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When Architectural Monuments Start “Talking”

Botschaft Usbekistan, October 24, 2016

On October 17, 2016, Uzbekistan Today News Agency, the UNESCO Office in Uzbekistan and the National Association of Electronic Mass Media of Uzbekistan hosted a presentation of the project ‘The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan’. The event was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence and the 10th anniversary of Uzbekistan Today News Agency.

The presentation was attended by members of Uzbekistan’s scientific community, representatives of governmental and public organizations as well as international organizations, diplomatic missions and media outlets.

The event kicked off with congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Uzbekistan Today News Agency and those gathered were shown a video about the news agency’s activities.

The presentation summarized the first results of the project and included film demonstration and speeches by leading scholars, who have contributed to the project, as well as representatives of the international public.

‘The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan’ is the only project of its kind that has seen the government explore, collate and sum up all the architectural epigraphy found in the country, something that no country in the Muslim world has done before. It is noteworthy that this work became possible thanks to the advent of Uzbekistan’s independence, which reinstated the monuments’ worthy place in history.

The publication of the series of albums marks the end of the first phase of the project which will be continued. The albums highlight the epigraphy of Karakalpakstan, Andijan, Namangan, Fergana, Samarkand, Navoi, Khiva, Surkhandarya, Kashkadarya, Bukhara and Tashkent city.

The ancient monuments of Uzbekistan, especially the architectural ones, have lived through hard times. Due to various circumstances and events they have often been destroyed or obscured, and individual samples were buried in the ground with a single purpose to save them. Not only history was destroyed, but also the very age-old memories and the ancient culture, of which epigraphy is an inalienable part. The meaning of many inscriptions still remains a mystery not only for residents of Uzbekistan and its visitors, but also for professionals. Independence had given back those monuments their deserved place in the history of the country and the region, and emphasized our forefathers’ contribution to the treasury of global civilization. It is thanks to Uzbekistan’s acquisition of its sovereignty and special attention paid to its cultural heritage that had created an opportunity for emergence of decent presentation of those monuments in the books and albums.

Time has passed down a fascinating treasure trove of medieval architecture that captivates millions of people worldwide. The sophisticated décor is complemented by remarkable calligraphic inscriptions. Many people have wondered what these writings say and what kind of wisdom our forefathers perpetuated through them. Today, an opportunity has arisen to unravel these mysteries. Today, an opportunity has arisen to unravel these mysteries thanks to the efforts of Uzbekistani scholars.

Epigraphy is the most significant and spectacular part of the cultural heritage of not only Uzbekistan and the Muslim world, but also the entire global civilization. Moreover, Uzbekistan is one of the world leaders in terms of the amount of architectural epigraphy. However, due to certain circumstances, these inscriptions have not been studied and published until recently. According to our estimates, only 10% of inscriptions on monuments of Amir Temur’s era have been explored, read and partially published. Consequently, the most remarkable and significant pages of our cultural legacy remained out of the reach of science as well as our nation and visitors to our country.

The research has helped to read and translate inscriptions on more than 1,500 epigraphic landmarks (most of them for the first-ever time), which include over 200 poems, edifications, maxims, names of over 100 masters and calligraphers, 300 religious and 150 dedicatory inscriptions, 150 chronograms, 100 historical dates and around 100 edicts by rulers of the days gone by.

For many years, experts and scholars have struggled to decipher the inscriptions, and scientific debate about the correctness of the reading of the centuries-old monograms and other texts made by talented craftsmen continues even today. However, as it has been stated above, a complete deciphering of epigraphy monuments located in the ancient Uzbek land, and a publication thereof, has still not been made. The publication of ‘The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan’ series is the first full-scale project of its kind that encapsulates architectural epigraphy in Uzbekistan.

The series of books represent the first phase of the project which will be continued. The next series will encompass the remaining unexplored epigraphic inscriptions across Uzbekistan. All told, 25 volumes are expected to be published.

Akmal Saidov, chairman of the Commission on the preparation of draft legal acts in the field of reforming the sphere of information and ensuring freedom of speech and information:

“These books on Uzbek epigraphy are an unprecedented project in their scholastic and cultural significance. The Government of Uzbekistan has supported it since its very start. The First President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov paid great attention to it. It is not incidental that the project is devoted to the 25th anniversary of independence. Huge in its scale, the work on the preservation of the great cultural and historical heritage of the country has been carried out particularly over the years of independence. And this publication on the epigraphy issued in Uzbekistan is a bright evidence of that.”

Firdavs Abdukhalikov, honorable journalist of the Republic of Uzbekistan, head of “The Architectural Epigraphy of Uzbekistan” project:

“Extremely indicative is also the moment when each inscription in the numerous monuments of Uzbekistan contain in them wise messages, edifications, poetic maxims, good wishes, and reports on historical events aimed at bringing up in every person an aspiration for education, enlightenment, peace and creativity. The creative group has spent six years to decipher them and give their accurate interpretation.

“I take this opportunity to express our gratitude for comprehensive support, which the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, mayors of the regions and the city of Tashkent have give us, as well as to our partners – The Bahauddin Naqshband Memorial Complex Center, the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic, the Registan complex Directorate, Darakchi Inform Service, and all members of the creative group, as well as the KolorPak printing house, which published all 12 volumes of the album in a wonderful polygraphic style.

Edvard Rtveladze, academician of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan:

“Colossal work has been done in the search for, study and publication of epigraphic inscriptions on the architectural monuments of Uzbekistan. The authors of the project managed to process quite a large scientific massive of epigraphic inscriptions, which specialists did not manage to read through in the past, and thus they had been left unknown for researchers. This challenging and scrupulous job is an indubitable contribution to the study of culture and history of the peoples of Central Asia. I would like to stress that Uzbekistan was the first to implement such a large-scale project among the countries, which have preserved the monuments of Islamic art and architecture.”

John MacGregor, OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan:

“The presented epigraphy albums provide a unique opportunity to learn about the original architectural monuments of the Republic, and learn the meaning of those inscriptions left behind by our forefathers. This sophisticated job is significant not only for our country, but also for many other states. It is important that this work be continued in the future.”

Mjusa Sever, head of Regional Dialog branch office in Uzbekistan:

“I have carefully got acquainted with some of the books issued in Uzbekistan within the epigraphic project framework. They are truly a treasury of knowledge and messages from the depth of centuries. I would even say more than that – they are a mass of bricks into a sort of bridge between the East and the West. Moreover, the West will be able to see at the other end of the bridge an unresolved enigmatic beauty of the East and hear the kind and wise call to goodness and creativity, peace and harmony.”


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