The ancient history of Kygyzstan was kept in epic poems sung by traveling jomokchu. Visitors may land in the Manas International Airport, named after the folklore hero who united the country in the enormous Epic of Manas. Music and singing are still favorite activities of the Kyrgyz people, visitors can easily catch a variety of perfomances in Bishkek, ranging from modern concerts to theatre, dance, and traditional recitals. In the countryside enjoy traditional performances from local nomads.
Scythian’s were early residents of the area, joined later by Siberian emigrants. The Mongol, Chinese, Arab, Turkic and Persian armies swept through Kyrgyzstan each establishing their own khanates for short periods of history. In present day Kyrgyzstan this influences everything from cuisine to craftsmanship— each of the empires left a unique legacy.
86.3 % of Kyrgyzstan’s population are followers of Islam. Kyrgyz observe Islam in their own way— they rarely attend mosques and place less importance on some restrictions than other Islamic nations. There are several sites of importance for Muslims in Kyrgyzstan, including Suleiman-Too. Most of the remaining population practices Russian Orthodoxy or Atheism. Shamanistic traditions and Tengriism are often observed side by side with other religious beliefs.
Kyrgyzstan was a main hub on the ancient Silk Road trading route. Walk in the millenia old footsteps of intrepid explorers and traders, visit the picturesque caravanserai at Tash Rabat, the Burana Tower— last remnant of the 11th century city of Balasagyn and the still bustling bazaars of Osh.
The Russian empire began to control the region in 1876 as «Khirgizia». Soviet power was established in 1919 and the territory was then called the «Kara-Khirgiz Autonomous Oblast». Another influx of fresh ideas came with the Slavic peoples who were sent to Kyrgyzstan to cement this foothold. Many Kyrgyz look back to the Soviet period with a sort of wistful nostalgia. Literacy, development, stability and industry increased— but change came at a price. Under Joseph Stalin many of the traditions of former times were forbidden as nationalistic, information was heavily censored, and Kyrgyzstan struggled to keep hold of its own unique culture. The country did not regain its independence until 1991, just a day before the fall of the Soviet Union. There have been many changes since the Soviet times, but the Russian influence remains strong, with most urban Kyrgyz speaking Russian at least as well if not better than the Kyrgyz language.
The years following independence have been chaotic and challenging, and saw the rise and fall of several regimes but Kyrgyzstan is determined to carve itself a place in the modern economy without losing the nomadic traditions which have kept it strong for millenia.