Кыргыз Республикасынын Мамлекеттик Гимни
Kyrgyz Respublikasynyn Mamlekettik Gimni
National Anthem of the Kyrgyz Republic
and largest city
- Kyrgyz (state)
- Russian (official)
77,181 sq mi
medium · 125th
Kyrgyzstan ( kur-gi-STAHN; Kyrgyz: Кыргызстан (IPA: ); Russian: Киргизия), officially the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyz: Кыргыз Республикасы; Russian: Кыргызская Республика), is a country located in Central Asia. Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
Despite Kyrgyzstan's struggle for political stabilization among ethnic conflicts, revolts, economic troubles, transitional governments, and political party conflicts, it maintains a unitary parliamentary republic.
A revolution in April 2010 overthrew the former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev and resulted in the adoption of a new constitution and the appointment of an interim government. Elections for the Kyrgyz Supreme Chancellor were held in November 2011.
The national language, Kyrgyz, is closely related to the other Turkic languages, with which it shares strong cultural and historical ties. Kyrgyzstan is one of the active members of the Turkic Council and the TÜRKSOY community. Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Non-aligned movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
"Kyrgyz" is believed to have been derived from the Turkic word for "forty", in reference to the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero who united forty regional clans against the Uyghurs. Literally it means We are forty. At the time, in the early 9th century AD, the Uyghurs dominated much of Central Asia (including Kyrgyzstan), Mongolia, and parts of Russia and China.
The 40-ray sun on the flag of Kyrgyzstan is a reference to those same forty tribes and the graphical element in the sun's center depicts the wooden crown of a yurt – a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.
Advent of Islam
As early as the 7th century, Turkic traders introduced Islam to Central Asia, including what is now Kyrgyzstan, through doing business with Arabic people. The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after, under the leadership of Jordan the Superior, defeating the Uyghur Khaganate in 840 A.D. Then the Kyrgyz quickly moved as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years.
In the twelfth century, however, the Kyrgyz dominion had shrunk to the Altay Range and Sayan Mountains as a result of the Mongol expansion. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century, the Kyrgyz migrated south. The Kyrgyz were conquered by Genghis Khan in 1207.
Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the early Kyrgyz as red-haired with white skin and blue eyes, which is indicative of ancient Iranic mountain tribes like the Pamiri people or Dardic people. The descent of the Kyrgyz from the autochthonous Siberian population is confirmed on the other hand by the recent genetic studies. Because of the processes of migration, conquest, intermarriage, and assimilation, many of the Kyrgyz peoples that now inhabit Central and Southwest Asia are of mixed origins, often stemming from fragments of many different tribes, though they now speak closely related languages.
In the late nineteenth century, the majority part of what is today Kyrgyzstan was ceded to Russia through two treaties between China (then Qing Dynasty) and Russia. The territory, then known in Russian as "Kirgizia", was formally incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1876. The Russian takeover was met with numerous revolts against Tsarist authority, and many of the Kyrgyz opted to move to the Pamir Mountains and Afghanistan.
In addition, the suppression of the 1916 rebellion against Russian rule in Central Asia caused many Kyrgyz later to migrate to China. Since many ethnic groups in the region were (and still are) split between neighboring states at a time when borders were more porous and less regulated, it was common to move back and forth over the mountains, depending on where life was perceived as better; this might mean better rains for pasture or better government during oppression.
Soviet power was initially established in the region in 1919, and the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast was created within the Russian SFSR (the phrase Kara-Kirghiz was used until the mid-1920s by the Russians to distinguish them from the Kazakhs, who were also referred to as Kirghiz). On 5 December 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was established as a full republic of the Soviet Union.
During the 1920s, Kyrgyzstan developed considerably in cultural, educational and social life. Literacy was greatly improved, and a standard literary language was introduced by imposing Russian on the populace. Economic and social development also was notable. Many aspects of Kyrgyz national culture were retained despite the suppression of nationalist activity under Joseph Stalin, and, therefore, tensions with the all-Union authorities were constant.
The early years of glasnost had little effect on the political climate in Kyrgyzstan. However, the Republic's press was permitted to adopt a more liberal stance and to establish a new publication, Literaturny Kirghizstan, by the Union of Writers. Unofficial political groups were forbidden, but several groups that emerged in 1989 to deal with the acute housing crisis were permitted to function.
In 1989 protests flared up against the discriminatory policy of the Soviet government directed at pushing ethnic Kyrgyz inhabitants out of major cities, which could then be occupied by new settlers from Russia and the other Soviet republics.
According to the last Soviet census in 1989, ethnic Kyrgyz made up only 22% of the residents of the northern city of Frunze (now Bishkek), while more than 60% were Russians, Ukrainians, and people from other Slavic nations (only 36 percent of Bishkek residents surveyed said Russian was their first language).
In June 1990, ethnic tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz surfaced in the Osh Oblast (southern Kyrgyzstan), where Uzbeks form a majority of the population. Attempts to appropriate Uzbek collective farms for housing development triggered the Osh Riots. A state of emergency and curfew were introduced and Askar Akayev, the youngest of five sons born into a family of collective farm workers (in northern Kyrgyzstan), was elected President in October of that same year.
By then, the Kyrgyzstan Democratic Movement (KDM) had developed into a significant political force with support in Parliament. In December 1990, the Supreme Soviet voted to change the republic's name to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. (In 1993, it became the Kyrgyz Republic.) The following January, Akayev introduced new government structures and appointed a new government composed mainly of younger, reform-oriented politicians. In February 1991, the name of the capital, Frunze, was changed back to its pre-revolutionary name of Bishkek.
Despite these political moves toward independence, economic realities seemed to work against secession from the Soviet Union. In a referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union in March 1991, 88.7% of the voters approved the proposal to retain the Soviet Union as a "renewed federation". Nevertheless, secessionist forces pushed Kyrgyzstan's independence through in August of that same year.
On 19 August 1991, when the State Emergency Committee assumed power in Moscow, there was an attempt to depose Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. After the coup collapsed the following week, Akayev and Vice President German Kuznetsov announced their resignations from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and the entire bureau and secretariat resigned. This was followed by the Supreme Soviet vote declaring independence from the Soviet Union on 31 August 1991 as the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.
In October 1991, Akayev ran unopposed and was elected president of the new independent Republic by direct ballot, receiving 95 percent of the votes cast. Together with the representatives of seven other Republics that same month, he signed the Treaty of the New Economic Community. Finally, on 21 December 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined with the other four Central Asian Republics to formally enter the new Commonwealth of Independent States. Kyrgyzstan gained full independence a few days later on 25 December 1991. The following day, 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. In 1992, Kyrgyzstan joined the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). On 5 May 1993, the official name changed from the Republic of Kyrgyzstan to the Kyrgyz Republic.
In 2005, a popular uprising known as the "Tulip Revolution", took place after the parliamentary elections in March 2005, forced President Askar Akayev's resignation on 4 April 2005. Opposition leaders formed a coalition, and a new government was formed under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov. The nation's capital was looted during the protests.
Political stability appeared to be elusive, however, as various groups and factions allegedly linked to organized crime jockeyed for power. Three of the 75 members of Parliament elected in March 2005 were assassinated, and another member was assassinated on 10 May 2006 shortly after winning his murdered brother's seat in a by-election. All four are reputed to have been directly involved in major illegal business ventures.
On 6 April 2010, civil unrest broke out in the town of Talas after a demonstration against government corruption and increased living expenses. The protests became violent, spreading to Bishkek by the following day. Protesters attacked President Bakiyev's offices, as well as state-run radio and television stations. There were conflicting reports that Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev had been beaten. On 7 April 2010, President Bakiyev imposed a state of emergency. Police and special services arrested many opposition leaders. In response, protesters took control of the internal security headquarters (former KGB headquarters) and a state television channel in the capital, Bishkek. Reports by Kyrgyzstan government officials indicated that at least 75 people were killed and 458 hospitalized in bloody clashes with police in the capital. Reports say that at least 80 people died as a result of clashes with police. A transition government, led by former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, by 8 April 2010 had taken control of state media and government facilities in the capital, but Bakiyev had not resigned from office.
President Bakiyev returned to his home in Jalal-Abad and stated his terms of resignation at a 13 April 2010 press conference. On 15 April 2010, Bakiyev left the country and flew to neighboring Kazakhstan, along with his wife and two children. The country's provisional leaders announced that Bakiyev signed a formal letter of resignation prior to his departure.
Prime Minister Daniar Usenov accused Russia of supporting the protests; this accusation was denied by Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin. Opposition members also called for the closing of the US controlled Manas Air Base. Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev ordered measures to ensure the safety of Russian nationals and tighten security around Russian sites in Kyrgyzstan to protect them against possible attacks.
Clashes occurred between the two main ethnic groups—the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz—in Osh, the second largest city in the country, on 11 June 2010. The clashes incited fears that the country could be heading towards a civil war.
Finding it difficult to control the situation, Otunbayeva, the interim leader, sent a letter to Russian president Dimitry Medvedev asking him to send Russian troops to help the country control the situation. Medvedev's Press Attaché, Natalya Timakova, said in a reply to the letter, "It is an internal conflict and for now Russia does not see the conditions for taking part in its resolution". The clashes caused a shortage of food and other essential commodities with more than 200 killed and 1,685 people hurt, as of 12 June 2010). The Russian government, however, said it would be sending humanitarian aid to the troubled nation.
According to local sources, there was a clash between two local gangs and it did not take long for the violence to spread to the rest of the city. There were also reports that the armed forces supported ethnic Kyrgyz gangs entering the city, but the government denied the allegations.
Ethnic fighting continued into a third day as armed groups, mainly Kyrgyz, continued to threaten local Uzbeks. By 13 June 2010, the unrest had claimed about 100 lives, while the number injured had increased to over 1,000. The riots spread to neighboring areas, and the government declared a state of emergency in the entire southern Jalal-Abad region. To control the situation, the interim government gave special shoot-to-kill powers to the security forces. The Russian government decided to send a battalion to the country to protect Russian facilities.
Otunbayeva accused the family of Bakiyev of "instigating the riots". AFP reported "a veil of smoke covering the whole city". Authorities in neighboring Uzbekistan said at least 30,000 Uzbeks had crossed the border to escape the riots. Osh became relatively calm on the 14 June 2010, but Jalal-Abad witnessed sporadic incidents of arson. The entire region was still under a state of emergency as Uzbeks were reluctant to leave their houses for fear of attacks by the mobs. The United Nations decided to send an envoy to assess the situation.
Temir Sariyev, deputy chief of the interim government, said there were local clashes and that it was not possible [for the government] to fully control the situation. He added that there were not sufficient security forces to contain the violence. Media agencies reported on 14 June 2010 that the Russian government was considering a request by the Kyrgyz government. An emergency meeting of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) was held on the same day (14 June) to discuss the role it could play in helping to end the violence. The deputy head of Uzbekistan's emergency services, Riza Ibragimov, confirmed the presence of more than 60,000 Uzbek refugees in Andijan Province.
Ethnic violence waned, according to the Kyrgyz government, by 15 June 2010 and Kyrgyz president Roza Otunbayeva held a news conference that day and declared that there was no need for Russia to send in troops to quell the violence. There were at least 170 people left dead by 15 June 2010 but Pascale Meige Wagner of the International Committee of the Red Cross said the [official] death toll was an underestimate. The UN High Commissioner told reporters in Geneva that evidence suggested that the violence seemed to have been staged up. The United Nations called for a "humanitarian corridor" to be set up to help the people affected by the riots and described the situation as a "tinder-box". There were fears that a referendum, which would pave the way for parliamentary style elections in October 2010, would be delayed but the Kyrgyz president calmed such fears by declaring that the referendum would be held as scheduled.
There were no reports of heavy fighting between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks on 16 June 2010 and UN airplanes with tents and other emergency aid started arriving in neighboring Uzbekistan. Russian government cargo airplanes carrying food and blankets also landed in Bishkek. According to the World Food Programme, it had enough food in Kyrgyzstan to feed 87,000 people for two months.
The clashes left some 300,000 people internally displaced and Uzbek leaders wanted the UN peacekeeping force to intervene because they did not trust the Kyrgyz forces any longer. Another 100,000 refugees crossed the border into Uzbekistan. Ethnic Uzbeks threatened to blow up an oil depot in Osh if they failed to get guarantees of protection. The United Nations said it believed that the attacks were "orchestrated, targeted and well-planned". Kyrgyz officials told the media that a person suspected to be behind the violence in Jalal-Abad had been detained.
On 2 August 2010, a Kyrgyz government commission began investigating the causes of the clashes. Members of the National Commission, led by former parliament speaker Abdygany Erkebaev, met with people from the predominantly ethnic Uzbek villages of Mady, Shark, and Kyzyl-Kyshtak in the Kara-Suu district of Osh Oblast. This National Commission, including representatives of many ethnic groups, was established by a presidential decree.
President Roza Otunbayeva also said in August 2010 that an international commission would also be formed to investigate the clashes.
The commission's report, released in January 2011, concluded that the events in southern Kyrgyzstan constituted a “planned, large-scale provocation, oriented towards the splitting of Kyrgyzstan and disrupting the unity of its people.” Responsibility for this provocation was seen as lying with “nationalistically-minded leaders of the Uzbek community”. The report was perceived as politically motivated. It was criticised as "vague and superficial" by one of its members, and a Member of Parliament threatened to sue the commission on the grounds that the report affected his honour and dignity 
In the aftermath of the turmoil, on 5 August 2010, Kyrgyz forces arrested party leader Urmat Baryktabasov on suspicion of plotting an overthrow of the government, after troops allegedly fired blank rounds into a crowd trying to join mass demonstrations near the Parliament in the capital Bishkek. Acting President Roza Otunbayeva said security forces seized firearms and grenades from him and 26 supporters.
The 1993 constitution defines the form of government as a democratic unicameral federal republic. The executive branch includes a Supreme Chancellor and Vice Chair. The parliament currently is unicameral. The judicial branch comprises a Supreme Court, local courts and a Chief Prosecutor.
In March 2002, in the southern district of Aksy, five people protesting the arbitrary arrest of an opposition politician were shot dead by police, sparking nationwide protests. President Askar Akayev initiated a constitutional reform process which initially included the participation of a broad range of government, civil and social representatives in an open dialogue, leading to a February 2003 referendum marred by voting irregularities.
The amendments to the constitution approved by the referendum resulted in stronger control by the president and weakened the parliament and the Constitutional Court. Parliamentary elections for a new, 75-seat unicameral legislature were held on 27 February and 13 March 2005, but were widely viewed as corrupt. The subsequent protests led to a bloodless coup on 24 March 2005, after which Akayev fled the country and was replaced by acting president Kurmanbek Bakiyev (see: Tulip Revolution).
On 10 July 2005, acting president Bakiyev won the presidential election in a landslide, with 88.9% of the vote, and was inaugurated on 14 August. However, initial public support for the new administration substantially declined in subsequent months as a result of its apparent inability to solve the corruption problems that have plagued the country since its independence from the Soviet Union, along with the murders of several members of parliament. Large-scale protests against president Bakiyev took place in Bishkek in April and November 2006, with opposition leaders accusing the president of failing to live up to his election promises to reform the country's constitution and transfer many of his presidential powers to parliament.
Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a league of 56 participating states committed to peace, transparency, and the protection of human rights in Eurasia. As an OSCE participating State, Kyrgyzstan’s international commitments are subject to monitoring under the mandate of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
In December 2008, the state-owned broadcaster UTRK announced that it would require prior submission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty programmes, which UTRK are required to retransmit according to a 2005 agreement. UTRK had stopped retransmitting RFE/RL programming on October 2008, a week after it failed to broadcast an RFE/RL programme called 'Inconvenient Questions' which covered the October elections, claiming to have lost the missing material. President Bakiyev had criticised this programme in September 2008, while UTRK told RFE/RL that its programming was too negative. Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Kyrgyzstan 111th equal out of 173 countries on its Press Freedom Index, strongly criticised the decision.
On 3 February 2009, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the imminent closure of the Manas Air Base, the only US military base remaining in Central Asia. The closure was approved by Parliament on 19 February 2009 by 78–1 for the government-backed bill. However, after much behind-the-scenes negotiation between Kyrgyz, Russian and American diplomats, the decision was reversed in June 2009. The Americans were allowed to remain under a new contract, whereby rent would increase from $17.4 million to $60 million annually.
Kyrgyzstan is among the twenty countries in the world with the highest perceived level of corruption: the 2008 Corruption Perception Index for Kyrgyzstan is 1.8 on a scale of 0 (most corrupt) to 10 (least corrupt).
Roza Otunbayeva, who was appointed interim president after the April uprising, announced that she did not intend to run for the Presidential elections in 2011. The election was held in November and won by Almazbek Atambayev, leader of the Social Democratic Party and the then-Prime Minister. Atambayev was sworn in as the President on 1 December 2011 and Omurbek Babanov was appointed the new Prime Minister on the same day and was confirmed on 23 December 2011.
In a move that alarmed human rights groups, dozens of prominent Uzbek religious and community leaders were arrested by security forces following the 2010 South Kyrgyzstan riots, including journalist and human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov. A draft resolution is currently up before parliament which would ban women under the age of twenty-three from travelling abroad without a parent or guardian.
Provinces and districts
Kyrgyzstan is divided into seven provinces (sing. oblast (область), pl. oblasttar (областтар)) administered by appointed governors. The capital, Bishkek, and the second largest city Osh are administratively independent cities (shaar) with a status equal to a province.
The provinces, and independent cities, are as follows:
Each province comprises a number of districts (raions), administered by government-appointed officials (akim). Rural communities (ayıl ökmötü), consisting of up to 20 small settlements, have their own elected mayors and councils.
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It lies between latitudes 39° and 44° N, and longitudes 69° and 81° E. It is further from the sea than any other individual country, and all its rivers flow into closed drainage systems which do not reach the sea. The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country (Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as "the Switzerland of Central Asia", as a result), with the remainder made up of valleys and basins.
Issyk-Kul Lake in the north-eastern Tian Shan is the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan and the second largest mountain lake in the world after Titicaca. The highest peaks are in the Kakshaal-Too range, forming the Chinese border. Peak Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 m (24,406 ft), is the highest point and is considered by geologists to be the northernmost peak over 7,000 m (22,966 ft) in the world. Heavy snowfall in winter leads to spring floods which often cause serious damage downstream. The runoff from the mountains is also used for hydro-electricity.
Kyrgyzstan has significant deposits of metals including gold and rare earth metals. Due to the country's predominantly mountainous terrain, less than 8% of the land is cultivated, and this is concentrated in the northern lowlands and the fringes of the Fergana Valley.
Bishkek in the north is the capital and largest city, with approximately 900,000 inhabitants (as of 2005). The second city is the ancient town of Osh, located in the Fergana Valley near the border with Uzbekistan. The principal river is the Kara Darya, which flows west through the Fergana Valley into Uzbekistan. Across the border in Uzbekistan it meets another major Kyrgyz river, the Naryn.
The confluence forms the Syr Darya, which originally flowed into the Aral Sea. As of 2010, it no longer reaches the sea, as its water is withdrawn upstream to irrigate cotton fields in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and southern Kazakhstan. The Chu River also briefly flows through Kyrgyzstan before entering Kazakhstan.
The climate varies regionally. The south-western Fergana Valley is subtropical and extremely hot in summer, with temperatures reaching 40 °C (104 °F) The northern foothills are temperate and the Tian Shan varies from dry continental to polar climate, depending on elevation. In the coldest areas temperatures are sub-zero for around 40 days in winter, and even some desert areas experience constant snowfall in this period.
Enclaves and exclaves
There is one exclave, the tiny village of Barak (population 627), in the Fergana Valley. The village is surrounded by Uzbek territory. It is located on the road from Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Khodjaabad (Uzbekistan) about 4 km north-west from the Kyrgyz–Uzbek border in the direction of Andijan. Barak is administratively part of Kara-Suu District in Kyrgyzstan's Osh Province.
There are four Uzbek enclaves within Kyrgyzstan. Two of them are the towns of Sokh (area 325 km2 (125 sq mi) and a population of 42,800 in 1993, although some estimates go as high as 70,000; 99% are Tajiks, the remainder Uzbeks) and Shakhimardan (also known as Shahimardan, Shohimardon, or Shah-i-Mardan, area 90 km2 (35 sq mi) and a population of 5,100 in 1993; 91% are Uzbeks, the remainder Kyrgyz); the other two are the tiny territories of Chong-Kara (roughly 3 km long by 1 km wide or 2 mi (3.2 km) by 0.6 mi) and Jangy-ayyl (a dot of land barely 2 or 3 km across). Chong-Kara is on the Sokh river, between the Uzbek border and the Sokh enclave. Jangy-ayyl is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) east of Batken, in a northward projection of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near Khalmion.
There also are two enclaves belonging to Tajikistan: Vorukh (exclave area between 95–130 km2 (37–50 sq mi), population estimated between 23,000 and 29,000, 95% Tajiks and 5% Kyrgyz, distributed among 17 villages), located 45 kilometres (28 mi) south of Isfara on the right bank of the Karafshin river, and a small settlement near the Kyrgyz railway station of Kairagach.
Kyrgyzstan was the second poorest country in the former Soviet Union, and is today the second poorest country in Central Asia. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2011, a third of the country's population lived below the poverty line. According to UNDP, the level of poverty will continue to grow: in 2009 31% of the population lived below the poverty level while in 2011 this figure rose to 37%.
Despite the backing of major Western lenders, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Kyrgyzstan has had economic difficulties following independence. Initially, these were a result of the breakup of the Soviet trading bloc and resulting loss of markets, which impeded the republic's transition to a demand economy.
The government has reduced expenditures, ended most price subsidies and introduced a value-added tax. Overall, the government appears committed to the transition to a market economy. Through economic stabilization and reform, the government seeks to establish a pattern of long-term consistent growth. Reforms led to Kyrgyzstan's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 20 December 1998.
The Kyrgyz economy was severely affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting loss of its vast market. In 1990, some 98% of Kyrgyz exports went to other parts of the Soviet Union. Thus, the nation's economic performance in the early 1990s was worse than any other former Soviet republic except war-torn Armenia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, as factories and state farms collapsed with the disappearance of their traditional markets in the former Soviet Union. While economic performance has improved considerably in the last few years, and particularly since 1998, difficulties remain in securing adequate fiscal revenues and providing an adequate social safety net. Remittances of around 800,000 Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia represent 40% of Kyrgyzstan's GDP.
Agriculture is an important sector of the economy in Kyrgyzstan (see agriculture in Kyrgyzstan). By the early 1990s, the private agricultural sector provided between one-third and one-half of some harvests. In 2002, agriculture accounted for 35.6% of GDP and about half of employment. Kyrgyzstan's terrain is mountainous, which accommodates livestock raising, the largest agricultural activity, so the resulting wool, meat and dairy products are major commodities. Main crops include wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, vegetables, and fruit. As the prices of imported agrichemicals and petroleum are so high, much farming is being done by hand and by horse, as it was generations ago. Agricultural processing is a key component of the industrial economy as well as one of the most attractive sectors for foreign investment.
Kyrgyzstan is rich in mineral resources but has negligible petroleum and natural gas reserves; it imports petroleum and gas. Among its mineral reserves are substantial deposits of coal, gold, uranium, antimony, and other valuable metals. Metallurgy is an important industry, and the government hopes to attract foreign investment in this field. The government has actively encouraged foreign involvement in extracting and processing gold. The country's plentiful water resources and mountainous terrain enable it to produce and export large quantities of hydroelectric energy.
On a local level, the economy is primarily kiosk in nature. A large amount of local commerce occurs at bazaars and small village kiosks in country regions. A significant amount of trade is unregulated. There is also a scarcity of common everyday consumer items in remote villages. Thus a large number of homes are quite self-sufficient with respect to food production. There is a distinct differentiation between urban and rural economies.
The principal exports are nonferrous metals and minerals, woollen goods and other agricultural products, electric energy and certain engineering goods. Imports include petroleum and natural gas, ferrous metals, chemicals, most machinery, wood and paper products, some foods and some construction materials. Its leading trade partners include Germany, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
Kyrgyzstan's population is estimated at 5.2 million in 2007. Of those, 34.4% are under the age of 15 and 6.2% are over 65. The country is rural: only about one-third of population live in urban areas. The average population density is 25 people per km². The nation's largest ethnic group are the Kyrgyz, a Turkic people, who comprise 69% of the population (2007 estimate). Other ethnic groups include Russians (9.0%) concentrated in the north and Uzbeks (14.5%) living in the south. Small but noticeable minorities include Dungans (1.9%), Uyghurs (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%), and Ukrainians (0.5%) and other smaller ethnic minorities (1.7%). Kyrgyzstan has over 80 distinct ethnic groups in the country.
The Kyrgyz have historically been semi-nomadic herders, living in round tents called yurts and tending sheep, horses and yaks. This nomadic tradition continues to function seasonally (see transhumance) as herding families return to the high mountain pasture (or jailoo) in the summer. The sedentary Uzbeks and Tajiks traditionally have farmed lower-lying irrigated land in the Fergana valley.
Kyrgyzstan has undergone a pronounced change in its ethnic composition since independence. The percentage of ethnic Kyrgyz increased from around 50% in 1979 to nearly 70% in 2007, while the percentage of European ethnic groups (Russians, Ukrainians and Germans) as well as Tatars dropped from 35% to about 10%. The percentage of ethnic Russians dropped from 29.2% in 1970 to 21.5% in 1989. Since 1991, huge numbers of Germans, who in 1989 numbered 101,000 persons, have been emigrating to Germany. Between 1991 and 2002, more than 600,000 people emigrated from Kyrgyzstan and the ethnic minority population declined from 47 to 33 percent.