Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked nation of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Kyrgyz have been living in the Yenisei river valley and around Lake Baikal (central Siberia) since 201 BC. It is one of the smaller Central Asian countries – being a similar size to Scotland. Historically the Kyrgyz led a nomadic life living in forests and plains and farming animals.
In 840 the Kyrgyz defeated the Uyghurs and became the ruling class. In 1209 Genghis Khan defeated the Kyrgyz and forced them to move south-west to the Tien-Shen Mountains, these divide present day Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan from China. The Kyrgyz and their Mongol conquerors conquered the Persian people living in the surrounding area and gradually adopted their settled life style.
Kyrgyzstan became part of the Russian Empire in 1876. In 1916 the Kyrgyz revolted against the Russians over a military draft for WW1. The Russians retaliated forcing many Kyrgyz to move to the Eastern side of the Tien-Shen Mountains to China and to the Pamir mountains, these mountain ranges dominate Kyrgyzstan, covering 65 % of the national territory. Due to the division of Central Asia into five republics during Stalin’s time many ethnic Kyrgyz do not live in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan proclaimed its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1996 a referendum overwhelmingly endorsed proposed constitutional changes to enhance the power of the president.
Kyrgyzstan is bordered by China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the Ferghana valley – cause many political pressures between ethnic groups, which at times erupt in conflict. The valley is also the most populous area in Central Asia, throughout history this valley has provided an important centre for merchants trading along the Great Silk Road.