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The Fayzulla Khojaev House

Follow Tukay Street, skirting the edge of the old town, to no. 70, the House Museum of Faizullah Khodjaev, or the house of the Rich Bukhara Merchant at end of the 19th century' as it is widely known, since it was deemed politically unsafe to name the museum after a man condemned to death by Stalin in the 1930s as a class enemy, and reviled by some locals as the man who let the Russians into Bukhara. Khodjaev was a founder of the Young Bukharans, an early communist chief and the Uzbek SSR's first president, yet one look at his late 19th century family house, fourth of six in the city and the one where Faizullah was born, shows that the young Bolshevik's class background was far from proletarian. It was said the karakul fleece empire of Khodjaev's father was so lucrative that the emir himself would regularly came to the house in search of a loan.

The house was built in 1891 by his father, Ubaidullah, a wealthy merchant. Fayzulla lived here until 1925, when the Soviets converted it into a school. Meticulous restoration of the elegant frescoes, ghanch, latticework and Bukhara-style ceiling beams (carved, unpainted elm) has returned it to its former glory. If there’s a tour group present you may be treated to a fashion show.

In 1996, the centenary of his birth, and 30 years after official rehabilitation, a small museum finally opened in Khodjaev's honour, inside the guestroom of the male courtyard. Archive photos and newspapers (look for the 1930 copy of Bukharan Proleteriat) document the Red Army's arrival, and Khodjaev's rise, all the way to his show trial in Moscow. His wife died in Siberian exile, but a grandson survives in Tashkent. The haram female courtyard is better restored, with winter quarters and stove on the left and summer quarters, cooled by a high iwan, on the right. There is little furniture to clutter the small rooms as all ornaments were kept in niches in the wall and the family slept on mattresses, as they do today. During the Soviet invasion, the rich ganch ornamentation of the walls was covered in clay, partly to protect the decoration, partly to protect the family, but today the walls shine again. There are some fascinating photos here, including some of the bombed city after Soviet troops attacked in 1920 and the ensuing proclamation of the Bukharan People's Republic in Kalon Square.