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Tashkent: Forging a Soviet City, 1930–1966

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    Book Description:

    Paul Stronski tells the fascinating story of Tashkent, an ethnically diverse, primarily Muslim city that became the prototype for the Soviet-era reimagining of urban centers in Central Asia. Based on extensive research in Russian and Uzbek archives, Stronski shows us how Soviet officials, planners, and architects strived to integrate local ethnic traditions and socialist ideology into a newly constructed urban space and propaganda showcase.

    The Soviets planned to transform Tashkent from a "feudal city" of the tsarist era into a "flourishing garden," replete with fountains, a lakeside resort, modern roadways, schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and of course, factories. The city was intended to be a shining example to the world of the successful assimilation of a distinctly non-Russian city and its citizens through the catalyst of socialism. As Stronski reveals, the physical building of this Soviet city was not an end in itself, but rather a means to change the people and their society.

    Stronski analyzes how the local population of Tashkent reacted to, resisted, and eventually acquiesced to the city's socialist transformation. He records their experiences of the Great Terror, World War II, Stalin's death, and the developments of the Krushchev and Brezhnev eras up until the earthquake of 1966, which leveled large parts of the city. Stronski finds that the Soviets established a legitimacy that transformed Tashkent and its people into one of the more stalwart supporters of the regime through years of political and cultural changes and finally during the upheavals of glasnost.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7389-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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    (pp. vii-xii)
  2. List of Names and Terms
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-15)

    On September 17, 1939,Pravda Vostokadeclared that the construction of the Great Fergana Canal fulfilled the “centuries-long” dream of supplying the people of Central Asia with water. The Soviet government’s investment in the region, the expansion of the local transportation infrastructure, and the “voluntary” and “heroic” efforts of thousands of ordinary Uzbek Soviet citizens transformed a former Russian colony into a “flowering garden” and the center of Soviet life in Asia. According to Usman Yusupov, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan, the canal presaged the future prosperity of the region: “Each Soviet village...

    (pp. 16-45)

    In the early 1930s, European and American writers, artists, and journalists traveled across Soviet Central Asia to chronicle the tremendous economic and social transformations that were occurring in the region—from the vast campaigns to divert Central Asian rivers to the efforts to transform the landscapes of towns and cities across the region. One of these visitors, Joshua Kunitz, later wrote of the dynamism of Soviet Central Asia in contrast to its alleged backwardness. For Kunitz, Central Asia was a place where people had “lived for centuries in unchanging primitive conditions, [where] the only means of locomotion was the ass...

    (pp. 46-71)

    On December 3, 1937,Pravda Vostokaprofiled Mavjuda Abdurakhmanova, a young Stakhanovite, which was someone belonging to an elite category of Soviet worker who set records in fulfilling factory production quotas. An orphan, she was adopted by “progressive” Uzbek parents, who were determined to provide their new daughter with an education. This young Soviet girl would “never wear aparanji[veil], but would be equal with men and become literate,” declared her father. After completing the fifth grade in 1934, Mavjuda enrolled in the training school of the Textile Kombinat, where she finished her education, and became a quilter, a...

    (pp. 72-104)

    World War II brought about a demographic and social catastrophe for all peoples of the Soviet Union, whether they were located near the front lines or on the home front a great distance from actual combat. After a disastrous start, the Soviet Union ultimately won the war, but its economy, land, and people were devastated. When Hitler’s armies invaded on June 22, 1941, they swiftly overcame front-line defenses and marched toward the interior of the country. Soviet cities fell in rapid succession: Riga and Minsk in late June, Smolensk in July, and Kiev in September. German and Finnish troops encircled...

    (pp. 119-144)

    The mechanics of the Soviet state’s response to the war, from the efforts to mobilize the Tashkent population to the creation of a wartime industrial center in the Uzbek capital, are only one aspect of the wartime situation that unfolded in Soviet Central Asia. For a fuller understanding of what transpired, one must also investigate how the residents of the city—Uzbeks, long-term Russian Tashkenters, and the recent arrivals who had escaped the brutality of the front lines—experienced the war years. While Tashkent certainly provided refuge from the battlefield horrors of the Nazi-Soviet conflagration, survival in the Uzbek capital...

  8. 6 THE POSTWAR SOVIET CITY, 1945–1953
    (pp. 145-172)

    The evacuation of defense and heavy industry transformed Tashkent into an industrial powerhouse with official markers of Soviet achievement—metallurgy, aircraft manufacturing, ammunitions production, and coal mining. During the war, Tashkent manufactured bombs but did not suffer from them. By the end of the conflict, the population bordered on close to a million, although the city soon lost some of its most qualified workers and intellectuals when many factories, cultural institutions, and evacuees returned home. Despite the Soviet ideological belief in the inevitability of war, the 1937–1939 reconstruction plan did not anticipate the chaotic wartime industrialization of this once...

    (pp. 173-201)

    In 1946, Hujum Abdullah-Khojaeva received for her tenth-grade graduation a gold medal and a bouquet of flowers from the director of her school, Ekaterina Ermolaeva.¹Pravda Vostokacelebrated her achievement at Tashkent school no. 110 as a sign that postwar Uzbekistan allowed its girls—guided by Soviet ideology and with the help of the Russian people—to gain full education and political enlightenment. Hujum, who represented all Uzbek women, was depicted as moving from a dark past to a bright future in the city of Tashkent. Her favorite activities were important markers for success in Soviet society: attending school and...

    (pp. 202-233)

    News of Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, arrived in Tashkent on the following morning in brief articles inQizil O’zbekistonandPravda Vostoka.These newspapers devoted the remainder of that day’s issues to mundane stories of economic, industrial, and cultural affairs. However, Tashkent quickly went into mourning, with black and crimson cloth hanging from buildings and “spontaneous” memorial meetings taking place at factories and institutions throughout the city. Mourners moved toward the center, where a crowd of people encircled Revolution Square, where the monument stood. The number of visitors reportedly was so large the crowd not only gathered around...

    (pp. 234-256)

    Throughout the Soviet era, Party leaders made special effort to present Tashkent as an important international center. It was a “model” Asian city and an example of how socialism could be adapted beyond its original European roots to assist “less developed” or even “backward” societies in advancing out of poverty and colonialism. City officials, academics, and Party propagandists endeavored to demonstrate that non-Europeans in the Soviet Union, under the Communist Party’s leadership, could improve themselves and create modern, “civilized,” industrial societies. The achievements of the Uzbek people, often considered one of the more “stagnant” nationalities by Soviet officials, were presented...

  12. 10 EPILOGUE
    (pp. 257-280)

    It has been more than forty years since the earthquake devastated Tashkent. The city, now the capital of independent Uzbekistan, is by far the largest urban center in Central Asia; as of 2009, it had a population of 2.5 million.¹ The post-earthquake reconstruction campaign of the late Soviet era sparked massive development, population increases, and continued urban growth, with entire new housing districts and satellite cities growing up on the outskirts and alongside Tashkent. In the pressing need to reconstruct destroyed areas, workers from across the Soviet Union had descended on Tashkent—some by direction and others with an eye...