Monthly Archives: November 2015

Central Asia in the XXI Century. 3D approach to the experience of the last century.

Published by:

Munira Shahidi, Ph. D.,

prof. of Tajik-Slavonic,

University Cambridge

Central Asian studies is one of the new area studies in globalizing world. Although the building of that really international institutions have started at 90th and now is almost twenty five years old, one can say it is still in the state of teenager. The problem is in the gap between the generations of the academic-educational researches. The first step to bridge that gap is to legalise the crucial change in the principles of human studies, which are going through transition from the study of artefacts to identifying a real contribution of national/regional advantages of the last century in human studies, as a global phenomenon. Thus, the challenge to interdisciplinary approach CA with it’s enomously huge natural and human potential, means to re-think and re-evaluate achivements of realisation of that potential during the last century. Partly recognized in Europe of the last century within the oriental studies, these findings were not encluded into educational programmes inwardly and outwardly. That miss made a gap in human studies globaly. This paper is the first step to bridge that gap, taking as an example the case of Tajikistan. Let me start with a brief introduction.

CA is known historically as the ‘heart’ of the Silk Road. One should know, however, that re-evaluation of the idea of Silk Road as a maultidimentional sharing of the material and intellectual products for CA of our own time became possible with the building of the new academic institutions and industrialisation of the area. The strategy was to promote integration of the millineum regional scholarly and artistic experience into modern Russian and European system of knowledge, improving own, national/ regional culture. That legacy is especially important now, when the academic and educational system is reforming within the challenges of globalizing world. How it developed within the politically narrowed ideological clashes of East and West of the last century?

Oriental studies in former SU has been the main tool for Tajik intellectuals to change the absolute verticality of soviet power. Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow has been lead from 1956 to 1977 by B.Gafurov, originally Tajik, whose appointment came, mainly, due to the well-known remark of Armenian statesmen of those time, Anastas Micoyan: ‘East is awaken, but the Institute of Oriental studies still аsleep’. An appointment of the Tajik leading political figure and an academic as a heard of the institution in Moscow, suggested the delicate changes of the imperial and commonly arrogant approach of the ‘center’ to it’s ‘provinces’, mastering post-stalinist and post-second-world war times.

Generally talking, Gafurov justified these hopes. A real legal platform became a newly established International Association for studying the cultures of CA as a non-governmental scholarly organization in 1973. The organization has been targeted for promoting anti-colonial intellectual movement in CA and Near East, as a whole.

One of the important trends was to establish comparative literary/cultural studies, identifying the common aspects of the cultures of CA inwardly and outwardly. Thus, the multi-volume ‘History of civilization of CA’ – a collective and a really international monograph, followed by ‘Alexander the Great in the East’, written to-gather with the Greek academic Alexander Cibukidis, has been published. The core of these investigations was to analyse and generalise interpenetration of local and global ideas of the changing world. Obviosly, academic activity along with the constant gatherings of the researchers in Moscow, Tashkent, Almaty, Bishkek, Ashgabat and, of course, in Dushanbe, developing the knowledge about the region for the diversity of the institutions inwardly and outwardly, was quite effective in a newly recovering after two world wars, world. That activity has been opening new aspects of the regional identity, giving a new ideas of integration. The main of them were: how to create a harmony inwardly and outwardly? What are the opposing forces to actualise creativity locally and wordly? How to outflank marcantile international corporation? These questions were actual in the discourses of those time. To answer them, however, challenged comparative study of the written sources, spread all over the world.

The focal point of the collections of CA sources was India, where during the Timurids and Babur the literary phenomenon of ‘arts vs powers’ has been created. The ideological framework of the soviet system, however, was the main obstacle for ‘face-to-face’ cooperation, though the ‘оттепель’-‘snowbreak’ of Khrushev’s time has been gradially untying the bonds of the minds. Academic studies in human sciences identified, that interconnection and interpenetration of Islam and Hinduism of 15th-18th cc. strongly affected the arts: poetry, music and miniature, changing indo- european environment, as a whole. Although colonization has crucially changed the local infrustructes, it created more flexible, middle way of development.

Re-evaluation of the ‘Indian style of Persian poetry’ with it’s leading figure of Abdulqadir Bedil, recognised as ‘the ruler of the minds’ of poets, musicians and painters of Central Asia of pre-soviet times, has been initiated in Tajikistan. The basic cosmopolitan regional identity, created in that newly appeared in the eve of the last century world map country, has been formed by hundreds of intellectuals from Samarqand & Bukhara migrated at 20th- 30th to Dushanbe in hope to escape stalinist repressions. Although the most of them have been reached by NKVD’s ax in Tajikistan tоо, some of them survived, planting the seeds of the intercultural, interfaith undestanding of the world. Innovative approach to the millenium literary tradition of the region, as a whole, has been initiated by S.Ayni. The strategies, however, were more intellectuals, then political. Though met by the society and developed by the next generations of the actors of cultures of CA, it has been gradually re-forming the regional identity, as maltilinqual and multilayer phenomenon.

I am the third generation of the academic resistance for any kind of dogmatization and scrutinazation of the CAn cultural heritage in national, religious, political or economical terms. Studying at postgraduate courses in Moscow- Dushanbe with A. E. Bertels and Abdulqani Mirzoev, as my supervises, I focused on British orientalism and it’s role in promoting Persian-Tajik poetical values at the Victorian epoch of Great Britain. The concept of the Persian-Tajik literary studies of British orientalism, as well as all-European studies of CA, however, is based mainly on artefacts collection untill 15th c., ignoring the inner changes and dynamic of the literary thought in modern times. My research, following Ayni and Mirzoev’s concept of modernisation of the literary thought after Timur’s conquest of India, followed by the crucial changes of the literary minds, has been targeted to identify the links of the regional culture with the Meditarannian world. Thus, acquaintance with the contemporary research of the roots of the ‘modern’ European poetry, made by Spanish researcher of the eve of the last century Palasious Asin, as well as Arab scholars of 60th , such as Ismail Dahyat, was followed by study of CAn roots of the Dante’s ‘Divina Comedy’.1 My sincere devotion to Russian-European style of thinking, however, has been ‘shaken’ by the translations of English-speaking Indo-Pakistani authors, such as Said Abdul Vahid’s ‘Art and thought of Muhammad Iqbal’, which has opened another view on the literary art of that Persian-Tajik speaking poet of India- Pakistani peninsula. That cross-cultural research of the literature of CA and beyond, opened for me the ‘hidden’ sides of arts and activity of the previous generation.

Dissolution of the mutual scholarly-educational space of the SU at 90th turned many of the academic researchers into ‘stand-up’ activity. I was appointed a director of the newly established Z.Shahidi museum of musical culture, but the lack of any resources turned me, along with my collegues from AS RT, Ministry of Culture, Opera and Ballet House, to organize the Z.Shahidi International Foundation as a non-governmental organisation.

The aim of the foundation was, re-thinking advantages and disadvantages of the last century, open perspectives for participation in the global activity, maintaining the new cultural policy of our own time. I think, the basic advantages of the last century might me identifyed in 3D:

1. De-colonizing of minds;

2. Defense of the fundamental cultural values via institutionalization of human sciences and arts;
3. Diplomacy;

Decolonizing of minds in the countries of CA has started with the process of re-thinking of the classical Tajik-Persian literature as the panorama or rather mozaic of the diversity of images and cultures of the world. That literary mozaic consists or constracted from diversity of images and actors of the cultures of the ayncient and middle-ages times: from Dariush and Alexander the Great to healers, mullars, dancers, tailors, cook, dervishes, scholars of different ethnoses, faithes and nations, all in the state of constant dialogue, talk and communication. Re-discovering that picture, however, opened artificially squesed and smashed literary thought of the soviet reality within the politicised national and ideological framework. That finding raised a constant discourses within the academic and practical artistic strata of the time. But these discourses rarely crossed over to English-language readers. Although there were a lively attempts of some discoursants, mainly of Iranian origin, living in Europe and US, to call for widening the literary discussions, identifying the global values of Persian- speaking world.

An example of these one-way discussions is a correspondence between Ibrahim Purhadi, a librarian of the US Congress of Iranian origin and Mirzo Tursun-zade and Gafurov via popular journal of soviet times ‘Ogonek’. The first offered his view on development of sufi cosmopolitan poetry in modern/contemporary Tajik poetry, bringing as an example three poems of Mirzo Tursun-zoda: ‘Sitorai man’, ‘Kishloqi shumo’ and ‘Khonai mo’. But the seconds, Tursun-zoda and Gafurov, strongly regected any links of their own, ‘soviet’ culture with the sufi poetry, insisting on the values of ‘realistic’, secular modern Tajik poetry. So, the efforts of buildng common cultural market has been temporally closed. Paradoxically, these known poems were very popular within the societies due to Ziodullo Shahidi songs, based on these poems. Though for that disobedience, composer has been ‘panished’ by the gradual marginalisation from the political activity of the time, he ramained a spiritual leader of the modern music in Tajikistan and beyond.2 I n parallel with these type of paradoxes, the archeological excavations on the territory of Tajikistan were discovering the original poetics of the wall-paintings. These and many other artfacts were raising constant and lively discussions.

To what extend the basic, fundamental ideas of poetics have changed or have been adopted by modern/contemporary arts in all it’s diversity of forms and expressions? How the global sense of Art-Intellect has been expressed in modern/contemporary arts? How to outflank the powerful exclusive international corporation now, in post-soviet times? How to follow the very code of cosmopolitan regional identity, which has been shortly and concretely expressed in the very code of Islamic civilization: ‘Adam & Alam’ -‘Human & Humanity’?

The nowedays generation of artists, with the few exceptions, is still not capable to react for the challenges of the new time. Meditating about that, contemporary poet Gulnazar Keldi writes: ‘The new literature challenges new forms of impressions and imaginations, it had to call people to obtain the world in all it’s diversity, teaching for space-building, opening the beauty of the new life. But our poets are not ready for these crucial changes. They are spread up all over the world to-day, doing everything, but not poetry and music, challenged by the day. Of course, we need Ayni and Lohuti now. Lohuti’s arriving to Tajikistan with all complexity of Iranian revolutionary experience, helped for awakening the real capacity of the creative young people.’3 One of those young people was Ziyodullo Shahidi, fruitfully cooperating with Lohuti. Creating new musical poetics of his own time, he delicatly bounded contemporary images of the Tajik classical literature, linked with the images of modern European classics.

The main image of S. Ayni’s short novel, -‘The death of moneylender’ (1939), Kari Ishkamba, has reduced all the world of his hero to one word: money. According to Sa ̇dullo Rahimov, that novel was in one serious with ‘Gobsek’ of Onore de’Balzak, ‘The dead hearts’ of Gogol, ‘ Gentlemen Golovlevs’ of Saltykov Shedrin, ‘Tartuf’ by Molier and other works of the world literature. Obviously, that world literary image inspired composers for the creation of the new music. Like polyphonic interpretation of the multiplexor social problems, however, contemporary music has been marginalised from the academic/educational process of national schools of CA.

Marginalisation of transformation of the musical culture in it’s inner dynamic goes in it’s roots in the soviet system of education. If the poetry and literature, as a whole, were practically used in the establishment, music has been marginalized as a science of harmonization of the social conflicts. Transformation of the royal maqam tradition into new modern/contemporary forms of expression, like national songs, symphony, opera and ballet turned into subject of debates, rather then object of transformation and reconciliation.

Transformation of the main royal cycle of music of the old Bukhara, known as ‘Shashmaqom’ into new forms of modern music, was a dream of Abdurauf Fitrat, who organized the first Institute of Arts in Samarqand in 1926, but Fitrat and many reformators lost their lifes at the ‘bloody’ 30th.

Actualization of Fitrat’s dream became possible only after WW2. But still four-five decades went through a number of ups and down, until the new intellectual music has been created by the new generations of composers, though the memory of the old wounds are still alive in the post- soviet society.

The new play of the Lohuti theatre ‘Zindagi-noma’, staged in 2014 and dedicated to centenary of Shahidi, is considered to be the first really political theatre of our own times. The core of the story, written by the well-known Tajik writer Abdujaffor Abdugafforov, is the hard path of newly forming actors of the modern culture in the case of the composer. The new play starts with the arresting of the father of the future composer, Mugaddaskhon Shahidi by NKVD. He is accused to be a’jadid (newly-M.Sh.) thinking person’. Surrounded by the men wore dark clothing with the cold, iron faces, the father says to his son the famous lines of Nizami’s poem: ‘remember, that the science of music is higher then the wealth of poetry’. The process of fighting for the new life ‘without a false’, is demonstrated by a group of actors of the famous theatre, mastering the conflicting symbols of old and new in human nature.

Ziyodullo Shahidi International Foundation has lounched a new project ‘Music of the Silk Road from the piecebuilding perspectives of Central Asia, dedicated to centenary of Ziyodullo Shahidi’ under the auspises of UNESCO. Actually, the start of the project has been given by Moscow Conservatoria in October 2014,in the context of the international symposium ‘The world musical map’. Musicians and musicologists from 27 countries, including the countries of CA, Russia, China, Iran, India, Turkey and others were discussing the power of music to harmonise diversity of musical cultures of the contemporary world. Moscow Conservatoria invited traditional ‘Shashmaqom’ from Tajikistan and contemporary ensemble of percussions ‘Quazar’ from Canada. Both were performing the pieces of the Tajik composer of the last century: native musicians and percussions from North America, were mastering the fusion of music of nowedays world.

In London in October, 2014, the concert of symphony orchestra, dedicated to 450th anniversary of Shakespeare, performed the ‘Dance of dervishes’ from the Z.Shahidi opera ‘Komde va Madan’, as well as of his son, Tolibkhon Shahidi’s pieces, with the British conducter Filipp Moris. The end of November 2015 will be marked by the performance of the piece of a new generation of Tajik composers, Farangis Nurulla, a granddaugther of Ziyodullo Shahidi. All that is only one example of the contemporary music of the Silk Road, which links CA with China from one hand and CA with Russia and Europe, from the other, inriching and innovating the old tree of life!

1 . Munira Shahidi’.Ibn Sina and Dante’, Dushanbe, ‘Danish’, 1986

2 .MН. . Дрожина. Зиёдулло Шахиди и формирование таджикской композиторской школы. In the ‘Зиёдулло Шаҳидӣ ва суннатҳои бадеии мусиқии тоҷик’, Душанбе, 2015, стр.,104-131

3 Г.улназар.НаҳзатибадеиюэстетикииБедилвашеъриимрузитоҷик. ‘Фонус’. Ziyodullo Shahidi International Foundation. D., 2001., с.93