Sacred sites in Soviet times

Nowadays most mazar (q.v.) visitors are older than 50 years, thus when they started visiting the mazar, it would have been in the Soviet time. If one compares their present way of life in every sphere, no matter how grateful they are for the benefits of their previous life, they cannot help showing their mixed feelings towards that period; they cannot hide their disappointment that in the Soviet period, they were separated from something that was crucial in their lives. Most of us do know of the attitude and the politics of the Soviet power towards religion. At that time mazar visiting was considered as a harmful religious prejudice and strong measures were taken against it. Speaking in general, many research works have been done on the Soviet politics against religion. The chapter you are reading is valuable in regards to the following: mazar visitors of the Talas region told of their own experiences in being treated badly during the Soviet time, of the attitude of the society, and of local people towards them. This is the history of our people in the recent time, of yesterday, history which has not been included in school and academic books yet.

As bübü (q.v.) Sonunbübü Sooronbaeva pointed out: “In every action the Soviet authorities used to look for negative steps against government and party, and would always repeat “God-Stalin, God-Lenin”; governors and their managing servants of those times, when what was called atheism used to be the fundamental orienting power, would try to influence even your thoughts by immoral and humiliating activities. Mazars, which we believe as sacred, would be humiliated in different ways, and kyrgyzchylyk (q.v.), they tried to put an end to”.

Everyone living under such difficult social conditions faced an extreme test in regard to the Soviet attitudes and rules about kyrgyzchylyk. Under pressure of hard times there were those who obeyed. Though they may have been crying within themselves, they obeyed the laws of those times and slowly changed their lives. But there were some people who could not live without mazars, and they went on visiting mazars. In spite of the power of those times, there were a few (who, like Turgun, the practitioner) strongly believed that “kyrgyzchylyk would not ever be lost”; that belief helped them oppose and overcome the obstacles. That a man would not forego visiting sacred sites in spite of being strongly persecuted and imprisoned provides historical evidence that visiting a mazar is a meaningful reality, not just a holdover from the past of an ancient Kyrgyz tradition.

Certainly, it is right that in those times believers did not even guess that that there would come a time when persecution would stop, when they would easily visit mazars whenever they wanted, whoever they wanted to go with. They simply regarded those persecutions as a law of life, their visits to the mazars at night as one of the struggles for life, and their reaching the aimed-for mazar and praying there, with great feelings of gratitude to God, was finding the start of the way to God. Those dozens of years for mazar visitors today are lessons to memorize. Our knowledgeable fathers and mothers do not only remember but analyze even the little things from those days. Although before forwarding the questions about our deep concern that this chapter reports on, we tried to find some people who had suffered much of persecutions, and it turned out that most of our respected respondents appeared to have seen and suffered such humiliation themselves. Consequently, we must conclude that this is the tragic fate of several generations.

The answer to our question “Did you manage to prepare students of your own” appeared to be positive, suggesting that a spiritual mission continues between elders and youngsters, through the generations in spite of difficult conditions. Otherwise how could it happen now in the time of independence, that today’s spiritual masters would know how to prepare their own students unless they had had the experience of being taught in Soviet times?

It is said in the Kyrgyz proverb “The first virtue is health”, as pointed out in one of the previous chapters; therefore, it is only right that people visit the mazars first of all because of health problems. This is what we heard from the following woman. “The usefulness of the mazar for me was that I haven’t gone mad and that I have been able to remain as a mother for my kids at home”, – says Turgun Apa [Apa means Mother] who is 80 years old. Such spiritual activities as fasting (orozo), almsgiving (bitir), visiting close people and feasting during Islamic holy days – Ait (aittoo), and pray (namaz okuu) were also prohibited. But at the same time in spite of these prohibitions, mazar visitors did not obey them and went on with performing privately traditional activities. This testifies to their trying their best to keep safe what they understand as kyrgyzchylyk. “Kyrgyzchylyk never disappears” – this is the rule which they follow and it is their belief.