There are several etymological theories on the name "Kyrgyz." First, the name Kyrgyz may mean "forty girls" , a reference to the . This is symbolized by the yellow sun in the center of the flag of Kyrgyzstan, which has 40 rays referring to forty Kyrgyz tribes. Next, a meaning of "forty tribes" which makes more direct sense. Finally, a meaning , meaning "imperishable", "inextinguishable" or "undying". This version has an obvious popular appreciation. Historical evidence for many conflicts with other peoples also supports this theory.
The Chinese transcription ''"Tse-gu" '' allows to restore the pronunciation of the ethnonym as ''Kirkut '' and ''Kirkur ''. Both forms go back to the earliest variation ''Kirkün'' of the term "Kyrgyz" meaning "Field People", "Field Huns". The term ''Kirkün'' went through a notable evolution: ''Kirkün = Kirkut = Kirkur = Kyrkyz ''. The evolution is traced well chronologically. The semantic connection between ''kün '' and ''gür'' is obvious, chronologically consecutive development of the concept ''kün = "female progenitor" = her offsprings = "tribe" = "a people"'' at the last stage coincides with the ''gür = "people"'', like in the Khitan title Gurkhan. Application of affixes of plurality "t" - "r" - "z" in the ethnonym ''Kirkun'' shaded the initial sound, and then also the meaning, making its roots enigmatic. By the Mongol epoch, the initial meaning of the word ''Kirkun'' was already lost, evidenced by differing readings of the earlier reductions of the Uanshi. The change of ethnonym produced a new version of an origin, and the memory about their steppe motherland, recorded in Uanshi, survived only as a recollection of the initial birthplace of forty women. Subsequently, however, that recollection was also lost.
The early Kyrgyz people, known as Yenisei Kyrgyz or Xiajiasi, first appear in written records in the Chinese annals of the Sima Qian's ''Records of the Grand Historian'' , as ''Gekun'' or ''Jiankun'' . The Middle Age Chinese composition ''"Tanghuiyao"'' of the 8-10th century transcribed the name "Kyrgyz" Tsze-gu , and their tamga was depicted identical with the tamga of present day Kyrgyz tribes Azyk, Bugu, Cherik, Sary Bagysh and few others. According to recent historical findings, Kyrgyz history dates back to 201 BC. The Yenisei Kyrgyz lived in the upper Yenisey River valley, central Siberia. Yenisei Kyrgyzes in the Late Antique times were a part of the tribes. Later, in the Early Middle Age, Yenisei Kyrgyzes were under the rule of Kaganate and Kaganate. In 840 a revolt led by Yenisei Kyrgyzes brought down the Uigur Kaganate, and brought the Yenisei Kyrgyzes to a dominating position in the former Turkic Kaganate. With the rise to power, the center of the Kyrgyz Kaganate moved to Jeti-su, and brought about a spread south of the Kyrgyz people, to reach Tian Shan mountains and Eastern Turkestan, bringing them immediately to the borders of China and Tibet. By the 16th century the carriers of the ethnonym ''"Kirgiz"'' lived in South Siberia, Eastern Turkestan, Tian Shan, , Middle Asia, Urals , in Kazakhstan. In the Tian Shan and Eastern Turkestan area, the term ''"Kyrgyz"'' retained its unifying political designation, and became a general ethnonym for the Yenisei Kirgizes and aboriginal Turkic tribes that presently constitute the Kyrgyz population. Though it is obviously impossible to directly identify the Yenisei and Tien Shan Kyrgyzes, a trace of their ethnogenetical connections is apparent in archaeology, history, language and ethnography. Majority of modern researchers came to a conclusion that the ancestors of the southern Kyrgyz tribes had their origin in the most ancient tribal unions of Sakas and , Dinlins and Huns. Approximately 300,000 Yenisei Kyrgyzes survived in the Tuva depression until present.
Chinese and Muslim sources of the 7th–12th centuries AD describe the Kyrgyz as red-haired with fair complexion and green eyes.
The descent of the Kyrgyz from the autochthonous Siberian population is confirmed by recent genetic studies. Remarkably, 63% of modern Kyrgyz men share Haplogroup R1a1 with Tajiks , Ukrainians , Poles and Hungarians , and even Icelanders . Haplogroup R1a1 is variously believed to be a marker of the Proto-Indo-European language and Turkic speakers.
The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Kaganate in 840 AD. Then Kyrgyz quickly moved as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years. In the 12th century, however, the Kyrgyz domination had shrunk to the Range and the Sayan Mountains as a result of the rising Mongol expansion. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the Kyrgyz migrated south. In 1207, after the establishment of Yekhe Mongol Ulus , Genghis Khan's oldest son Jochi occupied Kyrgyzstan without resistance. They remained a Mongol vassal until the late of 14th century.
Various Turkic peoples ruled them until 1685, when they came under the control of the Kalmyks .
Kyrgyz are predominantly Muslims. was first introduced by Arab traders who travelled along the Silk Road in the seventh and eight century.
In the 8th century, orthodox Islam reached the Fergana valley with the . Atheism, on the other hand, took some following in the northern regions under Russian communist influence. As of today, few cultural rituals of Shamanism are still practiced alongside with Islam particularly in Central Kyrgyzstan. During a July 2007 interview, Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of Askar Akayev, the former President of Kyrgyzstan, stated that Islam is increasingly taking root even in the northern portion which came under communist influence. She emphasized that many mosques have been built and that the Kyrgyz are increasingly devoting themselves to Islam, which she noted was "not a bad thing in itself. It keeps our society more moral, cleaner."
The Kyrgyz in China
The Kyrgyz form one of the officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. There are more than 145,000 Kyrgyz in China. They are known in China as ''Kēěrkèzī zú'' .
They are found mainly in the Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture in the southwestern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, with a smaller remainder found in the neighboring Wushi , , Shache , Yingisar, and Pishan , and in Tekes, Zhaosu , Emin , Bole , Jinghev and Gonliu in northern Xinjiang. Several hundred Kyrgyz whose forefathers emigrated to Northeast China more than 200 years ago now live in Wujiazi Village in Fuyu County, Heilongjiang Province.
Certain segments of the Kyrgyz in China are followers of Tibetan Buddhism.
Notable Kyrgyz people
*Chinghiz Aitmatov - author
*Askar Akayev - politician, scientist, first President of Kyrgyzstan
*Kurmanbek Bakiyev - politician, current President of Kyrgyzstan
*Kurmanjan Datka - politician, former stateswoman
*Felix Kulov - politician, former Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan
*Abdylas Maldybaev - actor/musician
*Zamira Sydykova - journalist/ambassador
*Omurbek Tekebayev - politician, speaker of the
*Kasym Tynystanov - a prominent Kyrgyz scientist, politician and poet, first minister of education
*Nasirdin Isanov - politician, first Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan
*Orzubek Nazarov - former World Boxing Association lightweight boxing champion
* Kyrgyz language
* List of indigenous peoples of Russia
* History of Kyrgyzstan
* History of Kazakhstan
* History of Tuva
* History of China
* Eagle hunting
* Turkic languages
References and further reading
* Abramzon, S.M. ''"Kirgizes and their ethnogenetical historical and cultural connections"'', Moscow, 1971, ISBN 5-655-00518-2 ''''.
* Kyzlasov, L.R.''"Mutual relationship of terms ''Khakas'' and ''Kyrgyz'' in written sources of 6-12th centuries"''. Peoples of Asia and Africa, 1968, ''''.
* Zuev, Yu.A. ''"Kirgiz - Buruts". Soviet Ethnography, 1970, No 4, ''''.
* Shahrani, M. Nazif. ''The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan: Adaptation to Closed Frontiers and War''. University of Washington Press. 1st paperback edition with new preface and epilogue . ISBN 0-295-98262-4.
* ''Kyrgyz Republic'', by Rowan Stewart and Susie Steldon, by Odyssey publications.