back to top
World

Welcome To Kyrzbekistan, The World's Newest Nonexistent Country

The small Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan can't get a break from the U.S. media, who can't spell it or get basic facts right about it — such as its existence.

Posted on

At the end of a 2,000-word front-page article on a heroic mountain climber defying seemingly insurmountable odds, the New York Times added the following correction late Wednesday:

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the country whose army
chased Tommy Caldwell's kidnappers. As other references correctly noted,
Caldwell was in Kyrgyzstan, not Kyrzbekistan, which does not exist.

The new country was quickly mocked on Twitter:

Doesn't Borat come from Kyrzbekistan? http://t.co/t3RJMVc13B

John Gapper@johngapperFollow

Doesn't Borat come from Kyrzbekistan? http://t.co/t3RJMVc13B

10:24 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

@miriamgottfried I just bought a beachfront condo in Kyrzbekistan. It exists!

Gary Shteyngart@ShteyngartFollow

@miriamgottfried I just bought a beachfront condo in Kyrzbekistan. It exists!

11:08 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

I suppose, if all nations are "imagined communities", the NYT making one up just took that to its logical conclusion. #kyrzbekistan

Oliver Bullough@OliverBulloughFollow

I suppose, if all nations are "imagined communities", the NYT making one up just took that to its logical conclusion. #kyrzbekistan

10:36 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

@OliverBullough Kremlin preparing plans already to defend rights of Russian-speaking minority in #kyrzbekistan

Neil Buckley@NeilRBuckleyFollow

@OliverBullough Kremlin preparing plans already to defend rights of Russian-speaking minority in #kyrzbekistan

10:43 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

And btw, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization does not seem to list #Kyrzbekistan among its members. Opening for U.S. diplomacy?

Christian Caryl@ccarylFollow

And btw, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization does not seem to list #Kyrzbekistan among its members. Opening for U.S. diplomacy?

10:50 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

This NYT correction is bound to enrage Kryzbek nationalists. http://t.co/7488F9LdfM

DavidKenner@DavidKennerFollow

This NYT correction is bound to enrage Kryzbek nationalists. http://t.co/7488F9LdfM

9:24 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

@kyrzbekistan @OliverBullough I think Harry Redknapp has his eye on a triffic left back from #Kyrzbekistan in the January transfer window.

Kevin Bishop@bishopkFollow

@kyrzbekistan @OliverBullough I think Harry Redknapp has his eye on a triffic left back from #Kyrzbekistan in the January transfer window.

10:41 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

.@JohnBranchNYT Having lived in Kaz & now in Kg can say it wldn't be so bad to combine Kaz's econ resources w/ Kg's more democratic system:)

Steve Swerdlow@steveswerdlowFollow

.@JohnBranchNYT Having lived in Kaz & now in Kg can say it wldn't be so bad to combine Kaz's econ resources w/ Kg's more democratic system:)

12:46 PM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

.@JohnBranchNYT Combining Uzbekistan's political system with anything else, on other hand, ain't such a good idea. :)

Steve Swerdlow@steveswerdlowFollow

.@JohnBranchNYT Combining Uzbekistan's political system with anything else, on other hand, ain't such a good idea. :)

12:47 PM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

...and, as is now de rigeur, gained its own unfunny parody account.

Top three cities in #Kyrzbekistan: 1. Bishkent (capital) 2. Tashkek 3. Osh

Kyrzbekistan@kyrzbekistanFollow

Top three cities in #Kyrzbekistan:

1. Bishkent (capital)
2. Tashkek
3. Osh

10:50 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

The article's author gracefully fell on his own nonexistent sword.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in @kyrzbekistan, which is only fitting, since I'm the one who made it up.

John Branch@JohnBranchNYTFollow

If anyone needs me, I'll be in @kyrzbekistan, which is only fitting, since I'm the one who made it up.

11:56 AM - 08 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

It's been a rough few days in the Western media for Kyrgyzstan, which has largely faded from view since a revolution in 2010 and ensuing ethnic violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the southern city of Osh, near the Uzbek border.

Reuters/Stringer

Ethnic Uzbek refugees, who fled the violence in Kyrgyzstan, wait for their turn to cross the border to Uzbekistan near the village of Jalal-Kuduk, June 14, 2010.

Host Michael Kay calls Kyrgyz people "Kyrg nationals" and refers to the capital, Bishkek, as "Bishek."

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

In an article about Kyrgyz-born accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday, Vox described it with a series of glaring factual errors claiming that the Tsarnaevs lived in a "Chechen enclave" where they had been forcibly moved on Joseph Stalin's orders in the 1950s, a decade after the deportations happened.

Many foreigners struggle to differentiate the five Soviet "stans" in Central Asia, whose names — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — aren't the easiest to spell and pronounce. Kyrgyzstan, which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry once called Kyrzakhstan, is particularly tricky, because its name is full of vowels that don't exist in English. Reach down into your gullet for a deep, throaty "uuuuyyyyyhhhh" like you've been slapped on the back to kick a cough and you'll get the idea. The countries, traditionally home to nomads and farmers, only came into being when Stalin drew borders on ethnic lines in 1920s to prevent them from rising against Soviet rule and only gained their independence when the USSR collapsed.

Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, even proposed dropping the "stan" (which comes from an old Persian word meaning "land") last February in a hope of helping his country stand out. "In our country's name, there is this 'stan' ending which other Central Asian nations have as well. But, for instance, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just two million people, but whose name lacks the 'stan' ending," Nazarbayev said. His proposal to rename the country Kazakh Yoli, meaning "The Land of Kazakhs," was quickly shelved after Moscow stoked separatist passions among Russians in Ukraine, raising fears the same could happen in Kazakhstan's mostly ethnic Russian north.

See you in Yubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan!

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71

Contact Max Seddon at max.seddon@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.