Tashkent has long worked hard to erase Uzbekistan’s Soviet legacy. But the process, it seems, is far from complete. Authorities have ordered another 240 street and place names in the Uzbek capital renamed, the olam.uz website reports.
Having run out of Bolshevik leaders to purge, municipal authorities have turned to the artists and international heroes that once made Tashkent’s cosmopolitan residents proud. For example, a street named after Soviet Uzbek theater director Mannon Uygur became Gulobod (Flower Garden), while Anna Akhmatova Street, named after the Russian poetess, became Nemat (Blessing) Street, according to the recent order.
For some, the campaign to rename squares, streets, parks and subway stations looks like a politically motivated effort to erect a new political culture. That was understandable when the process started, soon after Uzbekistan obtained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But many now wonder when it will end.
Among the first victims of the campaign 20 years ago were the capital's landmark Lenin Square (now Independence Square), which was home to a giant Lenin statue, and Revolution Square (now Amir Temur Square), a leafy park that marked the geographical center of the city with a bust of communist demigod Karl Marx. Lenin was replaced with a globe showing Uzbekistan at the center of the world, and Marx relinquished his seat to a monument of Amir Temur, better known in the West as tyrant conqueror Tamerlane whom President Islam Karimov has reinvented as an Uzbek hero.
The fad for dismantling Lenin statues across Central Asia is continuing apace.
Privately owned Kazakh television station KTK reported this week that authorities in the central town of Karaganda have begun work on "overthrowing" the hulking 270-ton granite leader, the largest monument of its kind in the country.
Removing Vladimir Ilyich is proving as hard as expunging the legacy of his ideologies, however. Ironically, it is from Switzerland, Lenin's home-in-exile in the years ahead of the Russian Revolution, that Karaganda authorities have turned to buy the equipment needed to cut the 12-meter statue into more easily transportable sections.
Lenin will be re-erected just a few streets away from his current location -- on Lenin Street, fittingly enough. Attempts to remove these enduring reminders of Central Asia's Soviet past invariably meet resistance from the old guard of adherents, such as retiree Gani Isakakova, who charged in decidedly seditious tones in an interview with KTK that "what we learned from Lenin was: 'Learn, learn, learn,' and all you learn today is to steal."
RFE/RL's Kazakh-language service Azattyk offers details of even more concerted efforts to halt the perceived desecration. According to local journalist Ainur Aldanysheva:
"A group of Communists shouted 'Hands Off Lenin' and painted the slogan 'Do Not Destroy History' on the metal fence erected around the monument. They were taken to a police station for disrupting the peace."