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Central Asia

The department’s collections number about 13 thousand specimens representing sedentary agricultural, Turkic nomadic and Iranian nomadic cultures. The curator of the collections is O.N. Panarina, staff member of the Department of Registration and Storage.

The influx of things from Central Asia to MAE mostly began in the second half of the 19th century. The most valuable acquisitions of that time include a collection of beautiful artifacts donated by the inhabitants of the Kazakh steppes to the heir to the Russian throne and the future emperor Nicholas II during his trip to the Orient. Most of these artifacts are steel battle axes of Kazakh dzhigits and precious leather belts.  There are also headdresses (saukele) of a Kazakh bride and shaman’s musical instruments (kobyz). The culture of nomadic and semi-nomadic Iranians (Baluchi, Khazara and Jemshid) is represented by transportable dwellings with a set of impressive elements of the interior.

On the whole, the department owns five movable dwellings (yurts), two of which represent the culture of nomadic Turks (Kazakh and Kirghiz) and three, that of nomadic Iranians. Also, MAE possesses marvelous artifacts manufactured by the sedentary people of Central Asia. Especially valuable are so-called imperial collections – luxurious samples of late 19th – early 20th century Central Asian hand-woven silk, semi-silk and velvet. These masterpieces of weaving and embroidery, known as iqat in the West, along with golden and silver harness pieces, were presented to the Russian emperors of Romanov dynasty by the emirs of Bokhara. The occasions for this were events of a national scale. One was the tercentenary of the ruling house, celebrated in 1913. Presents were also shipped along this peculiar diplomatic silk route connecting Bokhara with St.-Petersburg on other occasions such as coronation day, celebrated annually. Embassies with rich gifts were also sent from Bokhara on the emperor’s and the empress’s birthdays.

The department owns various collections representing the traditional culture of Iranians of the Pamirs and mostly acquired by I.I. Zarubin in 1914. There are numerous artifacts from Bokhara, Samarkand, and Hudjand. 

A highly important collection is that of more than 50,000 photographic and other illustrations, many of them unique, reflecting the realities of Central Asian life beginning from 1870.

For a catalogue of museum collections owned by the department the following publication should be consulted:

  • Bronnikova O.M., Vishnevetskaya (Prischepova) V.A. Katalog kollektsii otdela Srednei Azii i Kazakhstana MAE [Catalogue of Collections of MAE Department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan] // Pamyatniki traditsionno-bytovoi kul’tury narodov Srednei Azii, Kazakhstana i Kavkaza. Leningrad: Nauka, 1989. P. 180–221. (MAE Collection, Vol. XLIII).