Introduction / History
While most of the Kyrgyz live in their homeland, Kyrgyzstan, large communities can also be found in the Central Asian Republics, China, and Russia. More than 200,000 Kyrgyz live in the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan, primarily in the western portion of the Ferghana Valley. Although they are related to the Kazak and other Turkic peoples of the region, the Kyrgyz are very Mongol in appearance. In fact, they are the people who most clearly resemble Genghis Khan.
More than any other Central Asian people, the Kyrgyz have clung to their traditional way of life as nomadic cattle breeders. They have also maintained their tribal organization. The basic unit of their society is the "extended family," which consists of between five and fifteen families who have all descended from a common ancestor. Villages are formed by combining five to seven extended families. Above the villages are numerous clans and tribes.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Kyrgyz have been forced to adapt to the rigorous conditions of daily life in Uzbekistan. Climate and altitude are both extreme, with heavy snow covering the ground for as long as nine months of the year, and temperatures sometimes falling to minus 40 degrees F. To avoid the long bitter winters, the Kyrgyz travel from place to place, living in thick felt-covered tents called yurts. They move these homes only short distances during the winter months, taking shelter by the sunnier edges of the mountains. Then, they move to the plateaus for grazing during the summer months.
The Kyrgyz depend entirely on their animals for survival. They have particularly hardy and adaptable breeds of sheep, goats, yaks, horses, and camels. Not only are the animals used for food and exchange, but they also provide the only means of transportation in the region. The people, like the animals, must be able to endure these harsh conditions. Outsiders visiting the region are often vulnerable to altitude sickness (which causes severe headaches), nausea, and breathing problems. Such incidences can even be fatal.
The Kyrgyz women enjoy more freedoms than do most other Central Asian women. For example, they are not required to wear veils; they are allowed to talk to men; and they may freely ride about on the grasslands. Although they work hard, their position in the household is considered important and respected.
The men devote themselves almost entirely to caring for the animals. They dress in baggy leather pants and coarse shirts. Outer coats made of cotton or wool are also worn. Embroidered felt skull caps are common; however, on important occasions, the wealthier men may wear tall steeple-crowned hats made of felt or velvet and embroidered with gold. Their favorite gear includes their belts, saddles, and bridles, which are sometimes covered with gold and precious stones. While the women dress in the same style clothing as the men, their shirts are usually longer and go all the way down to their heels.
Music and story telling are important parts of the Kyrgyz culture. They also make a wide variety of musical instruments. Verbal folklore has been very well developed over the years. Folk tales are often sung, accompanied by a three-stringed guitar called a komuss.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Islam spread to Central Asia during the late sixteenth century. The Sufites were almost entirely responsible for turning the Kyrgyz to Islam. The rapid spread of Islam was aided by the strong clan system of the people.
Today, the Ferghana Valley is one of the most religious regions of Central Asia. However, in reality, the Kyrgyz sometimes have more of a social attachment to Islam than a spiritual one.
What Are Their Needs?
The relative openness of the Central Asian Republics has allowed evangelistic efforts to take place.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Uzbekistan.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to grant favor and wisdom to missions agencies focusing on the Kyrgyz.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Kyrgyz.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio and television to the Kyrgyz.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Kyrgyz.
|Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center|