On June 10, fighting broke out between two ethnic groups, the Uzbeks and the Kyrgyz, in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. Many shops and homes were destroyed, and approximately 2,000 people were killed. Around 70% of the people in Kyrgyzstan belong to the ethnic group called the “Kyrgyz”, and about 15% are “Uzbek”. Many of the Uzbeks felt threatened, and thousands of them ran away to the neighboring country called Uzbekistan, where around 80% of the population is Uzbeks.
What started this fighting has not yet been determined, though there have been tensions between the two ethnic groups in the last few months. Both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are very young countries – just under 20 years old. They used to be part of the same country called the Soviet Union (USSR). The Soviet Union split into fifteen separate countries (the largest being Russia). Since its independence, Kyrgyzstan has had three presidents – the first two were forced to step down by the people of the country. In comparison, Uzbekistan has had the same president since it became independent. The currency of Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyzstani som and that of Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistani som. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country (it is surrounded by other countries on all sides). Uzbekistan is a “doubly landlocked” country (where it is a landlocked country surrounded by other landlocked countries). There is only one other doubly landlocked country, and that is Liechtenstein in Europe. Can you find it on a map?