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Director of Uzbekistan’s Savitsky Art Museum Abruptly Fired

The flag of Uzbekistan.

The flag of Uzbekistan.

Marinika Babanazarova, the director of the Savitsky Art Museum (also known as the Karakalpak State Art Museum) in Nukus, Uzbekistan, has been let go by the local government for unspecified reasons, the BBC has reported. Babanazarova, who has served as the museum’s head since 1984, told the news organization that the decision came as a huge shock, and said she believed that it was part of “an attempt to discredit the museum’s leadership. Someone just wants to remove me.”

Babanazarova believes that her termination is related to unfounded accusations that she took original paintings in the museum and replaced them with forgeries. Members of museum staff have released a statement protesting the government’s decision—a risky stand to take in Uzbekistan, the article notes, where opposition against the government is not permitted. Their letter affirms their faith in Babanazarova’s honesty, and states that the paintings in question are—and have always been—“safe and sound.”

At the end of the statement, the staff asks that the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Uzbekistan take the following measures to rectify the situation:

[translated]

1: Set the identity of the author of the defamatory letter [accusing Babanazarova of theft and forgery].
2: Make the slanderer accountable.
3: Speaking in the media denied.
4: Arrange an investigation into the violation of procedures for checking the inventory of museums and help in the organization of the expert committee for the proceedings in the charge of the museum in the substitution and stealing of artefacts from the museum’s collection.

The full text of the letter follows below.

The staff of the Museum of Arts named after Savitsky are deeply outraged by the slanderous letter published in the foreign media. All the facts stated in this letter are untrue. The people who wrote it, cynically and shamelessly defiled the good name of our leader – Marinika Babanazarova, desecrated the memory of her husband Damir Babanazarov, and grossly misrepresented the facts of the inventory checks. Moreover, who gave the author of this vile lie the right to write a letter hiding behind “on behalf of the guardians” of the funds of the museum named after I. V. Savitsky? We, the keepers of the funds and the entire staff of the museum, claim that M. M. Babanazarova is a worthy successor to I. V. Savitsky, who preserved the priceless art collection in its entirety and, Savitsky museum’s collection passed into the hands of the daughter of the man who helped Savitsky almost from the first days of his stay in the land of Karakalpakstan – Academician Marat Nurmukhamedova. M. M. Babanazarova is the granddaughter of the first president of Karakalpakia –  Koptleu Nurmukhamedov. Now judge for yourself whether the offspring of a  true patriot of the Karakalpak land could afford to stoop in order to sell what belongs to its people, the homeland of her ancestors? For her, it would be to betray the memory of the founder of the museum – I. V. Savitsky.

The keepers of the museum with full confidence take responsibility to assert that the entire collection is intact.

According to the instructions on registration and storage, each of the 6 museum funds is  designated to a particular custodian who is liable for the fund entrusted to him for storage. At the same time the Director of the museum does not have access to any of the funds. The same applies to the expositions. There have been no cases of violation of this right by the Director – the expositions are sealed nightly by the chief curator or the Fund’s custodian.

The museum staff in no way doubt the decency of the Director, Marinika Babanazarova. At the head of the team are people who have worked with I. V. Savitsky for many years and have worked hard to bring the huge collection collected by him in order. There is the belief, that there are people that it benefits to discredit the good name of the Director of the museum and its staff now, when the collection of the Museum of Arts named after Savitsky gained world fame.

The museum staff ask the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Uzbekistan to deal with the situation as follows:-

1: Set the identity of the author of the defamatory letter.
2: Make the slanderer accountable.
3: Speaking in the media denied.
4: Arrange an investigation into the violation of procedures for checking the inventory of museums and help in the organization of the expert committee for the proceedings in the charge of the museum in the substitution and stealing of artefacts from the museum’s collection.

Update, 7 p.m.: Because of an editing error, this article’s display copy previously misstated the location of the Savitsky Art Museum. It is in Uzbekistan, not Ukraine.

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