Uzbek puppet

Puppetry in Uzbekistan

The dolls or puppets in Uzbekistan are more than simply toy for children. From already the very old days of silk road, theatrical performances of wandering puppeteers, called masquerades have been one of the most known and favorite forms of entertainment of rural and urban residents of Uzbekistan. Uzbek puppetry is believed to be a traditional art genre, which evolved from the form of an ancient traditional theatre.

The main point of puppetry is that the primary heroes are the puppets and an actor, who manipulates them while himself hiding behind the scene. The puppet show, which combined traditional as well as contemporary ideas, was staged together with folk pantomime dances, such as “Ot oyin” (“The game on wooden horse”), “Sherboz” (“The tamer of tiger”), and accompanied by music played with surnay, karnay and naghora or surnay and doira.

Dolls in Uzbekistan were made of wood, ceramics, straw and reeds. Nowadays they are mostly made of painted papier-mache, wood and clay. Costumes for dolls are sewn from textiles made in the traditional Uzbek national style. The craftsmen have their specialized technologies for both cutting and embroidery.

History of Uzbek puppets

The puppet doll performances were was widely known in ancient times within modern Uzbekistan. It is believed that the puppets entered Central Asia with the troops of Alexander the Great (IV century BC). However, due to the arrival of Islam to the region, the puppetry was neglected. Llater, during the Samanids era, in the 9th century, the educated Samanid rulers promoted the arts, literature, and science and restored many ancient traditions, including the puppet theatre. The greatest popularity of puppetry occurred during Timurid’s time in between the 14th -16th centuries. The residents loved these bright and lively performances, that also included parts of the ridiculed hard life of the ordinary people. 

Puppet Theatres in Uzbekistan

Today, the Uzbek national puppet dolls are one of the ways to understand the unique culture and history of the country. Now there are several puppet theaters in Uzbekistan in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. They are still functioning and one can see the unique performances based on the works of Uzbek writers but in more modern staging. 

In 1939 the Republican Puppet Theater in Tashkent opened its doors, which continues to operate to this day. Various types of the old dolls have survived to this day: glove dolls, puppet dolls, reed and riding dolls. 

Places to see Uzbek Puppets

Page updated 13.11.2022

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