Language Essay: On Kyrgyzstan


I have lived almost all my life in Kyrgyzstan, a small former Soviet country, which gained independency only 25 years ago. Even though the sovereign country’s history is extremely short, Kyrgyz are a nation with rich traditions that go thousands of years back in time. Therefore, our culture in language are extraordinary and deep. But to me, being a youth from the capital Bishkek, Kyrgyz isn’t the first language. In schools, on the streets, in stores and with friends or relatives we speak Russian. It is not a huge problem for Kyrgyzstan, but it is definitely a growing one, especially in big cities. Reading, writing and talking in Russian my whole life, I realized the value of our cultural identification only after moving to the Netherlands last year. My Liberal Arts and Sciences program is an extremely diverse society with people from all over the world, from Peru to Tanzania and from Zimbabwe to Singapore. It is an intersection of such a variety of cultures with different languages, traditions and cultures.

Let alone political and social thoughts, this diversity ignited a strong patriotic feeling inside me, the one that I have never known before. It is true that we do not value what we possess. Even though Western people sometimes are shocked with the fact that we eat horse meat, they are even more surprised after discovering about our ancient respectful traditions of praying before slaughtering animals. In their eyes this conscience is extremely important, especially for the growing generation of kids who often do not realize what it takes to cook a steak.

Some, having prejudice towards ‘-stan’ countries, are surprised by the fact that our country is a democracy, with fair elections and two revolutions in last 11 years. Many of my international friends are amazed by photographs of Kyrgyzstan, and do not understand how it is possible that local tourism among Kyrgyz people isn’t common.

This is when I realized how much I missed out on Kyrgyzstan before. I was curious about Russian literature, American music and European art, but never – about Kyrgyz culture. Now, after 7 months away from home and seeing dozens of people so passionate about their countries’ history and culture, I became eager for discovering our writers and musicians, filmmakers and historians. I started reading a famous Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, and I am enjoying it. But I feel guilty reading it in a Russian translation, so a strong want to improve my mediocre knowledge of Kyrgyz language has also appeared inside me. 

And going to a different society, particularly the United States, to find out interesting aspects of a culture became even more significant in my eyes. Before moving to a foreign country, I was just curios and wanted to learn something new when visiting a new place, but now I have another layer of interest. Now I am desperate for traveling because I want to share all of those amazing aspects of my own culture and, even more importantly, discover for myself, what else I could have missed out about Kyrgyzstan.

Because now I see my own country from a different perspective. I do not notice only the disadvantages anymore. I discover wonderful songs and books that are unfairly underrated in Kyrgyzstan, because even Kyrgyz people themselves have a prejudice towards their country. They do not believe in the quality and ability of products of Kyrgyz culture, but I do now. And I want more people to know this, but first of all – I want to finish this process of revealing Kyrgyzstan to myself.