When the Soviet Union dissolved and member nations got their independence, a number of them in central Asia ended in “stan.” They were grouped together and called the mumble-stans. Just so you know, “stan” means land. So that it would be possible to have an Icestan or an Engstan. (England actually means “land of angels.”) Anyway, there has been political unrest this week in Kyrgyzstan. Truth be told, I had no idea where this place was, who lived there or why it mattered. I did a little investigation and now you and I can be experts on Kyrgyzstan. A great place to find out about this and other countries is That’s where this information about Kyrgyzstan can be found. Who would have thought that the CIA had a website?

Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864; it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It is slightly smaller than South Dakota (and they have the letters “a,” “s” and “t” in common) and is bordered by China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It’s got weather all over the map; from polar in the mountains of Tien Shan to subtropical in the southwest. A little known fact is that Kyrgyzstan has the world’s largest natural growth walnut forest. Another little know fact is that the capital is Bishkek. The literacy among the adult population is 97% which, surprisingly (or maybe not), is the same as it is in the U.S. The people die a little earlier, about 10 years earlier, than folks in the U.S. This may be due to the fact that in this agricultural society 50% of the population falls below the poverty line. Their government is surprisingly like our own; executive, bicameral legislature and a supreme court.

Here are these people, whom we know almost nothing about living their lives in some remote place with a governmental structure similar to ours. But now you can impress your friends and neighbors with your newfound knowledge. You just have to figure out how to pronounce Kyrgyzstan.

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