Kyrgyzstan, also called the Kyrgyz Republic, comprises less than 200,000 square kilometers (sq. km) with a population of approximately 5.5 million (2013 estimate). Only 7 percent of the ground surface can be used for agriculture, while just 0.3 percent has permanent cultures (mainly fruit trees). More than 80 percent of the cultivated land is irrigated. The prevailing parts of the country are mountainous (the Ala Tau and Tien Shan chains). Communication is difficult, especially in winter, and Kyrgyzstan—as is typical of a high mountainous area—suffers with earthquakes, landslides, and avalanches.

During Soviet times, the Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Republic was the second-poorest area of the Soviet Union (after Tajikistan), and today the independent republic (since 1991) is the second-poorest country in central Asia (not considering Afghanistan). However, ...

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