Information about city Nukus in Uzbekistan
1. Territory - 120.000 кm2
2. Population - 245.000
Nukus is a city in Uzbekistan, and the capital of the sovereign autonomous Karakalpakstan Republic. Its population is estimated at 180,000. Nukus developed from a small settlement in 1932 into a pleasant, modern Soviet city with broad avenues and big public buildings; however, the city’s isolation made it host to the Red Armys Chemical Research Institute, a major research and testing center for chemical warfare weapons.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the growing ecological disaster of the Aral Sea, the city has certainly seen better times. Contamination of the surrounding area by wind-borne salt and pesticides from the dry Aral Sea bed have turned the surrounding area into a wasteland, with very high rates of respiratory disorders, cancer, birth defects and deformities.
Nukus is host to the Karakalpakstan Art Museum and State Museum. The State Museum houses the usual collection of artifacts recovered from archaelogical investigations, traditional jewery, costumes and musical instruments, but more interestingly, displays of the area's now vanished or endangered flora and fauna, and on the Aral Sea issue. The Art Museum is noted for its collection of modern Russian and Uzbek art from 1918-1935. Stalin tried his best to eliminate all non Soviet art from this period, and sent most of the artists to the gulag. The collection at Nukus survived because of the city’s remoteness.
The Savitsky Karakalpakstan State Art Museum
Founded in 1966, the Savitsky Karakalpakstan State Art Museum comprises a collection of over 95,000 pieces, including Uzbekistan fine arts, applied Karakalpak folk art, and ancient art from the region of Khorezem. The museum represents the life’s work of Igor Savitsky. The Savitsky story and the thousands of artistic treasures on display here, make this museum one of the most interesting relics of modern art history.
The Moscovite painter/archaeologist Igor Vitalyevich Savitsky first made his home in the Karakalpakstan capital of Nukus in the mid 1950s. Like so many artists of his generation, he travelled to Central Asia in search of inspiration. Appointed curator of The Nukus State museum in 1966, Savitsky was afforded the opportunity to procure objects for display. At first limiting himself to archaeological discoveries and Karakalpak ethnographic works, he later
became interested in procuring modern art. Thus began his mission to collect banned art from the Soviet Union - a mission that would last a lifetime.
Constantly running the risk of being denounced as an “enemy of the people”, Savitsky sought out proscribed painters or their heirs in an attempt to collect, archive and display their condemned works. With great audacity he amassed over 50,000 pieces from the avant-garde and post-avant-garde periods of Soviet art including important archival documents of the artists.
The product of his efforts has been described as “one of the world’s greatest collections of Soviet art from the 1920s and 30s”, by the British newspaper The Guardian. It has shaken the foundations of modern art history for the period it represents. Indeed, this collection refutes the assertions of the Socialist Realism school of art doctrine, and brings to life those artists of the post-avant-garde school whose dissident work was carried out underground, under constant threat of exile, labor camps or worse.
The legacy of the Savitsky story comprises: 7,452 paintings; 25,223 graphics; 1,322 sculptures; 7,562 pieces of folk art; 1,902 coins; and 8,618 archaeological items.
What the NY Times refers to as, “ a vast and intriguing collection of Russian art that only now is coming to the attention of the West”, is a must-see for any visitor to Uzbekistan. With the cultural and historical exhibits of local art completing the museum display, this is unquestionably the finest museum in the country - and in all of Central Asia.