Crossroads Asia

Hoarding Banned Soviet Art in Uzbekistan

And the “discourse of danger” in Tajikistan, recommended reads.

Hoarding Banned Soviet Art in Uzbekistan

Nukus Museum of Art

Credit: Flickr/Aleksandr Zykov

A few Central Asia must read links to start the weekend:

The extraordinary tale of how art banned in the Soviet Union was hoarded on the (former) banks of the Aral Sea is well worth a read. The Al Jazeera story, by Mansur Mirovalev, chronicles the life’s work of Russian artist Igor Savitsky, who in the 1950s first visited Karakalpakstan, a semi-autonomous region in western Uzbekistan best known now for the desiccation of the Aral Sea.

“He fell in love with Karakalpakstan,” Marinika Babanazarova, the current director of the art museum in Nukus, Karakalpakstan’s capital, that Savitsky founded in the 1960s.

Savitsky’s great endeavor was searching out and bringing to Nukus, artwork that had been banned in the 1930s when Stalin ordered Soviet art toward realism. “Those who refused to make their art understandable to the proletarian masses were branded ‘formalists.’ Many artists were arrested, jailed, or executed, some were sent to mental institutions, and a few found safety on the fringes of the Soviet Union.”

Savitsky, who died in 1984, would have celebrated his 100th birthday this coming August.

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Something else worth reading is Edward Lemon over on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor. He parses through the rhetoric and reality of the reported growing Taliban and/or ISIS threat along the Tajik border. At the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) gathering in Moscow on May 8, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon warned the other leaders about the threat his country faces, saying that “the flurry of activity by the Taliban near the border of the CIS, as well as the appearance of the components of the so-called Islamic State, poses a threat to the whole Commonwealth.” The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has made similar claims and recently held military training exercises in Tajikistan that included a simulated Taliban invasion.

Lemon points astutely towards a few of the reasons the Tajik government is fine with the ongoing “discourse of danger,” regardless of skepticism from a number of regional analysis were are less convinced the Taliban (or ISIS) is set to invade any time soon.

Speaking of threats, Kazakhstan’s wildlife can’t get a break. Not only has the number of dead saiga antelope topped 121,000 (making it into the Washington Post this week) but 70 Dalmatian pelicans were found dead of unknown causes in the Kigach river delta, which flows into the Caspian.