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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Kyrgyzstan


Most of Kyrgyzstan's population consists of ethnic Kyrgyzs. This is a Turkic ethnicity that originated in the area of Central Asia and Kyrgyzstan today. The Kyrgyzs are most closely related to the other Turkic people of Central Asia, including the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Turkmen (from Turkmenistan). Due to Soviet policies the odd borders of Kyrgyzstan today exist and hence, there is a large minority of ethnic Uzbeks in the country as well as numerous Russians, most of whom immigrated under Soviet rule.


Kyrgyz and Russian are both official languages in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz is the native language of most ethnic Kyrgyzs, but few other people in the country learn the language. Kyrgyz is a Turkic language generally written in the Cyrillic script; it is closely related to the other Turkic languages and is almost identical Kazakh.

Most ethnic minorities, including the ethnic Russians, use Russian as the language of communication from one ethnic group to the next as nearly everyone in the country is fluent in Russian. Uzbek is commonly spoken among ethnic Uzbeks and other groups speak other languages, including the Turkmen and Tajiks, but in small numbers. Nearly all these people use Russian as the language of communication between linguistic groups. English and other popular international languages are only taught in small, but growing numbers and it may be difficult to find fluent English, French, or German speakers in the country.


About three quarters of Kyrgyzstan's population is Muslim, while Russian Orthodox makes up another 20% of the population. Most of the ethnic Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks are Muslim, while most of the ethnic Russians are Russian Orthodox. Due to Soviet discouragement, the people of Kyrgyzstan are not extremely religious today.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Kyrgyzstan is fairly liberal in how they practice Islam.

Orthodoxy is a Christian religion that claims to be the most loyal to the Christian faith and religion as it was described by Jesus and the Gospels in the New Testament. Christianity, including Orthodoxy, was founded after the death of Jesus in about 30-33 AD; various branches of Orthodoxy were officially recognized by governments long before Catholicism was recognized in the Roman Empire.

Orthodoxy and Catholicism have many of the same beliefs; both believe that there is a single God who created everything and a savior, the son of God, Jesus Christ who is the forgiver of sins. However, Orthodoxy is decentralized so each bishop oversees their local country or region, giving each orthodox country a different leader. In this way, no bishop has more power than any other, meaning the tenants and interpretations of the faith remain relatively unchanged. These beliefs are based on the teachings of the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, in particular the life and teachings of Jesus, which is found in the gospels (in the New Testament).

This page was last updated: May, 2014