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Officially known as the Kyrgyz Republic, Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. Surrounding countries include China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The Kyrgyz people are made up of nomadic tribes who regularly traveled across Central Asia, and who intermixed with several other tribes. The region has been inhabited for as long as 300,000 years, and the first record of a Kyrgyz civilization dates to 2000 BC. The Kyrgyz people are believed to have first inhabited northwestern Mongolia. Known as ferocious fighters, persistent raids from the Kyrgyz prompted the construction of the Great Wall of China.

The Kyrgyz Khanate, the first Kyrgyz state, lasted from the 6th to the 13th century AD, expanding to the northern and eastern regions of current-day Kyrgyzstan by the 10th century, then west to the Irtysh River in what is now eastern Kazakhstan. The Kyrgyz reached their zenith by conquering the Uygur Khanate, forcing it out of Mongolia in 840 AD, then moving south to the Tian Shan Range.

By the 12th century, the Kyrgyz were reduced to a much smaller area, while other Kyrgyz groups were moving across a larger area of Central Asia, where they mixed with other ethnic groups.

The Mongol invasion in the 14th century cost the Kyrgyz people their independence and their language.

Until 1510, the Kyrgyz were dominated by the Golden Horde, the Oriot, and the Jumgar khanates. Freedom was reclaimed in 1510, but the Kyrgyz were defeated by the Kalmyks in the 1600s, the Manchus in the mid-1700s, and the Uzbeks in the early 1800s. During these periods, however, the Kyrgyz occupied important positions in the administrative and social structures of the succeeding khanates, and they retained control over special military units.

In 1876, Russian troops moved into the area, and within a few years, Kyrgyzstan was part of the Russian Empire. Large numbers of Russian and Ukrainians settled the region, and the Russians began extensive mining, road construction, and housing projects. Tensions built up over Russian appropriation of land, taxes, price policies, and a forced labor program that targeted the ethnic Kyrgyz. In 1916, a rebellion against Russian control began in Uzbekistan, spreading to Kyrgyzstan and other Russian controlled territories. It was unsuccessful, and reprisals drove a third of the Kyrgyz population into China.

The following year, the Russian Revolution led to a brief period of independence for Kyrgyzstan. Once the new Bolshevik government became organized in Russia, Kyrgyzstan was an autonomous region of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, later becoming a republic of the Soviet Union.

In the late 1980s, events in Russia brought the Kyrgyz people closer to independence.

Ethnic conflicts broke out between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan, largely over land. In the capital, a large group of students advanced on the headquarters of the Communist Party of Kyrgyzia, where a violent confrontation ensued. Soon, organized independence movements were organized. In 1990, the Supreme Soviet officially adopted the name Kyrgyzstan for the republic. In 1991, a coup within the Soviet government attempted to remove Gorbachev from power. Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union, and a few months later the USSR dissolved.

Kyrgyzstan is a democratic unicameral republic. The executive branch of government includes a Supreme Chancellor and Vice Chairman. Administratively, the country is divided into seven regions and two independent cities. These are the regions of Batken, Chuy, Jalal-Abad, Naryn, Osh, Talas, and Issyk-Kul, and the cities of Bishkek and Osh. Kyrgyzstan also includes an enclave surrounded by Uzbekistan. The small village of Barak is approximately two miles from the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. There are four Uzbek enclaves, and two belonging to Tajikistan, within Kyrgyzstan.

Since gaining independence, the percentage of ethnic Kyrgyz in the country has increased from about 50% to more than 70% today, while the number of other ethnic groups has dropped. This is attributed to Kyrgyz expatriates moving back to the country, as well as the fact that Kyrgyz commonly marry within their own ethnic group. Kyrgyzstan adopted the Kyrgyz language as its official language in 1991. After pressure from ethnic Russians, it adopted Russian as an official language in 1997.

Approximately 80% of the people of Kyrgyzstan are Muslim, the largest minority religion being Russian Orthodox, claiming more than 15% of the population. Constitutionally, Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, but Islam has a growing influence over politics.

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