Trivia about Kyrgyzstan
Facts and Trivia about Kyrgyzstan
With a population of just over 5 million people, this Central Asian nation is not only difficult to pronounce (keer-gih-STAN), it's difficult for many Westerners to locate. Sandwiched between Kazakhstan to the north and China to the south, Kyrgyzstan is only about 77,000 square miles in size, about the size of South Dakota, so it's easy to see why people who don't live on the Asian mainland have trouble finding it on a map.
Let's look at some facts and features of this out-of-the-way Asian nation. The more you know about Kyrgyzstan, the greater a leg-up you have against people who may only recognize it as part of the landmass that includes countries like Kazakhstan (parodied in the mockumentary Borat) and Uzbekistan.
Kyrgyzstan is a relatively-poor country (GDP is just under $3,000 US per year) that is composed mostly of the Tian Shan Mountains that also cover part of China. In fact, more than three-quarters of the land is made up of mountains. The largest body of water in the country is the lake known as Ysyk-Kol, situated in the eastern portion of the nation.
Bordering countries include China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and some areas that are politically difficult to pin down due to ongoing conflicts over territorial boundaries.
Part of the so-called "Seven Stans,"� Kyrgyzstan is in the middle of one of the most dangerous parts of the world, thanks to political unrest at virtually ever border-point, including close proximity to the Indo-Pak border, where unrest and skirmishes over border locations are common.
As a mostly rural country, entertainment in this nation is made up of local traditional folk songs and dances and inter-familial entertainment on a small scale.
The country's capital, Bishkek, boasts a Philharmonic orchestra and theatre which performs classical music as well as traditional Kyrgyzi folk tunes. The capital also plays host to a ballet and state-funded opera house, though it is not in operation year-round, and is at the mercy of a government that functions only part-time.
Since most of the nation's people are poor, finding entertainment within the nation's borders probably means hiking and viewing the local scenery, or attending a performance in the capital's theatres and dance halls, when scheduled.
The nation was originally settled by nomadic people known as the Kyrgyz. A wandering tribe of peoples who spoke Turkish and had vague ties to Islam, the Kyrgyz settled in present day Kyrgyzstan because of the area's potential for horse, cattle, and yak-breeding, which remain the number one source of income for the majority of the population. The breeding of livestock has been going on in this part of the world for centuries, perhaps over 1,000 years.
The Kyrgyz people, like many of their neighbors, came under tsarist Russian rule during the 19th century. During that time, thousands of Slavic and Russian farmers moved into the area because of its high potential for raising livestock and farming. Like many of the neighboring countries in the region, Kyrgyzstan gained independence in the early 90s, specifically 1991.
Today, the Kyrgyz people still make up a full two-thirds of the country's population, with the rest of the population made up of mostly Uzbek and Russian minority populations. Since raising livestock is the main agricultural activity, nomadic peoples also make up a small percentage of the country.
Other industries that exist in this nation include the exportation of cotton, wool, tobacco, mercury, gold, meats, and uranium and natural gas.
Arts & Literature
For such a poor country, the Kyrgyzstani people are highly literate, with a mere 3% illiteracy rate. The literary history of modern Kyrgyz people starts, as does the literature of most nations in this part of the world, in the 19th century. The poems of Moldo Nïyaz are considered the first modern Kyrgyzstani literature. Literature in the country developed slowly after that time thanks to poor Kyrgyz-language instruction during Soviet occupation.
As is to be expected from nomadic peoples, Kyrgyz literature began as oral narratives, and appeared mostly as rhyming poetry, which was easy to memorize and pass down. The earliest existing printed book in modern Kyrgyz is called Qïssa-i zilzila, published in 1911. Loosely translated as "The Tale of the Earthquake," the book was written by Moldo Qïlïch and is a work of social commentary that was meant to instill morality in the reader, a common theme in early books from this country.
So why are modern peoples in this nation so literate? Major changes and increased interest in literature and written Kyrgyz folklore after Soviet occupation led to increased demand for instruction, and the 20th century gave the world the Kyrgyz poets and writers Aalï Tokombaev, Joomart Bökönbaev, and Kubanïchbek Malikov, the most famous writers in the nation's history.
Science & Nature
The nation's animal population and native vegetation is similar to other Silk Road countries, and can be compared to the nearly-identical flora and fauna of Tajikistan. Wildflowers are common in the nations few valleys, and nomadic populations of yaks, mountain goats, and snow leopards are common in the mountainous regions.
An interesting trivia fact: the world's largest natural walnut forest is located in Kyrgyzstan. The wild countryside makes it a common home for flocks of migrating birds, making it a sort of hot-spot for adventurous bird-watchers. The nation has nearly seven dozen native species of mammals, more than 150 native species of birds, and thousands of species of native plants dotting the landscape.
Water pollution and high soil salinity are becoming an issue even in this relatively wild place, thanks to improper farming and irrigation. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Kyrgyzstan's soil salinity and water pollution affects 1/4th of the country's population, thanks in no small part to the fact that most of the country's citizens get their water directly from wells and streams that have been contaminated over the years.
According to a report issued in the early 200s by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, nearly 1/5th of Kyrgyzstan's land mass is under protection by both interior and outside government forces. Several threatened or endangered species live in the wilds of this nation, including six mammals (like the snow leopard, field leopard, and the tiger) and at least one variety of plant life.
Sports & Leisure
With no major sports figures yet appearing from this nation, there is little to offer the sporting enthusiast in relation to this country's population. Kyrgyzstan has participated in three Olympics since the end of Soviet rule, qualifying several athletes for competition but never winning a medal. In fact, all three times the nation participated in the Games they sent the smallest delegation of athletes of any nation in the world. Equestrian sports are the most popular single pursuit in Kyrgyzstan, though no athletes of note exist, with most of the competition taking place at the local level.
The development of tourism is one of the nation's main priorities since gaining independence in 1991. Osh, the second-largest city in the country, is a holy site for some Muslim pilgrims who make an annual trip to pray at Islamic shrines located in the city. The capital city of Bishkek has an abnormally large number of public parks and gardens, including notable botanical gardens and zoos where tourists (especially eco-tourists) congregate to see rare plant and animal species.
Because it is difficult to get a visa to enter Kyrgyzstan, it is not yet a major player on the world stage, and many people may not even be aware the country exists or is independent. In 2002, the most recent year from when such numbers are available, just over 120,000 tourists visited Kyrgyzstan, mostly European eco-tourists interested in seeing the endangered and rare flora and fauna the country is home to.