2750th anniversary of Samarkand city, 25.08.2007
There are many works done in the city for this event. Many buildings built, many trees chopped up, many new roads built. The city should look beautiful. During various family gatherings, at dinner people discuss this event, and what Bobo (president of the country in colloquial speech) has been doing for this event.
A woman of 50 years says: “I remember when I was a student we had a day of Samarkand, at 1970, it wasn’t long ago, but at that day, Samarkand got only 2500 years old. The age of the city grows in a very interesting way, in about 37 years it grew 200 years older.”
Her husband responds: “There are going to be many anniversaries like this, where they will say, they were wrong and the city is 3000 years old, or even older, there are constant archeological works in Samarkand, which constantly find new facts and materials.”
On the opening of Samarqand’s 2750th anniversary the president of Uzbekistan held a speech. He started with the history of the city. The main figure in his speech was Amir Timur (Tamerlane in English), who reigned in the 14th century. By this fact, his speech mentioned only the last 600 years of its existence. This was mainly due to the fact that the national ideology in Uzbekistan is based on the glorification of Mongol-Turkic Amir Timur. Persian, Greek and Arab influences in the history of this city were not mentioned.
I experienced this day differently. Early in the morning the day started with talks about which roads are already blocked and that if one doesn’t want to be locked in somewhere better sit at home. Marshrutka mini bus drivers were communicating each other regularly informing each other about new parts of roads being blocked. In the morning the roads were still open. Close to Siyab Bazaar many pedestrian roads and streets were sealed off. In every 10 meters all over the city there were police, each have their own vision of which way to go, if one is going home or to work or to the bazaar.
The policemen I approached, said, it was Karimow who was coming to Samarkand, so the roads are closed for pedestrians, and soon will be closed for vehicles as well: “We are just little people, and we are here to fulfill the orders of big people.” Some people were screaming and scolding policemen and asking to pass them through. Everyone has to go the other way round, because the president is going to be in the city in the evening. I witnessed this mess at about 12am. By the time I was going back in about 3 hours, almost the whole city centre was sealed off, with lorries blocking vehicles from entering. Some Samarkandis exclaimed: “It would be better if we didn’t have any celebration, there is so much stress and mess in the city, because there are guests who wish to sit in Registan and enjoy the concert.”
I wonder where this practice of sealing off the streets comes from. Doesn’t it look unnatural for those guests to be driving through an empty city, where there are no people and is no life? What politics is it? Does it come from the view, that guests shouldn’t see all the people, but rather only the chosen ones? Is it a sort of shame of the own people? There were hundreds of temporary borders constructed in order to wipe away the folk or any movement in the streets. I have a feeling as if people are swept away as something not worthy showing.
This is a very stressful time for the local government officials in the city, they are under enormous pressure to perform perfectly. People are stressed because of irregular blockages of streets and roads. But on TV selected smiling happy faces and international guests are dancing and enjoying the 2750th anniversary of the ancient city of Samarkand.