Kyrgyzstan: Past and Presentby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Trace the history of Kyrgyzstan from before Christ to current times.
Nestled in the rugged mountains of Central Asia, live some of the most fascinating and culturally diverse peoples in the world, the Kyrgyz. The Kyrgyz, a gentle, shepherd people, have suffered for generations under the domineering hand of the empire builders and foreign occupiers of Asia. Nestorian Christians and Islamic missionaries attempted, with varying degrees of success, to change their animistic views on life and eternity. They have been oppressed by several different nationalities and empires for centuries. Their history has been a cycle of a brief time of freedom, followed by decades of oppression by foreign invaders.
“The first historical reference to the Kyrgyz people group was made 2200 years ago, by the Chinese emperor. Originally, the Kyrgyz people came from the Yenisei River Valley (Enesai in Kyrgyz), which translated means, ‘the mother land between two valleys’” stated Ernis Shaiumbetov. Also, ancient cave paintings, rock carvings, petroglyphs, and tools show that people have settled in Kyrgyzstan for many centuries.” Archaeological findings state that they were attacked by many other peoples during their history. For example, in the first century A.D. they were conquered by the Kushan empire, which was based in what is now modern day Afghanistan. (Ernis Shaiumbetov, Kyrgyzstan : Then and Now, and The Kyrgyz Pattern )
In the fifth and sixth centuries A.D, Nestorian Christian missionaries first introduced their views about Christianity to the peoples of Central Asia. For the next half millennia or more, the Nestorian church maintained a presence there. By the thirteenth century, the church had over twenty-five bishops presiding over seventy-five provinces all over Asia. Subsequently, the effectiveness of the church abruptly decreased, do to the invasion of Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes. (“Nestoriansim” Encyclopedia Americana)
Prior to the Mongol invasion, Turkic peoples invaded from the east in the sixth and seventh centuries, and soon gained control over all of Kyrgyzstan. Consequently, Turkic languages were adopted during that time period. They were then followed by the Arabs, who attacked in eighth century. The Arab invaders brought the religion of Islam to southern Kyrgyzstan. The religion of Islam was destined to gain greater influence in the centuries to come. Even now, most Kyrgyz will tell you, “to be Kyrgyz is to be Muslim.” (Kyrgyzstan : Then and Now)
One of the time periods when the Kyrgyz enjoyed freedom, was during the era of Manas, the Kyrgyz national hero. For the first time ever, the descendents of the forty maidens, (which, according to legend, is where the Kyrgyz people came from) organized and became a nation. This occurred around 1000 A.D. Since the Kyrgyz people admired Manas so much, they have constructed a religion around his memory. This is sustained by the Manas Epic which consists of over 500,000 lines of verse. It is further enhanced by the trance-like chanting done by “manaschi’s” who from memory recite and sing vast portions of the Manas Epic. This religion still has a firm foundation in the Talas province of Kyrgyzstan. (“Magnanimous Manas” )
Coming out of the east, the greatest empire builder of his time, Genghis Khan, stampeded onto the stage of history. As one of the stepping stones to building the largest empire in history, he quickly conquered and subdued the peoples of Kyrgyzstan. Until the time of Genghis Khan, the Kyrgyz had been blond haired and green eyed. However, during his reign and that of his grandson, Kublai Khan, the Kyrgyz people intermarried with the Mongols. Thus, they became dark haired, dark eyed, and Mongolian in appearance. The historical animosity between the Kyrgyz and the Russians started during the reign of Genghis Khan. When the Kyrgyz and other Central Asian nations were subdued, their best men served in Genghis Khan’s army. Under his iron fist, they conquered and brutalized the Russian population, which played a significant role in the centuries to come. (Gulmeria Saduralieva, Ernis Shaiumbetov, Kyrgyzstan: Then & Now)
Following this brutal empire, came another empire, which was even more brutal than the one under Genghis Khan. The barbaric master of this empire was, Timurlane. He acted more barbarically than all of his forerunners. The way he punished those he conquered, struck fear in the hearts of all Central Asians. The residue of that fear still remains in the culture today. Fear is a predominating characteristic in the lives of Central Asians. ( “Timur” Encyclopedia Americana)
From the time of Timurlane until the influence of the Russians czars reached Central Asia, the Kyrgyz were repeatedly overcome by their more powerful neighbors. The Kyrgyz fought with the Oirat Mongols during the 16th and 17th centuries. Later, they were subdued by the Kokand empire, which was based out of Samarkand (modern day Uzbekistan.) The oppressive rule of the Kokandian empire caused the Kyrgyz to look for an alliance with the Russian czar. This alliance was to have far reaching consequences in the coming centuries. (Kyrgyzstan: Then & Now, Kyrgyzstan Between Space and Earth)
“The Russian czar (ruler) sought control of trade routes to China and India that passed through the mountains and deserts of Central Asia.” This desire by the czar caused him to turn his back on his Kyrgyz and Central Asian allies. Thus, instead of freeing them, he subjugated them and made them part his expanding empire. In the year 1916, his armies were brutally crushing a rebellion by the Kyrgyz. In that year, the rivers ran red with the blood of over 300,000 slain Kyrgyz. Had it not been for the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the czar’s armies might have succeeded in wiping out all of the Kyrgyz. Even today, Lenin is honored and revered as the savior of the Kyrgyz people. (Kyrgyzstan: Then & Now, and Inagul Shaiumbetova)
Under the reign of Stalin, an effort was made to establish a common “soviet society” by moving several of different ethnic groups into Central Asia. This effort resulted in over 120 different ethnic groups calling Central Asia their home. However, the removing of all ethnic differences Stalin desired, was never achieved. When the Soviet Union collapsed, due to the failure of its atheistic, central command economy, several new ethnically oriented republics were created. The newly formed republics of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, reflect this ethnic diversity. (“Stalin, Joseph” Encyclopedia Americana)
The next major event in Kyrgyz history occurred when the Kyrgyz Republic was founded in 1991, following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. . This ushered in a period of political, economic, and religious change. The atheistic belief system of the U.S.S.R. opened up the way for greater freedom of religion. However flawed it may have been, democracy then replaced tyranny. Subsequently, religious freedom was allowed in place of the atheistic belief system of the state. Free market economic policies replaced the central command economy . However, freedom was not without problems. For example, from 1993-1995 the Kyrgyz economy dwindled fifty percent. ( Kyrgyzstan Fact Sheet)
Presently, a huge battle is being waged for the soul of the Kyrgyz people. Predominately, the Kyrgyz are culturally Muslim. Some progress is being made by Evangelical Protestants in sharing the gospel with the people of Kyrgyzstan. However, at the same time, more than 2,000 mosques have been constructed in the last ten years. Clearly, Islamic groups are hard at work at spreading their message, as well. Currently, the situation in Kyrgyzstan is just like what the Apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” Also, in Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus stated, “ . . . ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Lastly, as John 9:4 says, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent Me. Night is coming when no one can work.” It is hoped that true liberty will be found in the name of Jesus, the only One who truly sets us free.
In closing, we see that from a political standpoint, that the United States, the European Union, and lovers of freedom worldwide, are at this very hour, working hard from an earthly standpoint to ensure that freedom will continue. However, freedom is always costly. As with the Kyrgyz, freedom has ebbed and flowed in a cyclic pattern. The cycle has shown seasons of peace and liberty, only to be displaced by decades of rigid oppression. Only the infinitely wise God, who alone knows the future, can assure that freedom remains for the Kyrgyz people. We know that ultimately, true freedom comes only through Christ. As He said in His Word, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36.
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