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A rugged nation in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan shares the snowcapped Tian Shan with China. Some 75 percent of the land is mountainous. In their mountain fastness, the nomadic Kyrgyz, a Turkic-speaking people with loose ties to Islam, bred horses, cattle, and yaks for centuries. The Kyrgyz came under tsarist Russian rule during the 19th century, and thousands of Slavic farmers migrated into the region. Kyrgyzstan gained independence in 1991. Kyrgyz make up two thirds of the population, and there are large Uzbek and Russian minorities. Raising livestock still remains the main agricultural activity today.1

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