Central Asia Program Series Publications Uzbekistan Briefs

The Role and Place of Oral History in Central Asian Studies

Uzbekistan Initiative Papers No. 13, March 2014

By Timur Dadabaev

Any impartial and informed public evaluation of the past, in particular the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, has, for various reasons, always been a complicated issue in Central Asia.

There is a long tradition of history construction in Central Asia, and political pressures and official ideology have always had a decisive say in how history is interpreted.

These “official” descriptions of the past have sometimes confirmed, but more often contradicted, the interpretations of the past as viewed through the everyday experiences of ordinary people.

Public perceptions of history, in contrast to the ideologies and political doctrines of the time, are primarily shaped by and related to people’s everyday needs, experiences, identification, and mentality.

Any discussion of how state policies and traumatic experiences of the past have influenced the formation of current political systems in Central Asia, those purely based on “official” historical accounts and “master narratives” without oral recollections by individuals, are incomplete and often inadequate.

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