Central Asia Program Series Publications Uzbekistan Briefs

Navro’z and the Renewal of Uzbek National Culture

Uzbekistan Initiative Papers No. 4, February 2014

By Laura L. Adams

Navro’z is an important holiday in contemporary Uzbekistan not just because of its profound popularity, but also as an exemplary case of a broader phenomenon of post-Soviet cultural renewal.

National holidays are often used by states as conscious expressions of national identity, but Navro’z is an especially felicitous case to examine as it is inherently a celebration of renewal.

In other parts of the world, Navro’z is linked with the symbol of fire, though fire plays almost no role in Uzbekistan’s contemporary Navro’z celebrations and reference to fire rituals was actively discouraged by the government.

The defense of Navro’z was the catalyst for the defense of national-cultural traditions in general in late Soviet times.

In addition to this story of struggle against the cultural domination of Moscow, the way Navro’z is celebrated in Uzbekistan today shows us that there is also an important component of global modernity to the way that cultural renewal took place in Uzbekistan in the 1990s.

The desire of the state to produce a slick, tightly controlled show for the masses has perhaps laid the ground for a new struggle over the meaning of Navro’z.

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