Presentation of the book Mazar Worship in Kyrgyzstan: Rituals and Practitioners in Talas, 2007


Date: May 22, 2007
Place: Aigine office, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Language: English, Kyrgyz, Russian

Information about the book:
Chief Editor: Gulnara Aitpaeva
Editors: Mukaram Toktogulova, Aida Egemberdieva

The research and publication of books have been supported by The Christensen Fund, California, USA.

Short Overview of the Book:
The cultural practices of revering at sacred sites, known as mazars, are ancient parts of Kyrgyz tradition. Even though it is not known precisely when the first worship at sacred sites took place, it is many centuries old, and yet continues to have important cultural functions and roles in the present as well.

In Mazar Worship in Kyrgyzstan: Rituals and Practitioners in Talas, the Aigine Research Center is publishing the findings of its two year research project conducted in the Talas district of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The first part of the book contains information about the experiences of the cultural practitioners who act as traditional healers, dervishes, clairvoyants and reciters of the Manas epic. Also included are the voices and experiences of the shai’ykhs (sacred site guardians), who accept the duty of guardianship of a sacred site as their life mission, and who revere sacred sites.

The second part of the book contains analysis and discussion by scholars who have researched sacred sites, and religious and healing practices. These scholars come from diverse professional and educational backgrounds. They include students, historians, medical workers, psychologists, philologists, physicians, biologists, anthropologists and most importantly, mazar worshippers. Thus this book includes writing from the perspectives of cultural practitioners as well as from scholars who analyze this cultural phenomenon.

Guests of the reception:
There were 50 people including the members of Aigine. Guests were the representatives from UNESCO, Universities of Bishkek, local Mass Media representatives, NGO, researchers, a representative of US Embassy and Aigine partners. Since this particular book was developed based on research of Aigine in Talas province, cultural practitioners from Talas were invited to this event. These people are Mamekov Jumadil (guardian of Chypynyn mazary); Chonmurunova Chachykei (guardian of Chynar Terek mazar; deputy of Union of Shai’yks (Sacred Site Guardians) and Cultural Practitioners, as well as a clairvoyant; and Dervish- Atamkul Ata who performed traditional ritual zikir chaluu (Ar: dhikr ‘remembering’).

Aigine expresses its gratitude to all the people who made this book happen.

Aigine Research Center expresses deep gratitude to The Christensen Fund, which has provided funding for the research and publication and Dr. Rafique Keshavjee, the Program Officer for the Central Asia and Turkey, who has been rendering valuable consultations and support of Aigine Research Center development.

Aigine Research Center expresses deep gratitude to the editors of the English version, particularly:

  • Dr. Nathan Light, Post- Doctoral Fellow, Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, Miami University, Ohio, USA
  • Ph.D. candidate David Montgomery, Rockefeller Visiting Fellow in the Program in Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
  • Dr. John Newman, Professor, Department of Sociology, Indiana University Southeast, USA
  • Dr. Edwin Segal,  Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Louisville, Kentucky , USA
  • Dr. Russell Kleinbach, Professor of Sociology, Philadelphia University, Pennsylvania , USA
  • Lilly Salimjanova, Senior Student of Sociology, American University-Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan; Intern with Women and Public Policy Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • Till Mostowlansky, PhD Candidate, University of Bonn, Germany
  • Judith Beyer,PhD Candidate, Max Plank Institution for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany
  • Dr. Mary Campbell, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria, Canada
  • Dr. Brian Farley, Chair of Journalism and Mass Communications Department, Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research