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(self-designation, Kyrgyz), a nation and the indigenous population of the Kirghiz SSR.
Of the 1,452,000 (1970 census) Kirghiz in the USSR, 1,285,000 live in the Kirghiz SSR and the rest in the Uzbek, Tadzhik, and Kazakh SSR’s. Some also live in the People’s Republic of China and in northeastern Afghanistan. Anthropologically, the Kirghiz belong to the south Siberian type of the Mongoloid race. They speak the Kirghiz language; a literary language and writing developed after the October Revolution of 1917. Believers among them are Sunni Muslims.
Various theories have been put forward concerning the origin of the Kirghiz and particularly about their link with the Enisei Kirghiz. Most Soviet scholars hold that the nucleus of the Kirghiz nationality or at least one of its principal components originated in central Asia. The early ethnic history of the Kirghiz is associated with ancient tribal confederations (Huns, Tingling, Sacae, and Usun). Later, in the period of the Turkic kaganates and nomadic unions (sixth to tenth centuries A.D.) tribes that subsequently became part of the Kirghiz were formed from the Turkic-speaking population of the Saian-Altai, the Irtysh region, and the eastern Tien-Shan. In the first half of the second millennium A.D., particularly after the Mongols invaded Kazakhstan and Middle Asia, some of the Turkic-speaking tribes moved to the central and western Tien-Shan and later south as far as the Pamirs. These tribes became the basis of the Kirghiz nationality, which was evolving in the Tien-Shan region. Other elements that went to make up the Kirghiz nationality included, first, the indigenous Turkic-speaking tribes of Semirech’e and Maverannakhr (including Karluks and Uighurs); subsequently, several Mongol tribes; and, in the 16th and 17th centuries, some tribes of Kazakh-Nogai origin. By the early 16th century, the Kirghiz appeared in Tien-Shan as a separate nationality with a complex ethnic composition. A wide range of ancient and medieval tribes was involved in the formation of the Kirghiz nationality.
The history of the Kirghiz in the 17th and 18th centuries was dominated by the struggle against the Dzungarian khans. Coming under the domination of the despotic Kokand Khanate in the first half of the 19th century, the Kirghiz began voluntarily to accept Russian citizenship from the mid-19th century. In the 1860’s and 1870’s most of the territory that they inhabited became part of the Russian empire.
In the past the principal occupation of the Kirghiz was extensive nomadic and seminomadic herding, although in certain regions farming was also practiced. During the years of Soviet rule fundamental changes have occurred in the economic and social life of the Kirghiz, who had an opportunity to create their own national state system and evolved into a socialist nation. With collectivization, the Kirghiz adopted a settled way of life, took up transhumance, and extensively developed agriculture. A significant number of Kirghiz work in the mining, metallurgical, coal, machine-building, and textile industries as laborers and technicians. The life and culture of the Kirghiz have greatly changed. Women are no longer deprived of civil rights, illiteracy has been eradicated, and a national intelligentsia has emerged.
REFERENCESNarody Srednei Azii i Kazakhstana, vol. 2. Moscow, 1963. Pages 154–320.
Petrov, K. I. Ocherk proiskhozhdeniia kirgizskogo naroda. Frunze, 1963.
Abramzon, S. M. Kirgizy i ikh etnogeneticheskie i istoriko-kul’turnye sviazi. Leningrad, 1971.
Formirovanie i razvitie kirgizskoi sotsialisticheskoi natsii. Frunze, 1957.
Dzhamgerchinov, B. Dobrovol’noe vkhozhdenie Kirgizii ν sostav Rossii, [2nd ed.] Frunze, 1963.
Trudy Kirgizskoi arkheologo-etnograficheskoi ekspeditsii, vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1956–68.
the language of the Kirghiz; spoken in the Kirghiz SSR, as well as the Uzbek, Tadzhik, and Kazakh SSR’s (the number of speakers of Kirghiz was more than 1.4 million, according to the 1970 census); the Sinkiang-Uighur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China; and Afghanistan. It belongs to the Kirghiz-Kipchak group of Turkic languages.
Among the features of Kirghiz are the presence of secondary (substitutional) lengths (too, “mountain,” from tagh), more consistent labial harmony than in the other Turkic languages, initial dzh- (Kirghiz dzhol, “way” or “path,” corresponds to Turkish yol, Kazakh zhol, and Altaic d’ol and the genitive affix -nyn/-nin with final n rather than ng (although ng does exist in Kirghiz). Three dialects of Kirghiz are distinguished (northern, southeastern, and southwestern, or, more simply, two dialect groups, northern and southern). The southern group is characterized by the partial substitution of diphthongs for long vowels and the existence of the sound [ǝ], which is not found in the northern group. Literary Kirghiz took form after the Great October Socialist Revolution. Written Kirghiz is based on the Russian alphabet; until 1926 it used the Arabic alphabet, and from then until 1940 it was based on the Latin alphabet.
REFERENCESBatmanov, I. A. Grammatika kirgizskogo iazyka, issues 1–3. Frunze-Kazan, 1939–40.
Batmanov, I. A. Sovremennyi kirgizskii iazyk, issue 1. Frunze, 1963.
Iudakhin, K. K. Kirgizsko-russkii slovar’. Moscow, 1965.
Iunusaliev, B. M. “Kirgizskii iazyk.” In the collection Iazyki narodov SSSR, vol. 2. Moscow, 1966.