Over more than its 60 years history, professional art criticism in Azerbaijan has gone through a complex and many-staged evolutionary process. The main outcome of activities performed by the academic community of Azerbaijan art critics has been the compilation of art history of Azerbaijan from antiquity to present day and the establishment of a national school of art criticism with all related institutions.
Not a single national school of art criticism can exist in a vacuum. Being a branch of science, art criticism as any kind of science gravitates towards universalities, which would be impossible without a productive dialogue with other academic schools. Art criticism in Azerbaijan developed in a continuous dialogue with Russian, Georgian and, before all, Uzbek colleagues.
The ways in which the national art criticism schools of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan interact have always been diverse. Reciprocal support in academic training; participation in conferences organized in both countries; academic publications in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan; sharing scientific information; implementation of research programmes; promoting counterpart achievements at home; personal contacts between leaders of the two schools and their correspondence of many years – this is a far from exhaustive list of cooperation forms. A separate topic is sharing experience in creating methodological samples for summary fundamental works on the history of arts of the two countries.
On this path of productive cooperation there are also signature and symbolic milestones. Perhaps, the year 1931 could be considered a starting point in the interaction between the two schools, when Lazar Rempel, native of Kishinev and the graduate of a Moscow school, published an article titled “Painting of Azerbaijan” in a Russian “Literature and Arts” magazine. He might have not known then that in 1954 he would move to Tashkent and already in 1960s become one of the key figures in the history of connections between art criticism schools of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.
In 1963 Lazar Rempel and Galina Pugachenkova visited Baku. One of the first editions of the book titled “The Art of Architects of Uzbekistan” published in 1962 is kept in the library of Academician Abdulwahab Salamzade who for many years had been deputy director for academic affairs at the Institute of Architecture and Arts under the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan; the book bears a dedicatory inscription made by its authors and the date of May 6, 1963. In 1966 Pugachenkova and Rempel presented Salamzade with their new monograph, “The History of Arts of Uzbekistan” (M., 1965) with an inscription on the title page, saying, “To Abdulwahab Salamzade, our Baku fellow in the quest for the great heritage of oriental cultures, for the good memory. G. Pugachenkova, L. Rempel. 2.02. 1966″. Among academic research publications presented to the Azerbaijani scholar are the books by Uzbek scientists M. Bulatov, L. Man’kovskaya, Sh. Tashkhojaev, et al.
Academician Abdulwahab Salamzade (1916-1983) authored about 130 academic works, including monographs “16-19th Centuries Architecture of Azerbaijan”, “Architect Ajemi Nakhichevani”, “Architecture of Soviet Azerbaijan”, etc. He gave a lot of attention to the protection of architectural monuments and monumental art and the conservation of historical cities. One of his latest books is titled “Issues of Conservation and Reconstruction of Historical Cities in Azerbaijan”. His Uzbek colleagues Bulatov and Man’kovskaya in their review to this book wrote that it raised “an important problem of practical significance for protecting the monuments of Central Asia, where the typology of buildings largely coincides with that of medieval monuments in Azerbaijan, and of appropriate use and adaptation of the monuments to the needs of contemporary historical city” (1). Yet, probably, the favourite subject of Salamzade was medieval tower-like mausoleums. To this subject he dedicated not only his candidate degree thesis, but also his latest project – the mausoleum of the 18th century Azerbaijani poet Molla Panakh Wagif, which was built in the city of Shush in 1982.
The leaders of the two schools maintained regular contact, and newly published books reached Baku from Tashkent and the other way round within one or two months from the publication date. Their personal correspondence has also been preserved. During 1960-1970 its main topics were reciprocal consultations with regard to the work on cataloguing monuments of architecture and monumental art of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. At that time this work in all of the Soviet Union was supervised by Professor Oleg Alexandrovich Shvidkovskiy, Deputy Director for academic affairs in the Moscow Institute of Art History that was then the lead academic institution in the domain of art history and studies. When advising the Baku people on matters related to the conservation of architectural heritage, Shvidkovskiy often made reference to the experience of Uzbek colleagues.
A significant event in the science of art history in the late 1960s was a symposium called “The Art of Central Asia during Timurid Epoch” held in Samarqand (1969). A well-represented group of Azerbaijani art historians that consisted of professors A. Salamzade, R. Efendiev, K. Kerimov, M. Najafov and the People’s Artist of Azerbaijan L. Kerimov arrived to Uzbekistan to participate in the symposium. A photograph shows them together with their Uzbek and Turkish colleagues and with B. Weimarn against the background of unique monuments of Samarqand.
In October 1981 Baku hosted the only bilateral conference in the history of our relations – “The Issues of Using Architectural Heritage in the Architecture of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan”. Its subject-matter came as a logical element in the long process of working on the catalogues of architectural monuments of the two countries and, generally, in the studies in the area of national cultural heritage conservation. Despite the small number of participants (13 altogether), or, perhaps, owing to this very fact, the conference was extremely relevant and comprehensive. All presentations contained an in-depth analysis of national traditions and ways in which they integrated into contemporary culture of the two nations. T. Kadyrova, then Chair of the Board of the Architects Union of Uzbekistan, noted in her report: “We take the road of creating a regional urban development that would synthesize the experience of global town-planning and the historical culture of urban construction specific to Uzbekistan”. Now, almost thirty years on, one can declare that the regional town-planning model has become a reality and justified itself not only in Uzbekistan, but also in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
In 1983 Baku invited the first international symposium dedicated to the art of oriental carpet-weaving. At the symposium Uzbekistan was represented by G. Pugachenkova, R. Taktash, M. Churlu, E. Ismailova, Sh. Kambarova and A. Madraimov. Most of the presentations made by the Uzbek delegation were on the art of medieval miniature. Pugachenkova, for example, made a presentation titled “Architectural Theme in the 15th сentury Zafar-name Miniature”.
In 1989 the Institute of Architecture and Arts under the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan organized a pan-Union conference in Baku, “Architecture and Arts of Near and Middle East”. Then the real force of 12 people from Uzbekistan landed in Baku: architects K. Kryukov, H. Sultanov, N. Gazinazarova, R. Asamov, Sh. Askarov, A. Rakhmanov, K. Yusupov, and art historians E. Ismailova, I. Azimov, A. Madraimov. G. Babajanova and L. Talis.
In 1992 Baku again hosted Uzbekistan representatives at an already international conference “Architecture and Arts of Near and Middle East”. This time, delegation arriving from Tashkent comprised M. Bulatov, A. Madraimov, R. Taktash, P. Zahidov, Sh. Askarov, K. Kryukov, A. Mahkamov, and H. Tursunov. The greatest interest was excited by the presentation delivered by one of the patriarchs of Uzbek science M. Bulatov, “On the Issue of Islamic Renaissance”.
In the 1980s-1990s Uzbek colleagues visited Baku repeatedly. Elmira Ismailova often came to Baku and on January 7, 1985 at the Institute of Architecture and Arts defended her doctoral thesis on the subject “The Art of Ornamenting XVIII-XIX cc. Central Asian Manuscript Books: Artistic Features and Stylistic Peculiarities”. In March 1992 a fellow from that Institute T. Ibragimov defended his thesis for the degree of candidate (“Azerbaijan Poster”) at the Institute of Art History in Tashkent.
Born in Uzbekistan, Elmira Gyul spent a decade of 1980-1990 in Azerbaijan, working at the Institute of Architecture and Arts where she defended her candidate thesis “Interconnections in the Art of Carpet-Weaving of Azerbaijan and Central Asia”. The staff of our Institute were happy to learn that E. Guyl, upon returning to Tashkent and while working in the Institute of Art History, earned a doctoral degree; her monograph titled “Dialogue of Cultures in the Art of Uzbekistan. Antiquity and Middle Ages” published in 2005 was read with keen interest.
R. Yunisov, a well-known researcher of traditional Uzbek music was among the participants of an international academic symposium, “The World of Mugam”, held in March of 2009 in Baku. In December of the same year the Institute of Architecture and Arts of Azerbaijan organized an academic conference “Information Culture of Eurasia”, where Doctor of Art History K. Akilova presented a report titled “Contemporary Art of Uzbekistan in the Context of Information Culture Issues”.
The contacts already established between art historians of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan serve as uniting origin that shall facilitate the furthering of productive cooperation among academics in the two friendly nations.
1. Вечерний Ташкент, 2 августа 1979 г.
Ertegin Salamzade (Azerbaijan)