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The official Seattle-Tashkent sister-city relationship was established in 1973 but was preceded by book exchanges and other ties that began in 1961 between the University of Washington and academic institutions in Tashkent. Professor Ilse Cirtautas of the University of Washington Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization taught the Uzbek language at the University of Washington starting in 1968 and made annual visits to Tashkent, developing a variety of academic exchanges. Professor Edwin Hewitt, UW Department of Mathematics, established contacts at Tashkent State University in the early 1970s.
March 1972: President Richard Nixon announced he would travel to Moscow in May. Mayor Uhlman wrote a letter to Tashkent Mayor Husnitdin Asamov to propose that Seattle and Tashkent establish the first US-Soviet sister-city relationship.
May 1972: Professor Ilse Cirtautas traveled to Tashkent to do research at the Academy of Sciences. She surprised the Uzbeks with her familiarity with the Uzbek language and customs. While in Tashkent, she met with the deputy director of the Uzbek Friendship Society, who discussed the possibility of the sister-city relationship with her. After her return to Seattle, Professor Cirtautas learned that in November of that year Tashkent had accepted Seattle as its sister city. She met with Mayor Uhlman, who emphasized the importance of assembling a Seattle-Tashkent sister-city committee.
November 1972: The new Tashkent mayor, Vahid Kazimov, sent a letter agreeing to Mayor Uhlman’s proposal.
March 3, 1973: The first meeting of the “Tashkent Seattle Town Affiliation” (the original name of the organization) was held, with businessman Hugh Smith as chairman and Professor Cirtautas as the first appointed member of a 23-member committee.
June 1973: Chairman Hugh Smith and John Chambers, deputy mayor of Seattle, visited Tashkent, where they signed, together with Mayor Kazimov, a document called the “Joint Communique”—a formal, bilingual acknowledgement of the Seattle-Tashkent sister-city relationship and pledge for future cooperation.
September 1974: Professor Cirtautas traveled to Tashkent and proposed an agreement between Tashkent State University and the University of Washington.
July 1974: Mayor Kazimov and a small delegation of public officials and academicians from Tashkent visited Seattle. Tashkent Park in Capitol Hill in Seattle was dedicated during the delegation’s visit.
January 1978: Newly-elected Seattle mayor, Charles Royer, appointed Rosanne Royer and Bill Vernon as co-chairs of the committee. Royer and Vernon, and later Virginia Westberg, who succeeded Vernon, together served 12 years as chairs of the Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Committee. In light of the difficulty in arranging exchanges, the Committee dedicated itself to improving public awareness of Tashkent and Uzbekistan.
December 1979: The Soviets began deployment of troops to Afghanistan, causing President Carter to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympic Games and several US cities to sever ties with their Soviet sister cities. Despite criticism from numerous factions in Seattle, the Seattle-Tashkent Association voted to follow sister city principles and maintain its relationship with Tashkent.
1983: The STSCA endorsed and assisted Target Seattle’s visit to Tashkent. Preceding the delegation’s trip, Target Seattle sponsored nine days of community discussions on Soviet life and US-USSR relations. In Tashkent the delegation distributed hundreds of pages of signatures calling for friendship between the two nations, laying a significant foundation for the new relations that would come with Gorbachev’s movement of new openness, glasnost.
September 1985: Tashkent Mayor Shukurulla Mirsayidov visited an astonished Seattle with the largest Soviet sister-city delegation ever to come to the United States. The visit symbolized the new openness and set off an explosion of activities and exchanges. These included a mountaineers’ exchange, an amputee soccer program, a communications (print and electronic media) exchange, a chefs’ exchange, a cinematographers’ exchange, classical folk dance and music exchanges, human potential seminars, a Jewish-community exchange, a fine-arts photographic exchange, a graphic art exchange, a legal exchange, middle school/high school exchanges, a paired hospital project, classical and rock ‘n’ roll music exchanges, physicians’ exchanges, an exchange of sculptures for our parks, and a summer youth camp exchange.
April 1986: Rosanne Royer was the keynote speaker at the first US-Soviet Sister City Conference, held in Boulder, Colorado. Seattle was recognized as having a model sister city program, and many groups around the US sought the advice of the Seattle-Tashkent Committee in establishing their own US-USSR pairings.
May 1987: The Second US-Soviet Sister City Conference was held in Seattle with 300 delegates from 101 cities in attendance. The mayors of Vilnius, Baku, Odessa, and Tashkent were present. Tashkent Mayor Mirsayidov reviewed the evolving design for the Tashkent Peace Park to be built by Seattle and other US-based volunteers. The conference sparked criticism and demonstrations from members of Seattle’s Jewish community objecting to Soviet emigration policies.
June-September 1988: Friendship Park (Seattle-Tashkent Peace Park) was constructed on a one-and-a-half-acre plot in downtown Tashkent. Hundreds of volunteers from Washington State and 10 other US states participated in this unprecedented project, initiated and managed by Ploughshares (an organization of returned Peace Corps volunteers), and co-sponsored by the STSCA and other organizations.
May 1989: Tashkent hosted the Third International Soviet-American Sister City Conference, and Mayor Charles Royer and Rosanne Royer led a large delegation to Tashkent to attend the conference.
1990: Professor Aldon Bell was elected president of the Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association, with Virginia Westberg continuing as vice-president. Dr. Rosh Doan and his family moved to Tashkent to work on a WHO hepatitis vaccine program supported by the City of Tashkent.
August 31, 1991: The Parliament of Uzbekistan adopted the Declaration of the State Independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan to secede from the Soviet Union. This decision was supported by referendum on December 29, 1991.
March 15, 1992: The US Embassy in Tashkent opened its doors and began daily operations.
March 1998: The first true Navruz celebration was held by the STSCA. It was a small celebration with only the Board and members invited. Traditional Uzbek dishes were made (prepared by Murad Yunusov and Lydia Barrett), including sumalak.
June 2002: Gary Furlong, who had served nine terms as president of the STSCA, was approved by the US State Department as Honorary Consul General for Uzbekistan. Concurrently, the State Department approved the establishment of the Consulate General in Seattle with responsibility for six Western states.
Since Uzbekistan’s declaration of independence, official US-Uzbekistan exchange programs have had a special emphasis on business-development and social services, including a dentists’ exchange, a domestic-violence-prevention training program, an English Language Resource Center development, orphanage support, a public-administration internship, and teacher exchanges. A special long-term support program in Seattle for an accident victim from Tashkent epitomized the commitment to friendship between the two cities.
March 2004: In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Seattle-Tashkent relationship, and of Navruz (the Persian New Year), the STSCA organized a delegation to Tashkent. As guests of Tashkent’s Mayor, Mr. Rustam Shoabdurahmanov, the members of the March delegation stayed in the Mayor’s official guesthouse and enjoyed generous Uzbek hospitality. The mayor’s office organized a rich program that included visits to Tashkent’s neighborhoods (mahallas) to join Tashkent’s citizens in celebrating the New Year and the beginning of spring. To commemorate the cities’ 30-year relationship, the STSCA presented two pieces of art by Seattle artists—a framed piece of calligraphy symbolizing peace with a congratulatory plate attached, and a vessel made by a local potter. The STSCA also presented a letter of congratulations to Mayor Shoabdurahmanov from Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and a proclamation from the Seattle City Council to the City of Tashkent. In addition, the STSCA hosted a dinner at the recently remodeled Hotel Uzbekistan for officials in the City of Tashkent Municipality, as well as other officials.
The delegation was diverse, including educators, a calligraphy artist, a potter, a graduate student from the University of Washington Central Asian Studies program, and an orphan-project director. Issues of focus for the delegation were education, health care, the arts, and women’s and children’s issues. Participants visited orphanage #24, where they presented seven boxes of toys, clothing, and books collected by Orphan Care for Central Asia (known as Partnership for Healthy Children in Uzbekistan). They also visited a school for the deaf and three lycees, including lycee #17, with which the STSCA has had a long-standing relationship. The delegates were guests at a cultural university for students interested in learning theater production and traditional Uzbek music in preparation for national cultural events, and were treated to a concert of traditional instruments and vocal music by students from the institute affiliated with the Music Conservatory. They also visited a sports stadium, a clinic, a hospital, a planetarium, the Writers Union of Uzbekistan, and met with the Deputy Mayor in charge of the Department of Economics and with an Uzbek potter.
December 2004: Two STSCA members, each representing one of the STSCA’s partner organizations–Orphan Care for Central Asia and Accent on Understanding, an international teacher exchange organization–flew to Tashkent on the delivery flight of a new Boeing 767-33P(ER), courtesy of Uzbekistan Airways and the Boeing Company. Thanks to the generosity of the national airline and Boeing, the group was able to ship large numbers of scholarly books donated for a new UW research center in Tashkent, as well as cases of clothes, toys, and other items for Tashkent orphanages. The Accent group visited Tashkent for meetings with representatives of secondary schools about future cooperation and teacher exchanges.
November 2005: Akhror Rakhmendov, the Uzbek youth brought to Seattle by the STSCA for facial reconstruction in 1987, was chosen to be the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary called “Super Humans.” TLC America sent a Toronto film crew to Seattle to film the story of Akhror’s life in Tashkent, his accident, how he came to America for surgeries, and what he was doing at the time the film was made. STSCA members contributed to the story with on-camera interviews, photos, video images, and stories.
2006: 2006 was a quiet year for the STSCA due to the crisis in Andijan, Uzbekistan. Strained relationships between the US and Uzbekistan resulted in little measurable activity between our cities. The STSCA focused its efforts on strengthening relations with Uzbekistan and within the local community by reaching out to Central Asians living in the Pacific Northwest.
March 2008: In early March, the Association hosted 11 educators from throughout Central Asia who were attending the International Association conference in Seattle for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). The delegation enjoyed cultural, professional, and social events, and the STSCA provided home-hosting during their stay. The STSCA worked closely with the American embassy in Tashkent to provide this program.
Board members Dilbar Akhmedova was invited to speak at a Rotary business luncheon about dress requirements of Muslim women in Uzbekistan. The Seattle Rotary is the largest Rotary in the US, and her speech was extremely well-received by the very large audience.
March 2008: Ilkhom Theater, the internationally reknowned theater company from Tashkent, was brought to Seattle through a partnership between ACT Theater and the STSCA. The STSCA helped support ACT through social activities, voluntary interpreters, outings, and publicity.
April 2008: On April 5, we held a very successful 35th-anniversary celebration at Roosevelt High School of the sister city relationship. 200 people attended. The keynote speakers were former mayors of Seattle Wes Uhlman and Charles Royer, Ambassador Abdulaziz Kamilov, and many STSCA members, including those involved in the Peace Park in Tashkent, as well as former STSCA president, Rosanne Royer. The event also raised thousands of dollars for the STSCA.
August 2008: A delegation of 16 people went to Uzbekistan. Seattle City Councilmember Jan Drago and former Mayor Wes Uhlman were the delegation leaders. STSCA President Dan Peterson coordinated all the activities with the delegation leaders. The official delegation activities in Tashkent took place from August 28-September 2. The delegation participated in a meeting with the mayor of Tashkent, multiple dinners, cultural events, school visits, an orphanage visit (with Medical Teams International), and a huge anniversary celebration at the Mayor’s residence. The delegation members were also official guests of President Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan, at the 17th anniversary celebration of Uzbekistan’s independence. In addition, meetings on an alternative energy grant were held with the Ministry of Economics.
December 2008: From December 7-11 we hosted a 16-member delegation that arrived from Tashkent, which included Deputy Mayor Shamurat Muhamedjanov. The ambassador to the US, Ambassador Abdulaziz Kamilov, also came with 2 of his staff as part of the delegation. The delegation met with City of Seattle officials from the City Light, Water, and Waste Management/Recycling departments. Ms. Jan Drago also presented on transportation planning in the Seattle area. The delegation members also met with business people through the assistance of the Trade Development Alliance. They also went to many cultural sites and community colleges. The highlight of the visit included a large anniversary celebration with speeches, dinner, and many performers, including a Native American group that was a huge success. We also organized a dinner potluck that included holiday singing, which was very well-received by the delegation.
April 2009: The STSCA sent a personal letter of condolences to the family of former Tashkent Mayor Azimov, who in 1973 helped found the STSCA. He had recently passed away, and we wanted to recognize his accomplishments and express our appreciation for him to his family.
July 2009: Two outstanding ceramic artists, Mr. Rustam Usmanov and Mr. Damir Usmanov, came to Seattle, sponsored by the STSCA in partnership with Pottery Northwest. The artists participated in two homestays, and they conducted demonstrations at Pottery NW and for our membership. We also held a very well-attended reception for them.
May 2010: The STSCA sponsored a special visit by the new Uzbek Ambassador to the US, His Excellency Ilhom Nematov. He met with Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire and spoke at the University of Washington as part of an event co-sponsored by the STSCA with the Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies department at the University of Washington. The Amabassador also met privately with the board of the STSCA. He spoke of our long friendship and future exchanges. It was again a very quiet year for the STSCA in terms of exchanges with the Uzbek government, due to lingering conflicts between the US and Uzbek governments. As part of a visit sponsored by Medical Teams International in Portland, a group of Uzbek physicians visited Seattle hospitals and emergency response providers.
2011: This was another quiet year overall; the sixth annual Navruz celebration was held in March and continued to grow, with over 150 people in attendance. The STSCA also sponsored a visit by the Uzbekistan Ambassador to the United Nations, who met privately with the board.
2012: Navruz continued to expand, with more than 225 people in attendance. In September the Voice of America planned and conducted a very special series ob the history and current activities of the STSCA. Their lead Central Asian journalist, Ms. Navbahor Imamova, came to Seattle from Washington, DC and conducted interviews with STSCA co-presidents Diana Pearce and Dan Peterson, former Mayor Wes Uhlman, City Councilmember Sally Clark, and many board members. The STSCA completed a formal agreement with the Academy of Sciences to establish an International Library in Tashkent. The Academy of Sciences will work with the Ministry of the Interior to complete the agreement on the Uzbekistan side.
The Seattle Asian Art Museum along with the MIR tavel company in Seattle organized the “Colors of the Oasis” exhibit on ikat fabrics and the history of ikat. It was an extremely successful exhibit. The grand opening was held on March 14 with speakers Mayor Mike McGinn of Seattle and the Uzbek Ambassador Ilhom Nematov.
May 2012: The STSCA organized homestays for the Silk Road Dance Company (Laurel Gray, Director) during its performances in Seattle.
March 2013: The eighth annual Navruz celebration was held at North Seattle Community College with 300 people in attendance. The guest speakers were Mayor Mike McGinn, City Council President Sally Clark, and other dignitaries. A very special delegation of journalists from Uzbek NTT television attended Navruz. Their visit to the US was sponsored by a State Department grant. Our Navruz celebration will be broadcast in Uzbekistan.
June 2013: 40th Anniversary Celebration: A delegation came to Seattle from Tashkent led by Deputy Mayor Berdibekov and External Relations staff Firuza Khodjaeva along with 11 other officials and an Uzbek embassy representative. They met with the Trade Development Alliance, Seattle city officials, and the Seattle city council, which presented them with an official Proclamation of Seattle-Tashkent Day in Seattle. We held a large dinner reception honoring the delegation and planted bulbs in Tashkent Park to recognize our 40 years of friendship. It was an extremely successful exchange that was reciprocated in Tashkent in August.
August 2013: 40th Anniversary Celebration: A delegation of 10 people from Seattle, led by City Council Member Jean Godden along with STSCA co-president Diana Pearce, arrived in Tashkent for three days of official activities. They attended many functions, including a visit to the Peace Park and meetings with Mayor Rahmonbek Usmanov and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. The visit was extremely successful with many plans for follow-up exchanges.
January-December, 2014: The STSCA held its 16th annual Navruz celebration in March attended by 350 people. It was a huge success. The annual picnic in September was very successful with over 150 people. A delegation of businesswomen and teachers were supposed to come to Seattle, after many months of work with the City of Tashkent, but unfortunately it did not receive final approval.
January-December, 2015: The 17th annual Navruz celebration was held in March at North Seattle Community College. Over 400 people attended, leading to a search for a larger facility for the planned 2016 celebration. The magazine ARAMCO World News worked on an article regarding the STSCA for many months, including a two-week guided visit to Uzbekistan for the reporter and photojournalist. The annual picnic was held in September attended by almost 250 people. Planning began for the 45th anniversary of STSCA in the year 2018.
1973: Hugh Smith
1978: Rosanne Royer, Bill Vernon, Virginia Westberg
1990: Aldon Bell
1992: David Endicott
1993: Gary Furlong
1994: Rosh Doan
1995: Gary Furlong
1997: Joanne Young
1998-2003: Gary Furlong
2004: George Wright
2006: Dan Peterson
2009: Diana Pearce
2011: Diana Pearce/Dan Peterson
2013-2015: Dan Peterson
2015-2016: Samantha Paxton/Shakhida Ismailova
2017-2018: Lola Zakharova/Shakhida Ismailova
2019-Present: Shakhida Ismailova/Shoshana Billik