Reviews

As Yuri Bregel already stressed in his famous mid-1990s study of the state of Central Asian studies in the former USSR and in Northern America, all human and social sciences are more or less politicised in ex-Soviet republics since independence, especially those where official science relies on scanty financial support from the state.  The author of the present study deals with the Aryanist discourse that has been developed by the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan on the ethnic origin, racial affiliation, and ancient statehood of the Tajiks.  M. Laruelle has perfectly understood the symbolic handicap of Tajik language, the defence and promotion of which remains associated with Perestroika and with the opposition’s links with Iran during the first years of independence.  As such, reference to language has been rapidly marginalised in favour of a symbolic identity system allegedly less Muslim and less Iranian.  Devoid of any reference to Western research and based on historical syntheses published between 1946 and 1972 under the signature of Bojojon Ghafurov, a leading ideologist of the Tajik Communist Party, this conceptual apparatus postulates an association of the ethno-genesis of the Tajiks with the crystallisation of a high Aryan civilisation (and race) in the second millennium BCE, and with Zoroastrianism—many assertions by academic historians being based on a literal reading of the Avesta.  Arguing that the “racial” formation of the Tajiks was finished well before the arrival of the first Turkic people, the neo-conservative propagators of this discourse show pleased about the intricate links between Tajikistan and Russia, both “Aryan” countries.  After a study on the politicisation of Tänggärism in Turkic-speaking Central Asia (cf. her “Tengrism: In Search for Central Asia’s Spiritual Roots,” Central Asia and Caucasus Analyst 22 March 2006, available from www.cacianyst.org/ view_article.php?articleid=4102), M. Laruelle shows the role of the Tajikistani academic intelligentsia and Presidency in the promotion of an intellectualised neo-paganism for post-Soviet elites, “in search of a spirituality without transcendence, conceiving religion above all as an element of national assertion, and afraid of the possible social and identity significations of Islam (p. 66).”  Relying on official informants from the direction of the Institute of History in Dushanbe, the author remains tributary of some of this institution’s aging staff’s active taboos (e.g., on the writing by archaeologist B. Litvinskii of a good deal of the works signed by Ghafurov).  Besides, searching in Soviet science for the roots of the Aryanist discourse developed in Tajikistan since the mid-1990s, the author has neglected the other source of this discourse: state-sponsored Aryanism that has been developed in Iran since the 1930s, with a special vigour during the war with Iraq and again since the mid-2000s—which largely contributes to make it largely acceptable in Tajikistani intelligentsia, both conservative and Islamist, and considerably reinforces this discourse’s anti-Semitic component, more and more palpable in Tajikistan.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-8.4.E-743