Kyrgyzstan was first annexed by Russia in 1876, but in 1916, the Kyrgyz revolted against the Tsarist Empire. This led to nearly one-sixth of the Kyrgyz population being killed. Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic in 1936 and achieved independence in 1991 after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
A popular uprising in February 2005 led to the resignation of the President Askar Akayev, who had ruled the nation since its independence. He was replaced with Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was elected president that July. Under Akayev’s rule, the country faced corruption and nepotism. Elections were rigged, opposition leaders were harassed and imprisoned and their newspapers were shut down. While Bakiev won reelection with a wide margin, observers noted the process was a lot fairer.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, Kyrgyzstan allowed American forces to use the Manas airport in the capital as a base for the war in Afghanistan. In 2003, an agreement with Russia gave the Russians the use of the Kant airbase for its campaign against terrorism. Ironically, the Russian and the American forces are located 19 miles apart.
The current government has become more pro-Russian. However, recently there have been tensions with the US over payments for the use of the base and the status of American forces there. China also plays an important economic role in the Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan has several ethnic groups: Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Uighur, Dungan (Chinese Muslims) and Koreans. Tensions over land and housing have mounted between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities located along the border.
Relations with neighbor Uzbekistan were strained over the refugee crisis as a result of the May 2005 Andijan uprising and massacre. Hundreds of refugees first fled across the border to set up camps in Kyrgyzstan and later were allowed to depart for third countries.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Form of Government:
Year of Independence:
1991 (from Soviet Union)
Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
199,900 sq km (77,182 sq miles)
Kyrgyz 64.7% (official), Uzbek 13.6%, Russian 12.5% (official), Dungun 1%, other 8.2% (1999 census)
65 years (men), 74 years (women) (2009 est.)
1 som = 100 tyiyns
Fruit, vegetables, gold, tobacco cotton, wool, meat, mercury, uranium, natural gas, hydropower, machinery, shoes
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$2,100 (2008 est.)
International Dialing Code: