History of Kyrgyzstan
The ancestors of Kyrgyzstan consist of nomadic tribes from Mongolia and the original mountain population of the Tian Shan chain. It is said that there were 40 population groups before today’s Kyrgyz population, which is symbolized in the country’s flag. On this is a sun with 40 rays.
The many mountains of Kyrgyzstan have kept many conquerors and other disturbing elements away from the land. On the other hand, the Silk Road has had an important historical significance for the history of Kyrgyzstan. The road ran like a branched road network from China through Kyrgyzstan to the great Middle Eastern and European cultures. The Kyrgyz cities were not as rich as other cities along the route, but the country gained many new impetus. Foreign peoples, languages and religions made their way together with the camel caravans of the Silk Road through the Kyrgyz mountains. When the sea route to India was discovered, the Silk Road lost importance, but the wild mountain areas still look the same. Today, the same routes through the mountains are used as in the time of the Silk Road, with the only difference that the camels have been replaced by cars.
Just a few hundred years ago, the Kyrgyz began to feel united. This happened when Islamic Khanat Kokand began to spread over most of the country from the ancient Silk Road city of Osh. In 1876, Russia conquered present-day Kyrgyzstan, with a nationalist sentiment and intense resistance to all that was Russian as a result. And resistance increased further as the Russians began to cultivate on the nomadic grasslands. When the Soviet Union, and later a Kyrgyz state under it, emerged, the general perception was that it was now free from the Russians. Although the country was outwardly independent, Russian dominance grew during the Soviet era. The Kyrgyz were eventually relegated to the countryside and the Kyrgyz cities were populated almost exclusively by the Russians, who viewed the Kyrgyz as foreigners in their own republic. A national movement began to emerge and in 1990 the country’s first president, Askar Akayev, was elected. Akayev’s government overthrew the communist regime and the following year Kyrgyzstan was finally able to call itself an independent country. This has meant regained freedom but unfortunately also much poorer economic growth and standard of living for the Kyrgyz people.
At the beginning of his reign, Akayev received international recognition for his democratic stance and desire for political liberalization. But good things do not last forever, and it would not be long before Akayev was associated with corruption and an authoritarian style of leadership. Kyrgyzstan has experienced several protests, both under Akayev and his successor Bakiyev, who came to power after the 2005 Tulip Revolution. He resigned in 2010.
Currency and credit cards
In Kyrgyzstan, the currency (KGS) is used: 1 which (S) is divided into 100 tyyyn (t). The banknotes are available in 1-, 5-, 10-, 20-, 50-, 100-, 200-, 500-, 1,000- and 5,000-banknotes. Coins are available in 1, 10 and 50 tyyyn. The course follows the Russian ruble and is constantly changing.
The easiest way is to switch to Kyrgyz currency in Kyrgyzstan. This can be done at local exchange offices in Bishkek and Karakol. It is not possible to exchange Swedish currency, so bring cash in euros (preferably banknotes of 50 and 100 euros) or US dollars (banknotes of 20 and 50 USD). Try to bring as new and intact banknotes as possible. It can be difficult to exchange old, crumpled banknotes in Kyrgyzstan.
Credit cards such as Diners, Mastercard, Visa and the like can only be used in a few places and we strongly recommend that you bring cash in euros or US dollars. It is also not possible to use traveler’s checks.
Customs and traditions
The Kyrgyz are incredibly kind and hospitable and are happy to be photographed. Just remember to ask permission before you take a picture. You should preferably not photograph police and military. Nor police and military posts. Visit printerhall for Kyrgyzstan Tour Plan.
The Kyrgyz are Muslims but not particularly religious, and you can safely wear the same clothes as at home. An exception is visits to mosques and Russian Orthodox churches where short shorts and sleeveless blouses are not seen with the naked eye.
As in most other countries, there are street children and beggars in Kyrgyzstan. If you want to help street children, you do this best by donating money to a charity that leads projects for the benefit of street children. Just keep in mind that not all children who come to you do not beg, many of them just want to practice their English. Even some older people are happy to reach out. Many Kyrgyz give them a few coins (equivalent to about SEK 1) and you can follow their example if you want.