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Cablegate: Tashkenters Quietly Seething Over Fate of Orphans

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNT #0577/01 1420834
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210834Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TASHKENT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9679
INFO RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 3969
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ASTANA 0182
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 4584
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0463
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0387
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 0466
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 4190
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 2469
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0502
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 7417
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1135
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2468
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC 0048
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS TASHKENT 000577

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PINR RS UZ
SUBJECT: TASHKENTERS QUIETLY SEETHING OVER FATE OF ORPHANS
AS STATUE DISAPPEARS

1. (SBU) Summary: A statue commemmorating the adoption of
orphans from the Western front during World War II was
removed from a prominent Tashkent square in the dead of night
on April 12. The move rankled ethnic Russians, who viewed
the move as an assault on the city's history. Even ethnic
Uzbek residents were puzzled by the statue's abrupt
disappearance long after the flurry of nationalistic changes
subsided, especially since it was a much-loved city landmark.
Soon thereafter the Tashkent City Government also announced
that the the downtown square in which the statue had been
located was also renamed "Independence Square" vice "People's
Friendship Square." Additionally, authorities renamed the
prominent Pushkin Street, along with several other
thoroughfares in town. The renewed effort to cleanse the
city of its Russian vestiges will not likely spur ethnic
Russians to protest, but they do consider it a needless slap
in the face and Russia may view it the same way. There is
some speculation that President Karimov is deliberately
trying to put distance between Uzbekistan and Russia, but it
is too soon to say for sure. End summary.

Orphans are Hauled Away
-----------------------

2. (SBU) Tashkenters woke up on April 12 to discover that a
beloved landmark had been stealthily removed in the dead of
night with no advance notice. A statue commemmorating the
generous community spirit of Tashkent residents who adopted
Soviet children orphaned in the Western front during World
War II - in particular a family who adopted 15 children -
vanished from the Soviet-era "Square of the Friendship of
Peoples." News quickly circulated by word of mouth and a
story also appeared in BBC Monitoring on April 18. Numerous
lifelong residents and ethnic Russians with whom poloff spoke
in recent weeks expressed anger about the decision, which
some attributed solely to the city government while others
blamed the President ("there is only one man who has power
that matters").

3. (SBU) Ethnic Russian residents have long since accepted
the post-Soviet imposition of nationalistic Uzbek monuments:
Tamerlane astride his horse, the poet Alisher Navoiy with his
quill, and a series of new street names and subway stations.
So why, they are asking each other bitterly, after all these
years of independence are authorities now trying to delete
what is left? They feel the city fathers missed the point
that the statue symbolized generosity of the human spirit and
was not particularly Soviet or un-Uzbek. Even ethnic Uzbeks
are shaking their heads over the loss of the city landmark.
To add insult to injury, the statue will reportedly be
reinstalled outside the hippodrome bazaar, which ethnic
Russians note is symbolically just outside the city limits,
as though there is no place for them in town.

How Many Independence Squares Do We Need?
-----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The purported reason for the relocation of the
statue was that the "Square of the Friendship of Peoples" is
being rechristened - out of the blue - as "Istiqlol Maydoni"
(Indepdendence Square). Exasperated Tashkent denizens point
out that there is already a prominent "Mustaqqilik Maydoni"
(also meaning Independence Square), formerly Lenin Square,
just one kilometer away. This is in addition to numerous
other references to independence using various Uzbek synonyms
in bus stations, public buildings, metro stops, a public
holiday, and the omnipresent quotes of President Karimov.


Is Pushkin Next?
----------------

5. (SBU) A few weeks after the statue disappeared, the press
announced that the prominent Pushkin Street in the capital
would be renamed, what else, Independence Avenue. A list of

other less prominent name changes was also published in the
"Evening Tashkent" newspaper on May 15, but it is Pushkin's
fate which has Tashkenters' blood boiling. The street is
graced by a large statue of Pushkin, and most expect the 19th
century writer to be chased from his pedestal and the
corresponding metro station to be renamed. (Note: Puskhin
Street intersects the former Maxim Gorkiy Street, which has
long ago been renamed "Buyuk Ipak Yo'li" (Great Silk Road)
Street, but most in Tashkent still use the old name. End
note.) Uzbek citizens who have visited the U.S. note the
irony that even Washington, DC has a statue of Pushkin as a
great world writer, and they lament that he could be a
casualty of a new nationalistic trend even after surviving
the first cut in the early nineties.

Comment:
--------

6. (SBU) The unexpected round of heavy-handed nationalistic
name changes will not spur outraged street protests by ethnic
Russians in Tashkent, who have long since learned to turn the
other cheek. However, this has caused increased
discontentment and may lead more ethnic Russians to conclude
there is no future for them in Uzbekistan. It seems that
ethnic Uzbeks also find the changes unnecessary, so the
efforts are not meant to cater to their nationalistic fervor.
Just as ethnic Russians are irked, so too may Russia itself
get a chilly vibe from this spurious de-Russification of
Tashkent. There is some speculation on the Internet that
President Karimov is deliberately trying to show distance and
even displeasure with Russian policies now that President
Putin has changed jobs, but it is too soon to tell whether
these geographical name changes reflect this or not.

NORLAND

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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