There is a long history of political and cultural interaction between Tibet and the present Central Asian Islamic Republics of the former Soviet Union. Along with Mongolia and East Turkistan, Tibet forms with these republics the bloc of Central Asian states. With an eye towards countering the growing Chinese presence and influence in these Islamic Republics, gaining their political support and laying the foundation for future economic and developmental co-operation in the area, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been enthusiastic to re-establish the historical links between the Tibetan, Mongolian and Central Asian Turkic peoples. As a step in this direction, the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives has begun an exchange of publishing scholarly articles with Buddhologists from the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan, arranged by Mr. Boris Matskin of Tashkent and Dr. Alexander Berzin.
Dr. D. Rusanov, a scholar of the Tashkent Art Research Institute and director of the Information Group "The Great Silk Road," has been approached by Mr. Matskin and is also keen to establish a program of scholarly cooperation with the LTWA. The information group he heads offers:
- To compile a list of bibliographic and photographic material available in Uzbekistan, as well as the other Islamic Republics and countries of the former Soviet Union, concerning research topics about Central Asia and the Great Silk Road, and provide summaries of their contents
- To translate from Russian and Central Asian languages into English all materials found to be relevant
- To assist Tibetan scholars from India to come to Tashkent to conduct further research
- To facilitate cooperation with museums, libraries, archives, academic institutions, foundations and private art collections throughout the Islamic Republics;
- To participate in joint projects, publications, exhibitions and conferences.
It is suggested that scholars be found within the Tibetan community who would like to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Mr. Matskin and Dr. Rusanov. There are several areas of research that might prove fruitful.
- The political and cultural interaction between Tibet and the Turkic nations of Central Asia during the period between Kings Songtsen-gampo and Langdarma, when there were many military alliances between the two in face of Chinese, Arab and Uighur campaigns, with particular emphasis on possible connections between the Sogdian Buddhism of that time in Central Asia and the formation of Tibetan Buddhism. Two of Guru Rinpoche's 25 disciples in Tibet, for example, were from sNa-nam (Samarkand, Samarqand): sNa-nam rDo-rje bdud-'joms (one of King Tri Songdetsen's ministers sent to Nepal to invite Guru Rinpoche to Tibet) and sNa-nam Ye-shes sde.
- The amount of Tibetan cultural influence on the 8th century Tibetan vassal state of the Turki Shahis in Afghanistan, the possible influence of Buddhism found in this state on the formation of Tibetan Buddhism, and the political and cultural interaction between Tibet and the Arab and Turkic nations through this state
- The possible introduction of Buddhist elements into Western Tibet from Central Asia prior to Songtsen-gampo
- The identification of sTag-gzig, the land that was the source of the Bon tradition, and the investigation of ancient beliefs of Central Asia that could have influenced the formation of Bon.