AskDefine | Define Kirghiz

Dictionary Definition



1 a member of a people of Turkic speech and Mongolian race inhabiting vast regions of central Siberia [syn: Kirgiz, Khirghiz]
2 a landlocked republic in west central Asia bordering on northwestern China; formerly an Asian soviet but became independent in 1991 [syn: Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Kirghizia, Kirgizia, Kirgiz, Kirghizstan, Kirgizstan]
3 the Turkic language spoken by the Kirghiz people [syn: Kirgiz, Khirghiz]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


Possibly from the Kyrgyz words "кырк кыз" (forty girls), a reference to the Manas epic unifying forty small tribes against the Chinese and the Muslim expansion; or possibly from "кырк ууз" (the forty tribes); or possibly from "кыргыс" (imperishable, inextinguishable, undying).

Proper noun

  1. A language of Kyrgyzstan.
  2. Turkish ethnic group in Kyrgyzstan.

External links

Extensive Definition

The Kyrgyz (also spelled Kirgiz, Kirghiz) are a Turkic ethnic group found primarily in Kyrgyzstan.


There are several etymological theories on the name "Kyrgyz." First, the name Kyrgyz may mean "forty girls" (kyrk + kyz), a reference to the Manas epic. This is symbolized by the yellow sun in the center of the flag of Kyrgyzstan, which has 40 rays referring to forty Kyrgyz tribes. Next, a meaning of "forty tribes" (kyrk + uuz) which makes more direct sense. Finally, a meaning (kyrgys, adj.), meaning "imperishable", "inextinguishable" or "undying". This version has an obvious popular appreciation. Historical evidence for many conflicts with other peoples also supports this theory.
The Chinese transcription "Tse-gu" (Gekun, Jiankun) allows to restore the pronunciation of the ethnonym as Kirkut (Kirgut) and Kirkur(Kirgur). Both forms go back to the earliest variation Kirkün (Chinese Tszyan-kun) of the term "Kyrgyz" meaning "Field People", "Field Huns". The term Kirkün went through a notable evolution: Kirkün (Kirgün) = Kirkut (Kirgut) = Kirkur (Kirkor, Kirgur) = Kyrkyz (Kyrgyz). The evolution is traced well chronologically. The semantic connection between kün (gün) and gür is obvious, chronologically consecutive development of the concept kün = "female progenitor" = her offsprings = "tribe" = "a people" at the last stage coincides with the gür = "people", like in the Khitan title Gurkhan. Application of affixes of plurality "t" - "r" - "z" in the ethnonym Kirkun shaded the initial sound, and then also the meaning, making its roots enigmatic. By the Mongol epoch, the initial meaning of the word Kirkun was alredy lost, evidenced by differing readings of the earlier reductions of the Uanshi. The change of ethnonym produced a new version of an origin, and the memory about their steppe motherland, recorded in Uanshi, survived only as a recollection of the initial birthplace of forty women. Subsequently, however, that recollection was also lost.


The early Kyrgyz people, known as Yenisei Kyrgyz or Xiajiasi, first appear in written records in the Chinese annals of the Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian (compiled 109 BC to 91 BC), as Gekun or Jiankun (鬲昆 or 隔昆). The Middle Age Chinese composition "Tanghuiyao" of the 8-10th century transcribed the name "Kyrgyz" Tsze-gu (Kirgut), and their tamga was depicted identical with the tamga of present day Kyrgyz tribes Azyk, Bugu, Cherik, Sary Bagysh and few others. According to recent historical findings, Kyrgyz history dates back to 201 BC. The Yenisei Kyrgyz lived in the upper Yenisey River valley, central Siberia. Yenisei Kyrgyzes in the Late Antique times were a part of the Tele tribes. Later, in the Early Middle Age, Yenisei Kyrgyzes were under the rule of Göktürk Kaganate and Uigur Kaganate. In 840 a revolt lead by Yenisei Kyrgyzes brought down the Uigur Kaganate, and brought the Yenisei Kyrgyzes to a dominating position in the former Turkic Kaganate. With the rise to power, the center of the Kyrgyz Kaganate moved to Jeti-su, and brought about a spread south of the Kyrgyz people, to reach Tian Shan mountains and Eastern Turkestan, bringing them immediately to the borders of China and Tibet. By the 16th century the carriers of the ethnonym "Kirgiz" lived in South Siberia, Eastern Turkestan, Tian Shan, Pamir Alay, Middle Asia, Urals (among Bashkorts), in Kazakhstan. In the Tian Shan and Eastern Turkestan area, the term "Kyrgyz" retained its unifying political designation, and became a general ethnonym for the Yenisei Kirgizes and aboriginal Turkic tribes that presently constitute the Kyrgyz population. Though it is obviously impossible to directly identify the Yenisei and Tien Shan Kyrgyzes, a trace of their ethnogenetical connections is apparent in archeology, history, language and ethnography. Majority of modern researchers came to a conclusion that the ancestors of the southern Kyrgyz tribes had their origin in the most ancient tribal unions of Sakas and Usuns, Dinlins and Huns. Approximately 300,000 Yenisei Kyrgyzes survived in the Tuva depression until present. Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the Kyrgyz as red-haired with fair complexion and green (blue) eyes.
The descent of the Kyrgyz from the autochthonous Siberian population is confirmed by recent genetic studies. Remarkably, 63% of modern Kyrgyz men share Haplogroup R1a1 (Y-DNA) with Tajiks (64%), Ukrainians (54% ), Poles and Hungarians (~60%), and even Icelanders (25%). Haplogroup R1a1 (Y-DNA) is variously believed to be a marker of the Proto-Indo-European language and Turkic speakers.

Political development

The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uygur Kaganate in 840 AD. Then Kyrgyz quickly moved as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years. In the 12th century, however, the Kyrgyz domination had shrunk to the Altai Range and the Sayan Mountains as a result of the rising Mongol expansion. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the Kyrgyz migrated south. In 1207, after the establishment of Yekhe Mongol Ulus (Mongol empire), Ghengis khan's oldest son Jochi occupied Kyrgyzstan without resistance. They remained a Mongol vassal until the late of 14th century.
Various Turkic peoples ruled them until 1685, when they came under the control of the Kalmyks (Oirats, Dzungars).


Kyrgyz are predominantly Muslims. Islam was first introduced by Arab traders who travelled along the Silk Road in the seventh and eight century.
In the 8th century, orthodox Islam reached the Fergana valley with the Uzbeks. Atheism, on the other hand, took some following in the northern regions under Russian communist influence. As of today, few cultural rituals of Shamanism are still practiced alongside with Islam particularly in Central Kyrgyzstan. During a July 2007 interview, Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of Askar Akayev, the former President of Kyrgyzstan, stated that Islam is increasingly taking root even in the northern portion which came under communist influence. She emphasized that many Mosques have been built and that the Kyrgyz are increasingly devoting themselves to Islam, which she noted was "not a bad thing in itself. It keeps our society more moral, cleaner."

The Kyrgyz in China

The Kyrgyz form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. There are more than 145,000 Kyrgyz in China.
They are found mainly in the Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture in the southwestern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, with a smaller remainder found in the neighboring Wushi (Uqturpan), Aksu, Shache (Yarkand), Yingisar, Taxkorgan and Pishan (Guma), and in Tekes, Zhaosu (Monggolkure), Emin (Dorbiljin), Bole (Bortala), Jinghev (Jing) and Gonliu in northern Xinjiang. Several hundred Kyrgyz whose forefathers emigrated to Northeast China more than 200 years ago now live in Wujiazi Village in Fuyu County, Heilongjiang Province.
Certain segments of the Kyrgyz in China are followers of Tibetan Buddhism.

Notable Kyrgyz people


References and further reading

Kirghiz in Arabic: قيرغيز
Kirghiz in German: Kirgisen
Kirghiz in Spanish: Kirguiz (etnia)
Kirghiz in French: Kirghizes
Kirghiz in Georgian: ყირგიზები
Kirghiz in Kirghiz: Кыргыздар
Kirghiz in Lithuanian: Kirgizai
Kirghiz in Macedonian: Киргизи
Kirghiz in Dutch: Kirgiezen
Kirghiz in Japanese: キルギス人
Kirghiz in Polish: Kirgizi
Kirghiz in Portuguese: Quirguizes
Kirghiz in Russian: Киргизы
Kirghiz in Serbian: Киргизи
Kirghiz in Ukrainian: Киргизи
Kirghiz in Chinese: 柯尔克孜族
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