Uzbek Cultural Values & Gulnora’s Cultural Output

Post image for Uzbek Cultural Values & Gulnora’s Cultural Output

by Nathan Hamm on 10/31/2012 · 11 comments

Gulnora Karimova has been on a tear lately. This year alone she has campaigned against breast cancer, finance 1,000 weddings and 1,000 circumcisions, gone to fancy parties in Europe, started tweeting a bunch of dreck that reads like a 12 year old’s Facebook wall, and put our an album of Euro-trash pop music (and maybe… probably… stole Uzdunrobita back from its Russian owners). The latest exciting dispatch is that she is writing a screenplay! and Gerard Depardieu!

She says she is writing a screenplay set in sixth-century Central Asia.

The news site olam.uz quotes Uzbek filmmaker Akbar Khakimov as saying Depardieu is expected to play a Christian monk in the film.

Obviously Gulnora inhabits a unique world. She is bound by neither the Uzbek state nor by the social, cultural, and identity norms promoted by the state.

Take this screenplay she is reportedly writing, for example. It is set in pre-Islamic Central Asia.

Like other nations solidified and territorialized during the Soviet period, the official line on Uzbeks is that they have an eternal and unquestionable chain of inheritance to the territory of modern Uzbekistan back to pre-history. Sure, other groups moved in and contributed to the current composition of the Uzbek nation, but the people and the land have been together for all time. Further, to be Uzbek is to be Muslim. A Christian simply cannot be sufficiently Uzbek. And while everyone in Uzbekistan knows that there was a time before Islam and that Turkic, Mongol, and Persian peoples moved to and through the territory that is now Uzbekistan, the current government, aggressively assuming its role as protector of Uzbek culture and identity, is sometimes uncomfortable with public discussion of how “foreign” peoples, cultures, and languages contribute to modern Uzbek identity. An Uzbek religious historian I once met, for example, said that the government had requested he restrict his discussions of the links between Zoroastrianism and Uzbek religious and cultural practices to academic fora where the public was unlikely to encounter the information.

So, turning back to Guli’s movie, who will be the people inhabiting the world she creates? Factually, they can be neither Muslim nor Uzbek, but if Gulnora had to meet the same expectations as others, some creative trick would need to make them both.

Maybe this is not such a big deal anymore though. Maybe the government has lightened up a bit. Really, it is not that bad when you think about it. It certainly is far worse to hang out with Muslim men who wear impressively full beards.

Speaking of which… As that photo above shows, Gulnora does that too. In fact, this gentleman not only has a suspiciously radical beard, but he also is a Turk. And while every flavor of foreigner is suspect, Turks are especially so given their interests in strong, direct cultural ties with other Turkic peoples, funding education in other Turkic states, and allowing the spread of Turkish Islamic thought.

The list could go on and on, but suffice it to say that there is a tension between the ideas of Uzbek identity and Uzbekistan that Gulnora Karimova constructs, those the state constructs, and the realities Uzbekistan’s people experience. Gulnora portrays herself as educated, artistic, philanthropic, and a peer of celebrities and global thinkers. She releases jewelry, buys her way into parties, puts on fashion shows, and releases awful dance music just like the long list of people who have become famous for being famous. Unlike them, she has better resources. She is what Heidi Montag would be if she had 25 million people to shake down.

And considering where she is from, Gulnora is lucky to have her father, and not just for the money. Much of what she does implicitly questions the values, and others have found themselves on the government’s bad side for much less than Gulnora has done.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2992 posts on Registan.net.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 11 comments }

Bakhrom November 1, 2012 at 11:38 am

Interesting post, indeed, Islam came to CA in late 7, early 8 century and people of that time spoke a language which hardly can be called modern Uzbek. It will be funny if screenplay say there were Muslims who identified themselves as Uzbeks, really funny. Time will tell, let us wait and see what kind film will be made

Bruno De Cordier November 8, 2012 at 2:25 am

Yes. There’s more strange official historical constructions, not in the least the official Timur cult as father of the Uzbek ation, all when Timur’s reign predated the ethnogenesis of the Uzbeks. In fact, if there is a rea father of the Uzbek nation then it is Muhammad Sheybani, a devout Sunni who led several proto-Uzbek clans and tribes from the Kipçak steppe into to Ma’Wara an-Nahr in the sixteenth century.

Justin November 4, 2012 at 3:13 am

Nathan,
I am impressed with all that you write. One question I am sure many of us have is: does GooGoo have a man in her life, apart from dear Papa of course? Perhaps she buys these or keeps a harem of tame male syncophants?

Jason Kennedy November 6, 2012 at 3:53 am

Do you not have a native English speaker to correct the posts? This is interesting material, but I can’t figure out what certain key sentences mean and there is a general lack of clarity. A shame.

Nathan November 6, 2012 at 4:08 am

Ouch. What’s confusing here?

Elmurad November 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm

This is interesting material? Really? Not “this is AN interesting material”? And, not “an interesting TOPIC,” to be more precise?

Bruno De Cordier November 8, 2012 at 2:29 am

“who will be the people inhabiting the world she creates? (…) Maybe this is not such a big deal anymore though.”

No it isn’t. The world of Paris Hilton – of whom she’s somewhat reminiscent if only because the brand she is only exists thanks to media attention – is not inhabited by real Americans either.

FCH December 4, 2012 at 5:32 am

When will you haters finally stop envying Gulnara Karimova?! STOP IT NOW! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHmvkRoEowc

Dilshod December 12, 2012 at 8:30 am

There are few typos, but otherwise it’s well put, concise and clear, if you ask me.

tdon December 17, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I hate to nitpick, but I agree that Mr. Hamm should proof his posts a little better. For example: “And while every flavor of foreigner is suspect, Turks are especially so given their interests in strong, direct cultural ties with other Turkic peoples, funding education in other Turkic states, and allowing the spread of Turkish Islamic through.” The spread of Turkish Islamic what? Through what exactly? Did he mean “the spread of Turkish Islamic thought”? In another piece he referred to Sanjar Umarov as a “political prison.”

Nathan December 17, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Thanks. My apologies. I’m really bad at proofing my own work and appreciate when people point this out. At least this shows that our blog content is not as serious or polished as people often assume.

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