The modern nation of Kyrgyzstan is based on a civilization of
nomadic tribes who moved across the eastern and northern sections
of present-day Central Asia. In this process, they were dominated
by, and intermixed with, a number of other tribes and peoples
that have influenced the ultimate character of the Kyrgyz people.
Stone implements found in the Tian Shan mountains indicate the
presence of human society in what is now Kyrgyzstan as many as
200,000 to 300,000 years ago. The first written records of a Kyrgyz
civilization appear in Chinese chronicles beginning about 2000
B.C. The Kyrgyz, a nomadic people, originally inhabited an area
of present-day northwestern Mongolia. In the fourth and third
centuries B.C., Kyrgyz bands were among the raiders who persistently
invaded Chinese territory and stimulated the building of the original
Great Wall of China in the third century B.C. The Kyrgyz achieved
a reputation as great fighters and traders. In the centuries that
followed, some Kyrgyz tribes freed themselves from domination
by the Huns by moving northward into the Yenisey and Baikal regions
of present-day south-central Siberia.
The first Kyrgyz state, the Kyrgyz Khanate, existed from the
sixth until the thirteenth century A.D., expanding by the tenth
century southwestward to the eastern and northern regions of present-day
Kyrgyzstan and westward to the headwaters of the Ertis (Irtysh)
River in present-day eastern Kazakstan. In this period, the khanate
established intensive commercial contacts in China, Tibet, Central
Asia, and Persia.
In the meantime, beginning about 1000 B.C., large tribes collectively
known as the Scythians also lived in the area of present-day Kyrgyzstan.
Excellent warriors, the Scythian tribes farther west had resisted
an invasion by the troops of Alexander the Great in 328-27 B.C.
The Kyrgyz tribes who entered the region around the sixth century
played a major role in the development of feudalism.
The Kyrgyz reached their greatest expansion by conquering the
Uygur Khanate and forcing it out of Mongolia in A.D. 840, then
moving as far south as the Tian Shan range--a position the Kyrgyz
maintained for about 200 years. By the twelfth century, however,
Kyrgyz domination had shrunk to the region of the Sayan Mountains,
northwest of present-day Mongolia, and the Altay Range on the
present-day border of China and Mongolia. In the same period,
other Kyrgyz tribes were moving across a wide area of Central
Asia and mingling with other ethnic groups (see Ethnic Traditions,
Data as of March 1996