Here at Steppe we have a great passion for the Soviet architecture of the Central Asian states. As an expression of the progress of thought, whether state or personal, this architecture is a real eye opener, and is rightly, finally, finding its place in helping to define and deconstruct a very complex time. Frederic Chaubin’s book CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed (reviewed in Steppe 9) brought us wonderful photos of some of the most exotic examples of post-war Soviet architecture across the former republics of the USSR, but in the exhibition ‘Trespassing Modernities’ at Salt Galata in Istanbul, Georg Schöllhammer delves deeper into the evolution of post-Stalinist Soviet architecture.
I’ve got my two adorable children to thank for entering a children’s store in Almaty and discovering these covetable rolling animals from Vishnyovii Papa (‘Cherry Papa’) designs, made by local designer Chingiz Shakurov. I am so thrilled to find something so attractive, well-designed, and fun which has been made in Kazakhstan. Such a treat after the endless shipping containers of Chinese plastic in the bazaar.
We are lucky enough at Steppe to have published two articles (Issues 6 and 7) using Carolyn Drake’s photos of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya; those two life-giving rivers are at the heart of Central Asia. They define the region absolutely. The land between them, called Mawarannahr (the land beyond the river) by the Arabs, is the settled heart of Central Asia, the land outside them the haunt of nomads, and the interaction of the two provides the history, the culture, the arts that we know and love today. Continue reading Two Rivers
A guest-blog from Alice Harrison who lives in Astana, Kazakhstan:
It is little more than a week since I saw the ice village and sculptures erected here in Astana for New Year, knocked down – a clear signal that spring is on the way. For some time large-scale tulip decorations and lights have been appearing out of the snow drifts around Astana in preparation for Nowruz, and they are beginning to look a little less incongruous, as the skies are finally blue and the temperature during the day above zero.
Here at Steppe we’re getting excited about Nowruz, Persian New Year, which is celebrated across Central Asia on March 21st or a day either side depending on when the spring equinox (the sun entering the sign of Aries) is observed. The festival is a grand celebration of the coming of Spring and each country has its own traditions. As a starter for ten, we thought we’d share this beautifully illustrated video of Nowruz, Iran-style. More to come on the different ways it is celebrated in the region in the coming weeks.
If you’re up on your Uzbek Usmanov’s, you may well have heard of Alisher Usmanov – the billionaire steel magnate who has successfully diversified into telecommunications and new media, including a clever purchase of facebook shares that, it seems, netted him £1.4bn at their IPO last May. But you may well not have heard of Jamol Usmanov, an Uzbek painter influenced by Sufi philosophy and the Eastern Sufi poetry of Rumi, Navoi, Nizami et al, although we like to hope he too will become a household name.
Findus ready meals may not have reached Central Asia but there’s undeniably a very close alliance between man and beast in this vast tract of Central Asia.
A Kazakh nomads’ expression states, ‘Kazakhs are born on horseback’. If we take a leisurely canter from nomad life into the present day, we see the survival of horsemeat as a luxurious food in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Whilst on academic business there, I grasped the opportunity to pursue a sober study of this neglected subject. I visited two yamarka (outdoor markets) – one in Almaty, the former capital and largest city; the other 500km north in Stepnogorsk, a former closed Soviet town with notable levels of uranium, rare metals and gold. Continue reading Horsemeat: The Real Deal
Kazakhstan’s four national museums have teamed together with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU to exhibit Kazakhstan’s exquisite bronze age nomadic heritage in Nomads and Networks. This exhibit at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery runs from 11 August to 12 November 2012. Amongst the exhibits are magnificent finds from the Scythian burial ground at Berel, in northeastern Kazakhstan. Excavated in 1998, the dig disclosed a frozen royal tomb and the remains of thirteen sacrificed horses. You can read a bit more about it here. And a bit more about the amazing Krym Altinbekov, who led the restoration of the horses’ harness and gear, in our latest edition of Steppe (Steppe 9). Amazing to think we have the permafrost to thank for something. And of course, don’t forget to visit the exhibition if you are in D.C.
An old friend of ours here at Steppe recently launched Travel Local – a site set up to allow travellers from anywhere in the world to book their trip through a locally owned company in their destination, and to do so with complete confidence (payments are 100% protected). For the traveller it means cheaper, high quality trips and for local companies it allows a greater share in the tourism revenue and, I suspect, a more heightened interest in ensuring that everything goes completely to plan. Continue reading Travel Local