• Kyrgyzstan

    The capital of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek (population 670,000). The other big cities are Osh 

    (250,000), Tokmak (73,000), Kara Balta (54,000), Jalal-Abad (71,000) and Karakol (63,000).


    Climate: The climate of this mountainous region is influenced by its distance from the sea and the sharp change of elevation from neighbouring plains. These factors create a distinctly continental climate that has some significant local variations. There are four main climatic zones in Kyrgyzstan

    1. The valley zone (from 500-1,000m) is characterized by hot summer temperature, up to 28C (82F) and moderate cool winters. It rarely snows in these areas. Summer temperature generally ranges between 20C (68F) and 25C (77F), winter temperature falls between -4C to -7C (+19 to +25F



    2. The middle mountain zone (from 1,000-2,200m) enjoys a typical moderate climate with warm summer and cold steady snow during the winter. Average summer temperature in July is 18C (64F); average winter temperature in January is around -7C (19F



    3. The high mountainous zone (2,200-3,500m). Summer is cool while winter is cold with a lot of snow. July temperature is about 15C (59F). Winter is long (November-March) with January temperature around -10C (14F

    ). In the highest regions of this zone the period when water is not frozen is only around 3-4 months.


    4. Nival zone (from 3,500m and higher) is characterized by a very severe, cold climate. It is a zone of snows, rocks and glaciers. Even in the lower region of this zone the average July temperature does not exceed 7C (45F) and in January temperatures drop to -20C (-4F).

    The lowest air temperature recorded in Kyrgyzstan - 53.6C (-64.5F) was registered in Ak-Sai valley at the height of 3,135m. Precipitation in Kyrgyzstan is non-uniformly distributed. There are areas that receive about 1,500 mm while others receive as little 150-200 mm .

    After around 3,500m precipitation increases. The country is generally sunny, receiving as much as 2,900 hours of sunlight per year in some areas.




    Crafts: The centuries-old artistic work of the Kyrgyz has developed under the conditions of a nomadic way of life. Alongside the ever-constant work of cattle breeding and agriculture, the people have been involved in various crafts.

    Materials for making plates and dishes, horse saddles and harness - wool, leather, skins and wood - were procured on the spot. National masters have long supplied the local market with articles magnificent in beauty and simplicity. These items have been passed from one generation to the next, along with the secrets of their making.Fortunately, ancient traditions are not lost today. The traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts that are still practised by local craftsmen are rug and carpet making, jewellery making, leatherwork, wood turning, metal chasing and embossing etc.


    Having a nomadic life-style, Kyrgyz people have used a material made of felt. As felt is very warm, it protects the Kyrgyz national dwelling (yurta), however it is also used to make felt rugs with coloured panels sewn on (shyrdak) or pressed on (alakiz), and wool tapestries.

    Cuisine: The food eaten in Kyrgyzstan as developed from the subsistence diet of the nomads - mainly meat (including entrails), milk products and bread. The diet of the nomads is limited to mutton and noodles. The most traditional dishes are besh barmak (meat with noodles), a mutton stew, and roast lamb. For ceremonial meals, the lamb is killed without spilling its blood, and the head is served to the guest of honour, who slices portions of the eyes and ears and presents them to other guests to improve their sight and hearing. Horsemeat is eaten fresh and in sausages. Traditional beverages are kumys, fermented mare's milk, a mildly alcoholic drink, bozo - a thick yeasty concoction made from fermented millet. Tea is usually served without milk.


    Nan is local flat bread, is baked in a tander, a beehive-shaped oven.



    Dimlama steamed layers of meat and vegetables topped with cabbage.


    Lagmen is a spicy noodle-based dish common to

    Central Asia



    Mante steamed buns stuffed with meat and onions.



     Shashlik (kebab) is usually made with lamb or mutton, occasionally with beef.


    Pilov is a pilaf-like dish with bits of mutton and vegetables.



    Fruits of all sorts are locally grown and are excellent, although fruits and vegetables are rare in the Kyrgyz cuisine.




    Culture: The Kyrgyz are associated with historical national epos Manas, an entire cycle of oral legends. The epos was created by the Kyrgyz people and is dedicated to the national hero Manas, who protected the Kyrgyz and his nation from ancient times. Manas is a genuine encyclopaedia, which accumulated the historic events, information on the society, traditions and mode of life. The Kyrgyz literature has traditionally been popularised in the form of songs, poems and stories by itinerant minstrels called akyn.


    The development of music was closely connected with the art of bards. The most famous Kyrgyz instrument is the komuz (3 stringed lute). All the instruments like kyiak (string plucked instrument), temir komuz (jaw's harp), surnai (flute) are made of natural materials, produce sounds of nature, such as: singing of the birds, plashing of the mountain rivers, a breath of wind.


    Customs   On entering the country tourist must fill in a customs declaration form, which must be retained until departure. This allows the import of articles intended for personal use, including currency and valuables which must be registered on the declaration form. Customs inspection can be long and detailed.


    Ecology: Kyrgyzstan is remarkable for its natural beauty, and from the point of view of ecology it differs from the neighboring states. Nevertheless Kyrgyzstan has been spared many of the enormous environmental problems faced by its Central Asian neighbours; it has serious problems because of inefficient use and pollution of water resources, land degradation, and improper agricultural practices.


    The water utilisation is skewed heavily in favour of agricultural irrigation, 88% of total water consumption. The quality of drinking water from the ageing system is poorly monitored. The most important problems in land use are soil erosion and salinization in improperly irrigated farmland. An estimated 60% of Kyrgyzstan's land is affected by topsoil loss, and 6% by salinization.

    In response to the internationally recognised environmental crisis of the rapid desiccation of the Aral Sea, the five states sharing the Aral SeaBasin (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) have been developing a strategy to end the crisis. Among the conditions detrimental to the Aral Sea's environment are erosion from deforestation and overgrazing, contamination from poorly managed irrigation systems, and uncontrolled waste from mining and municipal effluents.

    Economy: Kyrgyzstan is the mountainous country with a predominantly agricultural economy. The economic system of Kyrgyzstan is undergoing a slow, painful transition. Industrial production in Kyrgyzstan has declined significantly. Important factors in this decline were the energy crisis caused by the loss of Soviet-era fuel supply agreements and the outflow of skilled Russian industrial and management personnel, by a drop in effective demand and the economic weakness of trading partners.


    The most valuable industrial components of Kyrgyzstan's economy are metallurgy, machine building, electronics, textiles and food processing centred in Bishkek, Osh , and Jalal-Abad. The most productive industry is electric power, which is produced in the numerous hydroelectric plants.Iron ore, copper, gold, lead, zinc, molybdenum, mercury, and antimony are mined.


    Insignificant oil and natural gas deposits, and coal deposits are not fully exploited. Industrial exports include gold, mercury, uranium, and electricity. 



    Agriculture accounts for about 40% of total economy and officially employs about one-third of the labour force. Cotton, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products and exports. The chief crops are fodder crops, wheat, corn, barley, and cotton. Other agricultural products are sugar beets, tobacco, fruit, vegetables, potatoes and silk.


    Main use of land is livestock raising. An estimated 83% of land in agricultural use is mountainous pastures. Livestock production accounts for about 60% of the value of the country's agricultural output; such production includes mutton, beef, eggs, milk, wool, and famous thoroughbred horses.


     Education: Education is compulsory from the age of seven. Free education at the vocational, secondary specialised and higher levels also is offered by the state to qualified individuals.



    There are 26 universities, 50 specialised high schools, 115 vocational training schools, and 1,884 comprehensive schools including 28 evening schools. The language of instruction remained predominantly Russian in the mid-1990s, although the use of Kyrgyz has increased yearly. Long-term plans call for a more Western style of university study, so that, for example, the universities began to offer a bachelor (B.Sc.) degree. There are 4 research institutes in the republic.


    Flag: The State Flag of the KyrgyzRepublic

    is a red field with a yellow sun in the center having 40 rays representing the 40 Kyrgyz tribes. In the centre of the sun is a red ring crossed by two sets of three lines, a stylised representation of the roof of the traditional Kyrgyz yurta - tiunduk. The life-giving sun is a symbol of eternal life; the tiunduk represents not only the stability of home, familiar ways of living, and centuries-old popular traditions, but also the deep philosophical unity of the heaven and the earth.


    Geography: Kyrgyzstan with a total area of about 198,500 square kilometres is one of the smallest of the newly independent Central Asian states. The national territory extends about 900 kilometres from the east to the west and 410 kilometres from the north to the south. Kyrgyzstan borders on China in the southeast, in the north and west on Kazakhstan, and in the south and west on Uzbekistan and Tajikistan



    Kyrgyzstan is relatively well watered by the streams that descend from the peaks. None of the rivers of Kyrgyzstan are navigable, however. Most of them are small, rapid, runoff streams and are tributaries of the Syr-Darya. Kyrgyzstan has about 2,000 lakes; LakeIssyk-Kul (6,236 sq. km) is the country's largest and the second largest body of water in Central Asia, after the Aral Sea.








    Public holidays include:



    January 1 - New Year's Day



    January 7 - Russian Orthodox Christmas



    March 8 - International Women's Day


    March 21 - Navruz ('New Day') - Ancient festival recently introduced in Kyrgyzstan

    . It can include traditional games, music festivals, street art and colourful fairs.



    May 5 - Constitution Day



    May 9 - Victory Day - Celebration of victory in the World War II 1941-1945, with military parades.



    August 31 - Independence Day



    September 1 - Day of Knowledge - The first day of school for students of all ages.


    Important Muslim holidays, scheduled according to the lunar calendar, include:  

    Language: The ethnic identity of the Kyrgyz has been strongly linked to their language and to ethnic traditions, both of which have been guarded with particular zeal. The name Kyrgyz derives from the Turkic kyrk plus yz, a combination meaning "forty clans."

    Money In 1993 Kyrgyzstan introduced its own national currency. The monetary unit is the som dividable into 100 tiyn. Currency code: KGS. Kyrgyzstan is effectively a cash-only zone. The local currency is the only legal tender, though in practice US dollars and Deutschmarks may be accepted or even requested for some transactions. There are currency exchange desks in most hotels and many shops. Most places accept only brand new banknotes. Banks change US dollars travellers' cheques into som, though licensed private moneychangers in shop fronts have slightly better rates for US dollars cash. Credit cards are not widely accepted, even in Bishkek. Operating hours for banks are 08.30-17.30 HRS.  


    Population: In 2000 the population of Kyrgyzstan was estimated at 4.7 million, of whom 52.4% were ethnic Kyrgyz, 18% were Russians, 13% were Uzbeks, 2.5% were Ukrainians, and 1.0% were Germans. The rest of the population was composed of about eighty other nationalities. About two-thirds of the population live in rural areas.

    The population growth rate in 2000 was 1.43% and population density is 22.6 people per square kilometer. Early marriage and large family size have combined to make Kyrgyzstan's population a relatively young one.

    Religion: The vast majority (75%) of today's Kyrgyz are Muslims of the Sunni branch, but Islam came late and fairly superficially to the area. The geographically isolated southern provinces tend to be more conservative than the industrialized, Russified north. Kyrgyz Muslims generally practice their religion in a specific way influenced by earlier tribal customs, which reinforce the north-south differences. The Russian population of Kyrgyzstan

    is largely Russian Orthodox (20%). The Uzbeks, who make up 13% of the population, are generally Sunni Muslims. Freedom of worship is practised.


    State system: On 31 August 1991, the Kyrgyz Supreme Council reluctantly voted to declare Kyrgyzstan's independence. In 1990, Akayev was elected the president. On May 1993 a brand-new Kyrgyzstan

    constitution and government structure became law. Later bicameral parliament elected to five-year terms was established in 1994. Akayev and his economic programme got a solid popular vote of confidence in a referendum in January 1994.