Kyrgyzstan

Culture

Sheep and wool

Sheep play a very important role in Kyrgyz culture. Until recent history, the Kyrgyz tribes were nomadic grazing herds of sheep and living in yurts. The Kyrgyz yurt (called a boz-ui in Kyrgyz) is very similar to those commonly seen in Mongolia.

In traditional Kyrgyz culture, sheep were the primary source of material. Felt is still made from sheep wool to create the distinctive carpets (shyrdaks) and hats (kalpaks) that can be seen in all regions of Kyrgyzstan today. Sheep also play a vital role in the diet of Kyrgyz people as their main source of protein. The sheep in Kyrgyzstan have been specially bred to have a high fat content and therefore provide the highest possible number of calories to sustain the Kyrgyz people through the long snowy winters.

Religion

The Kyrgyz people are Muslim. Virtually every village in Kyrgyzstan has a mosque built shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Many of the mosques were built with donations from Turkey. Other than the mosques there are very few outward signs of the Muslim faith. The north is particularly secular while people in the south tend to be more religious. In the north you will rarely, if ever, hear the call to prayer for example. While in the bigger towns in the south the call to prayer is a more normal occurrence.

While to the outside observer the Kyrgyz people are not very religious and do not hold to some of the stereotypes that the west tends to have about Muslim societies, that in no ways means that the religion is not very important the Kyrgyz and their sense of identity. Being Muslim is considered an integral part of being Kyrgyz and if a Kyrgyz person rejects the faith they are no longer considered Kyrgyz. For example there have been a few people in Kyrgyzstan that have converted to Christianity, particularly to the Baptist denomination. In general these people are ostracized from their villages and families and are met with anger from other Kyrgyz people for "betraying" their Kyrgyz heritage.

 

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Site updated: January 17, 2005