Driving Directions Kyrgyzstan

KYRGYZSTAN is a central Asian republic that has been indepen­dent from the former USSR since 1991. It bounded in the southwest by Tajikistan, in the west by Uzbekistan, in the north by Kazakhstan, and in the east and southeast by China. The land consists almost entirely of high, rugged mountains of outstanding natural beauty.

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The principal ranges are the Tien Shan Mountains (meaning the “Celestial” or “Heavenly Mountains”), encompassing vast peaks and some of the most massive glaciers on Earth. In the northeast of the country is the country’s largest lake, Issyk Kul. Heated by volcanic action, this lake never freezes in winter.

The primary river system in the country is the Naryn, which is a source of hydroelectric power. The capital and largest city are Bishkek (formerly Frunze). The climate can be hot in summer, but it is freezing in winter, with considerable snowfall and frosts.

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In the north and at higher altitudes, conifers, particularly firs, are the main species of the tree while willow and alder found at lower levels. In the south and the lower, drier regions, apple, maple, walnut, and almond trees are among the trees that able to grow. Kyrgyzstan is home to a variety of wildlife, including snakes (boas), turtles, gophers, jerboas, hedgehogs, squirrels, ermine, martens, lynx, wild boar, wolves, foxes, and brown bear. Birds include geese, black cock, and vultures – some rare species considered to be unique to the region. Rivers and lakes support some 75 different species of fish.

Agriculture is the second most important economic activity and employs a large number of people. While only about 4 percent of Kyrgyzstan is suitable for cultivation, there is another land used for grazing, and livestock rearing is the central aspect of farming. Animals include yaks, sheep, goats, and horses with cereals, sugar beet, cotton, and hay being grown on some farms. Fruit and nuts harvested from orchards in the south. Soil erosion and degradation have occurred in some areas, but measures taken to try and halt this process. Fish caught for local consumption from rivers and lakes.

Forests covered about 4 percent of the land area of Kyrgyzstan and harvested for local use. There has been some reforestation, but damage to trees, particularly from inappropriate felling and grazing cattle, remains a problem.

Kyrgyzstan has valuable resources of oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, and other mineral ores and mining is the principal contributor to the economy. Oil and gas have not, as yet, developed, and the country is dependent upon imports of fuel. Hydroelectric power supplies most of the country’s electricity.

Parts of Kyrgyzstan threatened by environmental pollution caused by the storage of toxic waste and radioactive material, which are the by-products of mining, previous nuclear tests, and the overuse of chemicals, especially fertilizers. The government is making efforts to address the problem of pollution and damage to the land caused by excessive grazing and tree-felling.

Tourism is at a low level at present with very few Western visitors. The government is actively encouraging foreign visitors, and it expected that climbers might be attracted to the country in the future to scale its mountains.

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