Kyrgyzstan is a predominantly mountainous central Asian country bordered by Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and China. Two thirds of the 5.5 million population are ethnic Kyrgyz, with Uzbeks and Russians constituting the largest ethnic minorities; more than three quarters of the population identify with Sunnā Islam of the Hanafi school. After independence was declared in 1991, much of the sizable Russian population emigrated; the remaining Russians concentrate in the cities and identify with Russian Orthodox Christianity. Uzbeks constitute the largest ethnic minority and live primarily in the southern part of the country, along the Uzbek border in the fertile Fergana Valley.

The Kyrgyz are associated with a nomadic past—where seasonal migrations link sacred places (mazars) with ancestors and Islam—that remains an active part of the contemporary imagination. ...

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