There is no exact data available on the emergence of Orthodoxy in southern Kyrgyzstan. However, according to Ekaterina Ozmitel, doctor of historical sciences, a small Orthodox community in Jalal-Abad region first appeared in the 1930s. It gave shelter to priests, nuns and believers from Russia and Kazakhstan, who were persecuted by the Soviet government.
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*This publication was prepared as a series of CABAR.asia articles dedicated to raising awareness on religious diversity in Central Asian countries. The authors do not seek to promote any religion. The Orthodox community of Jalal-Abad was officially registered in 1945. At the same time, the believers purchased a private house, which was reconstructed as a place of worship. According to rector Sergei Arbuzov, internal partition walls were removed, supporting structures were strengthened and the altar was completed. From the outside, the Dormition of the Mother of God Temple remained the same with some renovations made this year only.
– I was born in Bishkek, but was referred to serve to the city of Jalal-Abad. Our organisation has enough problems, just like any other organisation, but we manage to solve them with God’s help.
On public holidays, worship services are attended by nearly 130-140 people. On Sundays, the number of parishioners is 30 to 50 people. It all depends on the weather – on clear days our visitors may be from adjacent villages. However, only 20 people attend the church on a regular basis. They keep in touch with us, take part in all worship services and make donations.
In the south, people have stronger belief because they are few, yet their life here is harder.
We have a mosque nearby and people pass by our door to attend namaz and we always greet each other, wish each other happy holiday greetings. I mean I have not felt any discrimination against the church so far; everything is fine.
We also have good relations with the local administration. If we have any problems, they always try to protect us. Intelligence service officers have come to us and told us to contact them in case of any provocations.Despite the non-uniform appearance of the bell tower, all bells sound virtually as they are supposed to. Small bells were brought from the temple in Kok Zhangak with only five parishioners left. We made big bells ourselves. “We casted the mantles by ourselves, checked the sound, then adapted the pitch. They have various lengths for a reason. Some are shorter, some are longer. We checked the sound of bells on the internet and made our bells sound like them,” Arbuzov said. The temple has ancient icons of St. Nicholas and St. Seraphim of Sarov. According to the rector, no one knows when and where from they appeared, but oldest parishioners said they were in the temple in the late 40s.
This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia»