On 10 December 2021, the Hermitage Theatre was the venue for an event marking the 80th Anniversary of the festive conference devoted to Alisher Navoi held in the Hermitage on 10 December 1941, during the total siege of Leningrad, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the great Uzbek poet’s birth.

The conference devoted to Navoi (like the event in honour of Nizami held slightly earlier, in October 1941) aimed to demonstrated the greatness of the peoples of the East who had once been part of the Russian Empire and now belonged to the Soviet Union. This period saw the formation of national consciousness among the peoples of the East, among the manifestations of which was the establishment of the Hermitage’s Department of the East and the holding in the museum in 1935 of an International Congress on Iranian Art and Archaeology – an incredibly significant event for the history of Oriental studies, both in this country and worldwide.

Opening the evening event, Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage, said that the meeting in beleaguered Leningrad took place, as Boris Borisovich Piotrovsky recalled, on the day when the trams stopped running, under extremely difficult circumstances. It was a very important event for the life and history of the museum. During the Great Patriotic War, in a Leningrad encircled by enemies, the staff of the Hermitage continued to work and, thanks to that, survived. They worked for the future, and what they accomplished did indeed have an effect on the future.

In his speech, Firdavs Fridunovich Abdukhalikov, chairman of the board of the Worldwide Society for the Study, Preservation and Popularization of the Cultural Heritage of Uzbekistan, spoke about Alisher Navoi’s significance as a man of peace, expressing ideas of humanism and righteousness.

Scholarly presentations followed, devoted to the collections of the museum and other Saint Petersburg institutions that are connected with Navoi and his era. In his contribution, Anton Dmitriyevich Pritula of the State Hermitage’s Department of the East spoke about Herat, Navoi’s native city, and the Hermitage exhibits that come for there. The presentation by Olga Valentinovna Vasilyeva (National Library of Russia) was devoted to manuscripts of Navoi’s works in Saint Petersburg collections.

Finally, some of Alisher Navoi’s ghazals were performed by Munojat Yo’lchiyeva to an accompaniment played on traditional instruments. Russian translations of the ghazals were recited by Polina Liubimova of the State Hermitage’s Department for Scientific and Educational Work.

In memory of the conference held 80 years ago, some porcelain pieces were put on show in the Hermitage Theatre that had been made in the Leningrad Porcelain Factory in 1941 and painted by Mikhail Mokh with subjects inspired by Navoi’s works, as well as a printed wartime bulletin ( Boevoi listok) of the period that included Boris Borisovich Piotrovsky’s report about the conference.