Samarqand Sculptor from Azerbaijan. On the 75th Anniversary of Einulla Aliev

Issue #2 • 1628

The art of the sculptor Einulla Dadash ogly Aliev, born in Azerbaijan on June 12, 1937 in Bilga village near Baku, holds a special place in the contemporary art history of Uzbekistan. He demonstrated his artistic talent at an early age and enrolled in the A. Azimzade art school in Baku to attend sculpture classes of Tokay Mamedov, the famous Azerbaijani sculptor and the People’s Artist of Azerbaijan. The teacher was known not only for his instruction, but also for taking the responsibility for engaging his students in delivering the most important orders. For instance, Aliev, still an adolescent youth, helped his teacher to work on a monument to the prominent Azerbaijani composer Uzeir Gajibekov.

After finishing school (1957) and service in the army, Aliev decided to enter the Tashkent Theatre and Art Institute named after A. Ostrovsky (now the Behzad National Institute of Arts and Design), the Sculpture Department famous for its strong and demanding faculty. His teachers were R. Chernyshov and G. Salakhitdinov. Upon graduation, he was given a job in Samarqand, not knowing then that the rest of his life would be connected with the ancient city.

The young sculptor gets down to work enthusiastically: he sculpts in clay, casts in bronze, chases copper and carves wood, all the while looking for new forms of expression. His objective is to find a material that would have the plasticity of clay, the strength of concrete and a granular surface. This type of stones includes “aglay”, “gyulbaht”, and Apsheron limestone found in Azerbaijan and Yurmala (Latvia). Nature created them on the shore of the Caspian and Baltic seas, washing in the waves and blowing in gusts of winds for thousands of years. But Uzbekistan did have this kind of stone, and Aliev’s first inquiries were not so much of a sculptor as of a chemist. The result came as a surprise: in 1967, mixing decorative cement and lightweight expanded clay in certain proportions, he obtained the desired result. The first piece made of this material, “Portrait of a Son” (1967, State Art Museum of Uzbekistan), was approved by the masters of sculpture. Then Aliev tried to produce chamotte (fire clay) – an artificial stone rarely used in sculpture because of a very labour-intensive process. Sculpturing from chamotte is very complex: a master triturates a piece of baked clay, mixes it with the unbaked, adds glue and iron, and shapes it into the conceived form to be roasted, thus getting a very strong piece that can withstand impact and extreme temperatures up to 1300 degrees.

In 1967-1969 Aliev took part in the national exhibitions with his works “Gazli – Ural”, “From the Spring”, and “Jarchi” [holiday messengers]“. Samarqand and Baku newspapers published the first articles about the young sculptor (1). Art critic R. Taktash wrote about him in a review article in the “Art” magazine (2, p. 8-12).

Already member of the Artists Union of Uzbekistan, Aliev was commissioned to create monuments to the fallen heroes of the Great Patriotic War to be installed in Narpai and Dambai Districts of Uzbekistan. He proved to be worthy of the task, declaring himself as a master of monumental sculpture. At that time Aliev became friends with two sculptors whom he only knew by hearsay: Vasiliy Degtyaryov, native of Taldykurgan (Kazakhstan) and a graduate of the Tashkent Theatre and Art Institute; and Nodar Bandzeladze from Kutaisi (Georgia) who graduated from the TbilisiArtsAcademy. The Azerbaijani, the Russian and the Georgian found a common ground in Uzbekistan – the land of tolerance and friendship. These people of different character, temperament and mentality formed a perfect creative union. Each of them sculpted his own works, and together they created truly monumental pieces (3).

Aliev’s chamotte sculptures such as “Youth” and “Portrait of a Girl” demonstrated the right choice of the material. His works, among items created by other painters and sculptors of Uzbekistan, were displayed at exhibitions in a number of cities in the former Soviet Union, the United States, Germany, Japan and Finland.

In 1969 Aliev was elected chairman of the Samarqand branch of the Artists Union of Uzbekistan. Between 1969 and 1986 he organized over 200 exhibitions of young painters and sculptors, and even managed to create an art gallery in one of the farms in Pasdargom District.

Young sculptors Degtyaryov, Bandzeladze and Aliev, the talented and hard-working trio, caught the eye of experts and were trusted with the design of academic institutions and industrial enterprises. Each of them already had the experience in interior design. However, the first high-profile order came in 1969-1970 – to design the banquet hall, lobby and courtyard of “Samarqand” hotel (SamarqandCity). In the soviet times there were not so many foreign tourists going to peripheral cities, and hotels, respectively, were few. But if a hotel had an “Intourist” status, it was built and designed by the best masters. Besides, in a situation when cities had only a handful of banquet halls, hotel ballrooms were used for gala receptions and important ceremonies; so, the honour to decorate such halls had to be earned. The sculptors stood to the challenge. Individual panels adorning the hotel, each on its own theme, got the attention of art critics. Ural Tansykbaev, a famous Uzbek artist and patriarch of painting, wrote: “I have not travelled to Samarqand in vain. In the hotel I saw a piece of great art. The panel called “Toi” is the beginning of true monumental and decorative art in our country”. According to art historian Dr. R. Taktash, “The composition subject is the scene of a nuptial feast. The wholesome plastic and stylistic solution for the figures in “Toi”, their exquisite and dynamic silhouettes, the details of jeweller’s precision so keenly noted – all has the hallmark of the national identity and character”(4).

In 1970 Aliev created a large panel called “The Transfer of Knowledge” on the façade of the Pushkin Library in Samarqand; in 1970-1977 he produced a series of sculptural portraits in bronze and chamotte, bringing a major contribution to the development of this genre in Uzbekistan. “Miller from Bakhmal (Muhum-aka)”, “The Waterer”, “The Aral Sea Fisherman”, “Portrait of a Boxing Champion Pavel Zaev”, “Portrait of a Daughter”, “Portrait of a Girl-Student”, and “Samarqand” may appear quite simple, but a closer look reveals the soulfulness, sadness, and inner strength of the characters. In 1971 he completed the sculpture “Asel”, the heroine of Chingiz Aitmatov’s novel “Tales of Mountains and Steppes”. After reading the novel, the young sculptor decided to portray the heroine, but none of the sketches he made satisfied him. He worked on other sculptures, returned again to “Asel”, and again rejected the sketches. Finally, after seven years of searching, in a mountain village of Bakhmal, Aliev met a girl whose face fit the image of Asel he created in his mind. He wrought the sculpture from bronze and chamotte, giving the face a creamy steppe tan. The “Asel” sculpture was purchased for the State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow) and immediately provoked a discourse among artists and critics (5). Another copy of the sculpture was acquired by the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan.

During the next 15 years Aliev’s art flourished. Together with Degtyaryov and Bandzeladze he created decorative lamp-stands in the shape of fabulous beasts; these were installed in front of the Central Exhibition Hall in Tashkent and for many years became the emblem of the Artists Union of Uzbekistan. Later on, they designed the bar area and the exterior of the Artists Union building. In 1977 the friends decorated the lobby and the banquette hall of the “Bukhara” hotel (Bukhara). Each wall was decorated with a single thematic panel. For this work Aliev, Degtyaryov and Bandzeladze received the Niyazi State Award of Uzbekistan (6). That same year, the friends were commissioned to decorate a metro station called “The 50th Anniversary of the USSR” in Tashkent (now the “Mirzo Ulugbek” station), and in 1984 – “Chkalovskaya” metro station.

Aliev is the author of monuments in Kyzyltepa (1979) and Kattakurgan (1980) dedicated to soldiers who perished in World War II, the monument “Motherhood” (1988), and one dedicated to the enlightener S. R. Alizadeh (1989) in Samarqand. The sculptor took part in decorating a number of governmental and academic institutions in Tashkent, Samarqand, Bukhara, and Nukus. His works such of as “Portrait of sculptor V. Degtyaryov”, “Portrait of sculptor N. Bandzeladze”, “Musician,” “Cotton Picker”, “Shepherd,” “Karakum (allegoric portrait)”, “Kyzylkum (allegoric portrait)” “Waiting”, “Ornamental Dragon,” “Morning”, and “Avicenna” testify to the high professionalism of the master. He also created a number of sculptural gravestones of the famous artists and composers of Uzbekistan.

It appears that in the late 1980s the fame of acclaimed sculptor-portraitist began to interfere with his creative quest. Aliev was tasked with the creation of portrait galleries of revolutionary heroes and heroes of labour. Although he wrote that he was not a novelist and would find it hard to choose a ‘typical’ hero, still the epoch dictated its orders, and one had to deliver on the specified date and in line with approved templates. A series of portraits of cotton-pickers from Kattakurgan District, statues of revolutionaries, and 25 portraits of ‘internationalist’ soldiers fighting the Afghan war were created in time and in the specified form. Certainly, sculptural portraits such as “Portrait of Private Solnyshkin”, “Portrait of Y. Akhunbabaev”, “Portrait of F. Khojaev”, “Portrait of the Twice Hero of Socialist Labour Hamrakul Nasyrov”, and “Portrait of M. Jalilova” have always been considered classics of the genre, still the artist had nothing new to say.

“Do we now dream as we used to in the days of youth?” – a question, which, according to journalist O. Sorokina, he pondered at the time, may seem inept, yet it shows the sculptor’s uncertainty about his creative pursuits.

Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, which gave new impetus to Aliev’s creative inquiry. He drafted sketches for the monuments of prominent figures in Uzbekistan’s history – Abu Ali Ibn Sino, Babur, and Mirzo Ulugbek; his art culminated in a monument to Alisher Navoi installed in the National Park in Tashkent.

The contest for creating a monument to the prominent Uzbek poet and statesman Alisher Navoi was announced as part of the preparation for the 550th anniversary of the poet. And again, the three friends – Aliev, Degtyaryov and Bandzeladze – got together and soon the project was ready. Among many others, it was the one selected by government commission. For more than three months the friends were preparing a design model. The gigantic work was completed on time. A 22-meter tall rotunda, the eight columns of which support a turquoise dome, was installed on the highest point of the National Park in Tashkent. A bronze statue of the poet stands under the dome. As member of the team of authors, Aliev was able to create the canonical image of the great medieval poet. Cascading stairs, flowerbeds and fountains complete the composition. The monument has become one of the sculptural ornamentations of Uzbekistan’s capital city. Together, the friends created several other monuments to Alisher Navoi: in Akdarya (1991), Payaryk (1992), and Kattakurgan (1998).

Aliev authored some other monuments, too: “The Humo Bird” in Arnasay (1994), “The Humo Bird” in Kattakurgan District (1995), and the “Storks” composition in Samarqand (1995).

Einulla Dadash ogly Aliev passed away in 2001 and was buried in the land of his second home – Samarqand. Everyone who knew him speaks of his kindness, tact, gentleness and a kind of vulnerability, about the sculptor’s desire to find a compromising solution to art-related disputes and even confrontations among artists. Yet he was very demanding and uncompromising with himself: the story has it that during the 1966 Tashkent earthquake a sculptural composition “Girlfriends”, which the author was not happy about, was destroyed in his studio. Having noticed that, he said, “It’s good that it broke down and saved me the embarrassment in front of the people” (7). A poet at heart, he was fond of classic poetry and the verses of poets of the sixties. Aliev’s civic-mindedness shows in a note he made in large hand, saying, “If I ever learn that nothing depends on me, I will just die”.

Pieces of art authored by Einulla Aliev adorn cities and buildings around Uzbekistan. His works are kept in the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan, the Art Exhibitions Directorate of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, the IkramovStateMuseum in Samarqand, the Samarqand State Museum of Cultural History of Uzbekistan, the ArtGallery in Urgench, and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Aliev’s cause is continued by his son Ruhulla (designer of the Uzbek National Academic Drama Theatre) and daughter Yagut (painter).

The life and work of sculptor Einulla Aliyev testify to the indissoluble bonds of friendship between Azerbaijani and Uzbek people. It is no accident that on September 27, 2010, Ilham Aliev, the President of Azerbaijan, during his official visit to Uzbekistan, and Shavkat Mirziyayev, the Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, visited an exhibition of Einulla Aliev’s works in the new building of the Azerbaijan Cultural Centre named after Geidar Aliev in Tashkent.


1. Kerimzade F. Samarqand heykelterasi // Edebiyyat ve injesenet, Baki, 28 sentyabr 1968 il; Г. Пак. Еркин истедод // Ленин йули. Самарганд, 4 июн 1968 й.

2. Такташ Р. Современная скульптура Узбекистана // Искусство. 1968. № 10.

3. Тихонов В. Три мастера, три жизни и одна судьба // Ленинский путь. 28 февраля 1989 г.

4. Такташ Р. Право на творчество // Правда Востока. 11 сентября 1977 г.

5. Сорокина О. Почему люди тянутся к звездам // Ленинский путь, 16 января 1973 г.

6. Бабаджанова Г. Мчатся медные кони. Об оформлении гостиницы Бухара // Правда Востока. 9 августа 1978 г.; Вклад в культуру Узбекистана // Правда Востока. 8 ноября 1977 г.

7. Kerimzade F. Samarqand heykelterasi // Edebiyyat ve injesenet. Baki, 28 sentyabr 1968 il.


The author is grateful to the sculptor’s wife Ozoda Kasymova and daughter Yagut Alieva for so kindly provided access to documents in the family archive.


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