The full name of this museum in Tashkent is very long and lush in oriental style: the Museum of the Scientific-Educational Memorial Complex named after the first President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Until recently, the building in which it is located was one of the most closed and inaccessible to visit by the public. It is located on Afrosiab Street in Tashkent and is better known as the “Oqsaroy Residence”. The museum, whose mission is to preserve the memory of Islam Karimov, was opened in 2017. The choice of location for the museum’s organisation is not accidental. During Karimov’s lifetime, the Oqsaroy Palace (translated: White Palace) served as his working residence.
The luxurious 5,460-square-metre palace has become a monument to the authoritarian leader who ruled Uzbekistan for 27 uninterrupted years, first as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Uzbek SSR and from 1991 to 2016 as the first president of independent Uzbekistan.
The organisation of the Museum of Islam Karimov in Tashkent was initiated after the decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan on 25 April 2017. In addition to the museum, the structure of the memorial complex includes: a scientific and educational centre, a library with a reading room and a conference hall. The museum complex at Oqsaroy was created with the support of the Islam Karimov Republican Charitable Foundation, which is headed by his wife Tatyana Karimova and daughter Lola Karimova-Tilliyeva.
Nowadays, the exposition is housed in two halls of the palace. One of the halls is dedicated to photographic documents from Karimov’s personal archive, the second contains his art collection. Paintings depicting the president’s portrait at different periods of his life are exhibited here. Interestingly, Islam Karimov never posed for the painters, they made portraits of him from his photographs. There are pictures of the first president addressing the UN, talking to children and reciting prayers with elders. In other pictures, he appears as a mythological bogatyr, defeating a tiger with his bare hands or fighting vultures and hawks – symbols of terrorism and extremism.
In addition to the paintings, rare photographs and personal belongings of Uzbekistan’s first president, the museum has interactive monitors where one can find all the information about Islam Karimov’s life and work.
Visitors can walk through the palace accompanied by a guide and see the rooms where embassy receptions, meetings and celebrations were held during the first president’s lifetime. In the halls of the residence, the parquet floors of fine wood, restrained and at the same time, luxurious style of interior design with predominance of white colour, in accordance with the name of the residence – Oqsaroy – White Palace.
The construction of the museum complex in the former residence of the first president of Uzbekistan required a reorganisation of the space around the museum. During Karimov’s lifetime, the entire territory of the Oqsaroy was surrounded by a concrete fence and carefully guarded.Citizens were forbidden to cross the area, the passage of cars was restricted, and the stairs leading to the Ankhor embankment were covered with earth. Along Afrosiab Street, the palace was blocked by high shields and all passageways were patrolled by guards.
After the decision was made to open the Islam Karimov Museum, the protective fences were dismantled, the walkways along the riverside road and around the palace were laid out, the benches were installed and the flowerbeds were planted.
A monument – a figure of Islam Karimov cast in bronze on a high plinth – was placed in front of the main entrance to the museum. The monument was inaugurated in August 2017 in the presence of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Tatyana Karimova. Its creator – sculptor Ilham Zhabbarov – won an international competition among 68 projects for the monument. The famous sculptor is also the author of the monument to Amir Temur on the square of the same name in the centre of Tashkent.