According to Chinghiz Aitmatov, there was a Kyrgyz legend that mankurts were prisoners of war who were turned into slaves by being exposed in the hot sun with their heads wrapped in camel skin. These skins dried tight, like a steel band, thus damaging their brains and enslaving them forever. This, he likens to a ring of rockets around the earth keeping out humankind's higher civilisation. A mankurt did not recognise his name, family or tribe — "a mankurt did not recognise himself as a human being".
"Mankurt" was first used by Aitmatov and he is said to have taken the word from the Epic of Manas. "Mankurt" may be derived from the Mongolian term "мангуурах" (manguurakh, meaning "stupid"), Turkic mengirt (one who was deprived memory) or (less probably) man kort (bad tribe).
In the figurative sense, the word "mankurt" is used to refer to a person who has lost touch with his historical, national roots, who has forgotten about his kinship. In this sense, the word "mankurt" has become a term in common parlance  and is already used in journalism . In the n language appeared neologisms "mankurtizm" , "mankurtizatsiya" (meaning “mankurtization”), "demankurtizatsiya" (meaning “demankurtization”).
The legend is about a Turkmen who defends his homeland from invasion. He is captured, tortured, and brainwashed into serving his homeland's conquerors. He is so completely turned that he kills his mother when she attempts to rescue him from captivity.
N. Shneidman stated "The mankurt motif, taken from Central Asian lore, is the dominant idea of the novel and connects the different narrative levels and time sequences". In the later years of the Soviet Union Mankurt entered everyday speech to describe the alienation that people had toward a society that repressed them and distorted their history. In former Soviet republics the term has come to represent those non-Russians who have been cut off from their own ethnic roots by the effects of the Soviet system.
In 1990 the film Mankurt (Манкурт) was released in the Soviet Union. Written by Mariya Urmatova, the film is based on one narrative strand from within the novel The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years. It represents the last film directed by Khodzha Narliyev. Its main cast included the Turkish actors Tarık Tarcan, Yılmaz Duru and the Turkmen actors Maýa-Gözel Aýmedowa, Hojadurdy Narliýew, and Maýsa Almazowa. The film tells about a Turkmen who defends his homeland from invasion. After he is captured, tortured, and brainwashed into serving his homeland's conquerors, he is so completely turned that he kills his mother when she attempts to rescue him from captivity.
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