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Pic of the Week – Sports, Law, and Tradition in Hats

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The following is a guest post by Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research at the Law Library of Congress. Peter has previously written for In Custodia Legis on a number of topics related to Russia and the former Soviet Union. These include posts on Assassinations of Russian Ambassadors, A Spring Holiday for Workers, the Soviet Investigation of Nazi War Crimes, Lustration in Ukraine, Crimean History, Status and Referendum, Regulating the Winter Olympics in Russia, Soviet Law and the Assassination of JFK, and the Treaty on the Creation of the Soviet Union.

Last week, many of us were watching the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea and admired the diversity of costumes and uniforms the teams were wearing at the Parade of Nations and athletic events. Some of them were designed by the athletes themselves, others were created by famous dress makers, and some teams uniforms were proposed by the International Olympic Committee.  However, there was one team whose members were wearing clothes that soon might be mandated by the law of their home country. This is the team from Kyrgyzstan, which consists of two athletes competing in two skiing events, slalom and cross country.

Two men from Kyrgyzstan, wearing traditional pointed felt hats, sit making wooden dishes.
Trades of the Kyrgyz. Manufacture of wooden dishes Turkestanskii al’bom, chast’ promyslovai︠a︡, 1871-1872, part 3, p. 44. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, https://lccn.loc.gov/2007681439.

Last month, a bill was introduced in the Kyrgyz legislature, under which a white felt hat called Ak Kalpak —a centuries-old traditional head gear of older Kyrgyz men—will be recognized as a national symbol of the country together with the flag, anthem, and the coat of arms.  Similar laws establishing a national cap can be found in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. The bill provides for this hat to become a mandatory part of attire for all Kyrgyz government officials, including the President, during official foreign visits in order to “promote and preserve Kyrgyz traditions and culture.” A special provision of the bill applies to athletes participating in sport competitions abroad. To be in compliance with the law, athletes must carry the Ak Kalpak at official ceremonies. Soon we might see this cap as a regular element of official Kyrgyz sport uniforms!

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