Tradition and Modernity in Present-day Uzbekistan

Ikeda Sumiko
Japan International Cooperation Agency, Coordinator

Tradition and Modernity in Present-day Uzbekistan

47th Meeting of the PIAC, Cambridge 2004

The main theme of this research is tradition and modernity in modern-day Uzbekistan. I focused on changing traditions in modern Uzbekistan, including their changing language culture. After becoming one of the republics forming the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan faced the pressure of Russification, known as Sovietizaion. In the Soviet period, the Uzbek culture was greatly influenced by enforced immigration of a large number of Russian and another ethnic groups, including Koreans. At the present time the tendency towards Americanization and the political effort towards de-Russification and highlighting the Uzbek traditional culture have influenced the formation of the present Uzbek culture. With the background of this present situation I tried to define how the traditions of Uzbek people are being transformed according to changes in their life sphere and I consider what customs they keep strongly in their modern life.

Uzbekistan is located in Central Asia, which used to be called Turkistan. In this large area, people with various cultural backgrounds have lived symbiotically for a long time. Historically, their cultures have developed under the influence of other ethnic groups and newcomers. While an overwhelming majority practice Islam, we can feel traces of the influence of other religions and native beliefs in the daily life of the modern Uzbeks. Having received Islam, the culture of oasis cities in Turkestan was enriched in many areas, including the sciences, literature and art. Regarding literature, since Turkish tribes in Turkistan did not have their own alphabet, the import of Arabic letters into their own spiritual culture promoted development of their arts and sciences, including literature. Although they also contacted the non-Arabic society through trading, their mainstream culture focused on the Arab world.

The Bolshevik revolution and withdrawal from the Soviet Union had a big influence on Uzbek culture. In the early 20th century the Turkistan ASSR was carved up by the then Commissar of Nationalities into five ethnic republics. One of these was the Uzbek Soviet Social Republics. The dismemberment of Turkistan into five national republics meant that local people had a great influence on people’s consciousness and identity. The Bolshevik revolution brought more thorough attempts to civilize, educate, and dismember the land and its people. Under the Soviet rule, keeping their own tradition and accepting the new soviet culture, the Uzbeks and new Soviet Uzbek citizens developed their own unique culture. During the Soviet period, traditional ceremonies had been not encouraged by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.On the other hand, the Communist Party provided the foundation of modernization of Uzbek society, such as the spread of sexual equality and educational rights, and eradication of illiteracy. The present Uzbekistan culture is a complex mixture influenced by Soviet-Russian culture during the Soviet period and the modern globalized world based on the substratum culture of Uzbek people. This investigation defines the aspects of tradition, modernity and future directivity of the culture of Uzbekistan using a field survey.