, Land of beauty, Somewhere new ! Somewhere different !
Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan)
and largest city
|Government||Unitary parliamentary republic|
|–||Prime Minister||Zhantoro Satybaldiyev|
|Independence from the Soviet Union|
|–||Kara-Kirghiz AO||14 October 1924|
|–||Kirghiz SSR||5 December 1936|
|–||Independence declared||31 August 1991|
|–||Recognized||25 December 1991|
|–||Total||199,951 km2 (86th)
77,181 sq mi
|–||2010 estimate||5,550,239 (110th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2011 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2011 estimate|
medium · 125th
|Time zone||KGT (UTC+5 to +6)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||KG|
Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyz:Кыргыз Республикасы; Russian: Кыргызская Республика), is a country located in Central Asia. Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek. it maintains a unitary parliamentary republic.
The national language, Kyrgyz, is closely related to the other Turkic languages, with which it shares strong cultural and historical ties. Kyrgyzstan is one of the active members of the Turkic Council and the TÜRKSOY community. Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Non-aligned movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
“Kyrgyz” is believed to have been derived from the Turkic word for “forty”, in reference to the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero who united forty regional clans against the Uyghurs. Literally it means We are forty. At the time, in the early 9th century AD, the Uyghurs dominated much of Central Asia (including Kyrgyzstan), Mongolia, and parts of Russia and China.
The 40-ray sun on the flag of Kyrgyzstan is a reference to those same forty tribes and the graphical element in the sun’s center depicts the wooden crown of a yurt – a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.
Nestorian tombstone with inscriptions in Uyghur, found inIssyk Kul, dated 1312
According to David C. King, “Scythians were early settlers in present-day Kyrgyzstan”
Advent of Islam
As early as the 7th century, Turkic traders introduced Islam to Central Asia, including what is now Kyrgyzstan, through doing business with Arabic people. The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uyghur Khaganate in 840 A.D. Then the Kyrgyz quickly moved as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years.
In the twelfth century, however, the Kyrgyz dominion had shrunk to the Altay Range and Sayan Mountains as a result of the Mongol expansion. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century, the Kyrgyz migrated south. The Kyrgyz peacefully became a part of Mongol Empire in 1207.
Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the early Kyrgyz as red-haired with white skin and blue eyes, which is indicative of ancient Iranian mountain tribes like the Pamiri people or Dardic people. The descent of the Kyrgyz from the autochthonous Siberian population is confirmed on the other hand by the recent genetic studies. Because of the processes of migration, conquest, intermarriage, and assimilation, many of the Kyrgyz peoples that now inhabit Central and Southwest Asia are of mixed origins, often stemming from fragments of many different tribes, though they now speak closely related languages.
Kyrgyz yurt, 1869–1870, by Vasily Vereshchagin
Issyk Kul Lake was a stopover on the Silk Road, a land route for traders, merchants and other travelers from the Far East to Europe.
Kyrgyz tribes were overrun in the 17th century by the Mongol Oirats, in the mid-18th century by the Manchu Qing Dynasty, and in the early 19th century by the Uzbek Khanate of Kokand.
Kyrgyz nomads, 1869–1870, by Vasily Vereshchagin
In the late nineteenth century, the majority part of what is today Kyrgyzstan was ceded to Russia through two treaties between China (then Qing Dynasty) and Russia. The territory, then known in Russian as “Kirgizia”, was formally incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1876. The Russian takeover was met with numerous revolts against Tsarist authority, and many of the Kyrgyz opted to move to the Pamir Mountains and Afghanistan.
In addition, the suppression of the 1916 rebellion against Russian rule in Central Asia caused many Kyrgyz later to migrate to China. Since many ethnic groups in the region were (and still are) split between neighboring states at a time when borders were more porous and less regulated, it was common to move back and forth over the mountains, depending on where life was perceived as better; this might mean better rains for pasture or better government during oppression.
Soviet power was initially established in the region in 1919, and the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast was created within the Russian SFSR (the phrase Kara-Kirghiz was used until the mid-1920s by the Russians to distinguish them from the Kazakhs, who were also referred to as Kirghiz). On 5 December 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was established as a full republic of the Soviet Union.
During the 1920s, Kyrgyzstan developed considerably in cultural, educational and social life. Literacy was greatly improved, and a standard literary language was introduced by imposing Russian on the populace. Economic and social development also was notable. Many aspects of Kyrgyz national culture were retained despite the suppression of nationalist activity under Joseph Stalin, and, therefore, tensions with the all-Union authorities were constant.
The early years of glasnost had little effect on the political climate in Kyrgyzstan. However, the Republic’s press was permitted to adopt a more liberal stance and to establish a new publication, Literaturny Kirghizstan, by the Union of Writers. Unofficial political groups were forbidden, but several groups that emerged in 1989 to deal with the acute housing crisis were permitted to function.
In 1989 protests flared up against the discriminatory policy of the Soviet government directed at pushing ethnic Kyrgyz inhabitants out of major cities, which could then be occupied by new settlers from Russia and the other Soviet republics.
According to the last Soviet census in 1989, ethnic Kyrgyz made up only 22% of the residents of the northern city of Frunze (now Bishkek), while more than 60% were Russians, Ukrainians, and people from other Slavic nations (only 36 percent of Bishkek residents surveyed said Russian was their first language).
In June 1990, ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz surfaced in the Osh Oblast (southern Kyrgyzstan), where Uzbeks form a majority of the population. Attempts to appropriate Uzbek collective farms for housing development triggered the Osh Riots. A state of emergency and curfew were introduced and Askar Akayev, the youngest of five sons born into a family of collective farm workers (in northern Kyrgyzstan), was elected President in October of that same year.
By then, the Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement (KDM) had developed into a significant political force with support in Parliament. In December 1990, the Supreme Soviet voted to change the republic’s name to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. (In 1993, it became the Kyrgyz Republic.) The following January, Akayev introduced new government structures and appointed a new government composed mainly of younger, reform-oriented politicians. In February 1991, the name of the capital, Frunze, was changed back to its pre-revolutionary name of Bishkek.
Despite these political moves toward independence, economic realities seemed to work against secession from the Soviet Union. In a referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union in March 1991, 88.7% of the voters approved the proposal to retain the Soviet Union as a “renewed federation”. Nevertheless, secessionist forces pushed Kyrgyzstan’s independence through in August of that same year.
On 19 August 1991, when the State Emergency Committee assumed power in Moscow, there was an attempt to depose Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. After the coup collapsed the following week, Akayev and Vice President German Kuznetsov announced their resignations from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and the entire bureau and secretariat resigned. This was followed by the Supreme Soviet vote declaring independence from the Soviet Union on 31 August 1991 as the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.
Provinces and districts
Kyrgyzstan is divided into seven provinces (sing. oblast (область), pl. oblasttar (областтар)) administered by appointed governors. The capital, Bishkek, and the second largest city Osh are administratively independent cities (shaar) with a status equal to a province.
The provinces, and independent cities, are as follows:
- City of Bishkek
- City of Osh
Each province comprises a number of districts (raions), administered by government-appointed officials (akim). Rural communities (ayıl ökmötü), consisting of up to 20 small settlements, have their own elected mayors and councils.
Map of Kyrgyzstan
Tian Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan.
Topography of Kyrgyzstan
Orchard near in Issyk Kul Province.
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 further from the sea than any other individual country, and all its rivers flow into closed drainage systems which do not reach the sea. The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country (Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as “the 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 Kakshaal-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.
The climate varies regionally. The south-western Fergana Valley is subtropical and extremely hot in summer, with temperatures reaching 40 °C (104 °F) The northern foothills are temperate and the Tian Shan varies from dry continental to polar climate, depending on elevation. In the coldest areas temperatures are sub-zero for around 40 days in winter, and even some desert areas experience constant snowfall in this period.
Enclaves and exclaves:
There is one exclave, the tiny village of Barak (population 627), in the Fergana Valley. The village is surrounded by Uzbek territory. It is located on the road from Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Khodjaabad (Uzbekistan) about 4 kilometres (2 miles) north-west from the Kyrgyz–Uzbek border in the direction ofAndijan. Barak is administratively part of Kara-Suu District in Kyrgyzstan’s Osh Province.
There are four Uzbek enclaves within Kyrgyzstan. Two of them are the towns of Sokh (area 325 km2 (125 sq mi) and a population of 42,800 in 1993, although some estimates go as high as 70,000; 99% are Tajiks, the remainder Uzbeks) and Shakhimardan (also known as Shahimardan, Shohimardon, or Shah-i-Mardan, area 90 km2 (35 sq mi) and a population of 5,100 in 1993; 91% are Uzbeks, the remainder Kyrgyz); the other two are the tiny territories of Chong-Kara (roughly 3 km (2 mi) long by 1 km (0.6 mi) wide) and Jangy-ayyl (a dot of land barely 2–3 km (1–2 mi) across). Chong-Kara is on the Sokh river, between the Uzbek border and the Sokh enclave. Jangy-ayyl is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) east of Batken, in a northward projection of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near Khalmion.
There also are two enclaves belonging to Tajikistan: Vorukh (exclave area between 95–130 km2 (37–50 sq mi), population estimated between 23,000 and 29,000, 95% Tajiks and 5% Kyrgyz, distributed among 17 villages), located 45 kilometres (28 mi) south of Isfara on the right bank of the Karafshin river, and a small settlement near the Kyrgyz railway station of Kairagach.
Old and new Bishkek buildings
The National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic serves as the Central bank of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan was the second poorest country in the former Soviet Union, and is today the second poorest country in Central Asia. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2011, a third of the country’s population lived below the poverty line. According to UNDP, the level of poverty will continue to grow: in 2009 31% of the population lived below the poverty level while in 2011 this figure rose to 37%.
Graphical depiction of Kyrgyzstan ‘s product exports in 28 color-coded categories.
Despite the backing of major Western lenders, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Kyrgyzstan has had economic difficulties following independence. Initially, these were a result of the breakup of the Soviet trading bloc and resulting loss of markets, which impeded the republic’s transition to a demand economy.
The government has reduced expenditures, ended most price subsidies and introduced a value-added tax. Overall, the government appears committed to the transition to a market economy. Through economic stabilization and reform, the government seeks to establish a pattern of long-term consistent growth. Reforms led to Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 20 December 1998.
The Kyrgyz economy was severely affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting loss of its vast market. In 1990, some 98% of Kyrgyz exports went to other parts of the Soviet Union. Thus, the nation’s economic performance in the early 1990s was worse than any other former Soviet republic except war-torn Armenia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, as factories and state farms collapsed with the disappearance of their traditional markets in the former Soviet Union. While economic performance has improved considerably in the last few years, and particularly since 1998, difficulties remain in securing adequate fiscal revenues and providing an adequate social safety net. Remittances of around 800,000 Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia represent 40% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.
Agriculture is an important sector of the economy in Kyrgyzstan (see agriculture in Kyrgyzstan). By the early 1990s, the private agricultural sector provided between one-third and one-half of some harvests. In 2002, agriculture accounted for 35.6% of GDP and about half of employment. Kyrgyzstan’s terrain is mountainous, which accommodates livestock raising, the largest agricultural activity, so the resulting wool, meat and dairy products are major commodities. Main crops include wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, vegetables, and fruit. As the prices of imported agrichemicals and petroleum are so high, much farming is being done by hand and by horse, as it was generations ago. Agricultural processing is a key component of the industrial economy as well as one of the most attractive sectors for foreign investment.
Kyrgyzstan is rich in mineral resources but has negligible petroleum and natural gas reserves; it imports petroleum and gas. Among its mineral reserves are substantial deposits of coal, gold, uranium, antimony, and other valuable metals. Metallurgy is an important industry, and the government hopes to attract foreign investment in this field. The government has actively encouraged foreign involvement in extracting and processing gold from theKumtor Gold Mine and other regions. The country’s plentiful water resources and mountainous terrain enable it to produce and export large quantities ofhydroelectric energy.
On a local level, the economy is primarily kiosk in nature. A large amount of local commerce occurs at bazaars and small village kiosks in country regions. A significant amount of trade is unregulated. There is also a scarcity of common everyday consumer items[specify] in remote villages. Thus a large number of homes are quite self-sufficient with respect to food production. There is a distinct differentiation between urban and rural economies.
The principal exports are nonferrous metals and minerals, woollen goods and other agricultural products, electric energy and certain engineering goods. Imports include petroleum and natural gas, ferrous metals, chemicals, most machinery, wood and paper products, some foods and some construction materials. Its leading trade partners include Germany, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
Age distribution pyramid (2005)
Kyrgyzstan’s population is estimated at 5.2 million in 2007. Of those, 34.4% are under the age of 15 and 6.2% are over 65. The country is rural: only about one-third of population live in urban areas. The average population density is 25 people per km². The nation’s largest ethnic group are the Kyrgyz, a Turkic people, who comprise 69% of the population (2007 estimate). Other ethnic groups include Russians (9.0%) concentrated in the north andUzbeks (14.5%) living in the south. Small but noticeable minorities include Dungans (1.9%), Uyghurs (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%), andUkrainians (0.5%) and other smaller ethnic minorities (1.7%). Kyrgyzstan has over 80 distinct ethnic groups in the country.
The Kyrgyz have historically been semi-nomadic herders, living in round tents called yurts and tending sheep, horses and yaks. This nomadic tradition continues to function seasonally (see transhumance) as herding families return to the high mountain pasture (or jailoo) in the summer. The sedentary Uzbeks and Tajiks traditionally have farmed lower-lying irrigated land in the Fergana valley.
Kyrgyzstan has undergone a pronounced change in its ethnic composition since independence. The percentage of ethnic Kyrgyz increased from around 50% in 1979 to nearly 70% in 2007, while the percentage of European ethnic groups (Russians, Ukrainians and Germans) as well as Tatars dropped from 35% to about 10%. The percentage of ethnic Russians dropped from 29.2% in 1970 to 21.5% in 1989. Since 1991, huge numbers of Germans, who in 1989 numbered 101,000 persons, have been emigrating to Germany. Between 1991 and 2002, more than 600,000 people emigrated from Kyrgyzstan and the ethnic minority population declined from 47 to 33 percent.
Largest cities or towns of Kyrgyzstan
|4||Karakol||Issyk Kul Province||66,294|
|8||Balykchy||Issyk Kul Province||42,875|
Karakol Dungan Mosque
Islam is the dominant religion of Kyrgyzstan: 80% of the population is Muslim while 17% follow Russian Orthodoxy and 3% other religions. A 2009Pew Research Center report indicates a higher percentage of Muslims, with 86.3% of Kyrgyzstan’s population adhering to Islam. The majority of Muslims are non-denominational Muslims at 64% while roughly 23% are Sunni.
During Soviet times, state atheism was encouraged. Today, however, Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, although Islam has exerted a growing influence in politics. For instance, there has been an attempt to arrange for officials to travel on hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) under a tax-free arrangement.Kyrgyzstan is an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim nation and adheres to the Hanafi school of thought.
While Islam in Kyrgyzstan is more of a cultural background than a devout daily practice for many, public figures have expressed support for restoring religious values. For example, human rights ombudsman Tursunbay Bakir-Ulu noted, “In this era of independence, it is not surprising that there has been a return to spiritual roots not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also in other post-communist republics. It would be immoral to develop a market-based society without an ethical dimension.”
Bishkek Orthodox Church
Additionally, Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of Askar Akayev, the former President of Kyrgyzstan, stated during a July 2007 interview that Islam is increasingly taking root across the nation. She emphasized that many mosques have recently been built and that the Kyrgyz are increasingly devoting themselves to Islam, which she noted was “not a bad thing in itself. It keeps our society more moral, cleaner.” There is a contemporary Sufi order present which gives a somewhat different form of Islam than the orthodox Islam.
Traditional Islamic cemetery
The other faiths practiced in Kyrgyzstan include Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox versions of Christianity, practiced primarily by Russians and Ukrainians respectively. A small minority of ethnic Germans are also Christian, mostly Lutheran and Anabaptist as well as a Roman Catholic community of approximately 600.
A few Animistic traditions survive, as do influences from Buddhism such as the tying of prayer flags onto sacred trees, though some view this practice rooted within Sufi Islam. There are also a small number of Bukharian Jewsliving in Kyrgyzstan, but during the collapse of the Soviet Union most fled to other countries, mainly the United States and Israel. In addition, there is a small community of Ashkenazi Jews, who fled to the country from eastern Europe during the Second World War.
On 6 November 2008, the Kyrgyzstan parliament unanimously passed a law increasing the minimum number of adherents for recognizing a religion from 10 to 200. It also outlawed “aggressive action aimed at proselytism”, and banned religious activity in schools and all activity by unregistered organizations. It was signed by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on 12 January 2009.
Kyrgyzstan is one of 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 Turkic language of the Kipchak branch, closely related to Kazakh, Karakalpak, and Nogay Tatar. 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.
|Language name||Native speakers||Second-language speakers||Total speakers|
Kyrgyzstan in red against Japan
Football is the most popular sport in Kyrgyzstan. The official governing body is the Football Federation of Kyrgyz Republic, which was founded in 1992, after the split of the Soviet Union. It administers the Kyrgyzstan national football team.
Wrestling is also a very popular sport in Kyrgyzstan. In the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, two athletes from Kyrgyzstan won medals in Greco-Roman wrestling: Kanatbek Begaliev (silver) and Ruslan Tiumenbaev (bronze).
Ice hockey has not been as popular in Kyrgyzstan, until the first Ice Hockey Championship was organized in 2009. In 2011, the Kyrgyzstan men’s national ice hockey team won 2011 Asian Winter Games Premier Division dominating in all six games with six wins. It was the first major international event that Kyrgyzstan’s ice hockey team took part in. The Kyrgyzstan men’s ice hockey team joined the IIHF on July 2011.
Bandy is becoming increasingly popular in the country. The Kyrgyz national team took Kyrgyzstan’s first medal at the Asian Winter Games, when they captured the bronze. They played in the Bandy World Championship 2012, their first appearance in that tournament.
Musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz music.
- Manas, an epic poem
- Komuz, a three-stringed lute
- Tush kyiz, large, elaborately embroidered wall hangings
- Shirdak, flat cushions made in shadow-pairs
- Other textiles, especially made from felt
In addition to celebrating the New Year each 1 January, the Kyrgyz observe the traditional New Year festival Nowruz on the vernal equinox. This spring holiday is celebrated with feasts and festivities such as the horse game Ulak Tartish.
Illegal, but still practiced, is the tradition of bride kidnapping.
It is debatable whether bride kidnapping is actually traditional. Some of the confusion may stem from the fact that arranged marriages were traditional, and one of the ways to escape an arranged marriage was to arrange a consensual “kidnapping.”
The 40-rayed yellow sun in the center of the flag represents 40 warriors of the mythical hero Manas. The lines inside the sun represent the crown or tündük (Kyrgyz түндүк) of a yurt, a symbol replicated in many facets of Kyrgyz architecture. The red portion of the flag represents peace and openness of Kyrgyzstan.
The traditional national sports reflect the importance of horse riding in Kyrgyz culture.
Very popular, as in all of Central Asia, is Ulak Tartysh, a team game resembling a cross between polo and rugby in which two teams of riders wrestle for possession of the headless carcass of a goat, which they attempt to deliver across the opposition’s goal line, or into the opposition’s goal: a big tub or a circle marked on the ground.
Other popular games on horseback include:
- At Chabysh – a long-distance horse race, sometimes over a distance of more than 50 km
- Jumby Atmai – a large bar of precious metal (the “jumby”) is tied to a pole by a thread and contestants attempt to break the thread by shooting at it, while at a gallop
- Kyz Kuumai – a man chases a girl in order to win a kiss from her, while she gallops away; if he is not successful she may in turn chase him and attempt to beat him with her “kamchi” (horsewhip)
- Oodarysh – two contestants wrestle on horseback, each attempting to be the first to throw the other from his horse
- Tyin Emmei – picking up a coin from the ground at full gallop
Southern shore of Issyk Kul Lake.
This is the list of public holidays in Kyrgyzstan:
- 1 January – New Year’s Day
- 7 January – Orthodox Christmas
- 23 February – Fatherland Defender’s Day
- 8 March – Women’s Day
- 21 March – Nooruz, Persian New Year – spring festival
- 24 March – Day of National Revolution
- 1 May – Labor Day
- 5 May – Constitution Day
- 8 May – Remembrance Day
- 9 May – Victory Day (end of World War II)
- 31 August – Independence Day
- 7 November – Day of the Great October Socialist Revolution
Issyk Kul Lake
Two additional Muslim holidays Orozo Ait and Kurman Ait are defined by lunar calendar.
One of the most popular tourist destination points in Kyrgyzstan is Issyk Kul Lake. Numerous hotels, vacation resorts, boarding houses andsanatoriums are located along its Northern shore. The most popular beach zones are in the city of Cholpon-Ata and the settlements nearby, such as Kara-Oi (Dolinka), Bosteri and Korumdy. The number of tourists visiting the lake was more than a million a year in 2006 and 2007. However, due to the economical and political instability in the region, the number has declined in recent years.
For those interested in trekking and camping, every region offers attractions and challenges. Some of the most popular locations for camping are southern Osh, the area between Naryn City and the Torugart pass, and the mountains and glaciers surrounding Karakol in Issyk-Kul.Local guides and porters can be hired from many tour companies in Bishkek and in the provincial capitals.
Skiing is still in its infancy as a tourism industry, but there is one fairly cheap and well-equipped base about a half-hour from Bishkek. The ski base of Toguz Bulak is 45 km (28 mi) from Bishkek, on the way to Issyk Ata valley. In the Karakol Valley National Park, outside Karakol, there is also a ski base with three T-bars and rental equipment available of good quality.
Bishkek West Bus Terminal
Transport in Kyrgyzstan is severely constrained by the country’s alpine topography. Roads have to snake up steep valleys, cross passes of 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) altitude and more, and are subject to frequent mud slides and snow avalanches. Winter travel is close to impossible in many of the more remote and high-altitude regions.
Additional problems come from the fact that many roads and railway lines built during the Soviet period are today intersected by international boundaries, requiring time-consuming border formalities to cross where they are not completely closed. Horses are still a much-used transport option, especially in more rural areas; Kyrgyzstan’s road infrastructure is not extensive, so horses are able to reach locations that motor vehicles cannot, and they do not require expensive, imported fuel.
At the end of the Soviet period there were about 50 airports and airstrips in Kyrgyzstan, many of them built primarily to serve military purposes in this border region so close to China. Only a few of them remain in service today. The Kyrgyzstan Air Company provides air transport to China, Russia, and other local countries.
- Manas International Airport near Bishkek is the main international airport, with services to Moscow, Tashkent, Almaty, Beijing, Urumqi, Istanbul, London, Baku, Dubai (from 7 Feb 2012).
- Osh Airport is the main air terminal in the south of the country, with daily connections to Bishkek.
- Jalal-Abad Airport is linked to Bishkek by daily flights. The national flag carrier, Kyrgyzstan, operates flights on BAe-146 aircraft. During the summer months, a weekly flight links Jalal-Abad with the Issyk-Kul Region.
- Other facilities built during the Soviet era are either closed down, used only occasionally or restricted to military use (e.g., Kant Air Base near Bishkek, which is used by the Russian Air Force).
The Chuy Valley in the north and the Ferghana valley in the south were endpoints of the Soviet Union’s rail system in Central Asia. Following the emergence of independent post-Soviet states, the rail lines which were built without regard for administrative boundaries have been cut by borders, and traffic is therefore severely curtailed. The small bits of rail lines within Kyrgyzstan, about 370 km (230 mi) (1,520 mm (59.8 in) broad gauge) in total, have little economic value in the absence of the former bulk traffic over long distances to and from such centres as Tashkent, Almaty, and the cities of Russia.
There are vague plans about extending rail lines from Balykchy in the north and/or from Osh in the south into China, but the cost of construction would be enormous.
Rail links with adjacent countries:
- Kazakhstan – yes – Bishkek branch – same gauge
- Uzbekistan – yes – Osh branch – same gauge
- Tajikistan – no – same gauge
- China – no – Break of gauge 1524 mm/1435 mm
Street scene in Osh.
With support from the Asian Development Bank, a major road linking the north and southwest from Bishkek to Osh has recently been completed. This considerably eases communication between the two major population centres of the country—the Chuy Valley in the north and the Fergana Valley in the South. An offshoot of this road branches off across a 3,500 meter pass into the Talas Valley in the northwest. Plans are now being formulated to build a major road from Osh into China.
- total: 34,000 km (21,127 mi) (including 140 km (87 mi) of expressways)
- paved: 22,600 km (14,043 mi) (includes some all-weather gravel-surfaced roads)
- unpaved: 7,700 km (4,785 mi) (these roads are made of unstabilized earth and are difficult to negotiate in wet weather) (1990)
Water transport exists only on Issyk Kul Lake, and has drastically shrunk since the end of the Soviet Union.
Ports and harbours:
Balykchy (Ysyk-Kol or Rybach’ye), on Issyk Kul Lake.