A YURTAIS transportable collapsible dwelling that came to us from ancient
It consists of wooden framework, covered with felt. The framework
("kerege") forms walls of the dwelling made of latticed wooden poles;
"uyuk" - long wooden poles serve as a cover for the upper spherical portion
of the yurt; "shanrak" is the top most open part of the yurt, serving as an
outlet for the smoke raising from the hearth, for purposes of ventilation
and scanty lighting of the yurt’s interior. Depending on the air
temperature the yurt is covered with two if not more layers of felt. The
outermost layer is coated with flat for it to be impenetrable for rain or
The yurt’s area ranges from 6-7 m. to 30-40 m. Spherical form makes it an
exceedingly heat-consuming dwelling. They would enter the yurt through
folding carved doors made of pine or birch-tree. They were a sort of
touchstone testifying to aesthetic taste, social status and well being of
its master. In real fact, fretwork motifs reflected Kazakhstan’s flora and
Right in the center of the yurt one finds a hearth with a cauldron
("kazan") suspended there above. The place at the hearth is regarded as
that of honor meant for particularly respectable, distinguished guests.
The main decoration of the yurt is no doubt carpets ("tekemets") made
mostly of felt.
Besides the interior looks quite bright owing to a multitude of colorful
carpet-strips and ribbons manufactured of wool (by filling), of felt (by in-
laying), of such other materials by weaving, embroidery, wicker-work and
Every little corner in the yurt has a purpose of its own - a part for men,
a respective portion of the area - for women, for clothes. Besides there is
enough room for a "shop" where they repair harness, accomplish other works,
room for preparing meals, for bed, for horse's gear, for children, for the
son and the daughter-in-law.
Simplicity and feasibility of manufacture, easy and quick assembly, use of
natural materials and high transportability turned yurt into an ideal
dwelling of a nomad. Even now you may encounter a yurt in the steppe.
Kazakh National Games
KYZ KUU ("Overtake the girl") - young boys and girls are participants in
this game. The girl on the horse does her best to gallop from the young man
but as soon as the latter tries to overtake (approach) her she lashes him
with a whip. If - up to a certain place - the young boy fails to overtake
her she would "reward" him with whipping again. If he is a success he earns
AUDARYSPAK ("Wrestling on horseback") - this kind of national sports
requires skills both in hand-to-hand fighting and in trick riding. In fact
two men fight while on horseback. Wins the one that brings his adversary
down of his horse.
KUMIS ALU ("Pick up the coin"). The essence of the game is that while
galloping at full speed a young man should pick up a silver ingot off the
ground - such had been condition of the game in old days. Nowadays a
handkerchief replaces the ingot. This contest particularly impressed
Alexander the Great when he visited Central Asia. According to historians'
evidence on watching kumis alu he exclaimed "That's a sort of training
worthy of a warrior on horseback".
KOKPAR ("Fighting for a goat's carcass"). A most popular game. It stems
from an ancient custom according to which one, who wants to get rid of all
evil, should sacrifice a goat. Not infrequently taking part in the game is
up to 1,000 horsemen. The game unfolds on an almost infinite steppe range.
On the opposite ends of an immense field they arrange goals of teams -
adversaries. It is into them that the symbolic carcass of the goat should
be thrown, while the throw proper is preceded by a desperate flight between
the teams to get hold of the carcass.
Traditional Holidays and Entertainments
NAURYZ - a holiday of spring, it is the most momentous and ancient
festivity of Oriental nations.
In fact, it is a New Year's eve according to the ancient Oriental calendar.
It has yet another name "Ulys Kuni"("The first day of the New Year") or
"Ulystyn uly kuni" («The great day of the people").
They say that the more you are in celebrating the Nauryz holiday, the
greater success will attend you throughout the year. Hence abundance of
festive rites and attributes.
When the holiday comes, Kazakhs would put on festive clothes, pay visits to
each other, exchange congratulations, best wishes of well-being and good
luck in the coming year.
Universal merry-making, games, traditional horse races, and various
amusements accompany festivities.
Traditionally they cook and roast and make all sorts of tasty meals during
the holidays, for they should symbolize well-being and abundance in the
coming year. The feast is usually timed to the noon; it is preceded and
followed by a prayer in honor of the forefathers read by the mullah. In
conclusion the eldest of those present gives his blessings (bata) so that
year in year out prosperity be part and parcel of the family.
When Kazakhs celebrate Nauryz, presence of the figure of "7" is
indispensable - it embodies 7 days of the week - time units of universal
eternity: in front of aksakals ("white beards» or old men) they would put 7
bowls with the drink of "Nauryz-kozhe", prepared of 7 grades of 7 types of
BERKUTCHI - hunting with a golden eagle.
A tradition that has already been practiced for ten centuries.
They say that presenting a youngster with a fledgling of a hunting bird is
tantamount to wishing him to be brave and strong young fellow.
Virtually training of a golden eagle is a rare and painstaking art. The
bird just caught is being slowly trained to its master (a berkutchi). For
the purpose the man doesn't get a wink of sleep for several nights with the
bird being subjected to similar discomfort. The bird must take food (pieces
of raw meat) from its master's hand only. When the eagles has got used to
the hunter, its horse and its dog, it undergoes training: first it "hunts"
stuffed foxes and only then proceeds with real hunting.
Kazakh dastarkhan has a long story of its own, its own traditions, and its
specifics inherent to Kazakh nation only, known for a quite particular
manner of receiving and serving guests.
The part tea plays in the Kazakh dastarkhan is altogether remarkable. In
fact any Kazakh feast invariably starts with a minutely itemized process of
tea drinking. The host welcomes his guests, invites them to the table.
Incidentally, it is only up to girls and young women to pour the tea. And
they do this wonderfully though it is far from easy. For one should see to
it that the guests' drinking bowls be always full, there must be no
confusing them, there must be no tea leafs remains on the edge of the
bowls. Even if the guest gives to understand that he has already quenched
his thirst he must not be left unattended - the hostess must offer him a so-
called "sui-ayak" - a tea bowl of honor. Tea is normally accompanied with
cream, butter, jam, dried and fresh fruit, nuts, cakes, other sweetmeats.
Tea is but an introduction, an invitation to a capital meal - a festive
First they serve all sorts of appetizers, mostly meat ones - prepared of
horse flesh and mutton. They are quite plentiful and their diversity is
just as great, all made of smoked, semi-smoked and boiled meat. Added
thereto are flat cakes and such milk tonics as koumyss, shubat and katyk...
They are followed with vegetable titbits with invariable flat cakes. Next
the guests are treated with a kuyrdak - hot rich roast meat prepared of
mutton by - products mostly of liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and tail's fat.
After a small break the guests are treated with all sorts of patties:
"samsa"- with meat, "puktermet"- with by- products, "belyashes", "kausyrma"
Finally there comes the capital treat - besbarmak. First they cover a large
round or oval dish with small round flat pieces of boiled paste followed by
small bars of boiled horse-meat or mutton, then comes onion cut in rings
and scalded with hot broth, all this strewn with a green mixture of fennel,
parsley and kinza...
The most honored guest is usually offered a koy-bas (a boiled sheep's
head). The guest is to dress it and distribute among the other participants
to the dastarkhan. One should mind that each part of the head is attached
particular significance and meaning: young men are treated with ears for
them to be attentive, girls - with a palate (it is believed that this would
make them more diligent). The head having been divided the host proceeds
with cutting meat on the main dish and shares it with his guests.
Here too one has to mind certain habits and superstitions. For instance,
hipbones and crust are offered to most honored guests while the breastbone
goes to the son-in-law or daughter-in-law, cervical vertebra - to marries
women, pregnant ones first and foremost.
Certain bans are also to be observed. Thus even the most honored guest may
not be treated with a "koy-bas" if his father is present at the table.
Children may not be offered brains (they might become weak-willed), just as
an elbow bone - to a young girl (she might be "left on the shelf")...
The meat is usually accomplished with flat cakes with onion (ak nan). A
rich broth (sorpa) is poured in separate bowls.
However in many areas of Kazakhstan besbarmak on the dastarkhan is replaced
with "kespe", Kazakh noodle soup: in a drinking bowl or a soup-plate they
put warmed up noodles and pour tuzdyk on them, a gravy consisting of meat,
black radish, sweet pepper, onions, tomatoes and green kinza.
The feast is finalized with a dessert abounding in all sorts of sweetmeats.