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The Kirghiz of Afghanistan

rai dws kirghiz of afghanistanSeries Disappearing World Series
Director Charlie Nairn, Nazif Shahrani
Country/Production UK
Release 1975
Length 51 mins
Format Colour / DVD or VHS / PAL / All region
Location Afghanistan / Asia
Ethnic Group Kirghiz

Order No RAI-200.294
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The Kirghiz of Afghanistan are a group of some 2,000 pastoralists living on a bleak mountain plateau in a narrow isthmus of land between the borders of the Soviet Union and China. For nine months of the year heavy snows cover the ground, which was formerly used only by the Kirghiz for their summer pastures before the borders were closed, virtually terminating the contact of this group with other Kirghiz communities. Although the film shows dramatically the ten-day journey which lowland traders must make to reach this remote people, as well as scenes of a Kirghiz wedding and the traditional Central Asian sport of `buzkashi' – demonstrating the horse-riding skills of the people – there is very little about the pastoral economy and society of the ordinary Kirghiz. The main reason for this is that the film focuses on the remarkable wealth and authority of their leader – the Khan – by far the wealthiest pastoralist on the plateau. Ninety-five Kirghiz families work for him as shepherds and herders. The film's principal concern is to show the way in which the Khan wields his power (using interviews with him and illustrative scenes) which thus turns The Kirghiz into a study of oppressive paternalism in this remote corner of the world. There is, however, some disagreement over the interpretation of the Khan's role (see correspondence in RAIN listed below). R. Dor, 1975. Contribution à l étude des Kirghiz du Pamir Afghan. Publication Orientalistes de France, Paris. R. Dor and C. Naumann, 1978. Die Kirghisen des Afghanischen Pamir. Graz, Austria. N. Shahrani, 1976. `Kirghiz Pastoralists of the Afghan Pamirs', Folk, Vol. 18, pp. 129–143. N. Shahrani, 1979. The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan. University of Washington Press, Seattle. A. Singer, 1976. `Problems of Pastoralism in the Afghan Pamirs'. Asian Affairs, Vol. 63, Pt. 2, pp. 156–160. N. Tapper, 1976. Review of the film. RAIN, 13, p.6. See also correspondence in RAIN, 16, pp.10–11.

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