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Atlas Kyrgyzstan

Country (long form)
Kyrgyz Republic
Total Area
76,641.28 sq mi
198,500.00 sq km
4,685,230 (July 2000 est.)
Estimated Population in 2050
Kirghiz (Kyrgyz) - official language, Russian - official language
97.0% total, 99.0% male, 96% female (1989 est.)
Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
Life Expectancy
59.06 male, 67.9 female (2000 est.)
Government Type
1 Kyrgyzstani som (KGS) = 100 tyiyn
GDP (per capita)
$2,300 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
agriculture and forestry 55%, industry 15%, services 30% (1999 est.)
small machinery, textiles, food processing, cement, shoes, sawn logs, refrigerators, furniture, electric motors, gold, rare earth metals
tobacco, cotton, potatoes, vegetables, grapes, fruits and berries; sheep, goats, cattle, wool
Arable Land
cotton, wool, meat, tobacco; gold, mercury, uranium, hydropower; machinery; shoes
oil and gas, machinery and equipment, foodstuffs
Natural Resources
abundant hydropower; significant deposits of gold and rare earth metals; locally exploitable coal, oil, and natural gas; other deposits of nepheline, mercury, bismuth, lead, and zinc
Current Environmental Issues
water pollution; many people get their water directly from contaminated streams and wells; as a result, water-borne diseases are prevalent; increasing soil salinity from faulty irrigation practices
Telephones (main lines in use)
357,000 (1995)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

The earliest notable residents of what is now Kyrgyzstan were warrior tribes of Saka (also known as Scythians), from about the 6th century BC to the 5th century AD. Alexander the Great met perhaps the stiffest resistance from Saka tribes in his 4th century BC advance through Central Asia. Rich bronze and gold relics have been recovered from Scythian burial mounds at Lake Issyk-Kul and in southern Kazakstan.

The region was under the control of various Turkic alliances from the 6th to 10th centuries, with a sizeable population living on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul. Kyrgyzstan was the scene of a pivotal battle in 751, when the Turks and their Arab and Tibetan allies drove a large Tang Chinese army out of Central Asia. Ancestors of today's Kyrgyz people probably lived in Siberia's upper Yenisey basin until at least the 10th century, when under the influence of Mongol incursions they began migrating south into the Tian Shan - more urgently with the rise of Jenghiz Khan in the 13th century. Present-day Kyrgyzstan was part of the inheritance of Jenghiz's second son, Chagatai.

Peace was shattered in 1685 by the arrival of the ruthless Mongol Oyrats of the Zhungarian Empire, who drove vast numbers of Kyrgyz south into present-day Tajikistan. When the Oyrats were defeated by the Manchu (Qing), the Kyrgyz became de facto subjects of the Chinese, who mainly left them to their nomadic ways. In the 18th century the feudal tentacles of the Kokand khanate began to encircle them, though the feisty Kyrgyz constantly made trouble from their Tian Shan redoubts. As the Russians moved closer in the 19th century, various Kyrgyz tribal leaders made their own peace with Russia or Kokand. Russian forces slowly rolled over the towns of Kokand, their advance culminating in the defeat of Tashkent in 1865. The Kyrgyz were gradually eased into the tsar's provinces of Ferghana and Semireche.

The new colonial masters dished land over to Russian settlers, and the Kyrgyz put up with it until a revolt in 1916, which was heavily put down by the Russian army. Kyrgyz lands became part of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Russian Federation in 1918, then a separate Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast in 1924 and a full SSR in 1936. Many nomads were settled in the course of land reforms in the 1920s, and more were forcibly settled during a cruel collectivisation campaign in the 1930s.

Despite conservative Kyrgyz leadership in the days of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroyka, several groups were founded to fight the issues of unemployment and homelessness - some activists going so far as to seize vacant land and build houses on it. Land and housing were in fact at the root of Central Asia's most infamous 'ethnic' violence, between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks around Osh in 1990. Elections were held in traditional Soviet rubber-stamp style to the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet in February 1990, with the Kyrgyz Communist Party (KCP) walking away with nearly all the seats. After multiple ballots, Askar Akaev, a physicist, was installed as a compromise president. In August 1991, the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet reluctantly voted to declare Kyrgyzstan's independence. Six weeks later, Akaev was re-elected president, running unopposed. By the end of the year, Kyrgyzstan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States. In May 1993 a brand-new constitution dispensed with the last structural vestiges of the Soviet era.

Akaev has gone on to establish himself as a stubborn reformer, restructuring the executive apparatus to suit his liberal political and economic attitudes, and instituting reforms considered to be the most radical in the Central Asian republics. Akaev and his economic program got a solid popular vote of confidence in a referendum in 1994 and again in early 1995 elections. The following year, Kyrgyzstan signed a non-aggression agreement with Russia, China, Kazakstan and Tajikistan.