Thirty years ago, in 1987, UNESCO adopted a program titled “Silk Roads, Roads of Dialog.” The important event took place during the UN World Decade for Cultural Development and demonstrated that UNESCO tried not only to study, but also to preserve the huge legacy of the ancient world.
The Silk Roads, Roads of Dialog program envisages a comprehensive study of the history of Central Asian peoples. Its main goal is to bring closer the East and the West, about which the great Rudyard Kipling philosophically wrote that “never the twain shall meet.” It turns out, however, that the idea of rapprochement can be promoted by establishing closer cultural and economic ties.
A year after the program was adopted, UNESCO announced the start of a ten-year project titled “Integral Study of the Silk Roads, Roads of Dialog.” It envisages broad and comprehensive study of the history of civilizations, establishing close cultural contacts between the East and the West, and improving relations between numerous peoples living in Eurasia.
In 1993, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution on restoring the Great Silk Road as an important route of international cooperation in the area of diplomacy, culture, science, trade and tourism. The core components of the Road’s contemporary development are transport communications and tourism.
The Silk Road is one of the most remarkable achievements of human civilization. This transcontinental route for the first time in the history of humankind connected the West and the East, the Mediterranean and the Far East, the ancient, Central Asian and Chinese civilizations. The enormous route emerged in the second half of the 2nd centure BC, when the Chinese diplomat and traveler Zhang Qian discovered Central Asian lands for his compatriots. This brought together two great roads: one connected Central Asia to the West, the Mediterranean, while the other came from the East, from the Han Empire.
Gradually, systems of roads and naval routes developed in the vast region spreading from the Atlantic to the Pacifc, connecting the most remote cradles of civilizations. The route went from the borders of the Roman Empire, Greece, Egypt, via the valleys of the Syrdarya, Amudarya, Tarim to the borders of the Celestial Empire, the valleys of the Huang He and Yangtze, and from from Central Asia in the north to the Indus, Ganges and the shores of the Indian Ocean in the south. Later, these routes formed the backbone of the Great Silk Road.
In the early 1st millenium AD, the vast expanses between the Atlantic and Pacific merged into one single belt of cultures and civilizations. For the first time in the history of humankind, borders of various states came into contact on such a huge distance, 11,400 km from the west to the east.
It is no coincidence that it was at that time that the Great Silk Road emerged. It was needed by the circumstances and brought about by political, economic and cultural achievements of Eurasian peoples of preceding epochs.
The name “Great Silk Road” was for the first time introduced for scientific use by German geographer and geologist Ferdinand von Richthofen in the 1870s to describe connections between the Far Eastern and Western worlds. The coined term proved very successful and generally accepted: silk had been the main goods brought by Chinese merchants to remote lands since the 2nd century AD.
Due to the favorable geographic position of Central Asia, the Great Silk Road became the place of active trade, signing of diplomatic agreements and military unions, of crucial ethnic processes and interaction between cultures – Turk, Iranian, Hellenistic, Arab, Indian, Chinese, etc. History of the Great Silk Road is a history of broad cultural interaction and exchange between the people of the East and the West. It proves that only close cooperation and mutual enrichening of cultures can be a foundation for achieving peace and progress for entire humankind.
UNESCO’s Silk Roads, Roads of Dialog envisages comprehensive study of history of Central Asian peoples. But its main goal is to establish closer cultural and economic contacts between the East and the West, improve relations between the numerous nations populating Eurasia.
Restoration of the Silk Road that happens in front of our eyes is an amazing project that brings the East and the West closer, resuming the centuries-old dialog between civilizations… Only the captivating jingle of caravan bells has been replaced with music of the industrial era…