When you are planning a tour to Kyrgyzstan, here you can find and learn a brief history of our country. The history of the Kyrgyz people and Kyrgyzstan is inexhaustible rich and interesting. At the same time, it should be remembered that the history of the nomads is difficult to track. Ancient Kyrgyz rarely used scripts to record events and changes in their lives. Also, nomads did not build large cities, towns or castles. For nomads, it was vital not to disturb the natural landscape by erecting large monuments or buildings. Thanks to these facts, a significant part of their history was received orally.
Kyrgyz people have 2,000 years of history. The ethnonym "Kyrgyz" was first mentioned in 201 BC.
Many historians distinguish eight major time periods in the history of Kyrgyzstan:
Prehistory (1 million years ago - 1 000 BC)
The appearance of people on the territory of Kyrgyzstan during this period marked the development of culture and art. One of the best examples of this is the Rock Art Gallery in Cholpon-Ata. During the Bronze Age, this place served as a spiritual center and was visited by ancient people during seasonal holidays. About 2000 images and rock carvings are carved on stones and rocks. Petroglyphs reflect various animals, such as goats, bulls, horses, deer, camels, dogs, and others, as well as humans and anthropomorphic creatures. There are also compositions of hunting, plowing, ritual dances, animals with carts, labyrinths, erotic and other scenes. They depict the daily life of ancient people. During your tour of Kyrgyzstan, you will see petroglyphs in the high cliffs and tourist sites such as the Burana Tower.
Ancient History (1 000 BC - 300 AD)
The first record of the name "Kyrgyz" dates back to 201 BC. Chinese historian Sima Tan in the chronicle "Historical notes" mentioned Kyrgyz people among the five peoples, conquered by the Hunnus. The next record of the Kyrgyz dated back to the 1st century BC and was found in another Chinese chronicle Han-shu (History of Han) written by historian Ban Gu. Moreover, the source gave a description of the location of the Kyrgyz state. Modern calculations made based on the Chinese document pointed to the area of Eastern Turkestan. That is, the ancient Kyrgyz state in the 1st century BC was located somewhere to the east from the territory of present Kyrgyzstan.
Turkic Era (500-1200)
The period of the early Middle Ages from the 6th to the 13th centuries can also be called the Turkic era in the history of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia, since it was marked by the migration of Turkic-speaking tribes from the Altai Mountains to the Central Asian region and the creation of the first Turkic dynasties and states there. During the first six centuries of our era there is no information about the Kyrgyz in Chinese sources, so their fate in this period is unknown. In the 7th century, the Kyrgyz founded the Kyrgyz Kaganate on the middle reaches of the Yenisei River in Southern Siberia. At this time, the state ruled Barsbek ajo-king. For 9-10 centuries, the Yenisei Kyrgyz built an empire that stretched from the Irtysh River in the west to the Great Khingan Range in the east, from the Angara and Selenga rivers in the north to the Gobi Desert in the south. The Russian and Soviet historian Barthold coined the term Great Kyrgyz Empire for this period.
The Mongol Rule (1200-1400)
The 13 th century marked one of the most tragic pages in the history of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. It was the destructive Mongol invasion. The Mongol army created by Genghis Khan conquered the territory of Central Asia and destroyed the developed Turkic culture. In 1207, the Yenisei Kyrgyz submitted themselves to Genghiz Khan. The rule of Chenghiz Khan and his descendants long for several hundred years. Since Chenghiz Khan Era people in Central Asia started nomadize in order to survive from invasion. Kyrgyz saved their nomadic traditions till nowadays and you can meet nomads and learn their culture during your tour in Kyrgyzstan.
Probably sometime between the 12th and 15th centuries the Kyrgyz people began to convert to Islam, the religion of numerous Persian, Arab, and Turkic traders and warriors who traveled along the Silk Road. Nonetheless, conversion of the Kyrgyzs to Islam was a long process and took several centuries, as even in the 19th century some travelers reported shamanistic traditions among the Kyrgyz.
Kyrgyz consolidation (1400-1800)
From 15th century Kyrgyz people moved from South Siberia to the territory of present Kyrgyzstan. However, the period of the 15-19 th centuries is characterized by the absence of Kyrgyz statehood. Kyrgyz leaders were fighting to unite Kyrgyz tribes and create the Kyrgyz state. However, these struggles were not successful. Instead of state, Kyrgyzs created ethno-political system of two wings and center, which are consisted of many tribes. Each tribe was independent like the ancient Greek city-states. Tribal system was maintained for four centuries.
Russian Colonization (1770-1917)
The annexation of Kyrgyzstan by Russia was preceded by a period of embassies of Kyrgyz sent by northern Kyrgyz leaders to join Russia and to be protected from both external and internal threats. Enhanced inter-tribal hostile actions between the Kyrgyz themselves, as well as external threats emanating from China, Kokand and the Kazakhs, became factors that forced northern Kyrgyz tribes to seek the protection of Russia. While northern Kyrgyz voluntarily joined Russia, southern Kyrgyzstan was seized by force as a result of the colonization policies and military campaigns of the Russian Empire. A new administrative-territorial system was created in the newly annexed territories of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. Since that time, there was a transition of nomadic lifestyle to sedentary and agriculture.
Soviet Rule (1917-1991)
When Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, a new page opened in the history of Kyrgyzstan. The idea of building a socialist society where no exploitation and people were equal was supported by the peoples of Central Asia. The Soviet period appeared to be the most fruitful for the political, economic and cultural development of Kyrgyzstan. The elimination of illiteracy and the creation of the system of elementary, secondary and higher education, the development of professional literature, theatre, painting, cinema, science and the establishment of a large-scale heavy metal processing industry and machinery were unprecedented in the history of the region. Moreover, the creation of Kyrgyz statehood in the form of an autonomous region and then an autonomous republic and a union republic became possible only thanks to the policy of Bolsheviks. However, Atheization, Collectivization and Cultural Revolution led to mass killings of many innocent people.
Independent Kyrgyzstan (since 1991)
The collapse of the Soviet Union marked a new period - the period of independent Kyrgyzstan. Attributes of the nation state, such as the national flag, coat of arms and anthem, were adopted. In 1993, the Parliament adopted the first Constitution of Kyrgyzstan. On March 2, 1992, Kyrgyzstan became a member of the UN. However, soon the euphoria of the first years of independence passed. The standard of living has declined, and massive unemployment has emerged. The newly created independent republic faced a deep political, economic and social crisis. Kyrgyzstan was no longer called the "island of democracy", but the "island of instability" in Central Asia. The revolutions of 2005 and 2010 led to the overthrow of two presidents. The recent development in Kyrgyzstan was characterized by political stabilization, socio-economic development, cultural uplift. As a result of the 2010 referendum, the state moved from presidential to parliamentary system. In 2017, for the first time in Central Asia, a peaceful transition of power from the president to another took place.
If you want to learn more about history of Kyrgyzstan and history of Silk Road you can book one of our cultural tours. We are always ready to meet all your wishes and claims.