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Culture & People
 
 
 

General

Uzbekistan has a wide mix of ethnic groups and cultures, with the Uzbek being the majority group. In 1995 about 71% of Uzbekistan's population was Uzbek. The chief minority groups were Russians (8%), Tajiks (officially 5%, but believed to be much higher), Kazaks (4%), Tatars (2.5%), and Karakalpaks (2%)and other minority groups include Armenians and Koryo-saram. It is said however that the number of non-indigenous people living in Uzbekistan is decreasing as Russians and other minority groups slowly leave and Uzbeks return from other parts of the former Soviet Union.

When Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, it was widely believed that Muslim fundamentalism would spread across the region. The expectation was that an Islamic country long denied freedom of religious practice would undergo a very rapid increase in the expression of its dominant faith. As of 1994 about half of Uzbeks were said to belong to the Islam religion, though in an official survey few of that number had any real knowledge of the religion or knew how to practice it.

Carpet Making

The tradition of carpet weaving in Uzbekistan is ancient. Carpets, mainly woven by numerous home workers in rural areas, are perfect in technique and design. Three types of carpets are common in Uzbekistan: short pile carpets gilyam, long pile carpets julkhirs and palahs.

The characteristic feature of short pile carpets is their red-brown tint, lit up by the harmony of light-coloured details of the principal medallions, which usually appear in geometrical shapes.

Since ancient times, carpets with long pile, julkhirs, have been favoured by rural inhabitants. This kind of carpet weaving was unknown to other peoples of Central Asia. Nowadays it enjoys wide popularity for its ornamentation and correspondence to modern trends in the world carpet making. Julkhirs are monumental in composition and simplicity of design, and are shown in colour.

Palahs fabrics are diverse in Uzbekistan. These include: kokhma – a fabric, plain striped in various colours; terma and gadjari, a fabric woven in pattern with different methods of "crisscross overlap" technique and ornamented with rows of small geometrical vegetal and zoomorphic motifs; and arabi – a cloth, which is woven in the so-called ‘clearance' method. All kinds of palahs fabrics are sometimes supplemented with the superposed design method. This complex and arduous method, which resembles embroidery, is called beshkashta. Over the past 50 years, the method of weaving and ornamenting arabi palahses has been practiced on a large scale in all Central Asian Republics.

Wood Carving & Painting

In Uzbekistan wood carving is executed on a wide range of objects from massive beams for ceilings to tiny children's amulets. The development of this art in the past was linked to ornamenting constructions and local architectural details, where the overlap post-and-beam system already presupposed using wooden materials on a large scale. In the traditional architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries, as the originals illustrate, at times carved wood was the sole element used for decorative purposes; objects to be ornamented were doors, shutters, gates, beams for ceilings, and pillars used in terraces – aivan and shiipan.

In the traditional architecture, painting on wood was mainly conjuncted with ornamenting structures on ceilings, stalactite-like eaves, caps of pillars for palaces, temples and splendid mansions, coupled with decorating various objects for the interior.

The systems of ceilings varying from simple structure of beams and bars with their strict forms to complex many-tier beam and caisson structures, dictated various frieze, border and medallion forms of decorating ceilings.

Classical motifs are created in the islimi and girikh styles, and the artist's objective is to visually lighten the architectural structure and eliminate the feeling of being constrained by low ceilings.


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