Kazakhstan’s medieval mosques and minarets

 Kazakhstan’s medieval mosques and minarets

Kazakhstan’s medieval mosques and minarets

09/11 2021


The extent of the multitude of the medieval mosques and minarets allows us to consider these monuments of the nomads and half-nomads of Kazakhstan as an original and generally unique part of the history of Kazakhstan’s vernacular architecture.

A rough listing made of Kazakhstan’s medieval Islamic architecture sites shows that their number significantly exceeds the number of surviving above-ground Islamic culture buildings.

Unfortunately, the majority of Kazakhstan’s mosques and minarets have not survived to this day. However, architectural traces left thereof, along with the remaining written monuments, whereby medieval Arab travelers, historians, and chronographers enable us to fill some gaps in the historical study of structures, – do make us hopeful.

In order to provide for a timely fixation and scientific documentation of the surviving archaeological medieval sites – mosques and minarets of Kazakhstan, in the autumn of 2021, experts of the International Institute for Central Asian Studies (IICAS), together with the dedicated UNESCO international experts team, commenced their work to identify, examine and study these monuments, by the assignment from the National Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan for UNESCO and ICESCO.

The work was carried out with efficient application of innovative technologies, so that the documentation of the sites was done using unmanned aerial vehicles and high-precision GPS-enabled systems, specialized software for graphic editing, 3D modeling, photogrammetry and GIS-cartography.

29 medieval mosques and minarets were selected from among the 36 potential sites, and for each of them the following data were collected:

• 700 to 3000 aerial photographs;

• 400 to 2000 ground photographs;

• up to 7 video files;

• geo-landmarks to refine the georeferencing of topographic and orthomosaic data taken from a TRIMBLE GNSS receiver;

• geographic coordinates of the markers to enhance the georeferencing of the specific architectural structures, taken from a Leica laser theodolite.

The results of the work are a digital elevation model, an orthophotomap and a 3D model, prepared for each monument.

The recommendations elaborated by IICAS in cooperation with international experts on the basis of the research conducted thus far will make it possible to prepare properly substantiated proposals for the preservation and use of the monuments. This work adds up to the future capacity of the dedicated task force to design and deploy a strategy for the possible inscription of these monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage List.