Uzbekistan’s Looted Museums and Cast Artifacts

Uzbekistan has a wealthy and various historical past. The variety of museums has elevated considerably in latest a long time – from solely 88 museums throughout the nation in 2000 to 127 in 2021. They protect over 2.5 million gadgets, together with 112,000 artifacts and artwork objects which might be thought-about to be distinctive on the planet. In a gathering held earlier this 12 months, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev complained that over 3,000 uncommon artifacts treasured as cultural heritage of the nation have been misplaced from 14 museums. The general injury attributable to looting since independence is estimated to exceed 4 trillion Uzbek soms ($355 million).

Stealing artifacts from museums is just not one thing new within the nation. Whereas there was a single publicized case of theft on the Ichan-Qal’a state museum in Khiva in 1992, in most different circumstances, museum gadgets have been changed with counterfeits and the originals bought, particularly throughout the Nineteen Nineties amid the interval of financial stagnation following independence. Most gadgets have been allegedly bought to vacationers for a penny or two. 

“One of the crucial corrupt spheres in Uzbekistan is cultural heritage,”  says Kodir Kuliev,  a neighborhood anti-corruption knowledgeable in an interview with The Diplomat. “As a consequence of extravagant spending and huge corrupt proceeds concerned on this subject, the financial lack of this technique, whose magnitude is big, is at all times stored under the radar. Corruption loves blurry legal guidelines and rules and ample discretion.”

In 2020, investigations discovered {that a} director of the State Artwork Museum of Uzbekistan, Mirfayzi Usmonov, collectively along with his colleagues (13 individuals in complete) swapped 178 authentic work with replicas to promote on the black market. Of them, seven work have been bought to a Russian citizen for $5,100.

See also  Abortion in Uzbekistan: Authorized, Accessible, Declining

It’s not often identified exactly when and who dedicated such crimes. As an example, on the Bukhara State Museum, not too long ago 81 articles of cultural heritage price 31.5 billion Uzbek soms have been discovered to be replicas, whereas an investigation into the falsification of greater than 100 gadgets in Ichan-Qala museum in Khiva started earlier this 12 months.

Having fun with this text? Click on right here to subscribe for full entry. Simply $5 a month.

In an identical scheme, in June 2022, 70 gadgets, together with 56 work, have been discovered to be fakes and two extra gadgets have been lacking from the Fergana Regional State Museum of Historical past and Tradition. Based on Jahongir Toybolayev, a museum workers member, the investigations established that some cash within the museum’s assortment have been certainly pretend. Nonetheless, the identical can’t be mentioned in regards to the work in keeping with him – there’s a chance that a few of the work may have been forgeries when the museum initially acquired them. 

“[C]orruption within the sphere of cultural heritage in Uzbekistan has at all times been of nice chance with the involvement of high-level officers with extreme monopoly energy over cultural heritage, unregulated or un-checkable discretion to determine e.g. who steals tangible heritage property or replaces them with pretend ones and conceal the entire course of or who will get the service or items within the sphere of cultural heritage. In fact, this leads to restricted accountability,” explains Kuliev.

Fergana State Museum’s looting saga doesn’t cease with cast artifacts. Not solely have been authentic artifacts misplaced, however accountable officers stole almost half of the three.1 billion Uzbek soms allotted for the museum’s renovation. “Metropolis Constructing” LTD, the corporate that gained the tender to renovate the museum in 2020, reportedly nonetheless has not completed the job both.

See also  Rights Group Highlights Police Abuse in Karakalpakstan Crackdown

Whereas Museum workers members forge and loot artifacts, regulation enforcement companies additionally attempt to get their arms on the “enterprise.” Fergana State Museum handed over 21 artwork objects to the Division of Inside Affairs of the Fergana area in 2011. Solely 14 of them have been returned to the museum between 2016 and 2020, whereas seven different work that have been turned over have nonetheless not been discovered.

To amend the chaos round native museums, by the top of the 12 months, all museum displays are to be re-registered and compiled in an digital database and the method has already begun. Mirziyoyev additionally acknowledged that duty for the museums now lies with regional governors. 

However are these measures sufficient? “One large step, within the battle towards corruption, is to coach journalists in understanding the character and the workings of corruption … as soon as the story is on the market, follow-up actions are important,” concludes knowledgeable Kuliev. “Additionally, training is necessary. If the individuals and the authorities shouldn’t have a full understanding of our tradition and cultural heritage and their nice contribution to growth, any technique used to combat corruption on this space is null and void.”