Reviews

In the wake of numerous jubilee publications on Tajik Communist Party leader, Soviet diplomat and national historian Bobojon Ghafurov (1909-1977, cf. Central Eurasian Reader 1 [2008]: reviews No. 44, 743), this luxuriously published book of memories displays testimonies by officials, contemporaries, and former colleagues on Ghafurov’s activity as a specialist of Oriental studies. The volume is closed by an appendix with a bibliography of works by Ghafurov, some reviews of these works, and a bibliography of literature on Ghafurov. Besides their quality as primary sources of different levels on Ghafurov’s live and works as an academic after his nomination as the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Russia in Moscow (a charge that he occupied from 1956 to his death), some articles, though not very innovative, show interesting for the history of academic Oriental studies in Russia and in the Tajik SSR. In the first of these contributions, a former Director of the Leningrad Section of the Institute of Oriental Studies insists on Ghafurov’s personal involvement in the development of the Institute and of its publishing house in the aftermath of de-Stalinisation, and the quality of Ghafurov’s personal relationship and collaboration with classical Orientalists deprived of a party affiliation like Iosif A. Orbeli in Leningrad, or like Oleg K. Dreier (the Director of the Izdatels’tvo vostochnoi literatury) in Moscow (Petrosian Iu. A., “Shtrikhi k biografii B. G. Gafurova – vostokoveda [Some Strokes to the Biography of B. G. Ghafurov as an Orientalist],” 39-46). The author also briefly evokes the political context of the change of the name of the institute, in 1960, into Institute of the Peoples of Asia, on a request by the People’s Republic of China during the preparation of the Twenty-Fifth International Congress of Oriental Studies. The following article praises Ghafurov’s political weight for the Institute’s growth in the 1960s (Alpatov V. M., “Mudryi rukovoditel’ i nastavnik [A Wise Director and Mentor],” 47-53). The author also praises Ghafurov for its de-politicisation of the Institute, which meant at the same time the exclusion of those who publicly expressed their disagreement with the Soviet system, and more distance vis-à-vis the political power, allowing various disciplines to develop independently from state orders ― which would change immediately after the accession of Ghafurov’s successor Evgenii M. Primakov. Another special witness of this period of time, archaeologist Boris A. Litvinskii (b. 1923), reminds the beginning of his collaboration with Ghafurov, then the Prime Secretary of the Tajik CP, for the defence of archaeology and for the protection of Kushan sites (Litvinskii B. A., “Bobodzhan Gafurovich Gafurov – osnovopolozhnik tadzhikskoi istoricheskoi nauki [Bobodzhan Ghafurovich Ghafurov: The Founder of Tajik Historical Science],” 60-8). The two men’s common redaction of the fourth, abridged version of the Istoriia tadzhikskogo naroda launched in 1966-7, published for the first time in 1972, is evoked in an elusive way, the author mentioning in passing his own contribution (as well as those by his wife historian E. A. Davidovich, by A. M. Belenitskii, and by Tajik specialist of Persian manuscripts and literature Abdulghani Mirzoev), insisting on the cosmetic (etiketnyi) character of the Marxist ideological apparatus of the work. The last paragraphs of the text provide significant pieces of information on the complex destiny of the successive re-editions of the Istoriia’s text, before and after Ghafurov’s death. The last contribution that will be mentioned here sketches an interesting portrait of Ghafurov as the boss of Soviet Oriental studies, in which a lot of people will recognise an anti-portrait of most of his successors at the head of the Institute in the decades following his death (Simoniian N. A., “Gafurov i vostokovedenie [Ghafurov and Oriental Studies],” 75-8).

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-1.2.B-35