Reviews

The book is a fascinating collection of oral and written testimonies by fifteen Uzbekistani women of different age (the oldest was born in 1908, the youngest in 1975), professional affiliation, social status and nationality. (Though the “sample” is mainly Uzbek, two women are Karakalpak and one is Russian). The reader gets to know different social worlds of Soviet and post-Soviet Uzbekistan: the traditional Uzbek mahalla of the “old city” of prewar Tashkent; the multicultural and cosmopolitan “new city,” one-storied before the earthquake of 1966, and radically modernised after it when it became the place of residence of military personnel and Soviet nomenklatura; wartime Chirchik (near Tashkent) and Fergana whose industries were working “for victory”; prosperous cities and small towns around the Aral gradually dying as the sea dried up in the 1980s-1990s; Kashghar, an asylum of Uzbek political émigrés, and Tashkent where they were able to return after Stalin’s death; and, finally, the capital city after the independence where people have been finding themselves “between past and present. . . .” Most interviews are edited, divided into pieces and then rearranged in chronological order, in order to more fully and expressively characterise every post-revolutionary decade, starting from the 1920s and ending with the 2000s. In my view, this technique of presenting the interviews, though advantageous from a certain viewpoint, deprives the original testimonies of a contextual frame essential for penetrating into the texture of this or another period of time. From this viewpoint, the most thrilling and informative parts of the book (chapters 1 and 3) are those presenting interviews and/or diaries as “unbroken” texts. The book is amply illustrated with old photos from family archives of the interviewees.

Natalya Kosmarskaya, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow
CER: II-3.4.D-312