Painter and botanist Olga Mizgiyova discovers new plant 80 years ago

That day in September 1938 was the same like any other bright, crystal clear and warm day of colourful days of the autumn in Kara-Kala. These days were exactly the same centuries ago and would be the same after if it was not one circumstance, which made this day important, having given its place in the history to this day. Young woman was walking along Sumbar Valley, which spread the foothills of Wester Kopetdag Mountains, on that day. She had a rucksack on her back, planchette with paper and pencils on her side and wore wide-brimmed straw hat. It was hard to suspected her as a tourist enjoying unbelievable surrounding landscapes. She was walking purposefully to the foothill of Syunt Rock looking around the plants meeting on her way with keen interest. The woman was botanist, laboratory specialists of Kara-Kala Research Station and she was looking for her mysterious grass 'selmelek', which local shepherds was talking about. Finally, she noticed what she was looking for � it was beautiful decorative bush with one meter leaves laying on the ground like the burdock. Having looked around the finding, the woman froze from unexpectedness, surprise and excitement. After, she carefully dug out the bush with long root, put it into rucksack and went back. It was Olga Mizgiryova, the botanist.

If you ever visit Turkmen State Visual Art Museum, undoubtedly your attention will be attracted by several picturesque canvas with bright names The Heat, Turkmen Girls, The Art of Carpet Making, Four Wives among other works of outstanding artists. This is the poetry of paints of paints of the poetry. The works gives untraceable feeling of charm, which goes direct into the soul. This is probably because the hand of the artist was guided by loving heart. They are filled with light and kindness. It seems that these pictures was made by mature artists and it is hard to imagine that it was painted by young girl, small and slim as a tree branch. Her name is Olga Mizgiryova.

She was born in Tashkent in 1908 but spent all her life in Turkmenistan, which became her native home forever. Since she first touched the paper and draw her first pattern, she never left pencils, brushes and paints. Her passion to painting brought her, 12 �year old girl, to Oriental Arts School in Ashgabat. From the very first days, Olga was one of the most talented students of the school. This was the place where her talent has been revealed. After people will say that she was at the origin of Turkmen painting art.

Olaga Mizgiryova used the subjects for her works from life, which surrounded and was close to her. Young artist studied ornamental art of Turkmen people � the patterns of gowns, embroideries, carpets. There was something from the ligature of Teke carpets. She has listened to Turkmen legends and reflected them in her graphic works The Legend of Creek, The Legend of Nohur Chynar. Her best graphics is The Legend of Cuckoo. This is touchy and lyrical story of young shepherd who missed two horses in the herd and was turned into the cuckoo by God from the mercy. The child could not forget his problem and every since keeps repeating Iki at yok, iki at yok, which is translated as 'not have two horses'.

Olga Mizgiryova, whose works are in the golden fund of Turkmen painting art, undoubtedly could become great artist but.. Human fate is unpredictable and once all of the sudden, she put away the canvases and paints, pencils and brushes not to come back ever to them again. Talented artist, which flew like fire comet across the sky of art, suddenly disappeared from the horizon. Her works were not demonstrated at the exhibitions anymore.

In 1934, Olga Mizgiryova was sent to Turkmen Research Station of the All-Union Institute of Plants to Kara-Kala by the order of Turkmen State Publishing Service to make pictures of the plants for learning manuals. Work of the station were so interesting for her that after coming back to Ashgabat, Mizgiryova submitted her resignation and went back to Kara-Kala to live the rest of her life there. She came back not only to the station and its personnel who amazed her with their passion to necessary and interested work, she came back to the origins of her childhood, which went in these beautiful places. Here, she heard for the first time the sound of carpet machines, saw rhythmic waves of carpet makers hands, whose patterns would be reflected later at her canvas and memorized their song, which the sang while working Garrygala myhman bolsun (When you come to Kara-Kala, the mountains will hug you). Here, She heard neard national legends about the creek, chinar and poor shepherd.

Lately, when Olga Mizgiryova was asked why she left the painting, she answered that having touched surrounding world and realized its magnificence and eternity, she did not want just to copy the nature but wanted to serve to it. That is why she started her life from the beginning and never regretted about her decision. The nature became her artistic studio. People say that there was some personal and sad reason for her intentional ????????????? seclusion these are just guesses.

Having settled herself in Kara-Kala, Mizgiryova was working as laboratory assistant for the start. At the same time, she realized that serving the nature requires not only the passion and hard work but also deep knowledge. In 1940, she started distant learning at Michurin Fruit and Vegetable Institute in Moscow and during the war, when the department was closed, she transferred to Turkmen Agricultural Institute in Ashgabat. By the time she graduated, Olga Mizgiryova has already worked as the Director of research station

Mizgiryova has already understood that the bush she found at the foothill of Syunt Rock on that autumn day is that mysterious 'selmelsek', which Kara-Kala residents treat with great respect saying 'give the fruits of 'selmelsek' to a person you wish the goodness'. However, her hypothesis required scientific confirmation. Olga Mizgiryova sent the plant to the All-Union Institute of Plant Growing in Leningrad for the confirmation of her proposal. Scientists from Leningrad did not believe to unfamiliar laboratory assistant from Kara-Kala (No way!) and were not able to identify the class of plant as it was not known up that day in the flora of USSR and neighbouring countries. It took long time for them to understand what they got and when they finally found out they were shocked � the plant turned out to be the mandragora just like Mizgiryova said.

Wild mandrake was known from old times. For example, famous Italian poet, historian, political official of the Renaissance Niccolo Machiavelli wrote enthusiastic play about mandragora with the same name in Assyria in the 9th BC. Paradoxically, bit madragora is realted to tomato. Its fruits looks like tomatoes and taste like something between melon and tomato. There are so many legends about the mandrake that even the famous ginseng would be jealous. Mediaeval medics attributed indeed miraculous power. Its fruits were among the rank of universal medicines, having become the panacea from any diseases. Many nations thought the mandrake roots to be an indispensable component love potions and medicines. Ancient medical books describe the ritual of digging out the mandrake root. Owing to hallucinogen contained in the plant that have antispasmodic and pain-killing effects, the mandrake is used to modern medicine.

The mystery was how did the mandrake end up in Sumbar Valley? The mandrake species are spread from Spain to Mediterranean Sea, Himalayas and Tibet but its appearance in Turkmenistan was big surprise for botanists. However, new plant was named after its discoverer. All botanic guides, plants atlases and vocabularies names Turkmen mandrake as ?andragora turcomanico O.Mizigir. Therefore, ordinary laboratory assistant Olga Mizgiryova put her name in the history in the very beginning of her scientific carrier. People used to call her the Godmother of Turkmen mandrake. After some time ?andragora turcomanico O.Mizigir has been entered to the Red Book.

Having started serious study of the plant, Olga Mzgiryova gathered a lot of materials and defended the thesis on the theme Turkmen Mandrake, its Biology and Cultural Cultivation, having received the title of the Candidate of Biological Sciences.

Undoubtedly, the discovery of Turkmen mandrake was a scientific sensation but Olga Mizgiryova did not like to talk about it. She had her own reasons for this. The experiments on cross breeding of the mandrake with other vegetables were not successful at that time. Mandragora turkomanico was very robust and did not want to share its independence. I did many other things, - the Director of the station said. All Mizgiryova's scientific activity was aimed at mobilization and protection of the gene pool of agricultural crops of Turkmenistan, at the development of subtropical cultures of the country and at natural protection. Owing to her efforts and the efforts of other scientists, Syunt Hasardag Preserve has been founded in 1979.

Together with scientific studies, Mizgiryova was involved in selection work. The team of the station has collected and multiplied the collection of early apples, apricots, pears, peaches, cherries, plums, fig, almonds, persimmons and olives. The pomegranate selected at the station are the best in Turkmenistan. Plenty of seedlings went to all parts of Turkmenistan and beyond its borders from there. For example, Kara-Kala pistachio is successfully grown in California for many years already. The team of Kara-Kala Research Station has been awarded with five gold and two silver medals at the USSR Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy for the best exhibits of fruit cultures.

Sometime, people called Mizgiryova Semiramide as a jokemaking parallel with Assyrian Queen, during which period the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, have been made. However, if the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were made by hard labour of slaves, the gardens of Kara-Kala appeared owing to painstaking work of its director and her friends including old assistant and husband Nkolay Minakov. She was lucky with her personnel all the time � the team of the station composed of people committed to their work. However, may it was them who were lucky to live and work under the leadership of this fragile woman who absorbed the power and resilience of tress she used to grow. She did not like to talk about herself to stranger reporters saying that 'they would start asking her again why she left the painting'. But she could talk about the station and her colleagues a lot and with pleasure. She was proud to make tours for the guest around the richest arboretum. It has many plants like Italian pine, Canadian juniper, Mexican yucca, Crimean cypresses, date trees, American nut, Spanish gorse and Asian juniper, which small branch Olga brought herself wrapped in handkerchief from the mountains.

One life is not enough for the selectionist, - Olga Mizgiryova used to say, - as the nature is endless and we want to do so many things. However, everything what she managed to do in science can fill numerous lives. Mizgiryova was the director of research station until she was eighty. After that she passed the management to young personnel and started to sum up the work that she made for more than fifty years. Around 50 scientific articles of Olga Mizgiryova were published in scientific magazines. Many years of work of the scientists were awarded with two orders of the Red Banner of Labour, two Orders of Merit; she was also conferred with the title of the Honoured Agronomist of Turkmenistan.

Until the last moment, Olga Mizgiryova did not leave the paintings, having transferred them to the canvas at first and thereafter having filled the gardens, which bloom in Kopetdag foothills until nowadays, with the light. She lives in these trees, local creeks, wind blowing over the gardens. The artist not only by the vocation but also by actually, she did not burry her talent. She dedicated it to the land, which she infinitely devoted to.

Source: Turkmenistan: the Golden Age Online Newspaper