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The mutual influence of cultures on the Great Silk Road as a model for the formation of a modern code of national identity

The article examines the modern features of the formation of culture as a factor in the acquisition of national identity and the preservation of national consciousness. The authors refer to the history of the interaction of cultures on the Great Silk Road as a worldview model that allows one to study the roots of our cultural history, understand the origins of distinctive spirituality, our national involvement in world culture. Using the methodology of the philosophy of culture, the authors show that by the example of the interaction of cultures on the routes of the Great Silk Road, it is possible to trace the processes of intercultural communication for one and a half thousand years, to see the diversity of peoples who took part in this grandiose exchange of the achievements of material and spiritual culture, to determine the main characteristics of modern cultural situations, as well as trends in the development of intercultural relations in the future. All these factors have a decisive influence on the formation of the modern code of national identity.


Speaking about the fact that a person creates his own cultural existence, it is necessary to bear in mind, in our opinion, only the case if he is rooted in tradition. At the same time, the interaction of tradition and the cultural level of human development is deeply dialectical. Tradition is a system of actions that are passed down from generation to generation and, accordingly, form the way of thinking and feeling of people that arise in them as a result of the impact of existing social relations. Under the tradition, according to E.A. Baller, it is necessary to understand «historically formed forms of people's behavior resolutely in all areas of public life», while « speaking about customs, we mean mainly the sphere of everyday relations» [1; 54].

Tradition, on the one hand, has a certain objective basis, and on the other hand, it contains its own «in- ternal logic» of development, since the past reality in a number of its aspects (this applies primarily to the ideological heritage) is a spiritual value for modernity. Tradition is such an «ideological concentrate» that is continuously enriched in the process of social practice and is directed towards the future. It is precisely in this temporal hypostasis that tradition acts as such a means of developing culture, which, without disturbing the stability of cultural development, at the same time is able to powerfully influence social psychology.

Thus, tradition is not a conservative principle in socio-cultural development, i.e. something absolutely opposite to innovation, but, on the contrary, a manifestation of the creative principle in culture, when, on the one hand, it is necessary to concentrate the historical and spiritual experience of past generations, and on the other hand — to refer to the experience of the present day.

It must be said that the orientation towards tradition existed at all stages of cultural evolution. But the human world has never been at rest. Some forms of social organization were replaced by others. This is especially noticeable today.

Tradition is important not because it preserves the past — in the past there were many good and bad. Tradition is not meant to preserve everything from the past. A true tradition preserves only all that is most valuable and positive. Such a positive heritage is wrapped in a certain cultural shell that helps modern people to embrace these values. For example, religion, customs of ancestors, symbols, the system of upbringing and education.

The main contradiction in modern cultural life we see in the need for a fairly rapid renewal (modernization) of spiritual regulation, which does not correspond to the new needs of society, and the preservation of the valuable that supports the vital functions of society in its multi-level system of production and activity. This contradiction, as in the post-Soviet countries, results in a confrontation, and sometimes a fierce struggle between modernizers and conservatives, between Westerners and supporters of national identity, between supporters of transferring culture to market relations and those who defend the humanistic heritage of the culture of past eras.

Research methods

The study uses the methodological matrix of the philosophy of culture, which makes it possible to present culture as a phenomenon that fixes the degree of a person's mastering of being, as a system of ways, means and methods of human activity, as a universal guideline for a person's creative self-realization in his desire to determine the meaning of his life. The process of person's creation of socially significant forms of existence, that is, the process of cultural creation, inevitably becomes the subject of philosophical reflection. Since culture is a product of a person's conscious creative activity, and questions about a person's attitude to the world and his place in the world have always been at the center of philosophy, the determinants of the emergence and formation of cultural events in their ontological basis and value orientation becomes the subject of philosophical analysis.

Particular attention is paid to the phenomenological and hermeneutic method aimed at revealing the objectivity of cultural meanings, their substantiveness, as well as the historicity of their understanding and interpretation by the cognizing subject.

Results and Discussion

Particular attention is paid to the phenomenological and hermeneutic method aimed at revealing the objectivity of cultural meanings, their substantiveness, as well as the historicity of their understanding and interpretation by the cognizing subject.

The nature of the emergence of the new is very complex. New traditions are not strictly connected with the destruction of the old ones. After all, some traditions, having arisen in ancient times, never disappear at all, but only enrich and develop. So, the process of cultural development is a complex, dialectical process. On the one hand, there is always a tradition, a connection with what was previously achieved, and on the other hand, to preserve the tradition does not mean to limit yourself to what was achieved. Cultural heritage is not something permanent. It is necessary to practically weigh the inherited cultural values, to develop and enrich them in terms of new opportunities and new challenges. It is no accident that P.A. Sorokin drew attention to the fact that no matter how painful the destruction of an established form of culture is, it is a necessary condition for any culture to remain creatively creative throughout its historical development. «When the creative forces are exhausted and all their limited possibilities are realized, the corresponding culture and society either become dead and non-creative or change into a new form that opens up new creative opportunities and values» [2; 433].

Studying various religions, philosophical texts and works of fiction, R. Guénon comes to two conclusions: 1) spiritual principles lie at the basis of any teaching; 2) these principles, expressed in different creations of man, with the help of different means, are the same for all times, peoples, cultures. Both the creations of man and «the phenomena of nature and the events of history all have a symbolic meaning in that they express something of those principles on which they depend, in relation to which they are more or less distant consequences» [3; 142].

This idea sounds even more powerful in the fundamental research of myth undertaken by M. Eliade. He believes that there are timeless creative forms that have a sacred character, and that all human creations are constructed according to the patterns of heavenly prototypes. Here is a characteristic conclusion for this scientist, made by him after studying the rituals of marriage among different nations: «It is important that the orgy, like a marriage, were rituals imitating sacred actions or certain episodes from the sacred drama of the Cosmos; it is important that human acts were legitimized using an extrahuman model» [4; 50].

We believe that common values and norms that structure the entire human culture do exist. The deep foundation of these norms is general cosmic algorithms, some creative structures called archetypes by Jung. If we look at human culture from this position, then the genesis of political programs, scientific theories and even architectural projects is a kind of repetition of general cosmic creative forms. The universality of these a priori forms makes it possible to believe in the existence of common human principles in law, morality and any sphere of spiritual production, which, in turn, provides a basis for asserting the unity of human culture.

But what about the historicity of cultural phenomena, their relativity? It can be assumed that any specific cultural phenomenon, taken at a certain time and under certain conditions, is the result of a double transformation of general cosmic generating structures. Their first transformation occurs at the biological level of being, where they change in accordance with the conditions for the existence of a species in a particular biological environment. The second transformation is social, when biologically inherited patterns of behavior change under the influence of the social environment. For this reason, the same archetype can manifest itself in different ways in different historical conditions. This determination of the archetype by the socio-cultural space gives rise to the phenomenon of the historicity of law, morality, art, etc.

The stated concept resembles the dialectical paradigm, well known to philosophers, according to which the deep foundation of all processes is dialectical laws. However, we believe that the very laws of dialectics, like sensory images and works of art, myths are only human ways of expressing universal cosmic creative principles. The logical is only one of the possible forms of expression of the ultimate foundations of being. If we exclude the mind from the human psyche, which, for example, occurs in altered states of consciousness, then these grounds can manifest themselves in the form of archetype images, which were the subject of Jung's research. They can be expressed in the form of a drawing, musical or dance rhythm, colors and spatial proportions (painting), artistic word, religious experience, architectural project, etc.

It is quite possible that knowledge about the unity of man and the universe, the unity of human culture is inherent in man, intuitively known to him. «It can be assumed that the sense of harmony and unity of an individual human personality with the world cosmic universe, some kind of inner knowledge of the laws of being, originally inherent in even a completely non-reflective individual, was a fundamental experience that constituted the early stages of the formation of human consciousness in the primitive era. Such an experience, on the one hand, contributed to the development of a sense of personal identity (personalization), and on the other hand, it served as the basis for identifying mental processes and states with the principles of the cosmic world order. The interrelation of these two principles determined the search for outside, transcendental foundations of being, characteristic of subsequent epochs of human history», — writes N.F. Kalina in the foreword to Joseph Campbell's book «The Mythical Image» [5; 4].

Thus, we can say that the mythological consciousness, formed over the centuries, and today is an important part of spiritual culture, national identity. The latter is «a constituent part of social identity, a psychological category that refers to the individual's awareness of his belonging to a particular national group or community; in turn, this is the result of self-identification, the cognitive-emotional process of realizing oneself as a representative of a particular national community or group» [6; 15]. And the problem of national consciousness itself continues to be one of the most important and urgent problems of modern sociohumanitarian knowledge, integrating the cognitive and applied interests of various social sciences. This complex, both theoretical and practical issue, despite the rather long period of its philosophical, cultural, socio-political, sociological analysis and discussion, in modern discussions acts as a subject of lively disputes, often from antagonistic positions, with a high level of emotional attitude, ideological overtones and mythological coloring. If the very fact of the existence of national consciousness as a phenomenon of culture and the result of ethnogenesis does not raise doubts and is considered by the overwhelming majority of researchers as an organizing principle in the historical development and functioning of ethnic groups, in their transition to the level of national self-organization, then various points of view are expressed about the degree of interdependence and mutual influence of ethnic, national, cultural, political, etc. factors, their structural and content interaction, and their significance in the socio-historical self-reproduction and self-preservation of peoples.

The sad experience of numerous social conflicts arising on ethnic grounds makes the scientific community again and again turn to the problems associated with the definition of the nature and essence of «national». The thesis that the national policy of the state should be built in strict accordance with the theoretical, methodological achievements of science has long become an axiom for modern socio-humanitarian knowledge. Does this mean that it is scientific analysis that determines the nature of the formation of national consciousness and the principles of interethnic relations in social space? Or is it that scientific thought itself is drawn into the sphere of the «national» and becomes an object of emotional munipulation? Unfortunately, it can be stated that the study of the problems of national consciousness is often carried out in the epistemological coordinates of nationalistically biased attitudes. Scientific searches in the field of national consciousness were associated, as a rule, with attempts to define and formulate the so-called national idea. However, this search was mainly related to political and economic contexts. It seems that this is a one-sided approach that significantly impoverishes the content richness of this problem space. This state of affairs urgently requires a revision of a number of outdated methodological perspectives. In this sense, modern scientific analysis should take into account the structural changes that have taken place and focus on the entire cultural sphere, captured in the national consciousness. Interpretation of the concept of «national conscious- ness» should be carried out taking into account the consideration of its cognitive content and socio-cultural conditioning.

Ethnic nationalism in the modern world is one of the main reasons for the conflict-generating nature of social processes. National identity very often becomes a cover for unseemly economic and political activities that damage the general well-being of all mankind. For the post-Soviet states, especially at the early stage of their formation, ethnic nationalism was an effective means of political mobilization, ensuring priority access to power and resources. However, the very notions of «nation», «national», «nationalism» remain mainly the subject of publicistic discourse, rather than have a clear scientific and methodological definition. So at the level of the state and the official language, the concept of a civil nation is mainly used as a means of consolidating the co-citizenship of all ethnic groups. And at the level of ethnic communities, the concept of a cultural nation is used to a greater extent as a means of protecting their interests, political mobilization and protection of collective cultural identity from the threat of assimilation or discrimination from the state and the dominant culture.

The modern cultural studies theory believes that, on the one hand, there is an idea of a plurality of equal cultures, their uniqueness, on the other hand, — there is a need to think about the integrating principle that creates cultural unity, without which the existence of humanity is impossible. The most promising is the interaction between cultures with a fundamental value orientation towards equality and partnership, ensuring cultural stability. In this regard, the scientific, theoretical and practical significance of cultural studies is actualized, in which modern processes of cultural interaction between countries and peoples, dialogue of cultures are analyzed in the context of historical experience of this kind.

Today, thanks to the efforts of many states of the world, the Great Silk Road is being revived to a new life. An increasing number of people are showing a keen interest in the history of this ancient transnational trade route, in unique cultural monuments, preserved spiritual values and traditions, customs and holidays of the peoples of the region. The Great Silk Road had a huge impact on the formation of socioeconomic, political, spiritual characteristics in the culture of the countries through which it passed. Along all its routes, large and small trading cities and settlements arose, whose cultural significance is still relevant today.

Of particular importance for the functioning of the Great Silk Road was such a region as Central Asia and, more specifically, the territory of modern Kazakhstan. This region was not only crossed by dozens of trade routes, but also the most important ethnic processes took place here, diplomatic treaties and military alliances were concluded, and active interaction of cultures took place. The peoples of this region played an outstanding role in the spread of writing and world religions, many material and technical achievements. According to N.A. Nazarbayev «the Kazakh steppe and Kazakh cities were the crossroads of the dialogue of the great cultures of the South and East, North and West» [7; 18]. And the culture of the Kazakh steppe «is a complex and multi-level phenomenon with the deepest historical tradition» [7; 19].

For the first time in the history of mankind, on the vast expanses from the Mediterranean to the Pacific Ocean, the Great Silk Road connected various countries and peoples, linked their material, artistic and spiritual cultures. For many centuries, the exchange of the most diverse cultural achievements of different peoples has been carried out along this path. Interest in the Great Silk Road has stimulated various studies that make it possible to fully study the scientific, technological and cultural ties that existed between the West and the East and find out how intercultural contacts developed closed social systems, broadened people's horizons, and contributed to a more intensive development of the intellectual sphere. V.M. Mezhuev argued that «to understand the present historically means to gain the key to understanding the past and the future.» [8; 93]. It can be stated that the appearance of the first routes of the Great Silk Road already in the Bronze Age and their further development as an extensive communication system up to the Middle Ages became a powerful tool for the economic and cultural integration of the peoples of the Eurasian continent. In those distant times, the military confrontation between eastern and western civilizations, as well as between sedentary and nomadic peoples, seemed to create not the best conditions for trade and cultural dialogue. However, paradoxically, trade not only does not stop, but on the contrary intensifies. Despite the complex political relations, it was on the Great Silk Road that multifaceted trade and cultural interaction of various countries and peoples took place.

The history of cultural contacts on the Great Silk Road shows the special role of nomadic tribes and peoples inhabiting the territory of Kazakhstan and neighboring states in the formation of the Eurasian cultural space. The features of the spiritual culture and syncretic art of these peoples are revealed by the numerous monuments of material culture located along the Silk Road, rock paintings, sanctuaries of the Bronze Age, mound complexes of the Saka and Wusun periods, archaeological and ethnographic material from the Bronze Age to the late Middle Ages. The ideas they developed about the system of building the world formed the basis of the most ancient sacred scriptures, canonized initially by the Zoroastrian priesthood, later by the institutions of Manichaeism and Nestorianism, as well as by various currents of Islam that spread them on the territory of the states of the Middle and Near East, Egypt and China. These worldview concepts influenced all spheres of social life of different peoples: the hierarchy of state structure, the order of military formations, the equipment system, intra-tribal relations, the structure and decoration of the dwelling, the plots of cult, household utensils and clothing, the arrangement of festivals and funeral rituals.

It is impossible not to agree with the statement of N.A. Nazarbayev: «You need to be an extremely poorly educated person not to know at least at the level of general information that the Kazakh land was the territory of colossal cultural innovations of the Eurasian scale — from military technologies to methods of constructing housing and raising livestock, from unique technologies in metallurgy to outstanding monuments of literary creativity. All this could not have taken place without diverse and long-term contacts with a variety of peoples and civilizations» [7, 18–19].

In the context of globalization, characterized by tendencies towards cultural unification and cultural isolation, the development of the spiritual experience of the process of interaction of cultures with its value orientation towards ensuring world order and stability is an important factor in preserving the cultural unity of the world in the diversity of cultures. This is most characteristic of the Eurasian multicultural space, in which ethnic cultures develop models of dialogue that include both universal foundations and their own cultural characteristics. And the example of the Great Silk Road shows how favorable contacts and communication based on the exchange of cultural achievements are for establishing trust between peoples.


Our research has established that on the Great Silk Road, there was no collision, but interpenetration, mutual enrichment of ancient cultures. The Great Silk Road played a huge role in the development of human civilization and has a unique cultural value. Thanks to the existence of the intercontinental route, there has been a grandiose, one of the fastest in world history, the interpenetration of cultures of different peoples, the expansion of the space of international communication. The Great Silk Road contributed to the strengthening of social, economic and cultural contacts between farmers of oases and pastoralists of the steppes of Central Asia, the development by farmers and townspeople of the northern steppe and mountainous regions, especially the Syr Darya basin, valleys and foothills of the Tien Shan, Semirechye, peoples living around the Caspian Sea.

The cultural history of the Great Silk Road, the development of which is an important component of the cultural policy of modern Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, testifies that the unity of forces has always been the most effective form of peoples' response to historical challenges. The disintegration of a single space, which for centuries has connected peoples close to each other, is increasingly perceived as a major loss, with which many current difficulties and troubles are associated in the minds of people. Only unity opens up space for their dynamic development. The main goal of states' efforts to revive the Great Silk Road is to demonstrate the benefits of cultural diversity by recognizing the importance of the processes of constant interpenetration and interchange in relations between cultures, as well as the ties established since the inception of civilization.

Thus, the Great Silk Road acts as one of the most ancient integration models for the development of human society, operating in the 21st century. Through the exchange of material and cultural values, this path for twenty centuries has been connecting the peculiar and inimitable civilizations of the East and West. The experience of interaction of cultures of the past on the Great Silk Road allows modern cultures to better understand each other, to realize that the formation of a modern national code of cultural identity is impossible outside of an equal dialogue of cultures.



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  2. Sorokin, P.A. (1992). Sotsiokulturnaia dinamika [Socio-cultural dynamics]. Chelovek. Tsivilizatsiia. Obshchestvo — Man. Civilization. Society. Moscow: Politizdat [in Russian].
  3. Genon, R. (1991). Ezoterizm Dante [Dante's esotericism]. Filosofskie nauki — Philosophical sciences, 8, 132–171 [in Russian].
  4. Eliade, M. (1987). Kosmos i istoriia [Space and history]. Moscow: Prohress [in Russian].
  5. Kalina, N.F. (2004). Psihicheskaia realnost mificheskoho obraza [Psychic reality of a mythical image]. Mificheskii obraz — Mythic image. Dzh. Kempbell; Moscow: OOO «Izdatelstvo “AST“», 3–6 [in Russian].
  6. Kadyrova, R. (2007). Natsionalnaia identichnost azerbaidzhanskikh detei i podrostkov. Sotsialno-psiholohicheskii analiz [National identity of Azerbaijani children and adolescents. Socio-psychological analysis]. Baku: Kavkaz [in Russian].
  7. Nazarbaev, N.A. (1999). V potoke istorii [In the flow of history]. Almaty: Atamura [in Russian].
  8. Mezhuev, V.M. (1977). Kultura i istoriia [Culture and history]. Moscow: Politizdat [in Russian].

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Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection between textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics.[

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