deutsche Version
Home/Virtual HKW/Dossiers/Details
The Arts in a Time of Change
On the survival of culture during times of social upheaval
language, power, tradition
In Central Asia, the arts have followed different paths since the centralised cultural system in the Soviet Union disintegrated. Music is firmly rooted in traditions and is experiencing a rebirth while literature has entered a difficult phase, with the battle for economic survival leaving little space for inspiration. Only the non-fiction market is prospering, with best-selling books by the new nations’ heads of state, all sharing the same topic – the bright future of their respective countries. The visual arts, for their part, are enjoying a modest flowering generated by patronage from oil-rich Kazakhstan.

Author: Birgit Brauer

For the full-length article please refer to the German version.

Home/Virtual HKW/Dossiers/Details
Ten Years After
Hope and Disappointment in the New Central Asian States
Islam, bureaucracy, civil war, ecology, globalisation, history, identity, industrialisation, movement for democracy, tradition, transformation, water
This analysis offers a review of the mass of problems facing the Central Asian states 10 years after independence. The process of democratisation is far from the political goals initially propounded; the economy is still sluggish, slow to move out of the post-Soviet trough despite the rich resources available; and neither a cultural nor economic transfer seem in sight for the „New Silk Roads“. Leaders throughout Central Asia are increasingly resorting to authoritarian measures – where they did not use them from the very start. The inter-state communication needed is hindered by drawing inflexible borders so that, for example, they are unable to resolve the massive water problems or the multi-ethnic conflicts in the Fergena Valley, an area belonging to three countries; and, finally, only the future can tell to what extent Islamic opposition movements present a real danger or are being instrumentalized as a reason for pursuing strong-arm policies.

Author: Uwe Halbach

For the full-length article please refer to the German version

Home/Virtual HKW/Dossiers/Details
Democracy as Ideology
Eight Theses on the Character of the Political Systems in Central Asia
dictatorship, movement for democracy, post-colonialism, power, violence
The western notion of democracy is not identical with the Central Asian version of the same political system, whereby both parliament and the constitution become a plaything tossed to an fro between state paternalism, traditional notions of hierarchical authority and the state heads’ ideas on exercising unlimited power. It leaves "democracy" merely as an ideology that, by appearing in a totalitarian garb, makes genuine democracy as national sovereignty impossible.

Author: Erlan Karin

For the full-lenght article please refer to the German version.

Home/Virtual HKW/Dossiers/Details
Music behind Walls
Transmitted in Seclusion – Women's Ritual Music
Islam, Sufism, censorship, identity, oral tradition, power, ritual, taboo
The female tradition is clearly crucially important in preserving Central Asian music and culture, yet this only first becomes apparent on a closer view. The women lived in their own area within the house, the Itschkari, teaching their own "lessons of life" – a wisdom passed on by the older women to their children and grandchildren; they also had their own religious teachings, their own ideas of history and world events, and their own music and songs. Here, the Otin-Oj played a central role; these were representatives of a kind of "secret order" and even today they are essential at all of the rites of passage, from birth to death. During the Soviet era, women took over the role of preserving religious practices since the private sphere escaped the pervasive monitoring so present in public life. In particular, this has led to the survival of Sufi-mystical elements, even if in a slightly altered form.

Author: Razia Sultanova

For the full-lenght text please refer to the German version.