The Namangan Flower Festival attracts thousands of visitors each year, but the spectacular, storied event remains little-known beyond the Ferghana Valley.
This Uzbek man is preparing for the opening of one of Uzbekistan’s most charming yet least-known cultural events.
The Namangan Flower Festival has been held in Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley every year since 1961 -- except for 2020 due to the pandemic.
The festival traditionally opens with a parade of cars covered in fresh flowers. The fragrant convoy drives into the center of Namangan, where the festivities kick off.
Celebrated Uzbek photographer Anzor Bukharsky took these images of this year’s festival, which began amid stormy weather on May 22 and runs through June 5.
Bukharsky says he only heard about the obscure festival by chance shortly before it began. The photographer and a journalist friend, Timur Nimanov, “immediately” jumped into a car to make the five-hour journey there from Tashkent.
Bukharsky says the crowded, rain-soaked scene above highlighted a hunger for public celebrations, saying, “Uzbeks are not indifferent to such events; they want spectacles.”
As with most Uzbek public events, the festival is heavily policed. Bukharsky says that from what he could see, however, the officers at the festival were “very discreet, thank God.”
According to Uzbek media, Namangan has been known for its flower production since the 1700s. Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley is a lush, fertile region of the largely arid country.
Timur Nimanov, the journalist who traveled with Bukharsky, says last year's event was opened by an official who noted that while "many countries organize military parades in order to demonstrate their power, we hold flower festivals -- symbols of peace, love, and peaceful development."
Today, such a statement about military parades might be seen as politicized in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This year no comparisons were drawn to other countries' tastes in public events.
For Bukharsky, the greatest surprise is how little is known about the Namangan Flower Festival, especially outside Uzbekistan. He said he hopes his photo documentation of the charming event can help raise its profile at a time when positive news is in short supply.
"Flowers will save the world," he told RFE/RL.