STATE MUSEUM OF THE CULTURAL HISTORY OF UZBEKISTAN
The monumentalist designs of the Registan dwarf this Soviet effort at its southeastern corner. Try to find time for a visit, however, as the collection, established in 1874, is extensive and well-displayed.
The ground floor houses modern paintings and early Soviet posters, when anti-feudal propaganda was still conducted in Arabic. Archaeological exhibits on the first floomented murals and replicas of finds from ancient Bactria, such as the Kushan Ayrtam frieze, a graceful limestone sculpture of an Indo-European culture.
Among later treasures are Tamerlane’s wooden coffin and the immense 19th century Koran that replaced the Osman Koran on Bibi Khanum’s lectern. Traditional crafts are set out in bazaar workshops: skullcaps, jewellery, instruments, embroideries and bizarre animal ceramics.
Address: 1 Tashkent St, open 9am-6pm, everyday.
SAMARKAND MUSEUM OF REGIONAL STUDIES
This fascinating museum in Samarkand deep in the Old Russian town inhabits the eclectic mansion of Bukharan Jewish millionaire Abraham Kolontarov, evicted by the Bolsheviks in 1917. His synagogue houses archaeological exhibits from Paleolithic to Timurid, before a revealing collection of 19th century photographs—see the Samarkand Registan Square crumbling yet bustling with traders. After tsarist colonization comes the rise of progressives like Social Democrat Morozov, whose illegal printing press published the revolutionary paper Samarkand from 1905—7. The highlight is a richly coloured reception hall decorated after Islamic fashion. The ganch carving on the balcony incorporates the Star of David and the Russian eagle, for Kolontarov hoped to entertain the tsar. Instead he got the Central Committee of the Uzbek Communist Party from 1925-30, forging the Sovietization of Uzbek life from this hybrid of feudal tradition. Sadly, the Soviet-era exhibitions have been banished to the vaults of the Cultural History Museum in Samarkand.
Address: ‘ 51 Sharaf Rashidov St, open 9am-5pm.
SADRIDDIN AYNI HOUSE MUSEUM IN SAMARKAND
As Khamza is acclaimed the father of Soviet Uzbek literature, so Ayni (1878-1954) is his Tajik counterpart. Behind the white bust near Registan Square is his Samarkand residence, restored with modest traditional furnishings, where the poet, writer and later president of Tajikistan described from personal experience the sufferings of the bad old days. Works on display in various languages include the novels Bukharan and Slaves, the inspiration of a mock-up house inside the Museum of Regional Studies in Samarkand.
Address: 7b Registan St, (open daily 9am-5pm).
MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF THE MONUMENTS IN SAMARKAND
New Samarkand museum inside a renovated madrassah, east of Ayni museum and opposite Registan Square.
INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF PEACE AND SOLIDARITY IN SAMARKAND