Letter to UNESCO by George Morgenstierne and Lennart Edelberg at the Hindu Kush Conference 1970

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(This letter was written by George Morgenstierne and Lennart Edelberg, who were respectively president and secretary of the HINDU-KUSH CULTURAL CONFERENCE held at Moesgård building in Aarhus Denmark in November 1970. The letter is reproduced here from “The selected papers of the conference” edited by Karl Jettmar in 1974 under the title of Cultures of Hindu Kush. That conference was an important event with regard to the languages and cultures of the Chitral and Nuristan; and was participated by leading linguists, historians and ethnographers of all over the world including Afghanistan and Pakistan. The conference president was the well known Norwegian linguist George Morgenstierne)







M. le Secrétaire Général
René Maheu
Place de Fontenoy
Paris 7

During the Hindu Kush Cultural Conference at Moesgård from November 10th to 18th, 1970, different aspects of the culture of Nuristan and Chitral have been discussed among scholars who were born and/or have worked in the area. Through an interdisciplinary cooperation light has been thrown on many scientific problems.

The Hindu Kush mountain area is unique in combining primary forests and harmonious indigenous villages with an architecture of high artistic value, and languages and traditions having deep historical roots.

If the rich cultural inheritance of these areas is to survive the effects of economic and social change, efforts should be made to ensure that development can take place in such a way that advancement and traditions can go hand in hand at every level of the civilization of these areas.

In our opinion to achieve this the following steps should be taken :

  1. The formulation and implementation of landscape planning, particularly to prevent further forest destruction and soil erosion.
  2. The preservation of certain buildings of outstanding cultural value and of archaeological sites.
  3. The establishment of local museums in the area, preferably in buildings of architectural interest.
  4. The collection of cultural objects from the areas in question for traditional museum display in Kabul, Chitral and Peshawar.
  5. The establishment of rest-houses and some modest hotels in houses of the local style.
  6. Cultural & sociological studies to be undertaken in selected areas.
  7. To develop, in cooperation with the Ministeriee of Education concerned, materials for use in the schools of Nuristan and Chitral so that children may be taught the value of their environment and understand that culture cannot develop – not even survive – without being in balance with nature.

The members of this international conference hereby request UNESCO to consider or to forward to the appropriate international institution an application for funds to realize the above proposals, which we unanimously consider to be urgent, through cooperation with the governments concerned.

Time is short and therefore we propose that this matter should be thoroughly discussed in Nuristan and Chitral with local and government authorities so that early action can be taken.

We, the members of the Hindu Kush Cultural Conference Committee, being in a position to draw upon the experience of scholars who have carried out fieldwork in the areas concerned, willingly offer our assistance in this matter. More details can be provided for each of the above proposals.

We request that your reply be sent to the Secretary of the Conference.

Moesgård, November 18th, 1970.

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