Safeguarding practices and rituals in sacred sites in Kyrgyzstan

Ritual of candle-lighting in a sacred site, Kyrgyzstan © UNESCO

In November 2018, UNESCO approved an international assistance request from Kyrgyzstan to develop an inventory and safeguarding measures concerning pilgrimages to sacred sites and performance of ritual practices. Those have been an integral part of Kyrgyz peoples’ cultural identity and heritage for centuries. However, they are threatened by the impact of urbanization, technological advancements, the marginalisation of indigenous belief systems, and the generation gap between elders and youth.

Implemented in collaboration with the Aigine Cultural Research Centre (CRC), the project focused on community-based inventorying, regional capacity building with the involvement of international ICH experts, and the preparation of a unified national inventory and safeguarding measures of sacred sites and rare ritual practices in Kyrgyzstan. At this stage, 1,233 sacred sites and 36 rituals practices were identified.

With the implementation of this project, activities and workshops enabled communities and stakeholders to reflect on their living heritage practices and strengthened their safeguarding capacities with necessary tools, experience, and knowledge. Meanwhile, the development of a National Manual on Safeguarding Pilgrimage and Ritual Practices (NMSPRP) will serve as a practical tool for the integration of living heritage in education and help to ensures intergenerational transmission.

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