As Kyrgyzstan celebrates 25 years of independence, here are a few things you didn’t know about the country
1. They’re mad about Manas – and long poems
The eponymous hero of the Epic of Manas, a poem of which the longest version extends to a truly epic 500,000 lines, is celebrated in many ways. There are statues of him, roads, a university, a planet (yep) and an airport named after him, and an opera about him. The poem is reputed to be 1,000 years old, but most experts believe it actually originated in the 18th century.
2. It’s worth 30 points
Proper nouns aren’t allowed in Scrabble. But it they were, Kyrgyzstan would score 30 points. Of all the countries made up of just one word, only Mozambique could top it.
3. But 40 is their favourite number
“Kyrgyz” is thought to be derived from the Turkic word for “forty” – a reference to the 40 clans of the great Manas. The country’s flag, a nod to this, features a 40-ray sun.
4. It’s sparsely populated
There are just 29.5 residents for each square kilometre of land – making Kyrgyzstan one of the world’s least crowded countries.
5. And mountainous
The mountainous Tian Shan region covers 80 per cent of Kyrgyzstan and the country has even been described as the “Switzerland of Central Asia”. Its highest point is Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 m (24,406 ft).