Monday, December 31, 2007

Kyrgyzstan - The Country

Kyrgyzstan was born on the 31st of August, 1991 as a sovereign modern democratic state. Though young in years, it has a rich heritage and cultural continuity that dates back to many thousand years of antiquity and history.

Situated in the North-East of Central Asia it has a total area of 198.5 thousand square kilometres supporting a population of 4.700.000. Kyrgyzstan borders with Kazakhstan in the North, Uzbekistan in the West, Tadjikistan in the South West, and China in the South East.

Most of Kyrgyzstan's territory lies within the Tien Shan Range, the highest and some of the most beautiful mountain peaks in the world. The highest being Pobeda Peak - 7439 m. and Khan Tengri ("Emperor of the Skies") 6995 m. Over 93% of Kyrgyzstan surface area is more than 1500 m. above sea level, over 41% is higher than 3000 m. In the towering mountains are vast regions of unspoiled nature and primordial beauty which give Kyrgyzstan more than 28 thousand rivulets, sparkling streams and lucid brooks. There are 2000 large and small lakes in the Republic. The largest and best known is Lake Issyk-Kul literally "hot lake" so named for its perennial waters that flow the year round despite high altitude and freezing cold. Lake Issyk-Kul is the second largest in the world after Titicaca in South America. So large are its waters and so deep (in volume 1.738 cubic km, in depth 668 m.) that the lake is often mistaken for an inland sea. Some other relatively large lakes are Son-Kol, Chatyr-Kol and Mertsbakher.

Placed along the Silk Route on the historic crossroads of trade and cultural exchanges between China, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and the Arabian Sea, Kyrgyztan is home for more than 8O minorities and ethnic communities. Kyrgyz, Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainan, Germans, Tatars, Kazaks, Uigur and Tadjik among others. As a multi-national state Kyrgyzstan has a rich variety of languages, literature, folklore, arts, crafts, customs and communities that lend color and variety to Kyrgyz culture. The Kyrgyz Republic firmly upholds the equality of all communities.
The official language is Kyrgyz yet Russian forms a common language of all groups.
The capital city Bishkek is located on the foot of the Ala-Too mountains of the central part of Chui Valley. In 1825 the Khanat of Kokand (region now in Uzbekistan) conquered and demolished the Kyrgyz fortress. In 1862 it was recaptured by Kyrgyz with the help of Russian Military detachments In 1878 the city became a district center called "Pishpek" after the Kokand conquest. In 1926 under former Soviet Russia the city was renamed Frunze after the communist leader and famous Soviet public figure who was born here. With the Independence of Kyrgyztsan in 1991 the traditional name Bishkek was restored. The city lies in close proximity to some of the most exotic and legendary places - Samarkand, Khieva, Bukhara, Kashgar; and in a region that glitters with historic figures of Alexander the Great, Tamerlane, Moghul Baber the Lion, Marco Polo, Umar Khayam.


Between China and Central Asia there is a country, lifted by its mountains above the world. Tien Shan is the name given to the mountains by Marco Polo, a great traveller and merchant, who walked across the territory of the present-day Kyrgyzstan on the Great Silk Road.

Kyrgyzstan is at the same altitude with Italy and only a little smaller in area.
The climate is sharply continental. Summer is usually dry and sunny in the valleys, whereas it often rains in the mountains. Clear good weather lasts till December. There are thaws in winter and cold spells in spring and autumn.
Kyrgyzstan ranks first in Central Asia in prospected coal reserves. Mining and processing of non-ferrous metals, such as antimony, mercury, tin, copper and others, is presently the focus of the ore-mining industry and it's prospects for the future.

Wool processing and cotton growing occupy a conspicuous place in the economy of the republic.
Now the republic is actively developing tourism, aiming it to be a leading article of economy in the future. To coordinate the activities and to render state assistance to the newly established enterprises the Ministry of Tourism has been formed.
In days of old the territory of what is now Kyrgyzstan was crossed by the Great Silk Road leading from Europe to China.
It was invaded by the hordes of Genghis Khan which left blood and ashes behind. Alexander of Macedon exhausted his army in these parts and turned back. The mountains would save the Kyrghyz and enable them to preserve their original culture.

There are monuments, left from those days indicative of the industry and workmanship of the ancient people - the Buran Tower the Uzgen Shrine complex Babur's House on Mt. Suleiman the Tash-Rabat caravan-serai and others. Heavy and bloody dependence on the Khans of Kokand promoted rapprochement of the Kyrghyz with Russia which determined to a great extent the further social and economic development of Kyrgyzstan.

The world biggest relic forests of nut-trees grow here in the republic. In the middle of the century nut trees were exported from here to Greece where they have taken root very well.
Peerless in beauty and salubrious properties are forest tracks of the Tien- Shan fir, Semyonov silver fir, long-living archa-tree, pistachio-tree, almond-tree. Thickets of sea-buckthorn, black currants and dog-rose are the world largest.

Lovers of wild animal hunting have a nice opportunity to adorn their house with horns and skin of the celebrated argali of Marco Polo.The mountains are the habitat of wild boars, bears, snow leopards, lynxes, wolves, foxes, badgers and other beasts.

National parks and wild life preserves have been established, special routes and grounds for visitors to see everything in natural conditions have been organized.

Lovers of keen sensations Kyrgyzstan proposes the world renowned mountain tops of the Tien-Shan and the Pamirs: Khan-Tengri, Pobeda peak, Lenin peak.

It also proposes terrific speed rafting down the swift rivers Naryn, Koke-Meren, Chon-Kemin, Chatkal and others.

Numerous tourist firms of the republic offer tourists trips to most interesting sports of the Tien-Shan, mountain gorges with silvery rivers, glaciers, cliffs, fir-tree forests, lakes and inaccessible mountain tops.
For rest on water there is an Alpine lake, Issyk-Kul. Like aquamarine in the crown of silvery mountains it lies at the altitude of 1607 metres. The depth is 6681 metres.

Issyk-Kul with its fine sand beaches, crystal clear mineralized water, combination of mountain and maritime climate is a very good health-resort zone. Many health centers on the lake use thermomineral and therapeutic mud baths for tourists' health building.

Now over 100 groups of mineral and thermal waters of Barzpomi, Narzan and Essentuki type have been discovered. In winter, adventureous people can find varies forms of tourism. Alpine skiing routes and bases are only 30 km from Bishkek. In summer one can ski on mountain-skiing routes of the Ala-Archa and other glaciers.
The food eaten in Kyrgyzstan has developed from the subsistence diet of the nomads - mainly meat (including entrails), milk products and bread. The diet of the nomads is limited to mutton and noodles. The most traditional dishes are besh barmak (meat with noodles), a mutton stew, and roast lamb. For ceremonial meals, the lamb is killed without spilling its blood, and the head is served to the guest of honour, who slices portions of the eyes and ears and presents them to other guests to improve their sight and hearing. Horsemeat is eaten fresh and in sausages. Traditional beverages are kumys, fermented mare's milk, a mildly alcoholic drink, bozo - a thick yeasty concoction made from fermented millet. Tea is usually served without milk.
Nan is local flat bread, is baked in a tander, a beehive-shaped oven. Dimlama steamed layers of meat and vegetables topped with cabbage.Lagmen is a spicy noodle-based dish common to Central Asia Mante steamed buns stuffed with meat and onions.Shashlik (kebab) is usually made with lamb or mutton, occasionally with beef.Pilov is a pilaf-like dish with bits of mutton and vegetables.Fruits of all sorts are locally grown and are excellent, although fruits and vegetables are rare in the Kyrgyz cuisine.
The vast majority (75%) of today's Kyrgyz are Muslims of the Sunni branch, but Islam came late and fairly superficially to the area. The geographically isolated southern provinces tend to be more conservative than the industrialized, Russified north. Kyrgyz Muslims generally practice their religion in a specific way influenced by earlier tribal customs, which reinforce the north-south differences. The Russian population of Kyrgyzstan is largely Russian Orthodox (20%). The Uzbeks, who make up 13% of the population, are generally Sunni Muslims. Freedom of worship is practised.
In 1993 Kyrgyzstan introduced its own national currency. The monetary unit is the som dividable into 100 tiyn. Currency code: KGS. Kyrgyzstan is effectively a cash-only zone. The local currency is the only legal tender, though in practice US dollars and Deutschmarks may be accepted or even requested for some transactions. There are currency exchange desks in most hotels and many shops. Most places accept only brand new banknotes. Banks change US dollars travellers' cheques into som, though licensed private moneychangers in shop fronts have slightly better rates for US dollars cash. Credit cards are not widely accepted, even in Bishkek.
January 1 - New Year's Day
January 7 - Russian Orthodox Christmas
March 8 - International Women's Day
March 21 - Navruz ('New Day') - Ancient festival recently introduced in Kyrgyzstan. It can include traditional games, music festivals, street art and colourful fairs.
May 5 - Constitution Day
May 9 - Victory Day - Celebration of victory in the World War II 1941-1945, with military parades.
August 31 - Independence Day
September 1 - Day of Knowledge - The first day of school for students of all ages.
The centuries-old artistic work of the Kyrgyz has developed under the conditions of a nomadic way of life. Alongside the ever-constant work of cattle breeding and agriculture, the people have been involved in various crafts.

Materials for making plates and dishes, horse saddles and harness - wool, leather, skins and wood - were procured on the spot. National masters have long supplied the local market with articles magnificent in beauty and simplicity. These items have been passed from one generation to the next, along with the secrets of their making.Fortunately, ancient traditions are not lost today. The traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts that are still practised by local craftsmen are rug and carpet making, jewellery making, leatherwork, wood turning, metal chasing and embossing etc.

Having a nomadic life-style, Kyrgyz people have used a material made of felt. As felt is very warm, it protects the Kyrgyz national dwelling (yurta), however it is also used to make felt rugs with coloured panels sewn on (shyrdak) or pressed on (alakiz), and wool tapestries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. You really do like Kyrgystan, don't you? Well, I do too. Kyrgystan helped me pass my Geography class this semester!