For centuries a vast network of trade routes linked Europe and Asia. As they meandered through kingdoms and empires, far more than goods were traded. These travelers also exchanged ideas and beliefs.
Today this ancient Silk Road marks a path where Christianity is hardly known—cities with no Adventist believers, whole regions without Christian congregations. This path travels through places such as the Middle East, India, China, and central Asia. One of these countries is Kyrgyzstan. This mountainous, landlocked country in central Asia is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China.
The earliest known inhabitants of Kyrgyzstan were Sakan-speakers. They were gradually overrun by Turkic expansion into central Asia, and by the fifth century A.D. the first known Turkic state was established in central Asia. Today Kyrgyzstan is one of six countries in the world (including Turkey) with Turkic roots.
Mongols conquered the region during the 1200s and subdivided the country’s regions among a number of chieftains. China took over Kyrgyzstan in 1758 and maintained control until the Khanate of Kokand conquered Kyrgyzstan during the 1830s. In 1876 the Russian Empire expanded into central Asia and declared Kyrgyzstan its own. Russia made Kyrgyzstan into an autonomous region from 1924 until 1936, when it officially became part of the Soviet Union. On August 31, 1991, Kyrgyzstan declared independence from the Soviet Union. Exactly four months later on December 31, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Kyrgyzstan gained its independence.
Today two main ethnic groups live in Kyrgyzstan. The larger group is the Kirghiz, who make up more than half of the population. They have their own language and are known historically as nomadic tradespeople who live in yurt homes made of wool and animal skins. Their traditional way of life was to herd sheep, goats, and cattle. Today only a small minority of Kirghiz live in yurts, and those who do use them do so only during the summer in the mountains. Nearly all Kirghiz are Muslim, organized into large kinship groups called clans. Families play an important part in Kirghiz social lives. A household can be made up of multiple generations living under one roof. These clans can transcend regional and national politics and government offices.
The other group in Kyrgyzstan is the Russians, who make up nearly 20 percent of the population. Most speak Russian as their primary language and live in Kyrgyzstan’s cities, commonly working in the technical or industrial field. People in urban areas mostly live in Soviet-era apartment buildings or small, one-level houses. Nearly all are members of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Adventists in Kyrgyzstan
Kirghiz and Russian
Muslim and Russian Orthodox
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
* General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 146th Annual Statistical Report—2008
Kyrgyzstan is part of the Southern Union Conference in the Euro-Asia Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Shortly after the end of Communism in 1993, there were 10 Adventist churches in Kyrgyzstan, with a membership of 667. Today the church has nearly doubled in size, but there is still a long way to go to reach the people of this country.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church took a special offering this past spring for central Asia, called “Lighting a Path of Hope,” as part of the 2010 General Conference session, which will help the Adventist Church grow over the next five years in this challenging mission field through a variety of ministries, including education, media, literature, Global Mission pioneers, family and health, humanitarian care, and tentmakers.
To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s worldwide mission work and the “Lighting a Path of Hope” offering, visit www.AdventistMission.org.
Read 685 times Last modified on Thursday, 26 March 2015 06:27