Reviews

A writer exiled in Prague since the end of the Tajikistani civil war, the author proposes a narrative of the history of Tajikistan since the establishment of Russian dominance to the aftermath of the proclamation of independence.  The narrative remains conform with a scansion and with a geographical space that have been roughly defined in the 1930s.  At the same time the author has also been integrating in it a number of new elements that have successively made their appearance in Soviet historiography since the Thaw, Perestroika, and independence.  Among these innovations: a new insistence on the signification of the ‘Jadid’ movement in the first thirty years of the twentieth century; the discussion of the boundaries of Central Asian republics as they have been defined from 1924 onwards; an evocation of the Soviet policy of Russification and repression of the political expressions of national identity; long chapters on the Tajikistani civil war of 1992-97, the main episodes of which are retraced through retrospective oral testimonies by protagonists from the two opposite camps; last the evocation of a form of ‘pan-Tajikism’ as the basis of a new consensual culture now highly fashionable in Dushanbe’s official circles as well as in the émigré communities since the peace agreement of June 1997.  The work’s general purpose consists in underlying the continuity of an autonomous effort of modernisation by the Central Asian Persian-speaking intelligentsia, in spite of varying forms of oppression, from the establishment of Russian dominance to the aftermath of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.  From this viewpoint, this very well organised narrative can be resituated in the autonomous historiographical tradition that has developed in Tajikistani learned circles since the beginning of the Soviet period, and has been illustrated after wwii, in Stalin’s lifetime, by the publication in Arabic script of the “Memoirs” by Sadr al-Din ‘Ayni.  Besides, the work must still be replaced among the abundant autobiographic or memoirs literature that has been developed in and outside of Tajikistan since the end of the civil war of the 1990s by numerous spectators or exiled protagonists.  Very characteristic of the recent turn in Central Asian history writing, the book is also an appeal for a better assessment by historians of present time of the varied forms of local memory of the conflicts of the twentieth century that are being elaborated in the learned and literary circles of present-day Tajikistan.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-3.4.D-317