Geography of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It lies between latitudes 39°and 44° N, and longitudes 69° and 81° E. It is further from the sea than any other individual country, and all its rivers flow into closed drainage systems which do not reach the sea. The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country (Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as “the Switzerland of Central Asia”, as a result),[53] with the remainder made up of valleys and basins.

Issyk-Kul Lake in the north-eastern Tian Shan is the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan and the second largest mountain lake in the world afterTiticaca. The highest peaks are in the Kakshaal-Too range, forming the Chinese border. Peak Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 m (24,406 ft), is the highest point and is considered by geologists to be the northernmost peak over 7,000 m (22,966 ft) in the world. Heavy snowfall in winter leads to spring floods which often cause serious damage downstream. The runoff from the mountains is also used for hydro-electricity.

Kyrgyzstan has significant deposits of metals including gold and rare earth metals. Due to the country’s predominantly mountainous terrain, less than 8% of the land is cultivated, and this is concentrated in the northern lowlands and the fringes of the Fergana Valley.

Bishkek in the north is the capital and largest city, with approximately 900,000 inhabitants (as of 2005). The second city is the ancient town of Osh, located in the Fergana Valley near the border with Uzbekistan. The principal river is the Kara Darya, which flows west through the Fergana Valley into Uzbekistan. Across the border in Uzbekistan it meets another major Kyrgyz river, the Naryn.

The confluence forms the Syr Darya, which originally flowed into the Aral Sea. As of 2010, it no longer reaches the sea, as its water is withdrawn upstream to irrigate cotton fields in TajikistanUzbekistan, and southern Kazakhstan. The Chu River also briefly flows through Kyrgyzstan before entering Kazakhstan.

The climate varies regionally. The south-western Fergana Valley is subtropical and extremely hot in summer, with temperatures reaching 40 °C (104 °F) The northern foothills are temperate and the Tian Shan varies from dry continental to polar climate, depending on elevation. In the coldest areas temperatures are sub-zero for around 40 days in winter, and even some desert areas experience constant snowfall in this period.


Enclaves and exclaves

There is one exclave, the tiny village of Barak[54] (population 627), in the Fergana Valley. The village is surrounded by Uzbek territory. It is located on the road from Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Khodjaabad (Uzbekistan) about 4 kilometres (2 miles) north-west from the Kyrgyz–Uzbek border in the direction of Andijan.[55] Barak is administratively part of Kara-Suu District in Kyrgyzstan’s Osh Province.

There are four Uzbek enclaves within Kyrgyzstan. Two of them are the towns of Sokh (area 325 km2 (125 sq mi) and a population of 42,800 in 1993, although some estimates go as high as 70,000; 99% are Tajiks, the remainder Uzbeks) and Shakhimardan (also known as Shahimardan, Shohimardon, or Shah-i-Mardan, area 90 km2 (35 sq mi) and a population of 5,100 in 1993; 91% are Uzbeks, the remainder Kyrgyz); the other two are the tiny territories of Chong-Kara (roughly 3 km (2 mi) long by 1 km (0.6 mi) wide) and Jangy-ayyl (a dot of land barely 2–3 km (1–2 mi) across). Chong-Kara is on the Sokh river, between the Uzbek border and the Sokh enclave. Jangy-ayyl is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) east of Batken, in a northward projection of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near Khalmion.

There also are two enclaves belonging to TajikistanVorukh (exclave area between 95–130 km2 (37–50 sq mi), population estimated between 23,000 and 29,000, 95% Tajiks and 5% Kyrgyz, distributed among 17 villages), located 45 kilometres (28 mi) south of Isfara on the right bank of the Karafshin river, and a small settlement near the Kyrgyz railway station of Kairagach.

Map of Kyrgyzstan

Tian Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan.

Topography of Kyrgyzstan

Orchard near in Issyk Kul Province.