SOVIET MODERNISM AND THE ILHOM THEATER AS A CULTURAL HERITAGE SITE
The Ilkhom Theater, which has not yet been included in the protection list of the Ministry of Culture, has long been a double monument of cultural heritage: tangible and intangible.
It is a monument of tangible cultural heritage, because the building where Mark Wail equipped the theater was built by Richard Bleze, one of the main architects of Soviet modernism, and has all the hallmarks of an outstanding architectural monument of the 1960s (the time the design began) and the 1970s.
Only two relatively preserved buildings by Bleze remained in Tashkent, and therefore the building of the Youth House, included in the ensemble of the city center and linked to the Panoramic Cinema (Palace of Arts), must be preserved in its original form. No 4-to-5-story add-ons above an existing two-story block are acceptable.
The walls of the Ilkhom Theater are an integral part of the Youth House as a monument to tangible culture. These walls absorb the collective memory of Tashkent residents, as well as numerous guests of the city, for whom Ilkhom has been the hallmark of Soviet, Uzbek and Tashkent culture since the 1970s. The historical nature of these walls for urban identity is self-evident: their destruction could be compared with the destruction of the remains of Roman forums or Greek agoras.
The theater is a monument of intangible heritage due to the fact that has been happening there for 45 years. The first non-state theater in the USSR, built by Mark Wail, turned out to be so organic for the face and lifestyle of the Tashkent intellectual society that even after the director’s murder (I don’t believe in the official Karimov’s version), the theater retained many qualities – although unfortunately not all –of an alternative free cluster of urban culture. From a small club of Russian spoken Tashkent intellectual society, it evolved into an inclusive urban theater, in which there are no dominant and titular groups, either ethnic, gender or artistic. As a unique brainchild of urban culture, created on the initiative and by the hands of urban community itself, it has long ago and in fact turned into a site of intangible cultural heritage, whose importance is enhanced by its location in the Youth House. Therefore, the Ministry of Culture must finally recognize the reality and give the theater Ilkhom and the Youth House the status of a double cultural monument – tangible and intangible – and also add to this dual character of the monument an inalienable character, i.e. the theater should remain in the Youth House, and the Youth House should include the theater and remain in historical architectural form.
If the Ministry of Culture includes the theater to the list of cultural heritage in this status, all the issues that the newly appeared owners and their yea-sayer are bawling today, will be removed. And when the Ministry makes such a decision, we will not need to thank them – this is the work for which they receive a salary.