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Kyrgyzstan: Land of Mountains

Tien Shan Mountains Kyrgyzstan

Flying over the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan. © livepine_flickr

Set among a knot of giant colliding mountain ranges, Kyrgyzstan is our favorite of the Central Asian countries. We lived there for two years after the break-up of the former Soviet Union, and had the thrill of usually being the first Americans the Kyrgyz people had ever met.

Living in a yurt

The symbol of Kyrgyzstan might be the yurt; it is certainly a beautiful home for the nomadic tribespeople who travel to high mountain areas for their sheep and yaks to graze in the summer.  In the winters they often live in Soviet-style apartments in the capital Bishkek or other Kyrgyz cities.

We have lots of yurt bands and other yurt paraphernalia to show in our store.

Kyrgyz Child Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz Child in Yurt. © noviceromano_flickr

Civil violence against corruption

After the departure of many of the Russians, ethnic Kyrgyz make up almost 70% percent of the population, with Uzbeks counting for perhaps 15%, primarily in the south.

You may have heard of the violence in April-June of this year, both in Bishkek and in the southern city of Osh. In addition to a civilian revolt again corruption in all levels of their government, the rioting in the south was fueled by the anger of poor unemployed Kyrgyz against the more prosperous Uzbek shop-owners.

A Kyrgyz type of Islam

Most of the country is nominally Muslim, although many of their Soviet habits (such as the very common and frequent use of large quantities of vodka) do not fit in with most fundamentalist believers of Islam.

Incredible beauty of a mountainous country

Kyrgyz Man Horse Kyrgyzstan Hat

A Proud Kyrgyz Man on His Horse. © Sharon Lundahl

Kyrgyzstan has a population of only 5.5 million in an area of 77,182 miles, and is one of the most beautiful countries we have ever seen.

The arms of two great mountain ranges cover more than 90% of the country: the Tien Shan (Heavenly Mountains”) stretch from east to west, while the Tajik Pamirs send their dramatic, arid slopes into the south.

Peak “Pobeda” (Victory) is the highest mountain at 24,406 feet, while in the Pamir, peak Lenin is 23,405 feet. On the Kazakh border to the east, “Khan Tengri” (Prince of Spirits) rises to 22,998 feet.

Lake “Issyk-Kul” (hot lake in Kyrgyz) is one of the largest alpine lakes in the world; at an altitude of 5279 feet above sea level, it is exceeded only by Lake Titicaca in Bolivia.

More than one third of the country is covered in a blanket of permanent ice and snow.

The hope of tourism

Tourists usually find that Kyrgyzstan is one of the most interesting countries in the former Soviet Union.  In addition to its stunning natural beauty, Kyrgyzstan offers the traveler  views of fascinating ways of living and cultural differences.

Finally, one can only fall in love with the sweet round faces and almond-shaped eyes of Kyrgyz children living in yurts in the mountains.