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Country in a Box:

The Kyrgyz Republic


Kirgiz Respublikas

Tash Rabat in Naryn Province, Kyrgyzstan

A Teachers Guide
Compiled by the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
http://ceres.georgetown.edu
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Kyrgyzstan in a Box: Table of Contents

Facts at a Glance
History of Kyrgyzstan
Timeline of Major Events in Kyrgyz History

3-6
7-10
11

Kyrgyz Culture

12-14

Folklore: The Manas Epic

15-16

Additional Resources

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Rich Kyrgyz Hunter with Eagle Painting by Vasily Vereshchagin (1842-1904)

Kyrgyzstan: Facts at a Glance


_______
Text and map taken directly from Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook:
Kyrgyzstan. Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worldfactbook/geos/kg.html
Country Name: Kyrgyz Republic
Capital: Bishkek
Background: A Central Asian
country of incredible natural
beauty and proud nomadic
traditions, most of Kyrgyzstan
was formally annexed to Russia
in 1876. The Kyrgyz staged a
major revolt against the Tsarist
Empire in 1916 in which almost
one-sixth of the Kyrgyz
population was killed.
Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet
republic in 1936 and achieved independence in 1991 when the USSR dissolved. Nationwide
demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar Akaev, who had
run the country since 1990. Former prime minister Kurmanbek Bakiev overwhelmingly won the
presidential election in the summer of 2005. Over the next few years, he manipulated the
parliament to accrue new powers for the presidency. In July 2009, after months of harassment
against his opponents and media critics, Bakiev won re-election in a presidential campaign that
the international community deemed flawed. In April 2010, violent protests in Bishkek led to the
collapse of the Bakiev regime and his eventual fleeing to Minsk, Belarus. His successor, Roza
Otunbaeva, served as transitional president until Almazbek Atambaev was inaugurated in
December 2011, marking the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in independent
Kyrgyzstan's history. Continuing concerns include: the trajectory of democratization, endemic
corruption, poor interethnic relations, and terrorism.
Location: Central Asia, west of China.
Area: Total: 199,951 sq km
Country comparison to the world: 87
Land: 191,801 sq km
Water: 8,150 sq km
Area - Comparative: Slightly smaller than South Dakota
Terrain: Peaks of Tien Shan and associated valleys and basins encompass entire nation
Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Kara-Daryya (Karadar'ya) 132 m
Highest point: Jengish Chokusu (Pik Pobedy) 7,439 m
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Natural Resources: Abundant hydropower; significant deposits of gold and rare earth metals;
locally exploitable coal, oil, and natural gas; other deposits of nepheline, mercury, bismuth, lead
Environment - Current Issues: Water pollution; many people get their water directly from
contaminated streams and wells; as a result, water-borne diseases are prevalent; increasing soil
salinity from faulty irrigation practices
Population: 5,604,212 (July 2014 est.); Country comparison to the world: 114
Urbanization: Urban population: 35% of total population (2010)
Life Expectancy at Birth: Population: 70.04 years; Country comparison to the world: 147
Male: 66.04 years
Female: 74.24 years
Ethnic Groups: Kyrgyz 64.9%, Uzbek
13.8%, Russian 12.5%, Dungan 1.1%,
Ukrainian 1%, Uighur 1%, other 5.7%
Religions: Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox
20%, other 5%
Education Expenditures: 6.8% of GDP
(2011); Country comparison to the world: 25
Government Type: Parliamentary
Democracy
Red field with a yellow sun in the center
having 40 rays representing the 40 Kyrgyz
tribes; on the obverse side the rays run
counterclockwise, on the reverse, clockwise; in
the center of the sun is a red ring crossed by
two sets of three lines, a stylized representation
of a "tunduk" - the crown of a traditional
Kyrgyz yurt; red symbolizes bravery and valor,
the sun evinces peace and wealth

Independence: 31 August 1991 (from the


Soviet Union)
Legal System: Civil law system which
includes features of French civil law and
Russian Federation laws

Executive Branch: President Almazbek


Atambaev (since 1 December 2011); Head of
government: Prime Minister Joomart
Otorbaev (since 2 April 2014, acting since 26
March 2014); First Deputy Prime Minister Tayyrbek Sarpashev (since 2 April 2014); Deputy
Prime Ministers Valeriy Dil, Abdyrakhman Mamataliev, Elvira Sarieva (all since 2 April 2014)
Legislative Branch: Unicameral Supreme Council or Jogorku Kengesh (120 seats; members
elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)

Judicial Branch: Supreme Court; Constitutional Court (judges of both the Supreme and
Constitutional Courts are appointed for 10-year terms by the Jogorku Kengesh on the
recommendation of the president; their mandatory retirement age is 70 years); Higher Court of
Arbitration; Local Courts (judges appointed by the president on the recommendation of the
National Council on Legal Affairs for a probationary period of five years, then 10 years)
Political Parties and Leaders: Ar-Namys Dignity Party (Feliks Kulov); Ata-Jurt
Homeland (Kamchybek Tashiev); Ata-Meken Fatherland (Omurbek Tekebaev); Butun
Kyrgyzstan All Kyrgyzstan (Adakhan Madumarov, Miroslav Niyazov); Respublika (Omurbek
Babanov; Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) (Almazbek Atambaev)
National Anthem: Name: "Kyrgyz
Respublikasynyn Mamlekettik Gimni"
(National Anthem of the Kyrgyz Republic)
lyrics/music: Djamil Sadykov and
Eshmambet Kuluev/Nasyr Davlesov and
Kalyi Moldobasanov
note: adopted 1992
Economy - Overview: Kyrgyzstan is a poor,
mountainous country with a dominant
agricultural sector. Cotton, tobacco, wool,
and meat are the main agricultural products,
although only tobacco and cotton are
exported in any quantity. Industrial exports
include gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas,
The Som:
and electricity. The economy depends
Kyrgyzstan was the first country in Central Asia to
heavily on gold exports - mainly from output
introduce its own currency (May 1993) following the
at the Kumtor gold mine - and on
collapse of the USSR.
The Kyrgyz bills were well designed and contain several
remittances from Kyrgyzstani migrant
notable people in the arts. One is the Great Kyrgyz
workers primarily in Russia. Following
Ballerina Bubusara Beyshenalieva in the 5 KGS bill.
independence, Kyrgyzstan was progressive
There are also patrons of the arts, architecture, and music.
in carrying out market reforms, such as an
Trekking and camping in the countrys mountainous
improved regulatory system and land reform.
regions is very popular thus, the countrys natural beauty
reflected on the bills, such as the Khan Tengri mountains,
Kyrgyzstan was the first Commonwealth of
translated into Turkic as Rulers of the Sky. Water sport
Independent States (CIS) country to be
exists but only at Lake Issyk-Kul. Its also on the bill
accepted into the World Trade Organization.
noted for its beautiful scenery, and the fact that it doesnt
Much of the government's stock in
freeze in winter due to its hot temperature.
enterprises has been sold. Drops in
(http://famouswonders.com/kyrgyzstani-som/)
production had been severe after the breakup
of the Soviet Union in December 1991, but
by mid-1995, production began to recover and exports began to increase. The overthrow of
President Bakiev in April 2010 and subsequent ethnic clashes left hundreds dead and damaged
infrastructure. Under President Atambayev, Kyrgyzstan has developed a plan for economic
development in coordination with international donors, and has also expressed its intent to join
the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Progress in fighting corruption,
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improving transparency in licensing, business permits and taxations, restructuring domestic


industry, and attracting foreign aid and investment are key to future growth.
GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $14.3 billion (2013 est.); Country comparison to the world:
145
GDP - Real Growth Rate: 7.4% (2013 est.); Country comparison to the world: 17
GDP - Per Capita (PPP): $2,500 (2013 est.); Country comparison to the world: 185
GDP - Composition by Sector: Agriculture: 20.8%, Industry: 34.4%, Services: 44.8% (2013
est.)
Agriculture Products: Tobacco, cotton, potatoes, vegetables, grapes, fruits and berries; sheep,
goats, cattle, wool
Industries: Small machinery, textiles, food processing, cement, shoes, sawn logs, refrigerators,
furniture, electric motors, gold, rare earth metals
Current Account Balance: -$1.125 billion (2013 est.); Country comparison to the world: 121
Exports - Commodities: cotton, wool, meat, tobacco; gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas,
hydropower; machinery; shoes
Exports - Partners: Kazakhstan 26.2%, Uzbekistan 26.1%, Russia 14.6%, China 7%, UAE
6.1%, Afghanistan 5.2% (2012)
Imports - Partners: China 55.2%, Russia 17.4%, Kazakhstan 7.9% (2012)
Debt - External: $3.859 billion (31 December 2013 est.); country comparison to the world: 128
Exchange Rates: Soms (KGS) per US dollar 48.87 (2013 est.)
Military expenditures: 3.74% of GDP (2011)

History of Kyrgyzstan
6

_______
Text taken directly from Library of Congress Website:
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/kgtoc.html

The Battle of Talas 751 AD:


This little-known battle between the army of
Imperial Tang China and the Abbasid Arabs had
important consequences, not just for China and
Central Asia, but for the entire world.
At the time, nobody could have known that one
particular battle, which took place on the banks of
the Talas River in present-day Kyrgyzstan, would
halt the Arab and Chinese advances in Central Asia
and fix the boundary between
Buddhist/Confucianist Asia and Muslim Asia. In
addition, the battle was instrumental in transmitting
a key invention from China to the western world:
the art of paper-making, a technology that would
alter world history forever.
Chinese records state that the Tang army was
30,000 strong, while Arab accounts put the number
of Chinese at 100,000. The total number of Arab,
Tibetan and Uighur warriors is not recorded, but
theirs was the larger of the two forces.
Of the tens of thousands the Tang sent into battle,
only a small percentage survived.
The Abbassids could have pressed their advantage,
marching into China proper. However, their supply
lines were already stretched to the breaking point,
and sending such a huge force over the eastern
Hindu Kush mountains and into the deserts of
western China was beyond their capacity.
Despite the crushing defeat of Kao's Tang forces,
the Battle of Talas was a tactical draw. The Arabs'
eastward advance was halted, and the troubled
Tang Empire turned its attention from Central Asia
to rebellions on its northern and southern borders
(Text from
http://asianhistory.about.com/od/centralasia/a/Battl
eofTalas.htm)

Stone implements found in the Tian Shan


mountains indicate the presence of human society in
what is now Kyrgyzstan as many as 200,000 to
300,000 years ago. In the meantime, beginning about
1000 B.C., large tribes collectively known as the
Scythians also lived in the area of present-day
Kyrgyzstan. Excellent warriors, the Scythian tribes
farther west had resisted an invasion by the troops of
Alexander the Great in 328-27 B.C.
The first Kyrgyz state, the Kyrgyz Khanate,
existed from the sixth until the thirteenth century
A.D., expanding by the tenth century southwestward
to the eastern and northern regions of present-day
Kyrgyzstan and westward to the headwaters of the
Ertis (Irtysh) River in present-day eastern Kazakstan.
In this period, the khanate established intensive
commercial contacts in China, Tibet, Central Asia,
and Persia.
The Mongols' invasion of Central Asia in the
fourteenth century devastated the territory of
Kyrgyzstan, costing its people their independence
and their written language. The son of Chinggis
(Genghis) Khan, Dzhuchi, conquered the Kyrgyz
tribes of the Yenisey region, who by this time had
become disunited. For the next 200 years, the
Kyrgyz remained under the Golden Horde and the
Oriot and Jumgar khanates that succeeded that
regime. Freedom was regained in 1510, but Kyrgyz
tribes were overrun in the seventeenth century by the
Kalmyks, in the mid-eighteenth century by the
Manchus, and in the early nineteenth century by the
Uzbeks.
Between 1710 and 1876, the Kyrgyz were ruled
by the Uzbek Quqon (Kokand) Khanate, one of the
three major principalities of Central Asia during that
period (see fig. 3). Kyrgyz tribes fought and lost four
wars against the Uzbeks of Quqon between 1845 and
873. The defeats strengthened the Kyrgyz
willingness to seek Russian protection.

The Tsarist Era:


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In 1876 Russian troops defeated the Quqon


Khanate and occupied northern Kyrgyzstan.. In the
last decades of the nineteenth century, increasing
numbers of Russian and Ukrainian settlers moved into
the northern part of present-day Kyrgyzstan.
Nevertheless, in most regions traditional life continued
largely as it had before 1870.
By 1915, however, many Central Asians outside
the intelligentsia criticized the Russian Empire's
repressive policies. The Kyrgyz nomads suffered
especially from confiscation of their land for Russian
and Ukrainian settlements. Russian taxation, forced
labor, and price policies all targeted the indigenous
population and raised discontent and regional tension.
The bloody rebellion of the summer of 1916 began in
Uzbekistan, then spread into Kyrgyzstan and
elsewhere.
Kurmanjan Datka:
The Soviet Era:
Kurmanjan was born into a nomadic family of
Kyrgyzstan was briefly independent during the
the Mongush clan in the Alai Mountains. In
chaos of the Russian revolution in 1917 before being
1832, the local feudal lord, Alimbek, who had
reabsorbed.. In 1926 the official name changed to the
taken the title, Datka, and ruled all the
Kyrgyz of the Alai, was attracted by the
Kyrgyz Autonomous Republic before the region
young, vivacious woman, and married her. An
achieved the status of a full republic of the Soviet
instrumental politician in the increasingly
Union in 1936.
decrepit Kokand khanate, Alimbek was
The most important single event leading to
murdered in the course of a palace coup in
independence grew from an outburst of ethnic friction.
1862 and Kurmanjan was recognized by the
khans of Bukhara and Kokand as ruler of the
Tensions very likely had existed between the Kyrgyz
Alai and given the title of Datka. In 1876
and the Uzbeks throughout the Soviet period, but
the Alai region was annexed by the Russian
Moscow was able to preserve the image of Soviet
Empire. Recognizing the futility of resistance,
ethnic harmony until the reforms of Gorbachev in the
Kurmanjan Datka persuaded her people to
mid-1980s.
accept Russian overlordship. From
(http://studentwork.kloop.kg/2010/02/20/kurm
In the general atmosphere of glasnost, an Uzbekanzhan-datka/)
rights group called Adalat began airing old
grievances in 1989, demanding that Moscow grant
local Uzbek autonomy in Osh and consider its annexation by nearby Uzbekistan.
The confrontation that erupted over control of that land brought several days of bloody riots
killing at least 320 Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh.
Four months later, the Republics president, Masaliyev failed to win the majority of Supreme
Soviet votes required to remain in power. In his stead, the Central Committee of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) surprisingly selected inexperienced academic Askar Akaev,
who was serving as head of the republic's Academy of Sciences.

Independence:
On August 30, 1991, days after the coup began,
Akayev and the republic's Supreme Soviet declared
Kyrgyzstan an independent nation. Under President
Askar Akayev, Kyrgyzstan developed all the
institutions of a modern democracy, including an
open press, an independent judiciary, and a freely
elected parliament. Yet the new country experienced
numerous challenges. The continuing outflow of
ethnic Russians (who constitute the greater part of
Kyrgyzstan's technicians), the war in Tajikistan
(which has driven refugees and "freedom fighters"
into Kyrgyzstan), the growing evidence of widescale official corruption and incompetence, rising
crime, and--more than anything else--the spectacular
collapse of the economy increasingly charged the
country's political atmosphere in the first half of the
1990s.
Revolutions:
(http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/32609
1/Kyrgyzstan)
Flawed parliamentary elections in 2005 and a
widespread perception of government corruption led
to mass demonstrations in March of that year. These
protests, quite surprisingly, led to the sudden and
rapid collapse of the Akayev government. The
president fled the country on March 24 and resigned
several days later. In July elections, which were
largely deemed free and fair by Western observers,
Kurmanbek Bakiyev was chosen president.
Protest against Bakiyevs increasingly authoritarian
policies and accusations of corruption both played a
role in the outbreak of violent unrest in April 2010,
but the more immediate cause appeared to be a steep
increase in the cost of utilities. In early April,
thousands of protesters attempted to storm the main
government building in Bishkek in an apparent
effort to overthrow the government. Failing to
disperse the crowds with tear gas and stun grenades,
riot police fired with live ammunition, killing some
80 people and wounding hundreds more. By the
early hours of April 8, Bakiyev had fled the capital
by plane, and the opposition had announced the
formation of an interim government led by Rosa
Otunbaeva.

Roza Otunbaeva:
Kyrgyz politician who served as president
(20102011 ) of the interim government of
Kyrgyzstan that came to power with the ouster
of Pres. Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Otunbayeva completed her education in Russia,
earning a degree in philosophy from Moscow
State University in 1972. In 1992, a year after
Kyrgyzstan gained its independence from the
Soviet Union, Otunbayeva was named the
countrys first ambassador to the United States.
She held this post until 1994, when she was
elevated again to foreign minister, this time in
the government of Pres. Askar Akayev.
Otunbayeva became ambassador to the United
Kingdom in 1997.
In 2004 Otunbayeva broke with former ally
Akayev, accusing him of corruption and
nepotism. In 2005, she was part of the
opposition against the President during the Tulip
Revolution. Otunbayeva won a seat in
parliament in 2007 as a member of the Social
Democratic Party. By that time she had placed
herself in outspoken opposition to Bakiyev,
whom she felt displayed the same tendency
toward corruption as his predecessor.
After the second revolution in 5 years, the
provisional government was put into place with
Otunbayeva as interim president; her
government announced that she would remain in
office until the end of 2011 when Presidential
elections will take place. (Text from:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/16
97211/Roza-Otunbayeva)

Almost two months after the transfer of power, ethnic violence between the Kyrgyz majority and
the Uzbek minority erupted in the south of the country, particularly in and around Osh. With the
interim government unable to bring the region under its control, this ethnic violence resulted in
the deaths of scores of Uzbeks and a smaller number of Kyrgyz, as well as the dislocation of
hundreds of thousands. Reports also alleged that atrocities had been committed by Kyrgyz
troops, suggesting that the military was not fully under government control. The interim
government did not immediately respond to these allegations and instead accused Bakiyev of
fomenting the unrest. Meanwhile, Uzbeks claimed zones of autonomy in the south and refused to
account to the central government, threatening to fracture the country.
Although the violence had cast into doubt the ability of the interim government to hold a
scheduled referendum on a new constitution, in late June the vote took place as planned. The
new constitution was approved by some 90 percent of voters in an election international
observers held to be free and fair.
Democracy:
In October 2010 Kyrgyzstans first parliamentary elections proceeded without violence or major
voting irregularities, a development that was hailed as a step forward for democracy in Central
Asia. Five parties received enough votes to enter parliament. The nationalist Ata-Zhurt party,
which included several associates of former president Bakiyev and opposed the new constitution,
garnered the most votes, although no party achieved a majority. A coalition government was
formed with Almazbek Atambayev, of the Social Democratic Party, serving as prime minister.
He resigned in September 2011 in order to contest the upcoming presidential election.
Atambayev won a commanding victory in the October 2011 presidential election, receiving more
than 60 percent of the vote. His large margin of victory over the second-place candidate, who
secured less than 15 percent of the vote, eliminated the need for a runoff. The peaceful election
was hailed as an important achievement for Kyrgyzstan, although international observers noted
voting irregularities in some areas of country.

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Timeline of Major Events in Kyrgyz History


_______
Text taken directly from BBC News. Timeline: Kyrgyzstan. Available at:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1296570.stm

10th-13th centuries - Kyrgyz people migrate southwards from the Yenisey River region in
central Siberia to the Tian-Shan region.
1685 - Kyrgyz people settle in the area that is now Kyrgyzstan; area conquered by the Oirats, a
Mongol people, after centuries of Turkic rule.
1758 - Oirats defeated by Chinese Manchus and Kyrgyz become nominal subjects of Chinese
empire.
Early 19th century - Kyrgyz come under the jurisdiction of the Uzbek khanate of Kokand, to
the west.
1876 - Russian forces conquer the khanate of Kokand and incorporate what is now Kyrgyzstan
into the Russian empire.
1916-17 - Many Kyrgyz seek refuge in China, across the eastern border, following the Russian
suppression of rebellion in Central Asia and the outbreak of civil war in the wake of the 1917
October Revolution in Russia.
1920s - Many formerly nomadic Kyrgyz resettled as part of land reforms; improvements in
literacy and education made.
1936 - Kyrgyzstan becomes a constituent republic within USSR.
1991 - Kyrgyzstan declares independence
2005 Tulip Revolution: President Askar Akayev, resigns as president after a wave of protests.
2010 April - Opposition protests spread from northern Kyrgyzstan to capital Bishkek, sweeping
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev from power. Opposition leaders form an interim government
headed by former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva. President Bakiyev resigns and is given
refuge in Belarus.
2010 June - More than 200 people are killed in clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic
communities in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad. Hundreds of thousands of people flee
their homes.
2011 October - Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev wins presidential election with more than
60% of the vote.
11

Kyrgyz Culture
Kyrgyz Cuisine
Text and pictures taken directly from: http://www.discoverykyrgyzstan.com/archive/2005/7_article.php
Kyrgyzstan stood on the crossroads of the Silk Road, and the caravan routes which
crossed the territory carried not only goods for trade, but also brought examples of various
cultures: Turkish, Persian, Arabian, Indian, Chinese, Russian, and European and these mingled
with the culture and traditions of Central Asia. As a result Kyrgyz cuisine has absorbed elements
from all of the cultures with which it came into contact, and although many dishes that you will
find are common throughout Central Asia, it is still possible to find examples that have preserved
their original, national identity.
It is said that the food in Central Asia falls into three different types: the subsistence diet
of the once nomadic peoples such as the Kyrgyz (mainly meat, milk products and bread); the diet
of settled Turkish peoples (the Uzbeks and Uighurs) including pilaffs, kebabs, noodles and pasta,
stews and elaborate pastries and breads; and dishes which come from the South (Iran, India,
Pakistan and China) with more seasoning and herbs.
One of the most essential features of Kyrgyz cuisine is that dishes should preserve their
taste and appearance. For example, there are almost
no dishes comprising puree, minced, or chopped
meat, (although there are a few exceptions.) Also,
Kyrgyz dishes tend to have a plain taste; sauces and
spices are used in only small batches, although
spices are used more often in the South. Sauces are
intended only to bring out the taste of the dish not to
change it.
Traditional Dishes:
Beshbarmak - The Kyrgyz national dish is Besh
Barmak, the "Five Fingers", so called because it was
Besh Barmak
traditionally eaten by hand. It is essentially meat
(horse, beef, or mutton) boiled in its own broth for
several hours, served over homemade noodles. This dish is most often made during a feast to
celebrate a birth or important birthday, or to mourn a death, either at a funeral or on an
anniversary.
Lagman - Lagman is a dish that consists of thick
homemade noodles covered in chopped peppers
and other vegetables in a vinegary, spicy sauce.
This is served almost everywhere in Kyrgyzstan,
but is said not to be a Kyrgyz dish at all, but
rather a Dungan one.
Manty - Manti dumplings usually consist of
ground lamb or beef wrapped in dough and then
fried, boiled or steamed.
Manty

12

Kyrgyz Arts
Manaschi: If the story of Manas is central to Kyrgyz
traditional culture and character, psychology and spirit the
Manaschi holds a special place of respect in Kyrgyz Culture. The
manaschi, (traditionally they are always men although some
women have taken to narrating the story as well), alternates
between a rapid declamatory style when narrating factual
information, and a strongly rhythmic recitative for depicting
dialogue and direct quotation. They use dramatic gestures,
changes in tone, pitch and facial expressions as an integral part of
their performance employing all to hold the attention of the
audience. It is possible, (probable, even) that, as the epic did not
exist in written form until quite recently, that it may have changed
quite considerably over the years ... even if the main episodes are
still intact. Improvisation was a highly skilled art amongst the
nomads - and many akyns were masters at it.1

A Manaschi

The Komuz:
This three-stringed plucked fretless lute is the
instrument most identified with the Kyrgyz people. It is
used both to accompany singing and as a virtuosic solo
instrument. For more information on the komyz
(literally, 'instrument').2

The Komyz

Temir komuz:
The so-called 'iron instrument' is what many in the West
call a Jew's harp. The harp is placed in the mouth and
plucked.
The Temir Komyz

1
2

http://celestial.com.kg/articles/people/Persons/Manaschi/Manaschi_432.htm
http://www.kyrgyzmusic.com/

13

Kyrgyz Literature:
The literary history of the modern-day Kyrgyz begins in the
early 19th century. Before the Bolshevik revolution Kyrgyz
was written in the Arabic alphabet; this was reformed and
standardized in 1924. In 1927 the Kyrgyz writing system was
switched to one based on the Latin alphabet, and in 1941 this
was replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet, which continues in use
today in Kyrgyzstan.
Written Kyrgyz literature arose from rich oral
traditions and was at the outset exclusively poetic. Manuscript
poems derived from the oral epic cycle Manas written by
Kyrgyz in their own language survive from around the turn of
the 20th century.
The tremendous growth in literacy among Kyrgyz
during the Soviet period was mirrored by significant strides in
the sphere of creative writing. Kyrgyz folklore provided the
blueprint and materials for poetry of the first half of the 20th
century by Aal Tokombaev, Joomart Bknbaev,
Kubanchbek Malikov, and Jusup Turusbekov. Prose fiction
was among new literary forms that appeared under Soviet
auspices and reached a high level of cultivation. The first short
story published in Kyrgyz was Kasmal Bayalinovs Ajar
(1927); the first Kyrgyz novel was Tglbay Sdkbekovs
Keng-Suu (193738; Broad River, the name of the village
that is the novels setting).
The short-story writer, novelist, and essayist Chingiz
Aytmatov enjoyed international acclaim and a dominant
position in Kyrgyz literature in the second half of the 20th
century with such early works as Jamila (1958; Eng. trans.
Jamilia), a tale of love amid changing times.

The Epic of Manas


The great epic poem Manas contains
more than a million lines and is 20
times as long as the Odyssey and Iliad
together and 2.5 times longer than the
Mahabharata. Taking as its subject the
entire history of the Kyrgyz people
starting in about the 10th century, the
epic is a description of valorous feats
of the central hero Manas, battling the
barbarian hordes to create a homeland
for his people. Before being slain in
the triumphant final battle, he marries
the wise Kanykei, daughter of a
Samarkand khan. Sequels tell of the
exploits of their son, Semetei, and his
son Seitek. Along the way, the epic
detours through colorful descriptions
of everyday life with its traditions,
customs, feasts and funerals. The
manaschy is the traditional
professional Manas storyteller. An
esteemed bard was always welcome in
any house. Many of Kyrgyzstans
most respected historical figures, like
Toktogul (of city, reservoir, and streetin-Bishkek fame), were manaschy.
Singing Manas was ideally suited to
the different situations and is the core
of the Kyrgyz self-image. (From:
http://www.muzatravel.com/kyrgyzsta
n/culture.htm)

14

Folklore: The Manas Epic


_______
From: http://www.silkroadfoundation.org/folklore/manas/manassec4.html
In this excerpt Manas performs his first great deed.
"The countless unruly livestock
Of the Burut Kyrgyz Jakp
Have been grazing on our land," he heard.
Carrying seven flags
And taking seven hundred warriors,
The leader is the giant Kochku.
Heading the seven hundred warriors,
Kochku arrived suddenly.
Kochku, the warrior of the Kalmyks
6400 Wreaked great havoc.
That pig had prepared himself
To root out
Jakp with his forty Kyrgyz families,
To wipe them out completely,
To pick apart the fabric of their lives,
To bring on them a great disaster,
That pig had waited, indeed,
To plunder Jakp's livestock
And add them

6380 Would that God not show such a


thing-With flags and red banners waving in the
dust,
Making a disturbing hue and cry,
Carrying crescent-shaped black banners,
Making an alarming hue and cry,
On the other side of the mountains,
On this side of Kangay,
Came the Manchus with the envoy of
Esenkhan,
The land guardian
Of the Kara Kalmyks and Manchus,
6390 Who had heard a rumor:

6410 To Esenkhan's riches.


Imposing Kochku and his warriors,
Galloped up,
Riding a chestnut horse,
He set out filled with wrath,
With his orders from Esenkhan,
The brave Kochku had no choice.
He took with him the best guards,
The most skilled spearmen,
All together with seven hundred warriors
6420 That Kochku arrived now,
His men wearing large coats of mail
And large mail shirts,
Dirt flew in the sky,
Soldiers marched in disorderly array,
What the soldiers carried
Were mighty bows and metal-tipped arrows,
15

They came and threw their demands


In the face of bay Jakp.
His howl enough to shatter stones,

With your permission, my Burut,


If you don't grant my request
And don't give what I ask,
I will create a disaster,
6460 Just wait and see, my Burut,
I will plunder your people,
And cast you from your seat of honor into
the grave,
Plunder your four kinds of animals,
And make your head spin!
I have an order to carry out,
Good-for-nothing, devious Burut,
I will confiscate your treasure bags,
Esenkhan has given me an order.
He is my master in Beijing,

6430 Kochku came with threat of force


His shouts enough to break one's head:
"Good-for-nothing, devious man with a
mustache,
Your heart is wicked, troublesome Burut,
Possessing countless livestock,
You've let it go to your head,
You came to Altay as an exile and
prospered.
Obey my orders, Burut,
Hand over to us at once
6440 Your rascal son Manas.
If you don't agree to it
And dont give Manas to us,
Death awaits you right now,
I will completely destroy you.
You, the good-for-nothing Burut,
Obey my order, Burut,
Give Manas to us, Burut,
If you don't comply,
If you don't hand Manas over right now,
6450 You and your Kyrgyz people of forty
families,
I will plunder your mares,
I will teach you a lesson.
If I really get mad
I will smash your brains out!
I came to take Manas

6470 I have my commanders and khans,


So, accept my words,
Without any argument and quarrel,
Give me Manas,
Good-for-nothing, devious Burut,
You were driven away from your Kyrgyz,
And suffered, unable to find your homeland.
Raising countless livestock,
You have been using, indeed,
The foothills of Altay.
6480 Saying that your son's name is 'Fool,'
You've been betraying, indeed,
Our king Esekhan.
You've been hiding, indeed,
You dmpeki son, Manas.
You wanted to reach your people
And become a respected leader,
And enjoy your life every day,

16

Select Bibliography of Sources on Kyrgyzstan


Abazov, Rafis. Historical dictionary of Kyrgyzstan Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2004
Abazov, Rafis. The Kyrgyzs: A Modern History Routledge, (2012)
Anderson, John, Dr. Kyrgyzstan : central Asia's island of democracy Australia: Harwood
Academic Publishers, c1999
Antipina, Claudia; Temirbek Musakeev; and Rolando Paiva (Photographer). Kyrgyzstan Skira
(March 27, 2007)
Gullette, David. The genealogical construction of the Kyrgyz Republic : kinship, state and
"tribalism" Folkestone : Global Oriental, 2010
Hewitt, Richard The Kyrgyz Kalpak Sonoon Jer (March 5, 2009
Hiro, Dilip. Inside central Asia : a political and cultural history of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan, Turkey and Iran New York : Overlook Duckworth, 2009
Howard, Keith and Saparbek Kasmambetov. Singing the Kyrgyz Manas: Saparbek
Kasmambetov's Recitations of Epic Poetry. Global Oriental 2011-02-28; Har/Com edition
(February 28, 2011)
King, David C. Kyrgyzstan (Cultures of the World). Benchmark Books (NY); 1 edition
(September 2005)
Kuehnast, Kathleen R. Better a hundred friends than a hundred rubles? : social networks in
transition--the Kyrgyz Republic Washington, DC : World Bank, 2004
Mitchell, Laurence. Kyrgyzstan (Bradt Travel Guide) Bradt Travel Guides; 1st edition (February
26, 2008)
Tranum,Sam. Life At the Edge of the Empire: Oral Histories of Soviet Kyrgyzstan Sam Tranum
& Co., 2009)

17

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