Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyz


Kyrgyz are ancient nomads, succeeded to preserve integrity of the culture and ethnic originality for many centuries.

The outstanding Russian scientist, specialist in Turkic philology academician Radlov was the first who wrote about Kyrgyz people in Russian language. His work was written in 1863, but still has great interests even nowadays. He presented his own impressions when he first time visited places where Kyrgyz people lived.

In 5th century Kyrgyz people lived along the bank of Yenisei River. At that time Kyrgyz were blond hair people with blue eyes. Because of this some scientist guessed that Kyrgyz were Indo-European originally. Later Kyrgyz lost their previous appearances as blond people with blue eyes probably because of Mongols people who had a high influence on all tribes in 13 century. 

Kyrgyz people stayed as a warlike nation. For instance other nations could live separately. On the contrary Kyrgyz people located their yurts in one valley and made a line with big number of yurts. There were not yurts located separately. When enemy was appearing, thousands of Kyrgyz warriors were ready for fighting. The main reason why Kyrgyz survived was the way of their life - tribalism.

A usual ancient Kyrgyz was gloomy, severe and tough. At that time hospitality was sacred for them. They had a saying "a guest is sent from God. Even if he stays for a while, he will see a lot".

From the very childhood children were taught to be active and to be able to protect themselves. Laziness and idleness were blamed. Boys were taught to ride a horse from their early three or four years. It was very important for nomads. They lived on the territory of Kyrgyzstan and they had to travel from one place to another for many times during one year.

Rich person did not look differ from poor person as well as lord from servant. All of them had identical upbringing, level of maturity of mind, similar garments.  Rich people just had bigger yurts and more adornments on the garments. 

The Kyrgyz people were nomads and their preferable but not the only activity was stock raising. They used stocks for several reasons. First of all it was their food. Kyrgyz usually eat meat of sheep, but on holidays and in cases of sacrificing they eat horses. Camels were also in their stocks, but there were few of them. Kyrgyz people had shoes made of camel skin and warm clothes were always made of its wool.

In summer nomads used to be in mountains and in winter they lived in valleys. More that 90% of Kyrgyzstan are mountains and they had a lot of space to live.

The day of going from one place to another was set by the Biy or Chief Manap and was divulged to the whole tribe. They had a saying "If one family stays, it will never find the tribe", that's why this days were never delayed accept the cases when someone in a tribe died. But anyway even this sometimes could not stop them, they could just take the body with them to bury it during some pause in their journey. After arriving to a new place, they were erecting their portable houses - yurts. It was a very comfortable dwelling. It took people only an hour to erect or collapse it. And they needed just three or four horses to take it to another place.

They are Muslim and they do not eat pork. Polygamy is a usual thing for them but their women do not close faces from men. They have natural abilities to music with vast numbers songs. A lot of their neighbor tribes were inviting them to different holidays. The main their occupation was stock-raising. They bred basically horses, camels, sheep, goats, and large horned livestock. The agriculture was for them on the second place.  In places of their being in winter on the lake Issik Kul they had small arable lands where workers lived and the basic part of people was wandering in mountains. Workers received a payment for the work with cattle instead of money. The received crop served as livelihood during winter time. They produced thick felt and made tissues from camel's wool. Kyrgyz people used to get all necessary goods by trade.  In exchange for sheep they could receive silk and cotton tissues, some clothes.

Principles of tribalism formed in the gregarious epoch of mankind. People had to survive in terrible conditions of life struggling with different threats, by uniting into collectives, based on blood relationship, clans. Some clans united in one area and formed a tribe.

The main nomadic activity in Kyrgyzstan is stock-breeding. This occupation of the Kyrgyz prevented from appearing agriculture and settled way of life and impeded to liberation from primitive classless society.

Self-organization of the Kyrgyz society on the principles of tribalism applied to every sphere of their life and principles and rules of tribalism made a foundation of organizing, administrative, breeding and legal activities.

Family or tutun ("smoke") was the basic part of the Kyrgyz society, the next is generation of the sons with the common ascendant or uulu. Their number varied from several yurts to several hundreds. Consolidation of several uulu formed uruk or clan of blood relatives with a common ascendant. And, finally, tribe or uruu formed with several uruk or clans.

Property belonged to whole clan and there were strict rules of using it. No one can borrow a pasture from an honored clan; one can ask a permission to be a neighbor of that clan. Having been refused there was nothing to do with it. Land didn't pass from father to a son as legacy - land division and using was subject to decision of authorities of ail (village). Tribe supervision was carrying out by ajo, manaps or biys. When nomads lived on Yenisei they called their leader adjo, then they began to call him biy. And in the 19th century biy was replaced by manap. Honorary title of manap was like Russian duke. They were the best people from commons, those who stood out, the bravest and wisest, who gathered the people and carried about them. This status did not pass from father to a son; man had to serve it with his acts - worrying about well-being of the tribe. All decisions of the authorities were based on adat, and there were strict system of punishments and fines for crimes. For instance, kun (payment for man killing) must be paid not only by murderer himself, but by his whole clan.  For example, for killing a man murder had to pay 300 horses, for killing a woman one had to pay 150 horses, for man's eye injuring- 150 horses and for woman's - 75 horses. And if person couldn't pay this penalty, all his clan had to pay it. All people of one tribe paid taxes without any arguing - they knew that the richer the tribe the more famous it will be. The taxes were taken for burials ceremonies, big holidays or to pay ransom for a bride. All of these examples show the importance of tribal traditions and existing of the tribe as one big family.

Welcome to Kyrgyzstan!