My homeland is a big part of my identity, so I would love to tell you a few things about it.
7 interesting facts about Kyrgyzstan (and my favorite photos!)
1) It has the world's most difficult name
Many people complain that Kyrgyzstan has 10 letters with 8 consonants in a row, even though, of course, "y" in this particular word is a vowel. The meaning behind the name is actually simple. Kyrgyz sometimes spelled simpler as Kirghiz - is a name of main ethnicity and its language, and "stan" simply means "land".
Kyrgyzstan is often confused with:
a) Kazakh-stan - a bordering country that is culturally most similar to Kyrgyzstan and often called a brotherly nation in Kyrgyzstan. I feel that it is more popular largely because of the Borat movie which obviously shows virtually zero things in common with real Kazakhstan, but still keeps haunting Kazakhstan.
b) Kurdi-stan - a set of territories culturally very different, popularized by news reports about Middle East.
Sometimes after years of knowing each other and me trying to tell a lot about my culture and be a good representative of my people I notice many of my colleagues still remembering me as being from Kazakhstan which as you can imagine ignites an interesting mixture of feelings in me. :)
2) Newly open for tourists it started topping global charts
Recently Kyrgyzstan made it to Top 10 Countries to visit for 2013 by Globe Spots. It was also voted #1 in National Geographic Traveler Awards 2014 in health tourism category among readers in Russia, but competing against countries globally.
Please take a look at this video and the photos below to form your own opinion.
3) Nomadic culture at core Kyrgyzstan culture also has interesting similarities and influences from more famous nations such as Mongols, Turkish, and Russian.
4) Food is unique, and restaurants are starting to appear in different corners of the world
Newly released from Iron Curtain Kyrgyz and Central Asian cuisine is starting to gradually penetrate remote countries.
There are now restaurants in London, New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
You can try it now while it is still a huge specialty. :)
5) It is newly independent and surprisingly for the region very democratic
It became independent among with 14 other countries like Ukraine after Soviet Union dissolution in 1991. Russian is still an official language, now together with Kyrgyz.
In 2005 there was a peaceful coup d'etat which brought an even more corrupt president who was overthrown in 2010 by a revolution which managed to change the constitution to make the country almost fully parliamentary. Leader of the revolution was Roza Otunbayeva. She became the first female president in the region and received multiple international awards such as International Women of Courage Award in 2011.
In 2014 Kyrgyzstan together with South Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Bhutan made it to the top 5 states in Asia in World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Here is how it compares to other country rankings:
6) It is safer than USA or Switzerland by some metrics.
Kyrgyzstan together with 6 other countries is often overgeneralized as "Stans" even though some of these countries are very different from each other. This is one of the reasons some people try to rebrand it as Kyrgyz Republic. Some of them for now have a lot of mass media attention focused primarily on most shocking events including terrorism in countries such as in Afghanistan and Pakistan (which is a big pity - I have a lot of friends in those two beautiful countries and they are some of my most favorite people I met).
Here is how Kyrgyzstan compares to other "Stans" and some more famous countries in Global Terrorism Index 2012 compiled by Institute for Economics and Peace:
7) Even Santa moved to Kyrgyzstan
This BBC article (BBC - Santa's best location: Kyrgyzstan) explains: "Santa Claus should leave the North Pole and relocate to Kyrgyzstan to optimise the delivery of Christmas presents (...) Santa would have 34 microseconds for each chimney stop, and his reindeer would have to travel at nearly 6,000km (3,700 miles) per second.
Here is a photo proof: