Uzbekistan Nukus Zoroastrianism

Nukus: "Zoroastrianism"

Oscar White Muscarella

Curator Emeritus

Ancient Near East Department

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, New York




June 7, 2009

Dear Oscar,

While traveling across Uzbekistan, I read about Central Asian empires I did not know: the Sogdiana Kingdom, the Khorezm Kingdom, the Kushan Dynasty, the Samanid Dynasty, and the Timurids. It's a dynamic history in a land with a deep past.

I did find one local term I remembered from your Ancient History class at City College: Zoroastrianism.

I recalled (with a little help from the Internet) that Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy at least 3000 years old and a possible precursor to Judaism and Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Basic tenets include the idea of a creator - one universal and transcendent god; truth and order versus untruth and disorder. Good thoughts, good words, and good deeds lead to order and happiness.

To visit the Zoroastrian sites, I needed to depart from the normal tourist route and drive much further west into the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan to a city called Nukus.  According to my guidebook, the only sight in Nukus is the Savitsky Karakalpakstan Art Museum, itself, a worthy stop. But outside town I found a hillside necropolis at Mizdakhan and a haunting sight at Chylpyk.