Kyrgyz culture goes back to ancient times. Being part of the Silk Road, it has been influenced by China, Iran, Middle East, Western world and later Russia, thus becoming home to many different ethnic groups and a rich and differentiated culture. Currently there are around 80 ethnic groups, although with the collapse of the Soviet Union the ethnic composition has changed, with many Russians, Ukrainians and Germans returning to their native lands. Ethnic groups from the western part of the Soviet Union relocated to Central Asia, either spontaneously or not. This was part of the effort to develop less populated and underdeveloped areas.
From the religious point of view, Kyrgyzstan is a predominantly Muslim country, with the majority of people being non-denominational. Orthodox Christianity follows Islam as the second biggest religious group. Other Christian denominations are present, but in very small numbers. Overall, the country is very secularized with very low levels of fanaticism, although in recent years religious feelings have been growing, just like everywhere else in the world.
Until 20th century tribal (clans) division existed among Kyrgyz people, and even nowadays some people still hold to this tradition, which shows some differences between people of various regions. For instance, traditions and customs of the southern Kyrgyzstan in Fergana Valley and East Pamir can be different than those in the northern part of the country in Tien Shan area. There are 40 Kyrgyz clans that are symbolized as 40 sunrays on the sun of the Kyrgyz flag. The middle part is called “tunduk”, which symbolizes the crown of the Kyrgyz yurt that is a traditional Kyrgyz portable house made of wooden frames and covered with felt. Up until the time when Kyrgyz people joined Russian Empire they lived in villages that would move to different places from time to time, but during the Soviet Union Kyrgyz people would gradually become sedentary. Now, people of Kyrgyzstan lead a sedentary lifestyle, although some villages still have traditional nomadic habits.