Altay festivals - El-Oiyn

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        El–Oiyn is a national holiday, which gathers together all Altai people and even guests from abroad. Translating from the Altai language, “el” means “people” and “oiyn” means “game, competition”, literally the holiday name is translated as “people’s games”. The Festival takes place once in 2 years. In 2012 it will happen in Ongudai region from 7 to 9, July.

        The bright idea of celebrating of this holiday, rebirthing traditions and customs of the Altai people, came to Semen Sergeevich Tuzachinov, who was the head of the Ongudai district in the memorable 1988. The holiday was originally nomadic, and, despite the tradition of its holding  was formed quite recently, the geography of its movement has already embraced every corner of the Altai Mountains. But in the end, after making it a republican holiday, El–Oiyn returned to its place of birth – to the village of Elo, Ongudai district. Paying a tribute to the Russian culture, the Government of the Altai Republic decides to alternate El–Oiyn holiday with the Russian holiday “Springs of Altai”, taking place in Ust-Cox, so that each of them is held once in two years.

Preparations for the celebration are organized in advance: the Altaians still believe that every place has its own guardian spirit, so before the holiday starts experienced and respected shamans come to this place and sanctify the land, where the event will take place.

El-Oiyn is local "Olympic games"

        The very first idea was that El–Oiyn would be the local “Olympic Games”, including national kinds of sports, but later the significance of the holiday increased to the revival of the Altai cultural and historical traditions. Today during the holiday one can see the performances of folk groups in all dialects of the Altai language, dramatized shows, including historical plays based on heroic legends and myths. The fact that the actors are dressed in national costumes makes a particular effect – it gives the impression that the time has turned back and you are not in the 21st century anymore.

Altai men are truly powerful men

         This fact is evidenced by the national sports. Perhaps, only the most courageous men can participate in such competitions. The most popular contest is the fight “kuresh” - a belt-wrestling. It can have several types: throwing over you with the help of the feet in the fall (achy kuresh), hands’ fight (koldomdosh kuresh), fight with ankle trips (kuresh tag). There is a federation of this kind of sports in Altai; this fight normally goes on according to certain rules and in different weight categories. The fighter is declared the winner, if he lifted his opponent above the waist or if the opponent touched the ground with any part of his body.

Another kind of test of Altai athletes’ steel muscles is “Kodurge Tash”- lifting a stone. The difficulty is that you need not just to lift a stone, but also to throw it over the horse’s back. The winner is the one who threw it further. The test on eyes’ vigilance, movements’ clarity and nerves’ strength happens during the game “Kamchia”, where the participant should knock down the skittles, standing next to each other, one by one, with the whip. Endurance is tested in running up the hill, or running with the rider, sitting on the runner’s back “Tonzhon Dyugyurish”.

         Strength isn’t all that an Altaian man should have. A sharp mind and logic should also be his essential qualities. To test a puzzle the game “Shatra” was invented – the Altai checkers, requiring attentiveness, concentration and sophisticated mind. In some of the heroic legends the heroes used to play checkers instead of a duel. Nowadays the victory in “Shatra” still brings honor and respect.

         However, the crown of the holiday and the most exciting contest is “Emdik Uredish” – a horse competition, where the winner wins a car. The essence of this “rodeo” is that at first the participant and his two assistants must run into the corral with young unbroken horses, catch one, take it out, tie it to a pillar and put a saddle and a bridle on it. The participant has to spend 5 minutes for it. Then he must ride a horse and stay on it at least a minute. And the top of mastery will be if he will do a circle on that horse. Since it is extremely difficult to do, the prize for that should really be not less than a car. For a short time El–Oiyn has become so popular  that the guests not only from the Altai region, Kemerovo, Tuva and Khakassia come to see it, but also from Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and even from Mongolia, China, Turkey and other countries.  During their visits each delegation sets its own yurt or tent camp, thus El–Oiyn is not just a holiday, but a real temporary ethnic Joy City.

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