Kyrgyz culture

a tale about life inclusion


Kurgyz culture

Kyrgyzstan culture takes its roots in antiquity. Its formation was largely influenced by Turkic tribes that migrated in the early Middle Ages from the territory of the Altay and East Turkestan. Before the 20th century there was the Kyrgyz tribal division. Some of the Kyrgyz still adhere to this tradition. This can be seen even in the division of the Kyrgyz into the southern and northern Kyrgyz. Customs and traditions of the southern Kyrgyz of the Ferghana Valley and the Eastern Pamirs differ from the traditions of the northern Kyrgyz living in areas of the Tien Shan, Issyk-kul lake region and areas of the Chu and Talas rivers. The nature of the prevailing economic structure - nomadic herding and the patriarchal family life left a deep imprint on the material culture of the Kyrgyz. Dwellings, traditional clothes, food - everything is dictated by the need of frequent nomadism.

Little Is Being Done To End Kyrgyzstan’s Bride Kidnapping Crisis

Family and marriage

Family and marriage among the Kyrgyz are closely related to the patriarchal way of life. It was usual for Kyrgyz culture to live together in a small patriarchal families that formed a so-called big clan with the whole family line living in the same area.


Marriage was preceded by courtship. It was a custom in the past when young children were matched, sometimes even unborn yet babies were matched. Like in many other Eastern nations a dowry asked for the bride. And even today, modern Kyrgyz follow this custom.


In rural Kyrgyzstan men still marry their women the old-fashioned way: by abducting them off the street and forcing them to be their wife. Bride kidnapping is a supposedly ancient custom that's made a major comeback since the fall of Communism and now accounts for nearly half of all marriages in some parts. We traveled to the Kyrgyz countryside to follow/aid and abet a young groom named Kubanti as he surprised his teenage girlfriend Nazgul with the gift of marriage/kidnapping.


The birth of the baby is marked with mandatory treating - zhentek consisting of a national delicacy boorsok and bread (lepyoshka) with melted butter. A week later, the child is placed into the cradle (beshik). This event is marked with a small celebration - beshik - toy. There is another holiday arranged on the 40th day when the child wears a shirt, sewn out of 40 grafts collected from neighbors and bathed in 40 spoonfuls of water. All these rituals are intended to preserve and protect a child's life.

The yurt and settlements

Kyrgyz culture has been greatly influenced by their nomadic heritage. It is reflected in the way a household was run, in customs and rites. People decorated their homes with items that were both beautiful and practical. The masterpiece of folk creation is the Kyrgyz yurta (yourt, yurt, tent), which was easy to assemble and transport from place to place.


The Yurta is a small dwelling, decorated with hand-made felt carpets and strips. Having its roots in ancient Turkic tribes, the yurta took all the best from many centuries' experience of nomadic people. Kyrgyz tribes, occupied with nomadic cattle-breeding in the mountains, worked out the best type of transportable dwelling that is easily dismantled, moved on pack animals and again set up.


The Yurta consists of wooden pieces and a felt cover


One third of the population now lives in the urban areas. But the urbanizing is growing like in most countries.

Prior to joining the Russian Empire the main type of settlement were villages, and the Kyrgyz , because of their nomadic lifestyle, moved from place to place.


But during the Soviet era Kyrgyz were gradually subside, experiencing a radical change in their lifestyle. Today most of the Kyrgyz are settled, moving to larger cities, but there are still traditional villages in the mountains and rural areas.


Features of the nomadic lifestyle of Kyrgyz people have been reflected in their national clothes. First, the clothes had to be light and comfortable, so that a nomad could comfortably ride on horseback. Second, the clothes had to be strong, but uncomplicated, so that it could be home-made. Third, it must reliably protect people from the cold, that is important in a mountain climate. The main materials for making clothes were coarse wool, felt, fur and leather. The noble families could afford expensive clothes made of fabrics from the towns of the Great Silk Road.


The outerwear is called “chapan”. The chapan is a kind of padded coat made of a strong and warm woolen fabric, with buttons and high collar. In winter nomads wore sheepskin coat named “ton” and fur coats “ichiks” made ​​of fox fur, wolf or lynx. The main traditional shoes are boots decorated with colorful ornaments, with long tops and narrow toes.


Men wore wide trousers made ​​of leather or suede, embroidered with colored threads (“chalbar”, “kandagay”), shirts (“keynek”) and felt robe (“kementay”). Noble and rich people wore jewelry. A male attribute of wealth in the clothing was a wide leather belt (kemer), decorated with various silver incuts.


The traditional women's clothing consisted of long white shirts or dresses (“keynek”) and long pantaloons. Young women wore sleeveless jackets of colored velvet (“chyptama”). Married women wore skirts with fur and patterned embroidery (“beldemchi”).


Headwear always played a special role in Kyrgyz traditional clothing. Ak kalpak is a white felt hat worn by men. It is one of the important symbols of Kyrgyz people. The hat in the shape of a turban made of fine white muslin is called “elechek”. Traditionally it is worn by married women.


Traditional clothing of the Kyrgyz has undergone many changes during its development. As other aspects of material culture, the Kyrgyz clothes clearly show distinctive features that were peculiar to individual tribal and territorial groups, it is also distinguished by the unique attribute typical for the nomads. Clothing made of coarse woolen cloth of domestic manufacture, made from animal skins, felt, leather and wild animals was in common use.


The traditional costume element is a Kyrgyz felt hat - Ak-kalpak (white cap), which is characteristic for both the men's suits and dresses for women. Another element of the native Kyrgyz clothing is top felted clothing with sleeves – kementay- and white felt boots. Married women wore a loin skirt - beldemchi,with flaps converging in front. Also a coat “chapan” with a high collar was very popular among the men and women. It should also be noted that completely embroidered shirt thread “zhaka” and the traditional conical hat that ladies wore on ceremonial occasions were among the elements of women's dress. Men wore trousers of tanned leather or suede, which had several names - chalbar, kandagay, zhalgak shim. The most common shoe among the Kyrgyz were boots with high tops and narrow, slightly turned-up noses.


Feasts and Holidays


Nooruz (New Year)

Nooruz is the Muslim New Year's, and the most widely celebrated holiday in Kyrgyzstan. It has been celebrated on March 21st for more than 2,000 years. A lot of preparation goes into this special day. People buy or make new clothes, and boz ui are erected and decorated with juniper to make them as attractive as possible.


In Bishkek, the colossal festivities culminate in a game of ulak tartysh (see below), and in every city and village in the land, smaller but no less lively celebrations take place. It is a great honor to take part in Nooruz, which is held in Muslim countries all over the world.


Uilonuu toi (Wedding Feast)

Before they get married, the young couple's parents prepare clothes for them. The bride's mother, sisters-in-law and friends put up a white yurt. The groom and his friends come to take the bride away.


According to tradition, the bride's mother and sister-in-law sing koshok (a lament over her departure) and say good-bye to each other. Her sisters-in-law accompany the bride to the groom's house, where the wedding party starts.


Beshik toi (Cradle Feast)

This feast celebrates a new child's first day in the cradle, within a week of his or her birth. The beshik is a wooden cradle used to swaddle a child until he or she starts walking. Historically, the Kyrgyz made very simple beshiks, suitable to their nomadic way of life. Two arcs are made from a bunch of dry willow as thick as a forearm; holes are made in their bases. Sticks matching these holes are attached, and wicker rope is strung between the sticks. A mattress is spread out inside.


Jentek toi (Birth Feast)

New parents show their happiness by treating their neighbors, and a mark of respect is to treat people to sary mai (yellow butter). First it is put into the baby's mouth, followed by the oldest person in the house. The sary mai is kept in a slaughtered lamb's, sheep's or calf's stomach for the purpose of this feast. To honor ne baby, guests bring clothes, animals or food. Relatives offer calves, sheep or lambs. They can also present a shyrdak (carpet) or horsecloth.

Questions on culture?

1. What is the name of the traditional hat i Kyrgyzstan? Do we havesomething similar in Denmark?

2. What is the name of the Kyrgyz National Games? What is the national traidtional sport? What is the national sport now?

3. What is the traditional home of Kyrgyz? How is the population living today?

4. How is the traditional courting in Kyrgyzstan?

5. Do you think women and men are equal in the Kyrgyz society? What about in Denmark?

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