Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.18

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Kazakhstan has nominated Kazakh traditional Assyk games (No. 01086) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Kazakh traditional Assyk games are an ancient tradition in Kazakhstan. Each player has their own set of ‘Assyks’, traditionally made out of the talus bone of a sheep, and a ‘Saka’ dyed in bright colours. Players use their Assyk to knock out other Assyks from the field, and the focus is on the position of the bone. The community concerned comprises most of the population of Kazakhstan, including members of the Federation ‘Assyk Atu’ Game as well as the larger community of practitioners, mainly children aged between four and eighteen. The element is an outdoor activity that helps develop children’s analytical thinking and physical state, fostering friendship and social inclusiveness. It is also a good model for positive collaboration, uniting people regardless of their age, ethnic background or religious affiliation. It is widely practised at festive celebrations and gatherings, and the community plays a key role in safeguarding the practice, as well as in popularizing it among other ethnic groups in Kazakhstan, turning it into a national symbol of childhood. It is transmitted from older boys to younger ones through observation, as well as through radio and TV documentaries aimed at encouraging children to play Assyk and acquainting people with their cultural heritage.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Traditional Assyk games are mostly played outdoors by children, although adults are also involved. The games contribute to the development of cognitive and physical skills and promote a sense of identity. Assyk is considered as a strong symbol of childhood in the country. It is played mostly in rural areas, but is essentially spread all over the country. Transmission occurrs through gradual observation, guidance from seniors and participation in the practice, to learn about the skills and rules. The media have also facilitated the transmission of the practice through broadcasts and social media. The element serves to improve the socialization of children, as opposed to modern media such as computers, television, video games and interactive tablets etc. The element represents a consolidating factor in ethnically diverse Kazakhstan. The Assyk games teach people about harmonious coexistence from an early age and contribute to social cohesion, peace and prosperity.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would raise public interest in traditional games. It would promote a cultural rapprochement between children and their parents and grandparents, as well as between urban and rural citizens. It would also foster a sense of brotherhood and unity among children from different social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Traditional children’s games such as Assyks are even performed in official ceremonies and high-ranking events. The inscription of the element would also inspire the wide and creative application of traditional attire and traditional patterns in modern design.

R.3:   The viability of the element is ensured by the communities, groups and individuals concerned through their active participation in festive celebrations and gatherings, regular tournaments and international festivals. The Government of Kazakhstan is actively involved in safeguarding and popularizing the element by supporting the community-initiated National ‘Assyk Atu’ (Assyk Games) Federation. Measures include: the allocation of a State budget for the organization of tournaments; the provision of administrative and legal assistance; the creation and broadcasting of television documentaries; the creation and updating of an open-source online database; the production of national souvenirs featuring imagery related to the practice; academic research and the promotion of regional and international cooperation through seminars and exhibitions. Charitable activities related to the element are underway. One of the main goals of the safeguarding measures proposed is to disseminate the element within a modern urban environment. One strategic objective concerns the plan to internationalize traditional sports and games. Children’s opinions and suggestions were also collected and considered during the process of planning these measures.

R.4:   During the preparation of the nomination, a series of meetings were organized with the active participation of the communities concerned (represented by the National ‘Assyk Atu’ Federation, the Association of the National Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Organizing Committee of the ‘Altyn Saka’ Tournament and members of the National Committee on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage). Letters attesting to their free, prior and informed consent were provided. The element is actively shared and enjoyed by most of the population of Kazakhstan irrespective of age, gender, ethnic origin, religion or other factors. The State Party has confirmed that there are no customary practices restricting access to the element.

R.5:   In 2013, the element was identified and included in the National Register of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Kazakhstan with the wide participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned. The Register is maintained and regularly updated every two to three years by the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Kazakhstan, in collaboration with the National Committee on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage and the National Commission for UNESCO and ISESCO. Institutions, non-governmental organizations and the general public are free to participate in the process of updating and managing the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Register without restriction.

  1. Inscribes Kazakh traditional Assyk games on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party to avoid references to private companies or brands in relation to activities aiming at safeguarding the element and to be aware of over-commercialization that could lead to decontextualization;
  3. Invites the State Party to fully involve children in the implementation of the safeguarding measures, considering that they are the main bearers of the element.