Uzbeks, Zunghars and the Religious Internationals
From the beginning of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth, the state in Central Asia lost the initiative to society and culture. This had begun with the Timurids’ substitution of civility for force as the bond of empire, but now it went further. Initiative passed specifically to religious culture and institutions, whose clerical organizations intimidated the state and dominated society, both sedentary and steppe. The rise of clericalism was not necessarily a symptom of decline. On the contrary, it represented the final stage of the active phase of Central Asia’s involvement in world history. It contributed powerfully to the formation of a further world institution: the religious internationals. Buddhism, Christianity and Islam had always been world religions in theory, unlike Western paganism, Hinduism or the indigenous Chinese religion (‘Sinism’) which never had a universal vocation, or Zoroastrianism and Judaism which refused it. Until the sixteenth century, however, none of the three possessed internationals, in the sense of institutions, capable of acting world-wide in a variety of social circumstances and intellectual milieus.
KeywordsSixteenth Century Fifteenth Century World History World Religion Nomadic Pastoralism
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