Walk through modern Tashkent
The tour through modern Tashkent would be better to start from Amir Temur square, that is literally forms the centre of Tashkent and from where you can move in any direction to research that or another part of Tashkent. In the centre of the square you will find a statue of Tamerlane on horseback that is the latest political statement to mark Uzbekistan's rites of passage. On the death of governor general Konstantin Kaufmann in 1882, this military parade ground received his cannonball tomb, later moved to his cathedral as the square became a racetrack and promenading area for the well-to-do. In 1913 his statue returned, supported by two soldiers sounding the bugle and planting the flag of-tsarist victory. The Bolsheviks renamed Kaufmann's square Revolution Garden and replaced him with a hammer and sickle, temporary obelisks and Lenin busts, until 1947 when Stalin arose, imposing and avuncular. In 1968, long after Joseph's disgrace and removal, came a gargantuan bronze head of Karl Marx, hair and beard cascading in the rush to communism. In 1993, at the close of the experiment his philosophy spawned, Marx was toppled by Tamerlane, rehabilitated from feudal despot to Uzbek hero.
In 2009 the century-old chinor trees planted by Tsarist Governor-General Chernyaev, which had weathered the entire Soviet era unscathed, were suddenly cut down without warning or reason, leaving the square sadly barren. The result is clearer views of the new white Palace of International Forums and the Soviet-era Hotel Uzbekistan, the latter so ugly that it's almost beautiful.
One can gauge an insight into the mind of the current regime through the inscription on the wall at the nearby State Museum of Timurid History, signed by President Karimov himself:
'If somebody wants to understand who the Uzbeks are; if somebody wants to comprehend all the power, might, justice and unlimited abilities of the Uzbek people, their contribution to global development, their belief in the future, he should recall the image of Amir Temur.'
Follow the direction of Tamerlane's horse, between 19th century gymnasia, along Sayilgokh Street, reborn as 'Broadway', where portrait artists, hawkers and cafes compete for custom, to the most eccentric reminder of tsarist Tashkent, the former residence of Grand Duke N.K. Romanov (1850-1917), a first cousin of Tsar Nicholas II, exiled here in 1881 for exploits involving the crown jewels. The firebrick building of dog and deer statues, domes and spires, is based on the outline of the double- headed eagle. In 1919 Romanov's widow showed British agent Bailey their house of many treasures, nationalized into a museum 'to show the people how the bourjoui lived in the bad old days'. In 1935 it became a Lenin Young Pioneers Palace and reopened only in the 1980s to display a fabulous jewellery collection. After independence the lavish interiors attracted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, closing the museum once more. The compound's lovely chinor trees are over 130 years old.
Ahead sprawls Independence Square (Mustaqillik Maydoni), the largest city square in the former Soviet Union, flanked by public buildings and walls of fountains. It was first known as Cathedral Square, for near the first bank of fountains Kaufmann founded a splendid Orthodox church and bell tower. Disguised as a Romanian-Austrian POW, Bailey slipped in to celebrate Easter Eve in 1919, the last public service for over 70 years. The cathedral was destroyed in the early 1930s as the square turned Red. By 1974 Lenin monument was erected here, the elder statesman with greatcoat and manifesto; Tashkent's Lenin was the world's tallest, topping 30 metres from granite base to balding pate. He shuffled off in 1992, making way for a building block of nationalism: the giant globe showing only the independent Republic of Uzbekistan. May Day parades of Soviet power have been replaced by the singers, dancers and fireworks of 1 September, Independence Day.
Beside the globe stands the former Government House, first built in 1931 and now housing the Bakhor Concert Hall and the Alisher Navoi Library. Founded in 1870, the library is renowned for the Turkestan Collection, a vast encyclopaedia of events 1867-1917. Here was the cannon-fronted White House, the governor general's residence from Kaufmann's time onward. Part of it survives at the library's rear, where the Anhor Canal, one-time border of old and new Tashkent, meanders through a verdant swimming and leisure area. Just to the south is the ex-Yuri Gagarin Park, former home to a statue of the idolized cosmonaut. When Tory MP George Curzon visited in 1888, this was the governor's private garden, 'in which a military band plays, and to which the public are admitted three times a week. It contains shaded walks and sylvan retreats, a respectable cascade formed by an artificial dam, and a pit for bears, which was kept by Chernaev, who had a craze for animals, until one of his pets nearly bit off the leg of a Kirghiz'. Beyond Uzbekistan Street looms the Presidential Palace, occupying the site of the tsarist military fortress. A noonday gun once sounded from its battlements, but today only the gates remain, tucked away in an adjacent park.
Northeast of the globe burns the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, killed during the 1941 defence of Moscow. Another essential stop on any wedding day video tour is the Earthquake Memorial, one block north past the Turkistan Concert Hall. A granite cube displays the time (5:22am) of the first tremor while an Uzbek man shields a woman and child from the earth opening up before them. Granite reliefs picture the reconstruction.