The diversity of opinions and desire to find a common conceptual platform for a dialogue were the distinguishing feature of the panel discussion "Turkmenistan is the Heart of the Great Silk Road" as part of the XIV Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS in Ashgabat.
Serious discussions that complemented the forum agenda item "The Common Humanitarian Space of the CIS: Dialogue in the Sphere of Culture, Science, and Education" brought together participants from different countries. They talked about the Great Silk Road that for centuries contributed not only to the development of trade but also interpenetration of cultures, which can serve as an exemplary model for an interethnic dialogue in the 21st century.
Mikhail Shvydkoy, who moderated the discussions, emphasized that this topic was important for the entire Eurasian space:
"The problem of the Great Silk Road covers many aspects. The establishment of a transport artery between East and West, between China, the Far East and Europe is currently one of the serious economic problems that is being addressed differently in different countries."
Alexander Kadyrbaev from the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences made an excursion into the history of the ancient road. "Records of the Silk Road date back to the second century BC. First information about it can be found in the Chinese sources. At that time, the struggle between the Chinese and nomadic peoples intensified, and the emperor from the Han dynasty sent his ambassador Zhang Qian far to the West. Thanks to his discoveries, the Chinese learned about the peoples of the western region, Central Asia."
Lyudmila Stavskaya, Head of the Department of the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University talked about the Silk Road in the territory of present-day Kyrgyzstan:
"Two roads - from the West and from the East - crossed at Issyk-Kul. It was in the city of Chugu, the capital of the Usun state. From there, the routes of the Great Silk Road took different turns. This was of great importance for the peoples living in this territory. Many medieval cities that emerged in the territory of modern Kyrgyzstan in the VI century were founded by Sogdian merchants. Encouraged by economic incentives, merchants moved from their ancestral territories towards caravans."
Excavations are also underway in the Tajik soil, which is replete with all kinds of valuable artifacts. Archaeologists from Russia, Germany and France work in a five and a half thousand-year-old city of Sarazm. Farhod Rahimi, President of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan, invited scientists from neighboring countries to join the project to study the common history together.
Ilham Mammadzade, Director of the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, proposed to look at the new Silk Road as a prototype of a possible world order:
"In order to revive the Silk Road, we must stop making territorial, cultural and linguistic claims to each other. Some critical issues must be addressed together. It is important to understand how the countries of the former Soviet Union, the current CIS, will participate in the new Silk Road: as a single, diverse but common integrative group or each state separately from the others. This is one of the key points."
Speaking about the economic and cultural potential of the Silk Road, one should not forget an important component such as the tourism industry. A well-thought-out strategy can become a tool that can influence the cultural and humanitarian potential and economic development of the regions. This idea was put forward by Svetlana Dikhtyar, Director of the Russian non-profit organization "Tourism and Hospitality in the Modern World."
"The conversation about the Silk Road heritage in tourism began long before the Chinese initiative "One Belt, One Way". For example, in 1994, the World Tourism Organization adopted the Samarkand Declaration that united the countries whose territories this ancient route once crossed. The project on revival of tourism along the Great Silk Road under the auspices of the World Tourism Organization currently accounts for 34 countries, including most of the CIS countries."
Svetlana Dekhtyar cited indicative numbers. More than 80 percent of travelers in the world know about the Silk Road brand, 60 percent of respondents would like to explore ancient cities along the route, about 50 percent of tourists are interested in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and almost half (more than 45 percent) are attracted to gastronomy. The only question is to what extend the tourism industry can meet the requirements of a modern traveler.
Hamlet Melkumyan, a researcher at the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, shared his impressions of the discussions:
"The first time I touched on the topic of the Silk Road was in my student time when I won the contest of the Chinese embassy. I wrote an essay on the Silk Road as a way of intercultural penetration. I thought that it was the end of the story. However, three years ago we started a large scientific project with participation of Germany, the Central Asian republics, Georgia and Armenia. We made a research on trade relations and a road to Eurasia. The research results have been recently published as a book. The fact is that ordinary people create a new Silk Road on their own initiative, and this is prompted by the crisis economic situations. This process began actively in the 90s of the last century and accelerated at the beginning of the XXI century. Nowadays, it is more of a journey of things. The current Silk Road runs not only by land but also by air. New routes may not correspond exactly to historical ones. Yet, part of the old stretch of that route, through the Ararat Valley, is still used in Armenia as an international route."
Muhammetdurdy Mammedov, Head of the National Directorate for Protection, Study and Restoration of Historical and Cultural Monuments of Turkmenistan, co-moderator of the discussions, recalled that significant routes of the ancient road passed through the current Turkmenistan. This is evidenced by ancient and medieval authors, as well as many archaeological materials. It was this data that provided the scientific foundation for President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's book "Turkmenistan is the Heart of the Great Silk Road". Work is currently underway with neighboring countries to nominate the routes of the ancient road to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
"The findings made in the ancient Murgab delta confirmed that there existed the monumental architecture, advanced arts and crafts and perfect engineering structures. All routes, both commercial and cultural, crossed this territory already in the Bronze Age," Nadezhda Dubova, Head of the Russian-Turkmen Margian Archaeological Expedition said.
That is why the center of discussions was the undeniable fact that it was Turkmenistan that remained at all times the conditional "golden link" of the ancient transcontinental route. And the fundamental work by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was the subject of scrutiny of the Ashgabat forum participants.