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Kojomkul

Streetview of Kojomkul villageKojomkul village is about 15km from Suusamyr. The village takes its name from a man who lived here between 1889-1955 and who was reputed to be 2.3m tall and 164 kilos in weight. This giant of a man lifted heavy rocks and even horses for fun (there is a statue to him in Bishkek, outside the Palace of Sports, performing this very act). A museum to his memory stands in the middle of the village with large stones outside its entrance.

Photographs inside the museum reveal his truly impressive size, as do items from his wardrobe and examples of the objects that he was fond of moving about. His grave stands in a white mausoleum in the centre of the village next to a Soviet war memorial. On the road to Kyzyl-Oi stands another tribute to Kojomkul's strength in the form a massive stone that marks the grave of a local dignitary. The stone, which is said to weigh 700kg, is reputed to have been carried to the grave by Kojomkul himself, although there is undoubtedly some blurring of historical truth with legend here.


Kojomkul - Kyrgyz heroKojomkul was born in the Suusamyr valley in 1889 and died in 1955 at the age of 66. As an adult he stood 2.3m tall (7 feet 5 inches) and weighed 164kg (nearly 26 stone). Encouraged by his superhuman size and strength, he participated in many competitive bouts of strength in his youth. On one occasion, he took part in a wrestling competition in the Toktogul area where he beat many better-known wrestlers and won the prize of 50 sheep and several mares, which he is said to have distributed to the poor of his village. By the late 1920s there was no-one to rival him in Kyrgyzstan, and in the region as a whole the only challenge came from the Kazakh wrestler Cholok Balaban who he eventually fought and beat in the 23rd minute of an inter-republic wrestling contest.

Following the revolution and the region's inclusion in the USSR, Kojomkul adapted well to Soviet ways and served as chairman of the Suusamyr valley collective farm for over 20 years. However, during this time he was forced to spend 1 year in prison as a result of his unwillingness to write a damning testimony against the chairman of a neighbouring collective farm. His 'gentle giant' reputation grew further in prison where he became widely respected by prisoners and guards alike. Later, during World War II, he is reputed to have provided many poor villagers with food thanks to his skills at hunting.

His death in 1955 is surrounded by uncertainty although one version, with echoes of the David and Goliath legend, suggests that it was an insect that had crept into his food that caused him to fall ill and die. His memory is still revered in the village and it is widely believed that it was Kojomkul's spirit that protected the village in 1992 when the earthquake hit, badly damaging property throughout the valley but claiming no lives.


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