Like most former Soviet republics, Kyrgyzstan spent its post-independence years hunting for a national identity separate from the one forced on it by Moscow, and that search included the resurgence of some very un-Slavic-sounding names. But today, with hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz depending on ties with Russia as their key source of income, bread-and-butter worries are trumping ideology. So it's out with the "uulus" and in with the "-ovs."
After independence in 1991, many Kyrgyz began dropping Russian suffixes like “-ov/-ova” from their last names. Under then-President Askar Akayev, nationalists saw the Kyrgyz suffixes “kyzy” and “uulu” (“daughter of” and “son of”) as important identity markers and began urging people to add them to a father’s first name, altogether dropping last names in the Western sense. At times, hospital staff did not give parents a choice, writing the new, aggrandized patronymics onto birth certificates.
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Alina Dalbaeva is a freelance reporter from Bishkek.