Reviews

This monograph on the birth of national Tajik identity naturally generates interest, due to the few Western studies available on the history of modern Tajikistan.  P. Bergne depicts the political process of Tajik nation-building from 1917 to 1929, the year of the creation of the Tajik SSR.  The author’s aim, clearly expressed in the introduction, is to analyse how the Tajik people showed capable to develop a national identity that was politically recognised in 1929.  The study is chronologically organised, presenting in the first chapter a historical overview of the avatars of “Tajik” as a language and an ethnos (coming back particularly to the “Sart” identity as it had been developed by the Russian administration during the colonial and early Soviet periods), in order to define and situate Tajik communities in Turkistan.  The second chapter presents the growth, at the end of nineteenth century, of a Central Asian Turkic national consciousness promoted by pan-Turkic trends and inside the Jadid movement.  The author notably demonstrates that the Tajik ethnos was then considered a “feudal” and retarded one, and that before and after 1917 political pressures of varied origins encouraged the Tajiks to define themselves as Uzbeks, and to reject any Tajik identity.  The chapters 3 to 7 deal with the administrative and territorial organisation of the region until 1924, when was created the Tajik Autonomous Region inside the Uzbek SSR.  The eighth chapter, committed to the creation of the modern written Tajik language, casts light on the political issues at stake in a context dominated by Uzbek pressures for supremacy.  The last chapters explain the difficult process of territorial delimitation which led to the establishment in 1929 of the federated Tajik RSS, and to the emergence of a national Tajik consciousness built in opposition to the Uzbek SSR.  Basing his analysis on archives of the Soviet period, the author searches the hints of the birth of a Tajik identity consciousness on the background of the eventful history of Central Asia during this period of time.  The concern of to neglecting any significant detail, without lingering on them, leads the author to a tangled historical narrative, sometimes too much factual—if not deprived of humour (see p. 121: “Nobody needed Tamerlane,” about Tajik and Uzbek’s claims on Samarqand).  The reader familiar with Tajikistani history will appreciate that often neglected elements have been taken into account, like the resettlement of the population of Gharm’s region to the Wakhsh River basin, as well as the role of the Badakhshan question in the negotiations that led to the creation of the Tajik SSR.  However, the author’s argumentation remains confuse, often approximate, unclear as to the definition of the “Tajik identity consciousness” itself: a collective national identity (as the author aims to demonstrate) or a Tajik Soviet identity (as is finally suggested)?  The book is enriched with appendixes (demographic statistics, archives of several commissions on territorial delimitations), but the bibliography is limited and impractically dispatched in endnotes divided between the different chapters.

Ariane Zevaco, French Institute of Research in Iran, Tehran
CER: I-3.4.D-319