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.
There is still time to rush out and see the British Library’s latest Exhibition “Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire”, which closes on April 2nd. It might not, at first sight, appear to be a natural stamping ground for Steppe readers, more interested in the lands further north. However, it goes without saying that the clue is in the name. The Mughal Empire was ultimately sprung from the Mongol and Turkic dynasties of Central Asia, descended from Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Its founder, Babur (1483-1530) was born in Ferghana and briefly ruled in Samarkand, but was forced from his homeland by Uzbek invaders, and ultimately moved his power base to Kabul and then India. Continue reading Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire
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
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.
In September 2012 Christie’s will present ‘Of Sand and Silk’, the first European solo-exhibition of the prominent Russian artist Alexander Volkov (1886-1957). Volkov was born in the Fergana valley into the family of a Russian military doctor. He achieved significant lifetime recognition for his depictions of Central Asia, his paintings uniquely combining cutting-edge Western painterly styles with the inspiration he drew from traditional Central Asian craftsmanship. Volkov loved his homeland passionately and often repeated: “One does not need the whole world. A small part will suffice”. Continue reading Alexander Volkov: Of Sand and Silk
Good news coming out of Uzbekistan is pretty rare these days. Last night it came in the form of Behzod Abduraimov, a young pianist from Tashkent, who played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall. My goodness it was exciting. When he walked on to the stage he seemed so young. At just 21 years old – he is. He hung over the piano like a small schoolboy concentrating intensely, and highly enthusiastically, on his homework (see the picture above). Continue reading Classic FM Live – Behzod Abduraimov
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
Eland Books have just launched a beautifully edited edition of Alexander Burnes’ Travels into Bokhara. When the original was published in 1835, Burnes became an overnight sensation, lecturing to packed halls in London and even given an audience by the King. At the tender age of 26, Burnes travelled into the unknown territories to the northwest of the British empire in India, reaching as far as Bokhara in modern-day Uzbekistan. Dressed as a local and in command of the local languages, the brilliant Burnes reported back on the geography and politics of the region, right at the beginning of what later became known as the Great Game between the British and Russian empires. Continue reading Alexander Burnes: Travels into Bokhara