For years, Tajikistan’s authorities have been pulling down familiar old architectural features of Dushanbe, much to the dismay of nostalgic residents and visitors.
One building has been spared the wrecking ball, however. This week, city authorities revealed that the Rohat teahouse on the main thoroughfare, Rudaki, will survive, despite earlier threats to tear it down.
Speaking to reporters on July 21, Mahmadsaid Zubaidzoda, the head of the state architecture and construction committee, said that while Rohat will survive, buildings adjacent to it will go.
“These buildings have no cultural and historical value. A new Justice Ministry building and an alley will be put in their place,” Zubaidzoda said.
The unstated purpose of so much demolition in Dushanbe has been to scrub away the traces of the city’s Soviet past. This agenda has evoked mixed views and emotions.
There are those who are mournful that solid, serviceable buildings that they believe to be imbued with a sometime brutalist charm are being swept away to be replaced with edifices of questionable architectural and structural merit. For those unsentimental, hostile even, about the Soviet past, getting rid of those reminders is only welcome.
Critics of how this has been done note that newer builds are frequently too tall and bland, a fact that has given the city a somewhat insipid feel.
The prospect of Rohat going too may have been a step too far. The open-faced two-tiered dining establishment is not ancient – it too went up in Soviet times – but it is designed to mimic something from an earlier period of Tajik history. Many foreign visitors who pass through Dushanbe make a point of sampling the teahouse’s inexpensive fare.
Other buildings have been saved too, for now. They include the Lohuti Theater, the State Medical University and the Academy of Sciences.
While these decisions will be welcomed by many in Dushanbe, there is also suspicion that there is political intent behind them. And that would be to cultivate positive public sentiment for city mayor Rustam Emomali, who is also the speaker of the Senate and the widely anticipated successor to the presidency once his 69-year-old father, Emomali Rahmon, steps down.
This would not be first time that Emomali has come to the rescue of a beloved landmark. At the start of this year, he canceled the demolition of the house of the foremost figure in modern Tajik literature, Sadriddin Aini. He did this with a public flourish after being petitioned by hundreds of scholars and writers.