• Kirgizië

Kyrgyzstan, the land where dreams come true

After centuries of oppression, the Kyrgyz finally have control over their own country since 1991. Kyrgyzstan is officially called the Kyrgyz Republic and has about 6 million inhabitants. As one of the few countries in the world, Kyrgyzstan has a larger rural than urban population. Apart from the capital Bishkek there are no major cities. This shows that nomadic culture and agriculture still have an important place in society. However, this is changing quickly.

Geography

Kyrgyzstan is centrally located in Central Asia with neighboring countries Kazakhstan (big brother), Uzbekistan (enclaves/exclaves), China (trade and Uyghur refugees) and Tajikistan (Farsi friend). It is sandwiched between the Tien Shan and Ala Tau mountain chains. More than 90% of the country is above 1500 meters and the south can only be reached via the Too Ashuu mountain pass (3180 meters high) or by plane. The highest mountains are in the far east and far south. Jengish Chokusu is the highest in the country, reaching 7,439 meters above sea level. In the northeast of Kyrgyzstan lies the gigantic Issyk Kul Lake. This lake is fed by hot springs and has a high salinity. After Lake Titicaca, Issyk Kul is the largest mountain lake on Earth. With a location at about 1600 meters.

Climate

You probably understand that the mountains have a major influence on the climate of the country. Kyrgyzstan has no access to seas or oceans. In general, therefore, the country has a typical continental climate with a dry and hot season (summer) and a cold and wet season (the winter). The mid-season (spring and autumn) are short-lived and can cause a lot of problems. Lake Issyk Kul provides a microclimate in eastern Kyrgyzstan. Here (certainly on the south and east side) there is considerably more precipitation than in other regions. The south is warmer (even in winter) and has a huge fertile valley shared with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. This is the Fergana valley. Temperatures sometimes exceed 40 degrees in summer, even in the capital city of Bishkek. In winter it can certainly get to 30 degrees below zero in Bishkek. In the Issyk Kul region it is a lot more moderate. There it usually does not get warmer than 30 degrees in summer and no colder than -5 in winter.

Demographics

The Kyrgyz are originally a nomadic people tribe that left the Altai region. The Kyrgyz are a Turkish people closely related to the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Uyghurs, Turkmen, Azerbaijan and Turks. Particularly in the time of Jengiz Khan, the population composition changed. There are even rumors that ethnic Kyrgyz had blond hair and blue eyes. Years of domination by others cultures have made the Kyrgyz who they are. A largely Muslim population with a strong Russian influence. Especially in the time of the Soviet Union, many ethnic Russians lived in Kyrgyzstan. Their influence was enormous and nowadays the majority speak Russian as their first language and have Russian Orthodox religion has an important place in society.

Economy

Unlike big brother Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan has no oil or gas reserves. So the economy is much more diverse. A significant part of the gross national product comes from Kyrgyz migrants who live in Russia (or other countries). Kyrgyzstan’s economy is growing. Especially in the agricultural and tourism sector. Traditionally, Kyrgyzstan is a transit country. First on the Silk Road and now as a supraregional player for Central Asia. For example, the Dordoi bazaar in Bishkek is the largest bazaar of all GIS countries. Kyrgyzstan has important border crossings to China and these are widely used to import Chinese goods (and transit them). However, this function is increasingly being adopted to more modern (and more accessible) border crossings between China and Kazakhstan.

The agricultural sector is very important for Kyrgyzstan. The Fergana valley and the Issyk Kul region account for the largest share in agriculture. The Naryn region is mainly important for animal husbandry. On the fertile soils grow many fruits such as apricots, apples, pears, berries, pomegranates and citrus fruits. In terms of vegetables, mainly tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, peppers and cabbages.

Kyrgyzstan is rich in minerals but has little expertise (and little budget) to exploit them efficiently. A Canadian company is mining one of the largest gold mines in the world and many ores are still untapped. In the past, coal was an important source of income. The village of Jyrgalan was known for its high-quality black coal.

Tourism

Tourism has certainly made a big rise since 2008. From that year, the visa requirement for many Western countries was lifted. Most tourists still come from neighboring countries (mainly Kazakhstan) but that share continues to decline. The country has everything to become a tourist hot spot in the future. It has an amazing nature, vast mountain ranges, a gigantic lake with golden beaches, an ancient nomadic culture, wild rivers, petroglyphs, snow-capped peaks, huge glaciers and fertile valleys. Moreover, the Kyrgyz live here. A very hospitable tribe with a delicious kitchen. Often you are invited to just have a cup of tea and snacks. The population live a relaxed life and don’t worry too much about tomorrow. I have even heard that Kyrgyz are the Jamaicans of Central Asia.. Always in for a dance and always in for a chat.

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