Abstract: What did the conquest of Central Asia mean for the Russian appreciation of the world of diversity and cultures associated with Islam that produced art of such mastery and sophistication? The Russians were not invited to view this art, they were engulfed in it, and they produced in return.

Keywords: Central Asia, Russian Orientalism, antiquarianism, expeditions, artists of Central Asia.

Central Asian history cannot be located in time, and the definition that can be given to the region in geographical space has changed drastically. It is the part of the Central Eurasia that lies at the borders of the great civilizations, whose frontiers are unstable.1 Although it varies from age to age, following the balance of pressure between the civilized and uncivilized, it is easily traceable at any given moment of history. It was the “Empires of the Steppes”, a beautiful and evocative term, worthy of Rene Grousset, the French scholar who coined it.2 The dissociation of such empires is even more rapid than their formation: the precept divide et impera had a particular validity in Central Asia. It would be equally wrong to imagine that all the inhabitants of Central Asia were nomads. So far as we can follow history, the course of evolution of the language showing a slow process of equalization. If there is a basic distinction made between man and man in the history of Central Asia, its criterion is social and economic rather than national or linguistic.