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Letters Johann Sievers from Kazakhstan.

Drive from Ayagoz to Zaysan.

"From the treats there were no other memories left, except the general pleasure and respect of the whole family for me. After lunch, I asked to cut goat meat with long strips, salt well and dry it in the sun to take it on the road to Nur-Zaysan”

Member of the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences Johann Erasmus Sievers.

Tours from Almaty to Katon-Karagay.

Johann Erasmus Sievers, a scientist, pharmacist and botanist, member of the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences, sent in the summer of 1793 to the scientist, friend and famous traveler Peter Simon Pallas.
Twelfth letter. From Bugas River, July 22, 1794.
Descent from Tarbagatai was easier than climbing. We walked the same road that we climbed, through the source and springs of the Bazaar. Soon enough, they reached the source of the Ayaguz River, descending along it, and reached the open steppe. On his right hand remained bare, meager on the grass, very poor looking Bor-Zhekpes.
All the Kyrgyz that we met on the way there have now moved out. We set up a night camp near Ayaguz in a very pleasant valley surrounded by bare granite and shale mountains. Already late at night, in the moonlight, two Kyrgyz approached us, possibly horse thieves, but, having satisfied their curiosity with the exposed, well-armed guard, they immediately left.
July 13. I again sent all the peasants, the conductor of Khayyal at his own request, camels with all their burdens to Ust-Kamenogorsk, in order to escort a planned expedition to the Chinese Empire, accompanied by one Cossack. I ordered my tent to be set up between the yurts of Zarembet, in which the friendly hosts immediately laid off the best Kyrgyz cats.
I invited a mother of this kind with all her many children and grandchildren to prepared tea. The old woman sat on my left, the translator on my right, and everyone else around. At tea, one of the men sang a monotonous song regarding our stay in a different world, to all who did not respect its merits, an evil and eternal curse was foretold.
Similar tunes, of which some are very long, Kyrgyz memorize verbally, because they do not know anything about reading and writing. If they need competent clerks, then they turn to Tashkent mullahs, who, counting on this service, appear in the steppe at a certain time.
They perform the circumcision ceremony for children, worship, take on the role of healers, they can also receive amulets, which are then sewn from a black velvet triangular or quadrangular case to clothes on the chest or on the back.
At the end of the tea party, I distributed 2 pounds of tobacco to men, and needles, thimbles, rings, jewelry (including for elegant harness), etc. - to women. I sprinkled white sugar on Zarembet's old wife. For these little things, which cost hardly a ruble, I received in return the love and recognition that only the Kyrgyz can do.
I met here the local hospitality in full. With a gesture of goodwill, I sent everyone to my yurts, left alone, stretched out to rest like a sultan, and considered the life of a nomad, which in such a simple way made him happy.
While he lives a carefree happy hours, the European tormented himself in the throes of vanity, eagerly seeks to gain respect, wealth, high position, etc., which takes all his long life to live in tension. A hundred times I had the thought of resigning, returning here to the peoples leading, I would like to say, a sinless life and having a real delicioso far niente (absolute independence - Italian.). 
Which exists among the Italian. But, unfortunately, I found that I myself was not a philosopher - the commitment to the European remained. Maybe this comes from parenting? I became completely limp. But my philosophizing put an end to the returning richest herds of goats, sheep, horses, bulls, cows, and especially camels, which totaled more than 500.
I went out of the tent and watched with interest the girls who were milking goats and sheep willingly allowing this, they were preliminarily tied, like horses of dragoons, to the long rope head to head. I drooled, I really wanted fresh milk. I quickly went to the yurt and returned with a bowl.
One of the girls immediately bored her full. Not for milk, but for beauty and hospitality, I brought her a present. However, by this, I sort of singled her out among others, for immediately four others also began to offer milk.
It was impossible to refuse these beautiful-hearted children, and I presented each with something as a reward for the fact that they would give me fresh milk in the morning and evening. At almost midnight, one of the sons of Zarembet called me to dinner.
When I entered the yurt, I found there a meeting of almost the entire volost. With three strangers who arrived today, there were 36 guests. In the custom of the Kirghiz to meet the arrived guest friend with the whole family on the street and certainly kill a ram or a goat, then at midnight.
Horse meat is eaten only at big festivities, a cow or a bull is cut even less often, they are more common when trading. As yesterday, July 14 passed in a joyful meal. But on July 15th, I again thought about botany. About 10 versts, opposite the previously mentioned Kyzyl-Tas, in the northeast, there are a chain of bare, iron-containing, low shale mountains.
I set them as the purpose of the excursion, and in honor of this I ordered dinner for the whole Zarembet family. I had the pleasure of recruiting three people as assistants to collect herbs. They collected Artemisian abrotanifoliam, Tanacetum tomentosum and tasted delicious Allium, which the Kyrgyz call Sarymsak.
Tired of the campaign, as soon as I got to the yurt, the meat arrived in time. From the treats there were no other memories left, except the general pleasure and respect of the whole family for me. After lunch, I asked to cut goat meat with long strips, salt well and dry it in the sun to take it on the road to Nur-Zaysan.
Meanwhile, some strangers arrived who, not far from the aul, pitched a tent made of red soldier's cloth. The matter of their arrival was to get a dowry for a young girl who was married to a boy, one of Zarembet’s grandchildren, he was only 12 years old.
This is customary for the Kyrgyz - it is very early to grasp (betrothed) children. Nobody asks for the wishes of the latter, because often with such events they still lie in the cradle. Parents only look at how wealthy the parties are. If the matchmaking took place, then, consider, and the wedding is resolved, however, without a bride and groom.
The adult bride must appear to be a virgin in the house of the bridegroom, otherwise she will face death in agony if her father does not agree to return the received halyards in double, or even four times. If one of the betrothed dies before adulthood, then the remaining one will be given to marry or marry the next of kin of the deceased.
If, in the next of kin, there is no corresponding applicant, then the kalym is returned. Such cases are very rare. The bride’s fee fluctuates, and if it’s not very poor, from 150 to 1000 rubles from the side of the husband is paid, usually by the mares.
Other animals are added to them, depending on how rich the party is. If at the time of the transaction there are prisoners of war, then in addition they will be given them as slaves. The bride is equipped on the road with a completely new yurt, bed, chest and all Kyrgyz mobility. Moreover, she should have clothes, pearls, red corals, woven with gold or silver lurex lace. Good or not, she should look prosperous, depending on how much her position and wealth allow her.
Thus, it follows from the above that gifts on both sides are approximately equal. At the first meeting, at an engagement in the presence of elders, during a feast, a verbal comparison is already being made, representing the parties to each other.
As the engaged couple reaches 6 - 8 - 15 years, and the health of young people gives hope for continued contacts, then steps are already being taken to pay for kalym, and the entire procedure for paying kalym for the wedding is completed. It was with this case that I met here.
The bride, 8 years old, lived 80 miles from here. The already mentioned “strangers” were proxies on her part or free advertisers. For the entire period of stay in the aul, the groom has no right to appear to them. Even more strictly, he is forbidden before the wedding to go to the bride's village and get acquainted with her. Is she good or nasty, smart or stupid, etc. - it should not matter to him, in this sense he should completely rely on fate.
Since these people are not Zigwarts, not Werthers, not Fredericks and Teresa (common names in Germany. - Approx. A.A.), etc., they in their natural structure completely feel happy. It is extremely rare that a dispute occurs between a husband and a wife, or rather, this is related to the category of unknown things.
Since the Kirghiz adopted polygamy, the discord between the wives probably happens, because they are still women. After lunch, several men went to accompany the departing guests. As soon as the men disappeared from sight, my tent was full of women.
These visits cost me some gifts, which is quite natural, but they helped me get to know the Kyrgyz people much closer. It seemed to me that they did not belong to the strict priestesses of the goddess Vesta. It may not be that difficult to get one of them for secret communication July 16th.
Today early in the morning the whole village and I with my tent moved 6 miles downstream of the Bugas river, to a very grassy lowland. A convoy of 40 loaded camels, several thousand horses, bulls, cows, sheep, goats and many men, women, girls, children, who, on this occasion, were dressed in the best clothes, would be a very beautiful and remarkable sight for a European.
The camels under the load were decorated with Bukhara-type carpets or bright Kyrgyz nightmares. Voiced bells were inscribed on their backs and sides in various decorations. What really touched me was the convoy of a rich widow whose husband died about 4 months ago.
This is the tradition of the Kyrgyz - to observe mourning for the deceased husband for a year. The mentioned widow was also in the best outfits, but above all she threw a long, black velvet, mourning dress. A boy was riding next to her, holding a small triangular black flag.
She walked in the middle, accompanied by three women, and delivered a nearly mournful speech. Companions helped her. Upon arrival at the intended place, each family separated, and after an hour and a half, 10 yurts were already standing in a semicircle.
Yurt Zarembet and my tent stood in the middle. I really was here - rara avis in terris nigroque simillima Cygno (a rare bird that looks like a swan - lat.). The device of the yurt was entirely given to women; meanwhile, men take care of herds, smash them, tie foals on long ropes.
The installation of the yurt goes in this order: first, as a basis, a frame is installed, which forms a circle of 4 - 5 sections. A section is cross-linked rails that remain pivotally sliding. They are about 6 feet high. The frame is then lined with reed mats of the same height (chiy).
Then, with the help of a wooden sternum, almost 5-shaped knitting needles are tied to a frame (shanyrak) with holes for knitting needles attached to the frame. Then nightmares are imposed on this entire stable rib-shaped skeleton, of which the lower ones are called tuyrlyk, and the upper ones are called esik.
Then all this is tied with ropes, and the structure is ready. There is no specific place for the doors, but for all yurts they are directed towards the center of the circle. Inside, strictly opposite the doors, chests and the main wealth are located.
On the right is a place for women and children, on the left is a place for men, and also a temporary one for nascent young animals, hunting kites and falcons, rifles, sabers and spears. There is no specific place for a bed, each mistress adheres to her own architecture, without studying the order in the halls of Rome or Florence, of course, and the difference between the Italian mansions and their dwellings is enormous.
My neighbor, the wife of Zarembet's second son, barely managed to install a yurt, as she had contractions. I was with a translator in a yurt and slept for half an hour, when they woke us up and asked us outside. It was not long to wait, and a little son was born.
Women from neighboring yurts took part in it, and everything came down quickly and in perfect order. And two days later, the woman in labor was already working and feeling good. My repeatedly mentioned Kalmyk, being a well-known person in the volost, gave the Kyrgyz woman 3 ell velvet, to which I added several pounds of tobacco for my husband.
He, as a return gift, brought fresh goat butter and a variant of sweet crumbling cheese (irimshik) to the yurt. This is the ceremony for all births. These honors were also awarded to other guests. To them, like us, all this was displayed in wooden bowls, in a mixed form, and we treated ourselves without any additives, sending everything directly into our mouths with our hands.
Soon the old Zarembet appeared at home. Tired of the road, he lay down for a while, then drank tea with me. He will give the newborn a name as the eldest of close relatives. And this will happen, accompanied by prayer. I have the honor of being
The thirteenth letter. From Irtysh, July 24.
July 17th. In the last letter I mentioned sweet, crumbled cheese, irimshik. By describing it and sour cheese (kurt) I want to start this letter. The order of preparation of the first is as follows: about 2 buckets of sheep’s milk are taken, of course, cow’s is quite suitable, but the sheep’s is better, and they are poured at a temperature close to the pair in a metal cauldron, under which only smoldering coals. Milk should not boil, but only warm enough.
On hand are the abomasum, the stomach of a milk lamb that did not know any other food than mother's milk. It is soaked in a wooden bowl in about 2 pounds of warm milk, then knead. This potion, if allowed to stand for a while, thickens like jelly. It is mixed in a charcoal cauldron. If all this is started in the evening, then the contents in the cauldron are left on fire for the night, in the morning a yellowish cheese crumb is formed. The evaporated milk is taken out and dried on a mat of reeds in a thin layer laid out, and it is served in special cases.
It has a sweet taste, but it is not suitable for long-term storage. Kurt, or sour cheese, is a food product that is taken on a long long journey when it is assumed that it will not be possible to use other food. Kyrgyz put 10 - 20 balls in a bottle (tursik) made of smoked leather and having a transparent appearance, fill it with water and hang it from the saddle.
The soaking kurt in shaking turns into an acid-salty mass that quenches both hunger and thirst. Women cook kurt, knocking down ayran, sour cow's milk before souring, in large wineskins (leather bags), mixing hearty additives, then boiling this mass in boilers, if a lot of whey is separated, then it is drained, although this is rare.
Upon reaching the desired density, the mass is made into balls and finally dried. Such cheeses and koumiss are the best products in steppe hikes. They never heat up in the sun. For irimshik, lactic acid does not allow this, and for kurt, isolation from hot air.
July 18th. Today's Sunday was remembered by the fact that I was attracted to the reception of great guests. The reason for this was given by those three Kyrgyz who arrived for a kalym (see the previous letter for July 15). Before lunch, a foal and two rams were scored. While dinner was being prepared in the tidy-up yurt of Zarembet, 60 participants of the holiday smoked tobacco, talked, drank koumiss from a five-square tetrahedral wooden tub solemnly set in the center.
On the vat stood a bowl decorated with brass stilettos and a deer horn. Her figure resembled a flower bowl with ornament. The koumiss, who was sitting around the guests, was brought in wooden bowls by two of their relatives' boys. Another relative poured it, and a relative, standing at the door, like a skilled sower, fed everything to the dastarkhan irimshik.
This procedure lasted for an hour and a half. Then they started to eat, it was served in three shifts, and, to the second and third dish, they started only when the guests were managing with the previous one. The horse's head was first served on a wooden tray.
Since this dish is the most respectable among the Asian nomads, and it is, as it were, a prelude to the main action, it is served to the elder. Then the other parts of the horse are fed. I, along with the translator, had the honor of sitting at the dastarkhan in a place of honor, next to Zarembet, directly against the doors.
The old man was glad that I was so energetically eating with them. I have not seen anything tastier than young, cellulose-colored horsemeat with granular fat, soft, from the upper part of the neck, where the mane originates.
It was from this most delicious part that the most recognized guests received a share. After that, I took up the kazy, which I ate with the same appetite as once a roast of veal. The second shift consisted of finely chopped horse meat and lamb, it was served in wooden plates, one for two.
On the third shift, the senior matchmakers were served a huge three-bowl bowl with finely chopped horse meat and lamb meat in a fat sauce made from boiled sour cream. In this abundance, the matchmaker launched his bare arm to the elbow and mixed everything.
Then he filled the cups brought to him with his hands, and they were served to everyone. Being already full, I just tried this dish and passed on. Eating fatty foods without bread and salt was not my business. Excessively much food was prepared, and therefore the matchmaker kept inviting guests to his asatu.
Our breadwinner, a prominent man and decently dressed, treating himself from his hands, did not forget himself. Such an imposition of food on the European did not inspire appetite, but in the tradition of the Kyrgyz it meant a respectful attitude to the owner.
The women who were located on the street near the yurt were sent food from all the dishes. In the company of men, women do not eat at the festive table. Only Zarembet's wife with an elderly relative this time received this right, and they sat behind the head of the clan.
On this one, as a rule, there is every resident of the aul - rich or poor, slave or master. The ban applies only to the groom. When the large bowl was exhausted, everyone was offered a bath for washing hands, and thus the meal ended. One of the elders said a long prayer, in which he, like all those present, stroked his beard every now and then.
They completed everything with the appeal: "Ismila Rahma Rahim." Listening carefully in utter silence to what was being said, everyone held ahead of themselves, at chest level, with their palms facing each other so that the tips of their middle fingers were in contact.
The same prayer preceded the meal. After that, the pipes were removed again - the guests smoked, joked, talked respectably and returned to their homes with full bellies. In the evening I had other news. As soon as I managed to get into bed, a lot of girls and women marched past my tent into a neighboring yurt.
After a while, a song spread over the steppe. I wanted to know what this means, got up and headed for the yurt with the translator. Women sat tight around the fire and sang ritual songs. In response, 15 men from the yard tried.
The song "duel" was becoming more and more heated: the dignity of the groom was signed by women, while men praised the bride and family life. Along with the song, one of the singers recited trying to outline the future happiness of the family. In one and the other half of the choir there was a soloist who played the role of a bride or groom.
They stood out not only for the fact that they sang, played the game, but also for their elegant clothes and discretion. The women in the yurt clearly did not want us. The reason was that we distracted, the girls looked at us, giggled, whispered and laughed, forgot about their duty to sing men.
Since our presence spoiled the general ceremony, we were soon shown the door. So we ended up at the men's meeting. Songs were sung until the morning, in them, in fact, was the whole course of the holiday. July 19. Today was a debate about kalym: the horses of the matchmakers were either not young enough, now not well-fed, then there were just a few of them, etc.
In the end, the father of the groom, full of annoyance and impatience, announced: go on all four sides with your bride, my son is still so young that I have time to pick up a girl for him. At these words, the second side softened, and the party took place on the condition that the groom’s father would give 70 horses for the future bride, for the most part mares, 4 camels, 9 ales of soldier's cloth and some other trifles, and all together would amount to about 600 rubles.
July 20. Today, early in the morning, the matchmakers finally departed with a kalym without any even the simplest ceremony. 30 mares, it was decided to pick up for the wedding itself. I, in turn, made preparations for departure.
As a guide, I received a very friendly, calm old Kyrgyz, who, with several men, went back to his homeland, to Chinese land. His name was Sandyk.
21 July. Very early, I and the whole village left the parking lot and went 15 miles downstream of the Bugas. Soon, I noticed a beautifully dressed young woman who only three days after arriving here at night due to the fact that she married a man from the Zarembet family.
She did not drive, like many women, camel-laden, and rode on horseback, accompanied by two persons of her gender, on a good gelding covered with shabraka with large brown-red tassels along the edges. Her saddle and blankets were good enough.
She herself was dressed in a black velvet dress trimmed with gold, on her chest there were a lot of beads, corals, jewelry in the form of snake heads, embroidery. Jewelry on the head was covered with a veil hanging from the face to the knees.
In the first days after the wedding, according to the customs of the Kyrgyz, it is customary that the bride, young women, married, appear everywhere in such outfits, especially when changing their place of residence, which, in my observation, is also always a great holiday.
In addition to the woman just mentioned, another person stood out as a beautiful figure - the daughter of the eldest son Zarembet, dressed in pink silk. Many girls rode with long peaks and periodically let their horses to the side in a furious gallop...

"Essays on the history of the Seven Rivers." Naturalist writer, photo artist, local historian Alexander Lukhtanov. "Kazakh steppe of the beginning of the XIX century through the eyes of an inquisitive eyewitness."