Muslims in Kyrgyzstan are of the Sunni branch, which entered the region during the 8th century. However, years of Soviet authority have suppressed long accustomed Islamic thinking to such an extent that it’s no longer in touch with reality. Most of Kyrgyz Muslims practice their religion in a specific way influenced by shamanic tribal customs.
There has been a revival of Islamic practices since independence in Kyrgyzstan. For the most part religious leaders deal only with issues of religion and do not reach out to communities, but rather offer services to those who come to the mosque. There are regional differences, with the southern part of the country being more religious, and the northern part being more secular. Kyrgyzstan remained a secular state after the fall of communism, which had only superficial influence on religious practice when Kyrgyzstan was a Soviet republic, despite the policy of state atheism. Most of the Russian population of Kyrgyzstan is atheist or Russian Orthodox. The Uzbeks, who make up 12.9 percent of the population, are generally Sunni Muslims. The share of the Muslim population is increasing in Kyrgyzstan while the non-Muslim populations are decreasing. For example, Russians, Ukrainians, and Germans made-up 31.9 percent of Kyrgyzstzan’s population in 1979, and in 1999 were only 13.9 percent of the population.