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The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Letter from a Traveling Russian Art Student

September, 1894
Dear Respected Konstantin Abramovich,

Entertainment. Today I will write to you about entertainment.

They do so much celebrating here! It is truly spectacular. If a man is to spend his entire life only in Bukhara, he will surely come to enjoy more festivities than any other on earth. Every season is an occasion for a new set of rituals, festivals and performances. On New Years, the people of Bukhara pay tribute to their agricultural traditions and routes by attempting to influence agricultural yields through magic powers. On this day, the Bukharans eat special foods to honor the beginning of the farmers’ spring agricultural work. This holiday also has close—and somewhat ironic if you ask me—links to fire. I am told that on this momentous day, fire games and performances come into play. In the beginning of winter, the Bukharans also celebrate! This holiday is for the “year’s breakpoint” and is celebrated through meetings in temples of fire. In these temples, the people eat their dishes cooked with millet flour, butter, and even sugar. (134) There are so many various seasonal holidays that I find it redundant to describe them to you here. In any case, the excessive celebration seems to me to be consistent with Bukhara’s image of prosperity, eccentric tastes, and gay frivolity. I, of course, do not mind these celebrations as they supply me with delicious food and entertainment in the form of rope-walkers, comic actors, fairs, match-makers, and idol-sellers.

Forever your devoted student and loyal training artist,

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