Report on activities of Uzbekistan’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in 2008-17

Since 2008, when the Permanent Delegation of Uzbekistan began its work, UNESCO has included the following elements of Uzbekistan’s cultural heritage in its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: The cultural space of Boysun; the Katta ashula traditional song genre; the classical music tradition of Shashmaqom; the Navruz spring festival; and the Uzbek verbal folk art of Askiya. In 2016, the traditions relating to the Uzbek signature dish ‘palov’ were added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In the same year, the Western Tien-Shan, one of the largest mountain ranges in the world, which spans three countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – was declared a World Heritage Site.

In December 2017, at the 12th session of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee held on Jeju Island (Republic of Korea), the traditional methods of manufacturing atlas and adras were included in the UNESCO Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.

All these events play a key role in strengthening social ties, promoting the values of solidarity and unity, and supporting the continuity of local traditions that form part of our country’s cultural identity.

Publishing activities have been one of the staples of the Permanent Delegation’s work over the past 10 years.

With a view to preserving the traditional art of Uzbek silk weaving, the Permanent Delegation and the Islam Karimov Foundation have together published a book entitled “The Renaissance of Uzbek Silk.” This book, published in four languages – English, French, Russian and Uzbek – traces the history of silk manufacture in Uzbekistan from its mythical beginnings to the magnificent innovations of today’s skilled master weavers and designers.

The Permanent Delegation together with the Karimov Foundation has also published a catalogue dedicated to the history of silk weaving in Margilan and the creative legacy of master silk weavers of the Mirzaahmedov dynasty. One of the most recent publications the Permanent Delegation has worked on is an exquisite book entitled “Uzbekistan. An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour,” which provides a sweeping exploration of Uzbekistan’s rich cultural heritage, taking us from fifth-century architecture to modern-day artists and introducing the reader to some of the world’s most magnificent architectural monuments in Samarkand and Bukhara, from palaces to mosques, madrasahs and mausoleums.

We have also paid great attention to programmes which enhance the visibility of Uzbek authors and promote Uzbek literature globally by granting financial assistance for the translation of works of both classical and contemporary literature.

In 2015, with the Permanent Delegation’s support, a number of literary works by one of the most influential representatives of contemporary Uzbek literature, Erkin Azam, were translated into English and French.

Over the past year, together with the Islam Karimov Foundation, the Permanent Delegation has backed a project to translate into English and French a novel by prominent Uzbek writer and intellectual Abdulla Qadiri, a man who played a key role in shaping modern Uzbek literature.

The Permanent Delegation has also published catalogues of paintings by two of the most outstanding representatives of contemporary visual arts in Uzbekistan, Bobur Ismailov and Javlon Umarbekov. These publications are intended not only as an introduction to the artists’ most significant achievements and masterpieces, but also as a tribute to their enormous contribution in raising the profile of Uzbek contemporary visual arts and fostering a national school of art.

With a view to promoting the scope and style of contemporary Uzbek art, as well as stimulating interest in the rich traditions, culture and spiritual values of the Uzbek people, the Permanent Delegation has organized many cultural events, including exhibitions of works by the prominent Uzbek artists Bobur Ismailov, Javlon Umarbekov, Bukhara miniaturist Davron Toshev, Chingiz Akhmarov, Fayzulla Ahmadaliev and Bobur Muhammedov held in Paris, Washington and Tashkent.

In spring 2015, on the occasion of the Navruz spring festival, Uzbekistan’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO held a cultural event devoted to Uzbek literature and arts at the Uzbek embassy in Washington. The event launched the English translation of the book “Farewell to Fairy Tales” by renowned Uzbek author Erkin Azam, and also included an exhibition of paintings by prominent Uzbek artists Javlon Umarbekov and Bobur Ismailov, as well as piano performances by Fatima Ahmadova, a talented young pianist studying at the Tashkent State Conservatory of Music.

In April 2015, the Permanent Delegation held an evening of Uzbek literature, arts and music in Paris. One of the main highlights of the event was the launch of the book “Adieu aux contes de fées”, the French translation of selected prose by prominent Uzbek author and playwright, Erkin Azam.

In May 2013, at the Diplomatic Academy in Paris, the Permanent Delegation hosted a presentation of one of the best creations of contemporary Uzbek cinema, “Heaven is my Abode,” a feature film which has won broad international critical acclaim.

The Permanent Delegation has also hosted a range of international conferences to pay tribute to great Central Asian scholars, including the 15th-century astronomer and ruler of Samarkand, Mirzo Ulugh Beg, who transformed Samarkand into the centre of the fifteenth century world of astronomy, and the great physician and polymath Abu Ali Ibn Sina, better known in the West as Avicenna.

To raise international awareness of Central Asia’s contribution to world civilization, the Permanent Delegation also coordinated work on the production of documentary films exploring the lives and scientific legacies of Avicenna and Ulugh Beg.

The Permanent Delegation of Uzbekistan to UNESCO was one of the initiators and organizers of the international conference “The Central Asian Renaissance in the history of world civilization,” which focused on the scientific and creative legacy of great scientists and scholars from the Eastern Renaissance, as well as of the UNESCO international seminar “Great moments of dialogue in human history: assessment, lessons and prospects,” devoted to a truly visionary UNESCO project, namely the publication of a comprehensive series of general and regional histories. Held in Samarkand on 28-30 August 2017, this conference and seminar were attended by over 200 participants from across the world, including international organizations such as the OIC, ISESCO, the UN, the UNWTO and others.

In collaboration with the Islam Karimov Foundation, in summer 2017 the Permanent Delegation organized an 18-day exhibition in Tashkent called “The Thread uniting the Generations” aimed to promote the unique art of silk weaving using samples of the creative legacy and introduce the work of outstanding master weavers from Margilan in eastern Uzbekistan.

It should also be mentioned that over the past two years the Permanent Delegate ran a social media campaign to raise global awareness of Uzbekistan’s architectural monuments, history, culture and traditions.

The Permanent Delegation has also provided assistance in developing educational programmes for special needs children who receive assistance at the National Centre for Social Adaptation, a charitable organization in Uzbekistan which provides comprehensive help in the education and treatment of children with special needs.

The Permanent Delegation has facilitated visits by medical experts from the French association “La chaine de l’espoir” to Uzbekistan. As part of a charity campaign backed by the French association and the You Are Not Alone charitable foundation, French medical experts have operated on a total of 66 Uzbek children with congenital heart conditions from low-income families and orphanages. During the visits, the French medical experts gave master classes for their colleagues from Uzbekistan’s medical establishments.

Over the past year, the Permanent Delegation has liaised closely with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the International Council on Monuments and Sites on the project to erect a mausoleum on the burial site of the founding father of Uzbekistan’s state independence, Islam Karimov, on the territory adjacent to the Hazrat Hizr Mosque in Samarkand. As a result of this cooperation, the mausoleum, which embodies the best elements of Central Asian architecture, was built strictly in line with UNESCO’s criteria and recommendations for minimizing the project’s impact on the historical appearance of this World Heritage Site.

During the period covered by this report, the Permanent Delegation of Uzbekistan arranged the participation of Uzbekistan’s representatives in key UNESCO events. In addition, the Delegation organised visits by UNESCO leadership and officials to Uzbekistan. Meetings and talks, including high level ones, proved to be productive; the agreements reached translated into the implementation of projects focussed on Uzbekistan. In line with UNESCO’s main objectives, the Permanent Delegation provided assistance in attracting technical and financial help into Uzbekistan. Moreover, each year, specialists from various Uzbek departments and organisations took part in workshops and training both at home and abroad.

Thanks to our efforts in 2009, Uzbekistan was elected to the UNESCO Executive Board. This active membership further facilitated the promotion of the Republic’s interests within the UNESCO mandate. With the assistance of the Permanent Delegation, official Uzbek government delegations also participated in regular sessions of UNESCO’s governing bodies, the Executive Board and the General Conference.

Briefings and seminars focusing on the development of Uzbekistan’s educational system as well as the gradual implementation of reforms were also held.

During this report period, the Permanent Delegation also coordinated a series of events aimed at further developing and broadening bilateral collaboration between Uzbekistan and UNESCO, including familiarising the wider international community with the Republic’s achievements since it gained independence. In particular:

– 24-28 August, 2013: the first official visit of UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova to Uzbekistan, during which she met the President of the Republic, Islam Karimov, the Deputy Prime Minister Adham Ikramov, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Abdulaziz Kamilov.

– October, 2008: the international forum ‘Ways to develop and promote cultural tourism in countries along the Silk Road’ was held in Tashkent.

– With a view to raising young people’s interest in the current state and future development of Uzbekistan’s legal system, together with the scientific research centre of the Republic’s Supreme Court, the Permanent Delegation organised an annual student Olympiad, ‘Judicial Reform in the Republic of Uzbekistan: best practices and perspectives.’ (2010)

– In 2010, a documentary on Uzbekistan shot by the crew of leading French TV channel ‘France 2’ premiered in Paris. The film was screened twice and was also published on the channel’s website. France 2 is part of France Televisions, the largest state company in France.

– The Permanent Delegation worked to attract finances (361,769.50 USD), provided by the government of Saudi Arabia, to implement UNESCO’s project to preserve the manuscript collection in the Al-Biruni Institute of Oriental Studies, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The goal of this project was to improve the Institute’s specialists’ basic knowledge so as to preserve these unique manuscripts, to provide the institute with the equipment and materials needed to create conditions suitable for storing historical documents, and so on.

– In 2010, the Permanent Delegation organised a visit of Director of the Centre for Medical Oncology at the Pitié-Salpêtrière clinic, Prof. David Khayat. The goal of this visit was to exchange modern diagnostical methods and apply European practices in the field of effective diagnostics and treatment of oncological diseases, as well as to facilitate hands-on familiarisation with the work of oncological bodies in the Republic.

– As part of events celebrating the anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence, and with a view to further promoting Uzbekistan’s rich historical and cultural heritage in Europe, in 2010 and 2011 the Permanent Delegation participated in the international exhibition ‘Foire de la Lavande’ in the city of Digne-les-Bains, in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Uzbekistan’s stand included exhibits of arts and crafts. Participants were also provided with information on Uzbekistan’s potential for tourism and economic development. French media outlets featured a series of publications including 3 articles in ‘La Provence’ newspaper on Uzbekistan’s cultural heritage and its potential for tourism. Furthermore, journalists were provided with materials which were included in special reports aired by Provence-Alpes radio stations.

– In 2010, the Second International Kurash Tournament, ‘Grand-Prix of the President of Uzbekistan,’ was organised in Bordeaux. This event also featured a concert programme by leading Uzbek artists.

– In the same year, the Delegation held an exhibition of photographs in the French Senate. Entitled ‘Uzbekistan through French Eyes,’ this exhibition featured the works of French diplomats, businessmen and tourists who had visited Uzbekistan and captured the region’s ethnic peculiarity, rich oriental colours and modern life.

– The establishment of a documentation centre for Uzbekistan’s cultural heritage was successfully negotiated, in partnership with Uzbekistan’s Minister for Culture and Sport. This project encompassed the acquisition of digital computer equipment for documenting Uzbekistan’s historic architectural and archaeological monuments. (2010)

– Agreements were reached on the creation of a centre for experimental chemistry for young scientists within the auspices of the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Uzbek Academy of Science, which acted as UNESCO’s main partner in this project. (2010)

– A centre for scientific information was established in the Tashkent University of IT (TUIT), with TUIT; the Alisher Navoi National Library of Uzbekistan; the Higher Examination Board, and the State Test Centre as main partners. The goal is to provide scientific and educational materials on the achievements of Uzbek scientists. (2010)

– In 2011, work began on publishing a quarterly illustrated magazine in French, ‘Ouzbek’infos.’ The publication aimed to inform Europeans of Uzbekistan’s achievements during its 20 years of independence, and of its rich spiritual, historical and cultural heritage, as well as its potential for economic investment and tourism.

– In 2011, the Permanent Delegation enabled Uzbek sportswomen to take part in the third of a nine-stage Rhythmic Gymnastics Grand Prix Series held in Thiais (France). 150 of the strongest sportswomen from 24 countries competed in this international tournament.

– The Delegation also arranged for the national Uzbek team to participate in the 31st World Championship for Rhythmic Gymnastics in Montpelier. Experts saw this tournament as crucial for acquiring the license to take part in the 2012 London Olympics.

– With a view to conserving and revitalising Uzbekistan’s green heritage and facilitating collaboration between the Republic’s museums and foreign organisations working with historic parks and gardens, the Permanent Delegation contributed to an international conference on ‘The Tradition of Parks and Gardens in Uzbekistan’ which took place in December 2016 in the historic centre of Shahrisabz.