Crafting in Tashkent

The attainment of political sovereignty and independence by Uzbekistan brought changes in general social-economic and ideological doctrine of all branches of the national economy, including the sphere of traditional trades and crafts. The transition to a market economy, resulted in changes in the forms of organization of handicraft work and in consequence of the revival of many customs and traditions, traditional holidays and rituals after independence, many types traditional artifacts formerly forbidden on ideological grounds were revived. Thus, the traditional gold embroidered wedding gown and the wooden cradle (beshik), banned during the soviet period as survivals of feudalism, again became common.

In Uzbekistan the state itself began to provide substantial assistance to artisans. A number of official documents and Presidential decrees directed at the further development of trades and crafts and the socio-economic stimulation of the handicraft sector.

From the ancient times Tashkent boasted having a variety of handicrafts, among them especially wood carving, jewelry, ceramics, textiles and leather crafts were developed.

Ceramic pottery 

The huge production of Tashkent kulols (potters), manufactured in the nineteenth century, was not distinguished by its artistic quality. It was mainly sold at the city market and exported to the neighboring rural regions. In the middle of the nineteenth century there had been some craftsmen producing beautiful, quality china other products. By the end of the nineteenth century the ceramic industry in Tashkent was greatly reduced in volume and worsened in quality because of the need to compete with factory made products imported from central regions of Russia. Later the potters of Tashkent took over the leading position in ceramics in the 1940-50s. The development of Tashkent took a new course under the impetus of the creative and experimental works of some potters from the end of 1950 to the early 60s. They created through their work a virtual encyclopedia of Uzbek ceramics inspired by the traditions of different schools of folk ceramics of Uzbekistan, from the ancient glazed ceramics of the Kushan period, the medieval ceramics of Afrasiab and the blue and white Timurid and up to the folk schools of the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Their works, as well as those of the craftsmen of the Samarkand school of fine terracotta sculpture were founded mainly on individual creative research and were only indirectly connected with traditional ceramic art.


Tashkent craftsmen used mainly silver and gold alloys. This is evidenced by several pieces which have survived, which were probably intended for the middle classes. The Tashkent jewelers seldom used the basma technique and seemed to prefer filigree work, simplified greatly and superimposed on colored glass, covering the whole surface. A combination of red “cut” glass and blue turquoise dominated in these pieces. The pieces which were ornamented with drawing, engraving and embossing techniques were more successful.

A few jewelers were working with silver in Tashkent in the early twentieth century. The masters preferred low-grade gold to silver. From this time on the Tashkent jewelers reacted to the influence of Russian and Tartar designs.

It was a period of consolidation of traditional art, the negative result of which was the decline of artistic quality of the local jewelry.

Wood carving 

Tashkent was one of the largest wood carving centers of the period, where, alongside architectural construction, household carving played an important role in the craftsmen’s activities. This was largely due to Tashkent’s being the capital, where a Russian population dominated. Polyhedral tables, boxes and other objects were covered with delicately engraved patterns set out with the aid of compasses, the technique itself obtained the name pargori uyma (woodcarving style). Doors carved in Tashkent during that period were characteristic for their plants designs done in low relief and good dimensional proportions. The artistic principles of the Tashkent wood carving school of the last decade were defined at the beginning of twentieth century by S. Khodjayev and M.Kasimov. These principles were continued in 1950s and 60s by Ortiq Fayzullayev. Another representative of the Tashkent wood carving school is Akmal Azlarov, whose specialties are lavkh (Bookstand) and lyagan (Platter). This master works in the technique of plain carving with radiating design and sunken background.

The first National Fair of Traditional crafts was held in Tashkent in October of 1995 on the occasion of UN’s 50 years anniversary demonstrated the contemporary state of affairs in this specific field of folk art and announced the names of new local masters. The best were the representatives of Tashkent school of wood carving like: H.Odilov, A.Abdurahmonov, B. Ganiyev and others.

The art of wood carving has been known since the nineteenth century in its two techniques: first with the sunken background and plain with triangular designs, second with engraved and chased design. The Tashkent school of carving has always been recognized for the developme4nt of the former technique which requires high technical skills as well as professional maturity. Tashkent engravers were always particular about carving designs on two or three layers. The background moderately sunken, the most popular motifs were islimi (Style), geometrical, gulli (flower) and even contemporary cultural designs. All methods of pardoza (Decorative) framing were applied. The most popular species of wood were walnut and beech. One more specific feature of the Tashkent school of wood carving was dyeing and varnishing of the relief. The traditional pieces of art are: boxes, lyagancha (dishes), lavkh (Bookstands), intricate tables, Kalamdon (pen cases), panjara (carved screens). Masters of drawing utilize paper stencils with powdering (akhta) sometimes combining this technique with drawing in pargori technique (compasses and ruler). The following step is chasing the contours of the drawing. As a result, the design looks like a silhouette, its smooth surface enhancing the wood texture. It is important to note the sense of harmony which created by various materials and techniques, well adjusted forms and proportions, ornamental decoration and beautiful design.

Paper machine painting 

Over the last two decades an original trend of decorative-applied arts, the artistic painting of paper mashie objects, has been intensively developing in Uzbekistan. This kind of craft spread mostly among the artists of Tashkent, where good opportunities were given to local graduates of the Benkov republican art college between 1980-90. Some sources record that the former head of the republic Rashidov, was personally interested in rebirth of this art and under his initiative a special miniaturists faculty had been opened at the Benkov college.

Despite the fact that the technique of making objects from paper mashier was known from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, the process of making and applying pigments, binders and solvents and the technique of gliding were no longer known to modern artists.

In 1980 it was necessary to redevelop the lost technological secrets of lacquer miniatures. The famous Uzbek artist Chingiz Akhmarov, rediscovered the age old traditions of the oriental miniaturists became the artistic supervisor.

After a visit of collaboration by Uzbek artists to the world famous Palekh Russian lacquer miniature centers, Uzbek artists shared their experience, they gained the technology of paper mashie semi manufactured production, the composition of the paints from powdered pigments and egg-yolk, the correct thermal conditions, the application of gold leaf and the fabrication of the special brushes. Subsequently, the lacquer miniature art developed as an original type of artistic craft. The object’s shape, its application and material define are its artistic effect. The drawing defines the theme, its composition, narration, rhythm, embodiment style and ornamental system.

Near to Oliy Majlis (Uzbek Parliament) building in Tashkent the architectural monument of XIX cc Abulkassim madrasah is located. In ancient times serving as an Islamic college for Tashkent. Used in different periods for various purposes and in Soviet times from 1919 until 1987, after restoration it became a kind of Tashkent center for paper mashie painters. One can see here the majority of miniaturists improving the art of lacquer miniatures as the heritage of our ancestors from XV-XVI centuries.

One of the leading miniaturists, who is considered to be the apprentice of late Chingiz Akhmarov Tahir Boltaboyev prefers themes from folk tales, legends and Uzbek classic poetry. A special place in his creative work belongs to the works dedicated to epics such as Bunyod and Parizod or Gurughli, characterized by their romantic image-emotional structure. At the same time he creates works that are notable for their lyric interpretation such as Farhod and Shirin, Seven Planets and Salman and Absal.

New names have appeared and joined the miniaturists already mentioned, including several graduates of the Lacquer Miniature Department of Republican Art College: Shomakhmud Shorasulov, Muzaffar Pulatov, Kamoliddin Mirzayev, Anvar Israilov, Jamoliddin Ashrapov, Bahodir Nizamqoriyev are all working in madrasah of Abulkassim which is run by the International Charity Fund “Golden Heritage” by its Tashkent city branch and in Baroqkhon madrasah of Hastimam ensemble. Miniaturists use Arabic calligraphy in the form of Koran suras (chapters) and quotations from hadiths (teachings).Arabic calligraphy is a unique branch of Medieval Art which is experiencing a second life in Folk Art, particularly in lacquer miniatures. Not all the miniatures know Arabic but the inscriptions in different calligraphic styles certainly inspire some fine lacquer miniature works.

The works of Uzbek miniaturists are known outside the state borders, in the museums and private collections in Japan, the USA, Arab countries, Spain, Germany, Canada, Austria, Holland, France and many other countries in the world.

Musical instruments 

The world of Uzbek musical instrumental culture is very rich and varied. The first information about musical instruments dates from the very ancient times.

In the collection of musical instruments compiled in Tashkent and surrounding villages there were kobuz, dombra, tanbur, gidjak, rubab, surnay, nay, karnay, doira, noghora, chindoul, safail and chang. Among them dutar id a two stringed plucked instrument with a big pear-like body and long neck with thirteen or fourteen frets. The tanbur is the most popular instrument with professional musicians. In Tashkent the craft of making musical instruments was developed, in this item the works of masters Umarali and his apprentice Toshboy Sultanov were most famous. Instruments made by these craftsmen are displayed in museums. It is important to know that all kinds of the above mentioned musical instruments are still in use in weddings and in every day life of Uzbeks.


In Tashkent there are two kinds of large decorative embroidery like suzane and palak (from falak meaning “Firmament”) and gulkurpa (flower). The entire surface of the Tashkent palak is covered with solid embroidered symbols and dark red circles. The composition of the gulkurpa and choishab is built around a central star of circle and twigs with flowers leaving a larger area of the background ex posed.

Lacquer miniature 

This art requires enormous patience, technical skill and knowledge of the artistic traditions. The main sources of paper mashie artistic paintings are classical medieval literature, as depicted in classical medieval miniatures, like their medieval forebears, depict episodes from Firdousi’s Shah-name, Jami’s Khamsa, Yusuf and Zuleykha, Navoiy’s Farhod and Shirin, Leyla and Majnun and other masterpieces of medieval poetry. Some of them take their inspiration from the Rubayyat of Umar Khayyam the “Thousand and One Nights”, fairy tales or simply from scenes of everyday life.