Kyrgyzstan is geographically somewhat smaller than the United Kingdom, but it is very mountainous (1,500-2,500 metres), leaving only 7 per cent of its area for agricultural use. About 65 per cent of its five million inhabitants are native Kyrgyz. Other Kyrgyz also live in China (300,000), as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan (150,000). More than 40 per cent of the Kyrgyz are less than 14 years old and nearly all of them are literate. The capital Bishkek is the preferred living place in the country.
Following the Mongol rule in the 13th century, Kyrgyzstan came under Russian rule in the 1800s and after 1937 was called the Kyrgyz Soviet Republic. Agriculture was increasingly collectivised under Stalin, despite strong resistance from the nomadic Kyrgyz. In the resulting tensions hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz were forcibly settled, driven into China or killed. In 1991 Kyrgyzstan declared itself independent from the Soviet Union, resulting in democratic reforms and change to a market economy. Economic crisis and the decline of state agriculture followed in the years after independence, so many Kyrgyz adopted a traditional lifestyle again. Nomadic families herd their sheep and horses and live in tents called “yurts”.
Kyrgyz love to tell stories and drink tea. Weddings and funerals are significant events for them – but also unfortunately result in financial ruin for many. Few people have regular jobs, and even teachers, medical employees and others are forced to take other jobs owing to low wages.
Islam came to Kyrgyzstan in the 17th century, being strongly influenced by animistic beliefs. Since independence Islam has become a source of cultural identity, even though few practise their faith: being Kyrgyz means being a Muslim. The Islamic influence is steadily growing and most villages have a mosque or prayer room. More and more children go to Koranic schools and Islam is being taught in state schools. Unfortunately, the Kyrgyz usually think of “Christians” in terms of the Orthodox Christianity of the Russians who have also been their oppressors.
God continues to build His kingdom in Kyrgyzstan. In Bishkek and the larger cities the gospel can be proclaimed relatively openly, and many churches have started. It is estimated that there are 5,000-6,000 Kyrgyz believers. In rural areas, families and the authorities exercise strong pressure on new believers, and many areas are still completely unreached. Unemployment is high among Christians, but some Kyrgyz believers want to reach out to their own people and the neighbouring peoples as well. Small Bible schools and training programmes have been started to prepare the Christians for ministry. A new translation of the Bible into the Kyrgyz language has been completed, and there is a Christian bookshop in Bishkek. Foreign workers are still needed, especially to teach, counsel and advise Kyrgyz Christians.
Pray for the Muslims in Kyrgyzstan:
* Christians need jobs so that they can have a good testimony in general and so that the churches can become financially independent (1 Thess 4:10-12). Pray for God’s hand in these areas.
* Discipleship, leadership training and the production and distribution of the appropriate biblical material are key issues. Pray for these things in the context of the growth of the Church in Kyrgyzstan.
* Pray especially for those Christians who are isolated in their villages (Heb 10:24-25).
Background on Kyrgyzstan (World Factbook)
A Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864; it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Nationwide demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar AKAYEV, who had run the country since 1990. In July 2009, after months of harassment against his opponents and media critics, BAKIEV won re-election in a presidential campaign that the international community deemed flawed. In April 2010, nationwide protests led to the resignation and expulsion of BAKIEV. He was replaced by President Roza OTUNBAEVA who will serve as president until 31 December 2011 according to a presidential decree issued 19 May 2010. Current concerns include: privatization of state-owned enterprises, expansion of democracy and political freedoms, reduction of corruption, improving interethnic relations, and combating terrorism.
Economy of kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a poor, mountainous country with a dominant agricultural sector. Cotton, tobacco, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products, although only tobacco and cotton are exported in any quantity. Industrial exports include gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas, and electricity. The economy depends heavily on gold exports – mainly from output at the Kumtor gold mine.
Population: 5,496,737 (July 2012 est.) World rank #111
Life Expectancy at Birth: 69.45 years. World rank #151
Ethnic groups: Kyrgyz 64.9%, Uzbek 13.8%, Russian 12.5%, Dungan 1.1%, Ukrainian 1%, Uygur 1%, other 5.7% (1999 census)
Religions: Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
Languages: Kyrgyz (official), Russian (official)
Literacy: 98.7% — Male: 99.3%, Female: 98.1%
School life expectancy: 12 years
Kyrgyzstan – Video
Sights and Sounds of Kyrgyzstan