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Kyrgyzstan, officially - the Kyrgyz Republic, is located in the north-eastern part of Central Asia. The country's territory of 198.5 thousand square km is about the size of Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands taken together. Kyrgyzstan is stretching 950 km from the East to the West and 400 km from the North to the South. Kyrgyzstan is bordering China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Territory of Kyrgyzstan is located at the juncture of two great Central Asia mountain systems - the Tien Shan and the Pamir. Both the mountain systems are composed of series mountain chains running mainly from east to west. Tien-Shan means "Celestial Mountains" in translation from Chinese. The mountains justify its name. The majority of peaks are directed towards the sky, over snow-line. Among them are the world-known Pobeda Peak (7439 m), the legendary white-pink marmoreal pyramid of Khan-Tengry Peak (7010 m) and many others. Mountain ranges with summits covered by snow and ice all-year around are called as Ala-Too, which means "motley mountains". Depending on rainfall, snow line begins at elevation of 3000 m on some ranges and at 4600 m on another. The Tiean-Shan dominates in the central and east part of Kyrgyzstan, the Alai range of Pamir - in the south-west, where Lenin Peak (7134 m) is located.
94% territory of the country is over 1,000 m above sea level, 41% - over 3,000 m above sea level, with an average elevation of 2,750 m. In the mountains of Kyrgyzstan there are almost 8000 glaciers and they make 4 % of the country land. It is considerably more than the glacier area in Caucasus and Alps taken together. The glaciers are kept 580 billion cubic metres of fresh water. If they are melted, water will cover all territory of the republic with a three-meter coating. There is one of the biggest alpine glaciers in the world here - the glacier South Inylchek. Its length is 62 km, ice-thickness reaches 800 m. The glaciating area is 583 km that is equal to the area of Luxemburg. Due to the glacier heights over-fall 2000 m, the climatic conditions along its length are very variable. The surface of glacier downwards is covered with stones and ground. In the upper glacier part frosts can reach 30 degrees, hurricane winds blow and heavy snow falls.

Geographical location of Kyrgyzstan, its distance of seas and oceans and neighborhood of deserts - all of this generates extremely dry continental climate with relatively little atmospheric precipitates. There are 247 sunny days a year at an average. Rainfall amount fluctuates from 100 mm in valley districts varies on the western coast of Lake Issyk-Kul and to 350-500 mm in the Chu Valley. Average temperature in in the range of -4… -6 °C in January and +25…+30°C in July, in the mountain areas is between -14…-20°C in January and +8…+12 °C in July. Summer is long, dry and hot. During the winter months for about 40 days the temperature remains below the freezing level. Conditions are much colder at higher elevations.

The considerable territory elation, the relief partition, high amplitudes of heights, rangers and hollows interchange predetermined exceptional landscape variety. High-altitude landscape zone is well defined. In general, 7 high-altitude zones are singled out: low-land-flat desert, flat-foothills semi-desert with the steppe fragment, foothills low place steppe and dry steppe, middle-mountaineering wood-meadow-steppe, alpine meadow, alpine and glacial. Landscape complexity and sharp altitude drop make specific local microclimates. Thus, during a day in the mountains it is possible to get in touch with coolness of spring in the morning, to feel hot summer in the day time and in the evening, when it is snow, return in winter. In the mountains snow usually falls out in October and does not melted till May. Rich snow and glaciers melting in summer causes the formation of thousand rivers and lakes.

There are about 40 thousand rivers and rivulets in Kyrgyzstan. Their total length is about 150 thousand km. In the republic the most abounding in water is the Naryn River. Only within Kyrgyzstan the length of this river is 535 km. Naryn is the beginning of the Syr Darya - the second river by its size in Central Asia. Large number of mountain rivers promoted the development of hydro-power engineering. Powerful hydroelectric stations, such as Toktogul (1,2 million kWh), Kyrpsay (0.8 million kWh), Tash-Kumyr, Shamylsay and Kambaratin were built. There artificial reservoirs were created. The biggest among them are Toktogul (19,5 billion cubic metres), Ortotokoy (4,7 million cubic metres), Kyrov (5,5 million cubic metres).

Kyrgyzstan is also called the land of lakes. There are about 2000 mountain lakes of different origin - tectonic, blocking and glacial. Among them there are giant-lakes compared to seas and baby-lakes, which because of their small sizes are not marked on maps. The largest one is the Issyk-Kul Lake - the second by its size mountain lake in the world. The lake is located at the altitude of 1609 m and elongated from east to west. Its maximum width is 60 km, and length - 180 km. The coastline is extended to 688 km. Its surface area of 6200 square kilometres yields only to Lake Titicaca in South America. Maximum depth is 668 m. By its water volume, which is 1738 cubic kilometres, the Issyk-Kul Lake is not able to be compared with all high-mountain lakes in the world. From the South the Issyk-Kul Lake is surrounded by the slopes of Terskey Ala-Too Range (the shady motley mountains, Turk.), and from the North - by the Kungey Ala-Too Range (the sunny motley mountains, Turk.). More than 80 rivers and streams flow into the Issyk-Kul Lake but it has no outflow.
P. Semenov-Tien-Shansky, the famous Russian traveler, wrote about the lake: "Silver-mounted aquamarine! The dark, blue surface of Issyk-Kul is so bright, which can not be said of other lakes, including the famous Geneva Lake." N.A. Severtsev, the traveler, wrote: "The blue sky, the blue Issyk-Kul and there is a white cogged wall between them, and the naked bright yellow shore in the foreground- that is all view, which is highly simple, but it is impossible to turn away your stare - so majestic coloration is, the shapes of range are so elegant and light…". From time immemorial the Issyk-Kul Lake had been having many names. Aromatic, Iron are some of them. In Chinese sources the lake was mentioned as Yan-hay (salty lake) and Djehay (warm sea). The lake also was well known under the name of Iddyk-Kul, which means "Sacred Lake" in Turkic. Nowadays Issyk-Kul translates from Kyrgyz as "Hot Lake". This interpretation is fully justified as the lake does not freeze even in the coldest winters.

The mysterious and unique by its nature is the Merzbacher Lake. It was named in the honor of the German researcher Gottfried Merzbacher, who first discovered the lake in 1903 at the junction of glaciers Southern and Northern Inylchek. Once a year the lake disappears suddenly, in other words waters leave the lake, fully exposing a great many glaciers at the bottom. Then the lake fills with waters again and everything is continues in a year. From researchers' observations, it became known that waters leave the lake through under-the-ice and closeable channels. In summer time when glaciers thawing are rich and maximum filling of the lake, its greatest extent measure about 4 km by 1 km and can be vary between 40-80 m in depth. Its water volume is about 200 million cubic metres.

Kyrgyzstan » Geography