Reviews

This study is a micro-history of the ‘Pure Hearts’ or ‘Young Poets’, a semi-underground cenacle of practicing Muslim literati and gnostics assembled around the poets Mirza Latif Rahimzada (1902-67) and Mulla Sharif Adinazada (1906/7-1995) in the city of Kulab, south of the Tajik SSR, between the late 1950s and the early 1990s. The authors cast light on the revival of traditional intellectual sociability and literary practice in Persianate Central Asia since the 1950s, by vernacular bearers of Islamic culture recently freed from the Gulag. They also tackle the impact exerted on this sociability and practice by the global political context of the USSR, as well as by Soviet culture. The latter’s influence is illustrated by contacts between the Pure Hearts and the Tajik Union of Writers, and by the circle’s borrowings from Soviet Oriental studies. Structured as they were on the lines of pre-modern “male unions (gashtaks),” and conveying the teaching of the Naqshbandiyya and Chishtiyya Islamic gnostic paths, the Pure Hearts of Kulab are nowadays seen locally, in most cases excessively, as a symbol of cultural continuity in the Khatlan region throughout the twentieth century. One at least of the cenacle’s historical specificities is more rarely reminded by witnesses, viz. the participation in it the the ethnic minority and status group of the “Rhapsodes (qawwal: singers of Islamic sacred panegyrics)” of Afghan, allegedly Gypsy origin. Through the analysis of Soviet ethnographic literature and an inquiry in oral history, the authors have tried to assess how a semi-underground Persianate and Islamised literary cenacle could show instrumental for the assimilation strategy developed by the Rhapsodes as a community in a medium city of southern Soviet Central Asia during the decades following WWII.

The Redaction
CER: II-6.4.E-526