The third panel portrays another young man encircled by firebirds or a simurg bird, as it is often referred to in Persian literature. The young man is portrayed with an outstretched arm and a bird landing on his arm. Besides this bird, two others can be noticed. The entire mosaic is complemented by multiple floral and geometric decorations in orange-blue tones. A former kindergartener said kids used to call this mosaic “Boy with a firebird in his hand” in the 1990s.
It’s hard to tell where this mosaic’s picture comes from. Bird images are used in the mythologies of many peoples around the world. Some of the many pictures of the sacred bird are ancient Greek phoenix, Chinese fen-huang, Arab ruh, Russian firebird, and the ancient Iranian simurg. The picture of the simurg fiery bird in Tajik folklore originated from Shahname, written in the 11th century by Firdousi. Legend has it that an enormous bird discovered baby Zāl (alternatively spelled Zaul) in the desert and fed him in her nest. And this same bird also helps another protagonist in his difficulties – Rustam. Firdousi borrowed from Zoroastrianism the image of a bird that refers to the sacred bird that guards the mountain, and is one of the symbols of Zoroastrianism.
There are stories in Tajik folklore where Simurg’s picture is portrayed. For instance, “Eraj the hero and Simurg” or “Halim the hero and the bird Simurg” speak of a bird coming to help in difficult times. Bird has a positive image in the Tajik-Iranian tradition, and birds often protect and favour individuals. In this mosaic, the Tajik artist I asked to share his view, saw the picture of the Humo bird, another name for Simurg, prevalent in Central Asia, particularly in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Humo is known as the bird of happiness. According to legend, as the artist told us, if this bird’s shadow lies on the house, wealth will come to this house, and it will bring happiness where it flies.
As Larisa Dodkhudoeva, a Tajik art critic, observed: “These stories were about promoting our national culture.” Indeed, in the Soviet monumental art of 70s and 80s we can see that there is often a reflection of a specific culture pertaining to any given Soviet country where the art was placed. And as is frequently observed in science circles, the mosaics were of an ideological nature, and indeed they were aimed at supporting Soviet-era ideals and values. At first sight, this mosaic does not seem to have an ideological element, as its plot is taken from normal children’s fairy tales, and the concept of placing it on the walls of a kindergarten consisted solely of offering the kindergarten’s gray buildings aesthetics and joyful look. But if you look carefully at the pictures of the depicted heroes and the shift in traditional concepts about Tajik society’s masculine and female values, then we can suppose that these heroes served as role models for kids who affected and shaped future Soviet citizens ‘ identities.
"Ҷавон бо парандаҳо"
Мактаби 81, кӯчаи Шамсӣ 73/5