About Kyrgyzstan

General information about Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan – is the Central Asian country of an incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Unlike its Himalayan or South American counterparts of literary fame, Kyrgyzstan – or The Kyrgyz Republic to give it its official title – is real, but its beauty and untamed wildness are the stuff of oral legends.
It is said that everything in life can be found in Kyrgyzstan both physically and geographically. There are flat steppes, arid deserts, green, rolling foothills, plunging ravines with turbulent, frothing rivers, waterfalls cascading from the sides of sheer mountain faces, wondrous nut and fir forests full of some of the most beautiful – and endangered – species in the world, endless grass-covered high mountain pastures, alpine meadows that make Switzerland’s meadows look like small well-tended parks and staggeringly beautiful snow-covered mountain peaks sitting atop some of the most difficult – and rewarding – climbs in the mountaineering world. This is a land where vultures and eagles soar.
Seeing is believing and the only way you can ever experience the true delights of this small, secluded mountainous country – by Asian standards – is to visit it. Words alone cannot do justice to the variety of sights and sounds – and truly awesome silences – that await you.

Geographical location

Map of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, 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 “Switzerland of Central Asia”, as a result) 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 Kokshaal-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, 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.

Time

GMT + 6 hours – The country does not follow the Daylight Saving Time.

Climate

The mountainous terrain, distance from the sea and desert outskirts give Kyrgyzstan what can only be described as a harsh continental climate, with a big changes in temperature occuring over short periods of time. The wettest place is the west slope of the Fergana Range with 1,000 mm, whilst the driest is Balykchy on the western tip of Issyk-Kul Lake with 100 mm of precipitation. The average temperature throughout the country in January varies between – 4°C to – 14°C and in July between + 12°C and + 40°C and there is an average of 247 days of sunshine a year.

Landscapes

The fact that 94% of Kyrgyzstan is covered by mountains produces great variations in the geographical, topographical appearance of the country. The lowest valley floor is itself 500 metres above sea level and the highest peaks soar to more than 7,000 metres above sea level in the mighty Tien Shan Range. These mighty peaks are world renowned and are part of the exclusive list of 7,000 metre plus peaks of the world – Pobeda Peak (Victory Peak) 7,439m, Lenin Peak 7,134m and the legendary Khan-Tengry (7010m) – the white/pink marble pyramid held sacred by Kyrgyz through the ages.
Mountain lakes abound and arguably one of the most beautiful series of lakes anywhere in the world can be found at Sary Chelek in a national park. To see this is to behold the true beauty of nature. The ‘Pearl of the Heavenly Mountains’ – or Issyk-Kul Lake – is the second largest high mountain lake in the world, second only to Lake Titicaca in size and is so big it has its own unique biosphere. Although forests cover only a small area of Kyrgyzstan the truly unique indigenous walnut tree forests of Arslan-bob are warrant a visit on their own.

Population

The official statistics count about 5 millions inhabitants. Among them are Kyrgyz 66%; Uzbek 14%; Russian 11%; and Other Nationalities 8% (Germans, Ukrainians, Kazakhs, Koreans, Tatars, Tajiks Uighirs and Dungans). The average density for the whole country is 21 people per square kilometre, although Ferghana Valley is extremely overcrowded.

Language

Kyrgyzstan is one of the two former Soviet republics in Central Asia 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, 4.1 million people spoke Kyrgyz as native or second language and 2.5 million 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.

Religion

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

Political system

Kyrgyzstan has its own Constitution, President, Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament (Jogorku Kenesh).
The President holds the reins of power via the President’s Administration and can dissolve the Cabinet of Ministers at will, while the Prime Minister has very limited, almost token powers.

Administrative divisions

The country is still divided under the system laid down in Soviet times.
The administrative regions are:
Oblast – Kyrgyzstan is divided into 7 Oblasts (provinces) each with its own Gubernator (Governer) and each oblast is further subdivided into Rayons, (districts), with 40 of them in total.
The capital Bishkek is recognised as a separate entity, and has its own independent city administration.

Economy

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the economy has undergone massive changes and is still evolving. The Centralized Command Economy has been totally replaced by a free market economy. This has entailed several distinct phases, which have all had their pluses and minuses. Agriculture was and still is the largest employer of people in the Kyrgyz economy. Land reforms in Kyrgyzstan have progressed further and faster than anywhere else in the CIS and the result has been a bit of a mixed bag. Kyrgyz citizens meeting certain clearly defined criteria have received land shares (plots of land) as private property. Since the collective farms were broken up and people formed their own flocks, a great number of the national flock of sheep have been killed but now numbers are increasing again as the value of the flock as a source of income is becoming more and more apparent. This also applies to other farm animals such as horses.
There are natural resources, in particular water and that has led to the development of the hydro electricity industry. Several substantial plants are due to be completed in the next few years. Electricity exports continue to grow every year and are really only restricted by the limited load capacity of the HT lines from the country. However, unlike the other Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan does not have large reserves of oil and gas. There are large coal reserves but at present access is very difficult and transport costs make them impossible to market. However, when the projected China – Iran – Europe Railroad is built these resources should become much more exploitable. Gold is one resource much in demand and there are currently 130 plus mining companies active in the country. A major resource, uranium, is no longer in such great demand on the world market.

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