Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cultural Synthesis in Central Asia

To what extent does the geography of Central Asian countries contribute to the cultural synthesis that took place there?

Central Asia map
This past Friday, the TOK class was fortunate enough to have a guest speaker. The visiting professor was a sociologist from the University of West Georgia and he spent a large portion of his life in Central Asia. Central Asia consists of the countries Kazakistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The guest speaker spent the majority of his time in Uzbekistan with a host family in the capital, Tashkent. Throughout the guest speaker's presentation, the idea of cultural synthesis stood out to me the most. Cultural synthesis occurs when different cultures are brought together and, over time, begin to merge together until they have created an entirely different culture.

One way that cultural synthesis is seen in Central Asia is the language. In the language of Uzbek, which is classified as a Turkic language, there are influences from many other languages around this region. Some of these influences come from languages such as Farsi, Arabic, and Russian. Due to the geographical placement of this country, it has developed a language influenced by all of the surrounding countries. Also, in Tajikistan, the people speak primarily in the Persian language, Farsi. This may have occurred because Tajikistan is closer to the Persian countries than to the Turkish countries.

Central Asian culture does not only consist of Persian and Turkish influences, it is also greatly influenced by Russia. This area was part of the Soviet Union, and the Russian culture was synthesized into the mix of Persian and Turkic cultures. One specific example the guest speaker gave was the extensive consumption of Vodka in this region. This is unusual because of the large Muslim population because, typically, Muslims do not drink. However, the people of Uzbek consume Russian Vodka on an almost daily basis, showing the way Russian culture influenced Muslim culture.

It is very interesting to see the way the Persian, Turkic, and Russian cultures have merged to create the cultures of Central Asia and it begs the question: what led to this? I believe that the extent of this cultural synthesis is largely due to the geographical placement of this region. As we have learned from many of the Human Science presentations we have seen so far, geography is extremely important. Geography is one of the most defining factors for cultures and also for religions, which we learned during the Psychology presentation Pate and Chase gave. They informed us about the different versions of hell; depending on the weather in a particular region, the hell of a religion would either be hot, as seen in the Christian hell, or cold, as seen in the Nordic hell.

In order to determine what caused the culture synthesis of Central Asia, we must look at its geographical placement. Central Asia is directly in the middle of three prominent past empires: the Persian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Soviet Union. During the prime of each of these empires, the region of Central Asia was consumed by them. Because this region was always a part of an empire, they never got the opportunity to develop cultures that were uniquely their own, they simply adopted other cultures. Through the years of being passed between the different ruling empires, certain aspects of each culture remained, but some diminished. This eventually created the cultures of the different countries in Central Asia.

In conclusion, the geographical placement of Central Asia largely affected the culture of this region. The different languages and ideas that influenced the central asian countries came from all of the surrounding regions. Without those surrounding regions and their role in Central Asia, the culture there would have been profoundly different.