Tajik literature

INTRODUCTION
Literature has played a unique and important role in the modern-day politics of Central Asia. Stuart Kaufman writes that ìit is cultural rather than political figures who shape the milieu over the years or decades before the rise of power of nationalist leaders.î1 The poetry and prose of the Tajik literary elite took part in the strengthening of national myths as well as in the building of a national consciousness in Tajikistan before and after perestroika. Many of these Tajik writers and intellectuals (who eventually became involved in politics) defined the image of the ìotherî in their poetry and prose.
Victor Zaslavsky, discussing the societies of the post-Soviet period, argues that the energy of ethnic mobilization may be released in three main directions: 1) against the imperial center and the hegemonistic nationality with the aim of organizing a proper independent nation- state; 2) against any neighboring ethno-territorial formation with the aim of vindicating his- torical grievances and redrawing borders; and 3) against identifiable minorities living in the midst of a majority, especially if the latter represents the titular nationality to which a particular territory has been assigned.2 This paper will use Zaslavskyís three categories of ethnic mobiliza- tion as a starting point to analyze the creation of the ìotherîóRussia, Uzbekistan and Khujandóin Tajik literature of the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
The term ìolder brotherî was used during and after the Soviet period in reference to the Russian Soviet Socialist Federationís (RSSF) relation to other Soviet republics. For Tajikistan, however, this metaphor is a bit misleading since, unlike the other Soviet republics, Tajiks had two ìolder brothersî: Moscow and Tashkent. This paper will attempt to expand the kinship
metaphors in order to analyze how Tajik poetry and prose portrayed the ìother.î In Tajik litera- ture of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Russia, the ìimperial center,î was seen as both a motherly figure and an evil step-mother; Uzbekistan, the ìneighboring ethno-territorial formation,î was portrayed as the evil step-father; and Khujand, the ìidentifiable minority,î as a half-brother.
THE TWO FACES OF RUSSIA: MOTHER RUSSIA AND THE EVIL STEPMOTHER
A popular belief in the Soviet Union during the pre- and post-perestroika periods was that the intelligentsia of the Central Asian republics always believed that Moscow, the imperial center, was responsible for the economic, cultural and political problems of the Soviet republics.3 In Tajikistan, this assertion is not entirely correct since the cultural elite of this country adopted two opposite images: on one hand, Russia was seen as a beneficial and enlightening mother figure, while on the other, she was seen as a destructive evil stepmother.
The ìMother Russiaî image came into existence following two important events: Tajikistan was given a political status (ìbirthî) and received economic and social aid (ìnourish- mentî) from Russia. During the Soviet era, Tajiks were given a separate state with clear border- lines drawn on the map of the Soviet Union. They were also nationally identified as ìTajiksî in their Soviet passports, and they had their nationality incorporated into the name of their country, Tajikistan. By being given the status of a Soviet republic, Tajikistan received a number of politi- cal privileges, the most important of which was its relative independence from its Turkic neigh- bors. Tajikistanís opinion and stance towards Russia in the following decades was influenced by Moscowís important role in the battle for its political status.
Unlike other Central Asian republics, Tajikistan did not receive its status of a Soviet Socialist Republic after separation from the RSFSR. For five years (1924ñ1929) it was an au- tonomous republic of Uzbekistan. The idea of Tajikistanís detachment from Uzbekistan had its own activistsómostly Tajik and Kazakh elites and their supporters in Moscowóas well as its opponents, mostly among the Uzbek elite. Each side had its own reasons for participating in this debate. Kazakhs ìrealized excessive strengthening of Uzbekistan.î4 Moscow was aiming tometaphors in order to analyze how Tajik poetry and prose portrayed the ìother.î In Tajik litera- ture of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Russia, the ìimperial center,î was seen as both a motherly figure and an evil step-mother; Uzbekistan, the ìneighboring ethno-territorial formation,î was portrayed as the evil step-father; and Khujand, the ìidentifiable minority,î as a half-brother.
THE TWO FACES OF RUSSIA: MOTHER RUSSIA AND THE EVIL STEPMOTHER
A popular belief in the Soviet Union during the pre- and post-perestroika periods was that the intelligentsia of the Central Asian republics always believed that Moscow, the imperial center, was responsible for the economic, cultural and political problems of the Soviet republics.3 In Tajikistan, this assertion is not entirely correct since the cultural elite of this country adopted two opposite images: on one hand, Russia was seen as a beneficial and enlightening mother figure, while on the other, she was seen as a destructive evil stepmother.
The ìMother Russiaî image came into existence following two important events: Tajikistan was given a political status (ìbirthî) and received economic and social aid (ìnourish- mentî) from Russia. During the Soviet era, Tajiks were given a separate state with clear border- lines drawn on the map of the Soviet Union. They were also nationally identified as ìTajiksî in their Soviet passports, and they had their nationality incorporated into the name of their country, Tajikistan. By being given the status of a Soviet republic, Tajikistan received a number of politi- cal privileges, the most important of which was its relative independence from its Turkic neigh- bors. Tajikistanís opinion and stance towards Russia in the following decades was influenced by Moscowís important role in the battle for its political status.
Unlike other Central Asian republics, Tajikistan did not receive its status of a Soviet Socialist Republic after separation from the RSFSR. For five years (1924ñ1929) it was an au- tonomous republic of Uzbekistan. The idea of Tajikistanís detachment from Uzbekistan had its own activistsómostly Tajik and Kazakh elites and their supporters in Moscowóas well as its opponents, mostly among the Uzbek elite. Each side had its own reasons for participating in this debate. Kazakhs ìrealized excessive strengthening of Uzbekistan.î4 Moscow was aiming toweaken pan-Turkic ideas in Uzbekistan while simultaneously creating a republic bordering Afghanistan that would promote the idea of a bigger Tajikistan for Tajiks on the other side of the Panj river.5 The Uzbeks, meanwhile, claimed that Tajiks had always been Uzbeks who only became Tajik-Persian speakers ìunder the influence of Persian literature and language.î6 Accord- ingly, (the Uzbeks): ìare returning them [Tajiks] to their language and nationality as uniformity (edinoobrazie) is the condition of progress. By ìUzbekisizingî (uzbekizaciya) Tajiks of Bukhara, [they] will render a service to civilization.î7
The most heated debates between the Tajik and Uzbek elites took place in the sphere of literature.8 These debates between Tajik and Uzbek elite about the existence of Tajik as a sepa- rate people were ended in 1929, when a resolute decision made by Moscow changed Tajikistanís status to a union republic. In the eyes of the Tajik elite, Russia became a savior. The Tajik Soviet hymn with the word Rus (Russian) in its first verse is the best illustration of this symbol:
Russian hand helped,
To strengthen our brotherly nation Ö 9
Russian-Tajik ties were established long before the October Revolution in 1917. Jadids, early twentieth century reformists who aimed at modernizing society through reformist educa- tion, historiography, literature, press, publishing, and theater, were fascinated with Russia and with the positive changes it made in the Bukhara Emirate at the end of the 19th century. Ahmadi Donish, a Jadid poet and writer, dedicated one of his books to Russia after visiting Petersburg.
Moscow was on the one hand slowing down the development of the economically ad- vanced Baltic countries, while on the other hand, it was creating the necessary conditions for the modernization of the Central Asian republics (Tajikistan at that time being one of the most backward). Starting in the late 1920s, and throughout the entire Soviet period, professionals such as engineers, doctors, and teachers, inspired by the propagandistic idea of international brother- hood behind the building of the Soviet state, began to leave Russia for ìsunny Tajikistanî (solnechniy Tadjikistan). This migration to Tajikistan and other ìbrotherly nationsî helped elevate the living standards of Central Asians and the other republics. While the majority ofhRussian villages and small towns remained little changed from the 19th century, Tajikistan quickly made a significant leap in many spheres of social and economic life thanks to these enthusiasts.
As a result of the political status obtained by Tajikistan and the social and economic aid received from ìMother Russia,î the Tajik literary elite viewed Russia favorably. This respect towards Russia can be seen in Tajik literature: as late as the 1980s, dedications to Russia contin- ued to appear in the publications of conservative Soviet epoch poets10 and in publications of the nationalist literary elite. 11
In the beginning of the 1980s, a sense of unity with Russia among Tajik poets and writers was still very strong. Thus Loik takes pride in the Russian astronaut Uriy Gagarinís outer space flight:
You were the child of land,
You became the first child of the skies, You were the child of one mother,
You became the child of all mothers Ö 12
These dedications were written at a time when it was no longer necessary to do so, since obliga- tory panegyrics to Soviet/Russian symbols were no longer obligatory.
There was, however, also a very different image of Russia that one could find in Tajik literature during the Soviet period. Russia portrayed as an ìevil stepmotherî forbade Tajikistan to use the script of its ancestors and ethnic ìbrothersî (Afghanistan and Iran) by imposing Cyrillic and burning all the books written in the Arabic alphabet, and it made Tajiks fight against their ethnic brothers during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from 1979ñ1989.
The reform of the alphabet was part of an anti-religious and ìenlightenmentî policy from Moscow. If anti-religious reforms were directed mainly against the prosperous religious elite and were supported by part of the Tajik elite (mainly Jadids who joined the Communist Party), the change in alphabet13 and the effects it had on literature affected every Tajik regardless of his or her social status.Russian villages and small towns remained little changed from the 19th century, Tajikistan quickly made a significant leap in many spheres of social and economic life thanks to these enthusiasts.
As a result of the political status obtained by Tajikistan and the social and economic aid received from ìMother Russia,î the Tajik literary elite viewed Russia favorably. This respect towards Russia can be seen in Tajik literature: as late as the 1980s, dedications to Russia contin- ued to appear in the publications of conservative Soviet epoch poets10 and in publications of the nationalist literary elite. 11
In the beginning of the 1980s, a sense of unity with Russia among Tajik poets and writers was still very strong. Thus Loik takes pride in the Russian astronaut Uriy Gagarinís outer space flight:
You were the child of land,
You became the first child of the skies, You were the child of one mother,
You became the child of all mothers Ö 12
These dedications were written at a time when it was no longer necessary to do so, since obliga- tory panegyrics to Soviet/Russian symbols were no longer obligatory.
There was, however, also a very different image of Russia that one could find in Tajik literature during the Soviet period. Russia portrayed as an ìevil stepmotherî forbade Tajikistan to use the script of its ancestors and ethnic ìbrothersî (Afghanistan and Iran) by imposing Cyrillic and burning all the books written in the Arabic alphabet, and it made Tajiks fight against their ethnic brothers during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from 1979ñ1989.
The reform of the alphabet was part of an anti-religious and ìenlightenmentî policy from Moscow. If anti-religious reforms were directed mainly against the prosperous religious elite and were supported by part of the Tajik elite (mainly Jadids who joined the Communist Party), the change in alphabet13 and the effects it had on literature affected every Tajik regardless of his or her social status.ccAn aspect of this reform was the confiscation and burning of books using the Arabic script as well as the incarceration of anyone holding on to these books in their private libraries. Soviet authorities allowed only fragments of Tajik literary heritage to be transcribed into the Cyrillic alphabet. Because of this censorship, the diversity of subjects characteristic of classical Persian-language literature was not reflected accurately. Manuscripts that survived in some private libraries became inaccessible to a new generation of Tajiks who were not acquainted with the old Arabic script. In contrast to a citizen of the pre-Soviet Bukhara khanate, whoódespite not necessarily being capable of writing or readingócould recite poems by renowned Persian writers such as Firdousi, Hafiz, Saadi, Nasir-I Khosrow, and Rumi, which contained important insights on Muslim and Persian-speaking identity, new generations of Soviet Tajiks found them- selves ìalienated from the whole body of classical written language, from direct sources of knowledge about their own past.î14
The new literary norms found in the strict ideological canonization of Soviet art, the notion of the ìParty spirit in literatureî and scientifically grounded ìsocialist realismî disrupted (Tajik) national literary traditions. As a result, the first Tajik writers of the 1920s who laid the foundations of Soviet Tajik literature, (such as Sadriddin Aini and Abulkosym Lohuti), were still connected with the pre-revolutionary past and were strongly criticized for this. Other more nationalist writers, according to Moscow, such as Fitrat, Sadri Ziye, and Rashid Abdullo, were seen as ìenemies of the state.î
In their effort not to resemble the outmoded literary tradition (ustarevshie tradicii) of the ìdark past,î poets and writers who grew up during the Soviet period such as Mirzo Tursunzoda and Mirsaid Mirshakar tried to prove their loyalty to the Communist State by becoming mouth- pieces for the Party. Their poetry, saturated with Russian words, lost some of its traditional Persian complexity.
In the 1980s, the unpopularity of these ideological restrictions grew. When perestroika began, the Tajik elite started a large-scale campaign for the enrichment of the Tajik language by either inventing new words or borrowing them from Farsi and Dari. The Tajik literary eliteís

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