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Identities and Borders: The Territories of Central Asia

First presented in Rome in April 2009, this article by Isabella Damiani was then published as a Working Paper by EastBordNet.
The word “territory” takes different values in Central Asia.
In the northern desertic and semi-desertic areas, human organizations may not assume stable shapes, since farming and building it’s impossible. In this kind of environment, the so-called “Steppes society”, it is only possible to generate a nomadic, mobility–based way of life: there are mainly farmers, continuously moving, searching for pastures or escaping from other tribes. This situation gave birth to an eurasiatic nomadic political culture, called tribal feudalism.

In the southern part of the big centrasiatic waste overbear the stability and the agricultural culture. In these areas grew up the so-called “Oasis society”, through the political structure of the city-state, a real territorial state, which gave birth to centres of powers and richness. In these places, despite an autocratic political organization, typical of the oriental despotism, culture and economic exchanges could freely reproduce.

Here started a paradoxical situation: the tribal feudalism, despite its nomadic settle, ties itself to the territory, take possession of it, preventing its violation; the big southern emirates, on the contrary, despite of their strongly territorialized political structure, develop a social system open to every kind of cultural exchange: the territory became public, and every customer belong to it, the foreign is not stranger and he can perfectly integrate.

Notwithstanding the centrasiatic territories in the last two centuries have been included in the Russian empire, in the Sovietic one and finally in a nationalistic-based division, its socio-political-territorial structure remained practically the same. It is still seen through two different perceptions, according as we are talking about steppes or oasis.


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