Abstract

This building biography examines how architectural preservation was used to legitimize Soviet rule in central Asia, focusing on the Gur-i Amir mausoleum of the Timurids in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It argues that the Soviets forged a distinctive path in the region's traditional politics of custodianship at this politically symbolic site, using preservation to elevate Soviet rule over the tsars and to instantiate Soviet rule among the indigenous population by demonstrating benevolence toward local culture and sacred structures—despite the general Soviet attack on Islam—and by providing archeological legitimacy to the project of Uzbek nation building. In the postwar era, the Gur-i Amir, like other Timurid structures, formed part of a broad didactic landscape against which to demonstrate the imminent arrival of Communism. However, the site's potency ensured an instability of meaning, exemplified by the so-called "curse of Tamerlane," an anti-Soviet ghost story that emerged to explain the Nazi invasion as a punishment for disturbing the tomb. And despite their efforts to the contrary, the significance placed on the Gur-i Amir and the aesthetic judgments of Soviet preservationists demonstrated the many ways in which they resembled their tsarist forebears.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-6026
Print ISSN
1549-9715
Pages
pp. 42-63
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-07
Open Access
No
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