«One of the key problems of state-sponsored urban projects in Uzbekistan is that there is little understanding of the relevance of the projects for the population», – notes Dilmira Matyakubova, independent researcher and specialist in urban planning, in her special article for CABAR.asia.Русский
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- Today Uzbek authorities are committed to branding a new image for the capital through repositioning it as a state that is different from the previous authoritarian rule, which significantly damaged the reputation of the country;
- The realization of such a large project as «Tashkent city», in turn, is involving the demolition of public buildings and residential structures in the old town area of Tashkent;
- The process of demolition and relocation of residents in the territory has started before the lawful date of six months, which results in non-compliance of legislative norms, apart from the residents’ grievances;
- There is a real danger to historically significant places through “beautification” of them for the sake of tourism;
- The process of urban-planning does not involve civil engagement to allow population to express their opinions and it lacks the considerations of public needs.
The practice of re-branding capital cities by leaders in order to demonstrate their influence is observed throughout Central Asian countries. Kazakhstan’s former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev had branded his capital, Astana, which now named after himself, as «Nur-sultan». In Turkmenistan, Turkmenbashi (first president of Turkmenistan) had put enormous efforts to eternalize his name in Ashgabat through large-scale constructions to illustrate a cult of personality. Although Uzbekistan’s first president did not express a desire for a cult of personality in capital’s physical spaces, he had ensured to leave a legacy of an iron-fist leader of a strong personality that later materialized in forms of monuments. There is an argument that, narratives of nation branding often reﬂect the choices of political elites as they imagine the brand. It often proposes a ‘westernized’ version of a country or a city, highlighting features that will appeal to developed countries with a view to promote tourism, trade and economic investment.[i] Today, the current Uzbek president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev is committed to branding a new image for the capital through repositioning it as a state that is different from the previous authoritarian rule, which significantly damaged the reputation of the country. Soon after he has taken the office, Mirziyoyev initiated an ambitious plan of transforming the center of the capital city, Tashkent, into an international business locus through a project named «Tashkent city». The president Mirziyoyev stated, “through the project Tashkent city, we should declare about ourselves.”[ii] He views the role of the city as a tool to promote a new brand image for the country that is ‘modern’ and open to foreign business and investment. Although the project was initially scheduled for ten years, the government’s aim is to complete it in four years period to exhibit the current administration’s commitment to progress before next presidential elections.[iii] Mirziyoyev’s team he has built for himself applauded the initiation. The Cabinet of Ministers issued a Decree «On measures to improve the architectural appearance and improvement of the central part of Tashkent, as well as creation of appropriate conditions for the population and visitors to the capital». Accordingly, the project Tashkent city started early December 2017. It occupies 80 hectares (3.1 square miles) along the main streets, Navoi and Islam Karimov Avenues (former Uzbekistanskaya), which link Olmazor and Furkat Streets. The project “relies on foreign and local investments, donations, loans, and other sources of funding. It aims to construct an industrial park, eight business centers, shopping mall, a congress hall, hotels, restaurants, and a cultural center, as well as high-rise residential apartments.”[iv] The estimated cost of the project is 1.3 billion and it relies on foreign and local investments, charities and funding. The directorate who is responsible for the project has drawn some investment and currently, both local and foreign investors are involved in the fulfilment of the project in several phases.[v] Grievances over mahalla The realization of such a large project as «Tashkent city», in turn, is involving the demolition of public buildings and residential structures in the old town area of Tashkent. The houses in the mahallas (traditional neighborhood) have been demolished moving the residents to the outskirts of the city. The people in the mahalla area have been living in the center for centuries. Their houses have raised many generations that made them feel attached to the space. It was rather an emotional practice for them. On top of that, they have been given a short notice to vacate their places. Although the Article 4 of “Regulations on the Procedure for Compensation of Damages to Citizens and Legal Entities due to Seizure of Land for State or Public Needs” (2006) ensures the six months’ notice of residents by the khokimiyat (city administration) in written, in fact, the residents were given 10 days to leave their houses.[vi] Normally, in traditional settlements, average size of a family is larger than families in districts of multi-storey apartments. The family that includes father, mother, two or three sons or daughters (before they get married) and daughter-in-laws live together in a hovli (traditional house) with a backyard. The law on property provides full protection of rights of citizens to equal replacement of the property with same size and value with timely notice. According to Article 4 of Regulations (2006) on the “procedure for compensation of damages to citizens and legal entities due to seizure of land for state or public needs”, khokimiyat (city administration) of respective districts (cities) must notify property owners, in written.[vii] Besides, in addition to written notification, copies of decisions of the Council of Ministers and regional City councils or Council of Tashkent on seizure of land and demolition of housing must be provided. A group of residents in O’qchi mahalla expressed their grievances:
- Engage civil society in urban/rural planning: Establish regular public council meetings independent from khokimiyat or mahalla committees to discuss planning matters.
- Consider examining social layers of the society in planning and development: the government to ensure relevance of the projects to meet the needs of the different social groups in the society.
- Raise the awareness of the population on housing rights: Educate people of their property rights so that they can stand for them themselves in case of infringement; provide legal assistance through civil society institutions.
- Work towards increasing the percentage of middle class: Encourage the growth of the middle class reserve into the middle class so that the greater portion of the populace is able to benefit from the large-scale urban planning projects.
- Preserve cultural heritage through enforcement: UNESCO to include traditional old part of the cities (Tashkent and regions) in the list of cultural heritage in order to preserve the unique identity of the cities.
- End ‘beautification’ process for the sake of tourism and ensure appreciation the individuality of the historical sites around the country.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.
[i] Kaneva and Popescu (2011) cited in Kolesnicov and White “Nation branding in a transitional democracy: The role of corporate diplomacy in promoting national identity,” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 2015, p.326[ii] “Proektom Tashkent City mi dolzhni zaiavit o sebe. – President”, 2017, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2017/10/30/tashkent-city/ [iii] Interview with Abdujabbor Abduvakhitov, a senior official at Foreign Ministry, March 2018. [iv] Dilmira Matyakubova, “Who is the Tashkent City for? Nation-branding and Public Dialogue in Uzbekistan,” CAAF Fellows Papers, Central Asia Program, June 2018. [v] “Stroitelstvo Tashkent City planiruetsya zavershit v techenie chetirex let” https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2018/06/05/tashkent-city/ [vi] Dilmira Matyakubova, “Who is the Tashkent City for? Nation-branding and Public Dialogue in Uzbekistan,” CAAF Fellows Papers, Central Asia Program, June 2018. [vii] “Polozhenie o poriadke vozmezhenia ubitkov grazhdanam I yuridicheskim litsam v sviazi s iziatiem zemelnix uchastkov dlya gosudarstvennix I obshestvennix nuzhd”, NormaUz, 2006, https://nrm.uz/contentf?doc=105171_polojenie_o_poryadke_vozmeshcheniya_ubytkov_grajdanam_i_yuridicheskim_licam_v_svyazi_s_izyatiem_zemelnyh_uchastkov_dlya_gosudarstvennyh_i_obshchestvennyh_nujd_(prilojenie_k_postanovleniyu_km_ruz_ot_29_05_2006_g_n_97)&produ [viii] Dilmira Matyakubova, “Who is the Tashkent City for? Nation-branding and Public Dialogue in Uzbekistan,” CAAF Fellows Papers, Central Asia Program, June 2018 [ix] “Postanovlenie Kabineta Ministrov Uzbekistana o merax po uluchsheniyu arhitekturnogo oblika i blagoustroistva centralnoi chasti goroda Tashkenta, a takzhe sozdaniyu nadlezhashix usloviy dlya naseleniya i gostey stolici.” July 2017. LexUz. http://lex.uz/pages/getpage.aspx?lact_id=3295075#3295185 [x] “Bez soglasiya zhitelei snosa ne budet” — hokim Tashkenta o Mirzo Ulugbek City, Fevral 18, 2019 https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/02/18/mirzo-ulugbek/ [xi] “2019 declared ‘Year of Active Investments and Social Development’ in Uzbekistan” December 28, 2018. https://www.azernews.az/region/143354.html [xii] “2019 declared ‘Year of Active Investments and Social Development’ in Uzbekistan” December 28, 2018. https://www.azernews.az/region/143354.html [xiii] “Expansion of the middle class in Uzbekistan. MEANS Of Social MOBILITY” UNDP, 2014 [xiv] “Ne stala borotsya. А esli bi umerla?» V Fergane prodolzhaetsya snos”, Gazeta.uz, Yanvar 30, 2019. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/01/30/fergana/ [xv] “Ne stala borotsya. А esli bi umerla?» V Fergane prodolzhaetsya snos”, Gazeta.uz, Yanvar 30, 2019. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/01/30/fergana/ [xvi] “Ne stala borotsya. А esli bi umerla?» V Fergane prodolzhaetsya snos”, Gazeta.uz, Yanvar 30, 2019. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/01/30/fergana/ [xvii] “Evicted without warning: sudden Tashkent demolitions spark anger.” April 2, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/apr/02/evicted-without-warning-demolitions-spark-activism-in-tashkent-uzbekistan [xviii] Ibid. [xix] Ibid. [xx] Mavluda Yusupova, “Ostanovit razrushenie arxitekturnogo naslediya.” GazetaUz. 2018. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2018/03/19/monuments/ [xxi] “Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz, Uzbekistan, added to List of World Heritage in Danger” 2016. http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1522/ [xxii] Simon Anholt, “Beyond Nation Brand: The Role of Image and Identity in International Relations”, Surface, 2013, p.3.