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(kērgĭstän`), officially Kyrgyz Republic, republic (2015 est. pop. 5,865,000), c.76,600 sq mi (198,400 sq km), central Asia. It borders on China in the southeast, on Kazakhstan in the north, on Uzbekistan in the west, and on Tajikistan in the southwest. BishkekBishkek
, formerly Frunze
, city (1993 est. pop. 640,700), capital of Kyrgyzstan, on the Chu River and on a branch of the Turkistan-Siberia RR. It is a rail and highway hub and the industrial and cultural center of Kyrgyzstan.
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, the capital, and Osh are the chief cities.

Land and People

Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country in the Tian Shan and Pamir systems, rising to 24,409 ft (7,440 m) at Pobeda Peak on the Chinese border. Ninety-four percent of the country is over 3,300 ft (1,000 m) above sea level, with an average elevation of 9,020 ft (2,750 m). Lake Issyk-Kul lies in the northeast. The climate is continental with great regional variations; there are glaciers in the north, and the subtropical Fergana ValleyFergana Valley
or Ferghana Valley,
region, 8,494 sq mi (22,000 sq km), Central Asia, divided among Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The Fergana Range (part of the Tian Shan system) rises in the northeast and the Pamir in the south.
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 highlands lie in the southwest. The Talas Alatau and the Fergana ranges roughly separate SW Kyrgyzstan from the larger northeast.

The borders with neighboring Central Asian nations, were often not clearly defined under Soviet rule, and they have yet to be finally demarcated. In the Fergana Valley, several small sections of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan form enclaves in Kyrgyzstan, and there is a small Kyrgyzstani exclave in Uzbekistan. The jumbled geography has led at times to border incidents and tensions.

The Kyrgyz, a Sunni Muslim, Turkic-speaking pastoral people, constitute about two thirds of the population; the rest are Uzbeks (about 14%), Russians (about 12%), and other minorities. The Uzbeks reside largely in the southwest. Some 20% of the people are Russian Orthodox Christians. About two thirds of the population is rural. Kyrgyz and Russian are both official languages, and Uzbek is also spoken.


Over half of Kyrgyzstan's population is engaged in agriculture and herding. There is rich pasturage for sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. Most of the cultivated area is irrigated. Cotton, tobacco, potatoes, sugar beets, vegetables, grapes, fruits, and berries are grown; sericulture is carried on, and grain crops are cultivated in the nonirrigated areas.

Kyrgyzstan has deposits of gold, rare earth metals, coal, oil, natural gas, nepheline, mercury, bismuth, lead, zinc, and uranium; uranium mining, however, was banned in 2020. Industries include food processing, nonferrous metallurgy, forestry, and the manufacture of apparel and textiles, agricultural machinery, appliances, furniture, and electric motors. In addition, the Kyrgyz are also noted for such traditional handicrafts as wood carving, carpet weaving, and jewelry making. Many citizens work abroad, especially in Kazakhstan and Russia, and their remittances are important to Kyrgyzstan's economy.

The nation's leading exports are cotton, wool, meat, tobacco, metals (particularly gold, mercury, and uranium), natural gas, hydropower, and machinery; the chief imports are oil and gas, machinery and equipment, chemicals, and foodstuffs. The main trading partners are China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kazakhstan.


Kyrgyzstan was the first of the former Soviet Central Asian republics to acquire democratic institutions. It is governed under the constitution of 2010 as amended. The president, who is head of state, is elected by popular vote for a single six-year term. The government is headed by the prime minister. The unicameral legislature is of the 120-member Jogorku Kenesh, the Supreme Council or Parliament; members are popularly elected by a system of proportional representation for five-year terms. No one party may hold more than 65 seats. Administratively, the country is divided into seven provinces and the capital area.


Formerly known as the Kara [black] Kyrgyz to distinguish them from the Kazakhs (at one time called Kirghiz or Kyrgyz), the Kyrgyz migrated to Kyrgyzstan from the region of the upper Yenisei, where they had lived from the 7th to the 17th cent. The area came under the rule of the KokandKokand
or Khokand
, city (1991 pop. 182,000), E Uzbekistan, in the Fergana Valley. It is a center for the manufacture of fertilizers, chemicals, machinery, and cotton and food products. Important since the 10th cent.
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 khanate in the 19th cent. and was gradually annexed by Russia between 1855 and 1876 as part of Russian TurkistanTurkistan
or Turkestan
, historic region of central Asia. Western, or Russian, Turkistan extended from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Chinese frontier in the east and from the Aral-Irtysh watershed in the north to the borders of Iran and Afghanistan in the south.
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. The nomadic Kyrgyz resisted conscription into the czarist army in 1916, leading to an uprising, the Urkun, in which 100,000 and perhaps many more died and many fled to China. The Kyrgyz also fought the establishment of Bolshevik control from 1917 to 1921. As a result of war devastation, there was a famine in 1921–22 in which over 500,000 Kyrgyz died. The area was formed into the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Region within the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in 1924, becoming an autonomous republic in 1926 and a constituent republic in 1936.

In 1990, Askar AkayevAkayev, Askar
, 1944–, Kyrgyzstani political leader. A physicist, he was educated (grad. 1967), and then taught, in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Returning to Kirghiz SSR in 1977, he was a physics professor at Frunze Polytechnic Institute.
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, president of the republic's Academy of Sciences, was elected president as a compromise candidate by the legislature. After fighting off an attempted coup in 1991, the government declared Kyrgyzstan independent of the Soviet Union. Kyrgyzstan subsequently became a member of the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent StatesCommonwealth of Independent States
(CIS), community of independent nations established by a treaty signed at Minsk, Belarus, on Dec. 8, 1991, by the heads of state of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Between Dec. 8 and Dec.
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, and a new consitutution was approved.

Akayev, who remained president, fostered ties with China and other neighboring nations and initiated an ambitious program of free-market reforms. He retained his post in the 1995 elections, which were denounced by opposition leaders but given guarded support by UN observers. Also in 1995, Kyrgyzstan, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan, signed a pact with Russia providing for close economic cooperation. In 1996, Akayev won a referendum on amending the constitution to increase the presidency's powers. Islamic militants seized several towns near the border with Tajikistan (where a civil war began in 1992) in 1999, and in 2000 Kyrgyzstani forces fought Uzbek guerrillas based in Tajikistan that had infiltrated into the Fergana Valley. Akayev was reelected president in Oct., 2000, in a contest that observers said was marred by intimidation and ballot fraud. A U.S. air base, used for operationsin Afghanistan, was established at Manas in late 2001, following the Sept. 11th attacks against the United States. A Feb., 2003, referendum approved constitutional changes and affirmed Akayev's current term in office. The vote was prompted by unrest prior to 2003, but the constitutional changes and outcome of the vote were denounced by those opposed to Akayev.

The 2005 elections for parliament ended in a lopsided victory for Akayev's supporters, a result that sparked unrest in a nation already beset by persistent poverty and corruption. In March, opposition demonstrators seized control of the southwestern cities and regions of Jalal-Abad and Osh, and the uprising spread to Bishkek. As a result of the "Tulip Revolution," Akayev fled the country for Russia (and officially resigned the following month), and Kurmanbek BakiyevBakiyev, Kurmanbek Saliyevich
, 1949–, Kyrgyz political leader, president of Kyrgyzstan (2005–2010), b. Masadan. A graduate of Kuybyshev Polytechnic Institute (1972), he served in the Soviet armed forces (1974–76) and worked as an electrical engineer and
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, a former prime minister who had resigned in 2002 and then opposed Akayev, was appointed prime minister and acting president. Despite the supreme court's annulment of the elections, the departing parliament decided to accept the results, and the new legislators took office.

In the months leading up to the July, 2005, presidential election, the country experienced an increased level of civil unrest as the provisional government struggled somewhat to establish its control, and the unrest continued sporadically through the rest of 2005. The July vote resulted in a landslide victory for Bakiyev, who had agreed in May to appoint his most significant political rival—Felix Kulov, the provisional government's former security services coordinator—as prime minister. Kulov was confirmed as prime minister in September.

At the end of 2005, the political situation remained somewhat tenuous, with the president seeking to consolidate his power and influence despite his pledge to reduce his powers and parliament seeking to increase the prime minister's powers. Corruption and crime, meanwhile, had become worse than it had been under Akayev; reform efforts stalled; and by 2006 interethnic tensions and violence appeared to be increasing. Increased antiterror operations in SW Kyrgyzstan, directed mainly against Uzbeks, appeared in part designed to suppress an Uzbek campaign for enlarged civil rights and aggravated ethnic strains.

Unhappiness with Bakiyev led to several large demonstrations against him in 2006, and a loss of support in parliament. In May, 13 government ministers resigned after being criticized by the parliament, but then remained in office after meeting with the president. Omurbek Tekebayev, a former parliament speaker and opposition leader, was arrested in Poland in Sept., 2006, on drug charges, then was released when the heroin was determined to have been planted. The president's brother and the deputy director of the state security service were implicated in affair, which was seen as a government effort to discredit its opponents.

The president and parliament continued to joust over constitutional reform, with each side preferring that it have the stronger powers in any new national charter. In November, however, after a week of opposition demonstrations in the capital, parliament passed a compromise constitution that reduced the president's powers, and the president signed it. In December, Prime Minister Kulov's government resigned, ostensibly to accelerate the election of a parliament under the new constitution so that the new parliament might elect the prime minister (as required under the new constitution), but parliament subsequently adopted revisions to the November constitution that restored some of the president's lost powers and also allowed the president to appoint a new cabinet until a new parliament was elected. Bakiyev then twice appointed Kulov prime minister, but parliament refused to approve the choice.

In late Jan., 2007, a compromise choice, Azim Isabekov, the agriculture minister, was appointed prime minister and confirmed, but he resigned in March after the opposition, which had become increasing critical of the government, refused to join in a coalition. Bakiyev then appointed opposition politician Almazbek AtambayevAtambayev, Almazbek Sharshenovich,
1956–, Kyrgyz political leader, grad. Moscow Institute of Management (1983). An economist and Communist party member, he served (1983–87) on the Supreme Council of the Kyrgyz SSR.
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 as prime minister, but many in the opposition continued to resist joining a coalition government, mounting demonstrations instead and calling for the president to resign and parliament to dissolve. In May, 2007, there was an apparent attempt to poison the prime minister, possibly over a government decision to nationalize a semiconductor plant, but he survived after treatment.

In Sept., 2007, the constitutional court ruled that the 2006 amendments to the constitution were invalid because a referendum was required. The following month, however, a referendum approved the changes, but independent observers questioned the result, saying that there was evidence of an inflated turnout and ballot stuffing. Subsequently, parliamentary elections were called for December, which were won overwhelmingly by the president's Best Path Popular (Ak-Jol Eldik) party. The largest opposition party was denied any seats and accused the government of fraud; despite winning 8% of the vote nationally, the election commission said it failed to win the .5% required in each region. Western observers said the election failed to meet international standards and were critical of the regional vote requirement. Igor Chudinov was named prime minister. The government moved in Feb., 2009, to end U.S. use of the Manas air base; although Kyrgyzstan denied it, the action appeared linked to the country's receipt of $2 billion aid package from Russia. In June, however, the government agreed to a new lease on the base in return for increased rent and other aid. Bakiyev was reelected in July, but the campaign was criticized as unfair and the vote, which was denounced by the opposition as fraudulent, was marred by widespread irregularities and criticized by OSCE observers. Chudinov and the cabinet resigned in Oct., 2009, as Bakiyev undertook a major government reorganization that placed control of foreign affairs and security forces directly under the president; Daniyar Usenov, the president's chief of staff, succeeded Chudinov as prime minister.

In early 2010 Bakiyev faced growing criticism, even from his supporters, for moves against opposition politicians and independent media outlets. In April, protests that began in Talas spread to Bishkek and other northeastern cities, and when clashes in the capital resulted in the deaths of some 80 people, Bakiyev fled to his native Jalalabad prov. in W Kyrgyzstan. Opposition politicians proclaimed an interim government, with former foreign minister Roza OtunbayevaOtunbayeva, Roza,
1950–, Kyrgyz political leader and diplomat, b. Osh. After graduating (1972) from Moscow State Univ. she taught philosophy (1972–78) at Kyrgyz State National Univ.
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 as its leader. Bakiyev and Usenov subsequently went into exile, and were later convicted in absentia of various crimes.

The new government struggled to assert contol and reestablish order, especially in SW Kyrgyzstan, where support for the former president was stronger. When Uzbek volunteers helped the government regain control in Jalalabad in June, the move apparently sparked ethnic rioting in SW Kyrgyzstan, with the largely Kyrgyz police and the military reportedly supporting Kyrgyz mobs (though the government denied this and blamed the rioting on foreigners, some Uzbek leaders, and the Bakiyev family). An independent international inquiry estimated that 470 people were killed, and some 410,000 were displaced. The violence disproportionately affected Uzbeks, many of whom sought refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan.

A referendum later in the month approved a new constitution establishing a parliamentary republic; Otunbayeva was named to serve as interim president until the end of 2011. In the Oct., 2010, parliamentary elections, five parties won votes from more than 5% of the eligible voters (the threshold for representation in parliament); no party won more than 9%. A sixth party narrowly failed to win the necessary votes due to a change in the election commission's calculation of the number of eligible voters, leading to protests from the party and its supporters.

In Dec., 2010, three parties, including the SW-Kyrgyzstan-based Ata Jurt (Homeland) party, which opposed the creation of a parliamentary republic, formed a government; Social Democrat Atambayev became prime minister for the second time. He subsequently ran for president, handily winning in Oct., 2011, but the voting was marred by irregularities and reflected regional divisions, with most of his support coming from the northeast. In December the Social Democrats withdrew from the governing coalition, forcing the formation of a new government; a new four-party coalition was formed, with the Respublika party's Omurbek Babanov as prime minister. That government collapsed in Aug., 2012, when two of the parties withdrew from the coalition. Those parties and the Social Democrats formed a new government in September, with Jantoro Satybaldiyev, an independent, as prime minister.

In Oct., 2012, Kamchybek Tashiyev, the nationalist leader of Ata Jurt, was arrested when he led an attempt to storm the parliament complex in the capital; he was later acquitted (June, 2013) of having attempted to overthrow the government. In June, 2013, Kyrgyzstan decided to end the U.S. lease on Manas by July, 2014; the decision was apparently linked to Russia's forgiveness of some of Kyrgyzstan's debt and other aid. Most U.S. personnel left by Feb., 2014. In July, 2013, the government signed an agreement to sell control of the state natural gas distribution company to the Russian giant Gazprom for $1 in exchange for infrastructure investments in Kyrgyzstan's energy system and other considerations.

In Mar., 2014, Prime Minister Satybaldiyev resigned after the Ata Meken (Fatherland) party withdrew from the government, and then stepped down as interim government leader. Djoomart Otorbayev, an independent, became acting prime minister and then prime minister when the prior three-party governing coalition formed a new government in April, but he resigned a year later. Temir Sariyev succeeded him as prime minister. In the Oct., 2015, parliamentary elections, the Social Democrats won a plurality; five other parties secured seats. Three of the parties joined the Social Democrats in a governing coalition, and Sariyev remained prime minister. Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015.

In Apr., 2016, cabinet conflicts led to Sariyev's resignation; Sooronbai JeenbekovJeenbekov, Sooronbai Sharipovich,
1958–, Kyrgyz political leader. A zoological engineer and accountant by training, he was first elected to the legislature in 1995 and served as minister of agriculture, governor of the Osh region, and director of state personnel.
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 succeeded him as prime minister. In October, coalition disagreements over constitutional changes advocated by President Atambayev, including increased powers for the prime minister, led to the government's resignation after Atambayev's Social Democrats quit the coalition. A new Social Democrat–led three-party coalition was formed in November, with Jeenbekov as prime minister, and in December a referendum approved the constitutional amendments.

In 2016 a number of opposition politicians were arrested (March, May); each group was separately charged with plotting a coup. In 2017 Tekebayev, a likely presidential candidate, was arrested on corruption and criminal charges and convicted (he was released to house arrest two years later). The coup, corruption, and other charges and investigations were denounced as politically motivated and criticized by observers. The Oct., 2017, presidential election was won by Jeenbekov, who had resigned as prime minister in August; the vote was again marred by irregularities. Sapar Isakov, a Social Democrat, succeeded Jeenbekov as prime minister, but Isakov lost a confidence vote in Apr., 2018, and was succeeded by Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev.

In 2018 a number of Atambayev's allies were dismissed from their posts or arrested on corruption charges; former prime ministers Isakov and Satybaldiyev were convicted (2019) of corruption. In 2019 Atambayev rejected summonses and sought to avoid, then violently resisted, arrest before he surrendered; he was convicted on corruption-related charges in 2020. Abylgaziev resigned in June, 2020, after he was accused of involvement in the illegal government sale of radio frequencies; he denied any involvement, and had not been investigated. Kubatbek Boronov, the first deputy prime minister, succeeded him.

In Oct., 2020, parliamentary elections that gave progovernment parties a supermajority led to charges of fraud and days of sometimes violent unrest. The results were annulled and the prime minister resigned, and Sadyr JaparovJaparov, Sadyr Nurgozhoevich,
1968–, Kyrgyz political leader. Elected to parliament in 2005, he was originally a member of the Ak-Jol party and a supporter of President Bakiyev. When Bakiyev was ousted in 2010, Japarov joined Ata-Jurt and won a second term.
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, a nationalist politician who had been imprisoned on charges of organizing the attempted kidnapping of a regional governor, succeeded Boronov. Jeenbekov then resigned, and after the parliament's speaker refused to serve as acting president, Japarov claimed the post. Japarov resigned in November in order to run for president; Talant Mamytov, the new parliament speaker, succeeded him as acting president. In the Jan., 2021, presidential election Japarov won nearly 80% of the vote amid low turnout, and a similar percentage voted in favor of restoring a strong presidential form of government.


See S. Akinev, Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union (1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


Official name: Kyrgyz Republic

Capital city: Bishkek

Internet country code: .kg

Flag description: Red field with a yellow sun in the center having 40 rays representing the 40 Kyrgyz tribes; on the obverse side the rays run counterclockwise, on the reverse, clockwise; in the center of the sun is a red ring crossed by two sets of three lines, a stylized representa­tion of the roof of the traditional Kyrgyz yurt

Geographical description: Central Asia, west of China

Total area: 77,181 sq. mi. (198,500 sq. km.)

Climate: Dry continental to polar in high Tien Shan; subtropical in southwest (Fergana Valley); temperate in northern foothill zone

Nationality: noun: Kyrgyzstani(s); adjective: Kyrgyzstani

Population: 5,284,149 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Kyrgyz 67%, Uzbek 14%, Russian 11%, Dungan (ethnic Chinese Muslims) 1%, Uygur 1%, Tatars 0.9%, German 0.3%, other 4.8%

Languages spoken: Kyrgyz (official) 64.7%, Uzbek 13.6%, Russian (official) 12.5%, Dungun 1%, other 8.2%

Religions: Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%

Legal Holidays:

Constitution DayMay 5
Independence DayAug 31
International Labor DayMay 1
International Women's DayMar 8
National Revolution DayMar 24
New Year's DayJan 1
NooruzMar 21
Orthodox ChristmasJan 7
Social Revolution DayNov 7
Victory DayMay 9
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


, Kirghizstan, Kirgizstan
a republic in central Asia: came under Russian rule in the 19th century, became a Soviet republic in 1936 and gained independence in 1991; it has deposits of minerals, oil, and gas. Official languages: Kyrgyz and Russian. Religion: nonreligious, Muslim. Currency: som. Capital: Bishkek. Pop.: 5 208 000 (2004 est.). Area: 198 500 sq. km (76 460 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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