Epigraphic restorations of Timurid architectural heritage

After its Independence in 1991, Uzbekistan, one of the five post-Soviet Central Asian republics, was looking for a common framework to shape the discourse on nation-building and nation-branding. The great emperor Timur (1336-1405), one of the very few mortals to give their name to an acclaimed architectural style, was branded as the epitome of Uzbek national identity. While the alluring persona of Timur played the role of a symbol, the production of meaning was created by Timurid architectural artefacts. As a result, the surviving Timurid monuments were hastily restored for the celebrations of Timur’s 660th birthday in 1996. In the period between the Uzbek Independence in 1991 and 2001, when the architectural centre of Samarqand was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List, some of the Timurid monuments were actually rebuilt, not restored. In this analysis, I discuss the epigraphic additions to two key Timurid monuments in Samarqand. The restorations are treated as a power tool used for the production and acceptance of history.

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