Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 10.COM 10.b.21

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Kyrgyzstan has nominated Kok-boru, traditional horse game (No. 01067) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Kok-boru is a game played on horses by two teams. The purpose of the game is to seize the ulak (a goat carcass) and drop it into the opponent’s goal. Games consist of three periods of twenty minutes with the team scoring the most goals declared the winner. After the game, the animal’s meat is served to the teams and community members. Skilled players must be physically strong, possess a high level of stamina, and maintain an intuitive and respectful partnership with their horse. The game fosters teamwork, with players defending the honour of their community. It encourages both physical and spiritual development, as well as a healthy lifestyle, and builds resilience to stress. Players and fans come from different nationalities, religious beliefs, social statuses and ages; thus the game plays an important role for social cohesion in contemporary Kyrgyzstan. The main bearers and practitioners are Kok-boru players, both professional and amateur, as well as specialist trainers, referees and those who maintain the equipment for players and horses. At the professional level, coaches teach the nuances of strategy, tactics and safety. At the amateur level, teams often consist of close family and other relatives; transmission occurs informally with elders sharing their knowledge and skills with beginners and explaining the safety rules concerning other players and horses.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.3:   The nomination incorporates an elaborated set of safeguarding measures designed in collaboration with the communities and groups concerned, which are intended to bolster transmission, protection, documentation and promotion of Kok-boru, thus ensuring its continuous practice;

R.4:   The community of Kok-boru players took an active part through all stages of the nomination process; the free, prior and informed consent of various Kok-boru teams and stakeholders is well documented;

R.5:   Since 2008, Kok-boru has been included in the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements drawn up in conformity with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention and maintained by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

  1. Further decides that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria are satisfied:

R.1:   Although Kok-boru is a viable game practised and appreciated by various segments of society, the nomination does not adequately explain its conformity with the requirement of respect for the sensitivities of diverse communities on an international scale, given that it carries health risks for humans, requires horses to adapt to extreme conditions and uses goat carcasses as an object of contest between teams; in addition, more detailed information is needed to demonstrate Kok-boru’s identity as intangible cultural heritage, in contrast to its evolution as a professional sport;

R.2:   Given that the nomination does not sufficiently explain how Kok-boru constitutes an element of intangible cultural heritage, it cannot be assessed how its inscription would contribute to enhancing the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general or awareness of its significance; in addition, the entertainment aspect of the game is presented inconsistently as both a feature that could contribute to visibility and awareness-raising and a threat to the viability of Kok‑boru as a cultural phenomenon.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Kok-boru, traditional horse game to the State Party for additional information and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle.