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Rooted deep into TRADITION
One of the reasons people like to travel is not just because of the new places they wish to see, but also because of the new culture and lifestyle they come across and experience. The way natives interact with tourists is probably more important than places to visit because it is the people who are going to make your stay more exciting. When it comes to CIS countries, every nation is very welcoming to tourists in general, with the exception of a section of the locals trying to rip you off, but that is common knowledge amongst international tourists.
The culture of Kazakhstan has seen multi-layered developments owing to western influences. Russia and China have also influenced the modern Kazakh lifestyle. The nomadic past of the Kazakh people often mislead tourists to think that is how it is now. The way Kazakh people dress has changed too with the introduction of modern European fashion trends. The modern silk route is beaming with markets of traditional Kazakh attire. One of the most unique traits the Kazakh have - they ask about the health of a man’s livestock before enquiring about his health, otherwise it is termed as not good etiquettes.
Kyrgyzstan has a diverse culture with the Northern Kyrgyz people being nomadic and the southern Kyrgyz being more settled and practice agriculture and livestock rearing. Islam is prevalent in the south and its influence can be seen in their day-to-day lives. The film industry in this country is quite small, but active, along with the music industry which mainly boasts of pop and folk singers, besides musicians. After gaining independence, many native art forms of Kyrgyzstan nearly dwindled because of the introduction of modern western films and influence. The style and fashion in Kyrgyzstan mean a lot more than probably one can imagine. Famous Kyrgyz designer Dilbar Ashimbaeva is known for her long bohemian dresses with traditional central Asian embroidery. Her style of work has been dubbed as ‘ethno chic”.
The Uzbeks are very lively, as evident from their colourful dresses. But now they are incorporating contemporary fashion, along with their traditional attire. Although it would be wrong to suggest that the traditional attire is losing out to modern styles. Uzbekistan being a large producer of cotton, has a significant advantage in the world textile market. Apart from Uzbek cotton, their silk garments are also quite famous due to their ethnic design and handiwork. The cities are the only places where people are up to date with contemporary fashion, with the rest of the country preferring the traditional attire.
Azerbaijan’s economy primarily depends on the oil and natural gas industry. It was rated as the ‘Top Reformer of the Year,’ in 2008 by World Bank. When it comes to lifestyle and socialising, Baku is the most popular. The nightlife is something that no one can ever forget, although there might be some close calls. The Pacifico can be heard from the seaside. The Pacifico, along with Eleven, and Opera Sky, are the best nightclubs in the capital. All three nightclubs are not far from the city centre and has scintillating sea facing views. Recently, Baku was named as the emerging fashion destination in Azerbaijan by Forbes, after the fifth edition of the Azerbaijan Fashion Week.
Armenia has quite a reputation amongst tourists about being quite a good place for young adults. This is mainly because the society is shaped around the idea that everyone should take his or her own responsibility after 18. So not only is it safe, but also this makes for a great experience as well. When it comes to modes of entertainments, Armenia has no shortage. Hiking is quite popular among people who want to travel around. There are also game zones, pubs, cinemas, theatres and festivals all the year round. The people are also quite helpful in general, which is a big advantage for tourists.
Staying in Ukraine costs a lot less than in all the other CIS countries. Food is relatively very affordable and cheap, which happens to be one of the main reasons. There is also a big difference in lifestyle when it comes to the economic classes. Majority of the cities’ populous are businessmen who have an extravagant lifestyle, which is heavily contrasted by that of the average labourer. People form the villages are now leaving to cities to look for educational prospective and jobs. The lifestyle of the cities is the quite opposite. Most of the urban centres are overflowing with energy. A mix of motivated youth and young entrepreneurs make for a high-paced life. Ukrainian fashion is very unique, involving top quality European fabric, which is designed and manufactured in the country. Bright colours are used to emphasise the traditional embroidery in everyday attire.
Russia’s lifestyle is completely different from the rest of the CIS countries. They think of themselves as very well educated and like to read a lot. Books in Russia are very cheap and one can buy as many as 10 books a month without putting a strain on the monthly budget. Theatres are quite popular in the cities since the Soviet times, when tickets used to be sold from businesses, and schools. Russia believes in non-individualism. Although over 70 per cent of the population is Christian, a church wedding is not considered official. The couple has to register their marriage with the state, before having their church wedding. Education and healthcare are free in Russia, and a lot of cultural facilities are available to the general public. This makes Russia a very cultured country. Their education system is quite good as well. It offers a mandatory foreign language course for six years including English, German, Spanish, and French. More than 40 per cent of the entire population has college degrees, which is also the highest number achieved by any country. Russians are also quite up to date with the latest fashion trends, with their fashion market growing by five per cent, and is currently valued at 34.1 billion Euros.
Most of the people of Moldova live in villages. As the country is densely populated, a majority of the population lives on farms, which happen to be rather small. This is why the rural people have a closely knit community which is centred around churches. Horses are more prevalent in these areas as most of the people do not leave their villages or towns. So they do not require a car, although those who have cars, go out a bit more. The cities tend to have more Russians and Ukrainians than Moldavians.
In Belarus, people who are not from cities do not speak English. This makes communicating with a local bit harder for tourists. Although when in a city, this is not be too much of a problem. The people are quite friendly, which is a big help for anyone visiting Belarus. Most of the people in Belarus speak Russian than Belarusian. The native language is mainly spoken in the villages, while some intellectuals try to preserve the language. A lot of people also borrow words from English to try not to borrow from Russian.
Cultural parallels with India and neighbours build stronger knot
Culturally speaking, there are lots more similarities between India and the CIS countries than one might think. Not only with India, but also have somewhat similar cultures and way of thinking with people from the Middle East, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and China as well. It is quite astonishing how people living in countries so far apart can have the same way of life and thinking. In most of the cases, tourists visiting these countries get quite the shock when they see their hosts having the same quirks they have, which only helps the two realms to forge a stronger bond.
In Russia, the nationals are very proud of their past and fiercely protective of their country. This is quite similar with Middle Eastern countries, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. When visiting someone’s place, it can get quite embarrassing as the Russians are aggressive eaters and offer lots of food and get offended if guests denied accepting.
Over the centuries, India and Kazakhstan have shared trade, ethnic and cultural contacts and go way back to migration of the Aryan tribes. Vedic literature contains fragmental information about the Indo-Aryan tribes in Kazakhstan. Back in the Neolithic age, the agricultural cultures of both countries went through similar social developments and a large part of Central Asia was inhabited by these tribes. The similarities between Kazakhstan and Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the Middle East are very few.
Tajikistan too has cordial relations with India. The popular cuisines of Tajikistan like the kabuli pulao, qubili palao and samanu are similar to biriyani which is highly rated by every Indian. When it comes to sports, football is the most popular, compared to India, where football is a second preference for people. Like India, the culture and traditions of Uzbekistan are very colorful. The diversity of culture in Uzbekistan is mainly because of the absorption of foreign culture and customs from the people of different countries who settled in Uzbekistan over the years, until their independence from the USSR. The main contributions came from Chinese, Russians, Arabs and nomadic Turkish tribes. The Great Silk Road has played a vital role in shaping the present culture of this country for many centuries. Exchange of technology, language, traditions and religion were all possible because of this iconic route.
Cultural similarities between India and Kyrgyzstan go long way back. Relationship between these two countries has dated back to the pre-historic period, even though Kyrgyzstan got its independence in 1991. Besides these similarities, the differences also play a big role, as the nomadic lifestyle is very appealing to Indians.
Turkmenistan had their own set of traditions and culture, but it was largely affected by powerful neighbouring states like Russia. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Turkmenistan in 2015 to cement the bilateral ties, which was dubbed a historic visit as it was after 20 years an Indian Prime Minister had visited the country.
Of the CIS countries, no other country shares as much history with India as Armenia. The guns that were used by the Mughals against the Marathas were made by Armenians. There was also a doctor in the court of Akbar the Great, who was of Armenian descent, along with a notable Hindi and Urdu scholar Mirza Zulqarnain, who was also an Armenian. The Scindia royal family of Gwalior also employed an Armenian as Commander-in-Chief of their army.
Ukraine shares a lot of their culture with their neighbouring states and has Slavic roots and mythology. The Soviet era integrated many cultures of the Central Asia and many other nations with a common language, after declaring their independence from the USSR. Ukraine participates in the World Culture Festival which is annually held in India, which has cemented ties between the two countries.
Belarus is home to a diverse set of religions like Jews, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Greek and Roman Orthodox Christians. The traditions and culture of this country is very diverse, just as similar to India.
Like Belarus, Moldova does not have too many similarities with India to boast about but their culture and hospitality is not to be questioned.
Azerbaijan’s culture is hugely influenced by Iranian, Turkish, Russian and Caucasian heritage. The influence of Russia is very less compared to the others and is only because the country was part of the USSR.
Bulgaria, Serbia and Georgia are the countries which welcome tourists with open arms. Bulgarians have a lot of respect for Indians.
Bollywood films are popular in most CIS countries especially during USSR era. This gives every Indian tourist something to talk about and possibly boast of!