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154, Kievskaya str., Bishkek, 720002, Kyrgyz Republic
PhD in History, Associate Professor, Department of Manas Studies, I. Arabaev Kyrgyz State University
An outstanding monument of oral folk art, the Kyrgyz heroic epic “Manas” occupies a major place in the study of world folklore. “Manas” is a unique phenomenon in the oral poetic tradition; the longest epic in the world, it replaced belles-lettres, theater, and history for an unlettered people. The epic contains over half a million lines of poetry. Its main content is the exploits of the hero Manas in protecting the Kyrgyz land from foreign invaders. “Manas” was popular not only among the residents of Kyrgyzstan, but was also widespread among the Kyrgyz living in China. The epic has come down to our day thanks to the art of talented storytellers from the folk called “manaschi.” History has preserved the names of more than 100 of these epic storytellers. In China, the most remarkable was the great manaschi Zhusup Mamai (1918–2014), who narrated the most complete and most famous version of the epic, consisting of eight parts, which was published in China in eighteen volumes. This article is dedicated to this outstanding storyteller, who stands on a par with other great Kyrgyz bards like Toktogul, Keldibek, Balyk, Choike, Sagymbai Orozbakov, and Sayakbai Karalaev. The article gives a brief description of the epic “Manas,” the oldest Kirghiz oral monument, and examines the life and work of Zhusup Mamai, who knew not only the classic version of the epic — the trilogy “Manas,” “Semetey,” and “Seitek” — but also preserved the story of five generations that descended from Manas.
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