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It’s time to realize wealth of Great Steppe history, says Oxford University’s expert

26 December 2018 11:06

BRUSSELS. KAZINFORM - Commenting on Kazakhstan President's Article "Seven Facets of the Great Steppe," Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History at University of Oxford, called for the wealth of the history of the steppe people to be realized.

"The steppes had a very important role in history as innovation, as a corridor, and as its own culture on its own. And in this world of the president's future it has to play an important role too," Peter Frankopan told Kazinform correspondent.

The British professor added that because of the lack of due attention to the history of Kazakhstan, there are some gaps, which especially appeared during the last thousand years. Many inventions that changed the world, including the cartwheel, were created in the steppes of Central Asia and are part of the steppe culture.

"I know it comes surprise some people in Central Asia, this is a sort of mistrustful of the idea that Central Asia is that important. But I am perfectly comfortable about with the idea that Central Asia really has had an important role in the global past, particularly over millennia," he pointed out.

At the same time, the difficult living conditions of nomads, everyday contact with the harsh nature of the steppe and the particular geopolitical position indurated the peoples of the region making them courageous and resistant to all kinds of adversities.

"It's always difficult being in between East and West, North and South. But that makes you survivors, and it's the only best word I can say about the civilization," the interlocutor added. "Herodotus, our first European historian, said that people of the steppes, the one thing that should define them all is that they survive."

He highlighted the fact that "survival is the most important thing in any state should looking for in the 21st century".

Mr. Frankopan informed that "The Scythians" exhibition was held last year at British Museum. It showcased ancient cultures of the steppes from above 1500 BC until about 80s called, it covered about 2000 years. "It showed the artifacts of the steppes and quite a few loans from the National Museum in Astana of Golden objects and saddles. It showed that the steppe peoples were very important in working alongside cities, even from quite far away. The status steppe leaders was very elevated, what kind of gifts they got given in return either for the support or as tributes to stop them attacking."

"And the "Scythians", I think people were amazed to find that steppe cultures produced these incredible pieces of jewelry and brooches and have access to such wealth. And also it was so well organized, you cannot survive on the steppes without cooperating together. It's just different forms of cooperating when you live in your moving and mobile population. (...) And I think they were enchanted by being introduced the cultures they weren't taught at school like I wasn't taught at school," he underlined.

"The steppe people have very strong oral cultures where people sing songs and reside poetry and past stories in a generation to generation. Which is great, but these urban societies tended to leave written records, and so we relied on those records to understand peoples of the steppes. So we have only one side you can learn from," the speaker maintains.

"Kazakhstan talks sometimes about itself like new country since the end of the Soviet Union. This is when Kazakhstan feels like it began, in 1991. It's not so very long ago. But the land and the people of Kazakhstan have been there for thousands of years. And so caused the materials found in the ground from Issyk-Kul, from Almaty and so on. These are some of the most important objects found not just in the history of Central Asia, but in global history," the interlocutor concluded.

Professor Peter Frankopan is the author of "The Silk Roads: A New History of the World," which became a bestseller lifting the veil on the huge historic heritage of the region. The book reveals that centuries ago, the intellectual centers of the world were not in Europe but in the cities of Central Asia, gathering all the enlightened youth in search of success.

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