Yurta - style of life. Yurta for the Kyrgyz is more than merely a comfortable dwelling. It was developed thousands of years ago. Today it's hard to say which of the nomadic tribes in the ancient history gave rise to the idea of this unique residential structure. Nowadays it remains part and parcel of the Kyrgyz chaban or shepherd. Although modern times have altered the appearance of big and small villages in outlying regions, one cannot even imagine that this ingenious creation of early architecture might sink in oblivion in our days.
The Koychumans, or stock breeders, usually set their yurtas on high ground from where they can easily oversee the cattle and watch the surrounding world: the sky, stars, valleys. The yurtas, set in Jailoos (mountain pastures) with their domes heading towards the sky, seem natural in the mountains environment. Sometimes, yurtas can be seen in the valleys or amid the verdure of mountain stream brinks. However, these are normally just temporary dwellings because in winter and autumn windless spots, lacking heavy snowfalls, are more preferable. In the old days, a ruler could measure the number of this subject by the number of tyutyuns, or smokes, raising over each yurta. The word is still use in the Kyrgyz villages to refer to the number of households, although most villagers now live in brick structures. Such a long service life notwithstanding annual migrations from winter pastures to summer ones and vice versa results from its sound design. Yurta setting stars from installing a door casing, bosogo.
This is followed by setting a round openwork wall, kerege, which consists of a number of separate blocks, kanats. Each kanat is made our of long wood poles, specially bent and tied up with rawh cide straps. Normally, birch tree trunks and branches are used for the purpose. When spread out they form a grid with a rhombic hole - the kerege koz. The cupola beams are then installed, and here strength of male hands is required to set the crown, or the tyunduc, the top of the yurta. The surface of the poles to be used to set the yurta is thoroughly polished by dexterous master who renders them the required shape and thickness. the wooden surface is treated with a special substance and painted after which the poles can retain the original flexibility for a long time. From the outside, the yurta is enveloped in the chiy, or mat, carrying a sophisticated ornament. Finally, the nearly finished spherical structure is covered with a specially prepared think felt, kyiys. Usually, yurta has several felt coast. Each layer is fixed with strong strings to poles dug in the ground around the yurta.
The tyundduk is partly covered with a felt coat which in the daytime and in clear weather is folded back while in the cold or in rainy season it shuts tightly the top hole thus preventing the wind or rain from penetrating inside. In the stormy weather when snow storms can crush everything in their path, the yurta dwellers save themselves with a special device - fine lassos ingeniously attached to the yurta's ceiling.
Normally, they can be taken for a 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 poles in the middle of the yurta - an operation which adds strength to it even during the most violent storms. The Kyrgyz refer to the yurta as the bozuy which can be translated as "the grey house". In the old days, ordinary nomads could not high quality felt to cover their yurtas and had to use wool remains of black and grey colors. The khan's yurtas would be dressed in snow white felt and were called ak-orgo, or white yurtas. The welfare of yurta's owner used to be determined its dimensions: the more kanats the richer the family. The khan's yurtas consisting of 4 to 5 kanats, i.e., some 20 meters in circumference.
The entire yurta life style is centered around the kolomto, or the fire place, located right under the tyunduk. Behind the fire place, near the wear wall of the yurta, just opposite the entrance stands the juk - blankets, carpets and pillows piled up on the chests or special props. The juk's height indicates the well of the family. It is a matter of the mistress' special concern to see that the juk consist of fine looking and thick toshoks or blankets and carpets. In hot sunny days they are usually taken outside and spread out on the grass to expose them to direct sun light. Fluffed up and steeped in the aroma of fresh spicy herbs they make the best possible bed to sleep on after a hard day. The place in front of the juk is called tyor which serves as a seat for the guests of honor - aksakals, wise old men. In everyday life the tyor is occupied by the head of the family. Next to him his son sits, while the place near the entrance is usually designed for daughters and the mistress. These traditions are followed very strictly and no Kyrgyz dares to violate the established order, although no special punishment is provided for offenders.
A skillful master can make the yurta within a month while it can serve for decades. The yurta encompasses the Kyrgyz from his birth to the last day of his life.
On the right entrance, there is corner separated for "women's work", the eptchi shak. It serves to keep utensils and wash dishes. The kerege contains embroidered bags in which the mistress and her daughters keep their needles, threads, needle-work, knitting and all sorts of women knicknacks. The past that is separated for men, the er-zhak, is located on the left hand side. The kerege there contains harness, kamtchas (whips), hunting knives - all the necessary tolls one would need to grow cattle, hunting and handcraft. In the Kyrgyz families children are traditionally taught to help their parents with home work- a tradition which comes from generations to generations. The day in yurta begins long before dawn. The first sun rays would hit to the yurta dwellers doing works. Women would be cooking breakfast and putting food into bags for men who lead their herds out to pastures . After seeing them off, women attend to household matters. Boys who can barely walk are taught to mount and ride a horse. All the skills which "true men" are supposed to possess are picked up in childhood. Afterwards, these red cheecked kids can easily cope with herds of sleep unattended by adults. The girls with their mother's help grow into masters versed in embroidery, cooking, Kyrgyz traditional designs capable of producing the shirdaks, ala-kiyiz or toosh-kiyiz - ingenious carpets to be placed on the walls or on the floor. They serve not only for practical purposes - warming the house - but also perform an aesthetic function. The Kyrgyz ornament is an embodiment of the wealth of colors and shapes existing in the surrounding nature: the bright variety of field , 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. Although most Kyrgyz nowadays live in high rise apartment blocks, every Kyrgyz on his son's or parent's birthday will certainly set a yurta to invite quests to the dastarkhan, a holiday table. The yurta is also a place where the Kyrgyz 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 transiency, the universe centered on a tiny cupola at the foot of Ala-Too. That's how it always was. That's how it will always be.
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