Uzbekistan: traditional Ethnic Festival Baisun cancelled
What information is available at this point indicates cancellation of the traditional folk festival that was to take place in the Baisun district of Uzbekistan between May 17 and 20. Moreover, the no-go directive came from the Cabinet and not from the Ministry for Culture and Athletics which would have been more logical. Whether or not the cancellation is permanent is not known at this point.
Ferghana.Ru news agency phoned Erkin Boiniyazov, the Khokim of the Baisun district, for comments but his aide announced that "the Khokim has just left" and "no, I do not know when he is expected back." The only phone of the Department of Culture of the Cabinet wouldn't be picked up. "No explanation required," Aleksei Arapov, the head of the non-government Culture and Arts Foundation Baisun and one of the organizers of the festival, said meanwhile.
Arapov's laconic response nevertheless lends an insight into what promoted the authorities to cancel the festival. "The decision was made on the level of the government, and I'm not at liberty to discuss it therefore. There is Andijan, there are certain problems the republic is facing, and all comment will be superfluous," he said.
The list of festival's organizers includes three non-government organizations: Turgun Alimatov Foundation, SMI Group, and Culture and Arts Foundation Baisun assisted by UNESCO. UNESCO always organizes seminars on preservation of cultural legacy of Uzbekistan within the framework of Baisun festivals.
The festival was cancelled but the seminar will take place all the same. Representatives of Uzbekistan and scientists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are expected but neither cultural figures nor journalists are permitted attendance.
This was to be the fifth festival in the series. First organized in 2001, it became annual in 2002 and has always been in the focus of public attention. The festival aims to revive cultural traditions, draw public attention to issues of ethnography, and promote cultural legacy of Uzbekistan in general.
"The program included folk music concerts, conferences, and performance of national rites," to quote Alisher Alimatov, Director of the Turgun Alimatov Foundation and the prominent musician's son. "Folk ensembles from Tajikistan performed at some festivals here. This year, we also expected performers from Tunisia, Mongolia, and Iraq. That would have made the festival truly international..."
According to Alimatov, even the location was chosen with care.
"The Baisun district of the Surkhandarja region is a unique mountainous area whose population retained originality and where urbanization is less progressed than elsewhere," Alimatov said. "I'd even say that the population of the district is better protected from the influence of civilization. There are lots of archaeological and architectural sites on the territory of the district."
What with the events in?Andijan last May and deterioration of the relations with the United States and Europe that followed, cancellation of a thoroughly apolitical but UN-backed festival is probably logical and should have been expected. Ilhom'XXI, a no less apolitical festival of modern music sponsored by the Soros Foundation already driven from Uzbekistan, was closed - probably for good - in April.