Kyrgyz Horse Games – a Day Trip from Bishkek

This year elections for the Issyk-Kul region were coming. This does not affect life much as a temporary student in Kyrgyzstan except that it means that the Бир Бол political party set up the Horse Games with free entrance for anyone! This was only a half hour walk outside of Cholpon-Ata. The games started about […]

National Kyrgyz Horse Games

This year elections for the Issyk-Kul region were coming. This does not affect life much as a temporary student in Kyrgyzstan except that it means that the Бир Бол political party set up the National Kyrgyz Horse Games (Национальные конно-спортивные игры) with free entrance for anyone! This was only a half hour walk outside of […]

Jewish Bishkek: A Brief History and Guide

My experience with the Jewish community in Bishkek began on a weekday evening in September. I did not really expect to find a synagogue on Suyumbayev Street. I had been following the gradually narrowing road for blocks, eventually across the wide Jibek-Jolu Avenue. On the other side of this thoroughfare, Suyumbayev was sidewalk-less, and full […]

Central Asian Culinary Discoveries

As an American having lived in Moscow for the past 12 years, I’m fairly well acquainted with Central Asian culture. Much of Central Asia was incorporated into the Russian Empire and was part of the USSR. Today, the majority of immigrants to Moscow come from Central Asia. Thus, finding examples of Central Asian cuisine, dress, […]

Nooruz in Bishkek: Student Observations

As soon as I knew I’d be spending time in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I asked Google about the national holidays that would happen during my stay. Google gave me a neat little list of holidays that were mostly familiar — except for one: March 21, Nooruz. Nooruz (also Nowruz, Novruz, or Naw Rúz), which means “New […]

An Oral Account of Yurt Making in Kyzyl-Too, Kyrgyzstan

Four and a half hours southeast of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, the village of Kyzyl-Too lies nestled in a valley about four miles from the shore of Issyk-Kul, the world’s second largest saltwater lake. With a population of only around 1500, Kyzyl-Too is known regionally – and increasingly globally – as a bastion of Kyrgyz cultural […]

“Succulent Dog” and the Koryo Saram in Bishkek

It is well known that there is a significant Korean population in Kyrgyzstan today because Stalin deported Koreans living in the Russian Far East during World War II to prevent them from cohorting with the Japanese. These post-Soviet ethnic Koreans call themselves the Koryo saram. Koryo refers to Korea from the years 918 AD to […]

Samsa Traditions in Bishkek

I have always admired the “one cook, one dish” tradition. To paraphrase food critic Anthony Bourdain, this is the tradition where one lone artisan, or family of artisans, makes the same wonderful dish year after year, generation after generation, and by doing so, forms a close identification with the dish that ensures it is always […]

The Customs and Culture of Traditional Beshbarmak in Bishkek

This past weekend, I checked out a restaurant that offers 12 variations of one of Kyrgyzstan’s most beloved dishes. What might that be, you ask? Here’s a hint: It’s noodly, meaty, and eaten with the hands. If you guessed beshbarmak, you guessed correct. Beshbarmak, which literally means “five fingers” because of the way it’s eaten, […]

Fortune Telling in Bishkek

Recently, a colleague and I went to a yasnovidyashi, a Kyrgyz fortuneteller (the name actually translates to “Clear Seer”), for the first time. Why? We’ve never done it before, we were looking for a new experience, and we were curious to know more about these infamous women of Bishkek with the “dangerous” reputation of hypnotizing […]

A Chechen Journalist on the Chechen Diaspora in Kyrgyzstan and Being Chechen Today

In Bishkek this past week, Chechen journalist Kamila Zhabrailova talked to SRAS students about the history and culture of Chechnya, the Chechen diaspora in Kyrgyzstan, and her attitude towards the Boston marathon bombings. The Tsarnaev brothers are of Chechen descent and had spent some of their childhood in Kyrgyzstan, meaning that this was an especially […]

Up Close and Personal with a Manaschi

A Performance and Interview with Nazarkyl Seydrakmanov This past week, SRAS students met with one of Kyrgyzstan’s most famous manaschis, Nazarkyl Seydrakmanov. Manaschis are Kyrgyz professional storytellers of the Manas epic poem, the longest epic poem in world history. During this meeting, Nazarkyl discussed his personal life story, the artistry of his craft, and gave […]

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