ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN KYRGYZSTAN
The Kyrgyz Republic
National name: Kyrgyz Respublikasy
Total area: 73,861 sq mi (191,300 sq km)
Population (2008 est.): 5,356,869
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Bishkek
(formerly Frunze), 824,900
Other large city: Osh 225,600
Monetary unit: Som
Languages: Kyrgyz, Russian (both official)
Ethnicity/race: Kyrgyz 64.9%, Uzbek 13.8%, Russian
12.5%, Dungan 1.1%, Ukrainian 1%, Uygur 1%, other 5.7% (1999)
Religions: Islam 75%; Russian Orthodox 20%; other 5%
National Holiday: Independence Day, August 31
Literacy rate: 98.7% (1999 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $10.5
billion; per capita $2,000. Real growth rate: 8.2%. Inflation:
Kyrgyzstan (formerly Kirghizia) is a rugged country
with the Tien Shan mountain range covering approximately 95% of the whole
territory. The mountaintops are perennially covered with snow and glaciers.
Kyrgyzstan borders Kazakhstan on the north and northwest, Uzbekistan in the
southwest, Tajikistan in the south, and China in the southeast. The republic is
the same size in area as the state of Nebraska.
The native Kyrgyz are a Turkic people who in ancient
times first settled in the Tien Shan mountains. They were traditionally pastoral
nomads. There was extensive Russian colonization in the 1900s and Russian
settlers were given much of the best agricultural land. This led to an
unsuccessful and disastrous revolt by the Kyrgyz people in 1916. Kyrgyzstan
became part of the Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in 1924 and was made an
autonomous republic in 1926. It became a constituent republic of the USSR in
1936. The Soviets forced the Kyrgyz to abandon their nomadic culture and brought
modern farming and industrial production techniques into their society.
Kyrgyzstan proclaimed its independence from the
Soviet Union on Aug. 31, 1991. On Dec. 21, 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined the
Commonwealth of Independent States.
Islamic History and Muslims
The vast majority of today's Kyrgyz are
Muslims of the Sunni branch, which came into the region during the 8th century.
Some Kyrgyz Muslims practice their religion in a specific way influenced by
tribal customs. The practice of Islam also differs in the northern and southern
regions of the country, with the south being more practicing. Kyrgyzstan
remained a secular state after the fall of communism, which had only superficial
influence on religious practice when Kyrgyzstan was a Soviet republic, because
of the policy of state atheism. Most of the Russian population of Kyrgyzstan is
atheist or Russian Orthodox. The Uzbeks, who make up 12.9 percent of the
population, are generally Sunni Muslims.
Islam was introduced to the Kyrgyz tribes between the eight and twelfth
centuries. The most intense exposure to Islam occurred in the seventeenth
century, when the Jungars drove the Kyrgyz of the Tian Shan region into the
Fergana Valley, whose population was totally Islamic. However, as the danger
from the Jungars subsided, elements of the Kyrgyz population returned to some of
their tribal customs. When the Quqon Khanate advanced into northern Kyrgyzistan
in the eighteenth century, various northern Kyrgyz tribes remained aloof from
the official Islamic practices of that regime. By the end of the nineteenth
century, however, the entire Kyrgyz population, including the tribes in the
north, had converted to Sunni Islam.
Alongside Islam, some Kyrgyz practice Tengriism, the recognition of spiritual
kinship with a particular type of animal. Under this belief system, which
predates their contact with Islam, Kyrgyz tribes adopted reindeer, camels,
snakes, owls, and bears as objects of worship. The sun, moon, and stars also
play an important religious role. The strong dependence of the nomads on the
forces of nature reinforced such connections and fostered belief in shamanism.
Traces of such beliefs remain in the religious practice of many of today's
Kyrgyz residing in the north.
Knowledge of and interest in Islam is said to be much stronger in the south,
especially around Osh, than further north. Religious practice in the north is
more mixed with animism and shamanist practices, giving worship there a
resemblance to Siberian religious practice.
Muslim cemetery in Kosh Köl, Issyk Kul ProvinceWhile Religion has not played an
especially significant role in the politics of Kyrgyzstan, more traditional
elements of Islamic values have been urged despite the nation's constitution
stipulating to secularism. Although the constitution forbids the intrusion of
any ideology or religion in the conduct of state business, a growing amount of
public figures have expressed support to promote Islamic traditions. As in other
parts of Central Asia, non-Central Asians have been concerned about the
potential of a fundamentalist Islamic revolution that would emulate Iran and
Afghanistan by bringing Islam directly into the making of state policy, to the
detriment of the non-Islamic population. Because of sensitivity about the
economic consequences of a continued outflow of Russians (brain drain), then
president Askar Akayev took particular pains to reassure the non-Kyrgyz that no
Islamic revolution was threatening. Akayev paid public visits to Bishkek's main
Russian Orthodox church and directed one million rubles from the state treasury
toward that faith's church-building fund. He also appropriated funds and other
support for a German cultural center. Nevertheless, there has been support from
local government, to build bigger Mosques and religious schools. Additionally,
recent bills have been proposed to outlaw abortion. Also, there has been
numerous attempts to decriminalize polygamy, and to allow officials to travel to
Mecca on a hajj under a tax-free agreement.
A new village mosque in Milyanfan, Chui ProvinceDuring a July 2007 interview,
Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of former president Askar Akayev, stated that Islam
is increasingly taking root in Kyrgyzstan. She emphasized that many mosques have
been built and that the Kyrgyz are increasingly devoting themselves to the
religion, which she noted was "not a bad thing in itself. It keeps our society
more moral, cleaner."
The state recognizes two Muslim feast days as official holidays: Eid ul-Fitr
(Öröz Ayt), which ends Ramadan, and Eid ul-Adha (Kurban Ayt), which commemorates
Ibrahim's (Abraham's) willingness to sacrifice his son. It also recognizes
Orthodox Christmas as well as the traditional Persian festival of Nowruz.
A new village mosque
in Milyanfan, Chui Province
Dungan Mosque, Karakol
Mosque at Naryn, Kyrgyzstan
Mosque, Bishkek, Chuy
ATANAZAR-KORI, Eski-Nookat, Osh
OSH, Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Sirajiddinjami masjid, Yangi-Naukat, Religo origaniz
Phone: 996-3230 33330
market ), Bishkek
Suhuk Mosque, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur
market ), Bishkek
Sirajiddinjami masjid, Yangi-Naukat
Suhuk Mosque, Kashgar
Muslim Owned Business
Islam in Kyrgyzstan (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Kyrgyzstan , September, 2008).
Info please (
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107698.html , September, 2008).
Islam Finder (
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Kyrgyzstan,