In recent years, Uzbekistan has turned into a large construction site. However, the construction initiatives of the authorities were often criticized by citizens who protested against the destruction of cultural heritage sites. The results of this policy were vividly manifested in Samarkand, the oldest city in the region.
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During the rule of late Islam Karimov in 2009, perennial plane trees (plane trees) were cut down in the park. Moreover, in October 2009, an Orthodox church built in 1907 by architect Benois was demolished in Tashkent. In Soviet times, this building hosted local bank, but it continued to remain in the register of monuments protected by the state.
The trend of destroying the historical architectural heritage was especially visible in Samarkand, the most ancient city in the region, included in 2001 on the UNESCO list. The website of the organization notes that the list of protected objects of Samarkand includes monuments of the old city and buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries, “built by Russians in the European style.”
These buildings were built 150 years ago, after the conquest of Samarkand by Tsarist Russia. The Russians began to buy land for the construction of the European quarter in the western part of the city, where the fields and gardens of the townspeople were previously located.
During the presidency of Islam Karimov, historic buildings in the old and European part of the city were destroyed, which sparked public discontent in the press and on social media. However, the authorities ignored the criticism.
Many well-built constructions were demolished even though they could serve the city for a long time. For example, in 2009 the Museum of History and Culture was demolished – a firm, large and lasting building. Now there is a monument to Islam Karimov.
However, under the new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the trend is maintained. As a result, in June 2019, UNESCO desparately announced that they could exclude Samarkand from the World Heritage List. However, later UNESCO abandoned these plans due to promises of the Uzbek authorities.
Urgut city, which is located near Samarkand. Back in the days of the USSR, there was an obelisk to the soldiers who died in the Second World War. However, then in many parts of the country Soviet authorities began to erect a monument of grieving mother in the center of such obelisks. The high-rise building in front of the monument creates the feeling that the whole country has turned into one large modern building.
Here in Urgut, one can notice another trend in the construction boom – new mosques are being erected in place of old ones.
The wall near the Registan, in Samarkand. More than ten years ago, since about 2008, famous monuments were fenced off, which isolated them from the settlement.
The same wall can be seen at the Guri-Emir monument – the mausoleum of Amir Timur.
Street named after Pavel Benkov – an artist who made a colossal contribution to the development of the fine arts of Uzbekistan. The Honored Artisan of Uzbekistan lived on this street from 1930 to 1949. The authorities promised to keep the artist’s house, but the street “loses” its face, because new residents are building multi-storey mansions here. Recently, the courtyard of Benkov’s house was damaged because a foundation pit was dug in a neighboring house.
Abuabdullo Rudaki street, former Titova. On the site of the new building there was a bakery, which had been operating even before the construction of this house began. The building in the foreground was used for local administration.
Former Nicholas Church, which is located at the train station. In Soviet times, here was “Young Guard” cinema theatre. It is now unclear whom this building belongs to. According to local residents, it is changing hands. Believers ask the authorities to return the church to them, but their requests have yielded no results so far.
Mahalla Guri Emir. Mosque at the old cemetery (now in the center of the old city) Haji Imam, 19th century.
The Kurganch quarter mosque in the old town not far from Registan square 19th century.
The beginning of Tashkentskaya street, which is located next to the Registan square. Monument to the first President Islam Karimov, installed in 2016. Previously, here was the Museum of History and Culture of Uzbekistan, which was demolished in 2009.
A private hotel under construction against the backdrop of the completed Bibi-Khanym mosque. Bibi-Khanym was destroyed during the reign of Amir Timur, and was only partially preserved. But at the beginning of the century they authorities decided to “finish building” it.
The Khazrati Khizr Mosque, once built on the site of a Zoroastrian temple near the wall of the Afrasiyab settlement. Nearby there was a huge cemetery, originating from the Shakhi-Zinda mausoleum. Among the people, this place was sacred, pilgrims still come from all over Uzbekistan. In 2016, the mausoleum of the first president, Islam Karimov, was built on the territory of the mosque, which occupied part of the cemetery.
View of Samarkand from the Afrasiyab settlement, northwest of the city. In the foreground is the cemetery with the Branch of the Tashkent University of Information Technologies in the background.
View of Samarkand from the Afrasiyab settlement.
In the European part of Samarkand, monuments are also demolished and created, despite the fact that this part of the city is considered a monument under protection according to UNESCO.
This material has been prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial board or donor.