Formal Name: Kyrgyz Republic. Short Form: Kyrgyzstan. Term for Citizens: Kyrgyzstani(s). Kyrgyz technically refers to the Kyrgyz ethnic group although it can also refer to Kyrgyzstan citizens, which are officially called Kyrgyzstanis although the term is not that widely used — at least in the Western press anyway. Kyrgyz are found in sizable numbers in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, China and Afghanistan as well as Kyrgyzstan.

The word Kyrgyz comes from two old Turkic words:”Kyrg”, which means "40" and “gyz” which means "tribe." Thus Kyrgyz means "40 tribes." The plural of Kyrgyz is Kyrgyz. “Istan” is the old Persian word for "place of." Thus means "place of the Kyrgyz." According to some translation Kyrgyzstan means “Land of 40 Girls,” a reference to a group of 40 maidens who migrated to Kyrgyzstan from Siberia in ancient times and settled along Lake Issyk-Kul and founded the 40 traditional Kyrgyz clans.

The formal name of Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyz Republic. It has also sometimes called Kirghizia. To avoid confusion between the Kazakhs and the Cossacks, the Russians used to call the Kazakhs “Kyrgyz.” Kyrgyz were called “Black Kyrgyz.” The Kazakhs and Kyrgyz Republics were created in the 1920s when the Russians decided that Kazakhs and Kyrgyz were different.

Stan -stan suffix \stan, stan[Per.] 1: place, place of 2: land. Adopted into several languages from Persian, the court language employed in antique kingdoms of Central Asia. Thus the place or land of the Afghans is Afghanistan, the place of the Tajiks, Tajikistan. [Source: National Geographic, February 2002]

Books: “Central Asia: 120 Years of Russian Rule,” edited by Edward Allworth, offers a comprehensive treatment of the region. A more concise summary of each country’s geopolitical position in the 1990s is found in Charles Undeland and Nicholas Platt's “The Central Asian Republics”. “Central Asia,” edited by Hafeez Malik, offers a collection of articles on the history and geopolitics of the region. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Kyrgyzstan as One of the Stans

National Geographic called Kyrgyzstan the most traditional Stan: “Strong Roots: A rural legacy endures in this mountain-encircled land,... posing a challenge to a leader trying to modernize.” Elevated to the status of a union republic by Joseph V. Stalin in 1936, the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic was until 1990 one of the poorest, quietest, and most conservative of all the Soviet republics. It was the Kyrgyz Republic that celebrated the election of a sheepherder as president of its parliamentary executive committee, the Presidium, in 1987. Three years later, however, that quiescence ended, and Kyrgyzstan's history as a separate nation began. [Source: National Geographic, Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Mike Edwards wrote in National Geographic, “No Kyrgyz festival is complete until a singer rises to intone stanzas from the longest narrative in world literature. The Epic of Manas bulges with half a million lines of verse. Purportedly a thousand years old, it's both the story of a Kyrgyz folk hero — that's Manas — and a hymn to freedom, valor, and the unity of the Kyrgyz tribes. Scholars aren't certain Manas lived. No matter. In the words of Kyrgyzstan's president, Askar Akayev, the narrative is "our spiritual foundation ... our pride, our strength, and our hope." Under the Soviets the epic was banned in schools, except for parts rewritten to conform to Soviet ideology; in Kyrgyzstan as elsewhere Moscow suppressed ethnic tradition and pride. But Soviet authority did not easily penetrate the soaring Pamir and Tien Shan mountain ranges, and the Kyrgyz who lived there clung to their roots. Shepherds sang of Manas around their campfires and parents handed down verses to their children. [Source: Mike Edwards, National Geographic, February 2002 ]

“Annexed to Russia in 1876 as part of Russian Turkistan, the territory of the Kyrgyz became a Soviet republic in 1936. The Soviets renamed the capital Frunze, for a general of the Russian Revolution. After 1991 the Kyrgyz took back the city's original name, Bishkek, which is said to mean "five knights." Legend holds that the knights fought one another to possess the enticing site, a valley beneath shimmering mountains. Today it's hard to imagine knights squabbling over a raffish city of Soviet-style apartment blocks, the home of many of the 603,000 Russians who remain in Kyrgyzstan. All told, Russians are 13 percent of the population. Another 300,000 have departed, often complaining that jobs were being "Kyrgyz-fied." To encourage skilled technicians to remain, the post-Soviet government in 1996 recognized Russian as an official language alongside Kyrgyz, which, like Uzbek and Turkmen, is a Turkic tongue.

“Kyrgyzstan's mountains haven't insulated the nation from the turmoil afflicting its neighbors. Bands of guerrillas, part of a radical movement that aspires to create Islamic states, have infiltrated from neighboring Tajikistan, taking hostages and battling Kyrgyz troops. President Akayev has sometimes used Soviet methods, muzzling critical newspapers and harassing and arresting political opponents or disqualifying them from seeking office. Akayev's own reelection in 2000 was tarnished by stuffed ballot boxes and voter intimidation. Despite state restrictions, an independent press and opposition parties survive.

“Trying to shift to a market economy, the Akayev government transformed Soviet-era factories and other enterprises into shareholder companies. But few have been able to find markets, and the government needs cash as it grapples with high unemployment, inflation, and potholed roads. Central Asian experts say that Kyrgyzstan, already a debtor nation, will need continual shoring up by international lending agencies. The Manas legend may indeed be the country's spiritual foundation; unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills.”

Short History of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. The modern nation of Kyrgyzstan is based on a civilization of nomadic tribes who moved across the eastern and northern sections of present-day Central Asia. In this process, they were dominated by, and intermixed with, a number of other tribes and peoples that have influenced the ultimate character of the Kyrgyz people. Women have played a prominent role n Kyrgyz history.

The area of what is now Kyrgyzstan was occupied by a series of nomadic tribes and horsemen of which very little is known because they had no written language and tended to stay on the move rather than establish settlements that could be excavated by archaeologists. Most of what is known has been gleaned from a handful of settlements and burial places that have been found and clues from the “Manas”, an extremely long epic poem said to be over a thousand years old.

Most of Kyrgyzstan was formally annexed to Russia in 1876. The Kyrgyz staged a major revolt against the Tsarist Empire in 1916 in which almost one-sixth of the Kyrgyz population was killed. Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic in 1936 and achieved independence in 1991 when the USSR dissolved. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Nationwide demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar Akayev, who had run the country since 1990. Former prime minister Kurmanbek Bakiev overwhelmingly won the presidential election in the summer of 2005. Over the next few years, he manipulated the parliament to accrue new powers for the presidency. In July 2009, after months of harassment against his opponents and media critics, Bakiev won reelection in a presidential campaign that the international community deemed flawed. =

In April 2010, violent protests in Bishkek led to the collapse of the Bakiev regime and his eventual flight to Minsk, Belarus. His successor, Roza Otunbaeva, served as transitional president until Almazbek Atambaev was inaugurated in December 2011, marking the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in independent Kyrgyzstan's history. Continuing concerns include: the trajectory of democratization, endemic corruption, poor interethnic relations, and terrorism. =

Ancient History of Kyrgyzstan

Stone implements found in the Tien Shan mountains indicate the presence of human society in what is now Kyrgyzstan as many as 200,000 to 300,000 years ago during the Lower Paleolithic period. Stone tools and stone quarried date the Middle Paleolithic period have been found in several sites. Evidence of people living in caves from the Neolithic period have been found near the city of Naryn and on the northern shore of Issyk Kul.

Based on evidence from burial sites and settlements, archaeologists have inferred that during the Bronze Age the valley regions of what is now Kyrgyzstan was occupied by both agricultural and pastoral groups. By the 5th century B.C. the presence of iron tools and weapons indicated that the dominant lifestyle was nomadic herding.

The first written records of a Kyrgyz civilization appear in Chinese chronicles beginning about 2000 B.C. The Kyrgyz, a nomadic people, originally inhabited an area of present-day northwestern Mongolia. In the fourth and third centuries B.C., Kyrgyz bands were among the raiders who persistently invaded Chinese territory and stimulated the building of the original Great Wall of China in the third century B.C. The Kyrgyz achieved a reputation as great fighters and traders. In the centuries that followed, some Kyrgyz tribes freed themselves from domination by the Huns by moving northward into the Yenisey and Baikal regions of present-day south-central Siberia. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Origins of the Kyrgyz

The forefathers of the modern Kyrgyz lived on the upper reaches of the Yenisey River in present-day Siberia. The origin of the Kyrgyz is still a matter of some debate. Based on common burial customs, animist traditions and herding practices, it is believed that the Kyrgyz originated in Siberia. Kyrgyz is one of the oldest ethnic names in Asia. It was first recorded in the 2nd century B.C. in the "40 girls" legend of 40 original clan mothers. Some Kyrgyz will tell you that it was their Siberian ancestors crossed the Bering land bridge to become the first native Americans.

The Kyrgyz are believed to have descended from nomadic tribes, the "Yenisey Kyrgyz,", sometimes referred to as the Xiajias, from the Yenisey River area in central Siberia. Their homeland is an Ireland-size chunk of land, covered by steppe and mountains, in the upper Yenisey River Basin near present-day Krasnoyarsk, They occupied this region between the 6th and 12th centuries, and are believed to have begun speaking a Turkic language around the 9th century.

The Yenisey Kyrgyz were under the domination of the Turk Khanate in the sixth century but were able to break away in the seventh century. Later, the Uyghurs established dominance in the area, but the Yenisey Kyrgyz drove them off in the ninth century. The Yenisey Kyrgyz created an empire that stretched across Trans-Siberian and Central Asia from Kazakhstan to Lake Baikal from the 6th to the 13th century. They established ties with the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) in China and were in the 8th century Orkhan inscription. In 840, the Kyrgyz defeated the Uighar tribes and occupied their lands in what is now northwestern Mongolia. The Kyrgyz in turn were driven off these lands by the Khitan the 10th century. By the twelfth century, the Kyrgyz ancestors (by then also known as the “Jilijis") were fighting with the Oirats; when the Mongols defeated the Oirats, the Jilijis moved into their territory (the Tianshan Mountains), where the Kyrgyz live today. [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 ]

Michael Finkel wrote in National Geographic: “Throughout their history, the Kyrgyz have always rejected the idea of being controlled by a government or serving as vassals to a king. “We are untamed humans,” one Kyrgyz man proudly informed me. Their origins are murky. The Kyrgyz are first mentioned in a Chinese document from the second century A.D. and are thought to have come from the Altay Mountains of what is now Siberia and Mongolia. The name Kyrgyz, according to anthropologist Nazif Shahrani, is possibly a compound of kyrk, meaning “40,” and kyz, meaning “girl”—an etymology the Kyrgyz take to signify “descendants of 40 maidens.” [Source: Michael Finkel, National Geographic, February 2013 = ]

Kyrgyz State

The modern Kyrgyz Republic is based on a civilization of nomadic tribes that moved across the northern part of Central Asia, intermixing with other tribes and peoples. The first Kyrgyz state, the Kyrgyz Khanate, existed from the sixth to the thirteenth century and extended at its greatest size from present-day south-central Siberia to present-day eastern Kazakhstan and eastern Kyrgyzstan. By the tenth century it stretched southwestward to the eastern and northern regions of present-day Kyrgyzstan and westward to the headwaters of the Ertis (Irtysh) River in present-day eastern Kazakstan. In this period, the khanate established intensive commercial contacts in China, Tibet, Central Asia, and Persia. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007 **]

In the meantime, beginning about 1000 B.C., large tribes collectively known as the Scythians also lived in the area of present-day Kyrgyzstan. Excellent warriors, the Scythian tribes farther west had resisted an invasion by the troops of Alexander the Great in 328-27 B.C. The Kyrgyz tribes who entered the region around the sixth century played a major role in the development of feudalism. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

The Kyrgyz reached their greatest expansion by conquering the Uygur Khanate and forcing it out of Mongolia in A.D. 840, then moving as far south as the Tien Shan range — a position the Kyrgyz maintained for about 200 years. The khanate’s territory began to shrink in the eleventh century. By the twelfth century Kyrgyz domination had shrunk to the region of the Sayan Mountains, northwest of present-day Mongolia, and the Altay Range on the present-day border of China and Mongolia. In the same period, other Kyrgyz tribes were moving across a wide area of Central Asia and mingling with other ethnic groups and tribes. Islam was introduced to the Kyrgyz sometime between the ninth and twelfth centuries. In the thirteenth century, all the Kyrgyz groups were conquered by the Mongolian leader Dzhuchi, son of Genghis Khan, and the Kyrgyz remained under oppressive Mongol rule until 1510. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007 **]

Early Horsemen in Kyrgyzstan

From around 500 B.C. to A.D. 500, parts of Kyrgyzstan were inhabited by the Saka, a nomadic people linked with the Scythians. The Saka were one of the few people who managed to hold off the conquering armies of Alexander the Great. Gold and bronze artifacts have been taken from Saka burials in southern Kazakhstan and around Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan.

The Scythians established trade routes between Asia and Europe—the beginnings of the Silk Road—that went through present-day Kyrgyzstan. Between the 6th century and the 10th century, Kyrgyzstan was occupied by a succession of Turkic tribes. Large numbers of people settled around Lake Issyk-Kul, Talas and the Fergana Valley.

The ancient horsemen of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are often described as Sakas. Saka was the term used in Persian and Sanskrit sources for the Scythians, a large group of Eastern Iranian nomadic tribes on the Eurasian Steppe. Rene Grousset wrote in “The Empire of the Steppes” (1970) "The regions of Tashkent, Fergana, and Kashgar were inhabited by the people known to the Chinese under the name Sse (ancient pronunciation, Ssek), to the Persians and Indians as Saka, or Shaka, and to the Greeks as Sakai: our Sakas. They were in fact the 'Scythians of Asia.' They formed a branch of the great Scytho-Sarmatian family; that is, they were nomadic Iranians from the northwestern steppes." See Sakas Under Eatly Kazakhstan History

According to Kazakhstan government sources: Since ancient times, this region has been involved in various ethnic and genetic relations. Different communities ranging from tribal confederations to large states, formed on the basis of interaction between different ethnic layers, have led to the formation of the Kazakh ethnic territory and a steppe civilisation which has developed into the Kazakh nation. [Source: B.E. Kumekov, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2010 | ]

The origin of Kazakhstan statehood is connected with the Sakas (the 7th - 2nd centuries B.C.), who mainly engaged in nomadic and semi nomadic livestock breeding. The nomadic way of life allowed the sakas and Scythians to succeed in making the Great Steppe habitable. The core of the Sakas was made up of Issedonian tribes. Eye-witnesses characterised them as brave warriors possessed numerous herds of horses, sheep, and cattle. The Sakas were wonderful riders and expert marksmen. A historian of ancient Greece named them the best archers in the world. |

The Sakas belonged to an early class society having three estates: chiefs, priests, and community members (shepherds and fanners). A supreme chief or king originated from warriors. The king was considered to be chosen by the gods as a mediator between heaven and mortals. The art of the Sakas culture is most vividly expressed through their painting in the animal style, manifesting their mythology and attitude toward life, and a special symbolic system for showing the nomadic concept of the world. This is proof both of their high skills in metallurgy, and progressive artistic thinking. In the 4th - 3d centuries B.C., the Sakas developed a written language, an inherent characteristic of any organised state. |

Kyrgyz Move to Kyrgyzstan

In the A.D. 10th century, nomadic Kyrgyz tribes began migrating from the Yenisey River area. Those remained became the Khakass, a nomadic horse people, divided among a number of tribes, that adopted Christianity under Russian pressure. They lived in birch bark covered yurts

This migration accelerated in the 13th century as invading Mongols pushed them south. In the early 16th century the Kyrgyz moved in large numbers into the Pamir and Tien Sien mountains and what is now Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The Kyrgyz occupation of eastern Central Asia was characterized by continuous battles with other tribes and ethnic groups and shifting territories. At various times the Kyrgyz utilized pastures for their animals as far west as the Aral Sea and as far east as western China. At the same time Silk Road trade was penetrating through Kyrgyz territory.

The rugged mountainous terrain of Kyrgyzstan helped to isolate the Kyrgyz from other groups and from different Kyrgyz groups.The Kyrgyz were less affected by the pan-Islamic, and pan-Turkic ideologies that became deep rooted in the Uzbeks. The Tien Shan mountains divided the Kyrgyz into two groups that over time developed district customs and dialects: the northern Kyrgyz, who maintained their nomadic traditions and resisted Islam for a longer period of time, and the southern Kyrgyz, who became settled and embraced Islam earlier and more deeply. The southern Kyrgyz have traditionally been settled in the Fergana Valley with Tajiks and Uzbeks and tended to be sedentary farmers.

Battle of Talas

In 751, Chinese forces of the Tang dynasty attempting the extend Chinese control into Central Asia were annihilated by a Muslim army in Talas (present-day Tara in Kazakhstan) not far from Samarkand. The defeat of the Chinese in 751 gave Muslims control of the Silk Road.

As China became strong during the Tang dynasty it began expanding westward, for the most part relying more on diplomatic skills than military might to achieve its goals. The strategy worked well until one Chinese viceroy went too far and ordered the murder of the khan of the Tashkent Turks.

In 751 an alliance of enraged Turks, opportunist Arabs and Tibetans maneuvered a Chinese force into the Talas Valley in present-day Kazakhstan and Kyrzgzstan. In the ensuing battle — -the Battle of Talas — -the Chinese were routed and forced back across the Tien Shan. Tibetans moving up from the south were driven out of the Tarim basin by Uighur Turks, allies of the Tang. The Uighars have been in the region ever since.

The Battle of Talas, ended Chinese ambitions in Central Asia. After the battle, the Turk, Arab and Tibetans splintered and instability was the rule in Central Asia until the 9th century when the Samanid dynasty rose up.

Silk Road Era

The Fergana Valley in present-day Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan was an important stop on the Silk Road. Routes between western China and Central Asia traversed key passes along the present-day and China-Kyrgyzstan border and within Kyrgyzstan itself to reach the Fergana Valley. Religious artefacts from Zoroastrians, Buddhists, early Christians and Muslims, who used these routes, have been found at Burana Tower outside Tokmak, where there was a strategic garrison.

The Turkic Karakhanids, who helped establish Islam in Central Asia, ruled Kyrgyzstan from the 10th to 12th centuries. The established regional capitals near Bishkek and in the Fergana Valley. Even though important branches of the Silk Road passed through Kyrgyz territory, the Kyrgyz were isolated on their mountain pastures and did not get rich from the trade and didn’t even participate much in it.

The two main routes of the Silk Road that entered Central Asia from China were: 1) the northern route, which passed from western China into what is now Kazakhstan and went through or near what is now Alma Aty (Kazakhstan), Bishkek (Krygyzstan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan); and 2) the southern route which left Kashgar and passed from western China in Central Asia through passes of the Tien Shan and Pamirs mountains that are now on China's borders with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

The main route likely passed through Irkeshtam Pass between Kashgar and the Fergana Valley. Many Silk Road tours go from Kashgar over Torugart pass to Bishkek and then Tashkent and Samarkand because modern roads traverse this route. This route however is much longer and out of the way than the direct route from Kashgar to the Fergana Valley. Marco Polo used a route through the Pamirs between China and Afghanistan.

Ancient Chinese and Kyrgyz Interaction

According to the Chinese government:“The Kyrgyz tribe was under the rule of the Turkic Khanate in the A.D. mid-sixth century. After the Tang Dynasty (618-907) defeated the Eastern Turkic Khanate, the Kyrgyz came into contact with the dynasty and in the 7th century the Kyrgyz land was officially included in China's territory.[Source: China.org china.org |]

“From the 7th to the 10th century, the Kyrgyz had very frequent communications with the Han Chinese. Their musical instruments — the drum, sheng (a reed pipe), bili (a bamboo instrument with a reed mouthpiece) and panling (a group of bells attached to a tambourine) — showed that the Kyrgyz had attained quite a high level of culture. According to ancient Yenisey inscriptions on stone tablets, after the Kyrgyz developed a class society, there was a sharp polarization and class antagonism. Garments, food and housing showed marked differences in wealth and there were already words for "property," "occupant," "owner" and "slave." |

Mongol Domination of the Kyrgyz

In the Mongol era Kyrgyzstan was under the control of Genghis Khan’s son Chaghatai. Kyrgyzstan largely avoided the ravages of the Mongols because there was little in Kyrgyzstan that anyone wanted. The garrison at Tokmak was one of the few military sites not destroyed by Genghis Khan when the Mongols swept through Central Asia. Even though important branches of the Silk Road passed through Kyrgyz territory, the Kyrgyz were isolated on their mountain pastures and did not get rich from the trade and didn’t even participate much in it.

The Mongols' invasion of Central Asia in the fourteenth century cost the Kyrgyz their independence and their written language. The son of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, Dzhuchi, conquered the Kyrgyz tribes of the Yenisey region, who by this time had become disunited. For the next 200 years, the Kyrgyz remained under the Golden Horde and the Oriot and Jumgar khanates that succeeded that regime. Freedom was regained in 1510. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In Chinese records during the Liao and Song dynasties (916-1279), the Kyrgyz were recorded as "Xiajias" or "Xiajiaz". The Liao government established an office in the Xiajias area. In the late 12th century when Genghis Khan rose, Xiajias was recorded in Han books of history as "Qirjis" or "Jilijis," still living in the Yenisey River valley. From the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Jilijis, though still mainly living by nomadic animal husbandry, had emigrated from the upper Yenisey to the Tianshan Mountains and become one of the most populous Turkic-speaking tribal groups. After the 15th century, though there were still tribal distinctions, the Jilijis tribes in the Tianshan Mountains had become a unified entity. [Source: China.org china.org |]

Kyrgyz After the Mongol Period

After gaining freedom from the Mongols, the Kyrgyz were overrun by the Kalmyks in the seventeenth century, the Manchus in the eighteenth century, and the Uzbeks in the nineteenth century. The Kyrgyz began efforts to gain protection from more powerful neighboring states in 1758, when some tribes sent emissaries to China. A similar mission went to the Russian Empire in 1785.

The Oryats (Kalmyks), a western Mongols clan that converted the Tibetan Buddhism, established the Zhungarian (Dzungaian) empire in eastern Kazakhstan, western China, western Mongolia and the Tien Shan area which lasted from 1635 and 1758. In 1685 they entered Kyrgyzstan and drove many Kyrgyz southward into the Fergana Valley and Pamir Allay regions of what is now Tajikistan. In 1758, the Oryats were defeated by the Manchu Chinese state and Kyrgyz became the de fact facto subjects of the Chinese, who mostly left them alone to live their nomadic life.

According to Chinese sources: In the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Kyrgyz, who had remained in the upper Yenisey River reaches, emigrated to the Tianshan Mountains to live together with their kinfolk. Many then moved to the Hindu Kush and Karakorum Mountains. At this time, some Kyrgyz left their homeland and emigrated to Northeast China. In 1758 and 1759, the Sayak and Sarbagex tribes of Eastern Blut and the Edegena tribe of Western Blut, and 13 other tribes — a total of 200,000 — entered the Issyk Kul pastoral area and asked to be subjected to the Qing. [Source: China.org china.org |]

Kyrgyz Under Uzbek Domination

The Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have traditionally not liked each other. In the early 19th century parts of Kyrgyzstan became part of the Uzbek Kokand Khanate. The Kyrgyz bristled under the Uzbek rulers and Kyrgyz guerrillas periodically attacked Kokand positions from bases in the Tien Shan. The Kyrgyz were defeated by the Uzbeks in 1845, 1857, 1858 and 1873. Conflicts between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks were one of the main reasons the Kyrgyz decided to ally themselves with the Russians in the 19th century.

Between 1710 and 1876, the Kyrgyz were ruled by the Uzbek Kokand (Quqon) Khanate, one of the three major principalities of Central Asia during that period. Even during this period, however, the Kyrgyz occupied important positions in the social and administrative structures of the khanate, and they maintained special military units that continued their earlier tradition of military organization; some Kyrgyz advanced to the position of khan. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In the 18th and 19th centuries, three Uzbek Khanates dominated Central Asia. They were the 1) the Khiva-based Kungrats, 2) the Bukhara-based Manghits, and the 3) Kokand-based Mins. All three were ruled by khans who closed themselves off to outside world, fought among themselves and lived in a kind of fairyland, medieval-style desert kingdoms. On the fringes of their empire roamed nomads—Turkmen to the south, Kazakhs to the north and the Kyrgyz in the Tien Shan—that occasionally battled the khans. The towns where filled with ordinary Uzbeks and Tajiks, who were similar except the spoke different languages.

Some of the Uzbek khans were capable leaders but they are remembered most for their cruelty and capriciousness. They ruled as despots in a world full corrupt mullahs, towns people and nomads who lived beyond the khans control. The Khanates— Bukhara in particular—grew rich from the trade of crafts, carpets and cloth. European visitors wrote fanciful tales about the exotic things they saw.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

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