Kyrgyzstan (Кыргызстан Kırğızstan ; Киргизия or Кыргызстан ), officially the Kyrgyz Republic (Кыргыз Республикасы; ), and also known as Kirghizia, is a country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country with mountainous terrain. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and southwest, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan's recorded history spans over 2,000 years, encompassing a variety of cultures and empires. Although geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain, which has helped preserve its ancient culture, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road and other commercial and cultural routes. Though long inhabited by a succession of independent tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under foreign domination and attained sovereignty as a nation-state only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Since independence, the sovereign state has officially been a unitary parliamentary republic, although it continues to endure ethnic conflicts, revolts, economic troubles, transitional governments and political conflict. Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Turkic Council, the Türksoy community and the United Nations.
Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country's 6 million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. Kyrgyz is closely related to other Turkic languages, although Russian remains widely spoken and is an official language, a legacy of a century of Russification. The majority of the population are non-denominational Muslims. In addition to its Turkic origins, Kyrgyz culture bears elements of Persian, Mongolian, and Russian influence.
"Kyrgyz" is believed to have been derived from the Turkic word for "forty", in reference to the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero who united forty regional clans against the Uyghurs. Literally, Kyrgyz means We are forty. At the time, in the early 9th century AD, the Uyghurs dominated much of Central Asia (including Kyrgyzstan), Mongolia, and parts of Russia and China.
The 40-ray sun on the flag of Kyrgyzstan is a reference to those same forty tribes and the graphical element in the sun's center depicts the wooden crown, called tunduk, of a yurt—a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.
In terms of naming conventions, the country's official name is "Kyrgyz Republic" whenever it is used in some international arenas and foreign relations. However, in the English-speaking world, the spelling Kyrgyzstan is commonly used while its former name Kirghizia is rarely used as such.