People and Culture


CULTURE“At the beginning of mankind, God gave land to every people, according to their talents and personality He distributed fertile valleys, rocky mountains, dry deserts, forests, and everything the world had to offer. At the end of the distribution, God noticed the Kyrgyz, who had been sleeping at the foot of a tree, when everybody else was fighting for the best part of the world. This carelessness touched God so much in his very heart, that He decided to give him an especially fertile and beautiful part of the world, so he wouldn’t have to work too hard to survive.” Kyrgyz Legend

The Kyrgyz are traditionally Nomads, who originally came from Sibiria and then moved to the south until what today is Kyrgyzstan . The have always been living with cattle, especially sheep and horses from the very beginning were important animals, but also cows and goats are being raised, as well as donkeys for the smallest of the family to ride them. Well, horse-back riding is one of the most important parts of Kyrgyz culture, and a Kyrgyz saying even tells us: “If you would have only one day to live, you should spend at least half of it in the saddle.”

CULTURE1An abundance of horse-back riding games exist, which are often presented with festivals or shows, and the perfection of the Kyrgyz in the saddle, where the moves are mostly derived from every-day situations of former generations, is amazing.

Children already learn how to ride a horse when they just start walking, and the boys will then soon also be caring for the sheep.

Girls, on the other hand, very early learn the traditional handicraft, which mean in first place the very beautiful carpets, that are made with months- or year-lasting work. The most famous carpets are Shyrdak and Ala-Kiyiz , which are both made from sheeps felt and show coloured patterns, that are derived from nature.

Although very important, those carpets are not the best-known product of Kyrgyz sheeps felt: The symbol of the Kyrgyz life, the Yurt , is made from felt as well, and can be found everywhere on the pastures. Also in modern Kyrgyzstan , it is still part of every-day life, even in cities: You find street-cafés everywhere, serving traditional meals, and also families in big towns still build the yurt on the most important holidays, such as the birth of a child, a marriage or a burial. Most significantly shown is the importance of the yurt in the flag of the Republic: It is red and in the centre shows symbolically the Tyunduk – the central part of the yurts roof, with ist typical wooden circle and the crossed sticks in ist middle.

CULTURE2The yurt is a multifunctional, portable home, consisting of a wooden construction and the felt covers. The whole thing is fixed with short leather-ribbons (instead of nails) and ropes made from animals hair. Inside, decoration is spread out everywhere: Carpets on the walls and on the floor, and the “Djuk” at the end of the yurt, opposite the entrance: It is bedsheets, that are spread at nighttime on the floor and offer a soft and warm place for the night, but during daytime they are kept stapled and covered with a beautiful cloth, forming the back part of the place for the most honoured guest.

In the middle, you usually find a little stove, which is used for cooking and warming the room, which is absolutely necessary also in summer, especially if there is bad weather in those high-altitude regions. Left to the entrance there is the mans part – utilities for hunting, fishing, horse-back riding and everything for the sheep is stored here. The womans part is on the right hand side – you can find kitchen utilities, and everything needed for handicraft and suing.

Besides the yurt, there is a second, very important part of Kyrgyz culture and proud – the hero Manas : The epos that has been named after him and consists of three parts, tells the story of the hero Manas and his son and grandson, in the 10 th century. He has been born in the region of Talas, in the north-west of the country, and it is said that at the age of 9, he already defeated the snake with wings – the scene can be watched in Bishkek in form of a statue at the place in front of the Philharmonia.

The eops, which is longer than Odyssee and Ilias together, has been told orally throughout the last millennium, and the first written version appeared only about 100 years ago.

The storytellers and -singers (Akyn), who were able to sing this most important masterpiece of the Kyrgyz people, were very much honoured and respected people and called “Manas’chi”.

© 2014 Embassy of Kyrgyz Republic in New Delhi, India