Boris Zasypkin – researcher and restorer of architectural monuments of Uzbekistan and Central Asia

Makhmudova Malika, architect
Makhmudova Mukhayyo, art critic

Boris Nikolaevich Zasypkin is the architect, restorer and scientist, who devoted his life to a noble cause of preserving priceless architectural heritage of Uzbekistan and Central Asia in general. According to P.Sh. Zakhidov, “The theory and practice of restoration works in Central Asia owe in many respects to B.N. Zasypkin, including training of qualified personnel of architects and builders-restorers” (1). B.N. Zasypkin was born on July 13, 1891 in the Urals. His childhood is known a little, but, probably, under the influence of the surrounding nature and environment he showed a talent for creativity, portrayal of nature and especially ancient monuments. Therefore, after receiving the secondary education in 1909 in Chelyabinsk real school, he entered the Moscow High School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, which completed in 1916, and got the title of architect. His graduation thesis got the first award. In the same year B. Zasypkin entered the Academy of Arts in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), into the studio of Professor N.N. Pomerantsev, which he finished within a year, but failed further study for the health reasons. But his talent and encyclopedic knowledge promoted formation of the great personality in the future.
One of the first architectural and archaeological works of the young architect was carried out in the Kolomna church (1912-1914). It was made even during study in the school, where Zasypkin’s tendency to scientific research of reconstruction and restoration of architectural monuments was revealed. Later he worked on restoration of Nabatsky tower in the Moscow Kremlin, within 16–17 years he was engaged in restoration of the Sukharevsky tower in Moscow, worked in the cities of the Urals and Siberia as a graphic designer and theatrical decorator; in Tomsk he measured ancient wooden constructions with carved decoration.
For B.N. Zasypkin 1923 became a beginning of his creative and research activities in Central Asia, first of all in Uzbekistan, when the architect-orientalist of the Central State Restoration Workshop (CSRW) left Moscow for his first scientific mission – he was invited to take part in restoration of monuments of Samarkand. Here he got acquainted with the archeologist V.L. Vyatkin, engineer-architect M.F. Mauer, military engineer B.N. Kastalsky, and others. Subsequently B.N. Zasypkin within 11 years took part in expeditions and scientific missions on researching and restoration of monuments of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Dagestan, Ivanovo and Leningrad regions, but most of all he aimed to Uzbekistan. And when, after many years in difficult life situation, there was a question where to live, Boris Nikolaevich chose Uzbekistan, where he had loyal friends and favorite work.
From the first scientific mission to Central Asia and till the end of life studying of architectural monuments of Uzbekistan and their restoration was the main business of B.N. Zasypkin, who headed the major restoration works in Samarkand and Bukhara. After receiving the offer to take part in restoration works in Samarkand, B.N. Zasypkin started studying of history of Central Asia, as well as architecture and arts of the Ancient East. In Samarkand, even at that time, there was already created certain scientific methods of research of architectural monuments, their protection and restoration. Experience and excellent knowledge of restoration methods of Moscow monuments helped Boris Nikolaevich to successfully carry out repair and restoration works in Samarkand, as well as in Central Asia in general, where he studied monuments, did their measurements, photographed, and talked to old master-builders, whose knowledge, experience and recommendations especially appreciated. Boris Nikolaevich considered that a key element in the restoration technique was the architect, who should be an erudite specialist with the knowledge of Oriental history, architecture and city building, as well as knowing the language of the written historical documents. B.N. Zasypkin was such specialist, and it was he who laid the foundation for scientific methods of repair and restoration works in Central Asia. According to B.N. Zasypkin’s method, there is a certain order and stages of restoration of monuments. They are, in particular: fixing of the architectural monument, namely: measurements, description, photo fixing; research of the designs, architecture and decor; clarification of initial architectural image (time of earlier repairs, extensions with using of primary sources, iconography and archeology); definition of the style, architectural characteristic of the monument and its place in the historical and cultural context; obligatory documentary graphical reconstruction; and, at last, natural restoration as synthesis of all architectural and research works (2).
According to B. N. Zasypkin’s method, restoration of an ancient architectural monument demands a project of restoration based on documentary facts, which can be received in the result of researches on this site. He considered that each monument was unique and required individual and careful approach to its restoration. It is impermissible to use the restoration projects, which were used on other similar monuments.
So, during restoration of the emergency arch of the portal of Sherdor madrasah (bay – 16,8 m at the height of 25 m) consistently scientific approach of B.N. Zasypkin became apparent. Being one of the largest restoration works in Samarkand of that time, it was really courageous unique experiment. Sherdor madrasah was constructed in 1619-1636 on Registan square in Samarkand. The madrasah was in disrepair and that’s why it required immediate restoration in 1924. First, it was decided to re-lay only the back part of the arch, but during dissembling, they came to conclusion that the entire arch needed to be re-laid. The work was headed by Boris Zasypkin and the folk architect and practitioner with the grate experience Abdukadyr Bakiev.
The arch was re-laid by two methods: by vertical segments and the old system, without use of cradling (wooden form supporting a falsework, which are used to build arches, vaulted and dome constructions, as well as vaulted part of fireplaces). This work revealed innovation and scientific approach of B.N. Zasypkin. The form of the arch was preserved on the gable wall, and on the frontal part it was coordinated with the form of the overlying unloading arch. The work on re-laying of new arch from new bricks on pure alabaster (3) was made in 22 days by four masters.
Re-laying of the portal arch in Sherdor madrasah and some other works performed under B.N. Zasypkin’s leadership brought him fame and recognition. In 1931 he was appointed a head of architectural section of CSRW (Central State Restoration Workshop), and in 1933 its Deputy Director.
From 1937 Boris Nikolaevich moved to Uzbekistan for permanent residence, where he worked in the Committee for protection of ancient monuments and arts (Uzkomstaris) as a head of scientific works on architectural and archaeological study, preservation and restoration of monuments of Uzbekistan. Almost all monuments of architecture, which were registered and protected by the state, were paid attention by B.N. Zasypkin. From 1937 to 1939 he headed big researches and restoration works on Ismail Samani Mausoleum (IX-X centuries) in Bukhara, which had been already started by V.L. Vyatkin – the outstanding archeologist and historian-orientalist.
Ismail Samani mausoleum being a unique object, which by the architecture and decoration has no equal among the monuments preserved not only in the territory of Central Asia, but also beyond its limits, became known to a wide range of researchers only in the 20-ies of the XX century. The general restoration of the mausoleum, headed by B.N. Zasypkin, is one of considerable examples of restoring of the original appearance of ancient constructions, which condition demanded long and in-depth examination This was accomplished through measuring, fixing, soundings, opening and archeological excavations. Every ancient brick was to remain on its place and therefore removal of plaster, repairing brick patches were carried out only under personal supervision of B.N. Zasypkin, who watched over preservation of each ancient part of the monument and keeping traces of the lost details. One of the requirements of the scientist was: during a repair work it is necessary to use those materials from which the monument was built. Application of new construction materials, for example, cement, could break unity of the masonry. In this regard, during restoration of facing in the mausoleum they used ancient bricks, which were found in course of archeological excavations around the monument. The found old bricks were subjected to secondary firing in the kiln built near the monument. And in order to prepare the solution of necessary quality, they collected pieces of old ganch scattered around the monument. It should be noted, that during the work on this monument, the restorers met difficulties of artistic and technical nature. One of them was restoring of the three-quarter columns, which supported all arches covering external niches and doorways. Restoration of ancient eaves was also a hard task, which was successfully solved. And big assistance in this case Boris Nikolaevich got from the famous Bukhara architect usto Shirin Muradov, who supervised the work of masters and had 15 years experience in the field of restoration of architectural monuments of Bukhara. Subsequently the Bukhara architect became the honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan and laureate of the State award of the USSR. In the result of three years work on restoration of Ismail Samani mausoleum, thanks to scientific approach of B.N. Zasypkin and great skills of Sh. Muradov, they managed to find some previously unknown details of the decoration and to recreate ancient shape of this wonderful construction. This work was highly appreciated in due time. So, M.S. Bulatov noted: “… B.N. Zasypkin’s works, which didn’t have equal by the depth of creative analysis, were highly appreciated in due time and still serve for researchers of architecture as a starting point in analysis and studying of architectural constructions of the Middle Ages. The range of issues raised by B.N. Zasypkin on architecture of the Mausoleum of Samanids became traditional and got particular interpretation and development in works of the scientists working on it later” (4, page 14).
B.N. Zasypkin worked much with folk masters, highly appreciating their work, recommendations and repeatedly mentioned them in his scientific works. He gratefully called the names of Samarkand masters. They are Abdukadyr Bakiev, usto Akram Umarov, usto Shamsutdin Gafurov, usto Mirkhamid Yunusov and others; and also Bukhara masters: usto Salam, usto Kurban Yuldashev, usto Ibrahim Hafizov, usto Abdurrahman Hayatov and others. Practical study of monuments and their peculiar construction technologies, ornamental techniques, materials and solutions became possible thanks to knowledge of old master-builders, from whom researchers and restorers learned information about theory of construction and decorative art of Central Asia.
One of the latest and complicated works of Zasypkin, which was also attended by folk masters, was restoration of Amir Temur mausoleum (Gur-Emir) in Samarkand in 1943-1950. He headed the works on completion of structural strengthening of the ribbed dome of the mausoleum and restoration of its facing carried out by the teams of such masters as Akram Ukmurov and Muhammad Yunusov.
Due to restoration of such monuments as Sherdor madrasah, Ismail Samani mausoleum and Amir Temur mausoleum (Gur-Emir) the name of B.N. Zasypkin was inscribed in the historical annals. However the scientist’s activity is not limited only to these objects of antiquity – his talent and knowledge were also applied in restoration of other monuments of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Central Asia in general. These include graphical reconstruction of Ulugbek’s observatory in Samarkand, study and restoration of Shakhi-Zinda ensemble, strengthening of Ak-Saray madrasah in Samarkand, restoration of Miri-Arab madrasah in Bukhara, repair and restoration works on Ahmad Yassavi monument in Turkestan (Kazakhstan), the restoration project of the mausoleum in Uzgent (Kyrgyzstan), etc.
The methods used by V. N. Zasypkin during restoration of Ahmad Yassavi monument played a big role in its preservation. Work of the oldest restoration architects of the monuments of Samarkand was carried out from 1939 to 1940 under his supervision and with the participation of professor N.B. Baklanov and M. F Mauer. In particular, B.N. Zasypkin and M.F. Mauer proposed preservation and strengthening of ancient structures, and this technique was the basis for further works.
B.N. Zasypkin’s activities were not limited to restoration of architectural monuments. Before the war he opened a number of schools and workshops for training young specialists to ancient techniques of construction and decorative art. Above mentioned famous masters were involved in this activity, such as Sh. Muradov, A. Boltayev, U. Umarov, etc. B.N. Zasypkin developed the program of biennial training courses for masters of art of building (1941); he also (together with Sh. Muradov and N. Lukashyova) wrote textbook “The Art of Ganch Carving – the guide to study construction equipment, materials and tools of ancient masters, principles and methods of creation of architectural ornament”. It was not published, but it was used at the schools, which existed from 1941 to 1945.
B.N. Zasypkin paid special attention to selection and training of specialists and researchers on restoration from among architects and art critics of younger generation. His merit is huge also in training of craftsmen-masters. I.I. Notkin, V.M. Filimonov, L.Yu. Mankovskaya, P.Sh. Zakhidov, and K.S. Kryukov, who subsequently became the famous scientists and restoration architects, began to work under his leadership.
Boris Zasypkin was not only a practitioner, but also the author of scientific monographs, articles, and such books as “Uzgent Monuments” (1927) and “Architectural Monuments of Fergana”(1930). B.N. Zasypkin presented his experience in study and restoration of monuments of Uzbekistan in the master’s thesis “Arches in architecture of Uzbekistan”, which was brilliantly defended in 1946. For many years B.N. Zasypkin also worked on his doctoral dissertation devoted to history of architecture of Uzbekistan, but he could not finish it.
B.N. Zasypkin was the first who raised the issue of nation-wide importance of restoration of ancient monuments. And, although, now restoration and preservation of monuments has risen on a new, higher level, but restoration architects will continue to refer to scientific heritage and work methods of the scientist and restoration architect Boris Nikolaevich Zasypkin, using them in practice.

1. “Pravda Vostoka”. May 4, 1989.
2. CSA of Uz, case No.283, f. Р – 2406, 1949.
3. Zasypkin B.N. Problems of protection and restoration of ancient constructions in Central Asia. CSA of Uz, case No.158 (pages 9-11), f. P-2406 (Moscow, 15.3.1926).
4. Bulatov M.S. The mausoleum of Samanids is a pearl of architecture of Central Asia. Tashkent, 1976.

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