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After trees go, some buildings have been torn down and another is being renovated, along Amir Timur Avenue
By L,A. Luebbert
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – First to go were the trees along Amir Timur Avenue; now a former church building at the teachers’ college of Matbuotchilar Street is being razed.
Not long after Tashkent celebrated 2,200 years of history this fall, the cosmetic changes being made in the Uzbek capital started creating some consternation.
Trees being cut down in a central square and avenue raised the most concern.
“I never worried about trees so much before. But on that day and several days after, I couldn’t believe it’s true”, Joendax wrote on a Global Voices blog. “When I recall these memories I start crying, because I cannot change anything”.
The trees along Amir Timur Avenue dated to the 19th century and, although the government said they were being cut down for “sanitary” reasons, Tashkent residents said the trees appeared healthy.
The Blessed Grand Duke Alexander Nevsky Church also dates to the late 19th century. It is unclear what will be built in its place, though bloggers speculate its demolition is linked to a Forum Palace built earlier this year.
The Embassy of Uzbekistan to the United States defended changes to the city. “Our state has always been tenderly preserving the national heritage of its people”, it said in a press release issued before the trees were cut down in late November.
The Embassy said Tashkent has been spending much effort in restoring monuments.
“The work on renovation and reconstruction of monuments gained yet wider scope in the course of preparing to the festivities (of the city’s 2,200nd celebration)”, the press release said.
When officials cut down the trees, though, the action drew protests.
Young activists lit candles and placed flowers near the garden where the trees once stood.
“On the one hand, it was good, because it brought together a sufficient number of people. […] On the other hand, it was not successful, because most candles stood there only for a minute or so” before police got rid of them, one participant said on a Global Voice blog.
City authorities also unexpectedly acquired the Ugolok café on Amir Timur Avenue. This is now the only café near the avenue. Two other cafés and a restaurant were demolished and all pubs and restaurants on Sajilgoh Street, Tashkent's main avenue, were closed down, Fergana.ru reported.
It was rumored that Ugolok would be demolished, but workers told Fergana.ru they were changing the façade so it would look like the adjacent Law Institute building, a former school for boys built of dark bricks brought from Russia.