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Rural Clubs: Vanishing Regional Culture of Kyrgyzstan

Cultural centres or rural clubs that used to be cultural centres in the regions of Kyrgyzstan are now in deplorable condition and are not used as intended.


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The monument to the twice Hero of Socialist Labour Khaitakhun Tashirov, a star that reminds us of the USSR… There was a time when cultural parties, concerts and other events were held in this oriental-style building. The cultural centre used to be the centre of recreation of Savai village, Kara Suu district of Osh region. 

The building that used to hold big concerts is now in deplorable condition. According to the Ministry of Culture, Kyrgyzstan has 699 cultural centres, including 14 urban, 40 district, 645 rural, which are supervised by local governments. 90 per cent of rural clubs are now ramshackle places. 

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Rows of old seats, a wooden wall and honorary certificates of former kolkhoz activists covered with layers of dust remind of the past active cultural life. 

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The decaying sight of the building covered with dust and web, cracks on the ceiling and crumbling paint manifest its critical condition. The only guest in the premises is the wind that penetrates through broken windows.

The village of Erkin, which is 12 km away from Savai, has even more deteriorated local rural club. The façade of the building still bears the date of its construction – 1956.

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According to locals, the cultural centre was operating until the late 90s. The building turned into a monument to the past active cultural life in the last 10 years.

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There was a time when concerts and festivities were held here, and now all the hall and the scene are occupied with cabbage. Not so much cabbage was left by the end of winter. However, the premises are not intended for such purposes, so the air is constantly filled with the putrefactive smell. 

Gulnara Chyrakova accommodated a small space of former booking office for living. The woman has been living here for the last two years. After she lost her husband and was left outdoors, local residents placed her here. 

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Gulnara sells cigarettes and other trifles at a local market, and gets back here in the evening.

“Every day I walk here from the market. I get very tired and want to sleep. At 2-3 a.m. drunk people start to make noise, fight in the club building. In the past, Alina Zhetigenova and Kyz Burak band used to perform here. The club couldn’t contain so many people and they had to stay outside and listen. Now no one is interested in the cultural centre,” the woman said.    

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No one has funds or capacities to recover and repair the cultural centre – local administration doesn’t receive grants from the national budget. 

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The last event that took place in the cultural centre of Kyzyl Bel village, Batken district, was 10 years ago. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the building was left unattended – no money was allocated for repair, and the furniture was either destroyed or stolen.

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According to the head of the village Abdilla Isakov, now all cultural activities are held either outdoors or in the school building as there are no other places.

“Its condition used to be satisfactory. During this time, no money was allocated for its repair, so the building became a ramshackle. It has become more difficult for me to hold any cultural activity or public gathering in the village lately. We have to hold events either in the apricot garden or in the school hall,” Isakov said.

Local kenesh deputy Mastura Nadirova used to organise cultural events in this rural club. She said it was built back in 1980 and all events were held here. 

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“When I was young, the club was in good condition. We, young activists of our village, held various cultural, entertaining events, especially Nooruz, in the club. But the club was left unattended over time,” Nadirova said.

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The population of Kyzyl Bel village is more than seven thousand people. Locals have raised the question of recovery of the rural club repeatedly, but the issue is not solved yet. The building in its current condition cannot be repaired – it should be demolished and the new one should be constructed, said the head of the village. However, there is no money for that. 

The cultural centre in the Novopokrovka village of Issyk Ata district, Chui region, was demolished last year. It was built in late 50s. Now there’s only the monument to the residents of Novopokrovka who died during the war.

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The building of the rural club also contained a library, hobby groups for kids; weddings used to be held there. The head of local administration reported the work done during the year and every year they celebrated the Victory Day. During election campaigns, an office of the central election committee was placed here.

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Barigul Telesheva has been living in Novopokrovka for 50 years. According to her, the cultural centre was a place where all villagers gathered during holidays, and a fur tree was placed here during the New Year for kids.

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2012 was the last year when holidays were celebrated in the club. Right after the meeting, the roof collapsed with no victims. The building was sealed and in 2019 it was completely demolished.

The head of local aiyl okmotu, Almaz Toronbekov, said they have announced a bid for the development of this area. According to him, a rural park will be here by May 9, 2020. The budget does not provide for the new club building.

The cultural centre was opened in Dzhety Oguz village of Issyk Kul region in 1950. Since then, according to the local resident Taalai, “the village started its cultural life.”

Concerts and dance parties, elections and party meetings were held in the cultural centre. Later on, motion picture equipment was installed here and they started showing movies.

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The cultural centre was operating properly just before the collapse of the USSR. The staff of the centre were the director, art director, cleaner, guard and coal heaver.

“After everyday work, villagers used to come to the cultural centre, young people attended dance parties, locals came here to watch movies, artists gave concerts here,” Taalai recalls.

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Back in the 90s, the rural club was still operating, but steadily fell in disrepair. There were fewer employees, the building was not heated anymore, the boiler house was demolished, and the building became ramshackle. In 2006, funds were allocated to repair the building from outside, but the contractor didn’t finish his work.

“Locals repaired the building from inside at their own cost. The contractor didn’t finish repairs from the outside as he ran out of money!  The back wall was left unplastered. The work was done badly by construction workers,” Alymkul Sarykeev, head of the cultural centre, said. 

Later on, a local kenesh deputy wanted to produce potato chips there and brought potato for storage to the cultural centre. However, the walls cracked because of the dampness in the room where potato was stored.

The building was built without the base, and the walls were made of adobe bricks. All the precipitation water runs under the building because of the improper roof and lack of the water-discharge system. The building was found in critical condition and there is no money for construction of the new one.

In October 2019, the monument to Birnazar Biy was installed at the entrance of the village. Sponsors allocated more than 100 thousand dollars to its construction. Locals complain that it would be better to build the cultural centre named after Birnazar Biy, thus eternising the memory of this person.


This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.

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