This article analyses former President Askar Akaev's use of ethnogenesis, a theoretical approach concerned with demonstrating continuous social groups and group identity, in his nation-building campaign. In particular, it examines the president's sympathy for the work of Lev Gumilev, a prominent ethnogenetic theorist, and the ways he combined this with people's understandings of their ancestors. Akaev promoted the image of ancestors through Gumilev's concept of passionate energy. This is demonstrated through two commemorative ceremonies to ancestors. A further comparison between Gumilev's concept of 'passion' and charisma reveals other characteristics in the Kyrgyz nation-building campaign and how it attempts to influence people's everyday lives.