Russia and Kyrgyzstan have a long-standing relationship: the Cossacks mastered the north of this country in the middle of the 19th century, and by the end of the 20th, about a million Russians lived here – doctors, teachers, engineers, managers. After the collapse of the USSR, many left the republic, and more recently, the UN predicted that by 2030 only 200,000 Russians would remain in Kyrgyzstan.
But in 2022, the small mountainous country has become a popular destination for relocation: today Russian entrepreneurs and IT specialists are leaving here. “This is one of the few places in the world where Russians are still loved,” travelers from Russia say. Is this really so and how are Russians treated in Kyrgyzstan now?
1. The Russians taught the Kyrgyz a lot
Remembering the joint Soviet past, the Kyrgyz confirm that the Russians “built factories here”, “taught them to work well and handle equipment”, developed industry and the economy as a whole. But much more, local residents appreciate the contribution of immigrants from Russia to culture and education: they taught in schools and universities, introduced not only to Russian, but also to world culture. The Russian language is still the language of science and art in Kyrgyzstan, and without it it is almost impossible to get a higher education: 90 % of Kyrgyz students study in Russian.
2. Russians themselves learn from the Kyrgyz
Having enriched the local population with knowledge and skills, over a century and a half of coexistence, the Russians also learned a lot from the inhabitants of Kyrgyzstan. According to the Kyrgyz, it was under their influence that visitors from Russia began to treat elders more respectfully, show hospitality, live more unitedly and solve problems together. Having partly absorbed traditional Eastern culture, Russians who grew up in Kyrgyzstan behave more tolerantly and more tactfully compared to other Russians. Our compatriots also learned Asian entrepreneurial spirit from the Kyrgyz.
3. The Kyrgyz people appreciate the Russian language
The Russian language in the Kyrgyz Republic has the status of an official language and is used almost on a par with the state Kyrgyz: “great and mighty” is spoken by 73% of the local population, it is taught even in rural schools. “We have a very small republic. Let's go to Tajikistan, to Russia – how are we going to talk there? Even Kazakhs and Uzbeks prefer to talk to us in Russian,” says a teacher from Bishkek. “There is no discrimination. Sometimes it seems that if you are Russian, then they talk to you more politely than to the Kyrgyz. Absolutely everyone speaks Russian,” Natalia, who moved to the Kyrgyz capital from Irkutsk this year, shares her impressions.
Knowledge of the Russian language helps migrants from Kyrgyzstan find a good job in Russia, and elderly Kyrgyz say: “Without Russian, you are nowhere!” At the same time, unpleasant incidents happen on the streets, in shops and transport: “When I asked the minibus driver to stop in Russian, he defiantly passed the stop,” says a resident of the Chui region.
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4. Russians cook tasty food
Kyrgyz people respect not only the Russian language, but also other components of our culture — the locals like Russian songs, they read Russian classics and watch Russian TV shows with pleasure. Russian cuisine has also found its place in Kyrgyzstan: in many cafes and restaurants they cook cabbage soup, Olivier salad and herring under a fur coat. According to surveys, the Kyrgyz people like pancakes, Siberian dumplings, pies and okroshka the most of our national dishes.