Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central-Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country (Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as “the Switzerland of Central Asia”, with the remainder made up of valleys and basins. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.

“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 Uyghur. By extension, Kyrgyz is also thought to mean “unconquerable” or “undefeatable”.

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 which is a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.

Kyrgyzstan, after 70 years, gained full independence from the USSR on December 25th, 1991.  The “Tulip Revolution”, after the parliamentary elections in March 2005, forced President Akayev’s resignation on April 4th, 2005. Opposition leaders formed a coalition, and a new government was formed under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

On April 6th, 2010, civil unrest broke out in the town of Talas, spreading to the capital Bishkek by the following day. As a result, a state of emergency was declared and a transition government, led by former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva.

The population of Kyrgyzstan is 80% Muslim, 17% Russian Orthodox, and 3% other. While Islam in Kyrgyzstan is more of a cultural background than a devout daily practice for many, public figures have expressed support for restoring spiritual values.

Kyrgyzstan retains Russian as an official language beside Kyrgyz.  The nation’s largest ethnic group isKyrgyz (69%) of the population. Other ethnic groups include Russians (9.0%), Uzbeks (14.5%), Tatars (1.9%), Uyghur (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%), and Ukrainians (0.5%).