Personalities of Kyrgyzstan

We have a number of outstanding persons who have played an important role in our history, who deserve admiration and recognition of their human and civil feats and their huge talent. This brochure will tell you about the most prominent and best known ones.

Jusup Balasaguni (11th Century)
Jusup was born in Balasagun city not far from modern Tokmok. He was from an era when great civilizations flourished in Otrar (Farab), Shash (Tashkent), Taraz, Chui Valley, Issyk-Kul, Fergana and Kashgar. In cultural and language he is an ancestor of the Turkic people and geographically he is close to Kazakhs and Kyrgyz and more precisely to the tribes of Chigiles. He studied - in Farab, Kashgar and Bukhara - cultural centres of that time. Fluent in Arabic and Persian he studied philosophical and scientific works in various fields. High society people of that time had multiple interests in philosophy and science, poetry and politics and chess. After coming to Kashgar in 18 months of hard work he wrote a large poetic work - Kutadgu bilig that he devoted to Tabgach-Bogra-Kara-Khakan-Ali Khasan of the Karakhanid dynasty, for which the poet was awarded the title khass-khadjib – Minister of Court.

The poem Kutadgu bilig has become known to the western world thanks to the Austrian philologist Von Hammer-Purgschtal. The manuscript fell into his hands in 1796 in Istanbul and he donated it to Vienna library.

The Kutadgu Bilig by Jusup Balasaguni is the first encyclopedia written not in the official language, which was Arabic at that time, but in the native language of the Turks; this fact in itself was significant and testified to his patriotism and love of his native language. At the same time he was directed by political motives to teach the Middle Asian Karakhanid dynasty, who were still nomads, to rule the country through highly-developed settled regions (Maveranarkh, East Turkistan). In order to be understood by the nomads-karakhanids it was necessary to write in Turkic. This work is not just a political treatise but also a vast collection of philosophical ideas and practical in particular about a person's destiny.

Kurmanjan Datka - The Alay Queen (1811-1907)
The ruler of the Alai Kyrgyz known as the Queen of Alai was a descendant of the Mungush tribe. In 1862, after the death of her husband –Alymbek datka, who was the governor of Alai, she became the ruler. Kurmanjan datka played a significant role in settling disputes between the tribes of the mountain Kyrgyz. The main aim of her policy was independence from the Kokand kaganat. In 1876, she declared that the Alai Kyrgyz should join Russia. She was the first woman-diplomat and greatest statesperson in the history of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.

Tragedy struck her family from 1893-1895 when her sons were accused of smuggling and murder and were arrested. During the trial her youngest and favourite son - Kamchybek was sentenced to death and the others Mamytbek, Myrzapayaz and Arslanbek – to deportation and hard labour in Siberian exile. Many respected people came and offered to free the prisoners. A nod of the head from Kurmanjan datka and nothing would have remained of the prison and garrison but she gave a reply of an Empress: "It is bitter to realize that my youngest will leave for another world, but I can never let my people perish because of him. There will be no justification for me in this world nor the next". Only she could realize what it meant to execute her own son and how difficult it was to keep calm while she bid him farewell. Although her son's guilt was never proved, it did not shake her loyalty to the Tsar. Kurmanjan datka died on 1st February 1907 at the age of 96.

In the southern capital, in Osh, descendants of Alymbek and Kurmanjan founded an open-air ethnic centre in Alymbek datka ayily.

Chingiz Aitmatov (Dec 12 1928 – Jun 10 2008)
Chingiz Aitmatov, known for his literary works and social activity, is considered contemporary Kyrgyz writer and soviet writer for the rest of the world which proves his acknowledged talent. His life and creations were full of sense and philosophy which he tried to render to the next generation. Judging by his deeds and warmth that he left in people’s heart he succeeded in that. Aitmatov’s childhood was not easy as his father being a party official was assassinated by Stalinists charged for ‘bourgeois imperialism’ in 1938 when Chingiz was only ten. His father was buried in the mass grave and not discovered until decades later. His mother, an actress in the local theatre, endeavored to give all the best for his child. Small Aitmatov did all available jobs; for instance, he was an assistant to the Secretary at the Village Soviet.

For some it is hard to understand how a young man could become the well known witer who graduated from the Kirghiz Agricultural Institute more over living in the Soviet Union. There is no secret there just a gifted person could not have another fate.

At the age of 28 (1956) he went to Moscow and two years later graduated from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute, till that time he already started writing and publishing his short stories. But he became world-famous for his short story "Jamilya" depicting an emergent love affair between a troubled loner and the title character, a soldier’s wife whose husband is away at war, as they work together on a collective farm to produce grain for the army. Narrated by a young boy, the soldier’s younger brother, the story not only glorifies the love and the couple’s escape from their stultifying village but also gives a portrait of an artist as a young man. Inspired by their love, the young narrator determines to be a painter. In due time "Jamilya" was included in the curriculum of the GDR schools.

Upon his homecoming to Kyrgyzstan he worked for the national newspaper "Pravda" continuing writing mainly in Russian. Among his outstanding works is novella "The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years" (1980) which some say conjures up a joint space mission between two superpowers, ostensibly the Unites States and the Soviet Union. For citizens of the former Soviet Union "The White Steamer" is like a kind fairytale narrating about a small boy who experiences this world though the Kyrgyz myth about the mother-wolf. Interweaving myths and real life is typical features for Aitmatov’s novels, especially in "Scaffold" where the image of Jesus Christ is introduced. "The Ascent of Mt. Fuji" written together with a Soviet playwright K. Mukhamedjanov tells about a discordant reunion of schoolmates that echoes with the guilt of Stalinist-era survivors and is staged almost all over the world. His last book Chingiz Aitmatov represented two years ago in Moscow. His novel "When the mountains fall" narrates almost about everything. This work is about love and death, snow leopard and people, and about oil barons. The writer himself has determined genre as realistic prose of epic narration and was written due to or in spite of globalization.

In addition to his literary work, Chinghiz Aitmatov was the Kyrgyzstan ambassador to the European Union, NATO, UNESCO and the Benelux countries.

Aitmatov suffered kidney failure and on 16 May 2008 was admitted to a hospital in Nuremberg, Germany, where he died of pneumonia on 10 June 2008, aged 79. His obituary in The New York Times characterized him as "a Communist writer whose novels and plays before the collapse of the Soviet Union gave a voice to the people of the remote Soviet Republic of Kyrgyz" and adds that he "later became a diplomat and a friend and adviser to the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev."

Kyrgyzstan payed its last tribute to Chiniz Aitmatov with governmental honors and buried according to muslim traditions in the Historical and memorial complex "Ata-Beiyit" near his father’s grave. Victims of Stalins’ repressions lie in the "Ata-Beiyit" cemetery and there have been no burials for a long time. Despite 40 degree centigrade above zero crowd of many thousand people attended the funeral. Aitmatov’s death is irretrievable loss.

Aitmatov is a holder of many awards and medals both of the Soviet period and today, for instance in 1989 he got an award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation presented along to Barbara Bush, Roger Smith, chairman of General Motors. While he was alive the International Prize got his name which was given to the Patriarch of Rome, George Soros and Zurab Cereteli.

Mr. Aitmatov is survived by his wife, Maria; a brother, Ilgez; a sister, Roza; a daughter; and three sons, one of whom, Askar Aitmatov, was foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan from 2002 to 2005.

Mr. Aitmatov was "a writer of the entire Russian-speaking world," Mr. Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency earlier this week. "A man who was close to all of us has gone."

Major works:
A Difficult Passage (1956)
Face to Face ( 1957)
Jamila (1958)
The First Teacher ( 1962)
Tales of the Mountains and Steppes ( 1963)
Farewell, Gulsary!( 1966)
The White Ship ( 1970)
The Ascent of Mt. Fuji ( 1973)
The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years ( 1980)
The Scaffold ( 1988)

Hero of the Kyrgyz Republic (1997)
Manas first degree Order

Order of Friendship (1998)

Hero of Socialist Labour (1978)
Two Orders of Lenin
Order of the October Revolution
Two Orders of Labour Red Banner
Order of Nanoins’ Friendship

"Dustlik" Order

Officer’s Cross Order of Merit (2006, Hungary)

Medal of N.K. Krupskiy Culture Ministry of USSR

Order od Children’s Smile (Pole)
Medal of Honour for "outstanding contribution to culture and art development for the benefir of peace and prosperity on Earth" from the Tokyo Institute of Eastern Philosophy.

Prizes and Titles:
Lenin’s Prize (1963)
Governmant Prize USSR (1968, 1977, 1983)
Government Prize of the Kyrgyz SSR (1976)
"Lotos" Prize
International Prize after G. Nery
"Ogonek" magazin Prize
International Prize of the Mediterranean Center Cultural Initiatives in Italy
Bavarian Prize after F. Rukkart
Prize after A. Men
"Rukhaniyat" Prize
Honour Prize of Culture after V. Hugo
The Highest Award of the Turkish Government for Contribution to Culture Development in the Turkish Countries (2007)
National Writer of Kyrgyzstan

Major Positions:
1990-1994 – USSR Embassador in Russia and Benelux Countries.
1990-2008 – Embassador in France, Belgium, Luximburg and Nitherlands
Deputy of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Member of the Central Committee Communist Party in Kyrgyzstan
Secretariat Writers’ Union and Filmmakers’ Union Member
Soviet Committee manager of friendship with Asia and Africa
Chief Editor of the "Foreing Literature" magazine
The initiative of the International Movement "Issyk-Kul Forum"

Bubusara Beishenalieva (1926-1973)
Bubusara was born in Tash-Tube village on May 17th 1926. She studied choreography in Leningrad and in 1939 made her debut at the Bolshoi Theatre. During thirty years this outstanding ballerina created a gallery of captivating and unforgettable female roles from classic and domestic repertoires of Kyrgyz ballet, among them Odette and Odillia in Swan Lake, Kitri in Don Chicot, Zarema and Maria in Bakhchisarai Fountain, Medora in Corsair, Asel in the ballet of the same name, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet etc. The film Cholpon has been screened in 104 countries.

Her talent, charm and kindness, attracted children and adults and received many awards and prizes and became an Honorary Popular Artiste of the USSR. Her name has become a symbol of national choreography. She tragically left us early, 6 days before her 47th birthday on May 11th 1973.

Murat Rena
Murat Rena is a Kyrgyz, talented, classical musician-a violinist and a concert pianist-who divides his time between Germany, (where he currently lives and has a studio), Poland (where his family lives) and Kyrgyzstan (his native homeland). He has been called "a magician of sound".

Born in town of Prezhevalsk, (now Karakol), Murat was a child prodigy with perfect pitch. His first stage performance was when he was only 10 years old, and his parents moved to capital, Frunze, (now Bishkek), when he was 12 to ensure that he received a good musical education. His teacher was so impressed that he got to Moscow to study. Murat’s parents were opposed to the idea, but eventually he was enrolled at Moscow’s Central Musical School where, for a time, he was the only student of the virtuoso Oleg Kagan. After graduating from the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow he became the first violin of the Moscow Symphonic Orchestra.

Later he moved to Poland where he married – and then to Germany where he still lives and works. He returns to Kyrgyzstan from time to time and gives concerts. In 2003, he founded the International Fund "Emponi Art" in Bishkek which supports the development of musical education in the country with prizes for students and teachers alike. Rena points out that: when he first went to Moscow there were 10 or 12 Kyrgyz students in the Conservatories, in the 1990’s this figure had dropped to just one or two. He thinks there is a lot of talent in the youth of Kyrgyzstan and wants to see it flourish and blossom.

Salizhan Sharipov (1964)
A military aviator-instructor of the 3rd class, he was born in Uzgen in Osh region. He went on to become the first Kyrgyz cosmonaut and made his first flight as a crewmember of the Endeavour flight from 22-31st January 1998 as a flight specialist. This flight linked up with the Mir International Space Station. In October 2004 he flew again to the Mir station and was actually still in orbit during the Kyrgyz Revolution of March 2005 - thus having a unique space record of taking off with one President in power and landing when another had taken over! Salijan Sharipov is the 372nd cosmonaut in the world, the 88th cosmonaut from Russia and the 1st cosmonaut from Kyrgyzstan.

Bulat Minjelkiev (1940-1997)
A Kyrgyz soviet bass singer he studied opera and after graduating from Tashkent conservatory became a soloist with the Kyrgyz Opera and Ballet House. From 1968-1971 he was a probationer at La Scala under the maestros Barra and Merlini. At the beginning of the 1990s he appeared at the Bolshoi Theatre, was regularly invited to La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera and other Operas around the world. Bulat combined his creative activities with pedagogical ones; he was a professor and manager of the faculty of the B. Beishenalieva Kyrgyz State Institute of Arts.

Bulat Minjelkiev performed the parts of Boris Godunov, Mephistopheles in Faust, the Inquisitor in Don Carlos, Semetei in Maldybaev's Aichurek etc.