Petr Aleshkovskii, a well-known Russian writer, has devoted this novel to the life story of a Russian woman from the ancient Tajikistani city of Penjikent, in the Zerafshan Valley. The novel is based on sources of oral history and on Aleshkovsii’s own recollections. In his early days, while in the Moscow University, he took part during a few summer seasons in excavations led in Penjikent by famous archaeologist Boris Marshak, the chief of the Penjikent Archaeological Expedition from 1978 until his death in 2006. In this novel, Petr Aleshkovskii shows the destiny of Tajikistan’s Russian population. His heroine, Vera, comes from a small city strongly connected with the ancient Iranian civilisation of Soghdiana. Vera’s destiny is dramatic: as a small girl of school age she has been raped by an Uzbek, the warden of a kolkhoz garden. This does not prevent, however, her recollections of relations between ethnic Russians and Tajiks to remain essentially positive. In those years, she remembers, there was no particular tension between the two populations. The novel amply suggests that those Russians living in Penjikent were identifying themselves with a land of ancient civilisation. After the disintegration of the USSR and the beginning of the civil war in Tajikistan in 1992, most of the ethnic Russian inhabitants of the country left for settling in Russia, where they were not always welcomed. Vera’s family also leaves Penjikent at that time. The process of integration of Russian migrants from Central Asia into the Russian society was not and is still not an easy process, which is demonstrated at length by the author. P. Aleshkovskii also notices that not only ethnic Russians but also many Tajiks have been and still are obliged to leave their country. The appearance of such a novel in present-day Russian literature shows the new and growing interest of the Russian intellectual public in this issue of migration from Central Asian countries. To date, Fish has already been published twice, it is on the web (at, and has been translated into English.

Mikhail Roshchin, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow
CER: II-7.2-577