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00:42 | Aug 07 | 2012

Ysyakh, the Culmination of Revival

The festival integrates the key values and spiritual principles of the Sakha people.

This year Yakutia will celebrate the Ysyakh national holiday marking the 380th anniversary of its integration into Russia and the foundation of the city of Yakutsk. Read on about the concept of the festival.

National Holiday Philosophy
Ysyakh, the kumis (beverage made from fermented mare’s milk) festival of the world’s most northern horse breeders, the Sakha people, is a part of the cultural heritage of the Turks, who were cattle breeders. As the most important holiday, Ysyakh has integrated the key values and spiritual principles of the Sakha people. This fertility festival, celebrated at the beginning of the year, brings together the Sun, the Sky, and the Earth worship features and symbolizes creation and revival. The holiday is celebrated to give thanks to the benevolent deities, aiyy, and the Nature’s guardian spirits and it draws together the past, present and ideal future.

The holiday developed on the basis of both material and spiritual resources, thus molding the unified national consciousness of the Sakha people. Its principal component was the traditional culture and folklore as a way of perceiving the world and creating. Throughout the centuries, the holiday was the source of making the oral folklore thrive. The concept of the festival as of a spiritual unifying force and establishment of peace and harmony was embodied in major folklore works.

Ysyakh National Holiday: Modern Vision
Ysyakh, the Yakut most important traditional holiday, became a public holiday in the Republic in 1991 with its date determined by the Decree of the first President of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Ysyakh takes place in several stages, starting with local settlements and ulus (district) centers, and culminating with celebration in Tuymaada, a sacred valley in the area of Us Khatyn (Three Birches). Every year the festival includes important dates and events of the Sakha people and Yakutia history of both international and local significance, proving the concept of Ysyakh as of a living, breathing tradition.

In 2012, the Yakut Ysyakh festival commemorates the 380th anniversary of Yakutia’s integration into Russia and the foundation of the city of Yakutsk. The unity and harmony of the various ethnic groups living in the Republic should become the core symbol of Ysyakh 2012.

This is when one of the key festival’s features is brought into focus – Ysyakh contributes to the multi-faceted dialogue among all different cultures living in the region. The seamless integration of Ysyakh into the multicultural map of Yakutia has been demonstrating the emotional power of the festival, which can bring together people from a wide variety of nationalities, religious, political, and social backgrounds, of different age and gender groups, for over twenty years.

All Ysyakh participants share the opinion that the opening ceremony, especially the ancient ritual of sprinkling kumis for the aiyy deities and local spirits, has benevolent and protective significance. It fully corresponds with the ideals of peace and friendship between nations and of social unity and harmony.

The essential characteristic of the festival is the traditional Sakha circle dance, osuokhai. It is thought of not only as something that embodies unity and continuity of time and generations, but it gives an opportunity to feel belonging to the community of the Yakut people, united by the centuries of living together and traditions of tolerance, neighborliness, and partnership. Celebrating Ysyakh can spark interest in the history of Yakutia and contribute to cultural development of the multiethnic society of the Republic.

A strategic objective of the Sakha Republic is preserving the cultural heritage of the Ysyakh festival, i.e. developing cultural values and improving moral and physical well-being of the multiethnic society of Yakutia. Ysyakh 2012, which will take place before the V International Children’s Games, should focus on moral and physical perfection.

A key part of the festival is entertainment and games. The symbolic meaning of contests and competitions that Ysyakh features is the eternal struggle between old and new, good and evil.

The symbols of Ysyakh 2012 should be represented in festive events through demonstrating respect for the history and cultural traditions of multiethnic Yakutia and involvement of every person in the cultural life of the society, which gives people memories of the past, the sense of the present, and confidence in the future.

Ysyakh and Yakutsk
Today, the practice of celebrating and reenacting the Ysyakh national holiday in the urban context, specifically its living cultural traditions, moral and symbolic values, is fully used when similar holidays of other Russian regions are re-created.

The Ysyakh of Tuymaada celebration that took place in Yakutsk in 2009 and 2010 received a Grani Teatra Mass (The Facets of the Theater of the Masses) Russian National Award, winning the nomination for Best National Holiday.

Ysyakh of Tuymaada will have been celebrated for the fifteenth time in 2012 so the ceremonial part of the celebration will include new features in line with the concept of the upcoming festivities.

For example, according to the festive traditions of the nation, special places have always been designated to celebrate Ysyakh and considered special, sacred areas. That is why in the late 1990s, the area of Us Khatyn, not far from the region’s capital, became the place for holding the main celebrations of Ysyakh. The Ysyakh architectural complex, which was constructed in Us Khatyn, seamlessly fits into the cultural and natural landscape of Yakutsk and the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) as a whole. This is the place where Yakutsk residents and visitors celebrate Ysyakh every year. According to the concept of the festival, the symbol of the Friendship of Nations should be represented with an architectural structure of the mythological sacred tree joining the three worlds together, Aar Kuduk Cherchi Mas.

The Sky, the Earth, and the Water are the symbols of Nature, which during Ysyakh represent the symbols of the future, present, and the world of ancestors. Therefore, for the first time the opening ceremony of the upcoming Ysyakh (the ceremony of thanksgiving to the benevolent deities and spirits of Nature by sprinkling kumis) will be performed by three algyschyts (algyschyt is a person who sings prayers, algys).

This year of 2012 is the 25th anniversary of the Osuokhai Society, which will be celebrated with the large-scale osuokhai circle dance involving several thousand people. It will be a special message of peace and harmony. The skills of osuokhai singers, who have a kind of contest of their own, will bring festival participants together.