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Gender and National Identity in Memories of the Late 20th-century Soviet Theater in Kyrgyzstan.

Jamal Seidakhmatova, a well-known actress, a veteran of Kyrgyz theater and cinema who is still working in her late 70s, said proudly: "They call me 'The last of the Mohicans.' I am a movie and theater actress. This March it is going to be 60 years since I worked on my first role in cinema. I am turning 80 this year, but I will not celebrate it. I will celebrate 60 years of my professional life." (1)

Undoubtedly, she modeled herself after the legendary acting couple Sabira Kumushalieva and Muratbek Ryskulov, although it was clear that her idol was Kumushalieva. She continued: "First, I lived in Darkul's home [Darkul Kuiukova (1919-97), another well-respected actress], one of the 'daughters of Tokoldosh.' She was my teacher. Later, I lived with Sabira Kumushalieva [1917-2007]) and her husband, Muratbek Ryskulov. They brought me up. Kumiishalieva's and Ryskulov's attitude toward the arts was completely different [from that of everyone else]. They worked with this"--she pointed to her heart--"They would get into a meditation; they would sink all their sorrows, all the emotions of their characters into their hearts, so they would act sincerely." (2)

Seidakhmatova spoke with me for more than two hours, intently and admiringly conveying her memories of Kuiukova and Kumushalieva, two of a group of four remarkable Kyrgyz female actors and performers whom she called "daughters of Tokoldosh," referring to their birthplace, the Kyrgyz village (ail) of Tokoldosh near the capital city, Frunze (currently Bishkek), in northern Chui Oblast of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic, now Kyrgyzstan. (The two other women in the cohort were Saira Kiyizbaeva [1917-88] and Baken Kydykeeva [1923-93]). All four performed in Kyrgyz film, theater, and opera throughout the second half of the Soviet period and into the beginning of the post-Soviet era as well, until the last one, Kumiishalieva, passed away in 2007.1 have discussed these four trailblazing women performers elsewhere. Survivors of dekulakization, collectivization, the Stalinist purges, and the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), they belonged to a second generation of theater professionals that followed a handful of first-generation Kyrgyz mentors who either came from Moscow or Leningrad or had been sent to study theater in those cities. Kumiishalieva, Kuiukova, and Kydykeeva went on to have long stage and film careers, while Kiyizbaeva became the leading opera singer and teacher of Soviet Kirgizia. (3)

This article examines the oral history interviews I conducted in Kyrgyzstan between 2006 and 2017 with a range of theater professionals--actors, directors, producers--as well as family members connected to these four women, all of whom I call narrators, as part of the research I am doing for a collective biography of the group. (4) These four talented individuals represented strength, defiance, conformity, and maternal mentorship simultaneously and sporadically, depending on a particular moment in their histories. (5) I argue that the remembrances of these women expose the instability of memories, which tend to mutate because the narrators present the past, not only as facts but also as feelings and nostalgia. My goal here is to explore the ways in which people remember and convey the past, especially when they talk about individuals they held in great esteem. It quickly became apparent during the interviews that the respect for these women was not just personal but also official: that is, they were not just remembered by their everyday admirers but were upheld as models by the Soviet and post-Soviet state. The narrators I interviewed were able to construct identities for the "daughters of Tokoldosh" and other people they admired, offering both "facts" about their lives and their own emotions to the presentation of those "facts." Indeed, one of the distinctive characteristics of the interviews was their intertwining of fact and emotion. These interviews reflected the narrators' memories of certain people and events, as well as their hopes, disappointments, regrets, and a whole host of other emotions attached to these memories. These emotions included righteousness, sarcasm, anger, pride, and surprise: in effect, precisely the rich emotional content that makes work in oral history at once exciting and challenging for historians. The narrators reflect on personal hardships of the post-Soviet period while conveying memories of public and social progress despite hardship, which they seem to view as collective, as if suffering for the Soviet project was worthier than that of the post-Soviet era.

In oral narration, stories are seldom neatly constructed, but in this article I argue that several overlapping themes emerged from this corpus of interviews. The narrators conveyed a significant amount of emotions while they were relating to the interviewer--in this case, me and my assistant interviewers. They continuously and nostalgically compared the Soviet past with the harsh realities of the post-Soviet era. They often referred to the significance of gender and ethnicity when they talked about becoming Soviet women while keeping up Kyrgyz traditions. They continued the Soviet tradition of constructing national identities within a Soviet frame, which included the Kyrgyz tradition of mentoring younger generations. Finally, they provided a complicated and sometimes contradictory view of the successes of the first generation of Soviet theater professionals who came before them.

I begin with a joke with which the actress Nazira Mambetova chose to conclude her interview: "As two hunters are coming back to the village empty-handed after an unsuccessful hunt, they catch a rabbit. They bring their only catch home to cook, only to find out there is no water coming out of the faucet to boil the rabbit or gas or electricity to heat the water. Seeing their desperation, the rabbit jumps out of the pot and screams, 'Long Live Kyrgyzstan.'" (6)

Mambetova was a 60-year-old theater and film actress from the YssykKol region, and after the fall of the Soviet Union she remained unemployed for nine years. When she yelled, "Long Live Kyrgyzstan," she jumped out of her seat and put her hands above her head as if they were the rabbit's long ears. She smiled sarcastically, pretending to be the happy rabbit. Throughout the interview, Mambetova contrasted the dynamic and productive days of the Soviet theater before everything came crashing down in 1991. She said she waited for a phone call in her unheated apartment with an infant in her arms (her grandchild). "I still don't know how I survived nine years without a job," she said. After all those years of hardship, however, her body language demonstrated that she was proud that she played Kurmanjan Datka (1811-1907), the legendary female leader who saved the Kyrgyz people through diplomacy and sacrifice during the final years of the Russian Empire, in the 2014 motion picture Queen of the Mountains, directed by Sadyk Sher-Niyaz. Mambetova's dignified narration of her Soviet and post-Soviet experiences was full of emotion and some theatricality--after all, she is an actress.

Mambetova's choice of this particular joke is telling because it sums up my argument. I argue that her overall narrative not only conveyed memories about specific events but assigned meaning to the past, tinted with both nostalgia and dynamism. Like her narration of the past, most of the accounts in this project appeared one-dimensional and static, in opposition to the dynamism of Soviet-era activities in the theater. These memories come across as flattened, because of the failures the actors suffered during the post-Soviet era in their professional milieu and lives.

Conveying Emotions through Oral Histories

One of the best features of oral history interviews is how well they are able to convey emotions, a quality often lacking in written documents. The everyday speech of narrators offers a unique set of attributes when they recite the past: tone, range, and rhythm, all of which express emotion better than any written materials, including transcripts of interviews. My interviews resulted in emotional narratives that often came across as nostalgic for the Soviet era.

One of the leading voices among oral historians, Alessandro Portelli, points out that these features "carry implicit meaning and social connotations which are not reproducible in writing." (7) Portelli has frequently stated in both his writings and his speeches that oral sources function as narrative. As a result, they must be analyzed as literary sources and understood as folklore. This is the reason I call the people I interviewed "narrators" rather than subjects, as they are neither "subjects" of a scientific experiment nor "interviewees," a term that asserts an awkward power dynamic. Furthermore, my interviews provide invaluable insights into the narrators' lives that are unique to each individual and her or his recollections of the past, because of the idiosyncrasies of the narration. The idiosyncrasy in this particular case refers to the fact that every narrator belonged to a culture that was both Kyrgyz and Soviet. Therefore, the ways in which the narrators convey their memories reflects the ways in which stories are told in Kyrgyz society. Like any narrator, these individuals are "selective" in the ways in which they remember and convey many of the shared experiences of the past in these interviews.

My interviews with individuals who were directly or indirectly connected to theater and film reflected emotions and stories as much as facts. They revealed, as expected, that the narrators' portrayal of late Soviet-era working and living conditions changed between 2006 and 2017. More surprisingly, the depictions of the works and lives of the above-mentioned four actresses emerged as rather static, despite the enthusiasm of the narrators. When these narrators idealized this foundational generation of theater professionals in Soviet Kyrgyzstan, they could not avoid their own interpretations based on their Soviet socialization. They spoke the language of patriotism and "culturedness" (kul 'turnost 0 and occasionally expressed the emotion of ostalgie, meaning nostalgia for the communist-era lives of artistic professionals. (8)

The factor of nostalgia was always present in the interviews conducted for this project. In her extensive examination of nostalgia in the Soviet context, Svetlana Boym shows that memories of childhood and youthful times may be informed by ideology, but often they are influenced by emotional connections to people, objects, and activities. (9) Boym assigns a great deal of value to nostalgia by acknowledging fragmented memories of the past that provide not only longing for irretrievable moments and objects but also empathy with hardships and grief. The winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich writes that the memories of Homo sovieticus reflect the lives of the men and women who participated in the "seventy-some years in the Marxist-Leninist laboratory." These people of many nationalities, Alexievich argued, "didn't talk about it very much. Now that the world has transformed irreversibly, everyone is suddenly interested in that old life of ours." (10) The narrators in this project, too, reflect on their Soviet lives because they have emotional connections, including nostalgia, but also because people like this author are interested in hearing their stories, those stories that are full of complex emotions.

Relating to the Interviewer

As an oral historian, I am one of those outsiders who is interested in "that old life," although my curiosity preceded the end of the Soviet Union. (11) My personal fascination with the late 19th-century transformation of Eurasian societies informed my academic work on oral histories of Soviet Central Asians, especially the ways in which they remembered their Soviet past, whether nostalgically or not. As Alexievich pointed out, she sought out people who were Soviets above every other identity. (12) I, too, came across people who were closely tied to their Soviet past, although I sought out only individuals who led professional lives in the theater and their relatives. There was no doubt that their Sovietness defined them, but their local, regional, and national identities molded that definition. The findings of this project confirm that Kyrgyz individuals did not question the fusing of their multiple identities. My own fused identity as a Western-educated Turk with typically Ottoman grandparents who are ethnically mixed made my role as an interviewer more acceptable to the narrators.

I also acknowledge my own insider/outsider role as the interviewer. (13) Some of the narrators expressed comfort with me because I was a fellow Turk and a Muslim, while for others I was a scholar coming from the United States to ask them questions. Not being from the former Soviet Union may have closed some doors while opening others. Gender was also a factor in these interviews. As a male interviewer, I may not have had access to some of the intimate details of the personal lives of the female narrators. Melanie Ilic addresses familiar shared experiences between female interviewers and their narrators, both from the former Soviet Union, but I fit in neither of these categories. (14) Occasionally, during the interviews, the narrators attempted to figure out whether I was an insider or an outsider. The greatest barrier came down when I spoke Kyrgyz with them, although I was teased for my lack of piety as a nonobservant Muslim once or twice.

These inherent complexities of oral history interviews indicate that extracting the past from the present is not an easy task. The interviewer's position, both temporally and spatially, interferes with the narrations s/he collects. In the case of this project, my Turkish and American backgrounds, complicated with my presumed Muslim identity, influenced the ways in which narrators passed on their memories of the Soviet past. I have no doubt that they would have reconstructed the past differently if they were talking to a fellow Kyrgyz researcher as opposed to this outsider.

Comparing the Soviet Past with Post-Soviet Realities

All the narrators continuously compared the Soviet era with the realities of the independent period in the 1990s. With the exception of Sabira Kumushalieva, all the narrators in this oral history study were adults during the Cold War era--that is, Soviet Baby Boomers. Donald J. Raleigh called this generation the "Sputnik Generation," because its members began their formal education in 1957, when Sputnik, the first satellite, attached to a Soviet R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile, was sent into space. (15) Most of my narrators belonged to this generation and were born after the Great Patriotic War, during an era in which the country was supposedly returning to normalcy. Although many Central Asians did not experience the same type of destruction inflicted on the western regions of the USSR, they too came of age during the Cold War and belonged to a generation that, as Raleigh argues, did not fully understand the transformation of the Soviet Union "from Soviet-style communism to a Russian-style market economy." (16) More than five years later, based on another extensive oral history project, Raleigh concluded that members of this generation had altered their views of the Soviet past. Naturally, their experiences during the first post-Soviet decade affected the ways in which they described the past. (17) The interviews I conducted over a 20-year period also reflect shifting sentiments among those interviewed, thus reinforcing the central argument of this article that memories continuously mutate and are reimagined.

The Kyrgyz individuals I had the privilege to interview did not separate themselves from their Soviet past, although all the interviews took place between 1996 and 2016, 5-25 years after the end of the Soviet Union. As Alexievich explained in an interview, Soviet citizens were both victims and perpetrators of many of the injustices and atrocities they suffered collectively, and her book of oral histories "is a living document." (18) The narrators in my study also told their stories differently at different times. Jamal Seidakhmatova's recitation of her endeavors in the theater changed between her first interview in 2007 and her second in 2016. Seidakhmatova's reminiscences as she was a struggling small theater manager in 2007 conveyed the realistic enthusiasm of an innovator, while her stories of the past in 2016 took on a heroic tone. Her stories in the later interview portrayed a person who overcame many difficulties, perhaps because she was nine years older. What remained the same, however, was the brutality of the post-Soviet "capitalist" era, as she called it. Therefore, her nostalgia for the Soviet state's support for theater seemed unchanged. (19)

Two significant features of autobiographies stood out in these oral history interviews, both of which are related to the opportunities and hardships of the Soviet past. First, as Sheila Fitzpatrick points out, many Soviet women portray themselves as strong women, even though their stories are more often about significant events in the Soviet Union than those in their own lives. Second, as Yuri Slezkine has argued, Soviet Russia was ruled by memory. Kyrgyz citizens of the Soviet Union often talked about their personal memories in the language of memorialization that the state constructed. (20) The difficulties they experienced in their personal lives appeared to be less significant. Even the personal life events did not stand out in these interviews unless they were related to their professional lives. The public lives and experiences of the Soviet era in these interviews took precedence over the private. In contrast, the immediate post-Soviet era of the 1990s stood out as a chaotic and painful period in both private and public lives. Perhaps this reflects the accumulated disappointments based on undelivered promises of the post-Soviet state and failed personal endeavors that the new era brought with it.

Theater professionals such as Seidakhmatova talked about everyday struggles of finding enough money to provide costumes for her actors. In the post-Soviet environment, the hardships changed shape and meaning. My interviews indicate that even if such everyday objects as soap or clothing were far from perfect, or such activities as marching at a Soviet dekada (ten-day celebration) in the 1930s were ideologically charged, in 2007 or 2016 such memories sparked both empathy for those who endured that pain in the past and a longing for hardships to overcome in the present. As Catriona Kelly also finds, post-Soviet memories offer an insight into how people choose to remember hardships by surmounting them with "skill, resourcefulness, or cunning." (21) The narrators in my projects often told stories of overcoming hardship but rarely departed from the narrative of Soviet success that originated in their socialization as Soviet citizens.

The socialization of Soviet citizens in the postrevolutionary era gave rise to a powerful way of being in the world for the generations living between 1917 and 1992. Anika Walke in her oral history work on Soviet "Jewish survivors of the Nazi Genocide" argues that "socialization as internationalists and patriots" informed Soviet citizens' responses to the devastating experiences of World War II. (22) Obviously, despite memories of Stalin-era purges, Kyrgyz narrators in this project did not witness such atrocities themselves, nor did they experience the Holocaust firsthand. Although all the Kyrgyz narrators or their elderly relatives in this oral history project experienced either the war or the postwar hardships, their memories are informed by their Soviet socialization. The socialization I have in mind manifested itself as stories of collective acts of heroism while constructing a new society called the Soviet Union. When that society collapsed, memories of personal hardship mostly dominated people's narratives.

The testimonies Walke collected reveal that Soviet Jews compared their prewar experiences with that of "the Nazi occupation and genocide in Belorussia." She shows that many Jews portrayed the Soviet secularization policies of the 1920s and 1930s positively. Furthermore, they focused on interethnic camaraderie rather than their ethnic and religious roots, explaining how they turned away from appearing ethnically or religiously distinct. This attitude was not just about rejecting bourgeois nationalism, as Soviet rhetoric required, but also about professional opportunities not to be missed in the fledgling Soviet society. My interviews with Kyrgyz narrators also reveal a success story against all odds among theater professionals who upheld the Soviet goals of secularism, opposition to bourgeois nationalism, and women's liberation. Professionalism was an essential element of success in the theater. Yet in another twist to this story, as leaders of theater circles in the Kyrgyz SSR these women and men did not fully abandon their personal touch--that is, their own way of seeing Soviet "culturedness" or artistic development in this context.

Constructing Identities within a Soviet Frame

Thoughts about who the narrators were during the Soviet era and who they have become since then emerged as a significant topic in the interviews. The Soviet project of "culturedness" that required antireligious and antinational rhetoric directly affected Kyrgyz theater professionals' lives and work. The narratives that emphasized Soviet secularization as a remedy for "backward" Muslim religiosity and Kyrgyz national chauvinism became confusing because there has been a post-Soviet revival of Muslim practices and national identities throughout Central Asia. As the folklorist Benjamin Gatling posits, narrators in Tajikistan connect pre- and post-Soviet societies to argue for the existence of cultural continuity in religious practices, which encourages them to skip over the antireligious policies of the Soviet era. (23) As a result, there is credible evidence in many parts of Central Asia that the Soviet secularization project may be reversed. In my interviews, Kyrgyz narrators occasionally invoked God's name by saying inshallah (God willing), but religious devotion rarely became a topic of conversation. (24) The distinctive traits of each location and historical background, such as differences between Tajik and Kyrgyz practitioners of Islam, complicates the interpretation of these narratives. Unlike in Tajikistan, revival of Tengrism emerged during the post-Soviet era in Kyrgyzstan, while in both places reverence of Sufi shrines reemerged. (25) The interviews reflected the complexity of the changing religious landscape, and the wholesale rejection of religion during the Soviet era came across as less complicated than the multilayered religious revivalism of the post-Soviet period. The narrators seemed to accept the antireligious rhetoric and policies of the Soviet era as a given, whereas the various options that emerged after the Soviet era appeared confusing to them.

The narrators, however, focused their attention on stories of professionalism among theater actors. The first few generations of theater actors needed to turn away from traditional entertainment that included reverence for Manas, the Kyrgyz national hero, aitysh (improvised poetry contests or verbal dueling), and recitation of religious verses. The narrators portray the influential generation of theater professionals, including the four women who mentored them, in a somewhat paternal and maternal fashion. They are nostalgic about having such dedicated role models, who often defied the conventions of their own society while conforming to the requirements of Soviet modernity. At the same time, they convey that these women also saw themselves as keepers of their traditions. As a result, being a Kyrgyz mother figure meant caring but stern treatment that included few compromises for lack of discipline among their younger colleagues, who acted as if they were students. Here the findings of Yulia Gradskova's oral history interviews with Bashkir women help address such restrictions on Muslim women's conflicting position in Soviet and post-Soviet space. (26) The societal and ideological demands on Kyrgyz women's lives and work during and after the Soviet era were not unique. Their own community's requirements for proper behavior by a Muslim woman often contradicted the liberation rhetoric of the Soviet era, which I examine in the Kyrgyz context below.

The overlapping and multifaceted identities--which include gender, ethnicity, nationality, and Sovietness--come across clearly in Marianne Kamp's exploration of the complexities of someone telling her own life story. When Kamp examined the life of Saodat Shamsieva, an Uzbek intellectual and Communist Party member (1933-91), she asked whether experience constituted evidence. She argued that a person's agency as a subject originates in "her ability to interpret her experience." Kamp compared three interviews with Shamsieva, concluding that she interpreted her experiences. Furthermore, Shamsieva was able to "re-cast her identity," according to Kamp. (27)

The narrators recast, as Marianne Kamp would argue, these influential individuals as heroes. The undeniable influence of Soviet heroism, which crossed ethnic and national boundaries, seems ubiquitous in my interviews. After all, Soviet schoolchildren learned about heroism from such short stories as Arkadii Gaidar's Timur i ego komanda (Timur and His Squad), which afforded young Soviets a great deal of agency. Gaidar's book told the story of a secret gang of young boys in a Soviet village who fought against anti-Bolsheviks. (28) The name Timur (Mongol-Turkic in origin, although also common among Russians) must have appealed to Central Asian children to give this story a universal quality. (29) Kyrgyz children had a Kyrgyz version of their own Soviet heroes--such as "Kychan Jakyrov," a story written by the Kyrgyz author Shukurbek Beishenaliev. In sum, the nostalgic narratives about Soviet-era heroes seemed empowering and uplifting when contrasted with the humiliations of the 1990s.

Becoming Soviet Women while Keeping up Kyrgyz Traditions

Gender mattered in these narratives. The emotional attachment to heroic studies from the Soviet past cannot be dismissed as simply the narrators buying into Soviet propaganda. Both female and male narrators talked about the importance of Soviet education in their lives, especially in young girls' lives. Their acknowledgment that girls and women moved from their patriarchal communities into modern Soviet society seemed constant in every interview. One can easily dismiss this as a consequence of propaganda if one fails to compare the professional lives of the Kyrgyz women in theater with those of these women's mothers, who were bound to the household and deprived of an education. Almost all my narrators had mothers or grandmothers who never held professional jobs outside the household.

The interviews indicate that the Soviet efforts to secularize Muslim Kyrgyz lives, especially to modernize women's lives by taking them out of the household, proved to be successful. This was the desired outcome for the Soviet project to liberate women from the imagined Muslim patriarch. The same process, however, helped these women assert their own take on what it meant to be a Kyrgyz woman in addition to accepting the Soviet project of forging a modern woman in Central Asia. The narrators of my study strongly believed these women had found a space between Soviet modernity and Kyrgyz tradition without compromising either position. Furthermore, these narrators had significant emotional connections to the four women whose stories are the primary topic of discussion for this project. Certain silences or deliberate omissions stemmed from the emotional nature of these interviews. Ironically, in some interviews, my secularized, nonpracticing approach to Islam helped forge a bond between me and the similarly secular Muslim narrators.

As Seidakhmatova put it: "So, dear Ali, Kumushalieva and Kuiukova were my teachers. They used to say that the theater is a supara. Supara is like bread. We have a tablecloth. One never steps on it. One has to clear her heart, have only good thoughts, and say Bismillah before sitting in front of the supara. They taught me this. I used always to say, 'Dear God, bismilla,; that is why I am grateful to them." (30)

She lived with them and watched them talk, argue, and laugh but said all that was almost always about the theater. In her words, "they lived only with it." She made a distinction among the three actresses: according to her, Baken Kydykeeva (the third actress among the daughters of Tokoldosh) was a beautiful woman, who had a "chiseled figure," was tall, and dressed tastefully. But Seidakhmatova's most significant memory was that when Kydykeeva was on stage, "she was a queen," "she conquered the audience." She was self-assured, strong, and well aware that she was a star: "She knew if she was playing Anna Karenina's role, then she was Anna Karenina."

It seemed to Seidakhmatova that Kydykeeva was "daring and ambitious" both in life and on stage. Seidakhmatova remarked that she used to wonder where this unusual and exceptional woman came from. When Seidakhmatova was 17, she and the other young actors "were afraid" when they were on stage with Kydykeeva, because she was a perfectionist and therefore demanding. "I was 16 or 17 years old. Because Kydykeeva was such a refined and talented actress, she played the leading roles in the majority of plays." However, Seidakhmatova's mood shifted when she talked about Kydykeeva as a private person: "Baken ezhe wasn't close to people." "She was little bit arrogant, but that was because she couldn't find people who could understand her. She was sophisticated; she read a lot and loved life. She was admired abroad and in Moscow. Her life ended tragically: she was hit by a car and was found 19 days later." (31)

Seidakhmatova said that she values hard work and resilience more than beauty and acknowledged that talent comes with complications. She pointed out that "talented people are always complicated." Drawing a contrast with Kydykeeva without explicitly naming her, Seidakhmatova made a point of clarifying that "Darkul ezhe was very simple, modest. Her roles used to be simple, but she was a hard worker. She would play a role of Tolgonai for two hours, then we would go somewhere to eat where there would be lots of people, and again she would play Tolgonai." Darkul Kuiukova was known to be a tireless worker who never neglected her large family. When Seidakhmatova lived with them, she experienced how complicated it was to be a working actor and a mother who rarely played leading roles. She pointed out that Kuiukova "was like Ranevskaia"--a reference to one of the most accomplished Soviet actresses, Faina Georgievna Ranevskaia (1896-1984), who played only supporting roles despite her talent and fame.

Seidakhmatova not so subtly pointed out that the beautiful and legendary actress Kydykeeva was not as valuable a mentor to her as Kumushalieva, from whom she learned how to dress, take care of her health, and practice her craft. Kumushalieva became a role model for Seidakhmatova. Although Kumushalieva was short, she attained the height of a legend by playing episodic roles. "But, by God, did she play them well! As if she was embroidering a fancy piece of needlework. She was a genius as an actress." She and her husband, Muratbek Ryskulov, rehearsed endlessly in their studios. She made Ryskulov a great actor. She would say to Ryskulov: "Muke, your intonation is not correct. You are not sincere; do it again." (32) Seidakhmatova admired Kumushalieva not just for her acting talent but also for her strength. She argued that without her, Ryskulov would have not been such a big star on stage.

Seidakhmatova's story is not unusual for a young woman who wanted to be an actress. Most Kyrgyz parents did not want their daughters to get involved in the theater, and hers were no exception. She followed her childhood dream when she, a straight A student, was sent to the technological faculty in Moscow. Instead of paying attention to her studies, she became involved in the theater. She argued that as "a spoiled daughter of a kolkhoz chairman," she was exposed to finer things in life, such as music and theater. The legendary manaschi Sayakbai was a frequent guest in her home. When he visited, Seidakhmatova sat on his lap and first learned about acting from this akyn (bard). Her other formative experience came when Karamoldo, a master komuz player, visited her home. She reminisced about how she would sit on his lap, and how his tears would fall down his long beard onto her when he sang his songs.

She told me: "You see, when I lived with Kumushalieva, I took in everything, but my parents wouldn't send me to the theater. I studied in Moscow. I could have been a professor, which was a very respected profession. During Soviet times people believed that actresses were frivolous and would take the wrong path." (33) But it was Darkul Kuiukova and Kumushalieva who invited akyns to sing until dawn, and who convinced her parents that singing and acting were respectable professions, even for a girl. Her parents finally gave in and agreed to let Seidakhmatova join the theater.

"Kumushalieva was a dame. She got what Darkul ezhe and Baken ezhe didn't get," referring to Kumushalieva's long life span. (34) She represented the true Kyrgyz woman for Seidakhmatova, because Kumushalieva cared about traditions: whenever someone passed away or had a newborn, she visited the family. She did not get to play the role of Catherine or Anna Karenina as Kydykeeva did. "But have you seen her role in The White Steamship [a play adapted from Chingiz Aitmatov's novella with the same title] ?" Seidakhmatova asked. "She played the elderly woman brilliantly!" (35) Seidakhmatova did not personally know the fourth daughter of Tokoldosh, Saira Kiyizbaeva, the opera singer and educator, but she made sure to end the interview by saying: "All four of them were very talented. The daughters of their nation. We don't have such people nowadays. Of course, it would be wrong to say that there are absolutely no such people, but today people respect those who have money or those who are married to people with money. There are some people who work hard, who are talented but invisible." (36)

Zamirbek Soronbaev--a relative of Baken Kydykeeva, an actor, and a director with the esteemed title "People's Artist of the Kyrgyz Republic"--talked about Darkul Kuiukova in more detail. He worked in the theater for 42 years before his recent stroke at age 60. He began the interview by saying that he was thrilled that someone was writing about the daughters of Tokoldosh, because his wife, also an actor, and he were brought up by them. Soronbaev continued: "They were the greatest people of the 20th century. It will soon be 90 years since the theater was created by them and their students. These three actresses dedicated 70 of those 90 years to the theater." (37)

People's Artist of the Soviet Union Darkul Kuiukova was his and his wife's mentor. They worked in Kuiukova's brigade, under her directorship, for four years. Soronbaev evoked an old Kyrgyz saying: "One can find out who is who on the road." In this way, they learned how genuine and respectable Kuiukova was while they were on tour with her brigade. He proudly said that she brought them up, not only as a talented actor and director but as a mother. They learned how to be mature individuals by watching Kuiukova, he argued. All they had to do was say "Kuiukova is here!" when people [actors] were unruly. She taught them to respect their traditions as well as to act. Whenever they went to a town to stage a play, Kuiukova would say, "Kids, find your right places. If one of you is older even for a month, sit in that order. That is what I call an education."

Kumushalieva, too, mentored these young actors. She used to say: "A person can turn 50, 60, 70, 80, even 90 like me. But not everyone can become a respected elderly person. Think about that." Now that Soronbaev is 61, he thinks about these two women's words. He has handed over his artistic directorship to the younger generation. His generation is the last one to be brought up by the daughters of Tokoldosh.

Although these three women came out of the same all and trained and acted in the same theater at the same time, they were distinct in their talents and their position in the history of theater in Kyrgyzstan. As Soronbaev pointed out: "theater critics in Moscow praised Kuiukova for her role in Samanchynyn zholu, because they saw that Kuiukova's character Tolgonai captured the universal character of a mother. She was able to convey the impact of wars on mothers." (38) Kuiukova also received praise for her role in Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children.

Mentoring of the Younger Generations

Kyrgyz people always take pride in the tradition of respect for the elderly. The narrators pointed out that the family hierarchy often extended to the professional milieu. The four women in this story were no exception. Zamirbek Soronbaev emphasized that none of the three women he knew were educated. They only received four to seven years of elementary school, but Soronbaev insisted that they were highly educated, adding as a point of clarification that they were samoobrazovannye (self-educated).
   These women came to the Kyrgyz State Theater of Opera and Ballet,
   which Elenin founded in 1926, in the late 1930s. They trained with
   legendary directors such as Svistunov and Borov under the
   Stanislavskii realist system (Kumushalieva, Kydykeeva, Kuiukova,
   Zhamanov, Botaliev and Ryskulov). Today university graduates do not
   know the Stanislavskii system. Kydykeeva stood out among them
   because she immersed herself in the classical theater literature.
   She read on her own, initiating a major breakthrough in the
   classics in Kyrgyz theater.

These women considered themselves educators as well as actors. When Kydykeeva died, Soronbaev said that they tried to recreate the relationship that they had with her with their own students. "Of course, times were different then. These women did not only pay attention to the plays of their students but also to the food their students ate and the places where they lived. The students used to find flowers and a book on their desks before a premiere with a note saying, 'Happy premiere to you, son! Let your creativity thrive!'"

Darkul Kuiukova's generosity with her students seemed like an extension of her life at home. She raised and supported her own children as well as those of her husband from his first marriage. Moreover, she took care of her own mother and her mother-in-law. She raised her own daughter and the two kids from her husband's previous marriage. She and the others toured while nursing their children. They made sure that their children got an education. They had each other to help with child care.

They depended on one another. Kumushalieva was the last one to pass away at the age of 97. She often said to her colleagues and students, "Daki, Baken, they left, and I am still here. I wish to go." When she received the Hero of Kyrgyzstan award she said "They left. They let me get the award." Soronbaev concluded:
   I think their secret was in the gift of talent that they got from
   God. The main thing was that they loved theater and worked hard.
   They did not live and grow in abundance like we did. They went
   through all sorts of hardships, collectivization, repression, and
   war. All these made them who they were. That is why they knew what
   hard work, diligence, and patience were. When they came to the
   theater, it had existed for only ten years. They were the ones who
   founded the Kyrgyz National Academy, the National Theater for us.
   Ryskulov, Zhamanov, Botaliev, Ashyraliev, Kytaev--they were the
   greatest. (39)

Soronbaev's sentiments were echoed by Kadizha Seidalieva, who received three awards in her acting career, including the Honored Artist of the Kyrgyz Republic and Laureate of the Chingiz Aitmatov Prize. Seidalieva, however, was most proud of being the winner of the first Kydykeeva Award in 1995, named after Baken Kydykeeva, her mentor and idol. Nonetheless, her career began with the fourth daughter of Tokoldosh, the opera singer and People's Artist of the Soviet Union (the highest accolade and recognition an artist could receive in the USSR) Saira Kiyizbaeva. She, as the dean, wanted to enroll young Kadizha Seidalieva in the Institute of the Arts. Seidalieva was too proud to begin from scratch and take preparatory courses. Instead she enrolled in a theater studio. She does not regret missing the chance to work with Kiyizbaeva only because Darkul Kuiukova became her mentor. Seidalieva clarified how the process of mentorship worked: an actor would be assigned to a mentor if he or she played particular roles. As she played Kuiukova's roles, she was assigned to her. Kuiukova became more than a mentor for her, however, leading Seidalieva to carry on her legacy after her passing. The critics wrote: "She is alive; Kuiukova is not dead." The two women look so much alike that people wrote about an uncanny similarity in every way on stage. Seidalieva noted that she had a career because of people like Kuiukova. (40) Finally, as Marat Alyshpaev--the son-in-law of Kuiukova, a People's Artist of the Kyrgyz Republic, and Laureate of the International Aitmatov Prize--put it:
   They were the greatest. Artists of that time Ryskulov, Kydykeeva,
   Kuiukova, Kumushalieva, Nasyr Kitaev, Zhamanov, [and] Shamshy
   Tumonbaev became artists with only four grades of schooling. And
   they reached such heights! You yourselves know that there was no
   theater before the revolution. There was no drama theater, no
   symphony orchestra, no ballet art, no opera art. I want to say that
   we should never forget the history. If it wasn't for the Soviet
   Union, we would have been like Afghanistan or Pakistan. But look
   how educated our nation is. (41)

Alyshpaev, an actively working actor in his early 60s, reminisced about the old days, although they were not always good old days. He, like the others, was nostalgic, albeit realistic about the Soviet past. They all expressed pride in their work, while they were frank about the pressures from the Party, censorship, and corruption. But they always made sure that I understood that the first and second generations of theater professionals were raised and educated by directors from Moscow. They reminded me that when the war began in 1941, Konstantin Stanislavskii and others (they all made sure to point out that these theater people were mostly Jewish professionals) were evacuated to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. They trained second-generation actors such as the daughters of Tokoldosh. These theater professionals understood that despite limited resources and experiences the generation before them turned the enthusiasm of building something new, namely the Soviet theater, into both collective and personal achievements. It seemed that people like Seidalieva and Alyshpaev longed for these supportive, albeit hard Soviet years.

Alyshpaev, who came to the Kyrgyz National Theater in Bishkek from Osh (where he had been the party secretary) in 1985, experienced firsthand that the old communist ideals and discipline were gone for good. Unlike the generation of the 1980s, people like the daughters of Tokoldosh "never chased after money. The disadvantage of capitalism [today] is that you can buy everything for money: wealth, prizes. Awards, money, and prizes came to them [the older generation] because they worked hard. That is what I call happiness." (42) Once again, Alyshpaev, like all the other narrators, contrasted their heroic predecessors with themselves, who ended up impoverished, both professionally and emotionally. The factor of nostalgia loomed large in these narratives.

Complicating the Successes of the First Soviet Generation

The nostalgia for the Soviet past conveyed in these interviews was not always evident, however. Zaryl Jekshenbaeva, the daughter-in-law of Baken Kydykeeva, also painted a picture of the hard life that her mother-in-law lived after the Soviet era. Kydykeeva's story appears to contradict the stories about the other three women, for she is not seen as a mother figure. Yet the hardships she experienced echoed the depictions of the other three women's lives after the glory days of the Soviet era. Jekshenbaeva described Kydykeeva's typical day, noting that she left home at 10 am, returned at 2:00 pm, and after a nap and a quick dinner, she went back to the theater until 10 pm. Kydykeeva worked at least ten hours in the theater and came home to memorize her lines and rehearse for her part. Jekshenbaeva noted, "She passed away, living such a life. She did not see much in her life and faded away." (43) Kydykeeva's living conditions after 1992 were the focus of this interview. Although it was common for Soviet citizens to live in overcrowded apartments, a number of successful actors lived in state-issued apartments before the fall of the Soviet Union. The later years of the Soviet era had already taken a toll on these actors and other highly positioned Soviet figures, only to further deteriorate during the 1990s. Jekshenbaeva described the crammed living situation in a three-bedroom apartment she and her family shared with Kydykeeva in Frunze (now Bishkek), emphasizing that Kydykeeva lived with her youngest son in an even smaller apartment for 18 years. Despite giving her all to her craft and her mentorship in the theater, "nobody did anything" for Kydykeeva, "even for 13, 14 years" after her death, according to her daughter-in-law. (44)

Clearly, actors occupied an elevated place for many people, who assumed that they deserved better living conditions than ordinary folk. Jekshenbaeva echoed that sentiment: "You know, such talents need more space, a separate place to live, with modern conveniences--as people say, 'with two bathrooms and two mirrors.'" (45) Paola Messana's interviews with residents of communal apartments reveal years of hardship, including some of an unspeakable kind, but also memories of survival and even celebration of the human spirit. (46) People like Kydykeeva represented heroic figures, who embodied survival. Despite the success stories Jekshenbaeva provided about her mother-in-law, in her narrative there was absolutely no nostalgia for the past or ostalgie, especially when she talked about everyday toil.

Furthermore, post-Soviet realities loomed over the everyday lives of the narrators. They were, and still are, faced with rising prices and costs for utilities, health care, and their children's education. They seemed to have little faith in politicians, in part because the people of independent Kyrgyzstan have had three presidents since the fall of the Soviet Union. The narrators often disparaged the increasing focus on runaway materialism in contrast to the less hectic and less commercial Soviet era. All the narrators lamented that today younger people do not respect their elders and younger artists dismiss older ones. They all talked about the hardships they experienced after the fall of communism. They all blamed capitalism for the downfall of theater.

Ultimately, the narrators wanted to talk about their professional successes more than the hardships they endured in their personal lives, but when I asked about the role of internal or external politics in their professional lives, they often referred to censorship. Marat Alyshpaev said: "There used to be censorship. All the plays were supposed to pass the censors. The Ministry of Culture used to look at theater repertoires. A special committee used to assign plays to various theaters. For example, if we wanted to stage The Government Inspector [Revizor], we would have to send a request to the committee at the ministry for their approval ... religious themes were forbidden at that time ... there weren't any problems with national plays." (47)

Alyshpaev noted that many nationally themed plays, such as Manas (about the Kyrgyz national hero), were staged without any problems from the censorship committees. Nazira Mambetova echoed Alyshpaev's memories on censorship when I asked "how did you feel the impact of censorship during Soviet times?":
   For sure we felt it! It turns out even today there appears to be
   censorship of culture from the government. In the Soviet period,
   committees would check how the money was spent, how many plays were
   staged, what the quality was of those plays. They would check if
   the plays were good or bad. Whenever we knew that a committee was
   coming from Moscow, we used to be frightened. Every actor tried to
   do his best to create a character. Today we don't get money;
   therefore nobody checks us; everyone minds his own business. It is
   not right to work without proper management. It is not right not to
   deal with culture. What will be said about Kyrgyz people in
   history, in the future? Only the politicians' word will exist. (48)

Mambetova connected Moscow's inspections and censorship with conscientious management, contrasting that with the lack of money, support, and seriousness of the post-Soviet government. Once again, these narrators talked about the past nostalgically, a feeling that came across as static and less complicated than their stories about the post-Soviet era.

In the memories of most of the female narrators, these realities of the Soviet-era theater were coupled with the four Kyrgyz actresses' experiences of being a woman in the theater. A generation of women in the theater after the daughters of Tokoldosh described hardships they had experienced that were unique to women. The younger colleagues of these prominent first-generation Soviet actresses pointed out that they no longer enjoyed the prestige of being an actress that had existed during the Soviet era. Nazira Mambetova, now in her early 60s, described her treacherous journey to becoming an actress, implying that her gender played a significant part in her difficulties, and that women before her had experienced such problems as well. Mambetova talked about being "kidnapped" by young men:
   After high school, I was kidnapped two, three times to become a
   bride, a wife. I kept running away, and I came to Frunze. After
   coming to Frunze, I applied to the theatrical institute. I never
   told my parents about it, because we had never had an actress in
   our family. I was afraid of their reaction. I was just a sophomore.
   Of course, a personal life is very different from an artistic life.
   It is very difficult; it is difficult for women. Because actresses
   need to forget about their personal lives to work on their
   roles--having kids, having a husband who demands a meal, cooking,
   doing the dishes is a domestic life. I used to come to theater with
   a stroller, rehearse, and go back home again, all sweaty. If I had
   never worked that hard, I wouldn't have reached this level. It is
   hard for women. I tried hard because I was already known for my
   work, so I did not want to disappoint. I put my personal life
   second. I have two kids, a son and a daughter. But I put my
   personal life second and lived for the theater, the stage, and the
   roles. (49)

Although Mambetova's experience does not seem like an aberration, she implied that the daughters of Tokoldosh, whom she clearly admired, earned more respect than her generation. Her views reflect two realities. First, the trials and tribulations of the first generation of Soviet actresses appear revolutionary and heroic to Mambetova's generation. Second, although they lived through the arduous years of the revolutionary era and the Great Patriotic War, the hard work of these pioneers of Soviet Kyrgyz theater are appreciated and valued more than the work of those who came after them.

Mambetova is not alone in ascribing a rather one-dimensional meaning to these groundbreaking, dynamic people who established the Soviet theater in Kyrgyzstan. Every narrator contrasted the seemingly idyllic revolutionary era of the early Soviet period with the harsh realities of post-Soviet times. Mambetova, however, conveyed these sentiments, full of meaning, best:
   In Chingiz Aitmatov's day, his works were adapted to the screen.
   They were staged in theaters. It was an era for cinema and plays
   with such great people as Chokmorov, Kuiukova, Jumadylov,
   Kydykeeva, Shamshiev, and Okeev. They weren't ordinary people; they
   were special. There was no Internet, no TV back then. Tons of
   people used to come to the theater, to movie theaters. Today not
   many people go to the theater. The theaters used to be funded by
   the government in the olden days. If we wanted to stage Mother
   Earth, Aitmatov's play, we would write to Russia, and they would
   send us money for the play. The [19] 60s, 70s, and 80s were
   wonderful years for the movies and plays. Aitmatov's works were in
   the movies and in theaters. Great works were performed by great
   actors. Suimankul Chokmorov won the best actor of the Soviet Union
   award five times. How? Because there were good works, good
   dramaturgy, good audiences. It is not like today. We have to
   "invite" people to the theaters today. Especially the [19] 90s were
   a critical period. It was a very difficult time. One time we went
   to Batken with a play. They placed us temporarily in one small
   house. There I saw little children with dirty hands and faces. I
   wanted to wash their faces and asked them for a bar of soap. They
   said they had not had soap for months; they had not eaten fresh
   bread for months. We lived through such difficult times. We cannot
   talk about theaters and movies when people live without soap and

The Longest-Surviving Daughter of Tokoldosh

It is only appropriate to conclude this essay with the words of Sabira Kumushalieva, an actress who kept Aitmatov's stories alive, as she was the only living member of the four daughters of Tokoldosh. I was able to interview her in 2002 in Bishkek. (50) There exists a palpable discrepancy between her narrative and the stories I heard from the generation that followed hers. Naturally, Kumiishalieva's memories conveyed firsthand experiences of her generation of theater professionals, while the others in this essay narrated what they observed. The younger generation, either as relatives or colleagues, passed on their impressions of, and assigned meaning to, this foundational generation that included the four daughters of Tokoldosh. Kumushalieva's narrative was about hardship, personal education, collective success, Soviet pride, and some disappointment with post-Soviet reality, while the generation after hers idealized her generation but disparaged its own as a failure. They engaged in constant comparison between the generations and viewed their forebears as idealists, hard-working Communists, and talented artists without paying much attention to the failures and resulting transformations they may have experienced.

As Marianne Kamp showed in discussing the case of the Uzbek intellectual and Communist Party member Saodat Shamsieva, whose identity evolved into three different versions--from a youthful Communist to a survivor of a brutal system--these Kyrgyz women's lives also changed over time. (51) Perhaps there is a substantial difference between Saodat's story and the narratives I heard. The theater professionals' lives were not as politically charged as Saodat's, although I argue that these actresses wielded considerable power in their immediate surroundings. In fact, the women in the foundational generation and their colleagues in theater were party members. Their stories, however, indicate that they were too busy to be involved in political activities directly. In some cases, they were prohibited from participating in political life due to their bourgeois past. As Kumushalieva pointed out: "I studied at the pedagogical college [tekhnikum]. I entered the tekhnikum with the older group; there were three groups--younger, middle, and older students. Then they expelled me as the daughter of a kulak, a rich man. My ancestors were very rich people. After I was expelled, there was nothing for me to do. I was 14 years old then." (52)

According to Kumushalieva, shedding her status as a kulak's daughter was possible only because of merciful family friends and distant relatives. One aunt made sure that Kumushalieva worked as a teacher, which allowed her to prove herself as a reliable worker. Only when a troupe of actors came to her school did she experience theater, during which time she was selected as a talented young person to be trained in Frunze. Her narrative does not necessarily include a long-lasting dekulakization story. It is difficult to discern whether she omitted the hardship she endured as the daughter of a kulak, or whether her socialization as a Soviet citizen formed her narrative. One feature appears to be constant in these interviews, including Kumushalieva's, however: post-Soviet hardships render the difficulties endured during Soviet times benign. The members of the generation after Kumushalieva's, in contrast, see the post-Soviet era as a disappointment, at least in theater, despite their efforts and sacrifices. The four daughters of Tokoldosh, the last Soviet generation, come across as heroes, while their post-Soviet heirs experience themselves as failures.

Dept. of History California State University, Long Beach 1250 Bellflower Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90840 USA

(1) Jamal Seidakhmatova, interview by author, Bishkek, 5 July 2016.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ali F. Igmen, "Four Daughters of Tokoldosh: Kyrgyz Actresses Define Soviet Modernity," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 32, 1 (2012): 40-56.

(4) My first book, Speaking Soviet with an Accent: Culture and Power in Kyrgyzstan (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), briefly introduced these trailblazing women.

(5) Many Central Asian women mentored their young relatives as keepers of tradition. Zulfiya Tursunova writes: "In the midst of Soviet propaganda, my oye [grandmother] provided spiritual, intellectual, and moral guidance and upbringing to create an understanding about my indigenous culture and constructive conflict resolution processes" (Women's Lives and Livelihoods in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan: Ceremonies of Empowerment and Peacebuilding [Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014], xv).

(6) Nazira Mambetova, interview by author, Bishkek, 7 June 2016.

(7) Alessandro Portelli, "What Makes Oral History Different," in his The Death of Luigi Trastulliand Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 65.

(8) Ostalgie, a neologism that combines the German words Ost (East) and nostalgie (nostalgia), describes the cultural phenomenon of postcommunist imagining of the communist consumer culture. See John T. Littlejohn and Michael T. Putnam, "Rammstein and Ostalgie: Longing for Yesteryear," Popular Music and Society 33, 1 (2010): 35-44; and Greg Castillo, "East as True West: Redeeming Bourgeois Culture, from Socialist Realism to Ostalgie," in Imagining the West in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, ed. Gyorgy Peteri (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), 87-104.

(9) Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001).

(10) Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets. An Oral History, trans. Bela Shayevich (New York: Random House, 2017), 3, 4.

(11) Ibid., 4.

(12) Ibid.

(13) Melanie Ilic, "From Interview to Life Story: Methodology and Ethics in Oral History," in The Soviet Past in the Post-Socialist Present: Methodology and Ethics in Russian, Baltic and Central European Oral History and Memory Studies, ed. Ilic and Dalia Leinarte (New York: Routledge, 2016).

(14) As Ilic points out, "good practice" in feminist research must acknowledge the power dynamics between researcher and researched in oral history projects. Furthermore, both the experience and the outcomes must be shared between researcher and researched (ibid., 4).

(15) Donald J. Raleigh, Russia's Sputnik Generation: Soviet Baby Boomers Talk about Their Lives (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).

(16) Ibid., 16.

(17) Donald J. Raleigh, Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia's Cold War Generation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

(18) David Remnick, "The People's Historian of the Former Soviet Union," New Yorker Radio Hour, 16 March 2018.

(19) Jamal Seidakhmatova, two interviews by author and by Eliza Taitelieva, Bishkek, 20 May 2007 and 5 July 2016.

(20) Sheila Fitzpatrick and Yuri Slezkine, In the Shadow of Revolution: Life Stories of Russian Women from 1917 to the Second World War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 9, 21.

(21) Catriona Kelly, St. Petersburg: Shadows of the Past (Hon Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175.

(22) Anika Walke, "Memories of an Unfulfilled Promise: Internationalism and Patriotism in Post-Soviet Oral Histories of Jewish Survivors of the Nazi Genocide," Oral History Review 40, 2 (2013): 271-98, quotation on 272.

(23) Benjamin Gatling, "Historical Narrative, Intertextuality, and Cultural Continuity in Post-Soviet Tajikistan," Journal of Folklore Research 53, 1 (2016): 41-65.

(24) Inshallah is a fairly common phrase even among nonreligious populations, and even among non-Muslims in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere in Central Eurasia, such as Jews in Turkey.

(25) Marlene Laruelle, "Religious Revival, Nationalism, and the 'Invention of Tradition': Political Tengrism in Central Asia and Tatarstan," Central Asian Survey 26, 2 (2007): 203-16; Jipar Duyshembiyeva, "Kyrgyz Healing Practices: Some Field Notes," The Silk Road Foundation Newsletter (; Sergei Abashin, "Sem' sviatykh brat'ev," in Podvizhniki islama: Kul't sviatykh i sufizm v Srednei Azii i na Kavkaze, ed. Abashin and V. O. Bobrovnikov (Moscow: Vostochnaia literatura, 2003); B. Pasilov and A. Ashirov, "Revival of Sufi Traditions in Modern Central Asia: 'Jahri Zikr' and Its Ethnological Feautures," Oriente Moderno, n.s., 87, 1 (2007): 163-75; Maria Elizabeth Louw, Everyday Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia (London: Routledge, 2007).

(26) Yulia Gradskova, "Women's Everyday Life in Soviet Russia: Collecting Stories, Dealing with Silences, and Exploring Nostalgia," in Soviet Past in the Post-Socialist Present, 38-50.

(27) Marianne R. Kamp, "Three Lives of Saodat: Communist, Uzbek, Survivor," Oral History Review 28, 2 (2001): 21-58, quotation on 21.

(28) Arkadii P. Gaidar, Timur i ego komanda (Moscow: Derskaia literatura, 1940). According to former Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Egor Gaidar, his father, Arkadii, named the hero of his children's book after Egor's grandfather Timur. See Yegor Gaidar, Days of Defeat and Victory, trans. lane Ann Miller (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999).

(29) See Adrienne L. Edgar's article in this issue of Kritika, which analyzes the complexities of naming children in Soviet Central Asia.

(30) Seidakhmatova interview, 5 July 2016.

(31) Ibid.

(32) Ibid.

(33) Ibid.

(34) Ibid.

(35) Ibid.

(36) Ibid.

(37) Zamirbek Soronbaev, interview by author, Bishkek, 7 July 2016.

(38) Ibid.

(39) Ibid.

(40) Kadizha Seidalieva, interview by author, Bishkek, 8 June 2016.

(41) Marat Alyshpaev, interview by author, Bishkek, 5 June 2016.

(42) Ibid.

(43) Zaryl Jekshenbaeva, interview by Bakytbek Isakov, Bishkek, 15 May 2015.

(44) Ibid.

(45) Ibid.

(46) Paola Messana, Soviet Communal Living: An Oral History of the Kommunalka (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

(47) Alyshpaev interview, 5 June 2016.

(48) Mambetova interview, 7 June 2016.

(49) Ibid.

(50) Sabira Kumushalieva, interview by author, Bishkek, 19 July 2002.

(51) Kamp, "Three Lives of Saodat."

(52) Kumushalieva interview, 19 July 2002.
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Title Annotation:Forum: Oral History and Memory in Soviet Central Asia
Author:Igmen, Ali
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9KYRG
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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