Kyrgyzstan's mythical history begins more than 1000 years ago with its central epic hero, Manas. Some have hypothesized that Manas united the Kyrgyz tribes around the 9th century, with others pointing to the first mention of the Kyrgyz people in Chinese writings dated around the 2nd century BCE. Perhaps the name "Kyrgyz" is a shortened form of "kyrk kyz," which means forty women, representing forty Kyrgyz tribes.

Archaeological studies have found that various tribes known as the Scythians lived in the area until the 6th century, when Turkic groups moved into the area. Around the 10th century, the ancestors of the Kyrgyz people were pushed south from Siberia by the Mongols, who swept through the region periodically for the next few centuries until the Kokhand khanate (kingdom) based in modern-day Uzbekistan became the regional power. Meanwhile, most of the Kyrgyz people continued to live a nomadic lifestyle in the high mountains.

Russian forces and settlers gained gradual control of the region through the late 19th and early 20th century, culminating in a Kyrgyz revolt against the Russians that was brutally suppressed. The formation of the Soviet Union led to the creation of a dependent state known as the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, which was commonly referred to as Kirghizia.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the earlier 1990's resulted in a democratic successor state in August 31, 1991 formally named the Kyrgyz Republic. Until 2005, President Askar Akayev led the country through radical reforms of its political and economic structure, with many international agencies playing a role in its development.

The ‘Tulip Revolution’ after the March 2005 parliamentary elections forced the resignation of Askar Akayev, after which a coalition government headed by President Kurmanbek Baikyev has led the country. Constitutional reforms, increased trade with neighboring China and an overall stronger business climate have marked the past year of Bakiyev’s government.

Russia, Kyrgyzstan's Central Asian neighbors, and China are Kyrgyzstan's most significant partners, while the U.S., Turkey, and various Muslim countries occupy the second tier of influence.

For more on Kyrgyzstan's history and the region, here are some suggested books and links worth checking out.