Mountains in the Evolution of Visual Arts in Kyrgyzstan

  • Emil Nasritdinov
Part of the Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects book series (EDAP, volume 11)

Kyrgyzstan is a small, mountainous country in the heart and, perhaps, the most beautiful part of Central Asia. The folds of the Tyan-Shan Mountains that occupy almost 90% of Kyrgyzstan’s land create a wide variety of climatic zones and spectacular scenery; from never-melting snow and glaciers on the top, to lavish green pastures and bright blue lakes in the middle, and the valleys at the bottom rich in fruit and vegetables. For many centuries, since Kyrgyz people migrated to this area from the banks of Enisei River in Southern Siberia (Mokrynin and Ploskih, 1995) their life was indissolubly connected to these beautiful mountains. Kyrgyz people always were, and to some degree still remain, pastoral nomads. They moved from pasture to pasture in the mountains with the herds of their horses and sheep. Here, in the wild — far away from the noisy cities of Central Asia — the life of Kyrgyz nomads was completely dependent on nature and the mountains. Their lifestyle, culture and arts were shaped by the powerful natural forces of Tyan-Shan. The natural forms, such as skies, mountains, pastures, rivers, trees and animals, became the main motifs in the ornamental decoration of Kyrgyz dwellings, their clothes, arms, jewelry and objects of everyday use. The mountainous scenery played a major role in the formation of the composition and colour schemes of their ornamental patterns. A simple, yet beautiful, life in this amazing habitat found its reflection in the creation of a unique Kyrgyz style of decoration, defined by their plain, yet picturesque ornaments in vivid natural colours.

Great changes were wrought in Central Asia in 1991. Kyrgyzstan became an independent republic after the break up of the Soviet Union. The changes came on all fronts: the economy, the social structure, culture and the arts. In the context of increasing poverty, the arts changed from being politicized to being commercialized. Kyrgyzstan opened its borders to tourists who travel to see the beauty of the Tyan-Shan Mountains. Not surprisingly, interest has grown in the traditional decorative arts that can be sold as souvenirs and in the painting of mountainous scenery which distinguish the Kyrgyz painting tradition from that of other central Asian artists.

We can see that nature and the mountains of Kyrgyzstan always were and still remain the major inspiration for Kyrgyz artists of all generations. In the following sections we examine how natural forms and sceneries were reflected in the traditional decorative arts of pre-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, in the paintings of the Soviet Kyrgyz artists and in the works of contemporary artists after Independence.


Colour Scheme Soviet Period Colour Palette Contemporary Artist Pastoral Nomad 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

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  • Emil Nasritdinov

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