The culture of Uzbekistan is vibrant and unique—it was formed over thousands of years, incorporating the traditions and customs of the peoples who at various times inhabited the territory of modern Uzbekistan.
The ancient Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Chinese, Russians, and nomadic Turkic tribes have all contributed to Uzbek culture, which is considered the epitome of Central Asian, crossroads cultures. The traditions reflecting the multinational nature of Uzbekistan are omnipresent in its music, dance, painting, applied arts, language, cuisine, and clothing. Each region of Uzbekistan has its own unique shades as well, which are most clearly manifested in national dress and local dialects.
Uzbek Fine Art
Oriental craftsmen always were renowned for own peculiar fine talent, which is shown in full in decoration and adornments of magnificent palaces, mausoleums and other religious buildings. As a rule, general fine art works include ornament, patterns and calligraphy. Islamic traditions forbid to image people and animals, therefore craftsmen started developing more abstract directions, bringing them to perfection. Later a new direction appeared in Uzbekistan fine art. It was the miniature, small bright colorful pictures lacquered, which decorated palaces and rich houses.
Uzbekistan fine art was in unbelievable flourishing during the general cultural boom in 14-15th centuries, the epoch of Timurid Dynasty. Ancient Samarkand mausoleums preserved details of wonderful landscape paintings. Some palaces of Amir Temur were decorated with scenic pictures of Tamerlane, his wives, sons and associates and scenes of rich feasts. The great medieval artist was the inimitable master of oriental miniature Kamoliddin Behzod.
The next rise of Uzbekistan fine art dates back to the 19th century. The miniature art reaches its highest flourishing. It is glorified by Akhmad Donish (1827-1897), Abdulkhalik-Makhmum and others.
Uzbekistan fine art of 20th century developed under the influence Russian painters Itinerants. Their outstanding works furthered the development of oriental school of portraits and landscapes, development of realism genre in painting art. You can get acquainted with the works of modern masters by visiting the Gallery of Fine Arts, the most modern exhibition hall in Tashkent. The Art Museum, whose Grand Duke Nikolai Konstantinovich Romanov’ s collection of pictures of European painting lay the foundation of the richest expositions, as well as many other art galleries and museums of Uzbekistan.
At the development basis of modern Uzbek literature is rich folklore – speakings or oral folk arts. The people wrote and handed down heroic epics, whose characters were heroes, presented in the images of evil forces, who were fighting against their oppressors and enslavers. This is the way how epics of Uzbek folklore, such as “Koroghlu” and “Alpamysh” were created.
The last of the Timurid dynasty, the founder of the Great Mogul state in India, which existed for two centuries, Zahiriddin Mukhammad Babur was not only a talented ruler and commander, but also notable as an outstanding poet of the time. His epic poem “Baburnama” which describes his biography, and history of the peoples of Central Asia, Afghanistan and India, became a chef-d’oeuvre of Uzbek literature, valuable historical and literary monument of the time.
Traditional Uzbek Music
Music connects the cultures of the world and is a window into the ethos of any country. Likewise, Uzbek music is one of the keys to understanding Uzbek culture.
Uzbek folk music more generally is often associated with dutar and bakhshi. Dutar is a simple instrument with two silk strings and bakhshi is a musician playing this instrument while singing folk songs. Uzbek festive music is performed on a karnay (wind instrument), surnay (flute) and doira, the sounds of which can be heard for hundreds of meters, inviting locals and tourists alike to join in the celebration.
Traditional Uzbek Dance
Uzbek dance, a vivid personification of the beauty of Uzbek culture at large, is uniquely expressive. An emphasis on complex, demonstrative hand movements and rich facial expressions differentiates this country’s dance traditions. Within Uzbek dance itself, there are two common types: traditional classical dance and folk dance.
The traditions of Khorezmian dance go back hundreds of years. The central philosophy of this dance is to express the love of life, beauty of nature, and a dedication to work. These themes are reflected in the choreography, with eccentric gestures mimicking the movements of birds, workers, and so on. Another characteristic of this dance style is a sharpness of motion and paused poses, although rotational movements are quite uncommon unlike in both Bukhara and Fergana dances. The main difference between the dances of Khorezm and other regions of Uzbekistan, however, is the bright temperament and enthusiasm. The most famous and popular dance of Khorezm is Lazgi, which is similar to the famous Lezginka.
Bukhara dances have one obvious similarity to Khorezm dances—there is also energy and passion here. The traditionally graceful, swaying movements and slow rotations of Bukhara are completely different, however. Another unique feature here is the emphasis on the upper body: arms, shoulders, neck, and chest are all at the forefront. Bukhara dancers also tend to use only two simple musical instruments during their performances: “kairaki” (metal plates similar to castanets) and “dangers” (spherical bells worn in the form of bracelets on the wrists and boots).
Smooth hand motions and playful, almost flirtatious movements of the head characterize dance in Fergana. A flowing, lyrical style of dance, it differs from Khorezm and Bukhara’s strict choreography by allowing extensive improvisational freedoms. There is one special rule, however: in Fergana, it is customary to keep the hands turned up; in other dance schools, the palms can be in any position. Also, in contrast to the imitations of the animal world in the Khorezm dances, Fergana dances depicts human relations while often exploring lyrical, romantic themes.
Uzbek Handicrafts and Applied Art
The applied art of Uzbekistan is original and exclusive creative work of national craftsmen and masters, passing their skills from generation to generation. Putting their hearts and souls into works, for many centuries, they have created unique pieces and articles: housewares, house adornment, inimitable fabrics for dressy dresses, colorful tableware.
The works of Fergana, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and other masters have been historically notable outside the country and still continue to stir interest of lovers of the beautiful from all over the world. Many schools of suzané embroidery and ceramics, skullcaps of different type and purpose, national pichak-knives for every occasion, silk and woolen carpets, silk and chasing – the wonderful works, produced by local masters for centuries, make a unique exoticism of Uzbekistan.
Sui generis centers and schools of folk arts and crafts were formed in the territory of Uzbekistan for centuries. Each region has its own direction. Chust, Namangan region, is widely known for its skullcaps and knives; Rishtan, Fergana region, turquoise ceramics; ancient Margilan, satin with iridescent play of colors; sacred Bukhara, gold embroidery.
Uzbekistan's Best Souvenirs
Dried fruits, nuts, and local sweets Tyubiteyka hats, Leather and modern clothes made of traditional fabrics from local designers, Wood carvings
Paper at Konigil factory, Silk carpets, Dried fruits, nuts, and local sweets Wine, Clothes from local designers
Suzani – decorative embroidered textiles, Ceramics, Handmade bird scissors, Silk, and wool carpets, and rugs, Wood carvings
Handmade camel wool socks, Wood carvings, Wool carpets, Handmade hats (called chigirma), Handmade ceramic figurines
Blue ceramics - the signature of the Rishtan ceramics school, Chust knives, Handmade silk textile.
Ikat fabrics, Silk textile