Uzbekistan has a long history of empires flourishing then disappearing. Littering the Uzbek desert sand are remnants of fallen leaders Genghis Khan followed by Amir Timur, Karl Marx, Lenin, then Stalin. Soviet occupation, losses of the World Wars, the horrific earthquake of 1966 and reconstruction of the modern Soviet city on top of the original Uzbek city have left their mark on Tashkent. Other ghosts of Uzbekistan are those geographically uprooted under the policies of Stalin, those conscripted to fight in the world wars, the high numbers of young Uzbek men forced into the Soviet offensive launched from the Uzbek border at Termez into their southern neighbor Afghanistan, and the ever shrinking Aral Sea and its ghost towns and abandoned villages. With liberation from the Soviet Union in 1991 came the slow cautious reemergence of Uzbek language, cultural identity, and pride. In the last half-decade are the new ghosts of the American Peace Corps, Open Society Institute, countless NGOs, and freedom of religious practice.
These photographs of Uzbekistan are from the 2007 spring and summer season after the icy bite of winter had left the Central Asian steppe. The photographs celebrate the quotidian rituals, chores, and pleasures of the Uzbek people. Students on holiday after their last exams; veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, now medical school professors and surgeons; elders on pilgrimage; and families at the market selling or bartering their bread, yogurt, watermelon, cherries, and tomatoes. Images of the ancient majestic tiled walls and blue domes of Samarkand’s Registan, Bukhara’s Kalon Mosque and Khiva’ madrassas have a firm place in our art histories, computers’ databases and individual visual memories. But the sight of everyday people of Uzbekistan is easily lost without the currency and immediacy of new photographic images to remind us of their resilience, courage and perseverance.
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For more of Kevin's images from Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Almaty, Kazakhstan visit: