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Central Asia rediscovered

After years of renovation, the Hermitage’s Central Asian galleries reopen with a spectacular new display.

Published: February 27, 2013 (Issue # 1748)



  • One of the objects on view in the newly reopened Central Asian galleries.
    Photo: FOR SPT

Few people might identify Central Asia as one of the birthplaces of globalization, but those who view it as a strictly 21st-century phenomenon may be surprised to learn that similar cultural and commercial exchanges have been taking place for thousands of years in the arid steppes and mountains of China and Mongolia.

Visitors to the State Hermitage Museum once again have the opportunity to investigate its fascinating collection of art from the region, titled “The Culture and Art of Central Asia,” which reopened Feb. 14 after a long period of renovation.

The exhibition, which contains around 1,000 artifacts, spans two millennia and features artistic and cultural treasures from across Central Asia that together form a fabulous mosaic of peoples, religions, and artisanship.

“The Culture and Art of Central Asia” is a reminder of the important role merchants and trading in the area played in the development of art and the expansion of religion — mainly Buddhism in this case — and also of how the iconography of these religions changed through interaction with various cultures.

The Hermitage’s collection includes pieces from various parts of the vast region, including East Turkestan (the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China), Tibet, Mongolia, Buryatia and the western borderlands of modern-day China.

The Mongolian collection is especially extensive, spanning from the first centuries B.C. to the 14th century. Its diversity testifies to the waves of different cultures that passed through the region during this period.

Of particular interest is the collection of artifacts from the Noin-Ula kurgans, a group of 1st-century B.C. burial mounds excavated in northern Mongolia by Soviet explorer Pyotr Kozlov in 1923-1924. Here you can marvel at the ancient skills of the Xiongnu aristocracy, evident in a wealth of objects retrieved from the 200 kurgans, from household items and parts of chariots to lacquered cups and silver jewelry.

But most striking are the silk fabrics, with their diverse ornamentation and highly technical embroidery, which testify to the close links the Xiongnu enjoyed with China.

The area later came under Turkic influence, and this is represented by a helmet, arrowheads, and a stone head with an untranslated runic inscription dating from the 6th or 7th century — one of only two such heads found in Mongolia.

The exhibition also features a number of cultural artifacts and works of art from oasis cities located along the route of the Great Silk Road, the vast ancient network of trade routes linking Asia to Europe.

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Wednesday, Apr. 23


Problems facing the elderly are in the spotlight at Senior Generation 2014, an international forum at LenExpo beginning today that focuses on drawing attention to and providing information about some of society’s most vulnerable members. An exhibition combined with a trade fair will help those interested be better equipped to help this demographic.



Thursday, Apr. 24


Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegation’s visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.


AmCham’s Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.



Friday, Apr. 25


Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finland’s Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from www.culturalkitchen.fi.



Saturday, Apr. 26


At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping mall’s Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.



Sunday, Apr. 27


Families shouldn’t miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.



Monday, Apr. 28


The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBA’s Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.



Tuesday, Apr. 29


Improve your English at the British Book Center’s Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.