A practicioner Turgun (80 years old) "It is not possible for kyrgyzchylyk to disappear..."

Turgun, Talas region

This text was published in the book ‘Mazar Worship in Kyrgyzstan: Rituals and Practitioner in Talas’ by Aigine, Bishkek, 2007. Translated from Kyrgyz.

I started to visit mazars in the Soviet period, in the time of Russians. You are asking about barriers. Oh, they were indeed unbearable; militia men would be spying on us and being so bad to us. They questioned us severely. We could hardly visit the mazars, even doing it secretly, hiding ourselves in different holes and channels. It was not allowed to spend a night there. That was the reason they followed us: “during working days if you visit the mazars, who will work then?” they would say. And they accused us of taking other people with us. During those times we did not take people with us, we could not even find a place to be safe ourselves.

There were no mazars left in Talas. We visited all who called themselves either moldo (q.v.), shai’yk (q.v.), or mazar. The usefulness of the mazar for me was that I have not gone mad, that I have remained as mother for my kids at this home.

I was a young 30 years old woman then. The story of my visiting the mazars would circulate widely. Of many people who would come to me to be healed some were those who worked in the government, some who had simple jobs. There was always one among them who would inform on me by some means. There were cases when we were struggling with militia men while visiting the mazars, but in the mazars I never was caught into the hands of militia men. Once I visited Manas Ordo, we were sitting there up to midnight, and then when we left for Kanykei’ Apa spring, militia men came to our first place and could not find us. I was being persecuted for 5 years.

Now people visit the mazars as easily as streams of water run. As for those Soviet times people would visit the mazars secretly, hiding themselves, days and nights hiding themselves, and would visit not knowing each other. Even at those times we could not neglect mazars which were influential and which the Kyrgyz people loved. Wherever mazar visitors went they would not be back until they visited the mazar, though secretly. Even though militia men were following them they would spend the night among grass. We or, at least, I always spent the night while visiting the mazar. Whatever the place we visited, we would always spend a night hiding ourselves even though it was difficult. While we were persecuted here, yet just over the border in Uzbekistan, religious people were not being persecuted. Persecution also took place to some degree in Kazakhstan.

When we visited the mazar, we could not perform some essential rituals. In those times how was it possible to do them if we were so persecuted by militia men? I could not even perform sham jaguu (q.v.) ritual. It was especially difficult that among militia men there were also Kyrgyz ones – who both prayed and persecuted. What could the persecuted visitors do? Sheep for sacrifice were given as a bribe and visitors hiding themselves. Then only at home they would perform tülöö (q.v.)reading Quran to the spirit of this or that Father. Because how could it be possible for kyrgyzchylyk to disappear? No, it never will disappear.

In 1948 it was prohibited to fast too. However people would not stop doing it. Also, almsgiving was prohibited, yet people did not stop that either. It was ordered not to prayin Islamic holy day- Ait but this is a traditional law for the Kyrgyz people, so how they could stop it. Early in the morning people would go to a special place to read morning praying (bagymdat namaz). Neither feasting during Islamic holy days nor fasting would stop then. It was only me who would stop when my koldoochu (q.v.) would not allow me and I would go once in 15-20 days. I had to visit the mazars; I could not help doing that because of my health.

I had considered the possibility of explaining to those militia men about my visiting the mazar, but I had to give up that idea. When I was ill we went to Boztektir and sacrificed a sheep. My husband was a teacher at school; he was also persecuted for doing it, being questioned why the sheep had been cut and led even to rai’com (q.v.). They made him suffer much, even threatening that he would have to resign from his job. They would tell him to remember that he was an atheist, and that they could deprive him of his work for this religious behaviour. So how could I explain to them about the mazars? In such a situation only a family member appears to be a supporter. I did have an opportunity to be a student (shakirt) of an old woman named Unut, but this was not for very long. When I was ill I followed her while visiting the mazars. Except for this I seem to have learnt everything myself. One needs great power to be a master (ustat). If one is strong by himself, other things will be helped by God.

Based on the interview of Zarima Ibraimova, a student of the Talas State University, Department of History