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46 On December 3, 1937, Pravda Vostoka profiled Mavjuda Abdurakhmanova, a young Stakhanovite, which was someone belonging to an elite category of Soviet worker who set records in fulfilling factory production quotas. An orphan, she was adopted by “progressive” Uzbek parents, who were determined to provide their new daughter with an education. This young Soviet girl would “never wear a paranji [veil], but would be equal with men and become literate,” declared her father. After completing the fifth grade in 1934, Mavjuda enrolled in the training school of the Textile Kombinat, where she finished her education, and became a quilter, a popular profession for women according to worker biographies of the time. Mavjuda joined the Komsomol, quickly became a model employee, and served as a propaganda agitator and teacher of literacy. She later enjoyed helping other Uzbek women move from the confines of the home into the workplace and even received awards from the Central Committee of the Uzbek Communist Party.1 Her journey to fame in Tashkent was described as a typical rise 3 • Imagining a “Cultured” Tashkent stronski text i-350/3.indd 46 6/25/10 8:53 AM imagining a "cultured" tashkent O 47 of the new Soviet person who grew into a skilled and socially active citizen under Stalinist rule. With people like Mavjuda, Tashkent was breaking away from its past. Usman Yusupov, the newly appointed first secretary of the Uzbek Communist Party, echoed this sentiment that same year by comparing the successes of Soviet Uzbekistan to the oppression of its colonial predecessor. Presenting Soviet power as ending inequality and moving Soviet Uzbeks into a “happy life,” Yusupov explained that the reforms of the revolutionary era enabled Uzbekistan to build an industrial base of its own, with the Tashkent Textile Kombinat being its most important achievement. According to Yusupov, “Uzbekistan had become the beacon that showed the way to freedom and happiness to all workers of the Colonial East, who still languished under colonial rule.” The Party official remarked that the Uzbek people successfully severed the chains of colonial oppression and, with the help of the Russian people and under the leadership of the Communist Party, were creating a cultured urban environment in the Central Asian desert.2 Tashkent, Yusupov concluded, was becoming a model city of the socialist future. During that same year of 1937, at the height of the purges and one of the bloodiest periods in Soviet history, the Soviet Union embarked on a project of building planned, orderly, beautiful urban spaces to inspire its population with the promises of socialism. These new cities—Tashkent among them— were to showcase Soviet innovation and technology, and their reinvention would involve diverting rivers, erecting tall buildings, and transforming urban ghettos into beautiful city parks, all to show that the revolution had transformed the Russian Empire into the Soviet Union and that this new state strove to move beyond its “backward” past so criticized by Europeans . So, while the secret police physically removed ideologically undesirable citizens from Soviet society, construction workers tore up undesirable narrow city streets to install wide avenues, allowing light to penetrate formerly dark inner regions of cities and clean air to reach the working class that lived and labored in these spaces.3 The urbanization project launched by the Soviet Union in 1937 was unprecedented in scope and in its elaborate vision for new Soviet cities, towns, and even villages. No part of the Soviet Union and no citizen of the country, regardless of ethnic background, would remain untouched by this massive urban renewal campaign. In short, while the NKVD rounded up scores of undesirable citizens and sent them to their deaths, the Party led others on a happy march toward the future—to urban modernity and communism. What did this project mean for Central Asia and Central Asians? In the Uzbek SSR, the newly installed post-purge leadership, on cue from Moscow, stronski text i-350/3.indd 47 6/25/10 8:53 AM 48 O imagining a "cultured" tashkent decided that the Uzbek capital needed to speed up its transformation and make a definitive break with its cultural and architectural past. The revolution had officially liberated the region from colonialism, but the city and its residents—still struggling with the hujum campaign—had not yet met the idealized image of a socialist urban center.4 The subsequent reconstruction plan for the Uzbek capital sought to create a European-style cityscape utterly unlike the Central Asian town.5 This...


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