Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous, land-locked republic at the heart of Central Asia. Bordering China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, it has a modest population of around six million people. Kyrgyzstan was once situated right at the crossroads of the Silk Route. It was a republic of the former Soviet Union for much of the twentieth century and is now an independent, democratic state. Official languages are Kyrgyz and Russian and the capital is Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan is known for its horses, sheep, fruit in the south and sugar beet in the north. Its rich cultural and Moslem heritage permeates traditional life in the towns and many mountain villages.
Many parts of the country are isolated as transport links are poor. Poverty is endemic across the country, but a new tourism industry and foreign investment are bringing about some modernisation. Schools, however, have still to catch up.