If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly

Silk Road and the development of world civilization

Alongside with merchandising, the Silk Route promoted cultural exchanges, involving not only applied art, wall-painting and architecture, but music and dancing as well.

World culture didn’t emerge by itself, out of nothing. It imbibed best achievements of national cultures and grew out of associate creative work of different ethnic groups. Famous Persian sufic poet Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), who wrote much about interaction, interpenetration and enrichment of cultures, who preached tolerance and respect for the human being, condemning mercenaries, hypocrisy and tyranny, once said: “It happens very often, that a Turk and an Indian understand each other at once. It is often, that two Turks can’t find a common language. So, language of concord is quite another thing: mutual understanding is dearer, than mere language”. Jalaluddin Rumi was called the singer of “heart’s religion”. His funeral in the town of Konye was attended by the Moslems, Christians, Judaists and Buddhists.

Alongside with merchandising, the Silk Route promoted cultural exchanges, involving not only applied art, wall-painting and architecture, but music and dancing as well. Amusing shows, performed by strolling musicians, dancers, actors, tamers, acrobats, mimes and jugglers, were some sort of medieval “variety art”. There were no language barriers for them: they entertained Greek Ruler and Turkic Kagan, Kiev Prince and Chinese Emperor. Iranian, Sogdian and Turkic actors contributed greatly to the development of Chinese choreography. Oriental actors often performed in Constantinople. Thus, Princess Olga, being guest of honor at Byzantine Empress’ court, was entertained once by jesters and rope- walkers; a Turkic acrobat turned a somersault, amusing the Seldzhuk Sultan Arslan II on the festival, arranged in his honor by Manuel I. Sometimes, actors performed in masks. Fancy-dress balls and masquerades, performed in Bagdad during the celebration of the Moslems’ “New Year” (Navruz) was enjoyed by the Caliph himself.

Objects and artifacts, excavated at the full extent of the Silk Route, give material evidence of the development and enrichment of national cultures, music and theatre in particular. Of great interest in this connection is the collection of terracotta pottery, relating to the times of the T’ang dynasty’s ruling. These unique samples depict dancers, actors, wearing masks, and musicians, sitting on camel humps. Judging by their faces, they were representatives of Central Asian nationalities. Well-preserved wall-paintings in presence-chambers of palaces in Pendjikent, Varahsh, Afrasiab, Toprak-Kala and eastern Turkestan depict actors and musicians, wearing masks. A beautiful wooden statuette of a dancing woman had been discovered in Pendjikent. Actor’s clay mask, dating from the tenth — eleventh centuries, had been excavated at the site of the town of Keder on Syr-Darya.

The great trans-Asian highway also promoted dissemination of various foreign-born religions and doctrines, being spread by missionaries and pilgrims. Buddhism was brought from India via Central Asia and eastern Turkestan, Christianity came from Syria, Iran and Arabia, later, large majority of countries along the Silk Route were converted to Islam.

Favorable influence of the Silk Route on the development of culture in Central Asia and Kazakhstan is indisputable. Linking two great civilizations, Asian and European, it contributed largely to penetration and further development of the Middle Ages’ most remarkable cultural achievements.

Cooperation between nomadic and settled peoples resulted in creation of wonderful culture, shining like a rare pearl in the necklace of mankind’s ancient cultures.

Thus, the Great Silk Route played an important role in the development of world civilization. It carried not only silk and exotic commodities, but ancient art, scientific and technological achievements, religious creeds and ideas, promoting progress on its way between Asia and Europe.

Karl Baipakov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.