Capital : Bishkek (Frunze)
Size: 76 600 sq m Popn: 4 472 000
The present inhabitants are mainly Turkic-speaking nomads, descendents of the Mongols who took control of much of Asia in the C13th. The Kirghiz region was annexed by Russia in 1864. It was part of an independent Turkestan republic in 1917-24 but then became an autonomous republic within the Soviet Union and a constituent Soviet republic in 1936.
When the USSR held its constitutional referendum in March 1991, the conservative republic voted overwhelmingly to maintain the Union. The Communist Party supported the coup attempt against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in August but Askar Akayev, president since November 1990, condemned it for being unconstitutional. He left the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and ordered the suspension of the Kirghizian CP and the nationalization of its property. In 1991, he was unchallenged in the republic's first popular election and continued as President. In December 1991, Kirghizstan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States which replaced the USSR and in the same month, was given diplomatic recognition by the USA. It joined the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in January 1992 and the UN in March 1992.
Some Kirghiz/Kyrgyz surnames are actually patronymics and are preceded by 'uulu' or 'oghlu' meaning 'son of'. Others use the Russian -ov ending.