Kirghisesor Kirghiz-Kaizaks Kirghiz, a nomadic people of Asiatic Russia, occupying a region called the Kirghiz steppes, which extends from the Caspian sea to the Russian-Chinese frontier at the Altai mountains, and from the sea of Aral to the Tobol and the Irtish. Their former abodes were further east. Since the recent political reconstruction of Siberia and central Asia there are three divisions of Kirghiz steppes: those of Orenburg, of West Siberia, and of Turkistan. The Russian government estimates all the Kirghiz at 1,286,000, occupying an area of 856,000 sq. m. The Kirghiz are divided into the Little, Great, and Middle hordes, which are politically independent of each other. They are subject to Russia, and the dignity of khan has been disallowed among them as a title of authority. They belong to the Turco-Tartaric race, but their physiognomy betrays a large admixture of more eastern blood. They resemble the Uzbecks, speak the same language, and profess to be related to them. Their stature is under the middle size, their countenance disagreeable, their eyes deep set and elongated, and their cheeks large and bloated; the women are, however, rather pretty and delicately formed. The men, though not muscular, are hardy and vigorous. Their chief occupation is tending sheep, goats, horses, and camels.
They have a few domestic manufactures, but on the whole are one of the most barbarous races of Asia, and the efforts of the Russian government to gather them into towns and teach them the arts of civilization have met with no success. A large share of the outdoor as well as domestic labor is left to the women. The dress of the men consists of one or more loose frocks, wide trousers, colored boots, a girdle, and a conical felt hat in summer or a furred cap in winter. That of the women is nearly the same. The more wealthy wear silks, sometimes finely embroidered. Their dwellings, called yurts, consist of huts made of willow trellis work covered with a kind of sheeting of wool and camels' hair. Mutton, horse flesh, tea, and sour mares' milk are the principal articles of diet. The Kirghiz were formerly the chief slave catchers of the steppes, and a brother sometimes sold his sisters into servitude in order to avoid the expense of their support. The slaves were sent to Khiva, Bokhara, and other Turkoman states; but recently the influence of Russia has caused the abolition of slavery in these states.
The religion of the hordes is a corrupt form of Mohammedanism. There are kindred tribes in East Turkistan, sometimes designated as the eastern Kirghiz. - See Atkinson's "Oriental and Western Siberia." Nicholas Ilminski, professor at the university of Kazan, published in 1861, in Kirghiz, a manual of the Russian language, and in 1862 the Kirghiz text of the legend of the popular hero Targun, and a grammar and dictionary in one volume, under the title of "Materials for the Study of Kirghiz."