The Eternal City. The culture of everyday life in the Central Asian cities

As clearly seen from the title, the main goal of the exhibition is to represent at least in part the daily life of a Central Asian city in all its diversity and introduce a visitor to the origins of the modern state of Central Asian peoples. 

The title “eternal city”, traditionally used only for Rome, is quite justified in relation to many cities in Central Asia. Together with Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and the alluvial valleys of the Nile, Indus and Juan-che, Central Asia should be considered one of the major urban civilization genesis centers. Cities first appeared on this territory in the Bronze Age (III millennium B.C.) and from that moment the city has played enormous role in the life of Central Asian peoples. For millennia it has been a place of cultural exchange between nomadic and sedentary peoples as well as commercial center between rural and urban residents. The city was an urban protocol, which shaped the ethno-cultural image of the region as late as in the 20th century. Some of the cities, emerged in ancient times, have successfully survived till the present day, for instance, the city of Samarkand (known from 329 B.C. as Maracanda in  ancient records), which shared history not only with  Tamerlane, but also Alexander the Great.

For this reason the main place in the exhibition is dedicated to the ethnographical artifacts of the   Tadjiks and sedentary Uzbeks, who historically played the key role in the formation of Central Asian urban culture. These nationalities formed the major part of the urban residents; practicing different crafts and trades. Their works were commonly widespread in the region among other peoples. The exhibition includes the following sections: “Authorities”, “Crafts and Trades”, “Religion”, and «Folk theatre and music culture”.      

“Authorities” Every Central Asian city was always an administrative center of certain rank and place, where dignitaries and military nobility were concentrated. These with clergymen, craftsmen and merchants formed the general stratification of city. The displayed objects give notions about the attributes and symbols of administrative institutions and hierarchy. An important place in this section belongs to the carefully reconstructed chodir - a sort of a rest tent, decorated with ornamented textiles (ikates). Local and visiting nobility used these tents during their visits to the countryside and in places of popular feasts. Festive arms and harnesses, jewelry, and objects embroidered with silk and golden threads owned primarily by the urban elite are also represented here.      

Crafts and trades”. This section provides an opportunity to showcase masterpieces of urban handicrafts and applied arts, which long ago became the artistic symbols of Central Asia. Materials of the section provide information about various kinds of crafts, with especial emphasis, on those varieties, which products had high artistic values and fame, both in and beyond its borders. They include silk fabrics, copper-chased items, embroidered headdresses, etc.

Religion” From the time Islam was established of the in Central Asia in VII A.D., the Central Asian cities have played the role of Islamic religious and educative centers. Brought by the Arabian conquerors and highly resented at first, the Moslem religion with time became a major factor in shaping the ethnocultural image of the region.  This section displays initially those items, reflecting the canonic aspects of religious life (photos, texts, and material objects, related to Moslem education, Suphic orders, dervishes, mazars, cemeteries, etc.). At the same time it also includes material testimonies to the persistence of archaic beliefs (such as Uzbek and Tadjik ritual dolls, amulets, and etc.) which were equally spread among rural and urban residents and reflected the syncretism of religious ideas among the peoples of Central Asia. 

“Folk theatre and musical culture”.  The development of these arts in Central Asian cities explains their presence at the exhibition. Furthermore, the museum contains collections of hand toys, puppet theatres, and various musical instruments, which enable to give a full idea of this sphere of spiritual culture. 

The unique photos from the museum photoarchive serve as direct illustrations to the exhibited objects. The oldest of them were taken 150 years ago.  The chronological boundaries of the exhibited objects are the second half of the 19th - early 20th centuries.

 

Space required- approximately - 180 square meters

number of objects - about 300 items