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YURTA-KYRGYZ NATIONAL DWELLING

  Yurta for the Kyrgyz people is more than just a comfortable dwelling. It was created more then thousand years ago. Today it is difficult to say which of the nomadic tribes in the ancient history gave rise to the idea of this unique residential contraction. In present days yurta is an obligatory part of the nomadic people and shepherds of Central Asia. Despite the time has altered the appearance of big cities and small villages, this ingenious creation did not sink in oblivion in our days.

  Nomads normally put up their yurts, on the hills from where they can easily watch the cattle and the surrounding world: sky, stars, and valleys. The yurt in highlands with their domes towered up into the sky seems as natural continuity of the mountainous environment. Sometimes, yurts can be met in the valleys amid the verdure, or on the green meadows near the mountain rivers. However, these are only temporary dwellings because in winter and autumn time it is more preferable to stay in windless spots, lacking heavy snowfalls. At the ancient time, a governor could measure the number of the families belonged to him by the number of tyutyuns, or smokes, rasing over each yurta. This word is still in use in the Kyrgyz villages to refer to the number of householders, although most villagers live in modern buildings. A skilful master can make the yurta within a month while it can serve for the years. The yurta encompass the nomadic people from the birthday till the last days.

  To put up the yurta they start from installing a door casing, bosogo. Then by the circle stretches the openwork wall, kerege, which consists of a few sections, kanat. Each kanat is made of long wooden poles, specially curved and fasten up with rawhide straps. Usually kerege is made of birch tree trunks and boughs. Then stretched out it form a grid with rhombic clear space-kerege koz. Then installs the supporting dome poles and tyundyuk - the top of the Yurta. The surface of the poles is meticulously trimmed and thoroughly polished by the master who renders them the required shape and thickness. The surfaces of the wooden parts of the yurta are covered with a special substance and painted so it keeps the original flexibility for a long time. From the outside, the Yuta is covered by Chiy, or mat, with a national ornament and finally, the nearly finished spherical structure is covered with a specially prepared thick felt, - kiyiz. Usually, yurta has several felt layers. Each layer is fixed by the ropes to the pegs around the Yurta.

  The tyndyk is partly covered with a felt coat which in day time and in clear weather is folded back while in the cold weather or in rainy day it shuts tightly the top hole and preventing the wind or moisture from penetrating inside. In the stormy weather then the wind crush everything on the way, the nomads save the dwelling with a special creation- fine ribbons attached to the top of the yurta. They also used for the decoration with their ends looking like big coquettish tassels of bright multicolored threads hanging down from the tyunduk. However, if necessary they can be pulled down and attached to the pegs in the middle of the yurta. This adds strength to it even during the most appalling storms. The Kyrgyz call the Yurta - bozui what means “gray house”. At the ancient times poor nomads could not use high quality felt to cover their yurts and had to use wool remains of black and gray colors. The Khan’s and governors yurtas were dressed in snow white felt and were called "ak-orgo", or “white yurtas”. The welfare of yurta’s owner used to be determined by its dimensions: the more kanats the richer the family. The Khan’s yurts had some 60 metres in diameter. Today the nomadic yurts consist of about 4-5 kanats, from 5 to 15 metres.

  The life inside the yurta is centered around kolomto, or the fire place, located right under the tynduk. Behind the fire place, near the rear wall of the yurta, there is the juk-blankets, carpets and pillows piled up on the chests or special props. The juk’s height indicates the welfare of the family. In hot and sunny days the nomads usually take them outside to expose them to direct sun light. At the day time the sun fluff up the pillows and blankets and absorbing the aroma of fresh spicy herbs it become the best possible bed to sleep after a hard day. The place in front of the juk is called "tyor" which serves as a seat for the honorable guests - aksakals - wise old men. In everyday life the tyor is the place for the head of the family. Next to him there are the seats for the sons, and the place near the entrance is usually designed for daughters and the mistress. These traditions come from time immemorial and followed very strictly. There are no Kyrgys dares to change the established order, although no special punishment is provided for offenders.

  Yurta is separated for two parts. On the right side, there is a corner separated for a “women’s work”, the eptchi zhak. The place for kitchen stuff and washing dishes. On the kerege fasten up the bags in which the mistress and her daughters keep their needles, threads, needle-work, knitting and all sorts of woman knickknacks. The part for male, the "er zhak", is on the left side. On the kerege there the one can see fasten harnesses, kamcha (whips), hunting knives- all the necessary tools the one needs to breed cattle, hunting and handcraft. In the Kyrgyz families children are taught to help their parents in house work- a tradition which comes from generation to generation.

  The day in yurta starts before the sunrise. The first sun rays meet the nomads doing house works. Women cook breakfast and put the food into bags for men who lead their herds out to pastures. After seeing them off, women back to thousand big and small house causes. Boys who can barely walk are taught to ride a horse. All the skills which “true men” are supposed to possess are picked up in childhood. Afterwards, these red cheeked kids can easily manage the herds of sheep without adults. The girls with mothers’ help will grow into masters versed in embroidery, cooking, will get to know the secrets of Kyrgyz national patterns making the shirdaks, ala-kiyiiz, or toosh kiyiz-kyrgyz carpets placed on the walls or floor. They serve not only for practical purposes - warming the house - but also perform an aesthetic function. The Kyrgyz ornament embodied the wealth of colors and shapes existing in the surrounding nature: the bright variety of field flowers, eagles with proudly bent wings, the gentle fragility of tulip petals and the blue tints of the sky. The Yurta encompasses the Kyrgyz from his birth to the last day of his life. Despite the most Kyrgyzes nowadays live in apartment blocks, every Kyrgyz on his son’s or parents birthday will certainly put up the yurta and invite guests to the dastarkhan- a holiday table. A Yurta is also the place where the Kyrgyzes gather for the funeral of their relatives. Today, the yurta provides for the Kyrgyz a philosophical understanding of the beginning and the end of life, eternity and transience, the universe centered on a tiny cupola at the foot of Ala-Too. It has been like this for centuries and will be like this.

Aliases: Yourt, Yourta, Yurt, Yurta, Jurt, Jurta.

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