The Kyrgyz
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The Kyrgyz

The Family

The Family

Family means everything in the Kyrgyz culture so prepare to connect with them on a deeper level as they welcome you into their homes.

Kyrgyz comes from the Turkic term kyrk and yz which means "the forty clans". This refers to their traditional kinship system which reflects on the heritage passed down through a father’s bloodline.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is Northern Asia

  • Climate here is Continental

  • The challenge here is Medium

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

Throughout history the Kyrgyz have cultivated their lands and domesticated plants and animals for food. Traditionally they raise sheeps, horses, cattle, camels, and yaks. This way of life proved sustainable under the Soviets because of its efficiency in raising livestock. They also produce Koumiss. It’s the fermented milk that plays a part in the Kyrgyz diet along with crops from their lands. Today they also factor in some manufactured goods into their diets which they buy from foreign markets.

Today there’s about 4.4 million Kyrgyz who mostly live in Kyrgyzstan. They’re divided in tribes and most still live a traditional nomadic lifestyle in the rural regions. They can be found making home around Lake Issyk Kul, the Fergana Valley and Naryn River valley.
Home

Home

Home for the Kyrgyz comes in dome-shaped tents. These traditional homes are called gers or yurts and are built with removable wooden frames and felt covers. Women take charge of their construction. You’ll also find several communities who now reside more in the cities and towns across the country.

Culture

Social Structure

Kin is key to the Kyrgyz social social structure. It’s custom for all the oey , the patrilineal extended family, to live together in a single yurt. You’ll find this consists of a man, wife, or wives, plus their sons and unmarried daughters, and the wives of the married sons.

Kinship can also refer to non-blood relations such as milk kin—these are people who were nursed by the same woman and therefore are forbidden from marrying one another.

Religion

There are a number of religions practised within the community. Most Kyrgyz are Muslims of the Hanafi Sunni school. Here you’ll find the harmonious balance of ancient indigenous beliefs of totemism coexisting alongside Islam, Atheism and Shamanism. Shamans are usually women and are highly respected.

Traditions

The koyeonok, a dress and harem pants, are the traditional costume for both Kyrgyz men and women. Placed on top of this is a beautifully decorated dressing gown. The gown is embroidered with national ornaments and patterns made of velvet and felt. You’ll see older women wearing a swing skirt known as a beldemchi. This is paired with a white cotton turban, an elechek, which covers their neck and hair.

Their rich folklore include the trilogy of the epic "Manas", "Semetei" and "Seitek". Folk music plays an important role too. The use of a three-stringed pinch “komuz” is played and many Kyrgyz perform in the national ballet and opera.

Horses are a symbol of prosperity. Kyrgyz still breed them regularly and equestrian games are popular in their culture. They’re also fans of martial arts.

Language

Kazakh is the dialect spoken here. It's a member of the Turkic language family.

Art

Kyrgyz cultural arts are varied. With a strong equestrian history, they’re also known for their craft of leather saddles and also ornate silver jewellery.

The famous Manas poem, made up of half a million lines, is recited over the course of six months and is transferred from generation to generation. Often you’ll hear the chants of the bard, called a manaschi, without any musical accompaniment. He is considered like a shaman.

Celebrations

Kyrgyz mainly celebrate Islamic ceremonies and rituals such as births, circumcisions, weddings, funerals and other Islamic holiday celebrations.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

The Kyrgyz people fled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and eastern China. Today it’s often referred to as the "little Switzerland of Central Asia" because of its climate and landscape.

The Manas poem is included in the Guiness Book of Records as it's the largest epos in the world. It’s also protected by UNESCO.



Photo credit: Mountains in Kyrgyzstan
iStock.com/LUKASZ-NOWAK1

Photo Credit: Kyrgyz Hunter Eagle
iStock.com/ugurhan

Photo credit: Woman making felt
iStock.com/karenfoleyphotography

Photo credit: Kyrgyz horses
iStock.com/Omer Serkan Bakir

Photo credit: Song-Kul-smoke. Kyrgyz-tr