Introduction / History The historical relationship between the Kyrgyz and the Russians is not a happy one. In the early nineteenth century, the Kyrgyz were defeated by the Uzbeks. This, along with other intertribal conflicts, led them to ally with the Russians. As the Russians began colonizing the Kyrgyz and other surrounding groups, they seized the best agricultural lands. This competition for land, along with mandatory service in the Russian army, resulted in a revolt by the Kyrgyz in 1916. It was a futile attempt in which they were disastrously defeated.
During Stalin's attempt to control the economy from 1927 to 1928, the Kyrgyz who raised livestock were forced to re-settle on collective and state farms. Many responded by killing their livestock and moving to western China. Between 1926 and 1959, the Soviet administration moved many Russians and Ukrainians into Kyrgyzstan, making the Kyrgyz a minority within their own homeland.
What are their lives like? The Kyrgyz of Russia were not originally from the area that is now Kyrgyzstan. Their cultural origin can be traced to the region around the Yenisei River in southern Siberia. Similar cultural elements, including the practice of animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits), certain burial customs, and animal production methods, suggest that they have common roots with other Siberian nomads.
Under the Soviets, previously self sufficient Kyrgyz families became trapped in the Soviet economy. With production efforts being controlled by the communist party, the products they made were sent to other republics and foreign markets. The Kyrgyz soon became dependent on foreign manufactured goods.
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. 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? Consecutive waves of Islamization have taken place since Arabs first invaded Talas in 751 when many Kyrgyz tribes were still in Siberia. Northern nomadic tribes were able to skirt many of the Islamic traditions until recently. Within the last two hundred years, the majority had been completely converted to Islam. The present wave of Islamization in Kyrgyzstan is one of the most intense that the north has ever experienced. People who were only Muslim by name are now learning many of the more intricate practices, creeds, and doctrines.
Soviets were never able to change the Kyrgyz beliefs, even through they tried a number of methods including changing the alphabet, outlawing religious activity, and propaganda. In fact, since 1990, over 3000 new mosques have been built in Kyrgyzstan.
Today, most Kyrgyz still consider themselves to be Muslim; however, some Shamanistic and Tengrism practices still exist. (Shamanism is the belief that there is an unseen world of many gods, demons, and ancestral spirits. Tegrism is a belief system that coincides with the faith expressed throughout the biblical book of Genesis.) Many people still turn to mediums and seers to cure sickness with magic, communicate with powers, and control events. Almost all Kyrgyz believers have to go through a breaking of demonic powers over their lives once they become Christians.
The Kyrgyz epic hero Manas has taken on god-like status in some parts of Kyrgyzstan. His story reveals many practices and beliefs of the pre-Islamic Kyrgyz. There have been some comparisons made between the biblical "Manasseh son of Jacob" (Genesis 48) and the Kyrgyz "Manas son of Jakyb".
What are their needs? The relative openness of the Central Asian Republics has allowed evangelistic efforts to take place. The Bible has been translated into the Kyrgyz language, the Jesus film is available, and Christian radio and television broadcasts are being aired.
It is clear that the Kyrgyz have suffered greatly. They need to see the love of Christ demonstrated to them in practical ways.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Russia.
* 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 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.