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Forced Move Puts Central Asian Library's Rare Collection At Risk

TASHKENT -- One of the most prestigious libraries in Central Asia has been forced to move, potentially endangering some of its ancient and rare documents, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The buildings housing the Alisher Navoi Library in Tashkent -- which with 10 million books in 75 different languages is among the region's largest -- were demolished on March 4. The library also has some of Central Asia's most important historical documents.

In 2003, the library lost its original building in downtown Tashkent, which was demolished to make room for a new building for the Senate, the upper chamber of the Uzbek parliament.

Officials had since moved the library to buildings vacated by the Tashkent city administration and the Committee of State Security.

Library director Malika Matmurodova told RFE/RL that the books, historical documents, and manuscripts are currently being transported to various different government buildings around the Uzbek capital.

Farida Nosirova, the chief of the library's preservation department, told RFE/RL that all the books -- especially manuscripts that are centuries old -- need to be kept under special conditions that do not exist at present.

She said there are many ancient manuscripts written in Farsi and Arabic that need extremely urgent care or they could be damaged beyond repair.

The Alisher Navoi Library was established in Tashkent in 1870 but has not functioned normally since it was moved in 2003.