Uzbekistan is one of the richest countries in the world with its intangible cultural heritage due to its geographical location (it is located at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road). Before the conquest of Turkestan by the Russian Empire, the centers of three states (Khiva Khanate, Bukhara Emirate and Kokand Khanate) were located on the modern territory of Uzbekistan. All this contributed to the accumulation of different cultural layers and traditions of the Turkic and Persian peoples. Our Editor-in-Chief Egor Sharay tells more. 

Now the time has come for the state to preserve this heritage. The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, to which Uzbekistan is a party, obliges the participating countries to protect and ensure the safety of the intangible cultural heritage located on its territory. For the organization of protection, first of all, the Convention requires the compilation of lists, identification and inventory of heritage. Also, it obliges the organization of the promotion of such a heritage and implementation in the educational process. The best promotion of cultural heritage can be mass events that reach a large number of people, such as festivals and competitions.

Currently, Uzbekistan hosts a huge number of different festivals of the district, regional, republican and international levels. Of these, 12 are international festivals. They are evenly distributed geographically across regions, based on the interests and mentality of the population living in the region. For example, in the Fergana Valley, where handicraft is very developed, handicraft festivals are held (in Kokand) and “Atlas Bayrami” (Atlas Festival) in Margilan. And in Surkhandarya, where the traditions of storytelling art are very well preserved, the International Festival of Storytellers is held. It is noteworthy that over the past 4 years, 7 new international festivals were again organized in the Republic.

These are “Khalgaro maqom forums” (International forum of maqom) in the city of Shakhrisabz (since 2018); “International Festival of Craftsmen” in the city of Kokand (since 2019); “International festival of art of bakhshi (storytellers)” in the city of Termez (since 2019); “The Great Silk Road” International Folk Music Festival in the city of Margilan (since 2019); “Raqs sehri” (Magic of dance) international dance festival in the city of Khiva (since 2017); “Nurli navolar” (Radiant melodies) international festival of folklore ensembles in the city of Nurata, Navoi region (since 2018); “Zhang san’ati” (Martial Art) is an international festival of folk games in the city of Fergana (since 2018).

Each of the festivals has its own goals and objectives. For example, the “International Festival of Bakhshi (Storytellers) Art” pursues such goals as: preservation and development traditions and values ​​of folklore, educating the young generation in the spirit of courage, decency, instilling national and universal values, increasing the level and significance of creativity of bakhshi-writers, akyns and storytellers in the culture and art. The program of all the above festivals includes scientific and scientific-practical conferences, in which foreign and local specialists and scientists take part.

Often, festivals held in Uzbekistan are part of planned long-term measures to preserve one or another intangible cultural heritage. For example, in order to preserve and develop the art of storytelling (bakhshi) in the Republic, two Presidential decrees and one decree of the Cabinet of Ministers were issued. In the execution of these documents, a special fund and a national center for storytelling art (bakhshichilik) were created. Also, a system of training professional staff in storytelling art was created with an elementary (children’s art and music schools), secondary (professional colleges of art and culture) and higher (Yunus Rajabi Institute of Music) levels. In addition, new state ensembles on storytelling art were created in four regions (Surkhandarya, Kashkadarya, Khorezm regions and the Republic of Karakalpakstan), retraining and advanced training of teachers-bakhshi were organized, special boarding schools for bakhshi were organized (in the city of Termez, Surkhandarya region).

The organization of research is of great importance in preserving the intangible cultural heritage. Currently, more and more government grants are allocated for fundamental and practical research of the intangible cultural heritage of Uzbekistan. Master’s and doctoral dissertations are defended on the role of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in ensuring sustainable development, the introduction of ICH in the educational process, the use of ICH in museums, etc.

The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Uzbekistan was ratified in 2008. Currently, the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity contains 8 elements from Uzbekistan and 1 element in the List of Best Practices and Programs for the Conservation of ICH. If we consider that 2 elements (“Boysun Cultural Space” and “Shashmakom”) were on the list before the ratification of the Convention, then in 12 years only 6 elements. Of these, 3 elements have been included in the last 4 years (Pilav: culture and traditions (2016), Khorezm dance – Lazgi (2019), The Art of Miniature (2020). Also, during this period, in the Register of the best programs and practices for the preservation of the intangible cultural heritage UNESCO included the nomination “Preserving the traditions of making atlas and adras of the Margilan Handicraft Center”, which to this day is the only nomination from Central Asia.

Uzbekistan participates in many international projects related to the protection and use of intangible cultural heritage. His active participation in the international committee of the countries of Central Asia and Korea “Fairy Tale Art” is producing good results. Thanks to this project, the most popular epic “Alpamysh” was translated into Russian, English and Korean languages, many stage works about the culture of the peoples of Uzbekistan were created, fairy tales for children were published in Uzbek, English, Russian and Korean.

Video production plays an important role in the promotion of intangible cultural heritage. To this end, 10 documentaries about the intangible cultural heritage of Uzbekistan were filmed in 2016-2017 for the “Video library of the intangible cultural heritage of Asian countries” organized by the UNESCO centers ICHCAP (Korea), IICAS (Uzbekistan) and SONI: “Gardening in Uzbekistan” ( Gardening in Uzbekistan); “Maqoms of Uzbekistan”; Pottery of Uzbekistan; “Plov: culture and traditions” (Palov Culture and Traditions); Navruz in Uzbekistan; Rope Walking in Uzbekistan; “The Art of Doston Narration in Uzbekistan”; Traditional Ikat Making in Uzbekistan; “Wedding Ceremony in Uzbekistan”; Cultural Space of Boysun.

Also, by order of ICHCAP (Korea) in 2019-2020, the 4 documentaries about women’s participation in safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage made: “Kashtachilik” (Embroidery), “Zarduzlik” (Golden Shield), “Gilamchilik” (Carpet weaving), “Duppiduzlik” (Making skullcaps). International cooperation in the field of book publishing is also yielding positive results. So, in 2017-2018, under a joint project with ICHCAP (Korea) and IICAS (Uzbekistan), a brochure “List of intangible cultural heritage of Uzbekistan” was published in Uzbek and English, and an atlas was published in separate editions in Uzbek and English “Intangible cultural heritage of Uzbekistan”.

 List of International Festivals in Uzbekistan:

  • “Shark taronalari” (Melodies of the East) international music festival. Held once every two years in Samarkand (last week of August). Last time in 2019.
  • “Halgaro maqom forums” (International forum of maqom). Held once every two years in Shakhrisabz (1st decade of September). Last time 2018.
  • “Atlas Bairami” (Atlas Festival) international textile festival. From 2015 to 2018, it was held every year in the city of Margelan. From 2020, it will be held once every two years.
  • “International Festival of Crafts” From 2019 will be held annually in the city of Kokand (first decade of September).
  • “International festival of art of bakhshichilik (storytellers)” once every two years in Termez. Last time 2019
  • “The Great Silk Road” International Folk Music Festival. Held once every two years in Margilan. It was last held in July 2019.
  • “International Eco Festival” in Muynak (Karakalpakstan, October) annually.
    “Raqs sehri” (Magic of dance) international dance festival. Held annually in Khiva (September)
  • “International Festival of Silk and Spices” Held annually in Bukhara (May)
  • “Nurli Navolar” (Radiant Melodies) International Festival of Folklore Ensembles. Held once every two years in the city of Nurata, Navoi region (April)
  • “Zhang Sanati” (Martial Arts) International Festival of Folk Games. Held once every two years in different cities of Uzbekistan (Fergana, August 2018, Karshi, 2020).
  • “Lazzatli Uzbekiston” (Delicious Uzbekistan) international festival of cooks. Held annually in the city of Tashkent.



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