By definition, symbols are objects, that represent an entity (amongst others). Something, that you immediately associate with what it stands for. If we want to talk about Kyrgyzstan’s we have to make a separation. The Kyrgyz constitution explicitly describes three national symbols, and in addition to that there are things, that are considered as symbols nationwide by its own people.

Constitutional symbols

Kyrgyzstan’s flag was the first in order to be adopted after gaining independence. The red background symbolizes the bravery and sacrifices of people made for the nation, while the Sun in the middle stands for peace and wealth. In the Sun you can see the tündük. Traditionally the centre of the yurt, tündük symbolizes home and the universe (as the ultimate home). The Sun on the flag has 40 rays, each one of them stands for one of the tribes that was unified by Manas, the legendary Kyrgyz hero.

The emblem’s (which is really similar to what they had as a Soviet member republic) most notable features are the wheat and cotton displaying the main agricultural products, the Tien Shan, which defines the country’s landscape, and Manas’ protective hawk in the middle (featured above). Adopted the latest in 1992, the anthem embraces taking responsibility and freedom.

Symbols and national identity are something that the Kyrgyz nation can be grateful for the Soviet Union, according to a professor of anthropology of a local university. After centuries of leading a nomadic lifestyle in tribal communities and being ruled by Mongols, Kalmyks, Chinese and Uzbeks, after the 1876 Russian annexation they had to live under a centralized and structured regime. Soon with the autonomous regions of the Soviet Union, the Kyrgyz national identity –along with it’s first national symbols as well- was born. Ultimately it lead to KG’s independence and the recreation of these symbols.

Other examples

Things that are exclusively considered by Kyrgyz people to be symbols of their nation is hard to find among the once nomadic countries of Central Asia. The epic, Manas is definitely an example. The nearly half-million line epic tells the story and heroic deeds of Manas, the uniter of Kyrgyz tribes. He was supposedly a 2.5 meters tall, extremely strong person with exceptional leadership, who took up the fight against the Oirat Mongols and the Uyghurs to defend the ancestral home of his nation.

Other material elements of the Kyrgyz symbolism are the yurt, the kalpak and flower-animal patterns on several textiles (shyrdak, tush kyiz).  The truth is, that these elements are also part of other cultures in the region, such as Kazakh or Uzbek and is still a popular debate between people of these nations.

Yurts are round-tents based on a wood-structure and covered with sheets made of sheep skin. Preparing the materials for the construction is a family activity, that usually takes up until 2-3 months. Assembling this portable home takes around 1.5 hours. Even today thousands of Kyrgyz families leave their city homes during Summer to live in yurts and look after the herd. Kalpaks are hats made of felt from the sheep and are traditionally worn by men nationwide. Shyrdaks are rugs (that are also created for commercial purposes), while a Tush kyiz is a wall hanging, that is traditionally made by an elder woman for the marriage of her son or daughter. Both of the latter textiles have a rich design of a special flower-animal-plant pattern, which is becoming popular again in the country and is displayed on higher-quality branded clothes for middle-class citizens as well.

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