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Kyrgyzstan: Bride napping

There are many striking traditions in Kyrgyzstan. For local people they seem to be usual, but for foreigners some of them seem really extraordinary.

Over the years, many traditions of various peoples fell into oblivion. Not so in Kyrgyzstan, where the people kept all their customs and rituals. One of its striking "traditions" is bride-napping.

In early times, young men had to pay kalim in order to marry a girl. Kalim is the Kyrgyz word for ransom. The fiancé had to pay about 15 sheep for his bride. If she was from a rich family, he even had to pay about 50 sheep or 5-7 horses. There were many cases when a poor man was in love, but could not afford the kalim. And if his bride was in love with him, too - they usually ran away from their families. The bride's parents and relatives would not accept it, but hunting down the man who had abducted their daughter. And if they managed to find him they would kill him.

Step by step bride-napping was turned into a game and eventually became a "tradition" that people wanted to keep. Unfortunately, it turned the way that a man could steal a girl without her agreement. Very often the abducted girl did not see him until the marriage and could not come back home even if she did not like her husband. It was a shame for her parents and all relatives.

Nowadays this "tradition" still exists in remote villages. People from the big cities organize special groups who go to the far villages and explain the villagers that they must not keep and respect this "tradition".

There are even cases when guys from villages come to cities and abduct some girls, which nowadays of course is illegal and pursuit by court. However, when they are found and arrested, they really think that they are not guilty.

Sometimes young couples in love with each other organize a bride-napping just for fun or in honor of the original tradition. In this case, the bride is ready that one day the friends of her fiancé will steal her for him.



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