Kyrgyzstan is a rural landlocked and mountainous country in Central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south west and China to the East. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek. Its population of 5.6 million people is 72% Kyrgyz, 14% Uzbek, 9% Russian and 5% made up of others, with only around one-third living in urban areas. 80% of its people are Muslim with another 17% Russian Orthodox. It is officially a bilingual country with both Kyrgyz and Russian being commonly spoken. the climate varies regionally with temperatures ranging from 40c in the summer to sub-zero in the winter when even some desert areas experience constant snowfall.
Following Independence, the Kyrgyz economy was severely affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting loss of its vast market, which in 1990 accounted for some 98% of is exports, drastically slowed the republic's transition into a demand led economy. During soviet times Kyrgyzstan was the second poorest country within the USSR and despite the backing of major Western lenders, remains the second poorest country in Central Asia.
While economic performance has improved considerably in the last few years, difficulties remain in securing adequate fiscal revenues. Kyrgyzstan now exports numerous rare metals (particularly gold which makes up around 45% of all exports), hydro-electric energy, some agricultural produce as well as certain engineering goods. However, the remittance of around 800,000 Kyrgyz migrant working in Russia still represents 40% of Kyrgyzstan's GDP. Imports include petroleum and natural gas, ferrous metals, chemicals, most machinery, wood and paper products, some foods and some construction materials. Its leading trade partners include Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Germany.
Kyrgyzstan's mountainous terrain is well suited to the raising of livestock, its largest agricultural activity, so the resulting wool, meat, and dairy products are major commodities. Agriculture generally, accounts for around one-third of GDP and about half of employment. Main crops include wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, vegetables and fruit. Agricultural processing is a key component of the industrial economy as well as one of the most attractive sectors for foreign investment. Kyrgyzstan is rich in mineral resources but has negligible petroleum and natural gas which it imports. Among its mineral reserves are substantial deposits of coal, gold, uranium, antimony and other valuable metals making metallurgy and mining important industries, which the government seeks to attract foreign investment into.
Since independence Kyrgyzstan has officially been a unitary parliamentry republic and is divided into seven regions administered by appointed governors. The capital Bishkek and the second largest city Osh are administratively independent cities and have been granted regional status. Each region comprises a number of districts administered by government appointed officials. Rural communities, consisting of up to 20 small settlements, have their own elected Mayors and Councils. The government is described as a democratic unicameral republic, with the executive branch including a President and Prime Minister. The Parliament is made up of 120 MP's. Both the President and MP's serve a 5 year term and are directly elected.
The school system in Kyrgyzstan includes primary and secondary divisions (grades 1-11) within one school. Children are usually accepted into primary schools at the age of 7 and are required to complete as a minimum, grades 1-9. To graduate students must complete 11 grades and pass 4 mandatory state exams in writing, maths, history and a foreign language. There are 77 public schools in Bishkek and more than 200 in the rest of the country.There are 55 higher educational institutions and universities in Kyrgyzstan of which 37 are state owned.