Kirgizstan -- Geography --
Area: 199,900 sq km
Population: 5.2 million (2007).Of those, 34.4% are under the age of 15 and 6.2% are over the age of 65.
The country is rural: only about one-third of Kyrgyzstan's population live in urban areas. The average population density is 69 people per square mile (29 people per km?).
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 Tatars (1.9%), Uyghurs (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%)
and Ukrainians (0.5%) and other smaller ethnic minorities (1.7%).
Kyrgyzstan has undergone a pronounced change in its ethnic composition since independence. 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%.
Relief: Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country (Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as "the Switzerland of Central Asia", as a result),
with the remainder made up of valleys and basins. Lake Issyk-Kul in the north-western 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 (24,400 feet), is the highest point and is considered by geologists (though not mountaineers) to be the northernmost peak
over 7,000 m (23,000 feet) 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.
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.
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.
Capital: 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.
Waters: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. At this time 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
Kirgizstan -- History --
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 Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uyghur Khanate in 840 A.D.
Then 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, h
owever, the Kyrgyz domination had shrunk to the Altay Range and the 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’s son Jochi in 1207.
The area became part of the Qing dynasty of China in the mid-18th century.
Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the early Kyrgyz as red-haired with white skin and blue eyes,
features that were interpreted as suggestive of Slavic origins.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 speak closely related languages.
In the early nineteenth century, the southern part of what is today Kyrgyzstan came under the control of the Khanate of Kokand.
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 Pamirs and Afghanistan.
In addition, the suppression of the 1916 rebellion in Central Asia caused many Kyrgyz to migrate to China. Since many ethnic groups
in the region were (and still are) split between neighbouring 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 after oppression.
Soviet power was initially established in the region in 1919, and the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast was created within the Russian SFSR (the term 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 December 5, 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 the Kyrgyz national culture were
retained despite the suppression of nationalist activity under 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 June 1990, ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz surfaced in the Osh Oblast, where Uzbeks form a majority of the population.
Violent confrontations ensued, and a state of emergency and curfew were introduced. Order was not restored until August 1990.
The early 1990s brought considerable change to Kyrgyzstan. By then, the Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement (KDM) had developed into a significant political
force with support in Parliament. In an upset victory, Askar Akayev, the liberal President of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, was elected to the Presidency
in October 1990. The following January, Akayev introduced new government structures and appointed a new government composed mainly of younger, reform-oriented politicians.
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.)
In February 1991, the name of the capital, Frunze, was changed back to its prerevolutionary name of Bishkek.
Despite these aesthetic 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."
On August 19, 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 August 31, 1991.
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 December 21, 1991,
Kyrgyzstan joined with the other four Central Asian Republics to formally enter the new Commonwealth of Independent States. In 1992, Kyrgyzstan joined the UN and the OSCE.
The "Tulip Revolution," after the parliamentary elections in March 2005, forced President Akayev's resignation on April 4, 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 also looted during the protests.
Political stability appears to be elusive, however, as various groups and factions allegedly linked to organized crime are jockeying 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.
Current concerns in Kyrgyzstan include privatization of state-owned enterprises, expansion of Western influence, inter-ethnic relations and terrorism.
Kirgizstan -- Economy --
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 free market 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 December 20, 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.
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. 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.
Commodities such as petrol (gas) are often sold road-side in gallon jugs. 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.
Vietnam -- Culture --
The Population of Kyrgyzstan is 75% Muslim, 20% Russian Orthodox and 5% other.
During Soviet times, state atheism was encouraged. Today, however, Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, although Islam has exerted a growing influence in politics. For instance,
there have been various attempts to decriminalize polygamy, and to arrange for officials to travel on hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) under a tax-free arrangement.
Kyrgyzstan is an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim nation and adheres to the Hanafi school of thought.
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."
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. She emphasized that many mosques have 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."
In a traditional Islamic cemeteryThe other faiths practiced in Kyrgyzstan include Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox versions of Christianity, practiced primarily
by Russians and Ukrainians respectively. A small minority of ethnic Germans are also Christian, mostly Lutheran and Baptist as well as a Roman Catholic community of
approximately 600. 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. 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 November 6, 2008, the Kyrgyzstan parliament unanimously passed a law making it much harder for minority religious organizations to be recognized.
It was signed by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on January 12, 2009. The new law ups the minimum number of members required from 10 to 200 and also outlaws
"aggressive action aimed at proselytism – converting people from one faith to another." Additionally, it bans religious activity in schools and all activity by
Kirgizstan -- Political system, law and government --
The 1993 constitution defines the form of government as a democratic republic. The executive branch includes a president and prime minister. The parliament currently
is unicameral. The judicial branch comprises a Supreme Court, a Constitutional 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 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 February 27 and March 13, 2005, but were widely viewed as corrupt. The subsequent protests led to a bloodless coup on March 24, after which Akayev
fled the country and was replaced by acting president Kurmanbek Bakiyev (see: Tulip Revolution).
Interim government leaders are developing a new governing structure for the country and working to resolve outstanding constitutional issues. On July 10, 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.
While it cannot really be described as an exodus, more and more ethnic white Russians want to leave Kyrgyzstan for Russia. The surge in the numbers of those seeking
the necessary permits can be explained by the March events and the continuously shaky situation in Kyrgyzstan, both economically and politically. The Russians are
increasingly pessimistic and concerned about an increasing lawlessness in Bishkek (where almost 50% of the country’s Russian population lives. Interfax reported on 8
February 2006 that if the current trend persists, more than half of Kyrgyzstan’s Russian population will have left within the next ten years. Besides the uncertain
outlook for the future, there are signs of growing nationalism and even xenophobia in a country that was always known for one of the most tolerant populations in the
Commonwealth of Independent States.
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. 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 Central Asia. The
closure was approved by Parliament on 19 February 2009 by 78-1 for the government-backed bill.
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).