> Menu Item

Sayakbay Karalaev 



A portrait of Sayakbay Karalaev, the great storyteller of the epos “Manas” is depicted on the front side of the banknote with denomination of 500 Som.  

Storytelling art of Sayakbay Karalaev, according to the unanimous recognition of contemporaries, was the top of the evolution of the national epic culture. The famous manaschy, who had truly titanic improvisational abilities and strong performing spirit, was called a “great rhapsode” and “Homer of the XX century”.  

Sayakbay Karalaev was born in the Issyk-Kul region in a poor family. His grandmother Dakish, a wonderful storyteller of folk tales, legends, she recited excerpts from the epos “Manas”, was the first mentor who awakened little Sayakbays narrative abilities. Sayakbay was also greatly influenced by the famous manaschi Choyuke Omur uulu, who gave Karalaev a lot of advice on the techniques of the great epos telling during their meeting.  

Sayakbay Karalaev had an excellent memory and was well acquainted with Kyrgyz national folklore. Since 1925, S. Karalaev began to perform independently, and in 1930, he became widely known as an outstanding manaschi. In 1935, he began recording a complete version of the epos “Manas”. In 1937, the recording of the first part of the trilogy was completed, and later “Semetei”, “Seitek” were recorded. The total volume of this version of the epos “Manas” comprised 500,553 verses.  

Sayakbays unique memory was amazingly encyclopedic, and he strove to present the subject of the epos in the most complete and authentic way. He won the popularity due to the fact that he combined the gift of storyteller-manaschi and actor, as well as the gift of the writer of tales, poems, stories, which were published as separate editions.  

The epos “Manas” recorded from the words of S. Karalaev is 20 times larger than “Iliad” and “Odyssey”, 5 times larger than “Shahnama”, and 2 times larger than “Mahabharata”. S. Karalaev could perform the epos “Manas” for several months in a row.  

Merits of Karalaev were highly appreciated and marked with government awards: in 1939, Sayakbay Karalaev was awarded the title of Peoples Artist of the Kirghiz SSR, three Orders of the Red Banner of Labor, the Order of “Badge of Honor”, Medal “For Valorous Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945”.  

Chingiz Aitmatov wrote in his article about S. Karalaev: “Sayakbay Karalaev was an artist of national importance... The storyteller must have had an outstanding intelligence, a phenomenal memory, an enormous imagination and an artistic talent to grasp the depth and breadth of the legend of ancient times, to keep his word about “Manas” in front of the past and present. Sayakbay Karalaev, who devoted his life to the art of “Manas”, had all these features.