When Kyrgyzstan (Map) joined the Soviet Union in 1920, the people were forced to abandon the nomadic life and settle on collective farms. A great number of Kyrgyz perished or fled to China during this period.
During the 70 years of Soviet rule, Kyrgyz came to consider themselves Soviet citizens, and sometimes incorporated Soviet emblems into their Tush Kyiz to symbolize how Kyrgyzstan had embraced Soviet socialism. Sometimes saimachy would embroider the symbol of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic onto their Tush Kyiz, with the slogan, “Proletariats of the world, Unite!” embroidered in both Kyrgyz and Russian. The Soviet star is often seen as well as the hammer and sickle of the Communist worker. These symbols are found on those Tush Kyiz that were made to be on display to celebrate some state event. Along with the Soviet symbols, these Tush Kyiz also contain the Tree of Life and Mandalas that symbolize ancient Kyrgyz philosophy.
The Tush Kyiz embroideries were a family tradition among these mountain people for centuries, but among the last three generations of women, the tradition has completely died out. The Russians discouraged ethnic arts among their citizens, encouraged women to be modern Soviets and develop more worldly skills. Tush Kyiz, which had always symbolized a family’s connection with their ancient culture, were no longer relevant to the modern Soviet citizen. They have not been made for 40 years.
Today, Tush Kyiz are found more often in museums than in family homes, as young people have abandoned traditional lifestyles and become more urban. Tush Kyiz symbolized deference to tribal life and to traditions that have given way to more western ways. Most Kyrgyz today do not even understand the symbolism within their grandmothers’ embroideries. So Tush Kyiz have fallen out of favor with the younger generations in Kyrgyzstan, and these magnificent embroideries are rapidly vanishing from Kyrgyz homes. The Tush Kyiz created by generations past are works of extraordinary beauty and craftsmanship, now a vanished tradition and a lost art. Each one is a unique work of art that speaks of the mystical philosophy of an ancient nomadic civilization.