Silk Road International Festival

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The Silk Road International Festival is an annual festival of traditional arts, crafts and music organised under the auspices of the Silk Road League. It was established in 1975, and has been run most years since then. Together with the triennial Central Asian Games, the Silk Road Festival is one of the major responsibilities of the League in terms of large events.



Unlike the Central Asian Games, which is hosted by one city in a different member nation every three years, the Silk Road International Festival is split up into multiple locations. The first Festival in 1975 had locations in Buxara, Turkestan, in Gordion, Turkey, and in Sagan-Ude, Buryatia, and lasted for two weeks. This established a tradition of having three locations: two in the generally larger full member states, and one in the generally smaller associate member states. Since the mid-1990s, the number of locations has risen to 4 (two among the full members and two among the associate members).

The Fesivals are of course televised and broadcast throughout the League (and sometimes beyond it), especially the music and dance components. Increasingly, some of the smaller members will concentrate their efforts on one of the Festival locations and let their other international representation be done by broadcast. Typically, televised highlights of the previous day's proceedings will be shown at the other Festival locations.


The Silk Road International Festival was designed as a cultural fair similar to some of the arts components of the World's Fairs, but inevitably, some friendly (and sometimes less friendly) competition began to creep in. For the first few years, the organising committee tried to suppress this competitiveness, but by 1980 had decided that competition was going to happen whether they wanted it to or not, and bowed to the inevitable. The 1980 Festival saw the first competitions in music, dance and traditional crafts, and this too soon became an established tradition. The musical component of the Festival, in fact, became similar to the longer-established Eurovidere Song Contest, though the Central Asian version accepts purely instrumental music as well. Judges from each of the member states (including the associate members) award points to each performer or group, and the winner is the one with the highest total. There are separate judges for traditional and modern music, traditional and modern dance, for songwriting and musical composition, and for each of the represented crafts, and judges are not permitted to award points to contestants from their own nation.

The competition gives a peaceful outlet for some of the national rivalries of the League: Turkestan and Uyguristan typically hotly contest the dance contests, for example. The judging in the individual competitions can become quite politicised, but most people accept a certain amount of this as inevitable. There is a fine balance between inevitable non-preference of a rival, and blatant fixing of points awards, however, and every decade or so a judging scandal will erupt and the organising committee will be forced to step in and clean up the judging.

Represented Arts and Crafts

Some of the art forms and crafts represented at the Festival include:

  • Instrumental music (traditional, modern and classical)
  • Song (traditional and modern)
  • Dance (traditional and modern)
  • Carpet-making
  • Silk-making
  • Leatherwork
  • Wood carving and other sculpture
  • Musical instrument making (hand-crafted instruments only)
  • Painting
  • Felt-work
  • Traditional armoury (several categories)
  • Jewellery

Host Nations

Year Hosts
1975 Buxara, Turkestan Gordion, Turkey Sagan-Ude, Buryatia -none-
1976 -none-
1977 -none-
1978 -none-
1979 -none-
1980 Aşğabat, Turkestan Qaşgar, Uyguristan Ufa, Başqortostan -none-
1981 -none-
1982 -none-
1983 -none-
1984 -none-
1985 -none-
1986 -none-
1987 -none-
1988 -none-
1989 No Festival
1990 -none-
1991 -none-
1992 -none-
1993 -none-
1994 Baku, Azerbaijan Herat, MNR Qazan, Tatarstan Barnaul, Altai
2007 İstanbul, Turkey Merv, Turkestan Abakan, Khakassia Sagan-Ude, Buryatia
2008 Niislel Hüree, Mongolia Baku, Azerbaijan Jezqazğan, Qazaqstan Saran Oş, Chuvashia
2009 Qandahar, MNR Xotan, Uyguristan Elista, Kalmykia Yakutsk, Yakutia
2010 TBA
2011 TBA

League Flag   Membership of the Silk Road League   League Flag
Full Members
Azerbaijan | Crimea | Mongolia | Moghul National Realm | Turkestan | Turkey | Uyguristan
Associate Members
Altai | Bashkortostan | Buryatia | Chuvashia | Kalmykia | Khakassia | Qazaqstan | Tannu-Tuva | Tatarstan | Yakutia
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