For many people Tashkent might conjure up exotic images of the Central Asian steppes, others might be aware of its close proximity to the majestic ceramic tiled architecture of Samarkand, however very few would be familiar with the large Greek presence during the time it was the capital of Soviet Uzbekistan.

This happened in 1949 when 12,000 Greek Resistance fighters, the defeated of the Greek Civil War, were transported to Tashkent. They were resettled in camps, known as politeies, former POW barracks. It was supposed to be a temporary presence. The initial time horizon of a few years got extended to several decades before repatriation efforts developed momentum.

Costas Politis. Photo: Supplied

At one stage the Community approached 40,000 people, now it’s down to around 1000. Basically, those that didn’t have the resources or the connections and relationships to leave, have remained behind and have made Uzbekistan their home. It’s also a Community that’s been forgotten by the Greek State, forgotten by the Greek Left but continues to exist on the periphery of the Greek diaspora.

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Tashkent Greeks. Photo: Supplied

However, its gradual decline has been arrested by the arrival of Costas Politis, an expert conservationist and museologist, who has a track record of restoring churches, monasteries museums and other important heritage works throughout the world. A few years ago, some project work took him to Uzbekistan and he has remained there ever since.

Tashkent Greeks in traditional attire on stage. Photo: Supplied

He has made it his mission to revive the Greek presence in Tashkent through the renovation of the Community’s facilities and a developing a strong cultural program. The icing on the cake would be to have vibrant Greek language program in the future.

Politis will be in Australia next week, visiting Sydney to take part in a photographic exhibition depicting life in Tashkent’s Greek Community after the Greek Civil War period.

He will also be giving a presentation to the Greek Community of Sydney in Lakemba as part of their annual Greek Festival. His Australian visit will end in Melbourne where he’s scheduled to deliver a talk on the Greek presence in Asia at the Greek Centre on Monday 20 May, 7pm.

Costas Politis. Photo: Supplied