The Kyrgyz people are a Turkic group living in Central Asia. Outside of their homeland of Kyrgyzstan, with its hard-won independence, there are large diaspora communities in Uzbekistan, China, Russia, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. Afghanistan and Ukraine also have small diaspora communities. Among the most famous Kyrgyzis are author Chyngyz Aytmatov and Kasym Tynystanov, a poet, politician, and scientist.
Some of the children at Mrs. Brezhneva’s Kyiv orphanage in my Russian historicals are Kyrgyz, kidnapped from their parents during the Russian Civil War and early years of the USSR. Five of the forty children surreptitiously taken to Isfahan, Iran during the Great Terror in 1937 are Kyrgyz.
After WWII, Inga Savvina’s grandparents, young aunt Nelya, and adopted cousin Karla take a trip to the beaches of Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. Inga, who defects in 1942, mourns the fact that she won’t be able to take the trip with them, but she has little choice but to leave for first Shanghai and then America while that small window of opportunity exists.
Kyrgyz is written with Cyrillic, as is to be expected after so many decades of Russification and occupation. Traditionally, the Arabic alphabet was used, and then in 1927, the Roman alphabet replaced it. In the 1930s, Cyrillic was forced upon the Kyrgyz people. However, in China, Kyrgyz is still written in Arabic script.
Kyrgyz Cyrillic uses all the letters found in Russian Cyrillic, with the addition of Ң (NG), Ү (Ü), and Ө (Ö). The letter Ж is also transliterated as J instead of ZH, and the letter X used to be transliterated as H instead of KH. Since 1938, it’s been rendered as X. Additionally, Ц may be transliterated as Ţ instead of TS; Ч may be Q (in Chinese), C, or Ç; Ш is Ş instead of SH; Щ is Şç instead of SHCH (XQ in Chinese); and Ы is I instead of Y.
Due to the long period of Russification, Kyrgyz surnames frequently have the familiar -ov(a), -in(a), and -(y)ev(a) endings. Like the surnames of other Russified peoples, they tend towards a native twist, with influence from Turkic, Persian, and Arabic names. Sample surnames include Abdulov, Abdulin, Aytmatov, Beshimov, Usenov, Nogoyev, Ibragimov, Maldybayev, Bakiyev, Begaliyev, Isanov, Akayev, and Otunbayev.
Jyrgal, Zhyrgal (Happiness)
Altynai, Altynay (Golden Moon)
Ayjan, Aijan, Ayzhan, Aizhan (Moon soul)
Cholpon (Venus [the planet])
Damira (To give peace)
Gulnara (Rose pomegranate)
Tazagul (Pure rose)
Ulara (Snowcock [a type of bird])
Almazbek (Diamond master)
Arstanbek (Lion master)
Aybek, Aibek (Moon master)
Azamat (Majesty, glory)
Bakytbek (Happiness master)
Chynghyz, Chingiz, Chinghiz (Universal) (Genghis)
Jumabek, Zhumabek (Friday chieftain)
Manas (The eponymous hero of Kyrgyzstan’s national epic, 20 times longer than The Odyssey and one of the world’s longest epics)
Myrzakan (Prince sovereign)
Rahmatillo (Mercy of God)
Sukhrab (Red water or Shining, illustrious)
Taalay (Happy, lucky)
Tursunbek (Long life; traditionally given to a child whose parents want to live to old age)
Urinboy (definitely not a name I’d recommend in an Anglophone country!)
Yasyr (To be rich)