may 2022 musings

A LITERATURE FESTIVAL, two new books on herat, a database of sites in xinjiang, dunhuang forgeries conference now online and so much more – enjoy!!

The Silk Road Literary Festival raises the profile of literature from and about Central Asia and the Silk Road, and supports the creative and commercial development of the region’s publishing sector. In 2022 the festival will be hosted in Uzbekistan and online, with 50 events including talks, talking walks, children’s activities, and workshops.’

Литературный фестиваль «Шелковый путь» повышает авторитет литературы Центральной Азии и Шелкового пути, а также поддерживает творческое и коммерческое развитие издательского сектора региона. В 2022 году фестиваль пройдет в Узбекистане и в онлайн-режиме и будет состоять из 50 мероприятий, включая беседы, разговорные прогулки, детские мероприятия и мастер-классы.’

“Ipak yo‘li” adabiy festivali Markaziy Osiyo va Ipak yo‘lidagi adabiyotlarning obro‘sini oshiradi hamda mintaqadagi nashriyot sohasining ijodiy va tijorat rivojlanishini qo‘llab-quvvatlaydi. 2022-yilda festival O‘zbekistonda va onlayn tarzda o‘tkaziladi, unda suhbatlar, suhbatlar, bolalar faoliyati va mahorat darslari kabi 50 ta tadbir mavjud.’


A short YouTube video: Barbara Huber studies old plant remains by using biochemical and biomolecular approches_JHS MPI and to read more: How to use modern science to reconstruct ancient scents by Barbara Huber, Thomas Larsen, Robert N. Spengler & Nicole Boivin, published in Human Behaviour. ‘Olfaction has profoundly shaped human experience and behaviour from the deep past through to the present day. Advanced biomolecular and ‘omics’ sciences enable more direct insights into past scents, offering new options to explore critical aspects of ancient society and lifeways as well as the historical meanings of smell.’

Spatial distribution data of cultural sites from the Paleolithic to Bronze Age in Xinjiang, China by Bo Tan, Hongwei Wang, Xiaoqin Wang, Suyan Yi, Jing Zhou, Chen Ma & Xinyan Dai of the College of Geography and Remote sensing Sciences, Xinjiang University, Urumqi. From the abstract: ‘Our cultural site database provides the geographic location and corresponding geographic environment of each site in Xinjiang from the Paleolithic to the Bronze Age.’

Central Asian Ismailis: An Annotated Bibliography of Russian, Tajik and Other Sources by Dagikhudo Dagiev, published by Bloomsbury. From the publisher: ‘The Shi’i Ismaili Muslims of Central Asia have a complex political history. This open access book is the first English-language study of the Ismaili Muslims in this region, based on analysis of the Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet scholarship about them. It sheds new light on their history and heritage, and also shows how the Ismailis of Central Asia have been understood and presented in the academic literature.’Thank you to Oxus Society for flagging this up and for stating its importance given the current situation in the Pamirs.

A History of Herat: From Chingiz Khan to Tamerlane by Shivan Mahendrarajah, published by Edinburgh University Press. ‘This book tells the history of Herat, from its desolation under Chingiz Khan in 1222, to its capitulation to Tamerlane in 1381. Unlike the other three quarters of Khurasan (Balkh, Marw, Nishapur), which were ravaged by the Mongols, Herat became an important political, cultural and economic centre of the eastern Islamic world. The post-Mongol age in which an autochthonous Tajik dynasty, the Kartids, ruled the region set the foundations for Herat’s Timurid-era splendors.’

Treasures of Herat: Two Manuscripts of the Khamsah of Nizami in the British Library by Barbara Brend; Translation and commentary of seals and inscriptions  by  Ursula Sims-Williams published by Gingko. The book ‘provides thorough consideration of two celebrated Persian manuscripts housed in the British Library. These two copies of the Khamsah (Quintet) –a set of five narrative poems by Nizami Ganjavi, a master of allegorical poetry in Persian literature– were produced in Herat in the fifteenth century, one of the greatest periods of Persian painting.’

Brill have announced the publication of a new journal: Journal of Central Asian History, with Editor-in-Chief: Paolo Sartori. ‘Dedicated to the study of the history of Central Asia here understood as the landmass stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Gobi Desert, and from Siberia to northern Afghanistan, an area encompassing the historical regions of Transoxiana, Khorezm, the Qazaq Steppe, Zungharia, the Tarim Basin, and the Mongol lands. JCAH welcomes articles written in English and Russian devoted to all historical disciplines ranging from intellectual to environmental history. The main concern of the publication is to advance research into the rich history of Central Asia from the Arab expansion in the eighth century to the end of the twentieth century.’

The website Open Central Asian Photo Archives has launched. ‘The goal of the project, which has a scientific, historical and sociocultural nature, is to create an open virtual database that would unite the most diverse private photo collections representing Central Asia from the middle of the 19th to the end of the 20th century.’ The project, led by Svetlana GORSHENINA, Doctor of History, Director of Research at the National Research Center of France is a collaborative endeavour between Research group Eur’Orbem (UMR 8224) of the National Center for Scientific Research of France and Sorbonne University, France / Eur’Orbem (UMR 8224); CNRS-Sorbonne Université, France; House of History of the University of Geneva, Switzerland / Maison de l’histoire, Université de Genève, Suisse; University of Ghent , Belgium / Ghent University; Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Belgium; Gerda Henkel Foundation, Düsseldorf, Germany / Gerda Henkel Stiftung, Düsseldorf, Germany; International Observatory Alerte Héritage, Montreal / Lausanne / Paris;

In 2021 Calvert Journal compiled a list of 100 books to read from Eastern Europe and Central Asia – it is a list worth looking at more than once: ‘Experimental fiction, literary classics, searing historical accounts, and forgotten memoirs: the breadth of literature from across the post-communist world — much of it still untranslated — stands as testament to centuries of human experience in a region marked by political turmoil and extraordinary resilience. We asked writers, poets, translators, and academics to help us pick 100 of the best books from Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia available in English. From Belgrade to Bishkek, these remarkable works of literature span across cultures, borders, and time.’


A short news item from  ‘Over 3000 cultural treasures stolen from 14 museums’ in Uzbekistan and the resulting actions dictated by the government.

Another story of historic buildings being demolished. While the buildings slated for demolition are not on any national registry, they clearly provide a sense of place and have historical significance. 

Seasoned journalist Bruce Pannier has written an analysis of Northern Afghanistan and the New Threat to Central Asia which is especially pertinent. ‘Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have relied on the Taliban to prevent non-state actors from operating in northern Afghanistan and launching cross-border attacks. In recent months, however, the Islamic State has bombed mosques near the border with Central Asia, and claimed to have launched a rocket attack into Uzbekistan.’

We continue to appreciate the work of CAREC (the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia) and their efforts to address climate issues in the region through international cooperation and knowledge exchange. They are about to hold another conference: ‘Second International High-Level Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028 will be held on 6-9 June 2022 at Kokhi Somon, Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The Conference is multi-stakeholder in nature and will bring together different groups and actors involved in the implementation of water-related goals and targets.’ Watch their website or social media channels to stay up-to-date.

CASSIB (Central Asia & Siberia) Specialized Information Service is a website in German and English directed by Dr Johannes Reckel of the University of Goettingen. It is a kind of clearinghouse for lists of relevant institutions in Central Asian countries, databases (including our partner IICAS archival project). It is well worth surfing their sources for yet more sources and information.


If you missed the Dunhuang Forgeries and Recent Silk Roads Research – Kyoto National Museum International Symposium, co-organized by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and held on 19 March 2022, you can now watch 5 hours of the symposium on YouTube, including Susan Whitfield’s keynote and Simon Kaner’s closing remarks.


Sarah Ghazal Ali has written an essay The Pen, the Throat, the Ear: On Ghazals for Poetry Magazine which reflects on her name and the poetic form and what is lost in translation and how we access poetry. ‘Who does the ghazal belong to: the pen, the throat, or the ear? What is written is spoken is shared is sacred.’ A book of her poetry is expected in 2024.

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