Back to Home


Traditional Cultures in Central Asia


The focus here will be on the cultures of Central Asian pastoral nomads--the herders who move in a regular cycle between summer and winter pastures and rely on their flocks for their livelihood. For traditional cultures of the town dwellers along the Silk Road, see the pages under "Cities and Architecture." Of course town and country, sedentary and nomad interact in ways that were critical in the development of the Silk Road. Moreover, in what most people term the "modern" world, it seems increasingly as though the cultures of the nomadic and sedentary worlds are coming closer together. In their winter quarters today herders often live lives indistinguishable from those of their permanently sedentary neighbors. Even in the summer pastures, the sedentary world encroaches--the internal combustion engine, electricity, boom boxes.... One of our goals here is to present the traditional ways of life in their modern contexts. A particularly interesting case study (in which both nomadic and sedentary traditions play a role) is that of how national identities have developed in what are now the independent states of Central Asia.

Time and resources do not permit us to deal comprehensively with all aspects of traditional cultures. We have selected topics in which we have a particular interest and which we feel also will interest a broad audience. As time permits, we may add other topics. The pages are a joint effort by Elmira Kmkulkz and Daniel Waugh, the former having written much of the text, and the latter having provided most of the photographs and a certain amount of editing and additional writing.