UZBEKISTAN POSTCARDS

August 23rd, 2013

uzbekistan postcards
[BOOK&MULTIMEDiA]

The Republic of Uzbekistan is located in the heart of Central Asia, a region that to our Western eyes may seem remote, yet is actually one of the cradles of civilization.

A landscape steeped in history and tradition, the country was formerly part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, one of the oldest cultures in the world. It later became part of the Samanid Empire and the Timurid dynasty until the sixteenth century, when it was conquered by nomadic Uzbeks and became known as Uzbekistan.

While most of the population is of Uzbek origin, the ethnic diversity of this republic is magnificent, composed of Tajiks, Russians, Kazakhs, Koreans – a mixture that makes its people the real treasure of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The contrast between the root Persian, Muslim tradition, the lingering influence of years of Soviet cultural domination and the current consumer boom make Uzbekistan aesthetically complex and especially photogenic.

Uzbekistan offers images that range between a modern, kitsch look, stirring, romantic, oriental exoticism, a melancholy post-Soviet mood, some vernacular landscapes, and a palpable legacy of human stupidity in one of the most remarkable ecological disasters of all time, the destruction of the Aral Sea.

We set out to offer a personal view of an eerily remote country. Through photography and film, we aim is to evoke some of the emotions that we felt in these occasionally strange and often wonderful places.


CHORSU BAZAAR. TASHKENT.UZBEKISTAN

Capital of Uzbekistan, economic and political center of the country, Tashkent is cited in third century BC writings with the Chinese root term ‘shash’, meaning ‘stone’. Tashkent (‘stone city’) was for centuries a principal point in the silk route.

During the twentieth century, Tashkent became one of the most important cities of the USSR, as a significant geostrategic center. After the devastating earthquake of 1966, the city was rebuilt using the Soviet planning model with huge avenues and large squares, that give it its characteristic appearance. In 1991, a year before the independence of Uzbekistan, Tashkent was the fourth largest city in the USSR.

Today in the city of Tashkent a contemporary architectural style is emerging which is difficult to classify: mainly distinctly Muslim-inspired buildings, made with modern materials and techniques, but so overly ornate that they convey a sense of post-pop pastiche.


BUKHARA. UZBEKISTAN

In the area of Bukhara, one can find settlements dating back to the sixth century BC, making this city one of the oldest in the Central Asia region. The origins of its inhabitants date back to the period of Aryan immigration into the region; Bukhara was part of the Persian Empire for centuries, and became one of the main centers of Iranian civilization. Most of the population is of Tajik-Persian origin – in fact much of the population speaks Tajik language.

For many years, Bukhara was the main Muslim pilgrimage center of Central Asia. Visitors can find many madrasas and mosques of great beauty, with their characteristic adobe walls. In the modern part of the city is a colorful food market, with a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, where vendors of different origins demonstrate the wealth of ethnicities and types that make up the population of Bukhara.


SAMARKAND. UZBEKISTAN

Samarkand is one of the oldest cities in the world. In ancient times it was one of the main cities of the Silk Road, becoming one of the most important cities of Central Asia. Today it is the second largest city in Uzbekistan after Taskhent.

Known to the Greeks as Maracanda, this city was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BC. From the sixth to eighth centuries the city was conquered by Turks, Arabs, Persians and Mongols. In the 14th century, Timur made Samarkand the capital of his vast Timurid Empire. In 1404, King Henry III of Castile sent his ambassador Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo to seek an alliance; all his experiences were described in the book ‘Embassy to Tamerlane’. In 1499, the city was conquered by the Uzbeks. In 1925, Samarkand became the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic but was replaced by Tashkent five years later.


TASHKENT. UZBEKISTAN

Capital of Uzbekistan, economic and political center of the country, Tashkent is cited in third century BC writings with the Chinese root term ‘shash’, meaning ‘stone’. Tashkent (‘stone city’) was for centuries a principal point in the silk route.

During the twentieth century, Tashkent became one of the most important cities of the USSR, as a significant geostrategic center. After the devastating earthquake of 1966, the city was rebuilt using the Soviet planning model with huge avenues and large squares, that give it its characteristic appearance. In 1991, a year before the independence of Uzbekistan, Tashkent was the fourth largest city in the USSR.

Today in the city of Tashkent a contemporary architectural style is emerging which is difficult to classify: mainly distinctly Muslim-inspired buildings, made with modern materials and techniques, but so overly ornate that they convey a sense of post-pop pastiche.


KHIVA. UZBEKSITAN

According to legend, Khiva was founded by Noah’s son Shem, who dug wells which even today still gush water. Khiva is also the birthplace of the mathematician and philosopher Al-Khwarizmi, the father of algebra.

Like the rest of the historic towns of Uzbekistan, Khiva was conquered by Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, Uzbeks and Russians. Until the early twentieth century, it was the capital of Khwarezm.

The walled city is part of an ancient oasis where caravans stocked up before heading to Iran. The well-preserved city is typical of Central Asian Muslim architecture, where one can find madrassas, mosques, palaces, and the blue, unfinished minaret, an icon of the city


NUKUS. KARAKALPAKSTAN

Part of the ancient region of Khwarezm, Karakalpakstan’s capital is, surprisingly, Nukus, a modern Soviet city created in 1932. Nukus hosts the extraordinary Igor V. Savitsky collection of modern art, which survived the Stalinist purges due to its remote location.

The term Karakalpaka means “black fur hat” and refers to the classic headgear worn by the inhabitants of the region, which allowed them to withstand the area’s extreme temperatures.


ARAL SEA. KARAKALPAKSTAN

Karakalpakstan is now known worldwide for the tremendous ecological disaster afflicting the Aral Sea. This region depended mainly on fishing, but over the last four decades the massive diversion of the waters of the Amu Darya for irrigation and the effects of climate change have turned the bed of the Aral Sea into a desert, highly contaminated by chemicals, pesticides and nuclear debris left over from the Soviet era. The city of Moynak, once a busy port and today more than 150 km from the shore of the Aral Sea, illustrates the magnitude of this catastrophe.


Photos, videos & text by Quique Corrales.
Text translation: Sarah Colson and Mark Pelling.