Libmonster ID: UZ-750
Author(s) of the publication: A. M. SHUSTOVA


Candidate of Philosophical Sciences

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: animal style art, nomads of Central Asia, Yu. N. Roerich, modern significance of history

In the modern era, historical knowledge is becoming increasingly important. We come to understand that history is not a mechanical series of separate events, but a complex process of creative continuity. Any present necessarily has a genetic connection with the past, and the future-with the present. The present generations are not completely separated from the people of antiquity. In fact, the most ancient cultures of Asia, only in a different capacity, continue to be present today. Many everyday objects, as well as the greatness of academic art, could not have been realized without the heritage of the most ancient cultures of Asia. Knowledge of history is necessary to establish the correct direction of evolution. By and large, the development of all sciences is based on the knowledge of history.

The exceptional importance of the historical factor in the development of the state and the peoples that make up its community is also evidenced by the fact that history is increasingly becoming an arena for the struggle of opposing forces, as well as becoming an object of ideological pressure and manipulation of consciousness. This struggle involves both works of ancient art and valuable historical artifacts, which become objects of ideological pressure and political bargaining. This is most acutely manifested in critical epochs, such as our time.

An example is the crisis unfolding before our eyes regarding the return of the so-called Scythian gold, which was taken from the Crimean museums to the West for exhibitions. It so happened that while the Crimean exhibits of Scythian history were abroad, Crimea became part of Russia. And then there was a problem where and how the collection will be returned. Crimean exhibits, logically, should return to the Crimea and precisely to the museums from which they were taken for display. However, the new Ministry of Culture, created after the coup in Ukraine, said that it would not give up the Crimean collection. Who should still determine the fate of art collections: the museum, scientific and cultural community or officials of changing state structures? The question remains open for now.

Another example, by the way, also related to Scythian history , is the situation that arose after the discovery in 1993 by Novosibirsk archaeologists in the Altai on the Ukok plateau of a fairly well-preserved mummy of a Scythian woman, called the "princess of Ukok". Under the influence of the political passions that arose in the Republic of Gorny Altai at this time, feeding, among other things, on ignorance and the low standard of living of its inhabitants, archaeologists were forbidden to continue working in Ukok, and even accused of almost desecrating the graves of their ancestors. There was talk that all the troubles in the Altai, including the terrible earthquake in 2003, were caused by the alleged discovery of this Ukok burial site, and in order to improve the situation in the region, it is urgently necessary to bury the mummy back in its mound.

Thus, it becomes more and more urgent to understand that in order to successfully solve problems affecting the history of a particular people, it is necessary to expand the historical knowledge base among the broadest strata of society. And when making political and economic decisions, it is always necessary to keep in mind the historical context, as well as a philosophical approach to the content and value of art.-

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va and the culture of a particular people.

As for the cultural and historical heritage of the Scythians and the peoples close to them, its importance is increasing in the modern era. The Scythian civilization has not sunk into oblivion. Its cultural magnets continue to feed the culture of peoples who have a continuous connection with it. It is no accident that in the last century we have a whole set of seemingly identical finds related to Scythian history. It's as if some unknown force is bringing these treasures to the surface. For example, recently, during the construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, a lot of gold jewelry dating back to the Scythian civilization was unexpectedly discovered. Most of all, the archaeologists were surprised by the fact that the gold from which these artifacts were made was mined not in Europe, but in Central Asia!

History moves in cycles, and sooner or later the moment comes when the circles of cycles close. And then the historical vertical is built up, and the past becomes closer than we can imagine, feeding our contemporaries with the cultural power that has been preserved for centuries. From this point of view, it is possible to explain the wide interest that arises, seemingly by chance, to certain historical epochs, and the desire to copy the examples of art and culture that have already shone in history.

As you know, the heritage of the Scythians occupies a worthy place in world culture, and their most striking achievement is the art of the so-called animal style.


Animal style is the name of an original direction in the art of Eurasia. It was especially well developed among the Scythians and Sarmatians, but it was also widespread in the art of the ancient Germans, Celts, Viking Scandinavians, and ancient Slavs.

Animals such as deer, horse, mountain goat, ram, wild boar, lion, as well as birds and some fantastic creatures (griffins) were depicted on objects made of metal, wood, bone, leather, felt. This was done by casting and engraving on metal, carving on wood and bone, applications on leather and felt. Characteristic animal motifs are found even in tattoos on the human skin of preserved Scythian mummies found in the Altai. Animal style is characterized by images of animals in motion, for example, jumping, fighting or frozen in special poses ungulates were often depicted with bent legs, and predators-curled up in a ball. Dynamic compositions representing the struggle of animals were a frequent subject. In some cases, the artist highlighted some part of the animal, for example, the antlers of a deer, the eye of a bird, the head, mouth or claws of a predator.

The art of animal style should be distinguished from the simple depiction of zoomorphic figures. Animal style is precisely an artistic style, and it is distinguished, first of all, by special techniques that ancient artists skillfully used. First of all, the images always masterfully fit into the specific shape of the object they decorated. The ability to compose compositions is the most important feature of animal style. That is why, at a later time, the animal style developed into a skilful ornamentation. Secondly, a method of surface modeling was used, especially in the Scythian animal style, in which the body of the depicted animal was formed in the form of several planes that coincide at an angle. Such an image is perceived as multi-faceted and three-dimensional due to the play of light and shadow. Finally, animal style images are always emotionally colored and make a deep impression, they are characterized by great vitality, accuracy and expressiveness in recreating the appearance of animals and conveying their characteristics. Masters of the animal style were able to faithfully reproduce nature, had a great sense of proportionality and a strong imagination.


Researchers, of course, were interested in what these beautiful animal forms mean, why the animal style has long been such a stable element of the culture of the Scythians, and in general all the ancient nomads of Eurasia, and why it was able to spread over such a vast territory.

Unfortunately, some scholars attributed the art of animal style to a purely utilitarian, decorative character, and those who tried to penetrate its innermost meaning explained it from the point of view of totemism or, in particular, from the point of view of the animal world.

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ancient magic, at best. But the totemic theory cannot explain such important features of the animal style as the decoration of weapons and horse harness, as well as special attention to certain parts of the animal's body, for example, the antlers of a deer. To attribute to nomads a simple belief in the protection of totemic animals is also wrong from a historical point of view, because they have long passed such an early stage in their religious development as totemism.

As for the magic theory, it is worth considering, but it is not the main one. Indeed, many peoples believed in the protective properties of images of animals and birds, which they placed on their belongings and clothing. In their view, this symbolized the transfer to their owner of the qualities inherent in the animals depicted. Hence, it becomes clear to distinguish special features of the animal's behavior and emphasize a certain part of its body associated with the selected feature. It is important to note that many animal-style plots reflect the ideal of a warrior, and among the animal kingdom you can always find features corresponding to this ideal. Therefore, there was no doubt that there was a belief in the protective powers of the beast style.

However, the existence of the animal style in ancient art for a long historical period, as well as its belonging to different peoples in a large territory of Eurasia, indicate that there is still a deeper ideological background for such art. Probably, even the very name of the style "animal" does not correspond to its true meaning and purpose.

Indeed, "bestiality" is not an internal sign of such a striking art in its impact. We must admit that the ancients did not do anything just out of a simple desire for decoration. And, of course, one should not belittle the ability of ancient peoples to perceive philosophical knowledge about the nature of the cosmos and man. Their art has always had a deep philosophical meaning, reflecting the fundamental essence of ancient culture and the existence of ancient ethnic groups.

It is not superfluous to recall that knowledge manifests itself through art, as well as through any other form of human creativity. Ancient art has always served the purpose of translating knowledge for the evolution of mankind.

In search of a meaning rich in images and artistic mastery of the ancient art of Asia, the researcher must necessarily come to an understanding of the root essence of the ancient nomads, namely, as carriers of a sufficiently developed culture. Through the art of animal style, it was their worldview, Knowledge with a capital letter, that was expressed, ensuring the integrity of their culture, and therefore the integrity of the ethnic group itself. Such knowledge cannot but concern the highest concepts. Only this was done in its own forms, inherent in the corresponding period of historical development. Animal stylization is a kind of language in which ancient knowledge about the cosmos and man is recorded. And the task of the researcher is to read these messages. The fact that the cultures of the ancient world, both in art and in philosophical and religious systems, abounded in zoomorphic images is well known and undoubtedly has its own meaning. The peculiarity of the consciousness of the ancients was that it could easily contain deeply philosophical knowledge about the universe and universal forces precisely through the images of animals.

Sun worship is a common feature of all ancient cultures. Ancient systems of knowledge indicate that they revered the sun for giving all living things life and spirit, the ability to renew and develop. In the nomad culture, the sun symbol also occupied an important place.

As for the art of animal style, the animals presented in it are undoubtedly characters of the solar cult. Such ungulates as deer, horse, mountain goat, ram, wild boar, as well as lion, eagle and some other birds acted as various hypostases of the solar deity. The fact that these animals were often depicted in certain poses or movements was also not a whim of the ancient artists, and is well explained through the solar allegory. The sun is always in motion, and cyclical. Movement is the most important quality of the world's space forces. The life of no being could have taken place without this never-ending movement, the endless change of universal reality.

In addition, the researchers noted the presence in the animal style of a large number of scenes of animal struggle, especially scenes of the so-called tormenting of a hoofed animal by a predator. Of course, the question arose: what is the meaning of such scenes? Were the nomads so bloodthirsty that they considered it acceptable to decorate their belongings with such images? Not really. The animal-style struggle reflects the eternal cosmic drama-the struggle and interaction of opposing forces in nature. The plot of the torment of a hoofed animal by a predator should be considered as a deep, multi-layered allegory-an allegory of the struggle of light and darkness, order and chaos, life and death.

Another interpretation of such an image also has the right to exist, it is based on the idea of the omnipotent time absorbing the constancy of universal space. The symbol of cyclical time in iskus-

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images of carnivores curled up in a ball were used as an animal style. A snake or dragon biting its tail is the same symbol.

In connection with the worship of the sun as an important feature of the worldview of ancient nomads, we can mention an interesting remark made by Yu. N.Roerich in his major work "History of Central Asia"*. Thus, he suggests that the ancient Asian nomads were even involved in the well-known reform of the solar cult of Akhenaten in Egypt in the XV century BC. e. Along with the invasion of the Hyksos, Hittite tribes, which were Indo-European in origin, also penetrated Egypt from Asia Minor. Before settling in Asia Minor, they traveled a long way from the northern steppe belt of Inner Asia. Yu. N. Roerich writes that since this invasion, " new trends appear in Egypt, culminating in the religious reform of Amenhotep IV-Akhenaten, which is probably an echo of the Aryan cult of the sun brought to the court Princess of Mitania, mother of Amenhotep III. " 1

As you know, the Mitanni people belong to the Indo-European root, and their language is close to Tocharian. The question of the Tocharian trace in the culture of Egypt, Asia Minor, the Mediterranean countries and other European and Russian countries arises naturally and requires careful attention. The fact that the Tochars, who lived in Asia before and during the so-called great migration of peoples at the turn of our era, are the distant ancestors of the modern inhabitants of Eurasia, is increasingly confirmed.

The worship of the sun, expressed in zoomorphic forms of art among nomads, has very ancient roots. The researchers drew attention to the affinity of some ideas of Asian nomads with the ideas set forth in the ancient Iranian monument of religious and philosophical literature-the Avesta, which, in turn, has a connection with an even more ancient source-the Rig Veda. These springs are filled with solar religious thought. In the symbolic language of the Avesta, as well as the Rig Veda, the supreme deity and the universal forces of the universe could be expressed through the images of certain representatives of the animal kingdom. Moreover, different animals could act as different attributes of the same deity or the same cosmic force. Similar ideas were common to the entire Indo-European tradition.

From all this, we can conclude that objects decorated in the animal style are not so much magical talismans-amulets, but a source of ancient cosmological knowledge. And this knowledge is passed down through art from generation to generation, binding generations together with a single ideological tradition. In this case, the role of art, as already mentioned, is seen not only in the decoration of life, but also in the preservation and transmission of intimate knowledge to posterity. Ancient art served this task, which is so necessary for the normal life of entire peoples.


Many works are devoted to animal style in art. Here we would like to draw attention to the study of this topic by the Russian orientalist Yu. N. Roerich (1902-1960) and, in particular, to his monograph "Animal Style among Nomads of Northern Tibet"2. In this work, the scientist raises a number of broad questions that lead the researcher to a new level of understanding of the problem of the history of animal-style art, which existed for a long time in the vast territory of Eurasia, including in Russia.

Yu. N. Roerich wrote the following about the ancient art of nomads:: "This animal style is a decorative motif of animal figures, sometimes forming exceptionally remarkable ornamental compositions. Some of these motifs are highly stylized and are the result of a long development process. The artists who created these works were very observant and knew well the nature and habits of the animals they depicted. This style, widespread over a vast territory, was common to all the nomadic tribes of high-altitude Asia"3. It is very important to think that the animal style had a long-term development, i.e. it was a fairly stable cultural phenomenon and was not an accidental historical fact. Probably an earlier stage in the development of this style was the art of depicting animals on a stone surface with the same techniques of accentuating dynamic poses and certain body parts.

Yu. N. Roerich's study of the nomadic art of Central Asia also sheds some light on the problem of the roots of Russian culture. The scientist pointed out the importance of studying the unified history of the peoples of the Eurasian steppe belt. "For us Russians," wrote Yu. N. Roerich, " these regions are of special interest, not to mention the thousand-verst Central Asian border of the Russian State, because the past of Central Asia is closely connected with our past. Only by understanding this past will we be able to correctly assess the phenomena of Russian history and realize the common roots that inextricably link native Russia with the countries of the East. " 4

In the History of Central Asia, Roerich wrote: "The Scythian tribes brought their art to the steppes of Southern Russia, a typical feature of which was the so-called animal ornamentation, common to all

* By Central Asia, Yu. N. Roerich meant Central, Inner Asia, which later became increasingly known as Central Asia (author's note).

** The Hyksos are a group of nomadic pastoral Asian tribes from the Near East who seized power in Lower Egypt in the mid-17th century BC and then, around 1650 BC, formed their own dynasty of rulers. ed.).

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nomadic tribes of Central Asia, as well as the forest-steppe zone of Southern Siberia and Eastern Russia (Perm). This style, which is characterized by the use of animal forms in ornamentation, should be recognized for revealing the true nomadic art of Central Asia, which in various phases lasted until modern times, such as the Russian folk animal pattern on book screensavers and embroidery, animal ornamentation found in the art of nomads of Northern Tibet, and imitation of the old ones that existed in the XVIII century. samples among the tribes of Southeastern Mongolia (Chakhar, Ordos) " 5.

Thus, the ancient art of animal style at one time became the property of Russian art. Especially animal motifs are preserved in folk art: in wood carving, embroidery, ceramics, toys. Slavs widely and with pleasure used animal and bird symbols. The ancient Scythian bird symbols found in the Pazyryk mounds of Altai are similar to the common themes used, for example, in Russian lace to this day. And who doesn't know the famous toy made in the form of a swinging horse or just a wooden carriage with a horse harnessed to it! But these simple creations symbolize the highest cosmic realities.

It is well known that the passage of the sun through the firmament in many ancient cultures was represented as the passage of the Sun god in a chariot drawn by the solar four horses. Wooden horses or cockerels decorated the roofs of houses, thus protecting the solar symbolism of the people living in them. Such popular images in Russian art as the firebird, the rooster, the eagle, the swan, the duck, the hare, the bear, the deer, and the moose also originate in the solar cult.

With the arrival of Christianity in Russia, many animal motifs were reinterpreted and entered into Christian art. Thus, the influence of ancient nomadic art, for example, is clearly visible in the decoration of the facades of the Vladimir-Suzdal churches of the XII and XIII centuries, especially in the Church of the Intercession of the Virgin on the Nerl River, in the Assumption and Dmitrov Cathedrals of Vladimir and the Cathedral of St. George in Yuriev-Polsky. Here you can see, along with Christian symbols, images of lions, leopards, griffins, unicorns, sirin birds and other animal-like creatures.

In modern times, the animal style not only continues to exist, but also received a new impetus for development in the works of Russian masters. So, modern artists of Altai, as in their time and their ancient comrades in skill, again turned to animal motifs.

Unexpectedly, but quite naturally, the image of a deer appeared at the opening of the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi. And this deer was an exact copy of the image of the deer of the Scythian-Altai art of animal style, which is more than two and a half thousand years old! Perhaps not everyone was able to realize how powerful this symbol was, reproduced on a huge scale in the arena of the stadium and reinforced by the mental energy of everyone watching the opening ceremony.

Thus, the animal symbolism of the ancients continues to live and remains an attractive magnet, feeding its ideological and philosophical power to contemporaries.

N. 2004. Istoriya Srednei Azii. Vol.1. M. Istoriya Srednei Azii. Vol. 1. M. (in Russian)

Roerich Yu. N. 2 Animal style among nomads of Northern Tibet // Tibet and Central Asia, Vol. 1. Samara, Agni Publ., 1999. (Roerich Yu.N. 1999. Zverinyi stil u kochevnikov Severnogo Tibeta // Tibet i Tsentralnaya Aziya. T. 1. Samara) (in Russian)

Roerich Yu. N. 3 Po tropam Sredinnoy Azii [On the paths of Central Asia]. M, ICR, 2012, p. 511. (Roerich Yu. N. 2012. (Tropam Sredinnoy Azii. M.) (in Russian)

4 nomadic empires of Central Asia // Tibet and Central Asia, Vol. 2. Moscow, Rassanta Publ., 2012, p. 45. (2012. Roerich Yu.N. Velikie kochevye imperii Srednei Asii // Tibet i Zentralnaya Aziya. T. 2. M., Rassanta) (in Russian)

Roerich Yu. N. 5 Istoriya Srednoi Azii [History of Central Asia], p. 170...


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