Restoration of historical heritage in socio-cultural context of modern Central Asia

Issue #3-4 • 1988

On November 25-26, 2005 International Scientific Conference on “Problems of restoration of historical and cultural heritage in Central Asia. Strategy and development” was first held in Tashkent. Its organizers were UNESCO’s Representation in Uzbekistan, “Forum – Culture and Art of Uzbekistan” Foundation, Ministry for Culture and Sports of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan and International non-state organization “Restaurateurs Sans Frontiers”.

Culture Caravanserai of Ikuo Hiroyama hosted the conference which involved experts, restorers, historians, archeologists, architects and art critics more than from twenty countries. The forum had not only scientific and theoretical importance but also practical results: Regional Restoration Center was established in Tashkent.

Different problems of historical and cultural heritage and more definitely relation of the society to heritage were always connected with condition of public consciousness in this or that historical period. Tracing development of such specific field as restoration of historical and cultural heritage in Central Asia from the second half of the 20th century up to the present time, we can see how it was turning from functional “craft” structure into a general field where crossed technological, methodological, legal, social, philosophical, ethic, educational problems and, what is the most important, spiritual aspects which make a core of any culture and nation.

Today, humanity has realized that each national culture is a part of world spiritual heritage will survive centuries. Integration processes in culture open new opportunities for its development. Restoration of art heritage is connected with a problem of total leveling and erosion of national values caused by globalization.

Today’s problems of restoration mean not only restoration of artistic and cultural monuments, but, first of all, preservation of spiritual cultures of different nations in general.

At the same time, restoration permanently develops and improves technologies, techniques and scientific researches. The conference promoted not only acquaintance with different Central Asian cultures, but also scientific dialogue, exchange of experience and gave a start to long-term strategy and projects in the field of restoration.

The period of independence of Central Asian states caused liberation of national mentality and revival of ancient ethnocultural traditions. Today’s national cultures consist of a stratum of traditional culture reflecting original mentality with its specific “picture of world” and European artistic culture having come to the region in the 20th century. While initially a focus was on traditional ethnic culture, in a course of time European forms of culture, traditions of avant-garde, modernism and postmodernism have been recognized a part of historical and cultural heritage of Central Asia. Both cultural strata as well as relation to them are developing and interacting dynamically.

Process of revival of national cultures running in the 1990s put forward restoration as a topical task. Revival (or new interpretation due to changed historical paradigm) of forgotten important events and heroic persons, interest to Islamic and pre-Islamic periods, reconstruction and restoration of architectural monuments, revival of lost crafts, traditions and rituals have caused development of wide restoration practice.

At the same time, a number of products needed preservation and restoration began to grow in our museums in the 1990s due to lost contacts with Russian centers. On the other hand, international cultural contacts of domestic specialists became more active and local experts got a chance to learn foreign experience of restoration what also actualized development of this sphere.

All that changed relation to profession of restorer. Twenty years ago this speciality was not primary even in a system of artistic education in spite of numerous scientific research institutes of restoration and obligatory post of restorer at museums.

Today a restorer is not just a master prolonging life of art works (though, certainly, professionalism is first!). He is a true expert on restoration of cultural values and art works having reflected beauty and world vision of creative persons loving and working in different historical epochs.

The reports at the conference could be classified in two groups. The first group touches upon issues of restoration theory and practice in foreign countries and the second group enlights the problems of restoration in Central Asia.

Nowadays restoration of historical and cultural heritage can not be done without state support as well as without additional sources financing different cultural projects through different non-state organizations. These issues were touched upon in the report of the President of “Mediterranean Maritime S.A.” George Gyftakis (Greece, Athens) which renders financial support to “Restaurateurs Sans Frontiers”.

The report of Konstantinos Politis (Turkey, Istanbul), Director of International Organization “Restaurateurs Sans Frontiers” about its activity in Central Asia drew attentinon of the audience. “Restaurateurs Sans Frontiers” is one of world-known organizations in the field of restoration of historical and cultural heritage. The organization unites restorers from different countries and carries out a number of projects in Central America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Its attention to Central Asia is logic as this region is one of centers of world civilization and culture. “Restaurateurs Sans Frontiers” have already carried out some projects here. It was restoration of a Jewish house in Bukhara, pictures in State Museum of Arts named after I. V. Savitsky in Nukus, educational project for youth of Karakalpakstan and restoration of pictures at SMH named after K. Bihzad in Tajikistan.

It looks attractive that this organization realizes its mission wider than just restoration of art works and carries out propagation of national historical and cultural heritage of different peoples. The aim is to draw attention of the public including the youth to problems of preservation of national cultural heritage by means of different training courses and seminars defining aims of conservation and restoration of cultural heritage. Its work develops within the scheme “restoration of monuments – training courses for experts – propagation of cultural heritage”. K. Politis noted that local restoration still keeps a level of the 1980s while world restoration practice has gone far ahead. The organization “Restaurateurs Sans Frontiers” finds its mission in Central Asia in development of restoration up to world level.

The report of Patricia Vergez (France, Paris), Head of Department of Painting at National Institute of Heritage also interested the audience. The report concerned the activity of this institute and restoration practice in France which is experienced in different fields of restoration – practical, theoretical, innovative, methodological, etc. The same aspect was touched upon in the report of E. O’Connol (Ireland, Dublin), Researcher from National Committee for Cultural and Historical Heritage of Ireland. This experience is rather educative for Central Asian experts.

Interesting and important was report of Natalya Kovaleva, Restorer of the first grade from State Scientific Research Institute of Restoration (Russia, Moscow). She informed on structure, activity, problems and ways of their solution at GosNIIR. She told that Department of Restoration of monuments of Central Asia at GosNIIR was abolished in the 1990s and restoration works were transferred to the scientific restoration institutes of independent states. However, restoration of archeological monuments of Central Asia still remains in a focus of some works. In particular, the author has a report on new techniques and restoration of Varahsha’s monumental decor. The report of Doctor V. Pilipko from Institute of Archeology RAN (Russian Academy of Sience) devoted to preservation and study of old Nisa’s paintings also testified to interest of Russian scholars to preservation of Central Asian historical and cultural heritage.

Experience of foreign countries in the field of restoration is interesting and educative for local experts too. Report of Jeilan Abbas Muhamed Abdel Aziz, Attachй of Embassy of the ARE in Uzbekistan on problems of preservation of architectural monuments of ancient Egypt, report of Christopher Cleere (Great Britain, London) on scientific achievements of British experts in preservation of cultural heritage.

Restoration is a field of permanent development and searches for new technologies and methods. This aspect was touched upon in the reports of Nikolaos Pagoulatos from Institute of Optical Electronic Researches (Greece, Crete), Ilya Asenov, painting restorer (Bulgaria, Sofia), Asteris Apostolidis and Angelik Kostaki (Greece, Athens) from “Restaurateurs Sans Frontiers”.

The reports of Doctor of Fine Arts Kamola Akilova (Uzbekistan, Tashkent) and Aigul Alkinoi, Head Keeper of GMI named after A. Kasteev (Kazakhstan, Almaty) were devoted to culturological problems and aspects of restoration. Value and phenomenal features of ethnic culture, problems of its preservation and study were reflected in the report of Emil Kanimetov, Researcher from NAN of the Kirghiz Republic.

Different practical and theoretical issues were enlighted in the reports of Abdugani Abdurazzakov on achievements and problems of restoration in Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan, Tashkent), Egor Mamedov about activity of “Restaurateurs Sans Frontiers” in GMI after K. Bihzad (Tajikistan, Dushanbe), Ilgiz Zuparov, Head of Museum Department at Ministry for Culture and Sports of Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan, Tashkent), Stanislav Hashimov, Restorer from Direction of Art Exhibitions AA Uz on integration and contacts with famous world centers of restoration and foreign experts.

Nowadays the problems of restoration of historical and cultural heritage can not be solved without integration of world experience and correspondent educational system to teach young restorers. Ablolberdy Egamov (Uzbekistan, Tashkent), Head of Education and Youth Department at Academy of Arts touched upon this issue in his report and defined topical problems of restoration education in Uzbekistan.

Declaration on Establishment of Regional Restoration Center in Tashkent became a result of the conference. The participants were all of one mind that Uzbekistan with its richest historical and cultural heritage formed by ancient and medieval architectural monuments and numerous museum collections, available personnel and facilities has everything to establish Regional Restoration Center.

Kamola Akilova

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