History of the Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan Flag

Kyrgyzstan formally the Kyrgyz Republic is a Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Landlocked and mountainous, it borders Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the southeast. Annexed by Russia in 1876, it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It has the most liberal tourist visa policy in Central Asia and one of the more progressive post-Soviet governments in the region.

Kyrgyz is a language spoken by 4 million people primarily in Kyrgyzstan and, to a lesser extent, in adjacent regions such as Kazakhstan, Xinjiang (China), Uzbekistan, & Tajikistan. In Kyrgyzstan, the language is co-official with Russian, which is the predominate language used in urban areas (especially Bishkek) while Kyrgyz is predominate in rural areas and small cities/towns. It is a Turkic language and has many similarities with languages such as Turkish, Tartar, Kazakh, Azeri, & Uzbek. As a result of close ties culturally and economically, Kyrgyz has become increasingly mutually intelligible with Kazakh in recent decades.

Bishkek is the capital of what is called officially the Kyrgyz Republic and sits in the Tien Shan mountain range in the Chui Valley. It is a relatively new city and has limited historical sites, but it makes a great place to start your trips to the mountains and alpine lakes of the Tien Shans.

Bishkek is, however, an interesting example of a czarist planned city; lay on a grid with wide boulevards flanked by irrigation canals and large trees, buildings with marble façades, and Soviet apartment complexes. Many young travellers find Bishkek's nightlife a delight and the people are friendly and very hospitable. Bishkek is a city of many young people that hang out in Clubs and small cafés. Kyrgyzstan has the most liberal tourist visa regime in Central Asia, so Bishkek makes a great place to start a tour of the silk road and collect your visas to neighboring countries.

Island groups of the Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan Map Kyrgyzstan Map - Click for larger view

Home to stunning mountain scenery, including toothy-edged, snow-covered peaks, and lush river valleys, some adventure travelers feel that Kyrgyzstan is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. The majority of the modern citizens in Kyrgyzstan are descendants of nomadic Turkic peoples that roamed Central Asia for centuries, and, to this day, most prefer to live in the rural areas.

As early as the 7th century, Turkic traders introduced Islam to Central Asia, including what is now Kyrgyzstan, through doing business with Muslim Arabic-speaking people. The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uyghur Khaganate in 840 A.D. 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 peacefully became a part of 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 is confirmed on the other hand by the recent genetic studies. 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.

People & Culture

The culture of Kyrgyzstan has a wide mix of ethnic groups and cultures, with the Kyrgyz being the majority group. It is generally considered that there are 40 Kyrgyz clans, symbolized by the 40-rayed yellow sun in the center of the flag. The lines inside the sun are said to represent a yurt. The dominant religion of Kyrgyzstan is Sunni Islam (91%). The Russian population is Russian Orthodox.

Kyrgyzstan is the only former Soviet Central Asian republic to start out with two official languages, in this case Russian and Kyrgyz. An aggressive post-Soviet campaign was established to make the latter the official national language in all commercial and government uses by 1997; Russian is still used extensively, and the non-Kyrgyz population, most not Kyrgyz speakers, are hostile to forcible Kyrgyzification.

Kyrgyzstan has a high literacy rate (99%), and a strong tradition of educating all citizens. However, its ambitious program to restructure the Soviet educational system is hampered by low funding and loss of teachers. School attendance is mandatory through grade nine. Kyrgyz is increasingly used for instruction; the transition from Russian to Kyrgyz has been hampered by lack of textbooks. It remains to be seen whether Russian will continue as the second language of choice, or whether English will supersede it as a lingua franca.

In 1992, the population of Kyrgyzstan was estimated as being 52% ethnic Kyrgyz, 22% Russian, 14.5% Uzbek, 1.9% Tatar, 0.5% Ukrainian, a population of Chinese Muslims known as the Dungan (1%), and a small community of Germans. Of some potential political significance are the Uyghurs. That group numbered only about 36,000 in Kyrgyzstan, but about 185,000 lived in neighboring Kazakhstan. The Uyghurs are also the majority population in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, whose population is about 24 million, located to the northeast of Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyz women produce a wide range of textiles, mostly from the felt of their sheep. Ancient patterns are nowadays adapted to the tourist and export market, but it is still a living tradition, in that all yurts and most houses contain hand-made carpets or rugs called shirdaks. Tush kyiz are large, elaborately embroidered wall hangings, traditionally made in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, by elder women to commemorate the marriage of a son or daughter.

Colors and designs are chosen to symbolize Kyrgyz traditions and rural life. Flowers, plants, animals, stylized horns, national designs, and emblems of Kyrgyz life are often found in these ornate and colorful embroideries. Designs are sometimes dated and signed by the artist upon completion of the work, which may take years to finish. The tush kyiz is hung in the yurt, over the marriage bed of the couple, and symbolize their pride in their Kyrgyz tradition.

Kyrgyzstani music is nomadic and rural, and is closely related to Turkmen and Kazakh folk forms. Kyrgyz folk music is characterized by the use of long, sustained pitches, with Russian elements also prominent. Travelling musicians and shamans called manaschi are popular for their singing and komuz-playing. Their music is typically heroic epics, such as the most famous story, the Manas epic (20 times longer than Homer's Odyssey), which is the patriotic tale of a warrior named Manas, and his descendants, who fight with the Chinese. There are modern reciters of the Manas who are very popular, such as Rysbek Jumabaev and Sayaqbay Karalaev.

Kyrgyz folk dance group "Manastyn Kyzdary" keeps the traditions of Kyrgyz folk dance art and demonstrates its program in international festivals of Europe, Asia and America. Bright and colourful costumes, national music of Kyrgyz people, choreography of dances always attract the attention of spectators.

To the Kyrgyz, a horse is a prized possession, and horsemanship a much-prized skill. Perhaps, therefore, it is not surprising that among the most popular national pastimes, or sports) are contests on horseback. The relationship between a man and his horse is praised in the heroic epic poem «Manas» The mighty hero, Manas, resembles a tower built of silver and his snow-white steed Ak-Kula carries him swiftly over the mountain tops. The horse looks like a bird hovering over the sharp peaks of the mountains. Chinghiz Aitmatov's novel «Farewell Gulsary» tells a touching story of the of the relationship between a horse (a pacer) and his owner as the old man reflects on events in their shared life as the horse lies dying. Kyrgyz horses possess such qualities as lightness and good coordination (essential in the mountains). They are exceptionally hearty, will eat almost anything, and are not susceptible to sudden changes of weather. They can endure long-distance marches with the rider. For these reasons Kyrgyz ponies were prized possessions even further a field in Russia and Europe in the past.

Weather and Climate

The geographical situation determines the climatic conditions of Kyrghyzstan. The major part of the territory lies within the bounds of the temperate zone and only the southern part belongs to the subtropic zone. Location in the centre of the hugest Earth continent - Euroasia, remoteness from oceans and seas, vicinity of deserts are the factors to give continental and drought features to the climate and to shape seasons sharp. The significant relief difference and the presence of as large lake as Issyk-Kul is vary the climate from sharp continental to close to marine.

Kyrgyzstan has a continental climate with relatively little rainfall. It averages 247 sunny days a year. In the summer in the mountains the mornings are generally fine and the afternoons hazy with occasional rain. In the lowlands the temperature ranges between -4°/-6°C (21-24°F) in January to 16-24°C (61-75°F) in July. In the highlands the temperatures range from -14°/-20°C in January to 8-12°C (46-54°F) in July. There are heavy snowfalls during winter.

Public Holidays

Kyrgyzstan Public Holidays
New Year’s Day January 01
Orthodox Christmas January 07
Army Day February 23
Women's Day March 08
Norus March 21
People's Revolution Day March 24
International Labour Day May 01
Constitution Day May 05
Victory Day May 09
Orozo Ait August 30
Independence Day August 31
October Revolution November 07
Kurman Ait November 06
Social Revolution Day November 07


Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Kyrgyzstan, exercise normal security precautions.