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by Anna Cherkasova, editor
 
 
According to Kyrgyz legend on advantour.com, “At the beginning of mankind, God gave land to every people. According to their talents and personality, He distributed fertile valleys, rocky mountains, dry deserts, forests, and everything the world had to offer. At the end of the distribution, God noticed the Kyrgyz, who had been sleeping at the foot of a tree when everybody else was fighting for the best part of the world. This carelessness touched God so much in his very heart that He decided to give to the Kyrgyz, an especially fertile and beautiful part of the world, so they wouldn’t have to work too hard to survive.”

Kyrgyzstan is a small, mountainous country located in Central Asia. It is surrounded by the highest peaks of the Tien-Shan Mountains, which are nearly as high as the Hindu Kush of North Afghanistan; it also has one of the largest walnut forests in the world, as well as mountain and lakes, Blue Pearl of the Tien-Shan, Issyk-Kul.

In addition, Kyrgyzstan is a home for more than 80 nationalities and ethnic groups, including Russian and Kyrgyz, and two of the world’s most common religions: Islam and Christianity.

Despite all the differences, these cultural and religious groups coexisted peacefully. All holidays were celebrated by everybody in Kyrgyzstan. No matter whether it is Christmas, Dec. 25, or Orozo Ait (last day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year), New Year or Noruz (the Persian New Year, March, 24), both Muslims and Christians got together at the same table and celebrated.
There were no holy wars in Kyrgyzstan and no political ones either. Today, people still don’t argue about their faiths. But Kyrgyzstan is not a place for the West to meet East anymore.

The decline started with Pres. Akayev’s growing authoritarian regime. It continued as the fraudulent parliamentary elections, and climaxed with the revolution when the government was overthrown.
The decline was supposed to end after the elections of a new president, but it didn’t. Now the Russians are leaving the country, and the Kyrgyz are dividing the land with each other.

But there are still the mountains; there are still the lakes. These are waiting for Kyrgyzstans to come back, to become one family again.

Until then people are still looking for the place where East meets West.

A Russian Orthodox church in Karakol, circa 19th century. There are 43 Orthodox churches in Kyrgyzstan, according to a report from the Inter-national Religious Freedom Organization.
This particular church was partly destroyed by Communists in 1930. Services have been held regularly since its reconstruction in 1991.
This church is famous around the world for its unique icon that is believed to cure people of almost any disease
.

The Tien-Shan Mountains are one of the natural wonders that make Kyrgyzstan a unique place. This particular picture was taken from the south shore of the Issyk-Kul, a Kyrgyz lake famous for its untouched beauty and popular with tourists from all over the former Soviet Union who come to hike these almost vertical canyons.
All Photos by Anna Cherkasova
 

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