6.692 million inhabitants (2021)

Languages Spoken

The official languages of Kyrgyzstan are Russian and Kyrgyz, a Turkic language closely related to Uzbek, Kazakh and Turkish. English is widely spoken by those in the tourism industry, but not throughout the country. There are a large number of people from Uzbekistan that live in southern Kyrgyzstan, meaning that Uzbek is also spoken in this region.


Between 60 and 70% of inhabitants are ethnically Kyrgyz, a Turkic ethnic group native to Central Asia. Russians and Uzbeks make up the largest minorities, while smaller minorities include Ukrainians, Germans, Dungans, Kazaks, Tajiks, Uighours, Koreans and Chinese.


Islam is the main religion in Kyrgyzstan. Both ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks are primarily Muslim. Ethnic Russians are largely Russian Orthodox or one of several Protestant denominations.

National Holiday

Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day is celebrated on August 31st, which marks the date when Kyrgyzstan declared itself an independent republic and left the USSR in 1991.

Holiday Calendar

January 1: New Year's Day

January 7: Eastern Orthodox Christmas

February 23: Defender of The Fatherland Day

March 8: International Women's Day

March 21: Nowruz (Persian New Year)

April 7: Day of the People's April Revolution

April 21: Orozo Ait (Eid al-Fitr)

May 1: Labour Day

May 5: Constitution Day

May 9: Victory Day

June 28: Kurman Ait (Eid al-Adha)

August 31: Independence Day

November 7–8: Days of History and Commemoration of Ancestors


Kyrgyz history can be traced as far back as the 1st century BCE. Stone implements found in the Tian Shan mountains indicate the presence of early humans in what is now Kyrgyzstan. The first written records of civilization in the area occupied by Kyrgyzstan appear in Chinese chronicles beginning about 2000 BC, with the likely settlements of the early Kyrgyz in the upper Yenisey River valley of central Siberia. Although geographically remote thanks to its mountainous location, it played an important role in the historical Silk Road trade route, and in the 13th century Kyrgyzstan was conquered by the Mongols. It regained independence but was subsequently invaded by the Kalmyks, Manchus and Uzbeks. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, most of the remaining Kyrgyz tribes lived in the Tien Shan range as mountain nomads, divided into two wings (left and right). From 1835 to 1858, two Tien Shan Kyrgyz tribes - the Sarybagysh and the Bugu - fought a war in which each side obtained either Kokandian or Russian help. In 1855, the Bugu voluntarily submitted to the Russians and in 1876, it became part of the Russian Empire. The country remained in the USSR as the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic after the Russian Revolution. This resulted in large influxes of Russian immigrants, who seized the winter pasturelands of the Kyrgyz, forcing them into the mountains. In 1916, Kyrgyz discontent led to a serious revolt, which was met with strong repression from Russia that continued even after the fall of Russia’s tsarist regime.

Under Soviet rule the Kyrgyz found it difficult to assert themselves as a separate national entity and in the second half of the 20th century, economic progress and modernisation did not aid in easing tensions between Russians and Kyrgyz. After more than 1,000 years of disunity and foreign control, Kyrgyzstan declared independence from Russia on 31st August 1991 and a democratic government was established. Kyrgyzstan emerged from the breakup of the Soviet Union with the makings of a multiparty democratic political system already in place. The President of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev, was elected democratically (although he ran unopposed), however the new republic is by no means free of problems. Economic difficulties persist, as well as tense relations between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, with many minorities having emigrated from the country.


The politics of Kyrgyzstan is organised under a framework of a presidential system representative democratic republic, whereby the President is head of state and the Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers is head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. 


Kyrgyz people are generally warm and inviting towards visitors. If attending a traditional Kyrgyz dinner, guests should take a small gift (fruit or sweets) and remove their shoes at the door. Eating and drinking are considered important parts of the culture, with food often served in abundance and toasts made frequently (usually with vodka). Bribes are an unfortunate custom in Kyrgyzstan. Police have been known to stop travellers to check their passport and request a small payoff, while taxi drivers can try to charge visitors more. Kyrgyz society is relatively conservative and dressing reasonably modestly is recommended.


Shopping in Kyrgyzstan is a great way of experiencing the local culture and collecting some authentic souvenirs to commemorate your travels. In Bishkek, Osh and Alamedin, bazaars are popular for purchasing both food and handicrafts. One of the most traditional souvenirs to collect is an embroidered shyrdak (Kyrgyz felt rugs used in yurts), while embroidered kalpaks (felt hats) and chess sets with traditional figures are also popular purchases.

Food & Drink

Traditional Kyrgyz food revolves around mutton, beef, horse meat and various dairy products. It may not be famed for its mouth-watering flavours but it’s certainly authentic and filling. Some commonly found dishes include beshbarmak (cooked meat served on top of pasta, with a meat broth poured over the top), samsa (mutton, onions and potatoes in flaky pastry) and manti (dumplings made from beef, lamb, cabbage, pumpkin or potato). Maksym (a sour drink made from barley, wheat, millet and corn) is the national drink of Kyrgyzstan, while fermented milk drinks are also popular, such as kymyz (mildly alcoholic mare’s milk) and ayran. Beer, vodka and local brandy are also widely available.

Contact one of our Kyrgyzstan specialists