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  • Kyrgyzstan!

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History of Kyrgyzstan

People have been living in the region that is today known as Kyrgyzstan for hundreds of thousands of years. In these early years numerous people came and left the region until the Kyrgyz people arrived, moving south from what is today Siberia. Slowly over time these people migrated south to what is today Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

In 552 AD the first Turkic state in Central Asia was created, called the Gokturks, this group ruled over most of the Kyrgyz people at the time. This group ruled the region until the 700s when the Uighurs took the region and ruled for the next century.

The Kyrgyzs solidified power in the region in 840 AD when they defeated the Turkish Uighurs, however this power slowly declined and was nearly completely lost with the arrival of the Mongols in the early 1200s. It is likely that the Kyrgyzs converted to Islam during their rule in the 900s and moved in the direction of Persia politically and culturally.

The Mongols pushed the Kyrgyzs further south into what is today Kyrgyzstan, destroying much of their culture and freedoms. However their land also found itself on the Silk Trade Route and this was greatly beneficial to the people as it became an intercontinental super highway which moved people from all places and vast amounts of money through the country.

Among the Mongol leaders, the strongest in the Central Asian region was Timur and his descendants, who came to power in the mid- to late-1300s and ruled until the 1500s. These people ruled the region with few challenges and fully developed the Silk Trade Route as well as major cities along the path, most of which are in modern day Uzbekistan.

In 1510 the Mongols fell from power over the Kyrgyzs, giving them independence. However in the late 1600s the people were taken over by the Kalmyks, a century later by the Manchus, and one century later by the Uzbeks in the early 1800s.

Like many of its neighbors, Kyrgyzstan was taken over by the Russians in 1876, a move that the Kyrgyz people violently rejected. Due to no true power to fight the Russians, many people fled south to what is today Tajikistan or Afghanistan. The Kyrgyzs fought Russian rule until the fall of the Russian tsar in 1917. The most violent of these rebellions took place in 1916 when the Russians demanded that the Kyrgyzs could be drafted to fight in the Russian military; this caused more fighting and many Kyrgyzs to flee to China.

Despite the fall of Russia, Kyrgyzstan soon fell under the control of the newly formed Soviet Union and was named a Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936. However, prior to this point the people and their culture was all but destroyed by the Soviets, particularly under Josef Stalin's rule, which began in 1929. However, the Kyrgyzs didn't undergo such vast changes as many of their neighbors since the Kyrgyzs were partially settled and had little farm land or natural resources to exploit. The worst changes came to the nomadic and rural Kyrgyzs who were forced to settle and urbanize.

In the late 1980s as the Soviet Union began to crumble, Absamat Masaliyev was put in power over the region and began the transition to an independent state in 1991. However, he faced numerous obstacles in that when freedom seemed secured violence erupted between the Kyrgyzs and the Uzbeks, a significant minority group in the region, then he lost an election to Askar Akayev as the Kyrgyz people strongly and defiantly stated that they wanted to move away from their Soviet past.

Akayev had more difficulties ahead though as the economy would struggle to sustain itself without foreign support. This led to a reverse on the early statement of independence when the people overwhelmingly decided to maintain a federation with Russia in 1991. Once all federation attempts had failed though, the people again reversed their position and were one of the first to declare independence from the Soviet Union.

Since independence, the Kyrgyzs have struggled to re-define their national identity while political and economic changes have been slow and inconsistent. The government has been wrought in accusations of corruption, which came to a head in 2005 when Akayev was driven from office and exiled to Moscow.

This page was last updated: July, 2012