The Kyrgyz Republic is a landlocked country in Central Asia bordering Kazakhstan in the north, China in the east, Tajikistan in the south and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the south west. The Kyrgyz Republic has a population of 5.6 million (July 2011 est.) consisting of Kyrgyz, Russians, Uzbeks, and around 80 other smaller ethnic groups. The Kyrgyz Republic is a bilingual state: its official languages are Kyrgyz and Russian. The main religion is Islam, but other religions are also practiced, such as Russian Orthodox. Most of the population lives in rural areas, only one third lives in urban areas. The capital city of Bishkek is the largest city with over 800,000 inhabitants.
The years following independence were characterized by political instability as various factions fought for power. Inter-ethnic relations, between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, continue to be tense. As a result of ethnic clashes in 2010, an estimated 300,000 people were internally displaced.
One of the most deprived countries in the region, the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the poorest countries in Central Asia. The economy was adversely affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The latter provided subsidies and was the Kyrgyz Republic’s main export partner. The current situation is characterized by increasing poverty rates and rising unemployment and inflation. Poor infrastructure, endemic corruption and organized crime have limited economic growth. Nearly one-fifth of the population is unemployed. The percentage of the population living under the nationally-established poverty line is estimated to be 40%.
Agriculture plays an important role in the Kyrgyz Republic, employing nearly half the population. The main agricultural activity is raising livestock, which produces meat, wool and dairy products. The service industry employs 40% of the population and the rest of the population works in industry. In recent years the mining of gold has become a source of income.
HIV/AIDS is a growing problem, especially among some sectors of the population. The most affected groups include sex workers and injecting drug users, especially those in prisons where more than half of the inmates are addicted. The main mode of transmission has been intravenous drug use; however, the World Health Organization reports there is a growing number of sexually transmitted infections.