Without discussion, and just when residents thought it had stopped, Dushanbe’s mayor has announced a new phase of urban renewal, one that means razing another area of the city’s historic downtown.
Central Dushanbe is a smorgasbord of neoclassical and constructivist architecture dating to the 1930s and 1940s. Only a village when Moscow anointed Dushanbe as the capital of the newly created Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic in 1929, Dushanbe over the next two decades sprouted all the accouterments befitting a republican center: an opera and ballet theater, a Supreme Soviet (now parliament), ministries and a national library. Such structures fulfilled the Soviet mantra “national in form, but socialist in content,” meaning the handsome designs would be adorned with orientalist motifs: arches and eight-pointed stars wrapped around Corinthian columns. This was long before Soviet architecture became synonymous with drab, pre-fabricated concrete edifices.
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Konstantin Parshin is a freelance writer based in Tajikistan.