Kyrgyzstan, sometimes called Kirghizia, officially called the Kyrgyz Republic, is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south, and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek. Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country's six million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. The Kyrgyz language is closely related to other Turkic languages, although Russian remains spoken and is a co-official language. Ninety percent of Kyrgyzstan's population are Muslim, with the majority of its population following Sunni Islam. In addition to its Turkic origins, Kyrgyz culture bears elements of Iranic, Mongolian and Russian influence.
Kyrgyzstan's history spans a variety of cultures and empires. Although geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road along with other commercial routes. Inhabited by a succession of tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under larger domination. Turkic nomads, who trace their ancestry to many Turkic states such as the First and Second Turkic Khaganates, have inhabited the country throughout its history. In the 13th century, Kyrgyzstan was conquered by the Mongols; it regained independence, but was later invaded by Kalmyks, Manchus and Uzbeks. In 1876, it became part of the Russian Empire, and in 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was formed to become a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Following Mikhail Gorbachev's democratic reforms in the USSR, in 1990 pro-independence candidate Askar Akayev was elected president. On 31 August 1991, Kyrgyzstan declared independence from Moscow and a democratic government was established. Kyrgyzstan attained sovereignty as a nation state after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
After independence, Kyrgyzstan was officially a unitary presidential republic, then between 2010 and 2021 was officially a unitary parliamentary republic, although it gradually developed an executive president and was governed as a semi-presidential republic before reverting to a presidential system in 2021. Throughout its existence, the country has continued to endure ethnic conflicts, revolts, economic troubles, transitional governments and political conflict.
Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Organisation of Turkic States, the Türksoy community and the United Nations. It is a developing country ranked 120th in the Human Development Index, and the second poorest country in Central Asia. The country's transition economy is heavily dependent on deposits of gold, coal and uranium.
Documentaries, videos and podcasts
Geography Now! Kyrgyzstan
January 24, 2018