Academic way of promoting biocultural diversity as an important direction of further development

In November 2015, director of Aigine CRC, Dr. Gulnara Aitpaeva, participated in 4th International European Society for the Study of Himalayan and Central Asiatic Civilizations (SEECHAS) Colloquium. The event was held in Heidelberg, Germany and was entitled Religious Revivals and Artistic Renaissance in Central Asia and the Himalayan Region – past and present. Dr.

Aitpaeva’s presentation was on Sacred Geography of Kyrgyzstan: Linking Spirituality and Art, and was based on Aigine CRC’s research results conducted in 2005-2014 within the framework of TCF projects. The talk was focused on considering the Sacred Geography of Kyrgyzstan as a domain of social life. This domain generates efforts and justice in society, and socially-oriented spiritual and artistic practices get developed within this domain. These practices are aimed at introducing positive changes in socio-political life in the country.

In the fall of 2015, Aigine CRC’s staff member, Aibek Samakov, received his MA Degree from the Institute of Natural Resources of the Manitoba University, Canada. A seminar on Biocultural Diversity organized back in 2012 by BDC KNAU and supported by TCF, laid foundation for academic collaboration between Aigine CRC and Aibek Samakov’s academic advisor, Dr. Fikret Berkes. Aibek Samakov’s MA thesis is a scientific product that emerged from Aigine CRC’s research on sacred sites conducted in 2005-2014 with TCF’s support. The author, in his work, reviewed two models of safeguarding biocultural diversity: traditional or community based – a phenomenon of sacred sites, and contemporary or state – creating biosphere territories. The main approach of the work complies with Aigine CRC’s mission on integrating traditional wisdom with contemporary practices. An ancient form of preserving and safeguarding the nature and its diversity in the form of sacred sites is based, first of all, on emotional ties of an individual with a place and on spiritual unity with certain space or time. In author’s opinion, today, this approach could bring new perspectives into state schemes of environmental protection on the example of the Yssyk-Kul Biosphere Reserve. And Aibek also emphasized that while syncretizing the traditional and contemporary models of safeguarding biocultural diversity, legal status of biosphere reserve could, in its turn, foster legal protection of sacred sites. Aigine CRC strongly believes that Aibek’s academic research represents one of the most effective models in activating and promoting wide range of traditional empirical materials that have been collected by many TCF grantees over a long period of time.

In May 2016, Aigine CRC in partnership with the American University in Central Asia (AUCA), French Institute for Central Asian Studies (IFEAC) and Central Asian Studies Institute (CASI) held an international scientific conference Rethinking of the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia. The year 2016 marks the centenary of the 1916 Uprising in Central Asia, which is seen as the largest and the most violent national protest against the Russian colonial rule. The workshop was held in the format of thematic sessions and discussion, which allowed to fully illuminate the various aspects of the conference theme. The meeting included a thematic concert where rare works were presented, such as poetry of Ysak Shaybekov “Kayran el” (”Suffering people”, 1916), performed by the group “Marjan” and Nurak Abdrakhmanov’s composition “Үrkүn” (Exodus 2009) in the performance of his apprentices. As a result, number of participants expressed their desire to organize such academic platform for the exchange of information and analysis of key historical events in the region on a regular basis. On the other hand, after the conference, Michael Hall, the regional director for the Caucasus and Central Asia at the Open Society Foundations, visited Aigine CRC with the invitation to consider applying to OSF to continue this kind of academic events.