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Culture of Kazakhstan

Kazakh culture and national traditions

The Kazakh people are rich in traditions. From birth through old age and death, every
step of their lives has historically been marked with celebration. Even their funeral ceremonies have their
own special symbolism.
Unfortunately, many rich and interesting traditions and customs of the Kazakh people have been forgotten
throughout the past century. Real sovereignty is just now being reestablished in Kazakhstan due to the
process of democratization. These abandoned traditions are just now being rediscovered by the Kazakh
people. These traditions include being respectful to old people; being patriotic to the motherland; being
honest; and learning to love mankind.

Traditionally every guest is offered Kazakh cuisine at the dastarkhan (the low
table) in a yurt.
The yurt is one of the most sensible types of movable house. It is a comfortable and practical home,
ideally suited to local conditions and ways of life - one of the greatest inventions of the Eurasian nomads.
It is easily taken apart (it is said that a Kazakh woman can do it in half an hour) and carried by horses and
camels. The yurt consists of three main elements: an extensible trellis base (the kerege), a dome made of
poles(the uyk) and a round top (the shanyrak).

In ancient times Turks were reputed as the most skillful felt-makers. These days
the Kazakhs use felt to cover the yurt and for its internal decoration, as well as to make carpets, dresses
and shoes. The Kazakhs live surrounded by ornaments. They richly decorate their yurts with wall carpets
and multi-colored embroideries.
Handicrafts - harnesses, felt mats (tekemets), and articles made of wood, bone and metal - are lavishly
decorated. Headdresses, dresses, bags and saddle-cloths are beautifully embroidered. They use

traditional designs and carvings to make and decorate the wooden cups, large bowls and ladles used to
serve kumis (fermented mare's milk).

The horns of mountain rams and goats are used to decorate beds and caskets.
Leather is used to make quivers, belts, harnesses and flasks (torsyks) for water and kumis. Kazakh
artisans are also very skillful jewelers.
Steppe zergers (jewelers) favor white silver. Traditional Kazakh bell-shaped earrings, original bracelets

(blezics), or the traditional bracelet linked to three rings with fine chains will certainly impress you.
Kazakh national dress varies by regions. Men wear chapans, a kind of dressing gown with a belt, made of

velvet and richly embroidered. They cover their heads with a soft skullcap (tobetai), a tall felt cap (kalpak)
or a fox-fur hat with earflaps (malakai).
The women's national costume consists of a white cotton or colored silk dress, a velvet waistcoat with
embroidery and a cap or a silk scarf. Elderly women wear a hood made of white cloth with a hole for the
face (the kimeshek). Brides wear a tall pointed, richly decorated hat, topped with feathers (saukele).

Kazakh music and musical instruments: The Kazakhs love the art of wordplay and
their akyns (poets), who improvise at public competitions (aitys) accompanied by Kazakh stringed musical
instruments: the dombra or the kobyz.
Nauryz (Islamic New Year) is one of the biggest holidays in Central Asia. In Kazakhstan it is celebrated on
the day of the spring equinox, March 22. On that day, the streets of villages and towns are transformed.
Guests are hosted in beautiful yurts with the traditional Nauryz kozhe dish made of seven traditional

ingredients. People respecting this nearly month-long holiday forgive each others' debts and offences.

National games: these are usually performed on horseback and are an

opportunity to witness the Kazakhs' outstanding riding skills. Kazaksha kures (Kazakh
wrestling), baiga (horse racing over 25, 50 or 100 km), kokpar (a sort of polo game played with a dead
goat), kyz-kuu (catch the girl) and alty bakan (six-pole swing).

Traditional customs in Kazakhstan

Kazakh culture and national traditions
Zharys Kasan is a celebration on behalf of a long-expected and desired baby. Children have always been

highly prized by the Kazakhs. Kazakhs have always been known as a very generous people. For
example, when an unexpected guest came to the house, the host would often butcher the only horse he
owned in honor of the visitor. The same practice might be followed if the household was blessed with a

A second celebration of new life in the Kazakh tradition was called the Shildekhana, and this gathering
also included the participation of many young people. All participants donned their best clothes and rode
their horses to the event if they had one. Others rode their bulls, and sang songs en route to the
celebration. Elders came to give a "Bata", or blessing. Invited participants ate, had fun, and sang songs to
the tune of the dombra, a traditional two-stringed instrument. Young people playing this instrument were
expected to compose and improvise songs during the singing.
During the Shildekhana, the godmother sliced the boiled fat from a sheep's tail and put it in the baby's
mouth. In this way it was believed that the baby would learn how to suck. And the baby who was trained
in such a manner was believed would never have stomach trouble.
Besik Toi

The arrival of new birth, whether it be of a foal, calf, or baby also involved another celebration called Besik
Toi. For babies, the tradition of Besikke Salu was practiced and involved placing the baby in the cradle for
the first time. Special foods are prepared, and all the relatives, neighbors, and nearby children are invited.
Guests to the feast brought "Shashu," or candies, kurts, and coins. The baby's cradle is made by a
special master carver. Only women who have conceived their own children are allowed to place babies in
their cradles, and any woman who would place a friend's baby in this place of honor must sew and
present a new itkoiiek to the baby's mother.
The symbolism of the cradle is important in Kazakh tradition, which may be one reason that the Kazakhs
often call their native place "Golden Cradle." When a mullah would be present for the Besik Toi, he would
shout the baby's new name into his ears. And in ancient times, seven items - including a whip, a bridle, a
fur coat, and a blanket would be placed in the cradle. Each of these items meant something to the family.
A bridle and a whip signified family hopes that the baby might ride a horse, be brave or even become a
Tusau Kesu

After the baby's cradle and crawling stage, the scene is set for another celebration: when the baby begins
to walk for the first time. Wealthier parents would butcher a cow for this celebration; less wealthy parents,
a sheep. For the ceremony, black and white thread was prepared in advance to tie the baby's legs. The
mother would ask one of the more energetic woman first to bind the baby; and then to cut the string. In
this way the baby's first step would be toward his mother. Everybody would then wish the family great
success for the baby's future. Here the reader might ask a question: Why use black and white thread
instead of red or green? White is symbolized in this case to mean hopes for success without any
obstacles. Black and white is associated with the concept of honesty, even to the level of taking a thread
which does not belong to you. Cutting of such a thread meant if you see a person stealing something or
an unpleasant situation, the watcher should try immediately to intervene.

Sundet toi (Circumcision)

If the baby was a boy, four or five was the age for circumcision and another toi. It was one of the
remarkable days of a boy's life. Again relatives and friends of the family gathered, ate, and had fun. All the
above mentioned traditions, except Sundet, were celebrated in honor of both son and daughter. From this
point on we'll talk about boys and girls upbringing separately, because a son's upbringing was
accomplished by the father, and a daughter's by the mother.
Mounting Ashamai

Boys until the age of seven were believed to be too prone to injury for aiding their families. After this age
they were increasingly encouraged to imitate their fathers, taking a stick and pretending to ride a horse,
and watching how their fathers led the cattle to grazing. An ashamai is a kind of a saddle. It was made of
wood according to the boys size. On the front and the back it had support or backing, but it had no stirrup.
There was a soft pillow inside. The father put the ashamai on a horse and then placed his son on it.
Before that. he would bind his son's two legs in order to protect him from falling,and he bridled the horse.
Gradually the boy learned how to ride without his father's help. Almost half of a male kazakhs life was
spent on a horse. That is why the ashamai is celebrated as the first attempt to ride a horse. This toi was
also marked differently according to the family budget. Wealthier people would slaughter a horse; those
who couldn't afford this might butcher a fat goat to make their feast.
Tokym kaqu, bastan

Soon after Ashamai, or near the age of ten, the boy would ride his tai or young horse on his first long trip.
His parents would wait for him and arrange Tokim Kagu, which meant "waiting for the boys quick arrival"
from the trip. Again, they would invite guests while the father prepared the harness: a saddle, horse collar,
harness strap, whip, bridle, stirrup strap, and breastplate all to be fastened to the saddle and saddle girth.
Childhood for boys also involved other activities.
Kozy jasy

After ten years of age, a boy would be considered to be on "kozi jas," because at that age his parents
would trust him to graze a lamb. It would be the beginning of labor training. Kazakhs from early times
were concerned to bring up their children to be industrious. From an early age the boy could help his
father to feed and graze cattle. In such way he might become healthy and strong. It is still necessary in
the rural places of Kazakhstan to bring up boys to be able to look after the cattle. Urban boys of this age
today are unlikely to be able to distinguish from among domestic animals or be familiar with the names of
the offspring of different animals. They are only familiar with their multi-storied buildings, and if they came
to the village to visit and were asked by their grandmother to chop the wood, they often hurt their legs with
the axe. The forefathers advice for Kazak sons only works for rural ways.
Koi jasy

When a boy reached fifteen years old, he was considered to be ready for the Koi Jas, a time when he
would be trusted to graze the family sheep without supervision. The Koi Jas period lasted from ages
fifteen to twenty five, and during that age he could marry. Camels and cows could usually be tended older
family members, but kazakhs usually also had sheep, and horses reguiring more shepherding skills. To
successfully perform Koi Jas duties, the teenager had be able to graze a flock of sheep in rainy, windy, or
sunny weather, as well as to protect them from wolves and wild dogs. This was a difficult task, but the
ultimate task for a young Kazakh male. Those who successfully mastered these sheep tending skills
gradually moved into "Zhiiki Jasi".
Zhylky jasy

The age of twenty five symbolized entrance into a period of youth and strength. In early times, zhigiti (or

young men) of one clan were sometimes charged to drive off another clan's cattle in the case of an
intertribal feud. To protect the livestock, only the strong zhigiti of twenty five to forty years of age were
trusted to graze the important animals. It was also their duty to graze the animals in periods of windy
winter weather, when starving packs of wolves were also likely to attack sheep as well as horses.
Patsha jasy

There were no tsars among the kazakhs but you've heard that there were khans who were the equal of
tsars. According muslim law, even if a person was wise and clever enough to be monarch or tsar this
could not be allowed if a man wasn't yet forty. For kazakhs this age, Patsha Jasi, was likened to the
development of a sharp sword; it took this long to be polished or to become respectable and clever
enough to become a khan, sultan, or the holder of some other honorable position like a poet or hero.
Satyp alu (to buy) In many Kazakh families children died young. There were two remedies for couples who

had lost young children previously: either to buy a child or to adopt one. For buying purposes, an old
woman was required. She is instructed to follow and observe the child of parents concerned for the wellbeing of a young child, and must only come to the parents home at night. She shouts loudly: "I found the
thieves, I know who has stolen my baby. Give me back my child." The old woman wears a torn dress, and
looks like a witch. In her hands she carries a stick with an eagle's and owl's claws. The couple feigns to
be scared of the old woman, and puts the "sick" baby into her hands. The old woman then takes the baby
to her home, but the mother continues to nurse the baby at different times during the day. When several
months have passed, the parents of the "stolen" baby begin to wear old cloths and to appear as beggars.
They then take their kettle, a harp of wood and three or four sheep to the old woman's house to try to buy
their baby back. The old woman would meet them at the door and give them a flat cake. The "beggars"
would refuse to take it, and ask to buy their baby back. In the Koran, the scriptures implore everyone to
pity beggars; to be kind to them and not refuse genuine requests. This is why the couple has come to the
old woman in rags, for the old woman cannot refuse their request. She returns the baby head-first, for
when a baby is delivered from his/her mother's uterus, the head also appeared first. Kazakhs believed
that a human born head-first would die standing, which was highly valued. The old woman gave the baby
head first, meaning she hoped he would live a long life. Meanwhile, the baby's parents would leave
everything they brought: sheep, kettle and a harp of wood. If the "bought" baby also dies, the next time
parents might give him or her to their relatives to adopt. Both of these strategies were thought might
protect children from death.
Kudu tusu, biz shanshar (Matchmaking)

When a son is considered a grownup, his parents seek a bride for him. They choose a potential match for
their daughter whose family is of the same financial position as theirs. Lets assume one family has a son
and they have friends with an eligible daughter. They know each other very well, and until the end of their
lives would like to stay friends. For that purpose they say "we'll marry our children." The tradition of Kuda
Tusu has its own peculiarities. You know that Kazakhs are very generous people, and their houses are
always open to guests. In earlier times, a person on a long journey could drop by any kazakh aul, and the
host would greet and feed him. After having a rest, the visitor would thank the host and ride on his way.
When matchmakers came to visit, they would also stay for the night. These matchmakers, typically old
man, would attach an awl (biz shanshar) sometime during his visit, and he would take their host's
whetstone. After his departure, the host began'to look for his whetstone, but he would not find it. Instead,
he would find an awl attached to a rug. This meant that his previous guest wanted to become related
through the marriage of their son. If the intended bride's parents did not ask about their whetstone, the old
man would return and speak more directly about his family's intentions. Why did they attach an awl to a
rug? It meant that they had a groom and he might be the son of the intended bride's parents. The reason
of their taking a whetstone is they wanted to be a matchmaker or "Kudanda". A Kudanda is an oath in

front of god. Here "Kuda" means god, "anda" means oath in arable. This was the beginning step of
(Giving) "Oltiri"

"Oltiri" is a compound word with two different meanings: "Oli"- dead," "tiri"- alife. Matchmakers take an
oath in front of ancestors, dead and alive. The groom's parents would send relatives to the bride's house
with many presents, including a sheep. This sheep is not butchered in the future bride's house, but at the
house of a witness to engagement. After "Oltiri," both sides were considered to be matchmakers to the
future wedding. The groom's parents would send delicious foods to the future bride's house, but she could
not eat them while she resided in her own house. On the other hand, before she would be a daughter-in
law she had many conditions to fulfill.
The groom's side would also bring a horse or a cow, as well as an owl's feather, which would symbolize
that the daughter of this house would be theirs. For this they would pay "Kalin Mal" - or, flocks of horses.
Of course, only wealthy men could give kalin mal to the bride's parents.
Esik koru (Visiting)

After "oltiri" toi has been celebrated, and kalin mal was paid, the groom was allowed to visit his bride's
house. If "Kalin mal" was only partly paid, only his parents and relatives could visit. Guests from the
bride's family were treated especially well before the wedding. They would be presented good gifts. The
groom's first visit to his future announced bride was called "Esik koru". It was celebrated as the time in
which two young people met each other for the first time. Sometimes it might happen that they didn't like
each other, and the match would be broken. In successful matches, the groom would come with friends
who could sing songs, play and improvise on the dombra. There would also be a musical competition at
the bride's house. It was also necessary for the groom to come at night, for coming earlier in the day
would suggest he had been brought up poorly. Upon his evening arrival, the bride's brothers would meet
him and take his horse, forcing the groom to walk. This symbolized that in order to see his bride he would
have to endure many obstacles and difficulties. One legend has it that two young people, Leili and
Majnnun, were in love without having seen each other.
The sister-in-law of a bride might meet the groom and ask for "Entikpe," which meant they were tired of
waiting for him. The groom was also expected to bring expensive gifts for his mother-in-law and father-in
law to be. Sisters of the bride would ask him "Korindik," which meant a special gift for showing the bride to
the groom. In brief then, "Esuk Koru" meant to see the bride for the first time and to have permission for
doing so at the bride's house. For this occasion the parents of the bride would arrange a toi. The groom
may stay at bride's house for two or three days, not more. The bride's family would try to please him;
filling his bags with gifts to return to his parents and relatives. They then would set the wedding date, and
the bride would begin to visit her relatives to say farewell.
Kyz tanysu

The bride would take one of her sister"s-in law or any relative and visit relatives who lived in remote
places. When she came to their houses they would present her with something for her dowry: a rug, a
blanket, or a dish. Her journey would last between one and two months! Each of her relatives would show
her respect, and try to be kind. Some further words about the dowry: the bride's mother would invite
women who were skilled with their needle to also contribute. They would embroider blankets, pillows, a
table cloth and other necessary things for the home. Before starting this important work however, they ate
and had fun. The bride's mother would buy her daughter new cloths and hang them in one of the corners
of the yurt. After that, the groom would come. He could talk to his bride but only through her sister-in law,
because she was responsible for her care. On this occasion the bride's parents would place him in

separate yurt where the young people had fun, joked, played the dombra, and had food.
Kyz Uzatu (Marriage)

Seven or more people from the groom's side would come one day to take the bride back to their house.
Whatever the number, it had to be odd. Godparents came first, then the groom would come with his
friends. Below we try to describe the "Kyz Uzatu" ceremony.
1. Kopshik kystyrar - This was a gift for the bride's sister-in law for having accompanied the groom. It

might be something substantial .. for example, a cloth or fabric for a dress.

2. "Shashu" - was mentioned earlier. When the groom came to the bride's house, one of the respected

woman of the aul would throw shashu or special treats. Everyone would try to catch one, for this would
indicate a successful marriage for their daughter too.
3. Kyim ilu - This was the name for another gift giving. When those responsible for the matchmaking

entered the house, a woman would greet them and hang up their coat. When they left, she would return
the coats, upon which she would be presented a special gift for her service.
4. Tabaldyryk kadesi - Here the matchmakers again are expected to give a gift to enter the room.
5. Sybaqa asu - When the matchmakers have taken their places, the hostess prepares a special meat

from the previous winter's slaughtering. She puts into the Kazan good parts of meat and pelvic, marrow,
and breast bones.
6. Malga bata jasatu - After the sybaga has been consumed and tea is drunk, the host grabs the sheep

which was brought to be slaughtered for the celebration, and one of the old men would give bata (a
blessing). The slaughter was to occur just before the matchmakers were going to take the bride from her
home and to the home of the groom. After the meal, the groom's family side would put money into the
dish which earlier contained the meat consumed in the meal. The women from the bride's side would then
share it with each other.
7. Kuiryk bauyr asatu - Before starting to eat the meat of the specially slaughtered sheep, the host would

make kuirik bauir -which meant boiled and sliced fat tail and liver with sour cream. He would then put
slices of the dish into his kinsmen" mouth; the rest of that they would spread on their cloths. After that the
matchmaker again would give money to the woman who treated him to kuirik baur.
8. Saga togytu - Following the kuirik baur ceremony, one of the woman would say: Look here! How can our

matchmakers appear in public with greasy clothes? Come together kinswomen, let's wash them." This
ceremony would usually take place near the river in the summertime. So matchmakers would be pushed
into water. Of course, they wouldn't like to be in the water alone, so they would often attempt to hold onto
one of the beautiful ladies from the opposite family. If there was no river, wealthy people would sometimes
make a special pond for the occasion. I remember it happened when we were children. Bala Kamsa from
the wealthy tribe of Kazibek (later he lived in Turkey and died there) made a special lake when he married
his son to a very beautiful and clever woman. There were lots of Kamza in those times. Every ritual meant
something. You could ask a question such as "Why did they put "kuirik baur" into their mouth?" One
possible answer was that "If you'd eat more liver you'd be more friendly with you brothers and sisters."
There were two reasons for stirring kuirik baur with sour cream. The first meaning: Kazakhs liked white
color, it was associated with sincerity. Second, it would be more tasty. After the matchmakers had been
dunked in the river, the host and hostess would present them with new cloths. They would say: "If

something was wrong before, this is washed up now. So, this is our present to you; let's have a long term,
close relationship."
9. Kuim tigu - According to Kazakh tradition, the matchmakers mustn't sleep. They had to eat, to sing

songs, and to tell funny stories the whole night, otherwise the opposite side would sew up their cloths.
10. Bosaga attar - After eating Kuirik baur, the groom is invited to the master yurt. Entering of the yurt is

called bosaga attar .

The bride's parents would call the groom and kiss him. There they stayed only a short time. They would
especially slaughter a sheep for his sake, and treat him to marrow and breast bones. Asikti zhilik is a
special bone for the groom, because it has asyk. Asyk is a national toy of Kazakh boys. Playing with this
toy, they learn how to count which would later be important for a herdsman. The groom is treated to that
bone in the hope that he might also have a son who would play the asyk. The breastbone symbolized the
parent's wish of friendship and to bear together all the good and bad aspects of life.
11. Neke oku - This is also an important ceremony in the life of the bride and groom. If they had shared a

bed before marriage, it was considered a sin. Muslims called it "Nimakhram." In Kazakh tradition the
marriage ceremony itself is celebrated by a mullah. Lots of people would gather in the room. They were
witnesses, and had to taste the wedding water. There they found salt, sugar and the wedding ring. The
water would symbolize faithfulness. Sugar symbolized their sweet love for each other, and the ring was to
recall memories of the wedding.
12. Kvz kashar-tundik ashar - Here the sister-in law makes a bed for the newlyweds, and it would be

placed inside the screen. Then she would close the front felt of the door (tundik). Then she would give the
bride's arm to the groom; and for that service he had to give her a present. The bride's tender arm would
make it difficult for the groom to breath. After the sister-in-law gave the happy couple a blanket, she
received another present and pretend to leave them alone; but hiding somewhere she would intercept or
overhear, and in the morning she would understand even more from the groom's face and mood.
13. Shatyr baiqazy - After the wedding the bride would be invited to the marquee, or home of the groom's

parents. They would then be told: "you are now married, and can freely without any shyness walk as
husband and wife. You'll have your own shanirak-yurt. This time somebody from the groom's family would
give a present for shatir baigazi. 14. Korjyn soqu - The matchmakers usually brought a "korjyn," or saddle
bag with two compartments filled with presents and sewed closed. Women friends of the bride's mother
would then gather to open the korjyn, removing the special presents for the parent's of the bride, these
might include a fur coat or other fine apparel and food. All the women, including the bride, would then
gather around and taste food items from the korjyn.
15. Moiyn tastau - This ceremony would be held if the bride's family had a separate yurt for young people.

A sheep would also be slaughtered, and on this occasion the spinal column would be given to the groom
to nibble on. If he nibbled that bone cleanly, it meant that he would please his wife and she would be
beautiful for along time. If his nibbling was not clean, he would pay a fine to the sister-in law. This
ceremony was intended to teach the young people to be neat.
16. Shanyrak koteru - If you remember, a shanyrak is a wooden circle forming the smoke opening of a

yurt. Only men who had children were allowed to lift it. If the ground was flat and the yurt was large, he
lifted it with the help of a horse or a camel.
17. At bailar - After the yurt was ready, one of the relatives of the groom would tether a horse nearby. This

meant that he wished the young couple to be hospitable and generous.

18. Saukele kigizy - For this event the matchmakers would be invited to the new yurt. The bride's mother

would put a saukele on her daughter. A saukele was an old fashioned embroidered headdress for a bride.
Upon seeing the saukele for the first time, the mother-in law would give her kinswoman a present called
"korimdik." In this saukele the bride looked like a princess; and the entire wedding suit is beautiful.
19. Bosagaqa ilu - After the feast at the bride's yurt, the groom came to reclaim his wife. Before that he

would hang a Shapan (oriental robe) at his in-Iaw's threshold. It meant that he was a son, too, of the
bride's parents. He would help and protect them. Why did he hang his robe at the threshold? This was a
sign that he could be called upon by his wife's parents to work for their household upon their beckoning.
20. Saryn (auzhar) is a kind of farewell or parting. When the bride's side gathered to say farewell to her,

women stayed inside and men outside. The bride would weep, for it was of course difficult for her to leave
her parents, brothers and sisters. The bride's mother would tell how her daughter would be able to do all
the housework and be able to handle a heavy and blackened cauldron. Zhigiti, whom she joked about
before the marriage, would say she (the bride) was as small as a button, as thin as a needle and too
young to marry. Farewell songs were also sung to the bride who was merely bought by a wealthy person
and taken away. The sister-in law who was a friend, would advise her how to behave in a new place, and
they would wish her health. If the bride was a beloved daughter, the father wouldn't show his tears. He
would ride away and weep somewhere else. The respected bride would be watched far into the distance,
and the mother would weep long hours. She of course didn't want to part with her daughter, but there was
nothing to be done. Kazakhs believe that daughters were born for another family.
Tosek toi

Kazakhs used to say that it took forty families to raise a daughter to the age of twelve or thirteen; or they
would say it was easier to keep a bear than to bring up a daughter. If the daughter remained a virgin until
her wedding night, the husband's parents would be happy and would respect and love her. If she was a
"woman" already, they would say that she was poorly bred, and they would scold and abuse her parents
for that.
The husband's parents expected future generations of their family to be made possible with the marriage
of their son. The young wife was expected to give birth within the first year of her wedding. After five and
six months of her being in the husbands house, neighboring women began to gossip if the kelin was
pregnant or not. Her mother-in law wouldn't ask her directly about her pregnancy; she would know about
that through her eldest daughters-in law. Neighboring women also looked for signs of change: whether
the young bride was putting on weight or had developed black spots on her face. Kazakhs would look with
disfavor upon the bride who failed to become pregnant for several years, for they liked children. Many
children were thought necessary for family happiness.
If and when the daughter-in law noticed some changes in her body and face possible due to pregnancy,
she would tell it to her sister-in law. The sister-in law in her turn would tell it to her mother, and then the
happy mother-in law would invite some women and make a little feast. Men were not invited to this
celebration, called "Tosek toi". One of the husbands relatives would hurry to tell this good news to their
kinswomen and would get shuinshi (present). Of course, she would be happy to hear about the signs and
would give the daughter-in-law anything she wanted. The husband, upon becoming aware of the
pregnancy, would then offer his respect and thanks to his wife's parents for bringing up such a faithful and
obedient wife for him.

Kelin Tusiru

Following her wedding the bride needed to dismount from her horse a distance from her groom's house
and walk the rest of the way. She would be wearing a big white shawl with fringes, and would be
accompanied by many young girls. One of the groom's brothers would hurry to ask shuinshi, telling them
the bride was coming. When the bride arrived, some women would through shuinshi. As we above
mentioned wealthy people would prepare separate yurts for the young. The bride would be wearing a veil,
as she was not allowed to show her face until Bet ashar, and she was not allowed to look straight to
anyone. If she sat the wrong way the women would gossip, for she was required to be a bit childish and
Bet Ashar, otka mai salu

Betashar, or removing the bride's veil, was an important ritual. A specially invited poet was in attendance;
someone familiar with the bride's father-in law, mother-in law, and all the groom's relatives. At the
Betashar toi, he would be required to mention details of their character, position, and peculiarities. As
each participant was mentioned in the poet's song, the bride was required to bend and greet by making
salem. There were slightly different versions of Betashar, but its main purpose was to allow everyone to
see the bride. In one version, the poet would take his dombra and sing:
Hear, people, now I take off the bride's veil
I wish you happiness, dear bride,
if you show bad temper, your sisters-in-law would pursue you.
So be patient and not petulant
Your dastarkhan (table cloth) must be spread to any person
who enters your yurt.
If aksakal, the oldest man visits you,
pour warm water.
Be polite and tolerant with your neighbor
don't be idle, try to be clever in your needle work,
Respect your father and mother-in law.
You're so beautiful and white as an egg
don't be lazy, get up early and feed your husband
When elders come to your house, you should rise
be simple and kind,
Do not gossip with the women.

Now people, have a look at her and give me my korindik. Grandfathers bless her, she entered the yurt
with her right feet; she'll bring happiness to this house. Believe me ! She was blessed by her folks Now
dear bride, come here, Look how many people want to see you through away your veil; greet and bow to
this crowd. As we mentioned above, the bride was required to bow when she heard each name of her
future husband's relatives. Poets all sang the Betashar on their own way, but the meaning of all of them
was similar. The bride was instructed to be polite, loving, kind, generous, industrious, and to respect
people. After Betashar, the bride would step over and bow to the shanrak. Then she would sit in a screen.
Before stepping over the yurt threshold, the mother-in law would throw some fat into the fire at the center
of the yurt. This tradition remained from ancient times, and is still practiced today. Throwing fat into the fire
on this occasion was to remind the new bride that as a hostess running her own household that she must
remember to always be prepared to receive guests. Throwing fat on the fire made it burn hotter;
reminding her that she must always be generous with visitors.

Bie kysyramas

After otka mai salu. the mother-in law would ask the now veil-less bride to sit on her right side. Then the
mother-in law would give white cloth to the women in the yurt. They would then begin to bind saba - large
leather bags for processing and storing kumiss. Kazakhs' favorite animals were horses, and their favorite
beverage was kumiss - a beverage made from mare's milk. So every kazakh family would desire and
optimistically prepare to have lots of productive horses in order to make more kumiss. Kazakhs usually
had great feasts during the summer in their highland pastures. At this time the horses and cattle would be
fat, and the saba always full. They would also process cottage cheese, butter and kurt. The hope was that
the female horses would not be dry. All horse products meat, kazy, karta and the national wine kumiss
were important for the Kazakh family. In addition, the giving of white cloth to all women in the yurt was
symbolic of the respect and love her daughter-in law would enjoy in her husband's household; similar to
that of the mother-in-law's own daughter. Kazakhs would say "Kelinnin ayaginan, koishinin tayaginan,"
which meant, if a good bride entered the yurl everything would be OK in the family's future.
Asykty zhilik, tos (the breast bone)

The bride's family would specially slaughter a cattle for the bride. In the earlier chapters we talked about
bones like the asykti zhilik. On this occasion the sister-in law would cut the meat and would give the
marrow bone and the peak of the breast bone to the bride. All other women present would also be given
something to eat. Should the sister-in-law forget to give meat or a bone to anyone in attendance, such a
woman would be offended and assume that her presence in the bride's company was not desired.
That's why it is important for kazakh woman to be friendly and share everything. They would say "Abysm
tatu bolsa as kop degen" which meant if daughter's- in law were very friendly with each other, then there
would be lots of meals.
Otka shakyru

After the feast organized in the bride's home, the groom's relatives and neighbors would invite her to their
yurt. Taking presents with her, this ceremony was designed to introduce the young woman to her new
kinswomen in their home; and it was an occasion to once again display the bride's good breeding, for her
appearance, beauty and behavior during Otka Shakyru would be the subject of much discussion upon her
departure. Elders especially would note whether she was neat or sloppy, industrious or lazy, etc. If they
like her, they would say "how lucky that zhigit is to have such a beautiful wife. Look at her eyes! How large
they are! How they sparkle! If she was not so beautiful, they would say so. Kazakhs would also say,
"before choosing a bride, first see and know her mother." This meant that if the mother was beautiful and
industrious, the daughter would be too.
Onir salu

The next ritual following Otka Shakiru was Onir Salu. Here only senior wives gathered; their purpose
being to congratulate the mother-in law for her son's new bride. They would bring with them Onir - a
present. It might be a cloth, table cloth, a mirror, bands, dishes, or it be an eagle's claw or an owl's
feather. Those things would all be necessary for the future hostess. The bride's mother-in law would then
treat her guests to food, and she would also give them something from the bride's korjyn.
Kelin Tarbiesi

Kazakhs would never beat a daughter. If the father was not satisfied with her behavior, he would ask his
wife to talk with her. Each mother would teach her daughter how to sew, cook dinner, treat guests, and
how to please her husband and to mingle with people. Nowadays some of our girls need training in school
to replace what they no longer learn from their mothers. Our foremothers could weave, shade, process
kumiss, and embroider fantastically. These works required patience and precise skills. After the kelin (or

bride) came to the groom's house, her mother-in law and sister-in law would begin to teach her further
household works. In early times, only a sister-in law was thought by the new bride to be trustworthy and
one to share secrets with her. Even if her parents refused a daughter's request to marry her zhigit, his
sister might be called upon to help her escape with the man who had stolen her heart. Here we'd like to
tell how the Uighur women taught their daughters to please their future husbands. Let's assume a
husband went for a long trip. He might arrive home in either a good or bad mood. His wife was taught to
meet him with her charming smile, and to-prepare his favorite dish. She would do her best to cheer him
up, and talk soothingly to him to calm him down. Uighur women were rumored to be very experienced in
terms of love-making, while Kazakh women were thought to be more modest. A Kazakh girls upbringing
might not involve secrets of the bridal chamber, but it did include instruction on how to address, respect,
and not contradict her future husband. After moving into her husband's house she would also have
learned never to call her father-in law or brother-in law by their real names. Instead she would have to
invent a nickname suitable for each.

National dishes and meals

Kazakh culture and national traditions

Meat Products
Before proceeding to talk about the meat products of Kazakh people, we will briefly tell you about the
rules of slaughtering.
Maldy soy (Slaughtering) - In ancient times every second man was a master of slaughtering, but today

you can hardly find them. Some people while slaughtering a sheep would cut so that the cervical vertebra
remained with the head, which is wrong. Usually Kazakhs slaughtered a cattle for invited guests, to make
feast and celebrations (such as a toi) and earlier mentioned shildekhana, and for some other occasions. If
they couldn't afford slaughtering they might not be too concerned, but if there was no meat hanging on the
kerege or no vegetables or grain in the bottom of the sack they might become upset!
In Kazakh tradition, women were not allowed to perform initial slaughtering, but they could join later
cutting of the meat. Before slaughtering, Kazakhs used to pray. So, the first step (after praying) was killing
the animal and then cutting the spinal cord. Not performing in such a fashion might restrict the blood from
flowing freely out of the carcass, and the meat would be black; and Kazakhs never eat black meat.
Slaughtering of a camel was a bit different. For that the camel had to be on its knees. Kazakhs would say
that the slaughterer's hand was light if the cattle immediately died after the first attempt. Not killing the
animal quickly might earn a man the reputation of being heavy handed. The head of the sheep or horse
about to be slaughtered was pointed to the west. After removing the skin, the man would cut a carcass to
pieces, while women were typically assigned to deal with the offals.
Musheleu, zhilikteu - cutting a carcass to pieces and cutting the marrow bones. First of all we said the man

would cut the carcass to pieces, because in our tradition every piece has its "owner" (or is assigned for
various persons); i.e. the head and the pelvic bones for guests and kinsmen; the breast bone and ankle
bones for the son-in-law a large intestine for herdsman," and neck vertebra for the children. After cutting
into pieces, the man must remove two white arteries. Should a guest perceive that the host had
overlooked this duty, it would bring great shame upon the household, and especially upon the hostess
who had forgotten to remind her husband of this responsibility. Then the cutter was responsible for
removing glands under the arms, all the while not confusing the sections of meat (usually Kazakhs divide
a carcass into twelve pieces). For kuyrdak, Kazakhs used to roast meat right after slaughtering, and

cuttings. The host mustn't mix or confuse rib, fillet and vertebrae pieces, for should this occur, the hostess
would be blamed as if guests had bought the meat. So slaughtering and cutting up the carcass into
pieces correctly, inviting guests, and distributing meat correctly was real art. We believe that the younger
generation must relearn this art.
Pisiru - Boiling the meat Kazakhs first OF all put the meat into the kazan and boiled on a strong flame in

order to get rid of bloody foam or spume after butchering. Then they would reduce the heat somewhat, for
too strong a fire would make the meat too tough. In old times, Kazakhs used sheep dung to boil meat: it
was very convenient and the meat didn't separate from the bone. When the broth became thick, they'd
add wild garlic which grew in the mountains. In ancient times Kazakhs didn't know about onions. The
meat mustn't be over boiled; one should be able to bite it from the bone.
While boiling, the cook had to put meat pieces into the kazan separately, otherwise it might easily be
overcooked. On the other hand meat was convenient to handle and remove from the kazan. One more
thing a cook had to remember: the fat intestine had to be added to the kazan while cooking in order to
keep meat from splitting. In the Winter, freshly slaughtered and boiled meat was often eaten right after
reading the Koran. During later feasts and celebrations, however, people wouldn't boil too much, thinking
previously boiled meat was fine. As for kuyrdak - roasting meat while cutting the carcass a man would
give some pieces for kuirdak and they'd add lungs and the liver. The lungs they'd roast with meat; later
too the liver. This kept the liver meat more tender. Women knew one more secret about preparing liver;
first they'd fry it separately, then they'd add it to the meat.
Saktau - preservation or storage Kazakhs were real masters in preserving meat. You know that corned

beef is tasty and doesn't spoil. Kazakhs too used to cure meat by aging and drying. Especially tasty
corned pelvic meat was easy to cut and eat. When kazy was cut, it looked like a rainbow. In early times
Kazakhs knew three methods of preservation. First, aging and smoking which required a fire and a shed.
The fire had to be a smoldering one with yellowish smoke, and the meat was hung from a post. This kind
of preservation came from an early time. A second method involved digging frozen meat out from the
snow before if thawed. Meat kept its taste and nutrition when frozen and later cooked in this manner.
Mostly herdsmen used this method, preserving a carcass immediately after slaughtering.
In another method, after winter slaughtering some relatives might ask for sybaga. For this they'd preserve
a portion of meat in a sack full of flour and take it with them to the summer pasture. In summer they'd
roast the meat without using water in order to protect it from rotting; but the meat mustn't be overcooked.
It was then added to other food. Finally, if a family wanted to take fresh meat somewhere in summer, first
they might wash it with cold water. Then they would salt it and hang it for a while. But the person who
would receive it had to wash it for long hours before cooking because there much salt would remain.
Uitip alu - Pitching Poorer families couldn't afford to slaughter a horse or a cow, so they might slaughter a

fat sheep or a colt. After slaughtering and getting rid of the skin, they'd "pitch" the carcass, which is a
method of rotisserie cooking on a spit over an open fire. Pitched meat was especially delicious. It would
not be dried but would be used in daily food preparation. According to Kazakh tradition, though, sybaga
for the relatives in remote areas and for respected guests would also be put aside.

National dishes and meals

Kazy (horse sausage). Only wealthy people among the Kazakhs could afford to slaughter a horse in its

pasture. If the horse was fattened by eating grass in the lowlands and by mixed fodder its kazy would be
white and lean. Were the horse grazed in the mountains, its kazy would be yellow and nourishing.

Kazakhs especially cared for horses which they intended to slaughter, keeping them separate from other
cattle. Horses fattened for eating often became so large they had difficulty moving. In order to bring
fattened horses from the mountains, first of all they'd wrap his stomach, because going through
mountains his kazy would split, so they'd bridle it carefully. For this kind of job, wealthy people hired only
experienced zhigits. Kazakhs never used to eat the horse' s head, but in order to document for others
ones wealth (i. e., that a family was wealthy enough to slaughter its own horse in the Autumn), the horse's
head would be kept in a shady place or in a mud-hut for years and years. Kazakhs measured the fatness
of the kazy by fingers. For example, the sausage might have a diameter like that of a small finger, a large
finger, etc. It was difficult to put larger amounts into an intestine. Kazy is tasty either hot or cold. And since
horses' fat is difficult to freeze, it is very good food for the traveller. Kazakh people preferred kazy to
mutton. While serving meat, Kazakhs first of all prepared kazy for everybody to enjoy. It was also good
food for treating kinsmen. Nowadays people slaughter a horse too. Kazy is a very dear and delicious meal
but the tastiest part is the fat stomach. So, people serve kazy with karyn (stomach). In old times people
liked to drink fresh meat broth with kurt. Even in winter after drinking this one felt full and warm.
Shyrtyldak - Crackler. Kazakhs used to melt fat in a large bowl, then add some sugar to keep it from

congealing. They then soaked bread in it and drank tea. Crackler was used instead of butter since it
would not spoil. If you added it to tea without milk, you'd drink many cups of tea. Kazakhs enjoyed it.
Usually they ate them with bread, but you mustn't eat it too much, otherwise you'd get a stomach upset.
Kyimai - Sausage Kazakhs usually made sausage during Winter and Fall slaughtering. All neighbors

would gather that day, so after the slaughtering, the host had to feed them all. So they'd roast a large
kazan of meat; after that, they'd eat sausages and besbarmak (a dish eaten with five fingers). How did
they prepare the sausage? First they'd fill an intestine with a small pieces of ground meat, fat and blood,
adding garlic, pepper and salt as necessary. This sausage is very delicious; after eating this you feel
Zhauburek (kabob) - Kazakhs prepared many different meat dishes. Zhauburek was prepared very

quickly, which made it popular among hunters and travellers. First of all they'd slice the meat, then they'd
thread it onto sticks or vires. Salt and oat flour would be sprinkled on it, and it would be turned frequently
to keep it from burning. Another special type of Zhauburek (or shashlyk) was made of flat pieces of breast
meat. Especially good shashlyk was made of the breast of the wild goat. We miss this shashlyk; it was
good for eating with kumiss. When we remember shashlyk and kumiss of earlier days, our mouths
immediately begin to water.
Ulpershek - Is a dish made from the heart, aorta and the fat (usually of a horse) in a prepared form.

Kazakhs made it especially during the winter slaughtering period and kept it till spring. Between the end of
winter and summer, abysyndar (wives of elder brothers in relation to wives of younger brothers) could
invite and treat each other to ulpershek during the absence of their husbands. Sometimes, due to the lack
of other meat, they would prepare it in the kettle. They'd chat, talk about different things, and enjoy
ulpershek. Kazakhs had a proverb about this "If sisters-in law were friendly, there would be much food."
But if one of them wasn't invited, she would get offended. Husbands always tried to leave the best pieces
of meat for ulpershek for their wives' entertainment needs.
Koten - was also a kind of sausage eaten in Spring. Kazakhs also ate it during foaling or when a cow had

a new calf. The hostess would invite neighbours and herdsmen. Koten is a large intestine which would
hold much meat. If many guests were invited, other meat dishes besides koten would be added.
Sometimes rice or kurt would also be served. Everybody became full eating this sausage, so it was
another one of the tasty meals of Kazakh people.

Mypalau - This dish was made of sheep's brain. The hostess would put all of the brain into a wooden bowl

and add some marrow from a pelvic bone; some pieces of meat; and salted fat broth with garlic and
stirred well. When it was prepared, everybody could taste it, but mostly it was intended for elders. It is
more nutritious than meat in the dish, so it was served to honored guests.
Akshelek - Is a large camel bone distributed to children after slaughtering and cooking meat from a camel.

After butchering, the hostess would boil one of the large ankle bones and treat neighboring children. The
eldest man after eating all of the meat and fat from the bone, would prepare a clean cutting surface and
chop the bone up. He would then distribute it to visiting children. They would enjoy eating the tasty, soft
parts of the bone. After that the man would shake or scrape the inside of the bone for the marrow and put
this into the wooden bowl. Again he would distribute these soft camel parts to all the children with a
Another matter connected with aksheiek: Kazakhs called good natured, open hearted, frank and
magnanimous persons "Aksheiek." Even the shaking of a bone by such a man refilled an empty bowl.
Kyimai - This is another kind of sausage, but it was eaten later in the year. Earlier we mentioned that

during slaughtering women dealt with offals, so offals (or intestines) were small and large. The large
intestine they filled meat, especially the breast and rib meat. Garlic, pepper and salt were also added.
When it was aged, kyimai was quite tasty, and well made ones might be as good as a horse sausage.
They'd eat it at lunch time or they'd serve it to their guests; sometimes they'd prepare them when making
beestings and curds. If it was smoked well, it would last for a long time, and wouldn't spoil. As for taste, it
was also very good "meal of Kazakh people.
Zhal (the layer of fat under a horse's mane). Zhal was another special portion of fat sliced especially for

invited guests, to be served with kazy, a rump and karta (a large horse intestine which was very tasty
when cooked. This combination was perhaps the most nutritious of all possible meats, and would provide
more than enough to eat.
Karta - All horse meats were considered tasty by Kazakhs, but especially kazy, karta, zhal, zhaya, karyn.

When horses were extremely fat Kazakhs would say "Fat has eight legs." When a horse became very
heavy, his karta would all turn into fat. In early tiroes Kazakhs would fill it with meat and make it a very
delicious meal: eating just one piece would fill one for the whole day. And, Karta was difficult to spoil, so it
could be preserved for a long time.
Zhaya (rump of a horse) - The horsed rump was also cut separately. Zhaya was particularly good to eat

because it was dense and had no tendons or sinews.

Ak Sorpa (white broth) - Ak sorpa was usually made in fall. When people moved to winter mud huts some

wealthy men didn't join them. They'd keep with them twenty or thirty sheep and ask the herdsman to
graze them in the place where the wormwood was. They also left two horses to process kumiss. If there
wasn't enough kumiss, they'd add some cow's milk and pour it into kalmyks wooden bowl to make it sour.
After that, they'd slaughter fattened sheep, then they'd boil it. When it was boiled perfectly its broth
thickened, because pelvic bones and soft places of other bones make it thick. So after eating this fat
meat, drinking nutritious kumiss and meat broth, the rich man immediately got young and would spend
the whole month with his tokal (junior wife). Sometimes he had a bath with a wormwood. It was
considered to be like a rejuvenating remedy, and a rich Kazakh man might feel as if he was in a resort.

So ak sorpa was a special meal for the rich men, as everybody couldn't afford it and Kazakhs said that ak
sorpa was the meal for elder people.
Kuiryk-bauyr - This was the meal served to kinsmen at the wedding party which we discussed earlier.

After boiling this meat (being sure to keep it soft) , it would be sliced thinly. Then sour milk and salted
broth was added. Kinsmen would then be served the dish, and the sur milk applied to their faces. Women
typically served this dish while singing, because this meal was a meal of oath or commitment. So they'd
sing "We ate kuiryk-bauyr and became kinsmen". This practice is no longer adhered to.
Urker koterilqenson (when pleiades appeared). In ancient times Kazakhs ate but little goat meat, because

it froze quickly. Yet, in October when Pleiades appeared, Kazakhs would often slaughter a fat goat to eat.
Goat was very delicious; especially tasty was its meat broth which was also very thick. After a meal like
this, nobody could be cold in the fall.

Serving meat
We told you above about how Kazakhs slaughtered cattle, cut carcasses into pieces, and about some
dishes made of meat. It was also very important for Kazakhs to know which -meat and what piece to
serve different sorts of guests. To this topic we now turn.
Kazakhs always had meat at home, but when respected guests came, a family would slaughter an
additional sheep or colt; if there were many guests, a horse. The sheep's head was for respected guests
or for the head of the clan or aul. Respected guests might be authoritative elder people, kinsmen or match
makers, or rulers. Such individuals might be presented a sheep's head or pelvic and ankle bones; for
bride and groom, the breast bone; kidneys and ears for children; and other less prestigious parts could be
added. The tastiest meats of the horse were zhal, zhaya, kazy, and karta. Kazakhs were superstitious
about the sheep's head. Children were never allowed to touch it for fear that this might bring about the
death of their father if he was living. To avoid his son from being mumbler or stutterer, the brain was never
presented by the father to his son. Adopted sons were often the recipient of an ankle bone. During
celebrations if you brought kumiss, they'd put some ankle bones into your bag. Meanwhile, ankle bones
were never given to daughters, for this was considered an impediment to her later marriage. To meat
which they were going to serve guests they won' t put neck,' breast bone as we mentioned above for the
bride and groom.
The serving of meat was of three types according to the number of guests, and different dishes were
served in different size platters: main, middle and simple platters. In the main dish there would likely be
the sheep's head, pelvic and ankle bones, some fat ribs, a slice of fat tail and liver. In the middle dish
might be more pelvic and ankle bones, the spinal column and ribs. And in the simple dish would be an
ankle bone, spinal column, ribs and shoulder blade. Sheep's offals were never cooked in a kazan with
meat being prepared for special guests. All of the above documents that Kazakhs were very generous
and hospitable people who took great care to please and treat guests. Such traditions of our forefathers
are still worth learning and using in everyday life.

Daily products
Kazakhs had diary products from goats, sheep, cows, horses and camels. Daily they milked sheep and
goats; the cows twice a day, camels three or four times; and horses were milked six or seven times a day.
Different foods were prepared from the milk. Let's describe some of them.
Uyz - Beestings Kazakhs ate these during lambing and calving seasons. Beestings were very thick, and

calves were allowed to suck this right after birth to make them strong. After three or four days they'd then

begin to milk. First beestings would be boiled until the mixture was thick, and then be removed from the
fire so it would not ferment. Then it could be decanted and drunk while warm. Later, remaining beestings
were poured it into a large intestine and put back into boiling water, followed by a cooling off period. Now
solidified, it could be sliced and eaten with meat. If there was no large intestine, a family might boil it in a
saucepan before cooling. Then it might be sliced and offered to neighbors to taste, usually with koten.
Koten was also served when a cow or the horse foaled.
Kazakhs respected diary products, they used them as they migrated, making sure no one stepped into
milk spills. Beestings were also the first diary products consumed after reading from the Koran.
Sut (milk) - Usually kazakhs drank boiled milk, sometimes adding it to tea. In whole, milk was perhaps the

most used diary product. In old times Kazakhs milked sheep and cows; now they rarely milk sheep.
Nowadays only herdsmen milk sheep for one or two days when separating the lamb from its mother to
avoid udder toughening. Kazakhs in early times milked sheep and goats to make delicious meals. They
preferred a cup of sheep milk before going to bed, because it was nutritious. Cow's milk was given to kids
and for the young cattle who hadn't enough suckling. Sometimes when somebody was poisoned, they
gave him milk to drink.
Kaimak (sour cream) - This is also made of milk, rendered as scum from boiled milk. Kazakhs used to

drink tea with it. In fall, when the grass was more nutritious, there was thick sour cream on the milk. This
would be spread on bread, and kids enjoyed eating it. Sometimes Kazakhs dried it and sent to children
who lived in remote areas, usually in cans. So kaimak or scum especially was a food of kids and elder.
Sary mai (butter) - Is made old milk. In ancient time Kazakh women used different methods of processing

butter. After milking, the liquid was poured into a large bowl and put on even place. When it had scums or
sour cream they'd accumulate it, then shaking or stirring it for long hours. In hot weather it was difficult to
process butter, so it had to be kept in cold place. For women who owned a leather bag, the process was
easier. They could start with sour milk and then just shake the bag.
In early times a Kazakh family might have two leather bags, one for processing kumiss the other for
butter. Those who hadn't a horse had only one saba (leather bag). After shaking well, they'd put some salt
in butter and then put it into sheep's dried stomach. Every family had a cleaned and dried stomach for
preserving butter. Here irkit or fermented sour milk would flow out, leaving the butter behind. From
fermented sour milk, Kazakhs brewed kurt which they would sometimes drink as a beverage. Kazakhs
stored winter food for summer pasture, especially several stomachs of butter, sacks of kurt, curds, thick
sour milk. Together with meat remaining from the previous winter slaughtering it would be enough for
several months, Nowadays butter in the shops seems not as nutritious and tasty as that processed
without machines by saba. So people prefer and miss the old hand-made butter.
Kurt - This is a product prepared by the process of pressing thick sour cream. After boiling fermented sour

milk, it was poured it into a sack or bag. Here it would get rid of yellow water. Then the women would
make kurts and put on the ore (discussed in an earlier chapter). Kurt might be of different shapes and
sizes; and that dried at the foot of a mountain would be white and salty.
Kurt dried in deserts would be bitter and tough; biting it you could break your teeth. If it was bitter it was
unpleasant to eat, so women looked for a shady place to dry the kurt. It was also important to dry it in the
windy place because in a shady place without wind it could grow mouldy. Kazakhs used to drink tea with
kurt. They also spread butter on it and ate it when they had no bread.

In early times there was a tool to press kurt, but now nobody has one. After pressing it would be added to
the broth or to wheat porridge or drunk by itself. Usually Kazakhs and Kalmyks made kurt. Uigurs also
used to make it, but neither group could make it as well as Kazakhs. They dried kurts in the shape of
hoop, but it wasn't as tasty and it was difficult to press. Today's machine made kurts are even.
Irimzhik (curd or cottage cheese) - These were processed in Spring, because "there was much milk at

that time. Curds were made from boiled unskimmed milk and added sour cream. During fermentation a
rennet was also added. Curds, like leaves, would be yellow. When you crumbled it, it would stick to your
hand. Then you'd filter and dry it on the ore. These were called yellow curds, and they were good for
winter storage. Sometimes they'd add it into a mixture with millet. Skillful women might make several
sacks of curds. Later, doctors found that filtered water from curds was very useful in medicine. White
cottage cheese is also boiled like yellow curds. When the family was short of bread, they'd add butter to it
and drink tea with butter and sugar to make a tasty -meal. Cottage cheese is soft, so elder people
preferred eating it.
Suzbe and katyk - This is strained and thick sour milk. Successfully fermented sour milk should be filtered,

and if you added some salt and ate your mouth would water. Drinking tea with it would also cheer you up.
Sometimes Kazakh women added suzbe to their meat broth, thin porridge or soup. So it was another of
the tasty diary products. Sometimes kazakhs drank it as a beverage to get rid of heart burn. They used
such strained milk from Spring until Autumn. When milk became thin, Kazakhs turned suzbe into thick
sour milk: katyk. Katyk was also preserved in a dried stomach. If you processed katyk in hot weather, it
would grow mouldy, so a cool place was preferable. When it was without water it was also tasty. Women
would crumpled it up to make it dry, so women also processed and stored it in summer pasture. Those
who ate kurt in the hot weather and during a trip were thought not be bored or thirsty.
Koryktyk - Is a herdsman's food. Out on the yellow steppe from morning till night he often became hungry

and bored, so he would milk five or six sheep and boil the milk and put some clean smoked stones into it.
These boiling stones would help make the milk thicken. The milk would then be pour into a bowl and
drunk. Nowadays herdsmen still drink, this for lunch.
Tosap - This is formed from the scum on the sides of a metal pot. When you boil milk with butter for long

hours, you'd see scum. Kazakhs used these scums along with a fat tail (from a sheep) as a drug against
pulmonary tuberculosis. So, people used tosap as a medicine instead of a food.
Airan (sour milk) - Kazakh used this winter and summer if it was available, although it was very difficult to

make it a coagulate. First of all its acidify had to be good. Nowadays they make it coagulate with aspirin;
but this does not improve its flavor. In early times Kazakhs ate light food, mostly drinking airan and eating
kurt. Typically they drank airan after eating meat and before going to bed. Women made airan by heating
milk just to make it warm, then acidifying it, covered and putting in a flat place. In the morning they'd open
it, and it would have the consistency of liver. It was then kept in a cold place.
Shubat (fermented camel's milk) - Shubat was fat and nutritious and often served as a medicine. Kazakhs

added camel's milk to tea, which "burned the tea dark yellow, Shubat was considered superior to cow's
milk. In early times our forefathers had a senior wife whose primary responsibility was milking camels and
processing shubat. Believing it to have medicinal qualities, many resorts in the Kazakh Republic used to
use it to prevent pulmonary tuberculosis as well.
Kumys - This is a very respected beverage among Kazakhs; and also considered useful for health. In

early times Kazakhs would measure their richness by how much kumys they processed in a year. They'd

say: "This family has twelve female horses, and thus became rich."Kumys is very good for everyone's
health, and many people wrote about it. From ancient times, Eastern Arabs processed their musalla
(wine); western slavs made their own wine, and kazakhs in deserts decantad their kumys. Each is
considered to be a wine, but Kazakh kumys has its own peculiarities since the others were made of fruit,
say, from grapes or pomegranates. Female horses of course ate all these fruits and berries, so kumys
actually had the same ingredients as some wines, and these also made kumys healthful.
Our forefathers greatly respected this beverage, but nowadays kumys doesn't have the taste of old. We
didn t move from our forefathers places, and we have the same type of horses, so we do not understand
why we are unable to process real kumys. It is time to revive our traditions especially in kumys
Herdsmen still graze horses, but perhaps not the way it used to be done. If female horses were grazed in
the mountain full of herbs, her kumys would be very nutritious. A horse is very fastidious animal; it won't
eat just any grass. A horse might eat twenty five kilograms of Festuca Sulcata or black lead in the
mountains. These grasses were very good for processing kumys. If she was grazed in the plains or fields,
she wouldn't give kumys. Acidifying kumys is a difficult job. Saba must be kept in a cool place. After
pouring kumys in smaller leather bags it could be kept in a cold place. Kumys from mountainous areas
was yellow, and you can see lead fat floating in it. From field grass kumys would be blue and bitter, and it
wouldn't smell like that kumys.
Now we'll describe kumys processing: As we mentioned above kumys was very respected beverage, so
sometimes wive's marriage depended on it. If she couldn't process it, a rich man might divorce her.
Processing kumys required special skills from women. She who had them might be freed from other
duties by a wealthy husband, like preparing food or sewing. Such a woman would be busy with only her
black leather bag assigned for kumys processing.
The woman who processed kumys was also required to pour it. If the cow ate much grass she would give
much milk, so if the female horses were grazed in the mountains (like Altai or Erenkabyrga) their kumys
was thick and nutritious. For kumys it was important what kind of weather and dish and method of
fermenting were. For processing kumys, fresh milk must be poured after cooling, then shaken well.
Second, saba must be made of horses skin, and it must be well made. If it wasn't made properly it would
grow mouldy, and you couldn't smoke it. After pouring from it, a white cloth must be bound to saba.
Fourth, tradition had it that a pelvic bone from the previous winter's slaughtering had to be put into saba.
Pinks (an herb) wrapped in a cloth were also to be added, as well as a raw horse sausage. After shaking
saba it must be covered and kept for three days shaken for long hours, it would become more nutritious.
When it was ready to drink, a pleasant aroma was present. Kumys of course was not to be processed in a
metal dish. These must be either of wood or leather, as should be the bucket, basin and scoop. Maple or
Oak trees were preferable as these were better for storage.

Entertainment, national games

Kazakh culture and national traditions
Kazakhs, like other cultural groups, have inherited various forms of entertainment and games from their forefathers. As you
will observe, most of these cultural forms were based on life situations and national peculiarities: and their intent was to
teach succeeding generations to be healthy, strong, brave, smart, observant, resourceful, resilient and humane,
Entertainment is one of the branches of Kazakh national culture, Here we will briefly describe some of them.
Shesheke (mommy)

This is a game for six or seven year old children, usually played in the evening after children have helped their parents with
household chores and when parents have completed feeding and milking duties involved with their cattle. All children of the
aul would gather in the meadow for shesheke (derived from the word "sheshe," or mommy), a game with important meaning
in terms of physical training. Children would hold on to each others hems and walk in one line like dolls. They would become
very sweaty in till process, yet their questions and answers to one another during the game sounded lovely. The
conversation was at mock discussion between a mother and her son; and children from one aul would sing: Mommy gave
me a cake spun (or paddled) a wick children from another aul would respond:
Mommy gave me a kurt,
I put dung into the sack
Interpreting these lines, the first group indicated that in exchange for working hard and helping their parents, they could
expect something tasty to eat. For the spinning of a wick, their mother gave them tasty cake. The opposite side had similarly
indicated that for gathering dung, they were given a kurt. You know that Kazakhs were nomads, and for heating their yurt
and for cooking they needed dung to burn. Of course, lyrics of the songs varied a bit. Shesheke was played as innocently as
possible, and never involved any fighting. Children might play for long hours until their mothers called them to have dinner.
After this game children would sleep soundly, as they had often expended much energy in their games. Shesheke was also
considered important beyond its healthful attributes for it gave children a lesson in organizing themselves independently;
taught them to remember; and developed their oral comprehension skills. They thus received practice in poetry - valued
highly by Kazakhs - in that they used their native language to improvise. And of course, values of industry and obeying
parents were all part of Shesheke.
Summer was usually a very relaxing period for Kazakh families in which they could hold feasts and entertain friends. In the
summer, pastures were particularly nutritious and cattle became fat. Milk and cream were thick, kumiss tasted better, and
children could all play shesheke at this time of the year. Unfortunately, nowadays children do not play that game. We believe
such a game ought to be renewed for our young people as a priceless gift to them from the past.

Khan is a game played in the winter after Kazakhs had moved from Summer to Winter quarters. The earth would be covered
with white snow; adults set traps and hunted with birds; and children would gather to play "khan". Asyks, the only toy of
children of this age were used in this game, and each boy had the whole bag of them. Asyks, as you may recall, are the
ankle bones of a sheep. Among any boy's collection of asyks would be at least one from a wild ram, and it would be larger
than the others. It would also be painted to make it stand out from the rest, for it would stand for the Khan in this game.
The object of the game was to capture all the "soldiers" or asyks in the circle without hitting the Khan, or ram's asyk. Boys
divided into two teams, with each team having their saka (or big asyk) in the circle. They would throw asyks into the circle,
trying to capture their opponents "soldiers." Upon hitting an asyk, the thrower would reach in and remove the piece, careful
not to touch another asyk by mistake, for this would cause him to surrender all of his captured pieces to the other team.
The game continued until all asyks were captured by one side or another. During the process, great care had to be taken not
to hit the saka or khan. So, a great deal of accuracy and dexterity was required to play this game, Boys had to be very adroit
in their tasks, as they might have to be to remove an egg quickly from under a sitting bird. The team which collected the
most asyks was considered the winner, meaning they had best defended their people and their "khan" in the war. After the
game both sides would count their asyks to determine how many "warriors" had died. Losers would therefore become the
subjects of the fictitious khan. This winter game was played in a clean and warm place, sitting on a rug or felt. Children no
longer play Khan, but in some villages kids play a similar game called.

This game was played both in summer and winter. Let me describe the terms of the game. Two boys would have a target
and attempt to hit it with a saka from three step distance. If one hit the target, an asyk from his opponents arsenal would be
his. He would then continue throwing until he missed, taking an asyk from his partner until missing. Then it would be his
opponents turn to win back lost asyks. Asyk is also forgotten by many children, but in rural places of Kazakhstan some boys
still play it. Often boys would be so engrossed in the game that they would ignore eating, going to school or helping parents
to finish a game. As we discussed earlier, parents brought up a child to hold work in respect. So they would complain about
those who constantly played asyk or ball as laggards, and extol boys who rather spent their time grazing sheep as
successful. Everything should rather be done in moderation and in its own time. So Asyk is not a bad game, but it mustn't be
turned into an extended game of chance.

Ai kerek (by moonlight)

As its name suggests this game was played when there was an evening moon, out in the summer pasture. Children had to
know each other well, but they might be of different ages. Both boys and girls played it through about age fourteen, because
older children were by this time required to work about house, and they were often too tired for games at night. Children
from the neighboring aul also would come to play. When they all gathered, a leader would divide them into two teams, they
then faced each other forty steps apart. When they were ready, the leader gave a sign to begin, upon which one team sings
and calls:
Ai kerek, ai kerek
whom do you need from our side whom?
tell us whom?
The other side would respond:
Ai kerek, ai kerek,
we need Anar from your side
Anar would then approach the other side and attempt to break through the linked hands of smaller and weaker children on
the other side. Were she successful, she would return with them to her own team: if she failed, she had to stay with the other
side. Again they would call:
Ai kerek, ai kerek,
whom do you need from our side whom?
tell us whom?
The opposite side would respond:
Ai kerek, ai kerek,
we need that boy whose name is Samat.
Samat would then also run and attempt to break linked hands of children from the opposite side. Should he break through,
he would return with two opponents; if his attempt failed, he would have to remain with the opposition. So they would play
until all the children of one side had been captured and returned to the other. In some games the leader would have to divide
the boys and girls evenly for the game, thus ensuring that one team did not get all the larger and stronger boys and girls.
Parents believed that Ai Kerek was good physical training for the children, and the children would have lots of fun.
Sometimes a boy or girl would allow the opposition to break their linked hands on purpose, desiring to be on the other side
anyway. However, if the leader noticed that he would ask them not to play. Alternatively, there were cases when boys and
girls linked so tightly that an opponent could not break the link for all their might. At this moment the leader of the game
would praise the pair, and suggest that in the future a boy might become a batyr or a good rider. Close inspection of this
game suggests that it teaches children to be both fair and strong. One additional noteworthy feature of this game involved
the giving or receiving of a nickname. Sometimes children would be playful and call for an opponent thusly:
Ai kerek, ai kerek
whom do you want from our side
whom? tell us whom?
The response might then be humorous:
Ai kerek, ai kerek
we need that guy,
who shaved his hair,
we need "Black Crane"
Thus they might gave a nickname to their friend because he was thin and tall, sunburned, he looked like a crane. While the
name was given in jest, a successful raid on the opposition might leave an indelible mark, for everybody would remember
the exploits of the "Black crane." Sometimes calls for players might be of a more teasing fashion. One response might have

Ai kerek, ai kerek
we want the sweetie of her granny;
the pampered girl
whose name is Altyn.
All and all, then, Ai kerek was a joyful game which was also helpful for physical training: but it isn't played nowadays.
Ak Sandyk-kok Sandyk (White trunk and the blue trunk)

This game was played mostly by boys. They could play it in the daytime and in the evening as well. In this game two boys
must lift each other on their backs while at the same time singing songs. Boys would be paired according to their body
weight. As they lifted each other, others would watch them. Should one of the boys have difficulty lifting the other and forget
to sing, everybody laughed at the scene. These songs were typically composed by the boys themselves, and usually would
be about their parents, especially about their fathers and their tools, or how each boy performed house work. They might
Ak sandyk Kok sandyk
In white we have valuable things
In the blue trunk
We have a screwdriver...
Aksandyk, kok sandyk
In both of them
We have all necessary things for home.
While singing, boys would be lifting numerous times. Those attentively watching would count how many times they
performed their lifting efforts. After the first boy finished, the second might continue
Ak sandyk, kok sandyk
In white trunk we have money
in the blue
We have a hammer
Ak sandyk, kok sandyk
If we find a nail in the street strength to dig ditches and carry water.
So, you see this game had several potential purposes.
Zhasyrynbak (Hide-and-Seek) Usually children played this game around mining places throughout the year, because there

were many places to hide there. In the summer they would play near densely set yurts, but here "seeker" could often find the
"hider" quite easily. Here one boy or girl would stand at the goal and be blindfold while others would hide. Only when
everyone was hidden could the seeker open his eyes and begin looking for the other children. If he found them he won; but
while he was looking, others might arrive at the goal be the first. This game is played until everyone is' tired, usually by
children of similar ages.
Hide-and-seek is very useful, because kids move around a lot. It is especially useful after a big meal, for following a game
children would often go to sleep quietly. This game also approximated that of hunting with a bird. Hunters while in the field
with their eagles use a tomaga (a small leather cowl) to cover their eyes. This keeps the eagle from immediately
concentrating on the prey. The hunter, becoming aware of an animal presence, would then remove the eagle's tomaga to
begin the chase. Similarly, in the game "Zhasyrynbak," the boys or girls eyes must be closed until everyone is hidden. Upon
opening them, the seeker -like the eagle - can begin to consider potential hiding places, . This game is also necessary to
develop logical thinking and predictability.
Sadak, sadak, kuirshak (Arrow, Arrow and the Doll)

In early times Kazakh kids could carve toys from stone wood, or straw. From stone they could make an axe, a hammer, a
knife, spoon, or a pot. Sometimes boys would grind a stone with great impatience once, making it thin enough to form a
round toy which was called "kaimak zhalatkysh." Were it well made, it wouldn't sink quickly in water when thrown, as
opposed to those more clumsily carved. We consider this to be the right way: to bring up the boys to be good marksmen and
craftsmen. They also formed arrows which looked like real ones. For this they chose special wood and bent it to make it

strong. They would sharpen the peak of the bow, then bend it to the target. It was a very ancient game of Kazakh boys.
Kazakhs have a proverb: "Kids who are always with their father would carve the wood," suggesting that fathers were
responsible for teach all skills to their sons. In summer, children would peal bark from the willow and make a musical
instrument. After this they would climb a tall tree and perform beautiful songs on that instrument- It was pleasant to hear that
and upon noticing peoples' interest in the playing, a boy would more confidently, since this encouraged him. Another toy
kazakhs made in earlier times was "Su miltik" which meant "water gun" in English. It 1 was made of goosefoot or reed.
When the boys played with it (by shooting it), everybody laughed. As its name suggests, it was filled with water. In other
cases boys carved dishes; as well as saddles from wood. Sometimes the dishes were so well done that mothers would use
As for girls, they played outside games of course with boys, but most of them preferred staying in yurts or in the yurtyard and
making dolls, sewing clothes for dolls, and knitting. And from an early age they learned needle work from their mothers.
There is a proverb about this fact. "From mothers girls know how to cut out a furcate."
Sokyrteke (Blind wild goat)

In this game a boy or girl would be blindfolded, and thus become the sokyrteke. Other players would touch him and run
away, and the "blind wild goat" was to catch them. If the blindfolded boy was very perceptible and quick, it wouldn't take long
take him to notice who was nearby and catch him. The newly caught payer would then become blindfolded. A slow player
would be teased by the others. Human nature being what it is, however, some children would be slow or clumsy and collide
with the sokyrteke, thus being immediately caught. Catching girls was always funny, for they'd shout and laugh. Good
players were cautious, like a magpie; and as the evening became dark, the game would become very interesting, because
players might hit a tree on their way and fall to the ground, leading friends to burst into laughter. Players must also be careful
because while playing, another person might also push you into the sokyrteke. The game of sokyrteke was thought to have
use in training children to be careful and to help them consider ways of escaping difficult situations.
Belbeusok (hit with a sash)

"Belbeusok" was the game of adults, young kelins and married men. All the members of the game would sit in a circle. Then
one of the players would imperceptibly place a sash behind somebody who was also sitting. Upon noticing the sash, he
would jump up with the sash and run after him. Once caught, he would hit him with the sash, and then retake his seat. Then
he would put it behind another person's back. In this way the game continues, everybody at some point having the sash
placed behind them and having a chance to run. If a young man wanted to get acquainted with a young girl, he would
especially make an j effort to place the sash behind her, in order to have a chance to talk in private. Later, he would see her
off to her house. During the game nobody could run far from the circle, and all of the participants of the game had to be
watchful, because sometimes it was difficult to notice the sash in the grass. On the other hand, if you were talking with your
neighbor and didn't notice somebody putting the sash behind your back, you'd also be hit with the sash; if someone was at
odds with you, he might hit you repeatedly.
Belbeusok is very easy and a good way for young people to meet. You know Kazakh girls were "watched by forty families,"
and this was one of the few occasions where she might go with her friends to spend time unescorted by an adult. Of course,
in these days there were no places to go like theaters, cinemas, museums or dance clubs where the young people could
have a good time.
Kuzet (Guarding)

Kuzet was usually held in a herdsmen's aul. Mostly young people went there to protect flocks of sheep from wolves, they
would set a fire, sing songs, and chat with each other around it. Sheep were guarded by their dogs, and it was good
opportunity for a kelin and her sister-in law to share their secrets and to talk about different things. It was also a good time
for the young zhigit and lady to talk about love and to sing love songs. Guarding was difficult in olara (the interval of time
between the end of the preceding and the beginning of the coming month) and kuzeu (the time of shearing). This was a time
that hungry wolves might attack the sheep; a time guards did not have time to joke. There was a superstition that if you
stretched a black and white lasso across the fence, wolves wouldn't attack. The dogs would smell wolves from the distance
and bark; it was thus a sign for guards to be ready. They would prepare clubs and cudgels and sit on their horses. They
would also set traps and dig holes, such guarding would show bravery and cautious.
Ak Suiek (white bone)

"Ak suiek" is a very ancient and interesting game. It was played in warm weather in the summer pasture. Children of
different ages and even adults would play this game. when all the players gathered, the leader would divide them into two
teams. At the end of the game they would sum up. The winner would be that team who many times would bring ak suiek to
the target. Those who lose the game would sing songs and dance as a penalty.

That game begins this way. First of all the leader shows ak suiek it may be a thigh bone. He explains that both teams would
seek this very bone, then he would throw it. Then gives a sign to look for that bone. Everybody would rush to seek. If they
notice that somebody found it, they would prevent him from coming first. Everyone wants to come first to the target with ak
suiek. Some young people take advantage. They would pretend looking for aksuiek, but they' d walk with beautiful ladies,
talk about love, nature, but the main idea of this game is to cheer up people, to make them joyful..
Altybakan (a swing with six poles)

This remains one of the most played national games of Kazakhs. They play it in summer and fall when mother nature gives
the sign of good weather. The participants are young zhigits and ladies who gather together; teenagers are not allowed to
play, but they might watch. Altybakan is set up beforehand. For this, six logs and a thick rope are needed. They would attach
a syryk (a bifurcated post used for supporting the yurt in time of bad weather) to six logs; three on either side all attached
with a thick rope. A couple might stand on the assembled Altybakan and be swung by those on either side. Ladies would
come in their best clothes: flouncy white dresses, red jackets and owl-feathered headdresses.
Zhigits would also be well-dressed. Those who were on the Altybakan sang folk and love songs. Here the young people
might share their secrets and troubles. Those either swinging on or standing nearby the Altybakan could also sing and talk to
each other as they observed the song competition. Altybakan remains a really good place where young people can compete
in song improvisation. It is the location of real art for propagandizing our rich national folk songs. That's why the singers from
all auls were invited to take part in song and improvising competitions. The host of the Altybakan would slaughter a sheep
and did his best to create joyful atmosphere.
Sometimes a spoiled boy or girl from a wealthy home might organize such an event at their parent's expense. They would
invite relatives, kinsmen, jiens and all friends in advance. Then they would prepare everything to organize Altybakan at an
impressive level, decorating the scene with ribbons. Kazakhs might then say "Dastarkhan (table cloth) is inseparable share"
which meant everybody was welcome to the dastarkhan or feast. Meanwhile, a simpler Altybakan would only last till morning
and would sometimes be called "Kyz oinak" (or a place where youngsters meet and play). Today, Altybakan remains a living
game, nowadays to be found at a herdsman's toi or in jubilees where young people compete, although sometimes they do
not follow the traditional rules completely or wear national dresses and costumes. Also, in earlier times Kazakhs did not drink
hard liquor and never quarreled with each other. At Altybakan, now you can unfortunately see drunk people; so we miss the
Altybakan of earlier times.
Kyz Kuu (Catch up with a girl)

"Kyz kuu" is another game typical of Kazakh tradition which is still to be found. People would gather at a race course, and
young ladies and zhigits would have their racehorses prepared. Kyz kuu was usually held in conjunction with other big
celebrations, as during Kurban and Oraza Aits. People prepared much food plenty of kumiss. Of course, as it was a
celebration, everybody would wear his or her best clothes. People in attendance would eat and watch Kyz Kuu.
In the race a lady and a zhigit would ride a distance of five to six kilometers. They would ride close together and talk, and
stay close enough to embrace or tell stories; on this occasion the lady might offer no resistance. Upon reaching the starting
place, the zhigit would stretch the front saddle and the back saddle girths tightly, stretching the back saddle almost to the
horse's breast. Following that he'd put the breastplate straight, as the race course was usually uphill. This would allow the
crowd to be able to see, since the way back would be difficult. On the way back, the zhigit would start first and the lady
would try to catch up with him. If she caught him, she'd beat him with a riding whip; and if she remembered some offense,
she might beat him hard! For that she must ride a good race horse. Both, the zhigit and the lady tried not to lose their honor
in this process. In most cases, a well-bread girl would not beat the zhigit even if she caught up with him.
If Kyz kuu was interesting, it would last a long time and elder people might also participate. They might choose a kinswoman
as a partner. Other couples who were not married for some reasons when they were young, but who were hindered from
doing so now might play kyz kuu as their only chance to remember about their former love and those wonderful times they
spent together earlier. While our bodies may get old, our spirits never do.
Kyz kuu exists nowadays, but those who remember the ancient traditions didn't like the way it is held these days. Sometimes
people have it to show that they are Kazakhs, but many girls in particular may have never seen a saddle, touched a whip, or
can sit on a horse without looking awkward. Urban zhigits are also usually clumsy on a horse. In earlier times, zhigits might
perform different tricks while riding their horses. In rural places you can still find zhigits and girls who could ride wonderfully.
Kyz kuu is not used only as an entertainment during celebrations, rather, it is a kind of schooling about riding. From history

you all know about the devastating wars Kazakhs fought on horseback. So from early ages fathers taught their sons and
daughters how to saddle and ride a horse. In early times you couldn't meet a girl or a boy not riding a horse, so it was
important to teach our youth to ride a horse in order to develop these sorts of riding abilities.
Baiqe (horse race)

Horse racing is one of the ancient traditions of Kazakh people. Horses were the "wings" of the zhigit, so they trained them
and spent many hours with their beloved race horses. Our ancestors could distinguish the good horses from the bad; there
were critics like Tolibai who could predict from among pregnant horses which would bring forth "argimaks" (race horses) and
"tulpars" (battle horses), when a colt was in-utero. So Kazakhs held baige (horse race) at large tois, celebrations and at
national holidays. At the races one might see hundreds of horses. In Kazakh history there were ases (held the year following
somebody's death) of famous people like Saginai, Mamen, Sasan, Ulan-bulan and tremendous horse races were held. Our
nation is always interested in joyful events, so they often organize horse races.
Predicting a race horse from among the others was hard to do. The head of a race horse was reputed to have little meat;
they had protruding ribs; swollen bones; were of unpleasant appearance; had broad breasts; and protruding nostrils. Those
who believed that they had a winning horse might expect to win a substantial prize, and would thus take great pains to care
for their animals the month before a race. They would condition a mount for a race by riding long hours to make the horse
sweaty. They then would feed and water appropriately, and give an extra measure of oats. After a good ride, they were sure
to cool down the horse, and to keep their animal safe from evil eyes, they covered him with a small horse blanket and made
a special mask for his face.
In the Tarbagatai mountains there was a mud hut of a man, Kalmaktai by name. The front of this mud hut was plain, but in
the middle there was a stone stake. Kalmaktai would lasso his horse, and every day he stretched and elongated it for about
a month or until the ground became grassless. This was in fact a manner of training the horse to run in ever-larger circles.
Another important task was to select a person who would ride the race horse. Kazakhs usually chose boys, because they
are light and rode horses easily; however, such boys needed to have riding skills. In preparation for a race a boy would be
given extra training, and also instruct him how to keep the horse's eyes and under his ears dry; to use a whip; when to
change speeds; to remember not to sit straight but to ride sideways, always observing the behavior of competitors.
According to the kind of tois involved, the financial position of horse owners, and the number of participating horses, a horse
race might be of short, middle, or long distances.
In old times when best race horses gathered they would have one day races sometimes involving different track. Nowadays
it is difficult to find thin tailed argimaks, so a racing distance might be 20-30 kilometers or a middle distance track. There are
other sorts of races, too. For example, races of kunan (a colt of two or three years) were not far. Kazakhs also had an amble
(gait of a horse) race which mostly involved women. Moslems also held camel races. All of these races were held on special
celebrations, and were thought to be a kind of physical training. So baige is longstanding and wonderful tradition.
Kures (wrestling)

One of the ancient traditions of Kazakh people is wrestling. Kazakhs were proud of their famous singers, poets, folk singers,
judges, batyrs (warriors) and athletes. Wrestlers would defend the honor of their clan for whom they wrestled. We are proud
of our world-known wrestlers, like Baluan Sholak and Kazhymukan. Though there were few famous wrestlers remembered
by name, Kazakhs were eager to train their boys to be wrestlers from very young age.
Wrestling took place in large celebrations, holidays, and fairs. There, clans would point to the wrestlers who would defend
their honor. Among the Kazakhs, wrestlers respected and appreciated each other. Once Kazhymukan defeated Japanese,
Turkish and wrestlers from other countries in an international event, and the world for the fist time knew that Kazakhstan had
such competitors.
On his way home after a successful wrestling match Kazhymukan came to a kos (a small felt hut for travelling). When he
opened it, he saw a giant man sleeping on his back. Kazheken (his pet name) admired the giant's body and greatly wanted
to wrestle with him. So he waked him up and they began wrestling. It seemed to him that the larger man was very strong,
and he was difficult to beat. Then Kazheken prayed and said: "Oh, my angel, Baluan Sholak help me, give me more
strength." Hearing these words the giant released and kissed him, and Kazhymukan saw tears in his eyes. It turned out that
Kazhekens competitor was Baluan Sholak himself.
Because Baluan Sholak could not show himself, he had heard about Kazhymukans recent success and was specially
waiting for him to pass nearby and to pay him respect. He was grazing dozens of lambs to treat him to, so when the two

wrestlers became acquainted they feasted for two days on these animals. After the war, Kazhymukan was at Sabit
Mukanovs home (a famous Kazakh writer), and he whooped when he remembered the incident. Sabit was surprised why he
was weeping and inquired as to the cause. Kazhymukan answered that it was nothing for him to drink boxes of vodka or
tubs of kumiss, but it was shame and a sin for him to touch the collar of his elder brother (he meant Baluan Sholak). In our
childhood we saw several times wrestlers in chain and tomaga. During wrestling if they were not able to win, they might pray
and mutter in an effort to acquire more energy. It could become very noisy in the steppe when they did so, for winners might
be given a camel, a horse, a cow or a sheep. Nowadays wrestlers are selected according to their weight, and they are
sponsored by different institutions and sports organizations. In earlier times, wrestlers were praised by people and
sometimes sponsored by wealthy people who would take care of them since their success belonged to all the people.
The rules of wrestling included grasping the stomach or torso and lifting opponents overhead. Sometimes a match would
last for long hours. They would tie their wrists with a girdle and have wide pants. According to the rules they could only hold
opponents by the girdles. In ancient times old men would gather on a big hill to have a chat, and talked about information
from "Uzun kulak" (long ears). Their grandsons usually were with them, and when the old men were free for a while, they'd
wrestle their grandsons and admire the scene. This was because our forefathers always thought about future generations,
and they wanted their offspring to be strong.
Audaryspak (to pull the adversary from a horse in competition)

Audaryspak was also one of the most widespread traditions organized during feasts. It is one of the ways of checking
strength and determination. Only strong zhigits would take part in such competitions, and their horses needed to be well
chosen. Those who would take part in "Audaryspak "were divided into two groups. The object was to pull an opponent from
a horse. Thus, it was very important that the horse and saddle objects were very strong. Sometimes the stronger competitor
would drag the adversary with his horse, leading to him being unseated.
As you have become aware, all physical training of the kazakh people was connected with the living conditions and history.
Kazakhs had to defend their families and often fight on horseback. Remember that horses might be driven away from one
clan by others, or that women might be stolen; so being able to pull an adversary from a horse might become more than a
game. If somebody was trained well how to fight on a horse he wouldn't lose the fight. Kazakhs in general were a very
peaceful people. They never liked bloody scenes or killing. When they fought with cudgels, they tried not to hurt an enemy's
head badly, but rather intended only to pull a foe from his horse, for without a horse the adversary couldn't fight. In the
whole, Audaryspak was very useful in strengthening muscles and training zhigits for bravery, and besides, it was one of the
best means to learn self defense.
Tenge alu (picking tenge from the ground on a horse) Another amazing entertainment was Tenge alu. Few on horseback

could pick a coin up from the ground on the run. Most of zhigits even bending as far as they could couldn't do that; for this
involved a special knack or skill. That's why many zhigits would refuse to take part in this competition, fearing his failure
might disgrace him before his girl friend.
In early times, Kazakh zhigits riding on a horse might split dung lying in a field with a sword while riding on a horse. Such
feats were facilitated by Tenge alu training. Special prizes were given to the winners: if the coin pick from the turf was
golden, he kept it. Kazakh youth liked this game, because it trained them to be careful and adroit and to adjust to different
situations in life. Even riding a tai (one year old colt), small boys could pick something from the ground. If a rider dropped his
whip, he was encouraged to be able to retrieve it on the run, for when he was older such practice would help in Tenge alu
In the district of Aksuat (which was in the Semei region) Tenge alu was not a strong game during the celebration for
Kabanbai batyr (a national hero). Few zhigits participated, and only one or two of them could pick a coin. Upon observing
this, we have come to believe that there is not enough physical training in that district. Alternatively, in pure Kazakh auls, we
believe that this ancient tradition is better kept. If Tenge alu is so poorly practiced in other towns, perhaps the future of this
game is in jeopardy.
Ot oiyny (fire game)

Ot oiyny was held when people moved to their summer pasture, and it was played at night. They would bring bundles of
firewood and start a fire. Putting their palms near the flame, they'd then touch their faces, dance around the fire, and sing
different songs. Night in summer pasture was chilly and heating at the fire was romantic.
When the fire burned down they'd throw more wood on the fire. Songs sounded special at night, and everyone would enjoy
them even more. Some young people preferred sitting further away from the fire. There, in the dark, they might chat with

their beloved girls or boys. Nowadays nobody play this game; it is one of the forgotten traditions.
Arkan tartu (stretching a rope)

This game has two versions. First, gathered youth were divided into two groups of approximately equal strength and
number. Then they went to the field and marked a rope in the middle. After this the two sides pulled against each other, and
a judge would decide which team moved the mark significantly. Losers of the contest became "slaves" to the winners. Then
the judge would reconstitute the teams and repeat the contest. Three consecutive wins would lead the judge to declare the
winning team to be unbeatable.
The second version of this game was held at wedding parties. Stretching the rope before the bride's horse or cart, she was
told not to cross the rope without first paying. People had lots of fun watching this. Among the Kazakhs there was a proverb:
"Do not step over a black and white rope." Stretching a lasso meant that the bride must be very honest and fair.
Tobyk (patella or kneecap)

Elder people played Tobyk, but sometimes young people also played it. Matchmakers, kinsmen, kinswomen, and jiens
played it in order not to be forgetful and absent-minded. How did they play? Two people would nibble clearly and mark a
sheep's patella, then he would hide it. Later, when the other person asked for it, the person who hid it had to immediately be
able to locate it. If it wasn't in the specified location, the hider lost the game. Alternatively, if the second person failed to ask
for it at the agreed upon time, then the person who hid the Tobyk won the game. They'd agree on horse, cow or good clothes
as a prize. Then the winner would invite the loser to be a guest. It was an interesting game but nobody plays it nowadays.
Doiby (draughts)

For playing that game old men would clean twelve goat's hooves and paint them red. They would be kept in a special feed
bag or small sack with a board made of wood. Old men liked to play draughts; draughtsmen would seek each other out to
play the game and others might join. In olden days men would gather in one yurt to play draughts and the hostess would
prepare food, especially national food besbarmak (boiled meat with noodles). Tea and kumiss would also be served, but
before serving kumiss it had to be decantated. Draughts was typically played during "Uzun sary" (at the end of winter or the
beginning of summer).
When they shared meat from winter slaughtering, they would tie their horses near the hay, and take out snuffboxes from the
tops of their boots. Here it must be mentioned that there was no heated competition during draughts; the purpose wasn't to
earn money or benefit from this game, it was just for pleasure. Skilled draughtsmen would count six, seven moves
beforehand and never lost the game. We have seen such wonderful players and sometimes we think "It would be great if
they participated in modern draughts game!
Koishy - herdsman

In early times the main living resources of Kazakhs depended on four species of domestic animals. Meat and milk served as
food stuffs; hair and skins were used for making clothes, tools, and living accommodation. That's why the main trade of
kazakh people was grazing cattle. One of the four species of domestic animals was sheep. A herdsman was a person who
grazed sheep; today we call him a herdsman. His trade was difficult, for he was to graze them all year around in different
weather conditions, from early morning till sunset. He was to graze them in the yellow steppe and to protect them from
wolves and thieves. It was a large responsibility, but even so a herdsman was paid very little, as people who employed them
would only give him a sheep or a goat per month: in a year he might only earn twelve sheep.
In addition, a herdsman might be given clothes for winter: one fur coat, a pair of leather shoes, winter boots to be worn over
felt stockings, or a lambskin cap or a lamb skin with a covering. For summer, fabric for shirt, pants and shulgau (strips of
cloth worn instead of stockings) and a skin for summer shoes might be given.
A herdsman's work was very difficult, but on holidays he was allowed to visit his family and to wash the linen. At year's end
he would be back with twelve sheep. Sometimes he might be called zhyldkshi which means "year earner." Wealthy people
who found a herdsman they liked might even have them watch and protect the sheep of their sons after their death.
Sometimes a favorite herdsman might even be given a cow or ten more sheep for his efforts, and his children given good
used clothing by the wealthy family.
Kazakhs have a proverb: "Cattle are found by cattle, not by man." It meant that gradually a herdsman would improve his
financial position. Kazakhs consider a good flock of sheep to number about five hundred. It was assumed if you did not sell
your twelve sheep and if you kept them safe from wolves and thieves, in five or ten years a herdsman might have five
hundred sheep of his own. This would mean that you had a large enough herd to slaughter them as required, to host

celebrations, and to use sheep for other things...

There was another proverb about this among kazakhs: "First of all you need health, then a white shawl (a wife) and five
sheep." So, one of the honorable trades which could lead to prosperity was to be a herdsman.
Syirshy (a person who grazes cows)

You know from the history Kazakhs had wars over territory led defeated auls to move from one place to another. When
people escaped, their cows couldn't keep up with them, and were often left behind, which is why Kazakhs didn't have many
cows. For all situations, horses were the animal of choice. Horses were considered to be wings of zhigits; means of
transport; served as food and clothes. Thus, from early times Kazakhs preferred horses to other domestic animals. Some
wealthy men had over a thousand horses, including herds of race horses. After zhiiki (horses) they preferred camels and
sheep. Kazakhs had some other reasons for favoring their four species of domestic animals. The cow became very useful in
householding later. Others were convenient during nomadic days. You can judge for yourself how Kazakhs didn't care for
cows from the following lines:
"Human being has different time, era,
the pike would reach the pine tree's peak.
the cow would be money
wife would be a judge, houses would be without brace
and judges unknown"...
But this doesn't necessarily mean that they didn't know about cows. Evidently for Kazakhs the cow was very useful. After
grazing she would come back home on her own, and she gave much milk that was used to make yogurt, sour cream and
other diary products. Also, her meat could be used as food, and fourthly, her skin was very good raw material for making
saba (to process kumiss), torsik (a leather bag to transport kumiss) and harnesses. Yet, there was no special person needed
to graze a cow.
Then you'd ask us why we use the name syirshi to signify a person who worked with cows. So, we'll try to answer it. In old
times Kazakhs had fields of wheat and millet. When people moved to summer pasture, some poor Kazakhs couldn't go with
them and had to stay behind. Such a situation is well described in "The Path of Abai." There the author described
Darkembai's poor aul. They grew wheat and millet and had cows, but in order to protect crops from the cows, they'd hire a
person who would be responsible for grazing them. Later as Kazakhs became a more settled population depending upon
the selling of crops to other people, they no longer traveled away from home and did not need to hire a person to tend the
cattle. If the cow even tasted the crop once, even iron chains on her feet wouldn't stop her.
Now you know in early times they hired Suirshi to protect their crops. Here a Suirshi wasn't paid twelve sheep; rather he
would be paid in grain (perhaps a bucket of wheat and a bucket of millet per month). Later, recognizing that the cow was
very useful in householding, people had herds of them, and men began to specialize in grazing them.
Tueshi (camel driver) A camel didn't need special grazing because he was strong and even wolves wouldn't attack them.

Various people have witnessed camels killing wolves who attacked them as they kneeled. The camel was considered to be
an important means of conveyance in nomadic wandering: they were the ships of the steppe. In ancient times, only wealthy
people had camels. For grazing them people were hired who were paid more than a sheep herder. Camel herders though
had to be experienced, because the camel required special treatment and this was especially true when it came time to help
with camel breeding which was also part of the responsibility of a camel driver at various times during the year.
Zhylkyshy (shepherd of horses)

The shepherd of horses was most respected and highest paid of trades in olden tiroes. Only that zhigit who was strong and
cautious and who could endure the cold could be such a shepherd. The horse is a kind of domestic animal who chews a cud
(ruminates) day and night. Wolves might follow them; and in stormy weather they are difficult to keep track of. Besides,
because of intertribal feuds it was very dangerous to be with the horses during a raid. Zhylkyshy had to be broad chested
and strong with legs like a male camel in order to endure such hardships. Accordingly, employers paid them highly, and
unlike sheep herders, they would have many clothes: strips of cloth worn instead of stockings and shoes made of long hair
from the underside of the neck and on the legs above the knees of a camel. They wore a sensen ishik (warm fur coat made
of wolf's skin), winter boots worn with felt stockings, and a winter cap. Employers provided these clothes, and also would
provide an extra horse for his family for the winter slaughtering. Shepherds might occasionally return home to change

In those times Kazakh lands were rich in woods and lakes and the woods were full of different dangerous animals, so
shepherds would worry that those beasts might attack the horses and not leave them long in his trips home. In appreciating
the hard job of the shepards, employers would sometimes give colts to the shepherd's children, which meant that most
shepherds had their own horse herds.
Turmanshy (harness maker)

The life of Kazakhs as you have been reading directly depended on horses and cattle, so they needed many things for them.
That's why there appeared different types of other trades. One of them was "Turmanshy," a maker of all necessary saddle
objects: cruppers, horse-collars, whips, stirrups, stirrup straps, bridles, breastplates, girths, hobbles, etc. A Turmanshy might
make things with his own raw materials, or sometimes his customers brought their own materials to him. For example,
hunters might bring him a wild goat's skin or skin from some other beast to make horse-related objects. Wealthy people
might order an entire set of items for a cow or for a horse, those who couldn't afford all of them would order them separately.
Sometimes there would be trades involving animal skins, wool, sheep or goats, Chinese or ceylon teas, cloth, or crops for
the saddle objects.
Turmanshy, goldsmiths, and shoemakers were very important trades which were necessary for Kazakhs in their life. People
would always prize skilled turmanshy and would show with pride the things they had made to other people. A turmanshy was
busy all the day, but he usually had enough food and clothes; and more importantly, he earned great respect. Nowadays you
can hardly find turmanshy: we believe it is necessary to restore this trade.
Uishi (house builder)

You know the main living accommodation of Kazakhs in early times were yurts, and the master who made the frame of it
was uishi. The uishi had a steady place of residence, and he had the necessary sharp tools for his trade. Usually a uishi was
a skilled craftsman with many standing orders from families in his aul. People ordered different sized yurts: yurts made of
four, six, and sometimes twelve sections of grating. Sometimes orders took years to complete. In order to fill an order, the
Uishi would go to the woods to look for a special tree, choosing especially straight willows. After bringing them home, he
would select and straighten the crooked ones, then he would peal and dry them. After that he would measure each uik
(sticks of the yurt), because every uik must match. It took a long time to construct a yurt frame and the task and required
great craftsmanship and an accurate calculation. The uishi wouldn't start constructing a new yurt until he had finished the
previous one. Yet, the uishi would always keep his eyes open for trees he could use later for the next project. There was a
proverb about that: "Uishi would walk among the woods in the same fashion that a critic would walk among countries." As his
job was very difficult, people paid him correspondingly. For example, for constructing simple yurt with four sections of
grating, he got a cow with a calf, a horse with a foal, or ten sheep. For the 12 section yurt with a wooden circle forming the
smoke opening (lifted up by a camel), he might receive a flock of kysyrak (young mares just released into the herd and not
yet having foaled), because for constructing that yurt he would spend at least two years. Frames of the yurt were never sold
in retail. You know when kazakhs married their children would be provided with their own structure, so the uishi would be
commissioned to construct one for them.
Tiginshi (a seamstress)

There were many women who were clever with their needles. In most cases they would make a dowry and sew beautiful
dresses; short fur coats from fox's and wolf's skins; a white cap; old fashioned headdressed for a bride; and embroidered
sleeveless coats. Those who ordered to sew the dowrys were very rich, since seamstresses would ask for high payment.
When a bride would show her finery to her neighbors, they would immediately recognize who had made it. A seamstress
didn't always tell at once about the payment for her job, she'd say in an eloquent tone: "If myrza (lord) gives a camel we
won't say it is little." Highly skilled seamstresses had special sewing machines, laces, tapes, braids, and golden and silver
threads for making ornaments and design. A seamstress not only sold clothes, but cut-outs or samples sewed from pieces of
leather and covered with lamb skin fur coats which were admired by everyone and were durable.
It was still probably difficult to find needlewomen who would sew embroided takiya (headdress of a girl). Very skilled
seamstresses would prepare such takiyas only to the spoiled daughter of a rich man as a gift and for that she would be
presented expensive presents or something she wanted to take from the wealthy person's house. So needlewomen were
generally prosperous themselves. Sometimes people from a neighboring aul would especially invite her to their place to sew
in their house. For that they 'd provide transportation and returning from their houses a good seamstress would be back with
heavy bags- Often this trade was handed down from mother to daughter or daughters-in-laws.
Temirshi (blacksmith)

Kazakhs in their nomadic life used many tools "made of iron. Especially they used: armour, a shield, a sword, helmets, iron
hobbles, tellers, pocket knives stirrup straps pointed small knives, ladles, tweezers, anvils, sabers, scoops, hearths for

fireplaces, pincers scythes, sickles, iron spades, screwdrivers, long pincers, pokers, strainers, hoops, bits for bridles, tridents
for chipping, vials, hoes and etc. These things were all made by blacksmiths. All things which he made were useful for fixing
food for riding horses and in fighting with enemies. So, the profession of a blacksmith was also respectful and necessary
and by selling his goods a blacksmith supported and fed his family. The blacksmith wouldn't sell his goods very expensively;
he would take account of the financial position of a person in setting a price which was typical for Kazakhs.
Sayatshy (hunter of birds)

Sayatshy was a person who during the first snowfall would go hunting with his hunting dog and eagle. But this undertaking
slightly differed. For example, wealthy men went hunting for pleasure to cheer themselves up; some men might go hunting
with their youngest wives for months at a time. They'd catch an animal on their fast horses along with their hunting dogs and
bird. They didn't usually sell their kills.
Kazakhs highly appreciated the eagle among all birds. An eagle laid only two eggs a year and their nest was on the high
rocks, trees, and cliffs, so they were hard to obtain. Accordingly, they were careful to train their eaglets. Kazakh people
especially liked mountain eagles because they were far- sightened and vigilant. They were called "mountain beauties."
Eagles were used to hunt rabbits, jackals, foxes, and badgers. "Sayatshi" sometimes went with his hunting birds: falcons,
gyrfalcons, kestrels, scavenger-hawks, kites and hawks. A sayatshy hunted and sold animal skins, and he used different
methods of hunting.
1. Kakpan kuru - Setting a trap Traps were of various kinds: small, large and toothed. Little traps were set for hunting foxes,
jackals, and marmots. Big and toothed traps were set for hunting bears, wolves, martens and wild sows.
2. Burkitshi - Hunting with an eagle A hunter always hunted with his tamed eagle.
3. U salu - Poisoning Hunters would put poison near dead cattle, thus killing any beast which would eat the cattle. Hunters
sometimes bought the poison; sometimes they made it. On the Kazakh steppe there was a poisonous grass which people
would gather in summer and store it in closed kazan till fall, because at this time it became efficacious. It was very
dangerous, so they'd bind a rope to the handle of the kazan and from far away they'd turn it over. After some time passed,
they'd scrape formed poison from the kazan and put it in a special dish then they'd spread it on a dead animal to poison the
wolves. Sometimes people would lubricate their stirrup with that poison in order revenge the enemy. In some cases they
used lead and a conitine (poisonous alkaloid) for poisoning.
4. Tuzak salu (to set snares). Hunters would catch birds, especially quail and pheasant with horsehair snares.
5. Or kazu (undermining a wolf hole). Hunters usually dug a wolf hole at the end of fall when it became colder and the
wolves were very hungry and wanted to enter the barns without any fear. To catch such wolves a deep hole would be dug far
from winter quarters and be slightly covered. After this a kid would be used to bait the hole at night. Hungry wolves would
hear the reedy kid's voice from long distances and would hurry to their prey, not noticing the hole. A herdsman would know if
the wolf had fallen in when the kid ceased making noises. If the kid continued to utter any sounds it meant that the wolf
hadn't yet come. Because the wolf is a very perceptive beast, he would often be able to smell the iron cartridge of a gun
from very far away and not be fooled.
6. Aran (a contrivance of pointed stakes, usually made from reeds) was one of the ancient methods of hunting. For this the
hunters would make narrow snares between hills and set prickly sticks around it. Then they'd chase animals into the stakes,
killing them.
7. Another way of hunting in winter-time was cutting off the top of a reed and leaving soyau (small wooden stick for sewing
felts together) in the top. Usually rabbits fell into this hunter's trap. There was a proverb about this case "Honor kills the
zhigit, the reed kills the rabbit".
Zerqer (a goldsmith)

Ancient Kazakhs decorated many objects. One person involved in many designs was a goldsmith. He made many things,
like earrings, rings, different pins, decorated sholp'ji (hairpins), bracelets, and necklaces from gold, silver and other different
precious metals. After having received his saddle from turmanshy a man might bring it to the goldsmith. He in his turn might
decorate it with gold, silver and other different precious metals. After his work the saddle looked very beautiful. The
goldsmith could do miraculous things with a bone.
Wealthy people would pay him a camel with her kid if a goldsmith was commissioned to decorate a bed made of bone. This

involved very fine work, especially covering the bed with gold or silver. I remember a goldsmith was our neighbor. His name
was Kudayigen. In his workshop you could see over two hundred precision tools and instruments. One of them was a scale
for measuring gold, but there were many other different scales and I don't remember their names. I do remember him
making one thing. It was made of iron and was for decorating a saddle. The goldsmith banged on it for about an hour then it
became thin like a blade. After that he took smooth yellow thing, its thickness like a paper, and covered the iron with that
thing. Then he hit it with a wooden hammer very carefully, transforming the iron saddle decoration into a golden appearance.
"This is how I work with gold, said the goldsmith. At that time we didn't know the yellow thing was the gold, and we admired
Melting the gold and making it as thin as a paper was very simple and easy for Kudeken. Usually goldsmiths have different
kinds of molds for making things. Various objects connected with decoration and design required patience from the
goldsmith, and he is the creator of fantastic things* Thus, the trade of a goldsmith remains highly respected, for they
decorated almost everything, even cradles, saddles, kitchen utilities etc. Nowadays it is difficult to find highly skilled
goldsmiths, so it is important to have and train them.
Saudager (a merchant)

You could rarely meet merchants among Kazakhs, because most things were exchanged rather than sold. But sometimes
there were people who would buy clothes, tea, sugar and cloth in the city and would sell them in auls at the expensive
prices. They would bring their goods in saddle bags with two compartments. Usually they'd ride to auls in summer pastures
and to mountainous areas where people couldn't afford going all the way to the cities for purchases. And besides, they
couldn't easily sell their cattle there. Yet, a merchant might have a market awaiting upon his arrival, and he would exchange
goods for cattle for which he obtained a high profit upon his return.
On the way to the aul a would-be merchant might take extra goods to sell beyond what his own family required. Chinese
people said "(even) little trade is good trade," so by this trade the Kazakh man could provide extras for his family. Later a
person who managed this trade opened his own shop in cities and might obtain goods from different countries, like silk from
China, rugs from Persia, or various dishes from Russia. First of all they sold those goods in the town, but if there was little
demand there, they sold them in far remote areas at high prices.
Nevertheless, trading was not a well developed occupation among the Kazakhs; even now they are not very experienced in
this area. They learned the selling cloth, ready made clothes, food, and other consumer goods from Russians, Tatars,
Uzbeks, Uigurs and others.
Moldalyk kuru (mullah)

In ancient times the most well spread profession was that of the mullah. Human beings were born and died usually without
medical care, so each aul had their own mullah. He would do different kind of jobs like memorial services and circumcisions,
At wedding ceremonies he would bless the young couple and read from the Kuran in the honor of deceased. And people
paid him according to his job. For example, for doing memorial service he would get a cow or a horse from wealthy families,
while poorer ones might provide a goat or a sheep; reading from the Kuran might earn him cattle. If he made an amulet for a
sick child, he would be given a sheep. During the Oraza ait, people gave him wheat or a millet. He would also get something
for visiting a sick person. These were his main jobs; sometimes he "cured" sick people mostly by feeling the pulse. He had a
special religious book called "Araantezek." By reading this book he would cure a sick person and while doing that nobody
was allowed to enter the yurt; the treatment was in private. He would also give names to recently born babies. In brief, a
mullah was a important and profitable trade in ancient Kazakh auls.
Yemshilik (healing)

People who had healing properties were thought to be able to cure a sick person. Some of them were bone-setters who
were very popular in Kazakh auls. The main method of curing involved different kinds of herbs. According to a person's
disease, different herbal potions were concocted. Each "doctor" cured what disease he could treat. If one doctor confessed
to not knowing a treatment for a particular ailment, another might be called to deal with that. Kazakhs said "Healing is a
hereditary ability." As you know, during Soviet times healers were persecuted, but now their practices are allowed. Healers
were respected among kazakhs in old times; they were often sent for by kos at (two horses harnessed abreast), A cured
patient would give a good present so this trade was very rare, but valued.
Baksylyk (sorcery)

Baksylyk was inherited to Kazakhs from shamanism. Males who practiced this art were called sorcerers, females were
quackers, They wore torn clothes and carried dombras and hats with owl feathers. You could recognize them at once. In
most cases it was difficult to find them at home, because they walked among auls to treat sick persons. There was a

proverb: "Do not consider a sorcerer a husband, nor a male bull a cattle." The meaning being that neither was likely to be
ever found at home! Kazakh people trusted sorcerers and believed a good sorcerer would cure a sick person. Sorcerers had
their own way of treating people and a sick person would call him when he had awful pains. On the other hand they were
thought to have specific peculiarities. For example, if they licked a heated iron, their tongue wouldn't burn or if one climbed a
thin stick on the shanyrak of a yurt it wouldn't break. It seems unbelievable, but people swore such things were true.
We were also witnesses to such scenes. What we find interesting was that sorcerers or quackers had no special education:
it appears as one of the many mysteries in mankind. Some who had such unusual abilities were considered to be enigmatic
or menacing. And you couldn't find sorcerers in every clan; they were very few. Nowadays you can meet sorcerers who are a
bit different. In earlier times they treated people by making noise and calling spirits. Now they tell fortunes by cards, read the
tea-leaves, and making wild guesses.
Aqashshy (carpenter)

In early times there were not many dishes made of iron, copper or other metals, most of them were made of wood or leather.
Household necessities were the reasons of having a new trade, that of carpenter. Carpenters made from wood following
dishes and tubs ladles for kumiss, large and small wooden house objects like bowls or cups, basins mortars, pestles,
balance shafts , closets, trunks, cradles, tripods for a boiler, scoops. Poplars, junipers, oaks, elms, and pine trees served as
a raw material for making the above-mentioned things. So carpenters preferred living in the woods, and built log houses for
themselves, since it was difficult to transport lumber out onto the steppe. Every tree required special treatment so they
wouldn't crack and all branches had to be removed. Then they had to be dried in the shade. So, lumber used for making
dishes would be cut several years before and placed in a dry place. All the wooden kazakh dishes, especially the basin for
kumiss and bala sheiek (small bucket) for pouring shubat (like kumiss self control, not noticing how you agreed to his price.
Money involved in a transaction would be transferred in a location distant from the original setting, and the two sides (buyer
and seller) would both present a sirinke or reward. Here it is appropriate to remember about the Kazakh proverb: "Trade
occurs while you are stroking your beard." Brokerage is a very profitable trade, if you were good you could gain much profit.
It is especially necessary trade nowadays in a market economy, but remember - a successful broker must also be an orator
and also vivacious.
Dyirmenshi (a miller)

In old times Kazakhs used only mortars to grind crops; later they used hand mills. There were two kinds of mills: a hand mill
and a water mill. From flour they baked bread, ring-shaped rolls, and a thin flat cake (shelpek). The millers usually lived near
rivers and received peoples' orders to grind grain. For that they got prescribed payment; sometimes they exchanged things.
Flour from these mills were very good and the dough rose quickly. People were thrifty at that time. We think rural places
need nowadays mills and millers.
Zhatyp Isher

Among Kazakhs there were people who lived without doing hard work. Such men might have about twenty sheep, two or
three cows and four or five horses, and they likely had a small plot of land. They wouldn't have too many domestic animals
and they didn't have to cut the grass since his cattle became fat providing this service. But instead of breeding their cattle,
they just fattened them, exchanging cattle two for one with neighbors. Sometimes he earned meat by slaughtering a
neighbor's horse. In Kazakh tradition, when you asked someone to slaughter any cattle you should give the slaughterer a
bucket of meat.
OK, now he has two horses exchanged for one. One horse he would fatten and sell to buy food and clothes for family
members. He would feed and fatten his horse, when it is fat enough somebody would ask him to exchange. Especially
wealthy people would give him two cows and horse in order to get his fat horse. So Zhatyp Isher would feed and fatten one
cow and sell it to buy necessary things and people asked him to slaughter the cattle. Zhatyp Isher's wife might be very good
at housekeeping. You might see all diary products on her table and she could manage to look after the cattle during his
husbands absence. In sumrnei Zhatyp Isher would walk among wealthy people, drinking kumiss, an: eating meat. The head
of clans or elder people would always take him to eat meat from winter slaughtering. They were glad to b with a skilled
slaughterer, so every host was glad to meet him. II proves once more that Kazakhs are very generous and were hospitabit to
any guest. Elder people were also glad to have him with then If they didn't take him with them, they'd gossip. So there was a
proverb: "A mountain eagle shares his food, but an owl would hide the food under his back". Zhatyp Isher, as we mentioned
above didn't have many cattle, but he'd wear good clothes and ride a goci In brief, in olden times Kazakhs respected manual
labor an craftsmanship. Ancient trades of Kazakhs are a priceless heritage.

Kazakh family traditions

Kazakh culture and national traditions

Training be a mother in law Kyeli kyim

According to ancient Kazakh tradition, the mother-in-law wouldn't let her daughter-in
law go home until a year had passed. During this period it was her duty to educate
the new bride on her new duties. Surely this must have been a difficult period for the
new bride. First, as mentioned earlier, she had to invent and use correctly new
nicknames for her husbands parents. Second, she had a number of specific
household duties to perform: to get up early, open the tundik, bring in the water, heat
the yurt, prepare warm water for her father-in law to pour, and she was to close
tundik late night. During the day she had to prepare the tea, process kumiss and
cottage cheese, make kurt, wash the linen and the dishes, milk the cows and horses,
gather "Kizyak" (processed dung used as fuel), and prepare lunch and dinner: in
brief she had to do lots of work to do. She would not be able to go to bed until very
late, and only after she had done all these chores. Should a guest come to visit at
night, the young wife would also be expected to graciously entertain, leading to 17-18
hours of hard work during a typical day. Third, she had always to bow to her father-in
law and mother-in law. Fourth, during the "testing" year, she mustn't show any trace
of ill temper. If she failed to get up early, i-t, was within the right of one of her
brother's-in law to beat her with a kuruk, a device designed for capturing unbroken
horses. Should she be struck by her brother-in-law, she was not to become offended,
but rather rise immediately and begin her tasks.
Household training of the sort described here was believed to be only the way to
bring up a daughter-in law to be industrious and kind, and only upon the delivery of
her first child could she graduate from this sort of "schooling." At this point the
mother-in law would reassign her ceremonial location in the yurt away from the door
and to another location, stating that "Before you were young, now you are a mother.
You have passed the test and are now and equal member of this family." Then she
would kiss the young bride; and no longer would she be required to bow to other
members of the family. The mother-in law would also give her a knife and a bowl, and
let the young wife cut any piece of meat she liked to boil. It likewise meant that she
could slaughter cattle and treat guests on her own, because she was now able to be
a hostess.
That day the mother-in law would also place the "kimeshek," an old-fashioned
women's headdress (of white calico) on her daughter-in-law's head. The kimeshek
would have been sent by her parents, who also wished their daughter to have a baby
as soon as possible. A kimeshek was also known as a "kyieli kyim," which means
"sacred cloth" in English. Should the kelin never have children, the kimeshek would
be kept in the trunk indefinitely. Saukele as you know, was for the new bride, but the
kimeshek was for a new mother. Both the kimeshek and the saukele were white, a
favorite color of the Kazakhs. The kimeshek was a larger headdress, however,
because it would hide the most beautiful parts of a woman from every man but her

husband, Concealing the thick black hair and a white long neck of a woman was its
primary purpose. On the other hand, kimeshek was also liked by women because it
was warm and kept a woman's hair from interfering with her food preparation during
the day. Often, though, as a new bride became accustomed to her new household,
she was not required to wear this headdress.

In the Kazakh tradition, Torkindeu was very important. With the exception of her
brothers, no one else from the bride's family was permitted to visit her during her
year of "training." Yearning for her parents and other relatives, she might weep and
say: I'd like to ride a horse, but it has no shoes.I'd like to wear a coat' but it has no
collar, I'm weeping because I've nobody to visit me. Torkindeu was the occasion of
the kelin's first visit to her relatives after her relocation to her husband's household.
The Kelin would go there with her husband and a Djien. A djien is a nephew or niece
from the bride's family. With them they bring presents for her parents and other
relatives. She visits them for a month, because she hasn't seen them for a year. Her
parents and relatives would also slaughter a sheep for this occasion. When the
young couple returned home, the kelin's parents and relatives would give them a
horse with a foal, a cow with a calf, and forty goats. For the djien they would also
present a one year old skewbald horse. Kazakhs never spared anything from their
daughter and djien. They would say: "The prophet also respected his son-in law" or
"Never beat djien, otherwise your hands would shake" or "My mother's and my
husbands brothers are all wealthy people, how can I be poor?" According to Eastern
tradition, after the father's death his sons and daughters would equally inherit his
property. In Kazakh tradition, on the other hand, the youngest son would inherit all of
his property and cattle. Most surprising in our tradition is that a son or daughter was
forbidden to marry anyone with the same surname as an ancestor of the preceding
seven generations. This was done out of respect for previous generations as well as
a belief that the quality of future generations depended upon new bloodlines.
Enshi beru, otau bolu

We have already discussed traditions beginning with Zharxs Kazan. Accordingly,

when children married and began to have their own children, the parents would ask
them to move out. They would give them cattle, dishes, felt and other items
necessary to furnish a yurt. All relatives contributed to the establishment of a this
new household, and this giving was marked with its own little celebration, One of the
reasons of separating from the children was that some sons used to become overly
dependent upon their parents and become idle. It was believed that a separation was
necessary to teach a son how to protect and feed his own family. Having their own
yurt, the young couple had then to invite relatives and neighbors and prove that they
could survive without the aid of their folks. Daughters-in-law were very friendly,
during this period, being sure to send meat home to her in-laws were they unable to
attend a family gathering. Related families, or the aul, were required to obey the

Aksakal, or the oldest man of the community. When the young couple moved into
their own yurt, the husband's father would present him with a camel. This symbolized
that when moving to another place (as the Kazakhs were nomads), he mustn't stay
behind the caravan. His mother would also give them a cow with a calf, which meant
that they could feed their children with milk, sour cream, yogurt, kurt, and butter. If
the young couple could successfully handle their cattle, it was expected that they
would live in easy circumstances.
Other traditions
In earlier times Kazakhs had many traditions; most of them are no longer followed, of course. Here is a
list of some of them.
Ishet kuda tusu

There were close friends who shared almost everything. They would say: "If your wife would give a birth
to a daughter and mine to a son, we would be kinsmen." This meant that they wanted to pass their
friendship along to the next generation. After saying this they would take off their shirts hug each other,
and take an oath. Later if children came to the friends in the manner anticipated, they lived as kinsmen.
Their yurts would be close, so they could bring up their children together. In such cases, the bride's
parents wouldn't ask for kalyn mal (the dowry) or other typical gifts from the future groom's family. They
would consider that they had a son and a daughter. Cattle and food were often held in common by these
families; their children grew up together; and minor transgressions were easily overlooked. We could use
such traditions today, because one day we hear that someone is married, the next day that they have
divorced. Kinsmen often argue and fight amongst themselves, which makes us all remember the friendlier
traditions of early days.

Fate is often unkind to a human being. If a young girl's parents died before she was grown, she might be
brought up by relatives. When she matured, a man might observe and follow her. Usually these were men
who hadn't married or who were widows. Such a man might make an agreement with the girl" s relatives
to feed and nurture her. After taking her home he would keep this promise, but later he would also marry
her. Yet, there would be no wedding ceremony of the types we described earlier. Kazakhs called this
practice "Kolbala."
Ui synygy

In ancient times Kazakh men would marry several times. Even if a man lost a wife early after a marriage,
he would likely marry again quickly. Were he to marry a virgin in subsequent ceremonies, he would have
to pay almost a double "kalyn mal." Women of the aul would condemn this practice and gossip,
demanding him to give "ui sinigi," which is kind of penalty. Only poor parents would view such a liaison as
desirable, for they may have been living from hand to mouth. Poorer families might not even be able to
move with their neighbors and kin to another pasture because they hadn't a camel or a horse to transport
their yurt. So, the "selling" of a daughter may have been their best way to improve family prospects.
Karsy kuda

If two friends each had two daughters or two sons, they might have all four of their children intermarry. In
such a way they became kinsman; this practice was called "Karsy kuda." This often happened among
families who couldn't afford kalyn mal. The brides in each case would likely feel happier and more at
home in the groom's yurt as she was already well acquainted with her future in-laws. Less affluent
kinsmen or matchmakers often lived close to each other on the steppe. They could borrow each others

horses or camels when it was needed, and they could milk each others cows. Should one kinswoman be
absent for some reason, her relative might perform her duties for her. Children from poorer Kazakh
families would be very important. They were required to do much hard work, and were capable of great

In early times if a beautiful and clever young woman became a widow, her in-laws and their relatives may
have wanted her to marry again within the family, thus making her again the tokal (the youngest wife).
They would say: "although her husband died, it doesn't mean she must leave this place. One day the poor
would be rich, and a young girl would be a lady." If the widow had a few children and she owned many
cattle or she was rich, many men might want marry her. However, if her parents were aristocrats, they
would take her back. Otherwise, the groom's family would try to keep her because they had paid kalin mal
to obtain her in the first place. Furthermore, as it was the Kazakh tradition to have two or more wives
anyway, remarrying another brother was an acceptable way to keep her in the family. It was bad for the
widow to have to marry the deceased husband's youngest brother, however. For, after meeting a girl of
his own age, he could leave the widow. On the other hand, if the widow was persistent and didn't want to
marry anyone, she could stay alone or with her children in her yurt. Her in laws and relatives would
respect her, and help to raise her children.
Ericti kundes

We aren't sure about aging patterns among other peoples, but Kazakh women appeared to age more
rapidly than the men. Perhaps the reason was that they were used to doing all the hard work about the
house and raising the children. Poverty may also have contributed. One way for a wife to find help in
sharing the burden of running a household was to find a suitable and well-bred second wife to voluntarily
marry her husband. Sometimes the first wife might also encourage her husband to marry her sister,
hoping that this might also ensure good treatment of her children. The first wife would thus become the
Baibishe (senior wife), and more recently married ones the Tokal. The taking of a second wife often,
though, created a friendly rivalry in the yurt. The baibishe was happy to direct the work of a new wife or
wives, but sometimes she became jealous of her husband's attention to a younger and more glamorous
woman. Kazakhs would say. "A husband for the tokal, the cattle for baibishe".
Of course, all of the above mentioned traditions may or may not have been useful for the Kazakhs, but in
either event they were the traditions of our forefathers. We should take from them ideas and practices
useful today in modern life where they would be useful. Especially nowadays we need our generation to
be respectful, kind, and merciful; all of which visible in the traditions of our forefathers.

The funeral
Sooner or later everybody must die: even our forefather Korkyt couldn't escape from death. Kazakhs
would say: "People are born and die;" or "Persons are born to die;" or "Death would waste a wealthy
man's cattle." These proverbs underscored the white and black stripes of life. Kazakhs not only respected
people or relatives in their lifetime, but when they died they would also be given great respect.
One Kazakh proverb is "If your dead ancestors are not satisfied with you, you won't be rich." Following we
describe several traditions involving death.

When a person became aware that he wouldn't recover from a serious illness, all his relatives would
gather to say farewell and to ask forgiveness for previous disagreements. The ill person would then tell
kinsmen how to distribute his property upon his death; request a burial, location, designate someone to

prepare his body for its final rites, and instruct his friends about what sort of tomb or dome he wanted. If
he had children he would also ask his trusted relatives to take care of them. Kazakhs felt great
responsibility to fulfill the last requests of a dying person and to attempt to do everything that was asked.
Iman Uiru

Involved the attendance of a mullah to help bless and make decisions for a sick person in such poor
health that he or she was unable to make his final communion himself.

In the Kazakh tradition, nobody was allowed to ask about a sick person's health in the evening.
Sometimes when a person was expected to die, though, there would be moments when he would talk,
joke and eat something. Kazakhs called this "Boi jasau" or "Boi jazu." Special food called "atau kere" or
"jai kese" would be prepared. Perhaps contemporary bad expression in Kazakh, "Kerendi ish" came from
this. People today say this when they are nervous.
In cases when a mullah attended a dying person's communion, "communion water" would be poured into
his mouth, and prayers would be said. When there was a sign that he had died, the wife, children and
relatives of the deceased person would cry aloud. The mullah would close the dead person's eyes, bind
his jaw, and cover his face with a white cloth. After this they would take off his clothes, wrap him in a white
fabric and put his body inside the screen of the yurt. Wealthy people might place him in a separate yurt.
In Kazakh tradition, the deceased person's body would be kept for three days, for in early times they
considered that the soul of the deceased person would remain in the yurt for two days, departing for
heaven on the third. So too, it often took several days for relatives living in remote places to come for the
funeral. During these days, the body would be guarded by the old people of the family. At night a candle
would be lit. Famous Kazakh scholar Shokan Valikhanov made an extensive study of the Kazakh funeral
ceremony and he explained that in the Kazakh ancient tradition, a dead person's soul would visit his
home and children for about forty days. Thus, his wife or other close relative would leave the door open
and light the candle for the deceased to better see the threshold upon visiting. She would also spread a
white felt and place a kese (teacup) of kumiss upon it for the spirit.
Earlier we stated that the purpose of setting fire and lighting a candle in general was meant to drive away
grief and distress. When a person died his friends would say "Let the ground be soft for him." Some
zhigits would invite people to the memorial service, but before this they had to prepare all the necessary
things involved in a funeral, Many people from different clans would gather, and the old people and the
mullah would choose the person to wash the dead person, if the deceased had not already specified
them. Typically five or seven men were involved in the washing if the deceased person had been male. All
involved in this ceremony had to be familiar with the rules of washing, and a relative had to always be
present. All involved had also to be about the same age as the deceased. After the washing, they would
place his body on a white cloth, or wrap him and bind him in three places. Then the body would be
wrapped in a rug or white felt, and finally covered with a robe of pure silk fabric.
Then the mullah performed a memorial service and he would remove the silk garment from the
deceased's body. Relatives would give gifts or "pidiya" to symbolically atone for mistakes or sins the
deceased may have committed in his or her lifetime. Usually such gifts were made to a very poor person.
Those who washed the deceased's body would be given his good cloths, and after this his body would be
carried to the grave. Women would typically not be allowed to go to the grave. Rather, three men would
place him in the grave, and three others would stand outside. Following this they would remove the three
bindings used to hold the shroud in place and tie them upon themselves. All other witnesses to this event
would then come and drop handfuls of earth into the grave. Following the complete interment, the mullah

would pray. If the dead person had been old, his. relatives would then return and distribute pieces of cloth
to every women who had been to the funeral.
The next part of the funeral ceremony was called is - syit beru. Here the relatives of the dead gave his
clothes to fifteen or more people, or they would distribute money to the representatives of different clans.
The mullah who had performed the memorial service would also be given a horse or a cow, and the men
who had dug the grave would also be paid.
Family members would then invite people between seven and forty days after his death. For visitors they
would slaughter a camel or horse. As beru was held one year later. A horse which would be slaughtered
would be specially chosen for this event, and it had to be well fed and better than the one ridden by the
deceased during his lifetime. The family of the deceased person would grieve for the whole year. When
the year was up, the time of As beru came and the family of dead would then try to forget about their loss.
Sometimes Kazakhs treated as beru as toi. Wealthy people might organize it as a feast where people
might have fun watching horse races, different games, and competitions between poets and the singers
of folksongs. Everyone would bring something he could afford to contribute to the event, e. g one sheep
or bowl of kumiss. Now we describe some other traditions concerning the funeral.
Every year before fasting for the Islamic holiday, relatives would invite the mullah to read the Koran in
honor of the dead. Another important artifact of the funeral ceremony is the selection and construction of a
tomb. Different shapes are possible: cone shaped or square, some with a dome. Dome and cone shaped
tombs looked like a yurt, but the poor could only afford square ones. Before death, an individual would tell
his family what kind of cemetery to build for him. Some might ask that their tomb not be covered, so their
bones would feel the sun and the rain.
After having heard that his relative died, many people would cry loudly and hug members of their family.
In some places they did this for forty days. In order to do this, family members of the dead person had to
remain at home. Should they be out and busy, a boy might serve as watch in case of approaching visitors.
In ancient times a black ribbon might be attached to the house of the dead as a signal of mourning to
We think there were probably few cultural groups who paid more homage to the dead than the Kazakhs.
Even the evening of the day when a person died found the preparation of special foods for guests, such
as "konak asi" or "besbarmak," a dish to be described later. Some visitors to the death scene would weep;
older people would give advice and try to keep things calm as they also called upon god keep the
deceaseds children happy. It was also important for Kazakhs to have many children and relatives to
mourn for them upon their passing. When many people cried, it suggested the respect held for the
deceased. If only a few were visibly affected, observers might say: "How pitiful! He hasn't any son or
daughter to remember him, poor fellow. Family members would lament in different ways, remembering
remember out-loud how clever, helpful, and generous he was. An illustrative lament was:
Why was he wrapped
in a cloth without sleeves and collar?
Why he did enter the house
without doors and honorable places?
Every step taken with you was as a feast
For whom did leave us, my dear?
May the earth your brothers have covered you with
be as a warm blanket. Meanwhile, his beloved wife might keen:

During the horse race it was clear that the horse would sweat
When relatives come now, however who will meet them?
I can't tell my sorrow to our children,
the way I used to tell you. How can I live without you,
remembering about our good times together.
For the most part, deceased persons would be extolled for their better qualities, since losing a beloved
person was always a great sorrow. Sometimes, though, the funeral ceremony contained an element of
criticism. To illustrate, let me tell you one story about one such funeral. Once an old man (Bazarbai) died.
He had many children and he was thought to be respectable, yet when he died only two elder daughtersin law, two daughters and his old wife wept. According to observers, however, as many as twenty women
were related to the deceased and expected to cry. This led to much gossip. Two of his daughters-in law
for example were criticized for not knowing the Kazakh language, the other kelin was a professor who
believed that she was too important to sit on a blanket made of cloth pieces, an attending brother was a
minister - yet none of them showed sings of mourning. This led the great gossiper of the aul, Zhaken, to
say: "Oh poor Bazeken (the pet name of a deceased person), it is as if he had no children. His sons
weren't influenced by his life (or didn't have influence on their wives?). You know, Bazeken spent all his
life grazing sheep in inclement weather in order to pay for their education and to support them - all to no
In this way we can see that keening rituals were important for Kazakhs as testimonies of respect. Among
some clans wives and daughters would loosen their hair during their lamentations, and sometimes even
scratch their faces. They wouldn't wear earrings, rings, or other jewelry, and didn't wear their best or
brightest cloths for long periods of time. Among many families, men returning from burying a lost relative
or friend might cry out in a loud voice, beginning with "Oh bauirirn ou (brother by blood...).
Above we described various aspects of the funeral ceremony. These ceremonies were fairly uniform and
resistenl to change in ancient times because they had both religious and traditional features. Of course,
the same could be said of similar ceremonies practiced by other cultural groups in ages past. But
nowadays slight alterations in burial practices can be found. For example, when the deceased person's
body was wrapped in his own clothes, they may have brand new or worn. Earlier recipients of these
garments from the body didn't usually care what cloths they were given, for just receiving them was an
honor. Nowadays many who might be eligible to receive such wraps wont take them unless they are new,
forcing the family of dying or recently deceased individuals to buy some new cloths in advance of the
funeral. We think this is wrong. The funeral is not a feast, and mourners ought to consider the deceased's
financial situation and the future needs of his children first. Anyway it is important for everyone, especially
for Kazakhs to respect national traditions.


The National State Museum of Kazakhstan is a
treasure house where one can find many wonderful
samples of Kazakh traditional costumes. On display
here, are clothes that once belonged to prominent
figures of Kazakh history, batyrs, akyns and artists,
in particular, the stage-costumes of famous singers
like Kulyash Bayseitova, Zhamal Omarova and Rosa
Baglanova, and the celebrated dancer Shara
Zhicnkulova. Outstanding among the expositions
arc: the gold-thread-embroidered beshmet (a coat
worn over a dress) owned by Fatima, the wife of
Zhangir, the last khan of Bukrey-Orda; and robe
lined with swan down that belonged to Tazhibai, the
younger sister of the renowned Kazakh scientist and
traveler of the 19th century Chokan Valikhanov.
Many varieties of these traditional costumes have
withstood the test of time in beauty and style, which
explains why they are still worn today despite their
ancient fashion.
Kazakh traditional costumes were made from wellchosen materials and fashioned to suit the
conditions of nomadic life and the ever-fluctuating
weather conditions. It could
stand hard frosts and the weary heat, Durable,
comfortable, simple and practical best qualifies
most of these clothes, Apart from the general men's,
women's and children's wear, these national
costumes fall into different classifications according
to the occasion for which it is meant, namely outer
garments and underclothes, occasional, seasonal
and daily wear.
A modern fashioned
Daily wear really differed from the occasional in its
simple design and fashion. Occasional, in contrast to daily wear, were complexly
designed and tailored from valuable plush, velvet, crepe, broadcloth, satin, silk, brocade
and other expensive fabrics. To make them more sophisticated, these clothes were
artistically embroidered with gold and silver thread, heads, silk, and decorated with
pearls, corals, and carnelian insertions. But the pains taken to do them are not in vain,
for these clothes are fashioned to accentuate the beauty of these steppe inhabitants, give
their natural appearance a special charm and make them more attractive and graceful.

Hide and fur of domestic and wild animals processed by a
special ancient recipe were used to make traditional outer
The shapan, a warm, long overcoat, is one of the ancient outergarments of Kazakh traditional clothes. Shapans differed by the
technique of manufacture and purpose and fashioned either
with a turndown or a stand-up collar. From time immemorial,
it was considered that what made the shapan very convenient
was its wrap-fasten. A richer variety of it is the syrmaly, which
is a quilted and sewn m a denser material. The Kaptal is
another model with a warm lining. Another type is the shabu,
which is trimmed with fur. The zhargak shapan is meant for
occasions and fittingly decorated with ornamental patterns. It
is the favourite overcoat of dzhigits (young men).
The shekpen is a warm homespun coat made of camel wool.
Another property of this coat is that the fur from which this
coat is made is water-repellant making it withstand light
showers. The most beautiful shekpen, the shide is woven out of
a year-old camel's wool. This very soft and delicate wool gives
the shekpen its attractive look.
Fur-coats for daily wear and household work were mainly sewn
from sheep and goatskin.
Another type of winter outer-garment is the ishik - a fur coat
with special craftsmanship
out f the fur of the wolf,
fox, sable, astrakhan or the Young men's occasional like.
costume The kupi is a light warm
coat lined with camel or
headwear aiyr kalpak, fabric is made from velvet
sheep wool. The outer
overcoat shapan, and soil-resistant fabrics. It is
or other coarse, durable,
a popular wear for men,
women and children like.
decorated high
Ladies' kupi came with
ornamental embroidery
on the collar. The sleeve
hems were furred with
otter. The kupi is an indispensable outer-garment during the mild frosts in spring and

Among the Kazakh traditional ladies' wear, Kazakhstan traditional dress for girls and
young women called locally koilek, takes a special place in terms of beauty. These ladies
look very graceful in their long flimsy dress, which seem air-filled along the length, the
sleeves and around the collar.
The most beautiful dresses are those with delicate silk fringes. The decorations around
the collar were made to accentuated the delicate curves of the neck.
Kunikey koilek is made of light, fluffy material densely gathered at the waist. The long
sleeves are also gathered. Usually, unmarried girls wear it. In them they seem like
enigmatic, fairy beauties, literary "sun-like", as the meaning of the Kazakh word

Wearing of traditional headgear dates back to the 15th
century when Kazakh Khanate was formed. And From the
kind of headgear a person wore, it was easy to determine
This headshawl, kimskekwas purposed for occasions.
from which class of society he belonged. For example, a bai (rich man), mapile (man of
nobility) or a biy (.iteppe judge) wore the aiyr kalpak - a high pointed cap with a divided
turn-up. It was sewn from expensive fabric d richly
decorated with ornamental patterns. One part of the

divided turn-up symbolized wealth, the other - power.

Summer varieties of this cap were made from white felt.
The kalpak is elegant, convenient, and protective from the
heat in summer and keeps out the cold during the winter.
Another traditional men's headgear is the borik - a
rounded warm cap, trimmed with astrakhan otter,
marten or raccoon fur. In the harsh winter cold, the men
wear the tymak, a fur cap with three flaps - a pair for the
ears and a longer and broader flap for the hind head
down to the back.
One of men's headgear models widespread since the
ancient times is kulapara, a type of hood, worn by
hunters, berkutchi (those who train and hunt with the
golden eagle), shepherds and herdsmen. The one with a
ponited top is worn when raining, while the winter variety
has a rounded top like the takiya, and gives good
protection from the cold and strong wind. To camouflage
the animals, hunters wear a white kulapara in winter, a
green one in summer and a yellow in the autumn. The
main distinction of the kulapara is that unlike other
headgears, it is attached to the collar of the outerwear.
The takiya is a light, rounded men's headgear made with
Saukele - bridal headgear
a lifted, flat or pointed top. Decorations on this cap are usually in the form of
zoomorphic embroidery or floral patterns of complex compositions of 'horn' or
'bindweed' shapes.
Women's headgears are much more complicated in make and more richly decorated.
Ladies' takiya. for example, is embroidered with gold and silver thread in addition to the
decorative coins, beads, beautiful buttons and precious stones. Girls sport such festive
headgear on occasions, but the married women wear it under the kimishek - a type of
head shawl, made from very light material, like the one usually worn by Muslim women.
The ends around the facial opening are hemmed with beads, pearls or coral.
The most beautiful traditional ladies' headgear, saukele, is worn by a bride on her
wedding day and during the first year of their marriage. Every pattern on the saukele
had its significance. A quick glance at a bride's saukele is enough to tell those who know
the significance of all these symbols much about the bride. Saukele like the takiya is
richly trimmed with embroidery, precious stones, beads and valuable fur. Ladies' borik
much resembles the men's by shape, except that it carries much more decorations. The
type trimmed with otter's fur is called Kamshat, the one decorated with gold galloon altyn, and that decorated with corals - kalmarzhan.

Shoemaking was a well-developed craft with the Kazakh people. All the primary
materials needed for making the shoes like rawhide cords and straps, skin, sinew
threads as well as the professional devices and various lasts were made by the
shoemaker. Ancient Kazakh footwear had one peculiarity. The soles were cut square,
which made them fit either foot.
Such footwear really took a lot of time to wear out and did not
need time to make out which one was meant for which foot.
Summer boots were made from light leather in contrast to the
winter foot wear which were from much thicker leather and
tailored with exceptional craftsmanship.
There are a few types of men's footwear. Riding boots,
kaykayma or
kayky has
Ladies high-boots - saiyan.
often had a
pointed turn-up. Such hoots were heelless with very thin soles.
Young men used to wear such boots at the weddings.
Saptama-boots is ancient winter footwear made from wellcurried horse or ox hide, Worn with special felt stockings that
usually reached the knee protruding out of the boots. For this
reason the bootlegs were made long and wide.
Men's working boots called shokay, were made of rough leather with hair. The wide
bootlegs were fastened with rawhide belts. These boots like the saptama-boots were
worn on felt
stocking-boots baypak, which might as well be worn seperately wrapped with velvet,
skin or other material. Another kind of felt boots is the buiyk, a sort of valenki that were
worn over other boots to keep the ' warm during the most severe frosts, snowstorm or
night watch.
There existed occasional boots of different style too. For example, taptautyn - the
exquisite hoc with turned-up toes, incrusted with silver that were mostly made out of
horse croup skin. Another kind was the shonkayma - the high-heeled boots, usually
worn at festivals by Kazakh sere (wandering poets-musicans).
In making these boots, Kazakh shoemakers for the first time began to use different lasts
for the t and left foot.
Boots for daily wear were made of cattle skin. They were of simple cut, stitched on the
outside had a straight sole. That was the footwear preferred by the cat tic-breeders,
shepherds and hunters. The boots with soft sole were called zhumsak taban. Those
made of rawhide, kok, had no heels and were comfortable for walking on rocky grounds.
The masi are soft thin boots with thin soles. Galoshes - skin (kebis) or rubber (lastyk) were n over the masi to protect it from dirt, dust and moisture. The galoshes had thick
sole and highheels. Besides the ordinary ones, kebis were made with short bootlegs like

There also existed a diversity of ladies' and children's

footwear, which looked more smart and exquisite, They
were as usual specially decorated, The summer models,
unlike the men's, were always made with short bootlegs
or without ones altogether making them resemble
Women's masi, for example were made of chagrin leather
or some other delicate skin with the bootlegs trimmed
with fur or leather of another colour. Ornamental
patterns usually served as decorations on them. Kebis to
be worn over ladies' masi were always made high-heeled
with pointed curved toes.
Kazakh traditional clothing are a treasury of folk art that
fades into antiquity and is strongly linked with nomadic
traditions. From them, one can easily decipher all the
familiar shades of colours closely linked with the steppes.
It is a treasury that has not yet revealed all its secrets and
has much store to make wonder even the modern masters
of fashion in search of new ideas.
The daily wear of young men comprises of
the headgear borik, a suede coat, zhargak
shapan, decorative belt beldik, suede
trousers zhargak shalbar, and high-boots
made from suede.

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