How did clan organization originate and function in Kyrgyzstan?
The prevalence of animal husbandry led to the preservation of extended family connections, as ownership of migratory herds over large areas was more important than small plots of land. Oral storytellers – akyns, with their broad horizons and search for outstanding artistic generalizations, contributed to the richness and diversity of the local nature, creating a tradition of remembering real historical figures – ancestors of certain branches of families.
The pattern on the classic Kyrgyz hat, which protects from both heat and cold – kalpak, carries information about kinship lines. These lines are closer to our concept of “third or fourth cousin” than to the logic of Scottish clans.
Thanks to these characteristics, the clan structure “transmitted” the old tribal structure to the present day.
Kyrgyz people often show great openness to languages, external experiences, which makes the clan structure not so “heavy” for visitors to the country, as is the case in southern Italy or the Caucasus.
In politics, clan organization acts as a constraint on the power of the president. It is very easy to gather one’s people in a day across the country, and the typical social connection for despotism, “courtier and cardinal”, “good king, bad boyars”, fortunately does not work. From the point of view of a state clerk, it is very easy to “rock the boat of the kingdom from outside” through clan membership – through the predictability of social reactions of certain clans. This is how colonialists used it. But if one skillfully maintains “multilayer” balances, such ease will only be an illusion.
For private interests, clan organization is manifested in tradition, for example, kalyma. Kalyma is opposed to the Russian “dowry”: it is not the bride’s relatives who pay, but the groom’s relatives. Kalyma is paid for violating the marriage agreement when families formally agree on a marriage with a nominal-profitable person years in advance, and the manifestation of true love is the ritual kidnapping of the bride, reflecting the desire for a love marriage. The importance of Eastern-style weddings is evidenced by huge and pompous banquet halls that are even found in compact and poor towns.
If you are a person from a clan, but development according to its principles is not very easy for you, talk to influential and thoughtful people in the family. Your goal is to indicate that you cannot always meet family requirements not because you are weak, but because your abilities are directed in a completely different direction. And it is precisely the realization of such abilities – ambitions, that push you to travel, receive valuable education. Your goal is to have natural advocates within the family who will appreciate that in the future, the family will value not only classic homemakers, but also, for example, professors, architects, doctors, travelers.
Clan organization in Kyrgyzstan has its origins in the prevalence of animal husbandry and the preservation of extended family connections. The pattern on the classic Kyrgyz hat carries information about kinship lines, which are closer to the concept of “third or fourth cousin” than to Scottish clans. Clan structure acts as a constraint on the power of the president in politics, but can also be used for private interests, such as in the tradition of kalyma. Positive aspects of clan organization include more independent individuals and ideal structures for trade cooperation, while negative aspects include the imposition of stereotypes and predictability of social reactions. For a person from a clan who struggles to meet family requirements, it is important to communicate with influential and thoughtful people in the family and emphasize the value of their unique abilities and ambitions.