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The epic poem's age is unknowable, as it was transmitted orally without being recorded.However, historians have doubted the age claimed for it since the turn of the 20th century. Bartol'd referred to Manas as an "absurd gallimaufry of pseudo-history," Changes were made in the delivery and textual representation of Manas in the 1920s and 1930s to represent the creation of the Kyrgyz nationality, particularly the replacement of the tribal background of Manas.Great Manaschis of the 20th century are Sagymbai Orozbakov, Sayakbay Karalaev, Shaabai Azizov (pictured), Kaba Atabekov, Seidene Moldokova and Yusup Mamai.A revered Manaschi who recently visited the United Kingdom is Rysbek Jumabayev.Manas then comes into a relationship with the people of mā warā' an-nār through marriage to the daughter of the ruler of Bukhara.The epic continues in various forms, depending on the publication and whim of the manaschi, or reciter of the epic.The eponymous hero of Manas and his Oirat enemy Joloy were first found written in a Persian manuscript dated to 1792-3. Manas has more verses, though they are much shorter.In 2009, a parliament member suggested its nomination for the "longest epic story in the world" because “the great heritage of Kyrgyz people should find its place in the world history.” “The end of oral epics in Central Asia has been prophesied since the nineteenth century...

The epic is divided into three parts, each consisting of a loose collection of episodic heroic events. The first is entitled "Manas", the second episode describes the deeds of his son Semetei, and the third of his grandson Seitek.Adil Jumaturdu has provided "A comparative study of performers of the Manas epic." There are more than 65 written versions of parts of the epic.An English translation of the version of Sagimbai Orozbakov by Walter May was published in 1995, in commemoration of the presumed 1000th anniversary of Manas' birth, and re-issued in two volumes in 2004.An inscription on the mausoleum states, however, that it is dedicated to "..most famous of women, Kenizek-Khatun, the daughter of the emir Abuka".Legend has it that Kanikey, Manas' widow, ordered this inscription in an effort to confuse her husband's enemies and prevent a defiling of his grave.

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