History and culture
Once a major part of the ancient trade Silk Road between China and Europe, Kyrgyzstan is now an integral part of the economy of Central Asia. But the history of the people populating this land today started long ago and in another area.
The Kyrgyz used to be, and partly still are a nomadic nation, and this can be guessed from the national flag, which features the top of a yurt — a traditional Kyrgyz portable house still widely used by its population.
The ancestors of the modern Kyrgyz were nomadic shepherds populating vast areas of southern Siberia.
During the rise of the Mongols, the Kyrgyz, like many other nations, were integrated in the Mongol Empire. As it started to dissolve into small pieces, many Kyrgyz people headed toward the south. Others stayed in south Siberia and formed the peoples of Khakassia and Altay, today parts of Russia.
In the middle of the 19th century, Russia launched a campaign to conquer the territory of modern Kyrgyzstan to protect it from the influence of the neighboring Uzbeks. By 1876, future Kyrgyzstan was integrated into the Russian Empire as one of its southeastern frontiers.
After the 1917 Russian revolution, Kyrgyzstan became one of the Soviet republics. Throughout the 1920s and the 1930s, pretty much every aspect of the Kyrgyz traditional lifestyle was subject to reforms. The Kyrgyz language, part of the Turkic family, underwent a series of profound transformations that ended with the introduction of a standard Cyrillic alphabet.
Despite the Soviet authorities’ policy of imposing collective sedentary farming and anti-religion activity, the nomadic traditions of the Kyrgyz have survived.
In 1991, Kyrgyzstan became an independent nation. In mid-2000s and early 2010s, the country was subject to political instability and has seen two coups, until the first peaceful transition of presidential power took place in 2011.
Islam dominates the religious life of Kyrgyzstan, with Orthodox Christianity, Protestantism and other religions also present.