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Culture & Identity of Kyrgyzstan

Introduction

For much of history the Kyrgyzs have been settled and life has been centered on the lands as daily schedules have been determined by mother nature. The Kyrgyzs have been very rural for centuries and remain so today as nearly half the working population is employed in agriculture.

For these farmers, and others who work in the agricultural sectors, life is based on the seasons, the weather, and the sun light. The people take what nature gives them and when nature doesn't give much they unite together to survive and make the most of what they have. In these rural areas community is incredibly important as everyone seems to help out during busy times of the year and communities unite, particularly during the long cold winters.

Under Soviet rule many Kyrgyzs moved to cities, but even today only about a third of the people live in urban centers. For these people life no longer revolves around the seasons and sun light, but instead is focused on work hours. For school children the hours are also fairly regulated as children attend local schools and are off from June to August, as many still help out on the farm during the summer months if the family has one.

The income levels in Kyrgyzstan are relatively low and few people make enough money to have a huge amount of discretionary income, if any at all. For this reason few people spend free time out exploring the country or the city, but rather spent time with family, friends, and their local community. This is slowly changing in some cities, but even in these locations, life is centered on family.

Identity

The people of Kyrgyzstan tend to identify as Kyrgyzs, which is an ethnic-based identity. What exactly it means to be Kyrgyz is almost exclusively tied to the ethnicity today; this is because under Soviet rule much of the historic culture associated with the ethnic Kyrgyzs was destroyed. Today the people are trying to re-gain their historic roots and are attempting to attach those roots to their present culture and hence, definition of what it means to be a Kyrgyz. Although the process is forever changing, the root of the identity remains in the ethnicity of the people. Today it seems language and lifestyle are also important traits to the identity; this begins with their settled past and present (which is in contradiction to the Kazakhs, who are ethnically similar). The Islamic faith is also growing in importance in this definition, although few people are devote Muslims.

This page was last updated: November, 2013