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Kyrgyzstan: A Hat May Become a National Symbol

(Feb. 22, 2018) On January 8, 2018, Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament, the Zhogorku Kenesha, registered and opened for public discussion the recently introduced Bill on Recognizing the Traditional Headgear Ak kalpak as a Cultural Symbol. (Bill No. 6-220/18 of January 5, 2018, on Recognizing the Traditional Headgear Ak kalpak as a Cultural Symbol, KENESH.KG (Parliament’s website) (Jan. 8, 2018) (in Russian).)

According to the Bill, the white felt hat traditionally used by elderly Kyrgyz men will be recognized as a national symbol of the country together with the flag, anthem, and coat of arms. The Bill provides for this hat to become a mandatory part of attire for all Kyrgyz government officials during official foreign visits in order to “promote and preserve Kyrgyz traditions and culture.” The Bill emphasizes the duty of the President, Speaker of the Parliament, Prime Minister, and Members of the Cabinet to wear the Ak kalpak at formal events. A special provision of the Bill applies to Kyrgyz athletes, scholars, cultural figures, and exhibitors participating in international events at home and abroad. To be in compliance with the law, they must carry the Ak kalpak at official ceremonies. The Bill obligates the Cabinet of Ministers to draft rules for manufacturing, selling, importing, wearing, and carrying the Ak kalpak. It prescribes that only natural felt with organic wool can be used in producing the Ak kalpak. Kyrgyz penal legislation is to be amended to include punishments for offenses against the Ak kalpak. (Id. arts. 3 & 4.)

The Bill also designates March 5 as Ak kalpak Day, a holiday for celebrating Kyrgyz national spirit and cultural heritage. (Id. art. 2.) According to the Bill’s drafters, national caps exist in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. (Id., Justification for Adopting Bill No. 6-220/18.)