When the Soviet cartographers sliced and diced Central Asia in the 1920s, someone must have said, “The Kyrgyz. Aren’t they all nomads? Let’s give them the mountains.”
Before the Soviet era, there were no national borders between the peoples of the region, and identity was defined by religion, family, clan and place. The Soviets feared that such muddled loyalties could help Islamic, social or political movements gain popular support. They attempted to counter pan-Islamic and pan-Turkic tendencies by constructing nationalities. Your loyalty was no longer to your tribe, village or faith, but to your nationality as a Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen or Uzbek and to its Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).