An appeal created on Avaaz October 13 is calling on ex-Soviet Tajikistan's president and the mayor of the capital city Dushanbe to reverse a decision to destroy administrative and cultural buildings in the heart of the city in order to free up space for new skyscrapers.
The appeal sparked a wave of discussion on Facebook among young people whose cherished adolescence was closely linked to these Stalinist era buildings.
Rahima Tuychieva said:
Без этих зданий Душанбе потеряет душу! историю! и будет таким бездушным и каменным городом!
Dushanbe will lose its soul and history without these buildings and turn into a soulless and stony city.
Lidiya Isamova chimed:
эти здания помнят многих великих людей нашей страны, как можно вырывать страницы своей же истории, вы ведь не вандалы, ГОСПОДА, ПРИНИМАЮЩИЕ РЕШЕНИЯ!!
These buildings recall many great people from our country. How can we snatch pages from our own history? Those people taking these decisions, are you not vandals?
Dushanbe is a relatively new city, built just under a century ago, when the Soviets were fashioning a republic for the Persian-speaking peoples of Central Asia.
Most of Dushanbe's buildings of administrative and cultural significance are thus Russian-built, employing a blend of classic European style mixed with more ‘national’, or oriental flourishes.
With more buildings retained from the Stalinist period, when form still had a place alongside function in Soviet town-planning, Dushanbe has a certain charm as a city when compared to some of the former communist competition.
But the city's General Plan threatens to consign much that makes the city unique to the scrapheap, with demolition plans for key city landmarks drawn up long ago and the national elite obsessed by huge Dubai-like architecture.
So now, in a country where participating in even a modest street protest might cause you to spend nights behind bars, Tajiks have taken to Facebook to fight for the national teahouse, the old Presidential palace, the Dushanbe city hall, the Parliament, and two city theatres.
Rajab Mirzo raged:
Чойхонаи Рохат ин на танхо бинои зебои милли, балки хотирае аз овони самимияту арзони ва бакадрии инсонхост. Касри Президенти имруза факат еддошт аз гирдихамоихову хунрезихои аввалин надорад, дар ин макон таърихи давлати имруз Точикистони мустакил бандубаст шуда. Бинои парлумон барои хар точику точикистони аз он чихат арзишманд аст, ки Эъломияи Истиклолро дар он кабул кардаанд. Сафхахои китоби таърихро наканед!
Rohat teahouse is not only a beautiful national building, but a memory from more sincere, humane and affordable times. The Presidential palace recalls not only bloody protests, but also the first pages in the creation of modern Tajik statehood. The Parliament building is valuable to us because the Independence declaration was developed and adopted inside it. Do not wipe out pages of history!
And Zarina Khalilova implored:
Чайхана “Рохат”, театр им.Лохути, “Зеленый театр” и пр., это – моя Родина, мой город, мой дом! Это воспоминания, детство, юность, первое свидание… Это – ДУША города, в котором ты родился и сформировался. Это – отчий дом!!! Это – прошлое, которым дорожишь, которое греет душу. И пусть сохранится его ДУША!
Rohat teahouse, Lohuti theatre, and all the rest are my homeland, my city, and my house. These are my memories, my childhood and adolescence, my first date… This is the soul of the city where I was born and grew up. This is my father’s house. This is the past I hold dear, the past, which warms my soul. Let its spirit be preserved!
In addition to plenty of statuses on profiles and discussion threads in groups, the movement to preserve Dushanbe's modest history has a special Facebook page and the petition on Avaaz already signed by dozens.
But the same government that has already built Central Asia's biggest library, biggest teahouse and biggest mosque has little sentiment when it comes to older, quainter structures.
The Ministry of Culture said on October 13 that the Parliament and the Presidential Palace are both among a quintet of buildings of historical note in Dushanbe.
Yet a day before this statement was made, Nurali Saidzod, deputy head of the construction and architecture committee told journalists, that none of the to-be-demolished buildings have any historical value:
Чайхана «Рохат» не имеет никакой уникальности. Если вы увидите эскизы того, что будет на ее месте построено, то вы то же самое скажете
Rohat teahouse has no uniqueness. If you had seen the blueprints of what will be built in its place, you would say the same.
The argument over the historical buildings marks a rare mobilisation of civil society in a country where people are used to keeping their mouths shut and sidestepping politics whenever possible.
But that is no consolation to a population that feels increasingly out of touch with the place where they were born.
Michelle Zarina Gerber complained:
Я вообще не узнала город. Да, он чужой, не мой родной Душанбе. Теперь я по нему не скучаю. Зачем скучать по чужому городу и чужим людям?
I don’t recognize this city. This is an alien city, not my Dushanbe. Now I do not miss this city. What is the point of missing an alien city and an alien people?