Kyrgyzstan: A Goat’s Worst Nightmare

Posted on 21 April 2011

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Rejoice! "Evil spirits" have now been banished from Kyrgyzstan's parliament

Kyrgyzstan is a weirdly wonderful place, but I don’t think it’s to everyone’s taste.

It has been called a number of things – a Central Asian Switzerland, the real homeland of Santa Claus, the one democracy Central Asia has to offer.

But it should really be called: “a goat’s worst nightmare”. Read on…

Today news came that in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament – the Жогорку Кеңеш (Žogorku Keňesh) – seven rams were lined up and slaughtered ahead of a parliamentary session.

Why? Good question.

The short answer is “in order to rid Parliament of its evil spirits”.

Now, Kyrgyzstan is no stranger to bloody revolutions. They happen about every five years – with incredible regularity, as if someone’s planning it.

Last year Kyrgyzstan experienced a bloody uprising between various ethnic divisions and loyalties in the country (which some people wrongly simplify to Kyrgyz versus Uzbeks). Hundreds of people died – and thousands fled or were left homeless.

The sacrifices were performed in order to commemorate the fallen – and to drive out the evil spirits that those people’s blood had left on the place. The bad vibes had been blamed for heightened tensions between politicians, who had even physically fought each other in the chamber.

The politicians even forked out for the ceremony themselves: $15 each, with the meat and leftover money going to feed the elderly and orphans. Quite a fanciful tale.

News agencies reported:

After the ceremony finished and ensuing prayers were said, the deputies returned to their usual lawmaking duties.

With a vague swathe of the population hanging dangerously near to the breadline – they certainly have their work cut out.

Apart from goat being a staple meat product in Kyrgyzstan, that’s not the end of the goats’ woes.

Yes, it was scary taking this picture. The horses were about to trample me.

When I was in Kyrgyzstan in 2009, I was filming something call kök-böru – a type of polo, but instead of playing with a ball – there’s a goat carcass. Nice, right?

Have a look at the photo – they have to dump the goat onto one of two goal mounds.

To be fair – the game is a big, traditional event for Kyrgyz communities. The goat is sacrificed – by slitting the throat – then the head is lopped off, the legs shortened and the carcass sewn up.

It’s then thrown around a field – until someone wins, they get bored, or the carcass disintegrates in the sweltering summer heat.

Then, after it’s been “tenderised”, it’s eaten.

For the people it’s fantastic – nothing’s wasted, people get fed and exercised, and traditions are upheld.

I’m not so sure the goats enjoy it as much…

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