Information about Kyrgyzstan
Republic of Kyrgizstan
Total Area: 198,500 sq km
Land Area: 191,300 sq km
Water Area: 7,200 sq km
Highest Point: Jengish Chokusu (Pik Pobedy) 7,439 m
Lowest Point: Kara-Daryya (Karadar'ya) 132 m
Capital City: Bishkek
Independence Day: 31 August 1991
Languages: Kyrgyz - official language, Russian - official language
Religion: Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
Life Expectancy: 67.84
Currency: Kyrgyzstani som (KGS)
Industries: small machinery, textiles, food processing, cement, shoes, sawn logs, refrigerators, furniture, electric motors, gold, rare earth metals
Exports: cotton, wool, meat, tobacco; gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas, hydropower; machinery; shoes
Import: oil and gas, machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs.
The history of Kyrgyzstan has its roots in the remote past. The Kyrgyz are one of the most ancient nationalities in the world. The first written references to the Kyrgyz people were found in Chinese chronicles in 201 B.C. They were almost the sole inhabitants of Southern Siberia and Central Asia. Because there was written Kyrgyz language until the late 19th century, the only records were in Chinese, Iranian, Turkish and Arabian chronicles.
One of the versions of the meaning of the word "Kyrgyz" is "Forty Girls". The legend states that a long, long time ago there lived a Padusha who had an only daughter. To stop his daughter from feeling lonely, the Padusha gave her forty personal girl-servants and built a Palace just for them, a long way from the city. One day as the girls were walking near a lake they saw some foam in the water and decided to go swimming. Some time later it was discovered that all the girls were pregnant and the indignant father ordered them to be taken to the distant mountains and left there. The Kyrgyz people are the descendants of these girls.
The nature of Kyrgyzstan is rich and diverse. 94% of the country is covered by mountains. The lowest valley is 500 metres above sea level. The Tien-Shan (Celestial Mountains) mountain system consists of 88 powerful ranges. Three world-famous peaks can be found in Kyrgyzstan - Pobeda (7439 m), Lenin (7134 m), and the legendary white/pink marble pyramid of Khan-Tengry.
Kyrgyzstan has many lakes. Issyk-Kul is the second-largest mountain lake in the world after Lake Titicaca (South America).
The largest rivers are the Naryn, Kara-Darya, Sary-Djaz, Chatkal, Chuy, Kekemeren and Isfairam-Sai.
Kyrgyzstan is also rich in glaciers - there are more than 800 and they make up more than 4% of the land area of the country.
The flora is rich and varied, including: the largest walnut forests in the world (the walnut is indigenous), fruit forests, unique in their beauty and medicinal properties, large tracts of Tien-Shan spruce, Semenov fir, perennial archa, pistachio and almond, oblepikha, barberry, wild blackcurrants, honeysuckle, wild rose, and a wide variety of mushrooms and medicinal herbs.
The fauna of Kyrgyzstan is very diverse with more than 80 species of mammals, over 300 species of birds and about 30 species of reptiles and amphibian.
The climate is totally continental. There is sunshine for an average of 247 days a year. September is the driest month.
Wedding customs are the most interesting - especially the tradition of kidnapping the Bride.
It has been a tradition from time immemorial that a man may kidnap a young woman he loves. His friends and relatives help him in this. Usually the man plans the day of the kidnapping beforehand. Relatives gather at his home and lay tables and cook a festive dinner. A room is set aside in the house and one corner is curtained-off (koshego). When the woman is brought to the house her head is covered by a kerchief - the sign of virginity, and she is placed behind the curtain. This custom is still observed in Kyrgyzstan today.
The marriage rite is followed by the "Otko Kirgizish" - initiation into the family hearth. Relatives invite the young couple to the hearth and the young wife is considered an equal member of the new family only when she puts grease in the pot.
Meat, milk, vegetables, fruit, and pastries are the traditional products used in Kyrgyz cookery. Beshbarmak (Five fingers), is the most popular traditional, national dish. At official feasts and celebrations it may only be prepared by the men - the sheep's carcass is stripped of the remaining meat and this is mixed with noodles and herbs and served as a soup-like dish.
The most festive of the main courses is Shorpo - meat broth with vegetables and spices.
The favourite drink is kymyz. Kymyz is made from fresh mare's milk which is poured into a special leather bag - and is then stirred with a special wooden stick which is called "bishkek". The name of this stick is given to the current capital of the Republic.
The invention of an easily assembled and reassembled house, made of felt, called a yurta, is the most remarkable achievement of the Kyrgyz nomads. A nomad could find shelter in a yurta from summer heat and rain and winter frosts. Today the yurta is popular with chabans (shepherds), who spend their summers in the high pastures (jailoo).
The basic rule for erecting a yurta is that the door should always face South or Southeast. The interior of a yurta is divided into functional zones. The "Red Corner" of the yurta is opposite the door where the trunks and chests with the main family valuables are kept. Blankets are also stacked in the same area. The middle of the yurta is occupied by the fire and a low table. The right-hand side of the yurta is the female area and the household utensils and children's things are placed here. The left-hand side is the male part where saddles, bridles and other male items are stored.