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Kyrgyzstan Celebrates National Hat Day

The new holiday reveals patriotic sentiments in a country where national traditions are on the upswing.

6 March 2018

Kyrgyzstan marked its annual national hat day yesterday. People took to the streets to celebrate and honor the popular national symbol, the four-paneled hat, or kalpak.


Typically made of white felt, the hat symbolizes “the peaks of the magnificent Kyrgyz mountains, forever snow-capped,”  Topchubek Turgunaliyev, former adviser to the Kyrgyz president, told AFP.


But the festivities this year were overshadowed by a scandal. At a dog show in December, a young woman put a kalpak on her dog, causing an uproar on social media and cries of indignation from patriotic politicians and celebrities, according to RFE/RL.


“Tomorrow a pig will wear a kalpak and the national flag will be used as cat litter,” said Ryskeldi Mombekov, parliamentarian for the ruling Social Democratic Party.


In a reaction to the dog scandal, lawmakers have proposed legislation to protect the status of the national headgear. If the legislation is adopted, the kalpak will become an official state symbol, on equal footing with the national anthem and the national flag, reports.


The new law would also require state officials, including the president and his ministers, to wear the kalpak when on official duty.


Since the popular uprising in 2010 which evicted then-President Kurmanbek Bakiev from office, Kyrgyz nationalism has become more assertive, AFP reported in December. That same year, hundreds of ethnic Uzbeks died when communal violence broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan, where the Uzbek minority is concentrated.


In 2011, seven sheep were ritually slaughtered by lawmakers in parliament to exorcise the evil spirits of Kyrgyzstan’s troubled past.


Parliament voted last June to make 5 March an official day of the kalpak and other national dress.




  • A British national was briefly detained and could have faced five years in prison two years ago for offending Kyrgyz standards of decency in a Facebook post where he likened a traditional horse meat sausage to a “horse penis.” The employee of the foreign-owned Kumtor gold mine was ordered to leave the country.


  • UNESCO in 2017 ushered another Kyrgyz tradition into its “Intangible Cultural Heritage” list: the game of Kok Boru, described by the National Post as part polo, part basketball. The game pits two teams on horseback, only instead of a ball, the stuffed skin of an animal is used.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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