Early Chinese and Muslim sources state that the early Kyrgyz were red-haired and blond. Today, most Kyrgyz are of mixed Eurasian descent, although East Asian features seem to dominate.
Due to its location along the backbones of the high Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges, ancient empires who conquered the region were mainly nomadic in nature; the Xiongnu, the Scythians, the Xianbei, the Hephthalites, and the Rourans were among the famous examples. The Turkic imprint of the land was marked in the 6th century, when the Rourans were toppled by the Turkic Khaganate, who ruled most of Central Asia. However, the ancestors of the Kyrgyz, known as the Yenisei Kyrgyz, were still living in Mongolia and Siberia by this time.
When the Uyghurs took control of the Khaganate in the 8th century, the Kyrgyz began to emigrate to the conquered areas, partly due to the increasing pressure from the Mongols. From this time, two lines of the Kyrgyz branched off. Those who remained behind inherited the language and faith of their Yenisei forefathers. A small community of them still exists in China's Xinjiang and Manchuria. Meanwhile, the numerically larger emigrants crossed paths with two unrelated Turkic confederations: the Cuman-Kipchaks in the northwest and the Karluk Kara-Khanids in the southwest. From the former, they adopted their language, while from the latter, they adopted Islam.
In their new land, the Kyrgyz were mostly subservient to peoples who claimed the area. They were under control of the Qara Khitai in the 12th century, then the Mongols in the 13th century, the Chagatai from the 13th to the 17th century, and the Oirats until the 18th century. The Black Death, which devastated Europe in the 14th century, is believed to have originated from Lake Issy-Kul in the northeast of the country, with the lake being a stopover on The Silk Road and medieval merchants unknowingly carrying infested vermin from the region along with them.
Tsarist Russia expanded to Kyrgyzstan during the 19th century, taking the land from Qing China. Revolts during the Russian Revolution by the native Kyrgyz only ended in failure, and they were incorporated to the USSR, getting SSR status in 1936. The Kyrgyz were often lumped together with the Kazakhs, the word Kara-Kyrgyz was used to the actual Kyrgyz.
While industrialization in the country merited some successes, the country was swept away by the events of the fall of the Soviet Union. Kyrgyzstan later declared independence in 1991.
The first president of Kyrgyzstan was Askar Akayev. While his technocratic credentials earned him some praise for reforming parts of the economy, he increasingly became autocratic. Not to mention the claims that he is a descendant of a medieval Kyrgyz hero and the rumors that Boris Yeltsin of Russia had played drums on his balding head while drunk.
All in all, Akayev was deposed in 2005 during protests against his regime.
Then a second Kyrgyz revolution flared up in 2010, the protesters accusing President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of being ending up like Akayev. Like his predecessor, he was soon sacked from his post, and a woman named Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister, led a transitional government, before Almazbek Atambayev, who served as prime minister during her presidency, took over. Though the transition was chaotic, two revolutions had nevertheless managed to bring the country from the post-communist authoritarian mentality that plagues most of the former Eastern Bloc. The 2017 election, the first time all candidates stood a chance to win, made quite a spectacle in the international stage. According to analysts, it is the only Central Asian country that can genuinely be called a democracy (albeit a seriously flawed one).
Other than political issues, Kyrgzystan also deals with a poor economic record, as the fall of communism dealt a huge blow to its industrial sector, while agriculture remains the major occupation of the population. It just barely qualifies as a lower-middle income country according to the World Bank and ranks among the poorest ex-Soviet states, right above Tajikistan. In addition, it has a history of ugly race riots, particularly between its Kyrgyz majority and Uzbek minority.
The Kyrgyz flag
- Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
- President: Sooronbay Jeenbekov
- Prime Minister: Kubatbek Boronov
- Speaker of Parliament: Dastan Jumabekov