Since very ancient times on the territory of contemporary Uzbekistan — in Bactria, Khorezm and Fergaha — people created wonderful objects of fine and decorative/applied art, which evidenced the presence of original and distinctive regional art schools. Local artists and master craftsmen who created sculpture and terracotta, monumental painting and ivory carving, or worked on metal or crafted jewellery were exceptionally gifted and professional. In turn, the development of local art schools would have been impossible without the established system of apprenticeship. The system was based on the continuity of traditions and canonical-ism revealed in the pieces of Central Asian fine and decorative/applied art.

In the conference room of the
National Institute of Arts and
Design named after
K. Bekhzad. 2006.

In Uzbekistan the system of traditional apprenticeship, ustoz-shogird, has survived and lived to our time. Every artist, whatever his occupation might be, tried to pass on the secrets of his mastery to his followers. We have no information about the system of artistic education that existed in early historical periods and can only assume it existed on the basis of indirect evidence. Medieval period, however, left specific written sources which clearly formulate basic ethical and moral principles of the traditional apprenticeship system ustoz-shogird. We shall not stop to expound all of its postulates, which have already been studied by Uzbekistan scholars (1). We only note that nowadays the system continues through the institutions of higher artistic education in the country. Apprenticeship is the paramount condition for maintaining continuity of traditions in both decorative/applied and fine art of the region.

Towards the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries situation in the region in all spheres of artistic culture undergoes considerable changes. The traditional ustoz-shogird model is still maintained, however, alongside there emerges another system that is based on the European experience. The arrival of Russian artists to Central Asia — artists who employed European techniques in fine art — brought significant changes into the region’s culture. At the end of the 19th century, European-type schools in Tashkent taught drawing and drafting, however, specialized artistic education could be received only in Russia, where many went to for their studies. Our famous artist Aleksandr Volkov was among them. Upon his return to Tashkent in 1916, Volkov taught graphic art at people’s schools in Tashkent and drawing at the Tashkent Teachers Institute, Higher pedagogical courses and professional school of railway engineering. Besides, he organized twelve picture clubs for children in the old part of town; he managed art studio for art section instructors at the People’s Education Commission (NarKomPros) and taught at the Turkestan University and the Higher School of Arts of Turkestan Region (2).

The first steps in artistic education in Uzbekistan are also associated with the names of I. Kazakov who gave drawing lessons at a real school, S. Yudin who taught at a military school, and P. Nikiforov, and outstanding master of watercolour and landscape, who taught drawing and drafting at schools in Fergana since 1912.

At the beginning of the 20th century, art schools, studios and vocational schools began to open in Uzbekistan. In 1918 a school of art was founded in Samarqand. In 1919 in Tashkent, following the initiative of Yudin, Kazakov and Z. Chernyavskaya, the Turkestan People’ School of Art was created. Among its faculty there were famous artists such as Yudin, Kazakov, Volkov, A. Isupov and others. The program of studies was developed with the participation of S. Yudin on the basis of a standard curriculum of Russian art schools. A. Siddiki, Ruzybaev and others were among the school students. In 1921 its famous graduates V. Yeremyan and G. Nikitin went to Moscow and entered the VHUTEMAS — the Pan-Union Artistic and Technical Workshops. (3)

In 1949 the Turkestan People’ School of Art was renamed into vocational school of art named after P. Benkov (presently the Republican College of Arts), which also made a significant contribution to the development of artistic education in the country.

One has to mention great value of art schools and studios that had played an enlightening role in aesthetic education of the growing generation. Lessons given in the art schools changed people’s mentality and enhanced the status of new, emerging fine arts in Uzbekistan.

During the Second World War, Uzbekistan received thousands of people who were evacuated from Russia, including representatives of artistic intelligentsia. Owing to the fact that by that time a highly qualified cohort of pedagogues had already been formed in Tashkent, an Institute of Theatre was opened in 1944, which, due to the specificity of the synthetic art such as theatre, was also in need of scene-painters. As a result, at the Institute of Theatre an art department was opened in 1954. The Institute received a new name of the Tashkent Theatre and Arts Institute (TTAI). The curriculum of the TTAI art department was developed on the basis of Russian academic art school. During the first year of existence of the art department only 22 students were enrolled, and they comprised school graduates not only from Uzbekistan, but also from neighbouring Central Asian republics, namely Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kirgizia and Kazakhstan.

Thus, Tashkent in mid 1950s saw the founding of the only school of higher education in Central Asia where one could receive artistic education. Young people from Alma-Ata, Ashkhabad, Mary, Frunze, Dushanbe, Baku and Caucasian republics came here to study. Training and preparation of Central Asian artistic intelligentsia at the TTAI is a broad topic that deserves to be addressed separately.

The TTAI art department employed highly professional faculty who prepared future artists for independent creative work; today these artists are widely known in the region and beyond.

Worth noting is the activities of the country’s renowned artists and art historians such as O. Tatevosyan, V. Urmanchi, A. Goldrei, M. Saidov, I. Limankov, S. Abdullaev, G. Brim, V. Ryftin, T. Reshetnikova, E. Kalantarov, I. Rubin, V. Kovinin, V. Nechaev, Ch. Akhmarov, N. Shin, I. Yenin, V. Zhmakin, V. Sosedov, I. Yurovskiy, V. Parshin, D. Afuksinidi, K. Basharov, I. Grishchenko, Y. Kiselyov, N. Kuzybaev, R. Akhmedov, A. Yarovoi, N. Auchieva, M. Rakhimov, L. Rempel, L. Shostko, R. Taktash, V. Lakovskaya, R. Tagirova, I. Bulkina and many others who made an invaluable contribution to the preparation of more than one generation of professional artists and art historians on Uzbekistan.

In 1997, in keeping with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan I. Karimov, the National Institute of Art ad Design named after Kamaliddin Bekhzad (NIAD) was created on the asset base of the art department of the Tashkent Institute of Arts (former TTAI). The Bekhzad Institute is structurally the part of the system of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan that created a new multi-tier system of artistic education.

According to the national program of continuous education, the NIAD is the only school of higher education in the country that accepts graduates of three art colleges and 13 fine arts lyceums who wish to receive higher artistic education. It should be noted specifically that the backbone of pedagogues who teach in these mid-tier schools are the NIAD graduates.

NIAD, being the only institution of higher education in the sphere of the country’s artistic education, trains specialists at three levels of education: undergraduate (bachelor’s degree), graduate (master’s decree) and post-graduate (doctor’s degree).

The Institute trains specialist in 21 departments, including easel painting, sculpture, restoration of historical and cultural monuments, monumental painting, creative ceramics, book graphics, etc.; and employs over 200 pedagogues among who 19 are Academicians of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, 17 are professors and 35 associate professors.

Highly skilled faculty of the Institute conduct training sessions in keeping with requirements for school of higher education, following the National Education Programme. Well-known masters such as R. Akhmedov, B. Jalalov, J. Umarbekov, A. Mirzaev, A. Ikramjanov, V. Burmakin, S. Abdullaev, A. Mazitov, S. Rakhmetov and many others, as well as renowned scholars R. Taktash, A. Abdurazzakov, N. Abdullaev, Z. Rakhimova, G. Babajanova, A. Khakimov, N. Akhmedova, M. Yusupova and K. Akilova pass on their knowledge to the future artistic intelligentsia of Uzbekistan.

The Institute graduated several thousands of specialists in the sphere of fine and decorative/applied art, art history and design. As of today, their creative work represents fruitful result of higher artistic education in the country, being the national cultural property. Many of the Institute graduates have become widely known. Among them are B. Tomkin, R. Gagloeva, B. Babaev, L. Ryabtsev, V. Akudin, E. Aliev, M. Sadykov, Sh. Muminova, V. Burmakin, M. Tokhtaev, F. Gambarova, N. Shin, I. Shin, G. Sultanova, Sh. Abdullaeva, et al. Today quite a few Institute graduates successfully work abroad, representing the Tashkent art school in a worthy way. Among them, specifically, is Maksud Fatkhulin, Chairman of the International Federation of Artist Unions of the CIS.

The international relations of the NIAD are also quite extensive. The Institute trains foreign students, specifically from South Korea, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The students of the Institute do their studies on a temporary basis at schools in other countries, including Italy.

The Institute has established regular contacts with several foreign schools of higher education, specifically with the Heluan University (Egypt), the Soka and Kobe University (Japan), University Kyong Hi (Korea) and Krefeld University of Applied Art (Germany).

Graduates of the Bekhzad National Institute of Art and Design, who acquired different professions of artists and designers, aspire to make their creative work a national asset and to make pieces of art they create become part of the world’s finest museum and private collections.


  1. Акилова К. Народное декоративно-прикладное искусство Узбекистана. ХХ век. Ташкент, 2005.
  2. Земская М. Александр Волков (Мастер «Гранатовой чайханы»). М.,1975.
  3. Искусство Советского Узбекистана 1917-1972. М.,1976.

Gulsara Babajanova