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“We ran from bullets and died from the weather.”

By October 23, 2020No Comments
Film of the Zharylgan-Too memorial

In the mountains of Issyk-Kul, a memorial installation was erected in memory of the victims of the 1916 uprising. The installation on Mount Zharylgan-Too, on the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, is rather unusual – it moves.

“During the wind, the ropes will ‘walk’,  and during strong winds, the image will simply disappear, ” says one of the  installation’s creators, Altyn Kapalova.

The 1916 uprising was the largest revolt against the Russian Empire. Then the peoples of Central Asia, driven to despair by colonial oppression, extortion and humiliation, rose to the liberation struggle against the oppressors.

Punitive detachments tried to suppress the uprising, and hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz were forced to flee to China in the urkun (exodus).

Perhaps as many as 40% of the ethnic Kyrgyz population died during or in the aftermath of the revolt.

The installation’s memorial tablet states, ‘In the mountains between Kyrgyzstan and China are the bodies of thousands of people who were  order to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones.’

The Kyrgyz had to face great difficulties on the way to China – glaciers, precipices and famine. “Where it was very high, it was impossible to stop, because there was nothing to breathe, and there was no strength to walk, and people simply froze in the mountains, leaving the children with one piece of bread,” says Kapalova.

In 2016, a memorial to the victims of the uprising was erected in the Ata-Beyit complex. In the same year, a monument was erected in Karakol, embodying the moment people crossed the mountain pass.

To find out more about the urkun, you may wish to watch this YouTube film: Semirechye on Fire. A Story of Rebellion