Natural arch in Ala Arhca National Park in Kyrgyzstan
A couple of young women from OSPIRG came by this evening soliciting donations. One of them had a slight accent and when I asked her about it, she tells me she is from Kyrgyzstan. I was shocked six ways from Sunday. From her appearance and manner I would have guessed somewhere in Europe or Scandinavia. For another I don't think I've ever met anyone from any of the 'stans. I am aquainted with a couple of young men who have spent time in Afghanistan, but that's about it. I know a little bit about Kazakhstan, that's where our astronauts go to catch a ride to the space station, but I know virtually nothing of Kyrgystan, so I do a little looking and I find some interesting bits.
Brief geographical summary of Kyrgyzstan extracted from Wikipedia:
- Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia.
- It is farther from an ocean than any other country in the world.
- Issyk-Kul Lake is the largest lake and the second largest mountain lake in the world after Titicaca.
- The highest peaks are in the Kakshaal-Too range, forming the Chinese border.
- Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 m (24,406 ft), is the highest peak .
- Due to the country's predominantly mountainous terrain, less than 8% of the land is cultivated.
- Kyrgyzstan's 2011 presidential election marked the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in post-Soviet Central Asia.
- Kyrgyzstan hosts the Transit Center at Manas International Airport, an important logistical hub for the coalition effort in Afghanistan.
- Kyrgyzstan benefits from a robust civil society and a relatively free media sector.
- U.S. direct investment in Kyrgyzstan is concentrated in the hotel and telecommunications sectors, with increasing interest in construction and mining.
- Kyrgyzstan has signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.
- The treaty on double taxation (what the heck is that?) that was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union remains in effect between the United States and Kyrgyzstan.
It has some oil and gas and a developing gold mining sector, but relies on imports for most of its energy needs. Resentment at widespread poverty and ethnic divisions between north and south occasionally spill over into violence, and the country's first two post-Soviet presidents were swept from power by popular discontent.And yes, I made a donation.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in September 2012 to write off Kyrgyzstan's debt to his country, President Atambayev agreed to a 15-year extension to Moscow's lease on the Kant air base, but said that the lease on the US military base at Manas would not be renewed when it expires in 2014.