In 2009 the Embassy of France in the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan announced a contest for the creation of a memorial plaque to be installed in the burial place of renowned French traveller and explorer Joseph Martin and his bust for the installation in a school of his name in Fergana.
In June 2009 Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to the Republic of Uzbekistan Hugues Pernet at the meeting with Tursunali Kuziev, Chair of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, noted specifically that in view of the great mastery of Uzbek sculptors, whose works are represented by sculpture images of their famous ancestors, historical personalities, poets and scholars, such as Navoi, Beruni, Farabi et al, which adorn not only the cities in their home country, but also the capitals of many foreign nations (Japan, Russia, China, Azerbaijan, Egypt), it was decided to commission them to recreate the image of Joseph Martin. The only picture of him that has survived till present day is a drawing.
The results of the contest where the jury reviewed 40 projects became known on the 14th of November 2009. A delegation from the City Hall of Vienne, Joseph Martin’s home town, arrived to participate in the review. Secrete vote identified the winners of the contest. The jury unanimously chose Azamat Khatamov for the bas-relief, and Ulugbek Atanazarov for the bust of Joseph Martin. A special award from the Vienne City Hall was given to Damir Ruzibaev. The contest winners have been invited to visit France and the city of Vienne in 2010 to be introduced to the finest specimens of French art and share experience with colleagues.
After the contest was over, the French delegation was received by the Mayor of Fergana who was given a memorial medal of Vienne. The conversation concerned the specificities of Vienne and Fergana and the areas of envisaged cooperation. The French delegation visited the Fergana school named after Joseph Martin, which was a venue for a seminar on continuous education organized by French Embassy for French language teachers from Fergana, Namangan and Andijan Provinces. Joseph Martin’s compatriots and the Mayor of Fergana visited an old Christian cemetery where the famous traveler is buried, and placed a wreath on his grave.
Who is Joseph Martin and why is he given all this attention? In the French city of Vienne, between Cuver Street and Roman Bridge there is Joseph Martin Street. One of its houses has a memorial plague with an inscription saying, «Here, on the 15th of August 1848 Joseph Napoleon Martin was born, a traveller who died in New Margilan in Turkistan on May 23, 1892». This inscription is a tribute that the residents of Vienne pay to the memory of one of their sons.
Joseph Napoleon Martin is a French traveller, explorer and promoter of science. In 1870s Joseph Martin, a railway engineer by profession, came to Russia and participated in the 1877-1879 war between Russia and Turkey, and for his engineering work near the town of Pleven was awarded the II Degree Stanislav Order. After the war was over, he went to Siberia, exploring gold-fields there. The harsh land charmed the Frenchman and he spent about three years there, travelling down River Ob’, Altai and Lake Baikal regions, learning about the mineral wealth of Stanovoi Ridge; he also visited Ussuriyskiy Krai and Korea. He authored many remarkable notes on geology and geography of Siberia.
In late 1882 Joseph Martin returns to Russia. This time the route he followed was a difficult one — no one ventured there before: from Baikal to the tributes of River Lena and across the Stanovoi Ridge, and on to Shilka in the Amur River basin. He covered the distance of 2500 verst (1 versta = 3500 ft.), collected a lot of valuable data and materials and made a detailed description of trails and mountain passes — an invaluable contribution to the mapping of Eastern Siberia. In early 1886, from Albazin-on-Amur, Martin reached St. Petersburg by sea. In the same year he was awarded two orders and a gold medal of the Russian Geographic Society.
Back home in Vienne, where Martin spends six subsequent months, new plans are conceived. In 1888 he approached the Russian Geographic Society with a request to support his journey to North-Western Krai (region) and Tibet. A desire to follow the route of Marko Polo, the Italian, captivated the explorer. That was to be his last journey. Martin left St. Petersburg, heading for Beijing via Siberia. In September 1998, starting from Beijing, he reached Lanzhou. While travelling, he contracted malaria and barely made it to Suzhou, where he met a famous traveller G. E. Grum-Grzhimailo who offered Martin to join his expedition, but the latter decided to go through Lob Norna Hotan, to repeat the route of Marco Polo. Martin did reach Hotan, but his disease became acute, and he, exhausted and almost blind, barely made it to New Margilan (presently Fergana). There he was taken to an army hospital where he died on the 23rd of May 1892. The entire city, lead by the governor, came to his funeral. Obituaries were published in Turkestanskie Vedomosti paper.
…In 1970 Jean Daniel Berge, a researcher and historian from Vienne and a patriot of his home town, visited Fergana to see the tomb of his fellow-countryman, the renowned explorer of Asia. At that time few people knew about Joseph Martin. Today, many books and articles are written about him, and a secondary school No. 3 in Fergana, where the curriculum is focused on intensive learning of French language, has his name.
By Yulduz Mirkhurozova