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A map of KyrgyzstanA map of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan once lay astride the Silk Road, an ancient trading route between China and the Middle East. Nearly all of its land is made up of high mountains, the Tien Shan range, cut through by valleys, such as that of the River Naryn. In the northeast is Issyk Kul, the tenth largest lake in the world. The lowland area around the capital, Bishkek, contains nearly all its farmland. Most of Kyrgyzstan has a cold temperate climate with harsh winters and cool summers. The southwest is warmer all year round.

A map of KyrgyzstanA map of Kyrgyzstan
Tokoch bread for sale at a marketTokoch bread for sale at a market


Most of the country’s people are ethnic Kyrgyz and follow Islam. For nearly two centuries, Kyrgyzstan was ruled by Russia and the Soviet Union. Today, Russian is still one of the country’s most widely-spoken languages. The main language is Kyrgyz, a Turkic language closely related to Kazakh.

The name of Kyrgyzstan’s biggest lake, Issyk Kul, means “hot lake” in Kyrgyz. Although it is surrounded by permanently snow-capped mountains, it never freezes over. The salty lake is fed by hot springs and snow melt from the mountains.

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