignation on 4 April 2005. Opposition leaders formed a coalition, and a new government was formed under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov. The nation's capital was looted during the protests.

Political stability appeared to be elusive, however, as various groups and factions allegedly linked to organized crime jockeyed for power. Three of the 75 members of Parliament elected in March 2005 were assassinated, and another member was assassinated on 10 May 2006 shortly after winning his murdered brother's seat in a by-election. All four are reputed to have been directly involved in major illegal business ventures.

Ethnolinguistic map of in 1992

On 6 April 2010, civil unrest broke out in the town of Talas, spreading to the capital Bishkek by the following day. Protesters attacked President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's offices, as well as state-run radio and television stations. As a result, Bakiyev declared a state of emergency. Reports say that at least 80 people died as a result of clashes with police.[20] A transition government, led by former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, by 8 April 2010 had taken control of state media and government facilities in the capital, but Bakiyev had not resigned from office.[21][22]

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev returned to his home in Jalal-Abad and stated his terms of resignation at a 13 April 2010 press conference.[23] On 15 April 2010, Bakiyev left the country and flew to neighboring Kazakhstan, along with his wife and two children. The country's provisional leaders announced that Bakiyev signed a formal letter of resignation prior to his departure.[24]

On 6 April 2010, a demonstration in Talas protested against government corruption and increased living expenses. The protests turned violent and spread nationwide. There were conflicting reports that Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev had been beaten. On 7 April 2010, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev imposed a state of emergency. Police and special services arrested many opposition leaders. In response, protesters took control of the internal security headquarters (former KGB headquarters) and a state television channel in the capital, Bishkek.[citation needed] Reports by Kyrgyzstan government officials indicated that at least 75 people were killed and 458 hospitalized in bloody clashes with police in the capital.[25]

Prime Minister Daniar Usenov accused Russia of supporting the protests; this accusation was denied by Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin. Opposition members also called for the closing of the US controlled Manas Air Base.[26] On 15 April 2010, Bakiyev left the country and flew to neighboring Kazakhstan, along with his wife and two children. The country's provisional leaders announced that Bakiyev signed a formal letter of resignation prior to his departure.[24][27]

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev ordered measures to ensure the safety of Russian nationals and tighten security around Russian sites in Kyrgyzstan to protect them against possible attacks.

Clashes occurred between the two main ethnic groups—the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz—in Osh, the second largest city in the country, on 11 June 2010. The clashes incited fears that the country could be heading towards a civil war.[28][29]

Finding it difficult to control the situation, Roza Otunbayeva, the interim leader, sent a letter to Russian president Dimitry Medvedev asking him to send Russian troops to help the country control the situation. Medvedev's Press Attaché, Natalya Timakova, said in a reply to the letter, "It is an internal conflict and for now Russia does not see the conditions for taking part in its resolution". The clashes caused a shortage of food and other essential commodities with more than 200 killed and 1,685 people hurt, as of 12 June 2010 (2010 -06-12)[update]. The Russian government, however, said it would be sending humanitarian aid to the troubled nation.[30]

According to local sources, there was a clash between two local gangs and it did not take long for the violence to spread to the rest of the city. There were also reports that the armed forces supported ethnic Kyrgyz gangs entering the city, but the government denied the allegations.[30]

Ethnic fighting continued into a third day as armed groups, mainly Kyrgyz, continued to threaten local Uzbeks. By 13 June 2010, the unrest had claimed about 100 lives, while the number injured had increased to over 1,000. The riots spread to neighboring areas, and the government declared a state of emergency in the entire southern Jalal-Abad region. To control the situation, the interim government gave special shoot-to-kill powers to the security forces. The Russian government decided to send a battalion to the country to protect Russian facilities.[31]

The interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, accused the family of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev of "instigating the riots".[32] AFP reported "a veil of smoke covering the whole city". Authorities in neighboring Uzbekistan said at least 30,000 Uzbeks had crossed the border to escape the riots.[31]

Osh became relatively calm on the 14 June 2010, but Jalal-Abad witnessed sporadic incidents of arson. The interim government accepted that the security situation was worsening nearing Jalal-Abad.[clarification needed] The entire region was still under a state of emergency as Uzbeks were reluctant to leave their houses for fear of attacks by the mobs. The United Nations decided to send an envoy to assess the situation.[33]

Temir Sariyev, deputy chief of the interim government, said there were local clashes and that it was not possible [for the government] to fully control the situation. He added that there were not sufficient security forces to contain the violence. Media agencies reported on 14 June 2010 that the Russian government was considering a request by the Kyrgyz government. An emergency meeting of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) was held on the same day (14 June) to discuss the role it could play in helping to end the violence. The deputy head of Uzbekistan's emergency services, Riza Ibragimov, confirmed the presence of more than 60,000 Uzbek refugees in Andijan Province.[33]

Ethnic violence waned, according to the Kyrgyz government, by 15 June 2010 and Kyrgyz president Roza Otunbayeva held a news conference on Tuesday (15 June 2010) and declared that there was no need for Russia to send in troops to quell the violence. There were at least 170 people left dead by 15 June 2010 but Pascale Meige Wagner of the International Committee of the Red Cross said the [official] death toll was an underestimate. The UN High Commissioner told reporters in Geneva that evidence suggested that the violence seemed to have been staged up. The United Nations called for a "humanitarian corridor" to be set up to help the people affected by the riots and described the situation as a "tinder-box". There were fears that a referendum, which would pave the way for parliamentary style elections in October 2010, would be delayed but the Kyrgyz president calmed such fears by declaring that the referendum would be held as scheduled.[34]

There were no reports of heavy fighting between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks on 16 June 2010 and UN airplanes with tents and other emergency aid started arriving in neighboring Uzbekistan. Russian government cargo airplanes carrying food and blankets also landed in Bishkek. According to the World Food Programme, it had enough food in Kyrgyzstan to feed 87,000 people for two months.[35]

The clashes left some 300,000 people internally displaced and Uzbek leaders wanted the UN peacekeeping force to intervene because they did not trust the Kyrgyz forces any longer.[36] Another 100,000 refugees crossed the border into Uzbekistan.[37] Ethnic Uzbeks threatened to blow up an oil depot in Osh if they failed to get guarantees of protection. The United Nations said it believed that the attacks were "orchestrated, targeted and well-planned". Kyrgyz officials told the media that a person suspected to be behind the violence in Jalal-Abad had been detained.[35]

On 2 August 2010, a Kyrgyz government commission began investigating the causes of the clashes. Members of the National Commission, led by former parliament speaker Abdygany Erkebaev, met with people from the predominantly ethnic Uzbek villages of Mady, Shark, and Kyzyl-Kyshtak in the Kara-Suu district of Osh Oblast. This National Commission, including representatives of many ethnic groups, was established by a presidential decree.

President Roza Otunbayeva also said in August 2010 that an international commission would also be formed to investigate the clashes. [38]

The commission's report, released in January 2011, concluded that the events in southern Kyrgyzstan constituted a “planned, large-scale provocation, oriented towards the splitting of Kyrgyzstan and disrupting the unity of its people.” Responsibility for this provocation was seen as lying with “nationalistically-minded leaders of the Uzbek community”. The report was perceived as politically motivated. It was criticised as "vague and superficial" by one of its members, and a Member of Parliament threatened to sue the commission on the grounds that the report affected his honour and dignity [39]

In the aftermath of the turmoil, on 5 August 2010, Kyrgyz forces arrested party leader Urmat Baryktabasov on suspicion of plotting an overthrow of the government, after troops allegedly fired blank rounds into a crowd trying to join mass demonstrations near the Parliament in the capital Bishkek. Acting President Roza Otunbayeva said security forces seized firearms and grenades from him and 26 supporters.[40]

Politics

The 1993 constitution defines the form of government as a democratic unicameral federal 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.

Almazbek Atambayev, the president since December 2011.

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 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 transfer many of his presidential powers to parliament.[41]

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.

In December 2008, the state-owned broadcaster UTRK announced that it would require prior submission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty programmes, which UTRK are required to retransmit according to a 2005 agreement.[42] UTRK had stopped retransmitting RFE/RL programming on October 2008, a week after it failed to broadcast an RFE/RL programme called 'Inconvenient Questions' which covered the October elections, claiming to have lost the missing material. President Bakiyev had criticised this programme in September 2008, while UTRK told RFE/RL that its programming was too negative. Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Kyrgyzstan 111th equal out of 173 countries on its Press Freedom Index, strongly criticised the decision.

On 3 February 2009, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the imminent closure of the Manas Air Base, the only US military base remaining in .[43] The closure was approved by Parliament on 19 February 2009 by 78–1 for the government-backed bill.[44] However, after much behind-the-scenes negotiation between Kyrgyz, Russian and American diplomats, the decision was reversed in June 2009. The Americans were allowed to remain under a new contract, whereby rent would increase from $17.4 million to $60 million annually.[45]

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).[46]

Roza Otunbayeva, who was appointed interim president after the April uprising, announced that she did not intend to run for the Presidential elections in 2011. The election was held in November and won by Almazbek Atambayev, leader of the Social Democratic Party and the then-Prime Minister. Atambayev was sworn in as the President on 1 December 2011 and Omurbek Babanov was appointed the new Prime Minister on the same day and was confirmed on 23 December 2011.

Human rights

In a move that alarmed human rights groups, dozens of prominent Uzbek religious and community leaders were arrested by security forces following the 2010 South Kyrgyzstan riots, including journalist and human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov.[47]

Military

Provinces and districts

Kyrgyzstan is divided into seven provinces (sing. oblast (область), pl. oblasttar (областтар)) administered by appointed governors. The capital, Bishkek, and the second largest city Osh are administratively independent cities (shaar) with a status equal to a province.

The provinces, and independent cities, are as follows:

  1. City of Bishkek
  2. Batken
  3. Chuy
  4. Jalal-Abad
  5. Naryn
  6. Osh
  7. Talas
  8. Issyk-Kul
  9. City of Osh

Each province comprises a number of districts (raions), administered by government-appointed officials (akim). Rural communities (ayıl ökmötü), consisting of up to 20 small settlements, have their own elected mayors and councils.

Geography

Map of Kyrgyzstan

Tian Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan.

Topography of Kyrgyzstan

Orchard near in Issyk Kul Province.

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in , bordering Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It lies between latitudes 39° and 44° N, and longitudes 69° and 81° E. It is farther from an ocean than any other country in the world although it does not contain the absolute farthest point from any ocean. That spot lies in the Xinjiang region of Northwestern China. The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country (Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as "the Switzerland of ", as a result),[48] with the remainder made up of valleys and basins.

Issyk-Kul Lake in the north-eastern Tian Shan is the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan and the second largest mountain lake in the world after Titicaca. The highest peaks are in the Kakshaal-Too range, forming the Chinese border. Peak Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 m (24,406 ft), is the highest point and is considered by geologists to be the northernmost peak over 7,000 m (22,966 ft) in the world. Heavy snowfall in winter leads to spring floods which often cause serious damage downstream. The runoff from the mountains is also used for hydro-electricity.

Kyrgyzstan has significant deposits of metals including gold and rare earth metals. Due to the country's predominantly mountainous terrain, less than 8% of the land is cultivated, and this is concentrated in the northern lowlands and the fringes of the Fergana Valley.

Bishkek in the north is the capital and largest city, with approximately 900,000 inhabitants (as of 2005). The second city is the ancient town of Osh, located in the Fergana Valley near the border with Uzbekistan. The principal river is the Kara Darya, which flows west through the Fergana Valley into Uzbekistan. Across the border in Uzbekistan it meets another major Kyrgyz river, the Naryn.

The confluence forms the Syr Darya, which originally flowed into the Aral Sea. As of 2010[update], it no longer reaches the sea, as its water is withdrawn upstream to irrigate cotton fields in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and southern Kazakhstan. The Chu River also briefly flows through Kyrgyzstan before entering Kazakhstan.

Climate

The climate varies regionally. The south-western Fergana Valley is subtropical and extremely hot in summer, with temperatures reaching 40 °C (104 °F) The northern foothills are temperate and the Tian Shan varies from dry continental to polar climate, depending on elevation. In the coldest areas temperatures are sub-zero for around 40 days in winter, and even some desert areas experience constant snowfall in this period.

Enclaves and exclaves

There is one exclave, the tiny village of Barak[49] (population 627), in the Fergana Valley. The village is surrounded by Uzbek territory. It is located on the road from Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Khodjaabad (Uzbekistan) about 4 km north-west from the Kyrgyz–Uzbek border in the direction of Andijan.[50] Barak is administratively part of Kara-Suu District in Kyrgyzstan's Osh Province.

There are four Uzbek enclaves within Kyrgyzstan. Two of them are the towns of Sokh (area 325 km2 (125 sq mi) and a population of 42,800 in 1993, although some estimates go as high as 70,000; 99% are Tajiks, the remainder Uzbeks) and Shakhimardan (also known as Shahimardan, Shohimardon, or Shah-i-Mardan, area 90 km2 (35 sq mi) and a population of 5,100 in 1993; 91% are Uzbeks, the remainder Kyrgyz); the other two are the tiny territories of Chong-Kara (roughly 3 km long by 1 km wide or 2 mi by 0.6 mi) and Jangy-ayyl (a dot of land barely 2 or 3 km across). Chong-Kara is on the Sokh river, between the Uzbek border and the Sokh enclave. Jangy-ayyl is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) east of Batken, in a northward projection of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near Khalmion.

There also are two enclaves belonging to Tajikistan: Vorukh (exclave area between 95–130 km2 (37–50 sq mi), population estimated between 23,000 and 29,000, 95% Tajiks and 5% Kyrgyz, distributed among 17 villages), located 45 kilometres (28 mi) south of Isfara on the right bank of the Karafshin river, and a small settlement near the Kyrgyz railway station of Kairagach.

Economy

Old and new Bishkek buildings

Kyrgyzstan was the second poorest country in the former Soviet Union, and is today the second poorest country in . According to CIA World Factbook, in 2011, a third of the country's population lived below the poverty line.[51]

Graphical depiction of Kyrgyzstan 's product exports in 28 color coded categories.

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.[52][53]

A man wearing a traditional Kalpak hat

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.

Dordoy Bazaar

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. The country's plentiful water resources and mountainous terrain enable it to produce and export large quantities of hydroelectric energy.

On a local level, the economy is primarily kiosk in nature. A large amount of local commerce occurs at bazaars and small village kiosks in country regions. A significant amount of trade is unregulated. There is also a scarcity of common everyday consumer items[specify] in remote villages. Thus a large number of homes are quite self-sufficient with respect to food production. There is a distinct differentiation between urban and rural economies.

The principal exports are nonferrous metals and minerals, woolen 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.

Demographics

Age distribution pyramid (2005)

Kyrgyzstan's population is estimated at 5.2 million in 2007.[54] Of those, 34.4% are under the age of 15 and 6.2% are over 65. The country is rural: only about one-third of population live in urban areas. The average population density is 25 people per km². The nation's largest ethnic group are the Kyrgyz, a Turkic people, who comprise 69% of the population (2007 estimate). Other ethnic groups include Russians (9.0%) concentrated in the north and Uzbeks (14.5%) living in the south. Small but noticeable minorities include Dungans (1.9%), Uyghurs (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%), and Ukrainians (0.5%) and other smaller ethnic minorities (1.7%). Kyrgyzstan has over 80 distinct ethnic groups in the country.[55]

The Kyrgyz have historically been semi-nomadic herders, living in round tents called yurts and tending sheep, horses and yaks. This nomadic tradition continues to function seasonally (see transhumance) as herding families return to the high mountain pasture (or jailoo) in the summer. The sedentary Uzbeks and Tajiks traditionally have farmed lower-lying irrigated land in the Fergana valley.[56]

Kyrgyzstan has undergone a pronounced change in its ethnic composition since independence.[57] The percentage of ethnic Kyrgyz increased from around 50% in 1979 to nearly 70% in 2007, while the percentage of European ethnic groups (Russians, Ukrainians and Germans) as well as Tatars dropped from 35% to about 10%.[54][58] The percentage of ethnic Russians dropped from 29.2% in 1970 to 21.5% in 1989.[59] Since 1991, huge numbers of Germans, who in 1989 numbered 101,000 persons, have been emigrating to Germany.[60] Between 1991 and 2002, more than 600,000 people emigrated from Kyrgyzstan and the ethnic minority population declined from 47 to 33 percent.[18]

Religion

Karakol Dungan Mosque

Islam is the dominant religion of Kyrgyzstan: 80% of the population is Muslim while 17% follow Russian Orthodoxy and 3% other religions.[62] A 2009 Pew Research Center report indicates a higher percentage of Muslims, with 86.3% of Kyrgyzstan's population adhering to Islam.[63]

During Soviet times, state atheism was encouraged. Today, however, Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, although Islam has exerted a growing influence in politics.[64] For instance, there has been an attempt to arrange for officials to travel on hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) under a tax-free arrangement.[64] Kyrgyzstan is an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim nation and adheres to the Hanafi school of thought.[65]

While Islam in Kyrgyzstan is more of a cultural background than a devout daily practice for many, public figures have expressed support for restoring religious values. For example, human rights ombudsman Tursunbay Bakir-Ulu noted, "In this era of independence, it is not surprising that there has been a return to spiritual roots not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also in other post-communist republics. It would be immoral to develop a market-based society without an ethical dimension."[64]

Bishkek Orthodox Church

Additionally, Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of Askar Akayev, the former President of Kyrgyzstan, stated during a July 2007 interview that Islam is increasingly taking root across the nation.[66] She emphasized that many mosques have recently been built and that the Kyrgyz are increasingly devoting themselves to Islam, which she noted was "not a bad thing in itself. It keeps our society more moral, cleaner."[66] There is a contemporary Sufi order present which gives a somewhat different form of Islam than the orthodox Islam.[67]

Traditional Islamic cemetery

The other faiths practiced in Kyrgyzstan include Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox[disambiguation needed] versions of Christianity, practiced primarily by Russians and Ukrainians respectively. A small minority of ethnic Germans are also Christian, mostly Lutheran and Anabaptist as well as a Roman Catholic community of approximately 600.[68][69]

A few Animistic traditions survive, as do influences from Buddhism such as the tying of prayer flags onto sacred trees, though some view this practice rooted within Sufi Islam.[70] There are also a small number of Bukharian Jews living in Kyrgyzstan, but during the collapse of the Soviet Union most fled to other countries, mainly the United States and Israel.

On 6 November 2008, the Kyrgyzstan parliament unanimously passed a law increasing the minimum number of adherents for recognizing a religion from 10 to 200. It also outlawed "aggressive action aimed at proselytism", and banned religious activity in schools and all activity by unregistered organizations.[71] It was signed by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on 12 January 2009.[72]

Languages

Kyrgyzstan is one of the two former Soviet republics in to retain Russian as an official language, Kazakhstan being the other. It added the Kyrgyz language to become an officially bilingual country in September 1991.

Kyrgyz is a member of the Turkic group of languages. It was written in the Arabic alphabet until the twentieth century. Latin script was introduced and adopted in 1928, and was subsequently replaced by Cyrillic script in 1941.

According to the 2009 census,[73] 4.1 millions of people spoke Kyrgyz as native or second language and 2.5 millions of people spoke Russian as native or second language. Uzbek is the second most widely spoken native language, followed by Russian; Russian is the most widely spoken second language, followed by Kyrgyz, Uzbek and English.

Language name Native speakers Second-language speakers Total speakers
Kyrgyz 3,830,556 271,187 4,121,743
Russian 482,243 2,109,393 2,591,636
Uzbek 772,561 97,753 870,314
English 28,416 28,416
French 641 641
German 10 10
Other 277,433 31,411

Usage of languages

Many business and political affairs are carried out in Russian. Until recently, Kyrgyz remained a language spoken at home and was rarely used during meetings or other events. However, most parliamentary meetings today are conducted in Kyrgyz, with simultaneous interpretation available for those not speaking Kyrgyz.

Sports

Kyrgyzstan in red against Japan

Football is the most popular sport in Kyrgyzstan. The official governing body is the Football Federation of Kyrgyz Republic, which was founded in 1992, after the split of the Soviet Union. It administers the Kyrgyzstan national football team.[74]

Wrestling is also a very popular sport in Kyrgyzstan. In the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, two athletes from Kyrgyzstan won medals in Greco-Roman wrestling: Kanatbek Begaliev (silver) and Ruslan Tiumenbaev (bronze).[75]

Ice hockey has not been as popular in Kyrgyzstan, until the first Ice Hockey Championship was organized in 2009. In 2011, the Kyrgyzstan men's national ice hockey team won 2011 Asian Winter Games Premier Division dominating in all six games with six wins. It was the first major international event that Kyrgyzstan's ice hockey team took part in.[76] The Kyrgyzstan men's ice hockey team joined the IIHF on July 2011.

Bandy is becoming increasingly popular in the country.[77] The Kyrgyz national team took Kyrgyzstan's first medal at the Asian Winter Games, when they captured the bronze.[78] They played in the Bandy World Championship 2012,[79] their first appearance in that tournament.[80]

Culture

Musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz music.

  • Manas, an epic poem
  • Komuz, a three-stringed lute
  • Tush kyiz, large, elaborately embroidered wall hangings
  • Shirdak, flat cushions made in shadow-pairs[81]
  • Other textiles, especially made from felt
  • Falconry

Traditions

In addition to celebrating the New Year each January 1, Kyrgyz observe the traditional New Year festival Nowruz on the vernal equinox. This spring holiday is celebrated with feasts and festivities such as the horse game Ulak Tartish.

Illegal, but still practiced, is the tradition of bride kidnapping.[82]

It is debatable whether bride kidnapping is actually traditional. Some of the confusion may stem from the fact that arranged marriages were traditional, and one of the ways to escape an arranged marriage was to arrange a consensual "kidnapping."[83]

Flag

The 40-rayed yellow sun in the center of the flag represents 40 warriors of the mythical hero Manas. The lines inside the sun represent the crown or tündük (Kyrgyz түндүк) of a yurt, a symbol replicated in many facets of Kyrgyz architecture. The red portion of the flag represents peace and openness of Kyrgyzstan.

Horse riding

The traditional national sports reflect the importance of horse riding in Kyrgyz culture.

Very popular, as in all of , is Ulak Tartysh, a team game resembling a cross between polo and rugby in which two teams of riders wrestle for possession of the headless carcass of a goat, which they attempt to deliver across the opposition's goal line, or into the opposition's goal: a big tub or a circle marked on the ground.

Other popular games on horseback include:

  • At Chabysh – a long-distance horse race, sometimes over a distance of more than 50 km
  • Jumby Atmai – a large bar of precious metal (the "jumby") is tied to a pole by a thread and contestants attempt to break the thread by shooting at it, while at a gallop
  • Kyz Kuumai – a man chases a girl in order to win a kiss from her, while she gallops away; if he is not successful she may in turn chase him and attempt to beat him with her "kamchi" (horsewhip)
  • Oodarysh – two contestants wrestle on horseback, each attempting to be the first to throw the other from his horse
  • Tyin Emmei – picking up a coin from the ground at full gallop

Southern shore of Issyk Kul Lake.

Public holidays

This is the list of public holidays in Kyrgyzstan:

  • January 1 – New Year's Day
  • January 7 – Russian Orthodox Christmas
  • February 23 - Fatherland Defender's Day
  • March 8 – Women's Day
  • March 21 – Nooruz, Iranian spring festival
  • March 24 – Day of National Revolution
  • May 1 – Labor Day
  • May 5 – Constitution Day
  • May 8 – Remembrance Day
  • May 9 – Victory Day (end of World War II)
  • August 31 – Independence Day
  • November 7 - Day of the Great October Socialist Revolution

Issyk Kul Lake

Two additional Muslim holidays Orozo Ait and Kurman Ait are defined by lunar calendar.

Tourism

One of the most popular tourist destination points in Kyrgyzstan is Issyk Kul Lake. Numerous hotels, vacation resorts, boarding houses and sanatoriums are located along its Northern shore. The most popular beach zones are in the city of Cholpon-Ata and the settlements nearby, such as Kara-Oi (Dolinka), Bosteri and Korumdy. The number of tourists visiting the lake was more than a million a year in 2006 and 2007. However, due to the economical and political instability in the region, the number has declined in recent years.[84]

For those interested in trekking and camping, every region offers attractions and challenges. Some of the most popular locations for camping are southern Osh, the area between Naryn City and the Torugart pass, and the mountains and glaciers surrounding Karakol in Issyk-Kul.[citation needed] Local guides and porters can be hired from many tour companies in Bishkek and in the provincial capitals.

Skiing is still in its infancy as a tourism industry, but there is one fairly cheap and well-equipped base about a half-hour from Bishkek. The ski base of Toguz Bulak is 45 km from Bishkek, on the way to Issyk Ata valley. In the Karakol Valley National Park, outside Karakol, there is also a ski base with three T-bars and rental equipment available of good quality.

Education

American University of

The school system in Kyrgyzstan includes primary (grades 1 to 4) and secondary (grades 5 to 11 (or sometimes 12)) divisions within one school. Children are usually accepted to primary schools at the age of 7. It is required that every child finishes 9 grades of school and receives a certificate of completion. Grades 10-11 are optional, but it is necessary to complete them to graduate and receive a state-accredited school diploma. To graduate, a student must complete the 11-year school course and pass 4 mandatory state exams in writing, maths, history and a foreign language.

There are 77 public schools in Bishkek (capitol) and more than 200 in the rest of the country. There are 55 higher educational institutions and universities in Kyrgyzstan, out of which 37 are state institutions.

Higher educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan include:

  • International University Of Kyrgyzstan[85]
  • University of Central Asia[86]
  • American University of Central Asia
  • Bishkek Humanities University
  • International Ataturk-Alatoo University[87]
  • Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transport and Architecture n.a. N. Isanov
  • Kyrgyz National University[88]
  • Kyrgyz Technical University[89]
  • Kyrgyz State Pedagogical University, formerly Arabaev Kyrgyz State University[90]
  • Kyrgyz Russian Slavonic University[91]
  • Kyrgyz-Russian State University
  • Kyrgyz-Turkish MANAS University[92]
  • Social University (previously Kyrgyz-Uzbek University)
  • Moskov Institute Of Law And Enterprise
  • Osh State University[93]
  • Osh Technological University
  • Plato University of Management and Design[94]

Transport

Bishkek West Bus Terminal

Transport in Kyrgyzstan is severely constrained by the country's alpine topography. Roads have to snake up steep valleys, cross passes of 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) altitude and more, and are subject to frequent mud slides and snow avalanches. Winter travel is close to impossible in many of the more remote and high-altitude regions.

Additional problems come from the fact that many roads and railway lines built during the Soviet period are today intersected by international boundaries, requiring time-consuming border formalities to cross where they are not completely closed. Horses are still a much-used transport option, especially in more rural areas; Kyrgyzstan's road infrastructure is not extensive, so horses are able to reach locations that motor vehicles cannot, and they do not require expensive, imported fuel.

Airports

Airmail stamp on a parcel from Kyrgistan

At the end of the Soviet period there were about 50 airports and airstrips in Kyrgyzstan, many of them built primarily to serve military purposes in this border region so close to China. Only a few of them remain in service today.

  • Manas International Airport near Bishkek is the main international airport, with services to Moscow, Tashkent, Almaty, Beijing, Urumqi, Istanbul, London, Baku, Dubai (from 7 Feb 2012).
  • Osh Airport is the main air terminal in the south of the country, with daily connections to Bishkek.
  • Jalal-Abad Airport is linked to Bishkek by daily flights. The national flag carrier, Kyrgyzstan, operates flights on BAe-146 aircraft. During the summer months, a weekly flight links Jalal-Abad with the Issyk-Kul Region.
  • Other facilities built during the Soviet era are either closed down, used only occasionally or restricted to military use (e.g., Kant Air Base near Bishkek, which is used by the Russian Air Force).

Banned airline status

This country appears on the European Union's list of prohibited countries for the certification of airlines. This means that no airline which is registered in Kyrgyzstan may operate services of any kind within the European Union, due to safety standards which fail to meet European regulations.[95]

Railways

The Chuy Valley in the north and the Ferghana valley in the south were endpoints of the Soviet Union's rail system in . Following the emergence of independent post-Soviet states, the rail lines which were built without regard for administrative boundaries have been cut by borders, and traffic is therefore severely curtailed. The small bits of rail lines within Kyrgyzstan, about 370 km (1,520 mm broad gauge) in total, have little economic value in the absence of the former bulk traffic over long distances to and from such centres as Tashkent, Almaty, and the cities of Russia.

There are vague plans about extending rail lines from Balykchy in the north and/or from Osh in the south into China, but the cost of construction would be enormous.

Rail links with adjacent countries

  • Kazakhstan – yes – Bishkek branch – same gauge
  • Uzbekistan – yes – Osh branch – same gauge
  • Tajikistan – no – same gauge
  • China – no – Break of gauge 1524 mm/1435 mm

Highways

A road in Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan.

With support from the Asian Development Bank, a major road linking the north and southwest from Bishkek to Osh has recently been completed. This considerably eases communication between the two major population centres of the country—the Chuy Valley in the north and the Fergana Valley in the South. An offshoot of this road branches off across a 3,500 meter pass into the Talas Valley in the northwest. Plans are now being formulated to build a major road from Osh into China.

  • total: 30,300 km (including 140 km of expressways)
  • paved: 22,600 km (includes some all-weather gravel-surfaced roads)
  • unpaved: 7,700 km (these roads are made of unstabilized earth and are difficult to negotiate in wet weather) (1990)

Waterways

Water transport exists only on Issyk Kul Lake, and has drastically shrunk since the end of the Soviet Union.

Ports and harbours

Balykchy (Ysyk-Kol or Rybach'ye), on Issyk Kul Lake.

Further reading

Issyk Kul Lake

  • Historical Dictionary of Kyrgyzstan by Rafis Abazov
  • Kyrgyzstan: Central Asia's Island of Democracy? by John Anderson
  • Kyrgyzstan: The Growth and Influence of Islam in the Nations of Asia and Central Asia by Daniel E. Harmon
  • Lonely Planet Guide: Central Asia by Paul Clammer, Michael Kohn and Bradley Mayhew
  • Odyssey Guide: Kyrgyz Republic by Ceri Fairclough, Rowan Stewart and Susie Weldon
  • Politics of Language in the Ex-Soviet Muslim States: Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan by Jacob M. Landau and Barbara Kellner-Heinkele. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-472-11226-5
  • Kyrgyzstan: Traditions of Nomads by V. Kadyrov, Rarity Ltd., Bishkek, 2005. ISBN 9967-424-42-7

More information

Airports28 (2012)
Borders WithChina
Borders WithKazakhstan
Borders WithTajikistan
Borders WithUzbekistan
Coastline0 km (landlocked)
Coordinates41 00 N, 75 00 E
Domain Suffix.kg
Ethnic GroupKyrgyz 64.9%
Ethnic GroupUzbek 13.8%
Ethnic GroupRussian 12.5%
Ethnic GroupDungan 1.1%
Ethnic GroupUkrainian 1%
Ethnic GroupUighur 1%
Ethnic Groupother 5.7% (1999 census)
Female Life Expectancy73.91 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age26.2 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate2.73 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$13.13 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$12.42 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$12.48 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth5.7% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth-0.5% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth2.9% (2009 est.)
Government typerepublic
Highest PointJengish Chokusu (Pik Pobedy) 7,439 m
Land Area191,801 sq km
Land boundary3,051 km
LanguageDungun 1%
LanguageKyrgyz (official) 64.7%
LanguageRussian (official) 12.5%
LanguageUzbek 13.6%
Languageother 8.2% (1999 census)
LocationCentral Asia, west of China, south of Kazakhstan
Lowest PointKara-Daryya (Karadar'ya) 132 m
Male Life Expectancy65.27 years
Male Median Age24.3 years
NationalityKyrgyzstani(s)
Population Growth0.89% (2012 est.)
Railways470 km
Roadways34,000 km (2003)
Terrainpeaks of Tien Shan and associated valleys and basins encompass entire nation
Total Area199,951 sq km
Total Life Expectancy69.45 years
Total Median Age25.2 years
Water Area8,150 sq km
Waterways600 km (2010)

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