Central Asian Republics
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are countries with many shared features. They were all incorporated into the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century, subjugated into czarist rule in the nineteenth century, and subjugated into Soviet republics under the Soviet Union until its breakup in 1991. These nations have a history of their own theatrical traditions. However, with Russianization before and Sovietization after 1917, their dramatic practices and theatrical aesthetics were heavily influenced (and still are to some degree) by Russian classics and socialist-communist propaganda of the Soviet Union.
Kazakhstan had relatively no written literature; however, poetic and musical folklore flourished for many centuries under the country’s traditional feudal and nomadic life, becoming an indigenous cultural heritage through oral preservation. Because of intense eighteenth and nineteenth century colonization, Europeanization and Russianization penetrated all spheres of Kazakh life. Kazakhstan was turned into a Soviet Republic in 1936, after which Soviet literature and performing arts became endemic, and traditional art forms were discouraged and suppressed. Kazakh-Soviet dramatic art heavily reflected politically communist agendas, resulting in plays praising Soviet power, socialism, and the collectivization of Kazakh culture and the industrialization of the country, even after World War II. In the mid-1950’s, Kazakh theater experienced some relaxation in censorship as it tried to update its dramatic repertoire. The 1960’s ushered in a taste for Kazakh comedy, which developed into a rich new blend of Kazakh modern drama. Kazakhstan’s Lermontov State Academic Russian Drama Theatre, with a repertoire of Soviet propaganda, staged plays about Soviet power and socialism and flourished during the 1970’s. Toward the end of 1980’s, some improvements in Kazakh theater included objective theater criticism, changes in theater structures, and a growing openness toward new and gifted stage directors and playwrights. In the late 1990’s, typically only small ethnic theaters in Kazakhstan were able to consistently produce plays because, since independence in 1991, major Kazakh theaters have experienced economic difficulties. The few theaters that have survived have attempted to revive dramatic art that would critically reflect the varied cultural and social climate of the country.
Kyrgyzstan ’s early theatrical arts consisted primarily of singing, improvisation, and storytelling of national epics, along with a primitive form of comedy. In 1917, with Russian and Soviet influences, Kyrgyz Soviet dramas were given in Russian; as a result, Kyrgyzstan was under severe political and cultural repression in the late 1920’s. The Kyrgyz Studio, the country’s first state theater, produced both Kyrgyz and Russian plays, forging an awareness of social issues and developing a new theatrical sophistication. The Kyrgyz State Drama Theatre, established in 1941, produced thematic war plays that supported the Soviet Union’s involvement in World War II—or, as it was called, the...
(The entire section is 1278 words.)