25 interesting facts about Kyrgyzstan

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The most interesting facts about Kyrgyzstan include an epic poem, a rich nomadic culture and the World Nomad Games

A eagle hunter in Kyrgyzstan
Several fascinating facts about Kyrgyzstan stem from its nomadic culture (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Kyrgyz Republic
Capital city: Bishkek
Population: 6.1 million
Area: 199,951 sq km
Major languages: Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Russian
Major religions: Islam
Time zone: UTC+6 (Kyrgyzstan Time)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Kyrgyzstan

1. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Asia. A landlocked country is surrounded by land and doesn’t have access to open sea. Presently, there are 45 landlocked countries in the world along with five partially recognised nations.
(Source: Britannica, The Telegraph)

2. During the eighth century, Arab invaders conquered what is now Kyrgyzstan and introduced Islam. Kyrgyzstan remains a predominately Muslim country with around 90% of its population Sunni Muslim.
(Source: BBC News, CIA World Fact Book)

3. The historic Silk Road, the ancient trading route that connected China with Europe and the Middle East, runs through Kyrgyzstan. The Silk Roads UNESCO World Heritage Site is a transnational site shared with China and Kazakhstan.
(Source: UNESCO)

Kyrgyzstan map
Kyrgyzstan is landlocked (Shutterstock)

4. Kyrgyzstan became part of Russia in 1876 and then later the USSR until the country gained complete independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
(Source: BBC News)

5. In 1936 the country became a constituent republic within the USSR known as the Kirgiz Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).
(Source: BBC News)

6. The flag of Kyrgyzstan is mainly red – which partly descends from the USSR’s Soviet Red Banner. However, it also stems from the flag carried by the national hero, Manas the Noble. In the centre of the flag is a yellow sun with 40 rays – a reference to the 40 clans of Manas. There is also a sun with an emblem of two crossed sets of three lines. This symbolises a yurt – a traditional Kyrgyz home.
(Source: Wanderlust (2021) Flags, Capitals and Countries of the World: The Complete Handbook. Wanderlust Press: London)

kyrgyzstan flag
The flag of Kyrgyzstan (Shutterstock)

7. Kyrgyzstan gets its name from the Turkic words “kyrg” (forty) and “-yz” (tribes) with the Persian suffix “-stan” (country). Together, the name means “Land of the Forty Tribes” referring to the 40 clans united by the mythic Kyrgyz hero, Manas.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

8. The Kyrgyz epic poem, Epic of Manas, is 20 times longer than Homer’s Odyssey. The poem is about the formation of the Kyrgyz people. There are Manas statues found in practically every city in Kyrgyzstan.
(Source: Kaminski et al (2018) Lonely Planet Central Asia. London: Lonely Planet)

9. The poem has even been inscribed by UNESCO on a List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Inscribed as part of a trilogy of poems, UNESCO describes the Manas as part of ‘the historical memory of the Kyrgyz people and survives thanks to a community of epic tellers.’
(Source: UNESCO)

10. Kyrgyzstan is a sparsely populated country. There are only 35 people per square km of land area.
(Source: World Bank)

The new Central Mosque of Imam Sarakhsi in Bishkek
Bishkek is the capital and largest city of Kyrgyzstan (Shutterstock)

10. If Scrabble allowed place names (proper nouns are not permitted), Kyrgyzstan would be worth 30 points (along with Kazakhstan). Of all the one-word countries, only Mozambique scores higher (34).
(Source: Hasbro, Scoresheet)

12. What it lacks in people, it makes up for in natural beauty. The country is home to nearly 2,000 lakes.
(Source: Kaminski et al (2018) Lonely Planet Central Asia. London: Lonely Planet)

13. It is also very mountainous with 94% of the country located 1,000m above sea level with an average elevation of 2,750m.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

A mountain lake in Kyrgyzstan
A mountain lake in Kyrgyzstan (Shutterstock)

14. Bread is considered holy in Kyrgyzstan and it should never be wasted, thrown away or placed it upside down on the table. It is belived the bread is honours and feeds the souls of the dead.
(Source: BBC Travel)

15. Known as Kymys, fermented mare’s (horse) milk is Kyrgyzstan’s national drink. Locals even drink and bathe in it as they say it’s good for their health.
(Source: Reuters)

16. The traditional Kyrgyz way of life is based on nomadic livestock-herding.
(Source: BBC News)

17. Traditional shepherd shelters, yurts (boz-uy in Kyrgyz), are still widely used in Kyrgyzstan. The circular tent-like homes are made of kiyiz (multilayered felt) stretched around a kerege (collapsible wooden frame).
(Source: Lonely Planet)

A typical yurt
A yurt in Kyrgyzstan (Shutterstock)

18. The world’s largest walnut forest is in Kyrgyzstan. In the small town of Arslanbob workers live in the forest for months at a time harvesting walnuts.
(Source: BBC Travel)

19. Kyrgyzstan currency is the som. Quite unusually, one of the coins in circulation comes is a denomination of three: the 3 som coin.
(Source: National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic)

20. Kyrgyzstan created and hosted the first three World Nomad Games. Known as the ‘Olympics for nomads’ the games were designed to celebrate and preserve the culture of nomadic civilisation.
(source: World Nomad Games, Lonely Planet)

21. Horses are very symbolic of the nomadic culture of Kyrgyzstan. So much so that during summer, horse games take place in Kyrgyzstan which, played mainly by men, depict ‘spectacular skills and manliness’.

horse games with two men on horses
Horses are very symbolic of their nomadic culture (Shutterstock)

22. Finally, one of the most fascinating facts about Kyrgyzstan is that the art of eagle hunting is still practised. The tradition of hunting with eagles is believed to go back hundreds of years in Kyrgyzstan, possibly to the 12th and 13th centuries.
(Source: Bradt Guides)

23. At 2,988m Kyrgyzstan has the world’s second-highest average elevation.
(Source: The Telegraph)

24. At over 170km long and 70km across, Issyk-Köl Oblast in Kyrgyzstan is the world’s second-largest alpine lake. Despite lying at an altitude of over 1600m, the lake never freezes due to a combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and mild salinity. It’s name means “hot lake”.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

25. Osh is Kyrgyzstan’s second city and is over 3,000 years old. The city’s Jayma Bazaar is one of Central Asia’s biggest markets.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Kyrgyzstan using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have a question, please get in touch.