Saturday, March 26, 2005

Kyrgyzstan: Where is it?

In recent weeks we've been overwhelmed with news about a civil uprising and the toppling of the government in Kyrgyzstan. (Journalists had it easier with the country's former name, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic, but I assume its inhabitants are happier having been unleashed in 1991 from the Kremlin's rule.)
Most Americans probably never heard of the country, nor could they find it on a map. As a lifelong geographic buff, my own familiarity with the country has been based largely on old TV travelogues showing nomadic, Mongol-looking horsemen galloping across the Central Asian plains against the backdrop of huge mountain ranges. But my image of the Kyrgyz people has been sharply altered by the latest TV and newspaper photos showing urbanized people in Western garb conducting a political rebellion.
The Kyrgyz people have a special place in history as descendants of one of the marauding hordes of Mongol tribes against whom China built its famous Wall for protection some thousand years ago. The nomadic Kyrgyz later migrated to the southwest. In the 1860s and 1870s, their nation, now about the size of South Dakota, was annexed by Czarist Russia along with the lands of such other Central Asians as the Tajiks, Kazakhs, Turkomen, and Uzbeks.
Like these other Turkic-speaking peoples, most Kyrgyz are Muslim. Many living in the nation's northern region, however, still practice totemism, a form of animism, tracing back to their Mongol roots.
The Kyrgyz did not have a written language until 1923 when they adopted the Arabic alphabet. They quickly shifted to Latin script and then finally, under Soviet Russian pressure, adopted the Cyrillic alphabet. The Russian influence undoubtedly explains why most Kyrgyz--like their fellow Turkic-speaking Central Asians--have names with Slavic suffixes.
The country's frequent alphabetical switches may account for its high rate of illiteracy. Curiously, however, its recently ousted president had been a prominent physicist in the former Soviet Union.
Much of the Kyrgyz population of about 5 million is comprised of nomadic herdsmen. The result has been prolonged conflict with the country's minority Uzbeks, who tend to be farmers. There is apparently less ethnic tension with another minority group, the Russians, who make up at least 10% of the population. Russian is considered a second official language.
Today Kyrgyzstan has the distinction of being the only country in the world that houses military bases of both the United States and Russia.

7 Comments:

Blogger Ivan said...

31 March 05
Dear Octo, greetings from Canada:

Ah,how I would like to exchange a few paragraphs or pages with you. We do have something in common:

1)I have just turned 78 and am slouching toward the octo club.
2)My first blog was set up in February.
3)Concerned about the situation in the Middle East.
4)Could tell you about peculiar experiences during WWII.(Not as a a soldier but as a teenager in Central Europe.)

You will find my abbreviated profile at: www.markophone13.blogspot.com/

I hope you will post a reply (comment on my comment) on your or my blog and, if positive, let me know whether we should continue via blog or e-mail.

Regards,
Ivan

Thursday, March 31, 2005 5:12:00 PM  
Anonymous CARAGS said...

Mortart, I'm enjoying your writing, and am amazed at some of the interesting side bits of background facts. Although I'm close to your age, I feel I'm listening to my father again, telling me about world events. Thanks, I will be a regular reader, I think. R. GAbel

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 12:07:00 AM  
Anonymous John Couper said...

Mortart:
I enjoyed your comments on Kyrgyzstan, where I've lived and worked the past two years. I find it a very enjoyable new home and would like to stay there, though it's hard to earn enough money to pay for flights to see my family. Many of your points contradict what I've heard, for example that animism (which is pervasive) is much older than the Mongol influence, and comes largely from the original Siberian shamanist tradition of the first, blond Kyrgyz... probably. However, there are some religious activities that are amazingly close to those of US Native Americans, which suggest to ignorant me an east Asian origin.

Anyway, keep the brain ticking over and I'll try, too. Hope you can make it to quiet, congenial Kyrgyzstan.

Jhon Couper

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 4:35:00 PM  
Anonymous ALEX KAPLAN said...

HI MORTON,
I,TOO,WAS IN THE CBI. I MADE 80 ROUND TRIPS OVER THE'HUMP' AS A RADIO OPERATOR. IN
LATE AUGUST OF 1945, I WAS RELOCATED TO DUM DUM. I HAD LEARNED THAT A FRIEND OF MINE WAS STAIONED NEAR ONDAL. HE WAS ACTUALY AT PANAGARH WHERE HE WORKED ON CLASSIFIED ELECTRONICS USED IN
THE P61 BLACK WIDOW FIGHTER.
I GREW UP IN BROOKLYN BUT WAS A NY GIANT FAN. WE WERE ALL HANK GREENBERG FANS. THE GAS HOUSE GANG(DIZZY AND PAUL DEAN) BEAT THE TIGERS IN 1934. IN 1935 THE BEAT THE CHICAGO CUBS.

OUR ACTIONS IN IRAQ
HAS ACCOMPLISHED WHAT IRAN COULDN'T DO IN THERE LONG WAR.

ALEX KAPLAN
E-MAIL ALEXKAP78@AOL.COM

SHOLOM

Monday, November 13, 2006 1:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Hydrocodone said...

86Od5C The best blog you have!

Friday, November 02, 2007 12:36:00 AM  
Anonymous JohnBraun said...

pggxT6 write more, thanks.

Sunday, November 04, 2007 5:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know how I can contact John Couper now (fall 2008)?
mrbeachboard@yahoo.com

Sunday, September 14, 2008 7:37:00 PM  

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