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The Pressure of Colonialism
On the Special Relationship between Power and Music
censorship, dictatorship, everyday life, history, identity, language, oral tradition, power, remembrance, time
Music and power have always been intermeshed in a special relationship. As a result, one needs to distinguish between musical changes that are driven from inside out, derived, for example, from adaptation to emerging social needs, and those with external causes, via the direct and authoritarian influence of non-musical forces. This process can clearly be seen in Central Asia, with its long history of Russian and Soviet intervention. In a similar way to the impact of new alphabets or languages, existing musical traditions were directly affected by the introduction of western musical notation and by musicians being made to play in orchestras under Soviet collectivism instead of following the nomad solo tradition. Yet it is too simplistic an explanation to believe exclusively in the power exercised by repressive regimes. In the final analysis, there is always a balance between cultural – and even oppressive – strategies, passive resistance and the real demands of the public.

Author: Jean During

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Art in the Gulag
Stalin's Banned and their influence on the development of the Arts in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan played a major role in the Stalinist purges as a place of banishment. It had all the right qualities: substantial resources, yet far from the centres of power, and a land located far away in the endless, sweeping Steppes. But the Stalinist purges also played a considerable role in shaping Kazakhstan culture and helping create an art of its own, since they brought together not only representatives of former opposition parties, the church and Army members fallen from grace, but also the banished intellectual elites from every corner of the Soviet Union. The influence of the uprooted artists is at its clearest in central Kazakhstan where, starting almost from nothing, a lively cultural life emerged in the 1930s that had an impact on every area of society – and this was the movement which lay the foundation for a new era in Kazakh art.

Authors: Larissa Pletnikova and Dana Safarova

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From Oriental Pre-Fab High Rises to Symbiotic City
The Architectural Renewal of Astana, Bishkek and Tashkent
beauty, bureaucracy, globalisation, history, identity, metropolises, modernity, myth, post modernity, remembrance, transformation, urbanity
Even ten years after the break-up of the Soviet Union, it's previously all-pervasive influence is still very much in evidence throughout the succession states, seen above all in how urban planning and architecture reflect the socialist model, aiming at urban dissolution by creating grandiose boulevards and extensive city parks. In many places these conceptual parameters are so dominant that even today they obscure local building traditions. One reason why a glance at Astana, Bishkek and Tashkent, three Central Asian capitals, reveals much about these states' relationship to their most recent era of national history. This contribution offers an overview of the present situation: Kyrgyzstan openly affirms its Soviet past, leaving, till now, an imposing statue of Lenin standing in the main square in Bishkek, while Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are striving to find a new approach, both politically and architecturally. In the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, the prestigious new building projects attempt to reformulate the Islamic language of design, and in Kazakhstan, a Japanese architect has been given the task of creating an entirely new town as the seat of government.

Author: Philipp Meuser

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Building Myths by Law
New National Identities and Old Heroes
Islam, dictatorship, history, identity, myth, power, time, tradition
Each in their own way, the Central Asian post-Soviet states are attempting to establish new national identities through invoking historical heroes and referencing the highpoints of their cultures. In Uzbekistan, for example, the 14th century Mongol leader, Tamerlane, is revered as a symbol of former greatness and now his equestrian statue has replaced figures of Lenin in most parks and squares throughout the country. There are even details of Tamerlane's Mongolian costume found on the facades of new commercial buildings. President Islam Karimov takes Tamerlane's historical empire as his own reference point and as a basis for Uzbekistan's hegemonial claims in the region. In Tajikistan, they look back to the cultural achievements under the Persian Samanids a thousand years ago and honour Amir Ismail Samanid, founder of the dynasty. In his realm, the main cities were Samarkand and Bukhara – the reason why Tajikistan claims them as its own, even though they now lie in present-day Uzbekistan. In contrast, Kyrgyzstan's touchstone for cultural independence is the Manas epic, the world's longest – telling of a mythical hero's struggle against the Chinese. Yet at the same time Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian country willing to accept its Soviet past, with a large-scale statue of Lenin still left standing at the biggest square in the capital Bishkek.

Author: Marcus Bensmann

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