Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Kyrgyzstan. Other than the fact that it's a hard name to spell, not many people would have heard of this country, unlike Kazakhstan, it's better-known neighbor to the north. Most Americans who know about this country will likely know it from Manas AFB, which is where most troops wind up in temporarily when flying to and from Afghanistan. So what about this little country we're adopting from? Over the next few weeks we (mostly Tom) will put up little tidbits of information where our kid's from.
Kyrgyzstan is located south of Kazakhstan, west of China, north of Tajikistan, and east of Uzbekistan (whose air force has some pretty neat paint schemes). It's a tiny country, slightly larger than California, with a population of about 5.8 million. The country is fairly mountainous, with large tracts of flat land here and there suitable for agriculture, one of their most important economic sectors. It doesn't have much easily extracted mineral resources such as oil or natural gas, but has plenty of gold, coal, antimony, uranium, and rare earth metals. While that stuff is good money, it's hard to extract which makes it tricky to get enough at a time for much-needed funds. There is a lot of water and mountains though, which the country has been able to take advantage of in the form of hydroelectric power.
This little country has had it rough for a couple of years. Back in the old Soviet days, 98% of its exports went to countries in the Soviet Union. When communism collapsed, that mostly artificially supported economy tanked out, and with very easily exploitable resources, it fared really badly among the former Soviet republics (only doing marginally better than the countries that weren't already embroiled in civil wars at the time).
As of now, the poverty rate is about 37% (2011), with about half its population working in agriculture, which is 36% of its GDP. Wool, meat and dairy products are its major commodities. Main crops include wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, fruits and vegetables. Since agricultural chemicals and petroleum are expensive, most of the farming is done the old-fashioned way, by hand and horses.
Economy-wise, the local economy is primarily small businesses in the form of bazaars and markets in villages and towns scattered around the country. Everyday consumer items are quite scarce, and most villages are self-sufficient. Come to think of it, an Amish family probably would do pretty decently here.
What Kyrgyzstan is extremely rich in, is its wonderful culture and beautiful country. With such a low population density (71/sq mi), the land is also vast and undeveloped. The ethnic Kyrgz are an ancient people, and being part a stopover on the Silk Road, have bits and pieces of Chinese, Mongolian, European, and Arabic culture woven into their history. Over the years Russians have joined the mix, and today you can find Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims living peacefully together.
Anyway that's it for now. Tom just threw all this stuff together over a sandwich so it's informative but probably not cohesive. All of this will tie together over the next few updates. In the meantime enjoy this picturesque scene of the Tien Shan mountains, bordering Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China.