Kyrgyzstan , officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world’s six independent Turkic states . Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and People’s Republic of China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.

“Kyrgyz” is believed to have been derived from the Turkic word for “forty”, in reference to the forty clans of Manas, a legendary hero who united forty regional clans against the Uyghers. Literally it means We are forty. At the time, in the early 9th century AD, the Uyghers dominated much of Central Asia (including Kyrgyzstan), Mongolia, and parts of Russia and China.

By extension, Kyrgyz is also thought to mean “unconquerable” or “undefeatable”.

The 40-ray sun on the flag of Kyrgyzstan is a reference to those same forty tribes and the graphical element in the sun’s center depicts the wooden crown of a yurt – a portable dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.


Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a country in Southeast Europe. Bulgaria borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometers (42,855 sq mi), it ranks as the 15th-largest country in Europe. The economy relies on local natural resources and the strongest sectors are heavy industry and agriculture.

The emergence of a unified Bulgarian ethnicity and state dates back to the 7th century AD. All Bulgarian political entities that subsequently emerged preserved the traditions of the First Bulgarian Empire, which at times covered most of the Balkans and became a cultural hub for the Slavs in the Middle Ages. With the downfall of the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1396, its territories came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 resulted in the establishment of a third Bulgarian state, the independence of which was fully recognized in 1908. Shortly afterwards Bulgaria became involved in a series of major conflicts with its neighbours and allied with Germany in both World Wars. After World War II it became a people’s republic and was a part of the Warsaw Pact until the Revolutions of 1989, when the Communist Party allowed multi-party elections. Bulgaria transitioned to democracy and free market capitalism was introduced.

The government functions as a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, NATO, the Council of Europe, a founding state of the OSCE, and has taken a seat in the UN Security Council three times.

Bulgaria’s population of 7.37 million people is predominantly urban and is concentrated mainly in the administrative centers of its 28 provinces. With 1.2 million people Sofia is the largest city, where most economic and political activities are concentrated. Bulgaria is home to some of the most ancient cultural artifacts in the world and is a historical crossroad of various civilizations.


Libya , is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west.

With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa by area, and the 17th largest in the world. The largest city, Tripoli, is home to 1.7 million of Libya’s 6.4 million people. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica.

In 2009 Libya had the highest HDI in Africa and the fourth highest GDP (PPP) per capita in Africa, behind Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world and the 17th-highest petroleum production.

As a result of the civil war of February to October 2011, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, which had at that time been in existence for 34 years, collapsed and Libya entered a period of governance by a transitional administration called the National Transitional Council. The NTC has stated its intention to oversee the first phase of a transition to constitutional democracy, after which it claims it will dissolve in favor of a representative legislature.


Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The capital and largest city is Budapest. Hungary is a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the Visegrád Group, and is a Schengen state. The official language is Hungarian, also known as Magyar, which is part of the Uralic family and is the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in Europe.

Following a Celtic (after c. 450 BCE) and a Roman (9 CE – c. 430 CE) period, the foundation of Hungary was laid in the late 9th century by the Hungarian ruler Árpád, whose great-grandson Saint Stephen I was crowned with a crown sent by the pope from Rome in 1000 AD. The Kingdom of Hungary lasted for 946 years, and at various points was regarded as one of the cultural centres of the Western world. After about 150 years of partial Ottoman occupation (1541–1699), Hungary was integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy, and later constituted half of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy (1867–1918).

A great power until the end of World War I, Hungary lost over 70 percent of its territory, along with one third of its ethnic population, and all its sea ports under the Treaty of Trianon, the terms of which have been considered excessively harsh by many in Hungary. The kingdom was succeeded by a Fascist regime, and then a Communist era (1947–1989) during which Hungary gained widespread international attention during the Revolution of 1956 and the seminal opening of its border with Austria in 1989, thus accelerating the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. The present form of government is a parliamentary republic, which was established in 1989. Today, Hungary is a high-income economy and a regional leader in some respects.

Hungary is one of the thirty most popular tourist destinations of the world, attracting 8.6 million tourists a year (2007). The country is home to the largest thermal water cave system and the second largest thermal lake in the world (Lake Hévíz), the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grasslands in Europe (Hortobágy).


Laos , officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and the People’s Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west. Its population was estimated to be 6.8 million in 2009.

Laos traces its history to the Kingdom which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three separate kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three kingdoms, Kingdom of Luang Phrabang, Kingdom of Vientiane and Kingdom of Champasak, uniting to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1954, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975.

Laos is a single-party socialist republic. The capital city is Vientiane. Other large cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse. The official language is Lao. Most people are Lao with a significant proportion of indigenous religion as well. It is a rising power in providing electricity to neighboring countries such as Thailand, China and Vietnam and the economy is accelerating rapidly with the demands for its metals. It is a member of the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia Summit and La Francophonie. Laos applied for membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1997.


Macau , is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China. It lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering Guangdong province to the north and facing the South China Sea to the east and south.

The territory’s economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism but also includes manufacturing.

Macau was a Portuguese colony and both the first and last European colony in China. Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 16th century and subsequently administered the region until the handover on 20 December 1999. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Macau stipulate that Macau operates with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2049, fifty years after the transfer.

Under the policy of “one country, two systems”, the PRC’s Central People’s Government is responsible for the territory’s defense and foreign affairs, while Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy. Macau participates in many international organizations and events that do not require members to possess national sovereignty. According to The World Factbook, Macau has the second highest life expectancy in the world.


Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing control of the Dead Sea. Jordan’s only port is at its south-western tip, at the Gulf of Aqaba, which is shared with Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Over half of Jordan is covered by the Arabian Desert. However, the western part of Jordan is arable land and forests. Jordan is part of the Fertile Crescent. The capital city is Amman.

Jordan was founded in 1921, and it was recognized by the League of Nations as a state under the British mandate in 1922 known as The Emirate of Transjordan. In 1946, Jordan joined the United Nations as an independent sovereign state officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In antiquity, the present day Jordan was in the heart of the earlier civilizations which prospered in the Fertile Crescent including the Babylonian and the Canaanites. Later, Jordan became a home for several ancient kingdoms including: the kingdom of Edom, the kingdom of Moab, the kingdom of Ammon and the prominent Nabataean kingdom of Petra. However, across different eras of history, parts of the country laid under the control of some regional powers including Pharaonic Egypt during their wars with the Babylonian and the Hittites; and for discrete periods of times by Israelites who were taken under the captivity of the Babylonian, and who were later defeated by the Moabites as recorded in Mesha stele. Furthermore, and due to its strategic location in the middle of the ancient world, Jordan was also controlled by the ancient empires of Greece, the Persians, the Romans and later by the Byzantine. Yet, the Nabataean managed to create their independent kingdom which covered most parts of modern Jordan and beyond, for some centuries, before it was taken by the still expanding Roman empire. However, apart from Petra, the Romans maintained the prosperity of most of the ancient cities in Jordan which enjoyed a sort of city-state autonomy under the umbrella of the alliance of the Decapolis. With the decline of the Roman Empire, Jordan came to be controlled by the Ghassanid Arab kingdom. In the seventh century, and due to its proximity to Damascus, Jordan became a heartland for the Arabic Islamic Empire and therefore secured several centuries of stability and prosperity, which allowed the coining of its current Arabic Islamic identity. In the 11th century, Jordan witnessed a phase of instability, as it became a battlefield for the Crusade wars which ended with defeat by the Ayyubids. Jordan suffered also from the Mongol attacks which were blocked by Mamluks. In 1516, It became part of the Ottoman Empire and it remained so until 1918, when the Army of the Great Arab Revolt took over, and secured the present day Jordan with the help and support of Jordan local tribes.

As witness to Jordan’s rich history, the Nabataean civilization left many magnificent archaeological sites at Petra, which is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World as well as been recognized by the UNESCO as a world Heritage site. Beside Petra, other civilizations also left their archaeological fingerprints on Jordan including the Hellenistic and the Roman through their ruins in Decapolis cities of Gerasa (Jerash), Gadara (Umm Qais), Philadelphia (Amman), Capitolias (Beit Ras), Raphana, Pella and Arabella (Irbid) and the Byzantine site of Um er-Rasas (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Arabic Islamic Empire also left its unique architectural signature which is embodied by desert palaces including Qasr Mshatta, Qasr al Hallabat and Qasr Amra which is recognized as World Heritage; in addition to the castles of Ajloun and Karak which combine the Crusade, Ayyubid and Mamluk eras all together. The more recent Ottomans left some landmarks including several mosques, tombs, small railway stations and castles.

Modern Jordan is predominantly urbanized. Jordan is classified as a country of “high human development” by the 2010 Human Development Report. Furthermore, The Kingdom has been classified as an emerging market with a free market economy by the CIA World Fact Book. Jordan is also considered to be an “upper middle income” economy. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States went into effect in December, 2001 phased out duties on nearly all goods and services between the two countries. Jordan has also enjoyed “advanced status” with the European Union since December 2010 as well as being a member of the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area.

Jordan has more Free Trade Agreements than any other country in the region. It has very close relations with the United States and the United Kingdom, and became a major non-NATO ally of the United States in 1996. Jordan is a founding member of both the Arab League, and the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Recently, Jordan has been invited to Join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The Jordanian Government is one of only three members of the 22 state Arab League to have diplomatic relations with Israel, the others being the Egyptian and Palestinian governments. Jordan is a member of the WTO, the AFESD, the Arab Parliament, the AIDMO, the AMF, the International Monetary Fund, the International Criminal Court, the UNHRC, the GAFTA, the ESCWA, the ENP and the United Nations.


Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name “Iran” has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia Both “Persia” and “Iran” are used interchangeably in cultural contexts; however, “Iran” is the name used officially in political contexts.

The 18th largest country in the world in terms of area at 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), Iran has a population of around 78 million. It is a country of particular geopolitical significance owing to its location in the Middle East and central Eurasia. Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. As Iran is a littoral state of the Caspian Sea, which is an inland sea, Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran’s direct neighbors to the north. Iran is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, on the west by Iraq and on the northwest by Turkey. Tehran is the capital, the country’s largest city and the political, cultural, commercial and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a regional power, and holds an important position in international energy security and world economy as a result of its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The first dynasty in Iran formed during the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified Iran into an empire in 625 BC. They were succeeded by the Iranian Achaemenid Empire, the Hellenic Seleucid Empire and two subsequent Iranian empires, the Parthians and the Sassanids, before the Muslim conquest in 651 AD. Iranian post-Islamic dynasties and empires expanded the Persian language and culture throughout the Iranian plateau. Early Iranian dynasties which re-asserted Iranian independence included the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids and Buyids.

The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and art became major elements of Muslim civilization. Iranian identity continued despite foreign rule in the ensuing centuries and Persian culture was adopted also by the Ghaznavids, Seljuk, Ilkhanid and Timurid rulers. The emergence in 1501 of the Safavid dynasty, which promoted Twelver Shia Islam as the official religion of their empire, marked one of the most important turning points in Iranian and Muslim history. The Persian Constitutional Revolution established the nation’s first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy. In 1953 Iran became an authoritarian regime, following a coup d’etat instigated by the the UK and US. Growing dissent with foreign influence culminated during the Iranian Revolution which led to establishment of an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979.

Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. The political system of Iran, based on the 1979 constitution, comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The highest state authority is the Supreme Leader. Shia Islam is the official religion and Persian is the official language.

Aland Islands

The Åland Islands , form an archipelago in the Baltic Sea. They are situated at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia and form an autonomous, demilitarised, monolingually Swedish-speaking region of Finland. The islands collectively constitute the smallest region of Finland, with only 0.49% of its land area, and 0.50% of its population.

Åland comprises Fasta Åland (the “Main Island,” with 90% of the population), together with an archipelago to the east that comprises over 6,500 skerries and islands. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by 38 kilometres (24 mi) of open water to the west. In the east, the Åland archipelago is contiguous with the Finnish Archipelago Sea. Åland’s only land border is located on the uninhabited skerry of Märket, which it shares with Sweden.

Because of the autonomous status of the Åland Islands, the powers exercised at the provincial level by representatives of the central state administration in the rest of Finland are largely exercised by the Government of Åland in Åland.

The autonomous status of the islands was affirmed by a decision made by the League of Nations in 1921 following the Åland crisis. It was reaffirmed within the treaty admitting Finland to the European Union. By law, Åland is politically neutral and entirely demilitarised, and residents are exempt from conscription to the Finnish Defence Forces. The islands were granted extensive autonomy by the Parliament of Finland in the Act on the Autonomy of Åland of 1920, which was later replaced by new legislation by the same name in 1951 and 1991. Åland remains exclusively Swedish-speaking by law.

In connection with Finland’s admission to the European Union, a protocol was signed concerning the Åland Islands that stipulates, among other things, that provisions of the European Community Treaty shall not force a change of the existing restrictions for foreigners (i.e., persons who do not enjoy “home region rights” (hembygdsrätt) in Åland) to acquire and hold real property or to provide certain services, implying a recognition of a separate nationality.

Heard Island and McDonald Islands

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands (abbreviated as HIMI) are an Australian external territory and volcanic group of barren Antarctic islands, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica. The group’s overall size is 372 square kilometres (144 sq mi) in area and it has 101.9 km (63 mi) of coastline. Discovered in the mid-19th century, they have been territories of Australia since 1947 and contain the only two active volcanoes in Australian territory, one of which, Mawson Peak, is the highest Australian mountain. They lie on the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian Ocean.

The islands are among the most remote places on Earth: They are located approximately 4,099 km (2,547 mi) southwest of Perth, 3,845 km (2,389 mi) southwest of Cape Leeuwin, Australia, 4,200 km (2,600 mi) southeast of South Africa, 3,830 km (2,380 mi) southeast of Madagascar, 1,630 km (1,010 mi) north of Antarctica, and 450 km (280 mi) southeast of Kerguelen. The islands are currently uninhabited.

Heard Island, by far the largest of the group, is a 368-square-kilometre (142 sq mi) bleak and mountainous island located at 53°06?00?S 73°31?00?E / 53.1°S 73.5166667°E / -53.1; 73.5166667. Its mountains are covered in glaciers (the island is 80% covered with ice) and dominated by Mawson Peak, a 2,745-metre (9,006 ft) high complex volcano which forms part of the Big Ben massif. A July 2000 satellite image from the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) Thermal Alert Team, University of Hawai’i showed an active 2-kilometre (1.2 mi) long (and 50–90 metres/164–295 feet wide) lava flow trending south-west from the summit of Big Ben.

Mawson Peak is the highest Australian mountain (higher than Mount Kosciuszko), and one of only 2 active volcanoes in Australian territory, the other being McDonald Island. A long thin sand and gravel spit named “Elephant Spit” extends from the eastern end of the island. There is a small group of islets and rocks about 10 kilometres (6 mi) north of Heard Island, consisting of Shag Islet, Sail Rock, Morgan Island and Black Rock. They total about 1.1 square kilometres (0.4 sq mi) in area.

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