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Turkic poetic heritage as symbol and spectacle of identity: observations on Turkmenistan's Year of Magtymguly celebrations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Paul Michael Taylor*
Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA
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This paper presents one case study of state-sponsored cultural activities that occurred throughout 2014, Turkmenistan's Year of Magtymguly, the 290th anniversary of this Turkmen poet's birth. Such activities constitute examples of public culture; they can organize representations of a society's past and present to reaffirm for participants the values and power structure of their society and revalidate its philosophical underpinnings. After examining this Turkic poet's iconicity, this paper compiles 2014's celebratory events from disparate sources, complementing broader general literature on Central Asia's spectacles of public culture and their role in nation-building and identity-formation. Rather than merely resulting from any top-down decision specifying required activities nationwide, the year's events involved numerous synergies as artists, museum and theater administrators, composers, and other cultural-sector workers benefited by responding to the potential of aligning their work with a theme as broad, as widely appreciated, and as eligible for various forms of support as this one. In addition, Turkmenistan's strong central leadership benefited from this widely shared and highly visible celebration, especially emphasizing one element within Magtymguly's eighteenth-century vision, an end to his people's tribal conflicts within a unified Turkmenistan under one leader.

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This work was authored as part of the Contributor's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 USC. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under US Law. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors


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