A small and mountainous landlocked state in central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is one of the least urbanized ex-Soviet republics, and was slow to develop its own sense of cultural identity.
Geography: The mountainous spurs of the Tien Shan range contain glaciers, alpine meadows, forests, and narrow valleys. Semidesert in the west.
Climate: Varies from permanent snow and cold deserts at high altitudes, to hot deserts in low regions.
People & Society: Ethnic Kyrgyz have only been in the majority since the late 1980s – due to a high birth rate and the emigration of ethnic Russians. Wary of losing skills vital to the economy, the government has attempted to deter Russians from leaving; concessions include making Russian an official language. There are some tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, and a trend toward greater Islamization, particularly in the poorer south.
The Economy: Mainly still under state control; corruption issues. Agriculture employs half of the labour force. Cotton, wool, meat, and tobacco exports. Mercury, gold, and antimony are mined. Great potential for hydroelectric power.
Insight: Kyrgyz folklore is based around the 1000-year-old poem, Manas, which takes a week to recite
Official Name: Kyrgyz Republic
Date of Formation: 1991
Population: 5.48 million
Total Area: 76,641 sq. miles (198,500 sq. km)
Density: 72 people per sq. mile
Languages: Kyrgyz*, Russian*, other
Religions: Muslim (mainly Sunni) 70%, Orthodox Christian 30%
Ethnic Mix: Kyrgyz 65%, Uzbek 14%, Russian 13%, other 6%, Dungan 1%, Ukrainian 1%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Som = 100 tyiyn