Central Asia – The Land of the Krygyzstans

Although often overlooked, training in Kyrgyzstan can be very beneficial to those wishing to earn a foreign degree or diploma. This predominantly Muslim country has an impressive educational tradition. While many graduates of abroad universities choose to work in the west, there are many who opt to return home and study in this multifaceted country. The country’s diverse landscape and rich cultural heritage are well suited to students who wish to learn a foreign language.

Kyrgyzstan

After independence, the nation was briefly divided into two parts: North and South. While relations with the former Soviet Union were difficult, since independence, South Karimov has become closer. With relative peace and open political atmosphere, many people from the former country migrate to the South and vice versa. With this influx of large numbers of ethnic Russian and Kazakh men and women, the once-isolated south Kyrgyzstan is now a popular choice for studying abroad.

There are four ethnic groups in the country, including the Ingush, whom many people call “Russians” due to their cultural roots in southern Russia, the Baluch, which are Muslims but have long been settled within the country, and the Kalmyks, a Turkic ethnic group who consider themselves Russian but have been living in the area for over a thousand years. Within the ethnic group of the Ingush, there are Chechens, whose lifestyle and culture are deeply influenced by their Russian origin; Ingushmen, whom some consider to be ethnically Russian; and the Kalmyks, who were first Turkic speakers but later on adopted different Turkic language and culture. Today, there are numerous minorities throughout the country, which can be seen in the education system, government, and in the language spoken by the residents.

The diversity of the country is made even more striking by the fact that there are two officially recognized ethnic groups: the Ingush and the Kalmyk. Each group has its own language, culture, and society. The government in Kirghizstan permits free speech and cultural expression for all ethnicities, but within those communities, differences in culture and religion are permitted and are sometimes aggravated due to the existence of minority religions such as Islam and Christianity.

A brief history of the country’s ethnic structure will illustrate how the changes have occurred over time. The first evidence of inhabitants in the country came from the nomadic tribes who lived alongside the Volga River. The steppe hunters and fishermen populated the areas surrounding the rivers and along the coasts where they could cross to reach the Volga. When the irrigation system was built, people could move further west and settle in the towns of Naryn and thereafter along the steppes to the north of the Caspian Sea. The population moved further westward until it met the peoples of the Uzbekistan region who settled in the fertile lands of Bishkek and other foothills of the Karakum mountains.

Ethnic divisions were also a major factor behind the development of the nation into two different identities. The Tajik community, which are Muslim and speak an Arabic language, and the Bishkek Turkmen, who are Turkmen and speak a Turkic language, coexisted for several centuries before they came under the rule of the Uzbek Empire. After the collapse of the communist regime in 1990, the governments in both republics wanted to increase their power base by drawing from the diverse ethnic background of the country and so they attempted to divide the country into two parts, with the Tajik Muslims residing in the north and the Bishkek Turkmen in the south.

Governmental reforms in 2021 enabled the formation of a unicameral parliament, which, for the first time, allowed for a two-party system of government. The unicameral system was rejected in previous presidential elections, however, due to increasing pressure from the national minorities. The moderate wing of the opposition, which claimed to have gained support from the Muslims, boycotted the elections, triggering a crisis between the government and opposition. Two years later, following a presidential election in which one of the main candidates was a prominent Muslim, a majority of the legislature consisted of opposition members who demanded a change in the system. This, and the subsequent elections of the representatives of the other parties, prompted the majority to embrace the new constitution. A new constitution was approved and signed by the president on August 4th, which included a reference to the principle of multiparty government.

Sectionalism and discrimination against the minorities continued during the years that passed, but the overall situation has improved considerably. There are now many people of different ethnic groups living in the country, including the Russian-speaking citizens who have become a majority in some regions. The Central Asian country has adopted a tolerant attitude towards immigrants, permitting them to lead prosperous lives and participate in the country’s multi-cultural life. Although there are differences as regards religion and culture, the country is a relatively liberal one, and a highly sought-after tourist destination due to its rich flora and fauna, friendly people, and rich, diverse history.