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Soldiers' letters to Inobatxon and O'g'ulxon: gender and nationality in the birth of a soviet romantic culture.

From the autumn of 1944 to the spring of 1945 thousands of the Red Army's characteristic triangle envelopes arrived in kolkhozes in Uzbekistan's Andijan oblast addressed to two young women, Inobatxon Xoldarova and O'g'ulxon Qurbonova, whose portraits and labor accomplishments had appeared in Russian--and Uzbek-language army newspapers. The authors were Red Army soldiers of various nationalities, stationed across the Soviet Union and the newly liberated cities of Eastern and Central Europe, who wrote congratulations and thanks, requesting photos and letters in reply and sometimes proposing further friendship, acquaintance, and marriage.

Just after the German capitulation in May 1945 a soldier in west-central Ukraine penned a lilting note of introduction to O'g'ulxon. Apart from its first line, the letter was written in Russian:

Fiery, hot hello [Uzbek: Alangali issik solom] Hello from Novograd-Volynskii.

This day or evening I inform you with this letter, when you receive it I don't know, maybe at night or during the day, the exact time won't interest you. [...] Best wishes in your life, hot, fiery hello. Hello, unknown Ogulkhan. With greetings to you from Mukhamed Ergashov. First, I decided to write this letter to show my great thanks. If you don't like this letter, you can throw it underfoot! My only desire is to meet you. If you have a friend [znakomyi], tell me. I suspected you as my countrywoman [.zemliachka] in the newspaper Leninskoe znamia and decided to write these words. I'll tell a bit about myself. I am also from Andizhan, from khodzhabad [sic] district serve in the ranks of the red army.... The other day I saw the end of the war. Maybe you and I will see one another. Ogulkhan, if I receive a response from you, then I will write with more detail about myself or more precisely. If you can read Russian, then I will write in Russian, or if you can't I can write in our language [esli mozhete chitat' po ruskii to budu pisat' po ruski, Libo nimozhete mogu napisat' po svoemu (sic)]. So long I am finished writing so long with regards unknown, Mukhamed or Misha.

Write a response to this address....

Mikhail Ergashov

I await your reply. (1)

The little we know of Ergashov is based on his neatly written note. Based on his mastery of the Cyrillic alphabet (introduced to Uzbekistan in 1939), he was probably a young and recent Uzbek call-up. Though full of spelling and punctuation errors, his Russian was idiomatic and free, indicating that he had augmented the Russian learned at school in the Russian-language service environment. His query about O'g'ulxon's marital status implied he was a bachelor; he was also a common soldier, because he added no service details about rank or medals. Instead, his language served as his primary accomplishment, signaling to O'g'ulxon that he was, like her, a progressive and successful contributor to the Soviet war effort and therefore a fitting match.

Ergashov's self-presentation offered a dilemma for O'g'ulxon that gets to the heart of Uzbek participation in the Soviet war effort: had she been able or willing to reply, to whom should she have addressed the letter? Was he Misha or Mukhamed Ergashov? Russian or Uzbek or perhaps both?

Ergashov's indecision was not a personal shortcoming but a reflection of a seismic transition in Eurasian history, triggered by the Bolshevik revolution and accelerated by the war effort. Uzbek men at war became Soviet in new ways: changing Islamic ritual practice, drinking alcohol, gaining military skills, interacting with men of multiple nationalities, leaving their home regions, learning Russian, embracing Russian nicknames, and even taking Slavic wives. (2) Interethnic tensions and disastrous combat performances in the war's first years had led the Red Army to ensure that Uzbek and other Central Asian soldiers were supported by propaganda materials rooted in their national languages and cultural traditions, according to the dictates of the Soviet friendship of peoples. (3) Yet nation-specific messages coexisted with even stronger appeals to soldiers and civilians as members of a common "Soviet people" (sovetskii narod), summoned by an existential struggle with fascism and reinforced by the Russian-language frontline environments and the homogenizing aspects of military life.

By examining a collection of 249 original soldiers' letters to two of Uzbekistan's rural labor heroines I argue that military service, epistolary practices, and print media accelerated cultural change and transformations of identity by valorizing not only the Russian language but frontline romantic norms, which entered both Russian- and Uzbek-language letters. Soviet soldiers' subjectivities emerge refracted through questions of nationality and romance, revealing a complex relationship between republican and Soviet culture in which the two blended but remained distinct. Ultimately frontline sexual culture and the status of the Russian language combined to produce self-presentations like Mukhamed-Misha Ergashov, who wrote not simply as an Uzbek but as a Soviet soldier who adopted the language and romantic culture of Victory.

The common Red Army practice of enabling emotional ties between fighting men and homefront women had different meanings for different national communities. (4) In the Central Asian context, emphasizing the girls' femininity as much as their labor advanced progressive romantic culture and interethnic marriage. Uzbek men expressed their friendly and romantic overtures with frontovik directness and patriotic affirmations, though articulated in an Uzbek-specific religious and cultural register. Meanwhile thousands of Slavic men made unprecedented attempts to convince rural Uzbek women of their worthiness as friends and mates.

Although this new wartime romantic culture was summoned by shared sacrifice, it was sustained by great distances and had stark, gendered limitations. In becoming socialist labor heroines, the girls became Soviet in new ways as well. However, their illiteracy and persistent local sexual taboos prevented them from responding to their literal army of suitors. Despite becoming wartime celebrities, the girls could not make the analogous ethnic transitions from O'g'ulxon, say, to Ol'ga.

Mukhamed-Misha and the Nonimperial Empire

As a representative of his generation, Mukhamed-Misha formed the kernel of a new Soviet identity forged in war that lasted until the end of the Soviet regime. The army was composed of Mishas in the sense that soldiers needed to adapt to the predominant Russian culture and language of the army, regardless of nationality. But the Red Army also celebrated Mukhamed, the Uzbek half of this identity, accepting his religion and coopting and celebrating his national culture at every turn. However, the compulsion to be both Mukhamed and Misha was inherently confusing, as evidenced by Ergashov's own indecision, foreshadowing the contradictory assertion of scholars and Soviet citizens alike that their multinational state was somehow a "nonimperial empire" or the recollections of veterans that "nationality did not matter" in the Red Army, then enumerating the nationalities in their division. Ergashov's self-presentation would later grow into the imagined core of the "Soviet people," an almost national identity that was posited and developed in the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras and emphasized both linguistic and cultural commonality.* 5 However, this common Sovietness had distinct limitations, especially when extended from the Red Army to the sphere of Central Asian gender and family relations. From its inception, MukhamedMisha bore the weight of its contradictions.

Although scholars remain divided about how imperial the Soviet state was, the comparisons with modern European empires are usually made for the prewar era with its exogenous campaigns of social and cultural transformation and gaping cultural divisions. (6) Yet the war rewrote the Soviet relationship between center and periphery. The first universal Soviet draft in 1938 ensured World War II would become the first truly pan-Soviet military campaign. From Uzbekistan alone, 1.5 million men were mobilized into the Red Army, marking the first Central Asian mass participation in a Russian-led conflict. Considering the equally unprecedented civilian movement and encounters on the homefront, plus the evacuation-led industrialization and the emergence of cultural institutions such as the republic's Academy of Sciences in 1943, scholars have advanced more attenuated understandings of Soviet empire in the postwar period, resting on renewed autonomy and "limited statehood." (7)

Broad debates continue around the degree to which the war was a great break in Soviet history or whether it entrenched previous tendencies. (8) I propose that World War II--particularly its military and labor mobilization along with evacuation--should be viewed as the fulcrum that separates Soviet Central Asian history into two eras. In many ways, the war represented the pinnacle of Uzbek aspirations for transcendence into a common Soviet community that, although forged in the heat of war, cooled in the aftermath.

Scholars of Central Asia have also noted the effects of World War II, such as increased learning of Russian and the reversal of the state's religious politics, thereby allowing postwar Uzbek Communists to see no contradiction between religious and party faiths. (9) Others have observed that the war period witnessed the demise of female veiling. (10) However, the war is not usually recognized as a turning point on a par with the 1920s and 1930s. Indeed, rather than being experienced as a period of cultural destruction organized by a state that, to varying degrees, was exogenous to local society, the war era's sacrifices, violence, and trauma were characterized by construction of a new, integrative, pan-Soviet identity. Perhaps this reluctance is due to a paucity of wartime sources that reflect this identity.

Just as studies of Soviet subjectivity dismantled the totalitarian contention that Soviet rule was rooted primarily in compulsion, war letters can reveal the articulation of a Soviet Uzbek worldview wholly removed from a subject position identifiable as "colonial." The letters illustrate the ways in which the "Soviet language [had] local dialects" yet also "express [ed] universal Sovietness," to use Sergey Abashin's formulation."

Although studies of Soviet wartime military propaganda still tend to be written from the Russian point of view, others have begun to reveal the Red Army's extensive support of non-Russian nationalities with native-language agitators and propaganda materials. (12) As Brandon Schechter has observed, disproportionately large casualties and desertions among non-Russian soldiers and interethnic tensions within units caused the Red Army to "indigenize" the war effort by using local languages and cultural figures. (13) Boram Shin and Roberto Carmack have elaborated further the construction of nationally specific images, concepts, and vocabulary in the Central Asian war effort. (14) These works have persuasively argued for the wartime commitment to the friendship of peoples ideology, with its emphasis on both diversity and Russian-led hierarchy. (15)

Yet Stalin and other leaders never stopped employing the term "Soviet people" to cultivate multiethnic unity. For instance, in a 1935 editorial in Izvestiia, "The Heroic Soviet People," Nikolai Bukharin used the emergent war threat from fascist Germany to enunciate the defining features of Soviet civilization, namely the "intimate unity among the laborers of different nationalities" who had been brought to an "extraordinary cohesion \neobychainoe splochenie\ of peoples." Missing was any nod toward a Russian-led state or any other hierarchies. (16)

The two models--Soviet egalitarian diversity and Russian-led friendship--operated in subdued tension on newspaper broadsheets even during the war. While the friendship of peoples was more explicitly formulated in Red Army agitprop, the "Soviet people" never receded. Stalin famously toasted the Russians as the leaders of the Soviet brotherhood in the few days after the war, yet as members of the broader "Soviet people." (17) Because the letters under study help indicate the reception of these concepts among Red Army soldiers, I suggest that frontoviki often did not distinguish between the two models but rather combined them to mean egalitarian diversity and comradeship.

Years later, Khrushchev anointed the Soviet people as the official "imagined community" of the Soviet Union. Most famously in 1961, he defined sovetskii narod as a "new historical community," predicated on Lenin and Stalin's nationality thinking, which emphasized evolution and the role of a common language and mentality. (18) However, Khrushchev's addendum--which implied that the Soviet Union was a form of nation--could have been created only in the postwar moment, as a diverse generation of Russian-speakers who had defended a common rodina assumed positions of power. Khrushchev's insistence on a shared "spiritual profile" and interior life was notably vague but he may have had something like frontovik culture in mind.

Thus more than an individual, Mukhamed-Misha represents a generation and a broader Soviet identity forged in war, later celebrated in the Khrushchev era, which lasted until the end of the Soviet Union: fluent or at least comfortable in Russian and--to varying degrees--adopting Russian or pan-Soviet cultural traits ranging from diet to piety and gender relations, yet still fundamentally Uzbek, a contradiction still visible among the Soviet generation in Uzbekistan today.

Red Army Letters as Historical Sources

Scholars of other conflicts and imperial formations have made productive use of letters. (19) Santanu Das has memorably described letters by Indian soldiers in World War I as "palimpsests where underneath accretions by different agencies, traces of the Sepoy's original intent remain." (20) However, rather than conceiving of these letters as repositories of truths reached by peeling away filtration, I wish to reconstruct the dynamic relationship between the writer and the state that sought not only to facilitate his correspondences but to mold his sensibilities. (21)

More than military censors, the decisive role in shaping the letter collection was played by Sabirjan Ibragimov, a researcher from the Uzbek SSR (UzSSR) Academy of Sciences' Institute of History, who culled the initial collection that he discovered at the Andijan oblast Komsomol office in the autumn of 1945. In preparation for a book on Uzbek contributions to the war that was eventually published four years later, he scoured the republic's countryside for exemplary kolkhozes. He learned of the girls' achievements while on his "Andijan expedition" and recorded acquiring approximately 400 of the more than 3,000 letters that the girls had received. Of these, 249 remain in the archive today, leading to the question of whether he gathered a random and thus representative sample or filtered them to meet the narrative of Uzbek heroism. I am inclined to believe he selected letters at random. He was in a hurry, and reading through the various scripts and chirographies would have been extremely time-consuming. (22) Furthermore, given the late stage of the war, the letters were a safe bet to create a triumphal narrative. Yet despite the letters' similarities, their great diversity indicates a representative mix, including overtly physical or romantic intent, transgressive pessimism, linguistic and national mixing, and religious worldviews that would have no place in a book published in the late Stalin years.

Western historians have traditionally been less enamored of Red Army letters. Genre fatigue from the many Soviet-era letter anthologies may be to blame for the relative lack of scholarly consideration. However, historians have begun to consider soldiers' letters as a constitutive part of Red Army experience and as part of epistolary culture's larger place in Soviet life.

Jochen Hellbeck observes that letters offered soldiers a means to "represent themselves in the war and to come to terms with it." Although both sides promoted correspondence to create emotional ties between front and rear, he finds that the Soviet state "promoted an epistolary culture that bore marks of a revolutionary ethos of transformation and encouraged self-reflection in the interests of moral self-perfection." (23) Soviet letters operated like diaries, yet in place of building socialism was the call to enter history as a hero in the epochal collision of civilizations.

Similarly, Schechter has demonstrated the success with which the "people's instructions" (nakazy narodov) encouraged Central Asian men to understand themselves as heroes in folkloric terms, as yigits and batyrs. Conceived as letters written by kin who brooked no cowardice, the "instructions" equipped soldiers with an easy-to-follow drama of good versus evil and promised national destruction and shame for those who fell short. (24) As he shows, ritualistic group replies and political officers' laudatory assessments of the nakazy narodov reflected their success in changing non-Russians' military performance and interethnic collegiality.

The present collection differs in key ways from other studies of nationality and subjectivity in soldiers' letters, most importantly by employing a large quantity of original letters with thematic uniformity. These romantic correspondences from a variety of nationalities shed light on how Central Asian and other soldiers balanced their national republican and Soviet self-expression, particularly in the sphere of gender relations.

More generally, subjectivities embedded in letters differ from diaries in their expectation of a response. Instead of being in dialogue with the self, they allow one to cultivate the self in dialogue with another, whose presence shapes the subjectivity created. However, the authors did not simply comport with the young women's supposed wishes. The promise of the female recipient--real enough to promise a response or meeting yet distant enough to symbolize an ideal--functioned like the diary's blank pages, allowing men to retreat to spaces of supervised solitude to make sense of their participation in the war and work out the identities they were trying to embrace--as Soviet frontoviki, infantrymen, or officers; as batyrs, yigits, and Uzbek soldiers in the Red Army; and as Muslim young men from places like Samarkand and Khorezm, seeking to attract companionship.

Although the letters are speculative, they do not dissemble. They are highly imaginative and deeply personalized, laden with emotion, vulnerability, pride, and bombast. It seems that the girls' relatability as kolkhoznitsas--rather than as cultural celebrities--compelled the men to a certain honesty that could sustain an actual one-on-one meeting.

Therefore, while I recognize that these letters are more a panorama of short autobiographies than sustained, self-reflective, diaristic writings, the men's introductions to O'g'ulxon and Inobatxon were nonetheless important episodes in the development of long-lasting subjectivities as Soviet soldiers--the most important identities in their lives. Diaries were rare and impractical while on the march; thus letters were the primary state-sponsored vehicle to interrogate and reimagine the self, with the inevitable twinge of loneliness or the twinkle of romance providing the guiding spark. Although it is understood that subjectivities are fractured and multiple--and that soldiers wrote different letters home as sons, parents, and friends--most of the young men were bachelors who would soon marry. This moment in self-reflection was particularly critical for the way they would make subsequent life choices.

Inobatxon and O'g'ulxon and Romantic Epistolary Culture

By responding to images of the girls, soldiers engaged in a gendered epistolary culture that was promoted by the Red Army and adapted it to meet their own needs, advancing it in directions that did not always align with state intentions.

The wartime Soviet state cultivated postal correspondence to boost troop spirits and monitor morale. (25) Although results varied, the Red Army strove to ensure postal service was uninterrupted, even making sure improperly addressed letters were delivered, such as the letter to O'g'ulxon addressed to the Kyrgyz SSR. Junior commanders and political officers encouraged correspondences and group letters to producers on the homefront. Schoolchildren adopted units as part of letter-writing campaigns, and young Komsomol women wrote to previously unknown men. No soldier was to go without a pen pal. As Kamat Kabiev wrote to O'g'ulxon, "tell all kolkhoznitsas to write letters to frontoviki." (26)

The Red Army made sure that Central Asian soldiers were immersed in the army's epistolary culture. The Uzbek creative intelligentsia's 1944 New Year's letter to Uzbek soldiers equated soldiers with legendary warriors and bade them remember their "elder brothers," the "great Russian people." (27)

One of the principal tasks for native-language agitators created in 1943 was to facilitate correspondence between the soldiers and their families. It was discovered that many men had never written or received mail from home, because they either did not know their own field addresses or were unable to write in Cyrillic. Native-language agitators taught illiterate soldiers spelling and grammar and addressed their envelopes. They also threatened to write letters home for soldiers not performing to standards. (28) Agitators were even instructed to send inquiries to soldiers' home districts if they had not heard from their families in several months. (29)

Letters to and from unknown Komsomolkas have been deemphasized as "escapist" breaks from seemingly more important soldierly experiences. (30) Yet soldiers' fantasies were part of their experimentation with self-fashioning and supported by the state for these ends. These correspondences were not necessarily one-way. They could result in long-term exchanges of letters, acquaintances, and even marriage after the war. (31)

However, Inobatxon and O'g'ulxon were not completely unknown. Red Army media rubrics fashioned for them a narrative of femininity, accomplishment, and nationality. The girls' photos appeared in installments that celebrated the homefront contributions of invariably female labor heroes from factories and kolkhozes throughout the Soviet Union. Inobatxon from the Uighur Collective Farm (Yerboshkent sel'sovet, Andijan district) was labeled a "competition winner" in the August 1944 issue of Krasnoarmeets and credited with surpassing the grape harvest norm by four times each day. (32) In the winter and spring of 1945, a solo portrait of O'g'ulxon appeared in no less than seven Russian and four Uzbek soldiers' newspapers and magazines. (33) She was credited with gathering 18,000 kilograms of cotton in the 1944 season, a figure so large it did not need contextualization into norms.

Men of all nationalities responded to them as Komsomolkas and competition winners, endowing the girls with a raft of other qualities central to Stalinist culture such as moral virtue, political maturity, erudition, and basic literacy, compelling the soldiers to position themselves as heroes in their own right, full of the same Soviet values. The chance to exchange "loving feelings" was of utmost importance to the soldiers. (34) But as selfless laborers, the girls also impelled the men to be braver and fight harder. (35) Men replied with fighting resolve and challenged the girls to pick more cotton and grapes as soldiers on the homefront--a socialist competition updated for war conditions.

The army was certainly aware of the success of Komsomolka correspondences. After all, photos of invariably young and female labor heroines far outnumbered depictions of older women and men. The women also performed something of a double burden, as beautiful laborers first and foremost but also by absorbing a variety of emotional burdens the army may not have anticipated, such as grief about war's futility and disruption of life plans. (36) For other authors, the Fergana kolkhoz girls triggered a longing for home that registered more as sadness than as a patriotic spark. Men of various nationalities wrote with desperation and infatuation after sending as many as six letters with no response, thus turning the correspondence into a source of torment rather than an emotional safety valve. (37) Letters to Uzbek Komsomolkas could also offer a moral refuge for men who may have perpetrated sexual and other crimes against local women. Writing from Budapest, the site of particularly egregious cases of mass rape, Kurban Musaev may have offered a penitent oath that "when the Red Army arrives in Berlin, we will demonstrate on the streets of Berlin how Red Army soldiers are cultured and disciplined." (38)

Men also responded to Inobatxon and O'g'ulxon through an ethnic lens. Both were photographed in the colorful tiubeteikas (Uzbek: dopt) and loose blouses of Uzbek "national dress," and both had multiple braids, which marked a girl as unwed. The portraits removed the girls from the context of their field teams (zvena) to create an illusion of one-to-one intimacy that fostered the sense of romantic availability. In a Central Asian context their label of Komsomolka implied that they and their families followed more progressive or pan-Soviet courtship practices and--important--were literate. That Inobatxon was an ethnic Uighur was not deemed important.

Although many Uzbeks reported not having seen an Uzbek girl in photographs or the flesh for over four years, in actuality they began appearing in Russian- and Uzbek-language publications in at least 1943, in line with other efforts to culturally support non-Russian soldiers. (39) The girls' photos were intended to offer Uzbek troops a type of emotional succor largely absent from the "people's instructions"--namely, gendered correspondence. Second, because their photos also appeared in the major Russian-language publications, they were meant to foster interethnic friendships on the front and build Soviet pride in internationalism as "everywoman" versions of Uzbek celebrities Tamara Khanum and Xalima Nasirova, who were deployed at the front for their special proficiency in cultivating the friendship of peoples. (40)

This emphasis on femininity, romantic availability, and internationalism reinforced long-term Soviet goals in Central Asia to promote interethnic marriage and direct sociability between the sexes. However, the idiosyncrasies of print and the front's particular romantic culture combined to make these goals more difficult to introduce to the Fergana homefront.

If the military's leading magazine is any indication, Central Asian women played a unique role among the USSR's various heroines as keepers of hearth and traditional femininity. Slavic women in Krasnoarmeets were depicted in various roles that accurately portrayed their varied wartime occupations: soldiers, children's caregivers, kolkhoznitsas, and workers in evacuated factories, who appeared androgynously in workers' overalls or in the midst of their tasks to emphasize their substitution for departed men. Meanwhile, Central Asian women's portrayals obeyed the cliches of the friendship of peoples' visual culture, in "national costume," amid the fruits and flowers of the field yet without depicting their toil. (41) The Central Asian girls may have also received a disproportionate amount of mail because the precise addresses and even cities of evacuated weapons factories were classified, whereas the Uzbek girls' home districts, villages, and kolkhozes were included--more than enough to deliver letters. In an army culture without pornography or pinups, Central Asian girls may have come the closest by virtue of the photos that encouraged attention to their physicality, not labor feats.

Furthermore, the front was actually full of sex, sparking a revolution in promiscuity that seeped into the language and expectations of the letter writers. (42) By not being there in significant numbers, Central Asian women retained a purity that may have amplified their attractiveness for soldiers, especially Muslim soldiers. As Oleg Budnitskii has demonstrated, female soldiers, clerks, or nurses often gained reputations for licentiousness, and Russian soldiers discouraged their girlfriends from joining the army for this reason. (43) When an Uzbek soldier wrote to O'g'ulxon that he had not seen a Muslim girl in four years at the front, he probably had both her supposed purity and her faith in mind. (44) As Brandon Schechter has observed, young women on the front sought to guard the symbolic distinction between unmarried and chaste "girls" and married and thus sexually active "women." (45) Russian and Uzbek authors responded to these signals, writing to them as devushka (girl) or O'zbek qizi (Uzbek girl)--unattached romantic partners or available penpals. When men took the girls' sexuality out of consideration--addressing them as "comrade" (tovarishch or urtaq) or the honorific "little sister" (singlim)--it was likely that the authors were already married or self-consciously older.

Thus the promiscuous frontline sexual culture and the girls' depictions took an already gendered epistolary culture and made it more direct and piquant. Whether the girls--or their fathers--would have embraced these implications is an entirely separate story.

O'g'ulxon, not Ol'ga: The Soviet Mobilization of Uzbek Women

Soviet Central Asian Gender Culture. The paradigmatic story about wartime love in rural Central Asian features letters and ends in trauma and uncertainty. In Kyrgyz author Chingiz Aitmatov's short story Jamilia (1957), war disrupts old patterns of rural work and sociability, resulting in the eponymous heroine forsaking her frontovik husband to run away with another man--and to an unknown fate. In many ways, Inobatxon and O'g'ulxon were paradigmatic "new women of Uzbekistan"--unveiled, committed to productive socialist labor, and--by virtue of their photographic celebrity--open to public malefemale sociability. (46) Yet, like Jamilia, they could not fully partake in panSoviet romantic culture.

By World War II, Uzbek men and women were already well acquainted with the Party's goals for courtship. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the Uzbek Communist Party's women's departments and women's magazines emphasized new ideals based on comradeship rather than parental arrangement. In 1928, Soviet law mandated that all marriages be voluntary, in an effort to undercut various "feudal survivals" like bride price and child marriage, and age minimums were set--18 for boys and 17 for girls. By choosing their own partners based on the compatibility of their socialist worldviews, it was thought, Uzbek families would generate a more progressive national culture. The press provided young men and women with new models of how to handle disapproving relatives, how to cater to tradition, and how to subdue physical attraction. (47) The years of the cultural revolution emphasized youthful rebellion. But by 1937 comradely marriage was depicted as less confrontational yet still rooted in shared values, with a sublimated or nonexistent physicality. (48)

Evidence suggests that Uzbek marriage practices were in fact changing under Soviet rule. Girls were marrying later, and men were marrying younger, reflecting access to Soviet education. (49) Despite these broader movements toward pan-Soviet social norms, the cultural expectation that parents should be involved in arranging marriages never disappeared and remains to this day throughout Central Asia.

On an all-union level, interethnic mixing and marriage were celebrated as an intrinsic part of the Soviet anticolonial promise and an important means to integrate the peoples of the former tsarist empire. It was understood that among the "Soviet people," sexual boundaries did not trace ethnic ones. (50) In Central Asia, the Party encouraged intermarriage between Russians, Tatars, and other supposedly more advanced nationalities and the indigenous nationalities as a means to promote a "progressive" family culture. (51) Yet as the principles of the friendship of peoples were defined in the 1930s, Soviet culture took a conciliatory approach to respect social norms. For instance, the popular 1941 musical comedy Svinarka i Pastukh (released for an English-language audience as They Met in Moscow) depicted the courtship between a Muslim man and a Slavic woman, obeying the prohibition that was never erased in Central Asia, forbidding Muslim women to marry European men. (52)

As the mobilization and evacuation oEWorld War II created unprecedented social mixing, party ideologues promoted more daring visions of interethnic sociability, emphasizing Uzbek female labor and interethnic sociability, including physical contact. (53) Although these efforts did little to change rural Uzbek attitudes toward intermarriage, the upheaval of the war clearly changed the boundaries of the imaginable. A postwar musical, Far Away Bride (1948, Dalekaia nevesta) flipped the roles from Svinarka i Pastukh, depicting the romance between a Ukrainian Cossack soldier and a Turkmen kolkhoz girl who meet when the soldier follows his Turkmen friend home on leave from the war and portraying the future thought to have arrived.

The Emancipation of Necessity. Though the Party struggled to advance a progressive romantic culture on the Uzbek homefront, its vision found traction in other ways. Uzbek women did not go to the front nor enter factories in any significant numbers, because to do so would have violated taboos against mixing with unmarried and especially non-Muslim men. Yet they were called to challenge different norms, compelled to replace their husbands, fathers, and brothers in kolkhoz work and labor mobilization. Many received advanced technical training, and others took leadership positions. O'g'ulkhon Qurbanova and Inobatxon Xoldarova exemplified a wave of young Uzbek women who came of age performing patriotic and socially productive work during the war.

Kolkhoz women, along with the elderly and children, were called upon to do more with less. The labor imbalance was gaping: for instance, the Central Committee of the Uzbek Communist Party (TsK KP[b]) estimated that 70-75 percent of all field laborers were women in Fergana oblast in 1945. (54) Military call-ups sapped kolkhozes of expertise, draft animals, tractors, trucks, and other technology while the restructured economy diverted limestone fertilizer to different sectors, even as central planning mandated an expansion of agricultural land and the introduction of new food crops. Irrigation canal maintenance languished, leading to episodes of famine, malaria, and precipitous drops in the cotton harvest, which fell by a factor of three. Andijan oblast was particularly hard hit: average productivity shrank from 23.5 centners per hectare to 8.2. (55) These disastrous results for a vital war sector led to widespread party purges and new mobilizational campaigns aimed explicitly at women. (56)

In its way, the Party kept assiduous numerical records of wartime emancipation. By the war's end 12,500 Uzbek women had studied at machine-tractor station (MTS) courses as drivers, mechanics, and combine operators--the most potent symbols of rural socialist emancipation--more than quadrupling their numbers before the war. (57) Women also accounted for 11,950 brigadiers--four times their number in 1935--and 48,772 field-team leaders throughout the republic, many of whom had received additional training. (58)

It is likely that the war era surpassed collectivization in moving rural women out of the home to work. Yet these gains represented more of an "emancipation of necessity" than strict conviction, and they had conflicting results. The war's stresses increased women's vulnerability as they took on new roles. Party and state control frayed, and cadre turnover became endemic. By 1943, an astonishing 69 percent of all kolkhozes in Uzbekistan were without a party organization. (59) In Andijan oblast alone, 129 of 517 kolkhoz chairmen were sacked in 1944. (60) Kolkhoz chairmen and local officials were left alone to meet agricultural targets by any means necessary, including administrative excesses and violence against women. (61)

Furthermore, the state's reconciliation with religion in 1943 gave conservative religious voices sanction to promote a traditional social order even as newly institutionalized Islamic leaders issued wartime exceptions to gender norms. Women's wartime mobilization may have met long-term party goals for brigadier leadership and tractor driving, but the process was destined to be violent and contested, making it difficult for young women to consolidate these social gains. There was little guarantee that women who became Komsomol and party members during the war had been trained in what might be considered pan-Soviet political and social values.

Inobatxon Xoldarova and O'g'ulxon Qurbonova. The girls' biographies reveal their war activity was much more complex than simple patriotic devotion. Although the girls were agents in their own right, their accomplishments--especially in O'g'ulxon's case--were rooted in family contexts that demanded paternal approval. The decision to pose for photographs ultimately remains murky, for it is unclear whether the girls or their fathers could have anticipated the stream of mail. But once thousands of letters arrived at the kolkhozes, it was the fathers or other older men who decided how to respond to them.

Inobatxon Xoldarova (Inobad Kholdarova in the Russian-language press) was the only daughter of elderly parents who had lost their working capacity; her only brother had gone away to war. She was 13 when the war began and became a prized laborer when her kolkhoz lost about onequarter of its heads of households during the war (from 210 to 160). By 1944, she had overfulfilled the cotton planting and grape harvest by three, sometimes four, times. She led a field team that vowed to harvest over twice the republican norms for cotton and was rewarded with a sheep that she donated back to the kolkhoz. (62) A visiting photographer took the portrait that wound up in the August 1944 issue of Krasnoarmeets when she was approximately 17. She eventually received over 1,000 letters, about half of which were brought to the Andijan oblast Komsomol office by the deputy kolkhoz chairman. (63)

Although Ibragimov left no notes about O'g'ulxon Qurbonova (Ogul'khon Kurbanova in Russian), her story emerges from press accounts and my interview with her sister. One year older than Inobatxon, O'g'ulxon bore the name traditionally given to daughters in the parents' hopes that the next child would be a boy--literally meaning "son-daughter." According to her sister, O'g'ulxon was uniquely driven to produce for the war effort, sleeping in the fields, waking before dawn--and expecting others to do the same. (64) Pis 'ma's fronta (1949) mentioned that O'g'ulxon had picked 18,000 kg of cotton in 1944 while part of her father's field team and in competition with a war invalid, Isamedin Arabov. A year later, she bested these efforts, gathering 24,000 kg for the 1945 season to earn a Znakpocheta. (65)

It appears that her father--not O'g'ulxon--authored the family's wartime celebrity. Qurbon-ata Nurmatov was a noted cotton grower, who according to his surviving daughter may at one time have served as kolkhoz chairman and was friendly with early Uzbek Bolsheviks who had urged him to come to Tashkent for more prestigious work. As early as August 1944, a photo of O'g'ulxon and her father appeared in Soviet newspapers with a caption crediting him with leading a Stakhanovite team to harvest 100 centners of cotton per hectare. The photo showed father and daughter smiling, bent over in simulated labor, explaining that Nurmatov was "instructing his daughter Ogul'khap [sic] how to correctly and quickly turn over a cotton field." (66) By the winter of 1945, the 75-year-old appeared flanked by his two daughters, each holding a bounty of cotton bolls, while the reported output had risen to 115 centners (almost five times the prewar norms). (67) Izvestiia depicted him as larger than life, versed in the knowledge of his ancestors and a full participant in socialist development. (68) The article included a new detail--that the family had an adopted son who had gone off to war and was killed--which, true or not, tied the kolkhoz closer to the front. Most notably, however, it made no mention of Qurbon-ata's daughters.

The image of father and two patriotic daughters also appeared in Uzbek newspapers, and his supervisory presence created a different sort of correspondence entirely. One of the Uzbek soldiers thanked him for expanding the Komsomol movement and saluted him for receiving the Red Banner of Labor. (69) Another letter addressed to Qurbon-ata was also the most religiously forward--with the authors pointedly describing themselves as Muslims--and romantically subdued. (70)

However, at some point in late 1944 another photographer--S. Bezsnosov--created the solo portrait that appeared in soldiers' newspapers, creating the fundamental shift in imagery that cascaded upon O'g'ulxon the seeds of a new romantic culture. Although her father was not opposed to his daughter's fame, it is much less clear that he approved of all the male attention that celebrity brought, or whether he knew that the editorial decision to use a portrait would create such a powerful illusion of intimacy. Perhaps he intuited that O'g'ulxon's illiteracy would effectively break the imagined chain of sentiment. (71)

A kolkhoz clerk read a portion of the letters to her as they arrived, but the majority likely went unread. O'g'ulxon's sister recalls that she was tickled by the praise and the offers of acquaintance but did not take them seriously. Although her father wrote thankful replies to several of them, the overwhelming majority remained unanswered. O'g'ulxon's depiction also hid a more complex truth, for she was married when the war began (as early as age 15) to a man who eventually died at the front. (72) She may have been married when her photo was taken.

Seeds of a Soviet Romantic Culture

Although the distinctions between Uzbek and Russian letters illustrate how soldiers balanced national and Soviet aspects of their identities, the letters demonstrate overwhelming similarities in the elaboration of a pan-Soviet romantic culture.

Even the 249 remaining letters would have given O'g'ulxon and Inobatxon a geography lesson, as each corner of the Soviet Union was represented, plus much of occupied Europe, like eastern Prussia, Konigsberg, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and "60 km from Berlin." Uzbek and Russian alike included their boevyi put', listing the battles they'd been in and territories they had crossed, such as Stalingrad in 1942 and even earlier. Broken down by language, 127 letters (51 percent) were in Uzbek, of which 81 were written in Cyrillic, reflecting the alphabet reform of 1939, while 46 were in the older Latin script. Several men were self-conscious about their use of Latin, asking forgiveness or for help in correcting their Cyrillic mistakes, indicating a perceived hierarchy of alphabets akin to the hierarchy of languages. (73) However, these labels are imprecise as Uzbeks often switched between the alphabets, often within the same word. (74)

The Uzbeks were more likely to include their hometowns, demonstrating how the celebrity of Andijan girls helped consolidate a Soviet Uzbek national pride that inspired men from across the republic to write, including those from Khorezm, Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Margelan, Fergana, and Andijan, including several excited replies from "Izbaskentlis," and one from a native of O'g'ulxon's own kolkhoz.

In addition, nine letters were in Kazakh, three in Kyrgyz, two in Tajik, and 1 in Tatar. Their authors assumed the girls could read other Turkic or regional languages, such as the Tatar A. Zakirov who nevertheless promised he could write the next letter in Uzbek. (75)

Forty-three percent (107) of the letters were written in Russian, and though they included common Russian surnames, such as Gerasimov, Solov'ev, and Fedorov, the Slavs are difficult to disaggregate. There were probably Ukrainians and Belorussians in this group, as well as Jews and at least one non-Russian from the RSFSR--a self-identified "natsmen Chuvash." But language was not the same as nationality, and at least 13 letters were written entirely in Russian by ethnic Central Asians. Yet this number masks the many more who sprinkled their letters with whatever Russian words they knew. By contrast, only one Slav wrote entirely in Uzbek (Latin), and two added a few phrases in Tatar and Bashkir.

There was little disparity among nationalities in the group letters (composed or signed by more than one author). These messages tended to be less personal, often arranged by officers or written by self-identified Komsomol members and retaining the agitprop language about the mutual obligations between front and rear and vows to rout the hated invader. Fourteen were in Russian, 19 in Uzbek, and 4 of ethnically mixed authorship, including one in which an ethnic Russian signed his name to an Uzbek note. (76) These numbers suggest that by the end of the war Uzbek soldiers were just as fluent with habits of building patriotism and ritual signing as other national groups. But even group letters belied this label; usually composed by one author who asserted narrative control, often becoming personal and romantic--with the language of Stalin's orders and hatred for Germans functioning to assert one's high character.

The letters and postcards themselves were material examples of how the broader Soviet Union, the war, and the wider world entered rural Andijan. With the better material conditions of this late stage in the war, the army began producing postcards with images of the Red Army and technology and patriotic slogans, such as promising to "beat the Germans back to their own lair." Moscow could also graphically mediate relations between non-Russians. Mukhamed Zaripov, a Tatar from Kazan, affixed O'g'ulxon's photo to his letter, written on a postcard with a picture of the Kremlin and wishing "Happy New Year 1945." An Uzbek wrote on a notecard with the Suvorov quote from the First Patriotic War, "Russians have always beaten Prussians" (Russkie prusskikh vsegda bili). There were many more, though none of them included Uzbek imagery or language. (77) Still, there was always a paper shortage, and as the Red Army occupied foreign territory, soldiers folded "trophy" paper into their characteristic triangular envelopes: for instance, business stationery from Rostock, Germany, and from a captured Finnish nickel mine. (78)

Although providing their birth year was strictly voluntary, the writers were an exceedingly young group--though all older than the girls--with most between 20 and 23 years old. Although a few were as old as 27 or 28, and some recalled serving since 1939, most of them were part of the youngest "frontline generation": plucked from schools, not yet married, for whom war service was the formative experience of their lives. (79) Many wrote their first letters and had their first courtships at war.

The letters displayed hallmarks of military correspondence that permeated the multinational Red Army. Most of the individual letters held to a general pattern: greetings, thanks, and recitation of the girl's achievements; wishes for her health; a few personal details like birth year, rank, and medals; and an entreaty to write back. In group letters especially, authors also extended greetings and thanks to the other girls on the kolkhoz. Russians and Uzbeks alike asked for photos, ignorant of the material conditions and cultural taboos in rural Uzbekistan. A few former Uzbek cotton farmers notwithstanding, they all assumed the girls had time to write a unique reply. With rare exceptions, the writers shared a certain male conceit of uniqueness. Many anticipated the girls' surprise and labored to explain how they had come across their addresses and photos. Either each man really believed that he alone had thought to write to the unknown girl, or he sought the illusion of an exclusive connection. Although it is possible that some of the soldiers wrote essentially form letters to a myriad of unknown young women on the homefront, even the inclusion of Andijan kolkhoznitsas in this practice would signal the perceived coalescence of a common Soviet romantic community. (80) However, the majority of letters were quite personalized.

Finally, although the details varied, the basic strategies to attract a reply were constant. One strand focused on achievement and could include boevyi put ' and mention of rank, medals, Komsomol status, or education. Another tactic was to cultivate sympathy for not receiving any mail, either because one's family had been killed or for other reasons. A handful of Uzbeks promised material rewards, inviting the girls to essentially place their order for packages--that is, plunder--from European cities and demonstrating the equanimity with which the practice was viewed within the Red Army. (81)

Uzbek in Form, Romantic in Content. Despite these structural similarities, Uzbek letters display a fidelity to Soviet values and wartime patriotism that nevertheless reflect distinct linguistic and cultural spaces. The letters reveal something we might consider an Uzbek war experience, brought into being by the presence of Uzbek heroines in the newspapers, which give them occasion to reflect not merely as Red Army soldiers but as Uzbeks. The letters illuminate a conception of the Soviet multinational community that emphasizes national distinctiveness and solidarity, yet without hierarchy. Thus the men wrote--and hoped to be understood--as Soviets with an Uzbek accent. (82)

Most apparent in the Uzbek letters is a distinctively lyrical style--the national form buoying the socialist content. There was great variation of labeling, formulations, and spelling, indicating a new cultural practice in formation. Writers filtered the models and behaviors of their colleagues through their own sensibility and literary ability. For example, Uzbek writers opened their letters with a diversity of often redundant labels while the Russians usually skipped ahead to the salutations. Variations included "letter to the homeland" (vatanga maktub), "greetings and health" (saginchilik salarn), "letter of greetings" (salomnoma), "comradely letter of greetings" (urtaqliq salam xat), or "letter from the front" (jrontdan xat). Uzbek letters also favored elaborate and celebratory opening sentences, trumpeting the girls' achievements and often employing cliches from Central Asian poetry and Soviet cultural geography such as "To the sunny, beautiful, komsomolka Uzbek girl Inobatxan Xaldarova, in Uzbekistan's beautiful Andijan city's sunny Uigur kolkhoz, working excellently daily and nightly with energy, in support of the front, strengthening it, heroically constantly working." (83) Uzbek letters were also given to boisterous repetitions and multiple exclamation marks of joy at finding the achievements of an Uzbek girl in their newspapers. One letter repeated "Heroic, beautiful Uzbek girl" (kaxraman guzal o'zbek kizi) and another repeated "farewell" (khair) five times. Pivoting from the girls' beauty and heroism, the men often assumed personae as batyrs or yigits, reflecting their hopeful entry into the epic register of heroism created in Uzbek-specific propaganda documents. (84) Many were also impelled to extend honorific greetings not only to the girls' fellow Komsomolkas and kolkhoznitsas but to heir kolkhoz leaders, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, emblematic of Uzbek oral greetings.

Not only did Uzbek writers rely on Central Asian poetic cliches, but several also wrote full poems to the girls. Some were set in the timeless flower gardens of classical Persian and Turkic poetry, while others imagined the girls' kolkhoz labor as their contemporary equivalents. One shared an Uzbek front song, "Victory" (Yengish), dedicated to his "beloved little sister" (sevikli singlim), in which the soldier vowed to shed his blood for the Party and for "the flowering of our beautiful Soviet gardens" (gullatib go'zal Sovet bog'ini). (85) Although only the most educated would have attempted a poem, even a less accomplished writer could have plucked phrases and imagery from Uzbek Soviet poets like Oibek, Uig'un, and G'afur G'ulom, whose work appeared in republican newspapers or soldiers' poems that Uzbek frontline newspapers solicited and published. (86) There was a sense that Uzbek soldiers should also be poets.

Uzbek authors also incorporated the girls into their prayers to express gratitude and used their Islamic faith to demonstrate their suitability as correspondents. Especially after 1943, Central Asian Red Army soldiers saw little contradiction between Islam and Soviet patriotism, reconciling their faith in God with that in Party and state. (87) A common greeting or parting word was a version of "God grant you all health" (ilahim hammalaringiz salamat bulgaisizlar). (88) Yet the war letters indicate that this patriotic piety was not solely created from the "ground up." (89) After all, Red Army media seemed to be presenting the men with Muslim romantic partners and imbuing the matchmaking with new rules, as in the case of Umriy Kuziev, who bluntly explained his decision to reply to the photograph: "if you are a Muslim girl, then reply as soon as you can." He confided that they were both young and that O'g'ulxon would soon become the "sun and happiness for some young man," and he hoped she would stay acquainted with him, offering a poem, "I Want to Love" (Sevgim kelur), which included his "dream to be drunk with the sound of [her] song," and his desire "to be inspired by the bud of [her] lips," having now seen them. The poem ended: "if you promise to be true/ then I will come to you, my beauty." (90) More than just a recitation of Central Asian poetic cliches, Kuziev's verse and preamble indicated how the direct physicality of frontline sexual culture could be translated into the Uzbek cultural vocabulary. Guards Sergeant Umarali Zakirov composed a poem "To the Girl-Eighteenthousander" (o'n sakkizmingchi qizga) avowing to "win [her] favor," admitting: "I cannot stop thinking about you, Stakhanovka/ about how wonderful you are." He then offered his wishes that "higher forces" grant health to O'g'ulxon's parents and family members, and "in particular I ask of higher forces and the creator to keep you, who have brought fame to Izbaskent district (Andijan) Uzbekistan, healthy." (91) Thus army service did not simply accommodate men's Islamic piety but transformed it as part and parcel of a burgeoning romantic culture.

Less romantically inclined authors also indicated that Muslim piety did not contradict faith in the Party, though it could operate in tension with soldierly imperatives. If repeated several times, phrases like "if God wills our health" (ilaha salamat bolailik) indicated no mere turn of phrase but a philosophy of ultimate agency that was outside party and human will. (92) An especially pious group in Latvia of three Uzbeks from Fergana Valley cities wrote: "we day and night ask our creator, Allah, for you to remain healthy in our hometowns. May God always keep you healthy." They added, "we ask God hundreds of times to fulfill our wishes to return home safe and healthy." (93) This indicated not only a religious outlook but regular active prayer that the army would have preferred to be replaced by faith in one's training, unit, and weapons.

All in all, the Uzbek letters to O'g'ulxon and Inobatxon represent a new sort of Soviet Uzbek courtship in formation. Though rooted in the chaste and voluntaristic ideals of comradely marriage and socialist competition, at the front it gained a more direct physicality and emphasis on appearance that could border on crudeness and often be overwhelmingly persistent. Yet it was capacious enough to include distinctive marks of Uzbek culture, Central Asian poetry, and Islamic content.

The pervasive request for personal photos was a frontline staple but a revelation in rural Uzbekistan, in which less than a generation ago the first female actors and dancers had been murdered and veiling was still practiced. Alongside the celebration of patriotic labor ran the repeated labels of "beautiful girl" (go'zal qizi) or poetic cliches like flower (gut) or nightingale (bulbul), drawing attention to physical appearance and making unveiled, young, feminine allure just as important as socialist valor in Uzbek conceptions of beauty. In a letter to Inobatxon in November 1944, one author wrote: "My heart skipped a beat when I saw your photograph. I was enraptured by what I saw, by your smile like a flower, and then I realized I had not seen an Uzbek girl in a very long time, and I vowed to keep your photograph from the magazine forever." And he finished with a three-stanza poem, "Uzbek Beauty" (O'zbekistan onor qizi), describing again the "fire in [his] soul" and apologizing if he had overstepped the bounds of propriety. Nonetheless, he recited again the process of instant physical attraction: "My heart beat faster when I saw in the magazine/your photograph which was like a lightning bolt. /When I looked again at your photo/I was smitten with you." (94)

As proof of its novelty, authors signaled their unease with the conventions of this courtship in a variety of ways. Most significantly, the Uzbek authors pleaded that the girls "not be offended" (xapa bolmangiz) or "not get angry" (achigiz chiqmasiri), expressing their awareness of breaking conventions by addressing unknown Uzbek girls with matters of the heart. By contrast, Russian authors anticipated it would be strange to receive mail from an unknown person or excused themselves for disturbing the girls' work--equivalent in Uzbek to kechirasiz--but without the overtone of violating propriety. Yax'yajan Zulunov from nearby Pakhta-Abad sel'sovet took care to clarify that once O'g'ulxon replied to his note, "From this moment we will be considered acquaintances" (hundan bujaqqa tanish bolamiz). (95) Hamitjan Musurmankulov, a senior sergeant and former teacher from Tajikistan who claimed to be without letters for ten years, wrote "my friend Ogilai, I am only asking about friendship, okay?" yet seemed to have much more in mind. For he begged for forgiveness three times, including once for using the word "dear." He promised to visit if he received a reply and photo and left a suggestive phrase hanging in the margins: "your brow is black, and your eyes too, I would like to ask you ..." (qashingiz qara, ko'zingiz qara, suraj disam ...). (96) Although "friendship" was an elastic term, regardless of intent the authors were self-conscious about the need to justify it.

I do not want to suggest that the girls' photos cultivated solely pan-Soviet feelings with no Uzbek republican register. On the contrary, the men's emotional links to the girls as Uzbeks were frequently cited and powerful. This was evident in all the letters authored by "sons of Uzbekistan" and in the bittersweet ode from "Unknown Ibadullaev," who admitted, "I've really missed sunny Uzbekistan, the Uzbek people, beautiful Uzbek girls, Uzbek gardens and kolkhoz fields. I wait with impatience for the day I return to my native Uzbekistan with victory." (97) Two Uzbeks--"both young, both not old, both lonely"--addressed their letter to the "female kolkhoz workers of Uzbekistan" and claimed it was the first time in four years they had received any news about Uzbek girls, so they had "joyfully read and reread it all night." (98)

However, these overtures did not preclude all-union goals and identification. Homesick writers claimed to channel the love of their native republics into the drive for Soviet victory. The girls also gave Uzbek men the chance to affirm the friendship of peoples for themselves. Several writers mentioned sharing their stories and photos with other soldiers. The "two Muslim guys" (Musurman [sic] balalari) who wrote to Qurbon-ata and his two daughters claimed to be the "only 2 Uzbeks among 700-800 Russian soldiers" and were "overjoyed and proud" to see the article and photo, which they "showed to the Russians." (99) Uzbeks may have felt cultural gaps more acutely than other nationalities, judging themselves to be "Muslims" while everyone else was a "Russian," regardless of faith or nationality. Yet the girls' achievements functioned at least as a first step to break down their alienation.

More frequently, the men's Uzbek republican and all-Soviet sensibilities were woven tightly together. A man might refer to himself simply as frontovik (variously firantchi, pirantchi, prantavik) or "Soviet soldier" (sovet jangchi). Or he might compile overlapping or concentric sensibilities, like Nasirjan Karimov, "soldier, Uzbek son, medal winner, Margilan native" (jangchi, o'zhek o'g'li, ordenli, Margilan shaharidan ketgan), who was defending his "Soviet homeland" (sovet vatani). (100) The men's categories of community moved from Uzbek to Soviet and back. For instance, an Uzbek group thanked the "sweet girl" (shakar qiz) for her labors and affirmed that, "together with our Russian kinsmen" (mss qardashlarimiz blan birgd), they were about to take Berlin. The three Uzbeks signed off sequentially and added a fourth "from our Russian comrades" (russ ortag'larimyzdan). (101) Perhaps this peremptory inclusion of the Russians signaled an officer-supervised effort, but the author was clearly happy to describe how "our front" took 4 large cities and 450 villages and extended a hello to a friend of his from Izbaskent. He wrote as an Uzbek and part of a swiftly advancing Red Army front. In his formulation the multinational army was made up of "kinsmen," avoiding the Uzbek term for "brother"(uka or aka), which would require one's positioning as either older or younger. Thus one could emphasize the Soviet Union's homogeneity and horizontality. Or, if the occasion called for including the Russians, one could undercut the formal hierarchies of friendship and assert instead that the "Soviet people" was an intimate, battle-worn kinship of equals.

Romantic in Form, Russian in Content. Interethnic friendship, sociability, and marriage were long-term Soviet social goals. However, given intractable cultural taboos, prewar cultural imagery usually depicted Russian women and non-Russian men. The inclusion of Central Asian labor heroines in army newspapers upended this cautious approach. Thus while the crude and direct frontline romantic culture was new to all soldiers, so too was the imperative to interethnic sociability and courtship. Most Russian peasants did not possess the skills to negotiate interethnic romantic exchanges, but the letters functioned as a training device to imagine a scenario in which the Soviet Union truly was a unified romantic community.

The first step to acquaintance and further relations was to familiarize the men with the odd names from the distant republic. The men could get the names wrong--Inobal, Yubad--or Slavicize them into Inobada, Ina, and Inochka. From there it was not a stretch to assume the girls spoke Russian, which was expected of Komsomolkas and, by 1944 and 1945, seemed a fair bet due to the linguistic strides made by Central Asians at the front. Of course, the girls could not--nor could most people on their kolkhozes. However, on the rare occasion when a soldier intimated communication might be a problem, it served the broader goal of frontline interethnic sociability, such as when Arkadii Ivanovich Maiorov wrote: "If you cannot write in Russian then let someone else write in your name" and offered that "here on the front there are all sorts of comrades and I'll be able to decipher it." (102)

In a way, each note by a Slav or written in Russian, whether voiced or not, was an assertion that nationality did not divide the Soviet people. As with many Uzbeks, there is ample evidence of Russians internalizing the lessons of friendship without applying its hierarchies. For instance, for most men Uzbekistan was simply another homefront, albeit a distant one. More than simple Russian chauvinism, the men's lack of inquisitiveness about Uzbekistan was evidence of prewar media portrayals of the country as a uniform socialist landscape and their own, fresh observations about shared socialist values. I. R. Bannikov explained to Inobatxon, "first, after the occupation of my homeland [moia rodina] all of my family is gone. And second, I've long had the wish to visit Central Asia. But given I would have no one to visit I decided to find a friend [naiti druga] with whom I could spend the rest of my life." He continued: "Comrade Kholdarova, in the event that you do not want to write me an answer then I ask you to introduce me to someone from your field team or you could introduce one of your girlfriends to my comrade-in-arms Volkov." (103) Thus it is not clear what aspect of Central Asia he wanted to see, but he conceived of it as another place to find wives or girlfriends for lonely soldiers.

The most inquisitive letter came from Petr Semenovich Maslennikov, who sought a "friendly connection" and was interested in Uzbekistan from an agricultural point of view: "I am of course very interested in your homeland [rodina] where you live at the moment and I decided to write to you; that is to ask you to describe what kind of climate you have, what kind of nature, what your kolkhozes grow, what you do; that is what kind of work do you do, what kind of animals, fowl, etc. do you keep? How would you describe Uzbekistan?" (104) Uzbekistan was different, but above all it represented kolkhoz life of a different sort, another form of rural socialism.

Bannikov and Maslennikov both implied that they and the girls came from separate rodinas, but other writers united the girls in a common "homeland." The frequent syntactical slippage underscored the confusion of what rodina meant in a multiethnic state that was being newly bound together. The domestication of Uzbekistan into the common Soviet homeland--or sovet vatani--was a gradual process but facilitated by its female labor celebrities.

The most striking assumption made by the Russian authors was that the Soviet people--and they and the girls specifically--shared a common romantic culture. The letters' physicality and focus on appearance was not so different from the Uzbek letters, but their resonance was louder because of their ethnicity. For instance, Il'ia Kuts wrote on a Tolstoi postcard: "I really want to see your appearance [vasha lichnost']. And I ask you to send me your photo so I can get to know you better." Boris Abramov wrote that Inobatxon's Stakhanovite work ethic but "especially [her] dress compels me to meet [her]." Even stock phrases of Russian correspondence, when combined with clear romantic intent, would have transgressed rural Uzbek gender norms. The desire to visit combined with the conclusion, "goodbye, I shake your right [hand] and kiss your little lips" (poka zhmu vashu pravuiu i tseluiu vashu [m]alin 'kii gubku ...), would have been scandalous if enacted on a rural Uzbek street. (105)

Most interesting, although several writers were aware of the novelty of their interethnic correspondences, almost none recognized that they were overstepping real boundaries. For Petr Efremovich Zlobin it was more important to determine whether O'g'ulxon was single: "I don't know which nationality you are, married or still a girl [eshche deushka (sic)], but for me nation [natsiia] doesn't matter, we're all on equal footing [na ravnykh probakh].... If you are married then forgive me for bothering you and may your husband not take offense. But if you're not married than I'd like to have regular written correspondence, after all I'm an unmarried guy and no one will object." (106) Only Petr Pervoushin acknowledged he might have violated cultural mores. In a letter mentioning his bachelorhood and willingness to visit Inobatxon he noted that the Uzbeks in his unit criticized him for "rudeness" (grubost 0 but offered in the postscript: "Don't be shy that I'm Russian and you're not. Most important is to have a good heart" (Nestestniates ' chto ia russkii a vy net lish ' by serdtse bylo dobroe). (107)

Thus Russian authors (as well as Jews, Tatars, Kazakhs, Chuvash, and others), even if based on illusions and physical distances, believed the easy, romantic relations at the front combined with the messages of interethnic camaraderie had led to a new almost national, universal Soviet romantic space. They were probably influenced by the behavior of their male Central Asian colleagues, who also took seriously the promises of interethnic sociability. These relations were promoted in their own Uzbek-language frontline newspapers with pictures of and poems dedicated to Slavic women at the front. (108) Enough Uzbek men had romantic flings and even marriages with their nurses that these relationships became something of a cultural trope and outcome of the war. (109)

It seems that only the women of Central Asia were unable to participate in this new romantic community. Perhaps for this reason the "Soviet people" was conceived as a brotherhood rather than a sisterhood.

Russian--the Language of Victory, the Language of Love

As has been observed, the acquisition of Russian by Central Asian troops was one of the most striking effects of World War II. They learned the language to survive. They could swear in Russian, and many wrote in the language, either to pass censorship or because it was easier than writing in their native tongues. (110) These points are important, but I want to expand the meaning of Russian for the Central Asian troops, capturing a distinctive identity that emerged in their letters of courtship.

Mastering the language was freighted in specific meaning for Central Asian men. For Uzbeks the language had a socialist, developmental register. In a speech by Mikhail Kalinin to native language agitators in 1943, learning the language marked the transition to becoming a "new people, people with a worldwide name, people with direct awareness of their direct participation in the creation of world history." (111) Although many--perhaps most--Uzbeks learned Russian informally, agitators created courses and Uzbek-language newspapers introduced regular Uzbek-Russian glossaries and published articles explaining strategies for learning Russian. (112) As a marker of prestige and successful personal transformation it easily became a form of romantic capital. Romantic correspondence became not only a venue to try out new skills but a space that favored new self-presentations. Learning Russian--and adopting Russian nicknames--changed the way people thought of themselves. Far from being superficial veneers, for a lot of men these self-presentations can only be called new identities as so many "Mukhamed-Mishas."

Uzbek authors habitually sprinkled their otherwise Uzbek-language letters with the Russian phrases they knew, reflecting the joy of imminent victory, their Russian-speaking service environment, and their newfound knowledge. More modest efforts included "letter from the front" or "I'm waiting for your reply." "Frantavek Usman" Murzayev--born in 1919, serving since 1939, and otherwise employing the more backward Latin script--compensated with an ambitious Russian opening: "hello from Germany unknown girl" (prevet iz Germaniia neznakomim devecbka [sic]). He concluded poetically, "I await your answer like a nightingale does the summer" (.Azhidaiu otvet kak salavii leta [sic]). The middle of the letter was, symbolically and unavoidably, in Uzbek. Other Russian segments reflected the sheer might of the effort. In the middle of an otherwise melancholic letter in which he admitted thinking of his home with "tears in his eyes," Senior Sergeant Abduvaxab Iraliev penned shakily: "I want through this letter to know you how you live write an answer" (ia khachuv chiriz etopismo vas uznat kak vyi zhivotiipishet otvet [sic]). (113)

Elsewhere Russian crept in subconsciously. Terms for technology and daily life were unavoidably Russian and entered Uzbek speech untranslated, like "field post," "tank," and "artillery." However, other Uzbek letters read like the speech of bilinguals who mix languages to reflect the cultural specificity of certain words and phrases. Even in these formulations, military scenarios dominated. Some of the more colorful included: "near Berlin" (patstupi Berlina), "I was awarded the medal for valor" (nagrazhdanman medal za otvagu), and "we surrounded Hitler with our Red Army" (Gitlars bizini kizil armiia akurizhait etgan edik). (114) Other instances seem to capture the particular resonance of Russian phrases such as the repetition of mozhbit (Russian for "maybe"--mozhet byt'), "write an answer" (atveteni yozib), or "not only" (ne to'lka). (115) One author hit upon the ambiguous category of znakomaia or "acquaintance," writing that although "we are not acquainted" (men sizlar blan iznakoni), he hoped the letter would fix that. (116) In a way, these snippets demonstrated fluency or at least a keen feel for Russian, for it is the subtle turns that mark the difference between a light touch and an overbearing grunt. Although these distinctions would have been lost on the Uzbek girls, they represented skills that served their authors in other settings.

Finally, knowledge of Russian could be the pivot around which a man demonstrated his whole suitability as a mate. Takhsibai Kurbanov had been in the army since 1939 and crafted a confident Russian letter to prove it: "Maybe you're married [vy vozmozhno nakhodites' v zamuzhom (sic)]. Then I'll be unhappy, but if you live alone I will be satisfied. Ogulkhon! You might not believe that I'm writing in Russian but I ought to say that having arrived in the army I couldn't speak Russian and now as you see I've already learned to write. And already I mostly speak in Russian." He concluded: "I would like to have a written connection with you or friendship after the war. We will meet and then we'll be lawful friends [my budem zakonnymi druz 'iami]." Signing off, he requested a photo and wrote: "I firmly squeeze your hand and kiss you several times." Kurbanov seemed to be the very picture of Russian-equipped transformation. The crude directness of his calculations was proportional to his claims for Russian mastery, as if the language assisted him into an extreme version of the frontline romantic correspondence culture.

But the situation was not this simple. Next to the return address--in an entirely different and unsure hand--was scrawled in the Latin alphabet: "poka dosvidaniia daragai ozbekskaia devushka ogulkhan ... Kypoanoe Kurbanib" (117) I believe the letter was dictated to another and thus Kurbanov's own mastery was much more modest. But Kurbanov's ruse only reinforces the importance of Russian as a marker of transformation. Although misrepresenting his abilities, he was earnest in his desire to join this particular community of Russian speakers and to model the way they operated in their letters to young women.

Mukhamed-Misha's comparatively polished Russian was much more assured. His self-labeling as Mikhail and Misha implied he was a man transformed and had embraced a new identity to suit it. He was not the only one. Chanai Mambetbaev introduced himself as "Basya Chanai" and described finishing school, working for his home district government near Issyk Kul, and becoming an infantry officer, ultimately offering to visit Andijan after the war. A fellow Andijan native addressed his note as Aleksei but emphasized the mutability of this identity in his invitation to O'g'ulxon to visit him: "just ask where Ibaydulaev Alixudja lives, any child can show you the way." (118)

While interviews with veterans suggest that many embraced these nicknames on the front and never used them again, others reinhabited them each Victory Day for celebrations with their frontovik colleagues, along with their uniforms and medals. For a smaller minority they became part of their professional lives, symbolizing their fluency in both cultures, such as G'ulomjon-Grisha Makkamov (b. 1926), whose knowledge of Russian enabled his rapid ascent to squad commander as a teenager, and who was later educated in law in Leningrad and Moscow. (119) These transformations, while situation-specific, were richly symbolic. Military service in the tsarist army had also been a site for assimilation, where men from the shtetl changed their names and became "Russian Jews," another top-heavy doubled ethnicity. (120) Adopting pseudonyms had great symbolic currency among Bolshevik leaders and cultural figures, signifying political commitment and self-fashioning.

I want to suggest that in the Red Army Uzbeks and other Central Asians did not simply learn Russian but became Russian in a way, adopting Russian and all-union habits of dress and diet and, especially, taking part in common rituals of a new romantic culture. Yet they did not ignore their Uzbek identity. Whether they retained their nicknames in occasional or everyday uses, Mukhamed and Misha symbolized a new Sovietness that celebrated both parts as equals that could coexist within the same individual. This ethnic alchemy was strong enough to last till 1991 and beyond, but it could also break into component parts when the historical situation changed.


Ultimately, when the heat of war cooled, so too did much of the common Sovietness. When the definitive histories of the Great Patriotic War began to emerge, they renounced these acts of ethnic transcendence. Thus Pis 'ma s fronta (1949) featured none of the ethnic mixing; no Uzbek letters in Russian, no nicknames, and none of the more direct romantic propositions. The poetics of international collaboration settled back into the rigidities of the friendship of peoples.

Our ability to trace the fate of Inobatxon leads only to questions. Meanwhile O'g'ulxon experienced the retrenchment of older ways. Despite her army of suitors, she was soon married to a man in the same village, though she quickly quarreled with her mother-in-law and left. Some time later, she married for a third time, this time to an uncle, and had a daughter. She was active in the kolkhoz her whole life, being sent regularly to Tashkent on work trips. Her sister recalled with regret that O'g'ulxon never found real happiness in her family life. (121)

Although perhaps an innate stubbornness played a role, O'g'ulxon's devotion to public life, her celebrity, and her activism, plus a postwar surplus of available brides, combined to make her a difficult match in Izbaskent district. Each of the four women of her generation who took part in my interview had marriages arranged to relatives, a practice they see as being aided by the gender imbalance. Although it is possible that she alone decided not to pursue the romantic leads in the thousands of letters, her father probably abided by traditional marriage and gender norms, judging by O'g'ulxon's own name and her early first marriage. One could imagine him responding to a handful of letters out of patriotic duty but refusing his daughter's "entry into society" as an object of courtship and infatuation for thousands of unknown, largely Russian suitors.

For the generation of young Uzbek women like Inobatxon and O'g'ulxon, "emancipation by necessity" rendered conflicting results. The rise of young women into positions of leadership, authority, and visibility fundamentally changed their life expectations. World War II was the virtual death knell for women's veiling. I argue that war mobilization itself was equally important in shaping young women's long-term expectations for a life of social work. Yet in the near term, rural women were largely pushed out of newly won leadership positions. (122) Moscow's relationship with Tashkent became characterized by "limited statehood," settling for social stability and cotton rather than transformation. (123) Newly institutionalized religious leaders and other conservative voices had the opportunity to voice more traditional gender norms, the rates of young women exiting school to marry actually rose, and the postwar gender imbalance created conditions for a rise in polygyny. If party sources are at all representative, the postwar years witnessed a rise of violence, especially against socially active women and Komsomolkas, that included rapes, murders, and a rising number of female suicides between 1944 and 1947. (124) Some of the worst offenders were party members, kolkhoz chairmen, and prosecutors and judges who were unwilling to prosecute these crimes, thus leaving women vulnerable to the custom of their families and home villages. (125) Yet how this story changes in the medium to long term is unclear.

The war called on Uzbek women to make patriotic sacrifices for the Soviet way of life. It provided opportunities for O'g'ulxons to become brigadiers and Komsomolkas, but they became Jamilias at great risk. They even assisted Mukhameds to become Mishas and enticed Russian men to extend the imagined sexual boundaries south, to envelope Uzbekistan in an almost national "Soviet people." However, language, literacy, custom, and their rootedness in local Uzbek contexts dictated that they could not become Ol'gas.

Dept, of History

Central European University

Nador u. 9

Budapest 1051, Hungary

Research for this article was supported by the Department of History, Institute for International Studies, and Institute for Slavic East European and Eurasian Studies at UC-Berkeley. It would have been impossible without the generosity of colleagues at the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences, Uzbekistan. I am grateful to the two anonymous readers whose comments greatly improved the overall argument, and to the Kritika editors for their support and patience. I received valuable assistance from many, including Brandon Schechter, Jason Morton, Eric Johnson, Victoria Frede, Yuri Slezkine, Sam Hirst, Sergey Abashin, Anatoly Pinsky, Jan Hennings, Alfred J. Reiber, Zukhra Kasimova, Akmal Abdullaev, and Gulnora Ganieva.

For photographs associated with this article, including of the two girls, see http://kritika. (after November 2016,

(1) Arkhiv Akademii nauk Respubliki Uzbekistana (AANRUz) f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 135, 135 ob. The spelling of the name "Ogulkhan" (OrynxaH) is closer to the Russian Ogul'khon (OryjibxoH) he saw in Leninskoe znamia than to the Uzbek O'g'ulxon ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) The letter is addressed to Ogulkhan Kurbanova, and the sender is Mikhail Ergashov. Here and elsewhere spelling idiosyncrasies have been preserved to reflect writers' levels of literacy and the diversity of written expression. Latin Uzbek and Cyrillic Uzbek have been transliterated into the present-day Uzbek Latin alphabet.

(2) For more on this argument, see Charles Shaw, "Making Ivan-Uzbek: War, Friendship of the Peoples, and the Creation of Soviet Uzbekistan, 1941-1945" (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2015), especially chap. 1.

(3) See Brandon Schechter, "'The Peoples Instructions': Indigenizing the Great Patriotic War Among 'Non-Russians,'" Ab Imperio, no. 3 (2012): 109-32; Roberto Carmack, "History and Hero-Making: Patriotic Narratives and the Sovietization of Kazakh Front-Line Propaganda, 1941-1945," Central Asian Survey 33, 1 (2014): 95-112; and Boram Shin, "Red Army Propaganda for Uzbek Soldiers and Localised Soviet Internationalism during World War II," Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 42, 1 (2015): 39-63.

(4) On Soviet reluctance to call up women to serve, see Roger R. Reese, Why Stalins Soldiers Fought: The Red Army's Military Effectiveness in World War II (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2011). On the persistence of distinct gender roles at the front, see Anna Krylova, Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

(5) As Sener Akturk suggests, sovetskii narod was a political, not an ethnic nation (Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012], chap. 6).

(6) On similarities between Soviet Union and modern European empires, see Douglas Northrop, Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); and Benjamin Loring, "Colonizers with Party Cards: Soviet Internal Colonialism in Central Asia, 1917-39," Kritika 15, 1 (2014): 77-102. Alternative views are advanced by Yuri Slezkine, "Commentary: Imperialism as the Highest State of Socialism," Russian Review 59, 2 (2000): 227-34; and Adeeb Khalid, "The Soviet Union as an Imperial Formation: A View from Central Asia," in Imperial Formations, ed. Anna Laura Stoler, Carole McGranahan, and Peter Perdue (Santa Fe: SAR Press, 2007), 113-39.

(7) Claus Bech Hansen, "Ambivalent Empire: Soviet Rule in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, 1945-1964" (Ph.D diss., European University Institute, 2014).

(8) See, e.g., Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

(9) Adeeb Khalid, Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007); Eren Tasar, "Islamically Informed Soviet Patriotism in Postwar Kyrgyzstan," Cahiers du monde russe 52, 2 (2011): 387-404.

(10) Northrop, Veiled Empire. See also Marianne Kamp, The New Woman in Uzbekistan: Islam, Modernity, and Unveiling under Communism (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006).

(11) Sergey Abashin, "Soviet Central Asia on the Periphery," Kritika 16, 2 (2015): 359-74, here 371.

(12) See Karel C. Berkhoff, Motherland in Danger: Soviet Propaganda during World War II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).

(13) Schechter, "'Peoples Instructions.'"

(14) Shin, "Red Army Propaganda for Uzbek Soldiers"; Carmack, "History and Hero-Making." Also on Kazakhstan, see Harun Yilmaz, National Identities in Soviet Historiography: The Rise of Nations under Stalin (London: Routledge, 2015).

(15) For the friendship of peoples as a hierarchical Soviet "imagined community," see Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalities in the Soviet Union, 1923--1939 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), chaps. 10-11.

(16) Nikolai Bukharin, "Geroicheskii sovetskii narod," Izvestiia, 6 July 1935. The photo band includes workers from Moscow, Tataria, Dagestan, Kalymykia, the Tungus river district, and two from Uzbekistan. I am grateful to Anna Whittington for this citation.

(17) "Vystuplenie tovarishcha I. V. Stalina," Izvestiia, 25 May 1945.

(18) Akturk, Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood, chap. 6. See Francine Hirsch's formulation of "state-sponsored evolutionism" in her Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005). A translation of Stalin's "Marxism and the National Question" (1913) can be found at http://www.marxists. org/ reference/archive/stalin/works/1913/03. htm.

(19) For a discussion on military censorship and soldierly expression, see David Omissi, Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers' Letters, 1914-1918 (London: Macmillan, 1998), 4-6, 22.

(20) Santanu Das, ed., Race, Empire, and First World War Writing (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2011), 82.

(21) See Khalid, "Soviet Union as an Imperial Formation," for the distinction between an imperial state and a mobilizational one.

(22) As evidence of his haste, he noted being unable to interview Inobatxon Xoldarova before returning to Tashkent because she had taken ill (AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 3,11. 161-62).

(23) Jochen Hellbeck, "The Diaries of Fritzes and the Letters of Gretchens: Personal Writings from the German-Soviet War and Their Readers," Kritika 10, 3 (2009): 571-606, here 576.

(24) Schechter, "'People's Instructions,'" 126-28.

(25) Hellbeck, "Diaries of Fritzes and the Letters of Gretchens."

(26) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21,1. 268 (Russian).

(27) Novogodnee pis 'mo frontovikam-uzbekam [listovka na uzbekskom iazyke]/Frontchi o'zbeklarga yangi yil xati (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1943). The Heroes of the Soviet Union mentioned were Ergash Sharif, Kamol Po'latov, and Sobir Rahim (Sabir Rakhimov).

(28) Sarsen Amanzholov, Opyt politiko-vospitatel'noi raboty v deistvuiushchei armii (UstKamenogorsk: Reklamnyi daidzhest, 2010), 25, 52.

(29) Politicheskoe upravlenie Zakavkazskogo fronta, Vospitanie boitsov nerusskoi natsional nosti (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1943), 7, 8. For more on the role of letters in agitation work, see the version of Vospitanie boitsov nerusskoi natsional nosti (Politotdel N-skoi armii, 1943) written for the 49th army especially 20, 23-31.

(30) Catherine Merridale, Ivans War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945 (New York: Picador, 2007), 247.

(31) I thank Yuri Slezkine for this observation.

(32) "Pobeditel' sorevnovaniia," Krasnoarmeets, no. 15 (1944): 17.

(33) These include Stalinskaiagvardiia (3 March), Boets R.K.KA. (7 March), Stalinskaia znamia (10 March), Krasnaia zvezda (16 March), Krasnoarmeets, no. 14 (1945), Krasnoarmeiskaia pravda (date unknown), Qizilarmiya (28 February), and Qizil bayroq (date unknown).

(34) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 178 (Latin).

(35) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 176 (Cyrillic). Another promised one German killed for each 1,000 kilograms of cotton O'g'ulxon harvested. See Pis 'ma's fronta: IliA, AN UzSSR, Arkbivnyi OtdelMVD UzSSR (Tashkent: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk Uzbekskoi SSR, 1949), 95-96.

(36) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 251 (Cyrillic). For discussions of women's double burden in war, see Krylova, Soviet Women in Combat; and Brandon Schechter, " 'Girls' and 'Women': Love, Sex, Duty, and Sexual Harassment in the Ranks of the Red Army, 1941-1945,"Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies, no. 17 (2016): 11.

(37) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 3,1. 155 (Russian). See also d. 21, 1. 54.

(38) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 184. For Budapest and Red Army rapes, see Norman Naimark, The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 70, as cited in Merridale, Ivan's War, 305.

(39) For instance, AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21,11. 118, 187. Krasnoarmeets featured at least six Central Asian women from 1943 and 1944. Sabirjan Ibragimov collected correspondences to Tadzhikhon Shakhabiddinova and her fellow kolkhoznitsas from kolkhoz "im. 18 Parts "ezd" (Karasuvskii district, Tashkent oblast) starting January 1943. See f. 54, op. 1, d. 3, 11. 8194. And Pis 'ma's fronta (1949) included letters to Khukumkhon Sadykova and others from kolkhoz "im. Kalinina" (Altyn-KuT district, Andijan oblast), who had appeared in Vatan sbarafi uchun, and Kadichakhon Arifova, whose photos had appeared in Qizil O'zbekiston, 11 June 1944, 113-17.

(40) Shaw, "Making Ivan-Uzbek," chap. 4.

(41) See M. Nesterov, "Soviet Central Asia [izomaterial]: 3 Soviet Republics. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan," (Moscow: Inturist, 1934) (

(42) On frontline sex and promiscuity, see Oleg Budnitskii, "Muzhchiny i zhenshchiny v Krasnoi armii, 1941-1945," Cahiers du monde russe 52, 2 (2011): 405-22; and Mie Nakachi, "A Post-War Sexual Liberation? The Gendered Experience of the Soviet Unions Great Patriotic War," Cahiers du monde russe 52, 2 (2011): 423-40.

(43) Budnitskii, "Muzhchiny i zhenshchiny," 414.

(44) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 143 (Cyrillic), 233 (Cyrillic).

(45) Schechter, "'Girls' and 'Women,'" 13. With this distinction in mind I refer to the heroines of the article as "girls" and not "women."

(46) For literature on unveiling and other Soviet womens initiatives, see Kamp, New Woman of Uzbekistan; Northop, Veiled Empire; and Adrienne Lynn Edgar, Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

(47) See, e.g., Z. Bashiri, "Erk Yolida," Yangi Yol, no. 1 (1928): 14-15, 18. I thank Marianne Kamp for this citation.

(48) Marianne Kamp, "The Wedding Feast: Living the New Uzbek Life in the 1930s," in Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present, ed. Jeff Sahadeo and Russell Zanca (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 110.

(49) Marianne Kamp, "At What Age Must One Marry?" unpublished paper, 13-14.

(50) See, e.g., the film Tsirk (1936, dir. Grigorii Aleksandrov) and the excellent discussion in Meredith Roman, Opposing Jim Crow: African Americans and the Soviet Indictment of U.S. Racism, 1928-1937 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012).

(51) Adrienne Lynn Edgar, "Marriage, Modernity, and the 'Friendship of Nations': Interethnic Intimacy in Post-War Centra Asia in Comparative Perspective," Central Asian Survey 26, 4 (2007): 581-99.

(52) Ibid.

(53) See, e.g., L. Samoilova, "Druzhba," Pravda Vostoka, 7 June 1942, about an Uzbek nurse in Leningrad.

(54) Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsial'no-politicheskoi istorii (RGASPI) f. 17, op. 88, d. 786, 1. 2.

(55) RGASPI f. 17, op. 88, d. 629, 1. 1.

(56) Hansen, "Ambivalent Empire," 66-67.

(57) RGASPI f. 574, op. 1, d. 2, 1. 9. An estimated 3,000 women drove tractors before the war. Citing Uzbek archival sources, Z. F. Ibragimova holds that 21,000 out of 26,000 tractor drivers trained during the war were women, a sevenfold increase ("Kommunisty Uzbekistana--organizatory patrioticheskikh podvigov zhenshchin respubliki v period velikoi otechestvennoi voiny, 1941-1945" (Candidates diss., Moscow State University, 1953], 139).

(58) R. Kh. Aminova, ed., Istoriia uzbekskoi SSR, 4 vols. (Tashkent: Fan, 1967-68), 4:110; L. S. Gatagova et al., TsKVKP(b) i natsional'nyi vopros, vol. 2, 1933-1945 (Moscow: Rosspen, 2005), 150.

(59) RGASPI f. 17, op. 88, d. 236,11. 74, 81ob. Uzbekistan had 6,897 kolkhozes on 1 January 1943. The party presence varied by oblast. It was highest in Tashkent oblast, where 77 percent (551 out of 743) of kolkhozes had party cells, and lowest in Bukhara oblast, with only 7.8 percent (120 out of 1,522).

(60) RGASPI f. 17, op. 88, d. 629, 1. 6.

(61) A visiting Moscow party committee reported that "beating and humiliation of kolkbozniki [was] a frequent occurrence" in Andijan kolkhozes and a "mass phenomenon" in Parkent district (Tashkent oblast). See RGASPI f. 17, op. 88, d. 629, 11. 29-30 and d. 236, 1. 73.

(62) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 161ob. Inobatxon was born in 1927.

(63) The estimated letter total comes from Pis 'masfronta, 120-21.

(64) Interview with Imakhon Madrakhimova, Izbaskent, 21 September 2014.

(65) Pis 'ma's fronta, 96.

(66) "Izbaskentskie khlopkoroby (Uzbekskaia SSR) boriutsia za poluchenie 25 tsentnerov Khlopka's gektara," Zapoliarnyi trud, 3 August 1944. Photograph by Max Penson.

(67) "115 tsentnerov khlopka's gektara," Sotsialisticheskoe zemledelie, 30 January 1945. Based on several letters, this photograph of the father and two daughters likely appeared in Qizil O'zbekiston (date unknown) and Komsomol'skaiapravda (26 January and 10 February 1945).

(68) Elena Bragantseva, "Vesna Kurban Ata," Izvestiia, 30 March 1945.

(69) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21,1. 160 (Cyrillic).

(70) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21,1. 97 (Latin).

(71) Interview with Imakhon Madrakhimova. The 1939 census indicated that 56.7 percent of kolkhoz women over nine years of age were literate in Fergana oblast. However, the standard of literacy was little more than the ability to write one's name. The proportion who had completed a secondary education--with its presumptive access to Russian classes--was a mere 1.65 percent. See Vsesoiuznaia perepis' naseleniia 1939 goda: Osnovnye itogi (Moscow: Nauka, 1992), 47, 53.

(72) Interview with Imakhon Madrakhimova.

(73) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 120, 160.

(74) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 216.

(75) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 128 (Russian and Tatar).

(76) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 197.

(77) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 108, 245, 261.

(78) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 142, 207, 248.

(79) Mark Edele, Soviet Veterans of the Second World War: A Popular Movement in an Authoritarian Society, 1941-1991 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 13.

(80) Merridale, Ivan's War, 246. She cites a story about mass production of hopeful love letters to female correspondents, which continues until a seventy-year-old replies.

(81) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 97 (Latin), 102 (Latin).

(82) For another treatment of the concept, see Ali F. Igmen, Speaking Soviet with an Accent: Culture and Power in Kyrgyzstan (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).

(83) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 3, 1. 151 (Cyrillic).

(84) See Schechter, "'People's Instructions.'"

(85) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 244 (Latin).

(86) On the poetic models, see the poems by Ui'gun, "Me and the Nightingale" (Men va bulbul), Qizilaskar haqiqati, 9 May 1945, and "Conversation" (Suhbat), which depicted an idealized exchange between a young man and young woman, advancing the gendered labor division of male military bravery and female cotton-harvesting devotion, sewn together by romantic attraction. See Qizilaskar haqiqati, 2 October 1944.

(87) Tasar, "Islamically Informed Soviet Patriotism."

(88) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 264 (Cyrillic).

(89) Tasar, "Islamically Informed Soviet Patriotism," 393.

(90) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 161 (Cyrillic).

(91) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 120 (Latin). Other authors also linked being unable to stop thinking of the girls wih appeals to higher forces: see AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 185 (Latin), 229 (Cyrillic).

(92) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 203 (Cyrillic).

(93) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 261 (Cyrillic). "Yaratgan allax taaladan kechchaiu-kunduz o'tunib-so'-rab turmaqdamiz ... o'z shaxrimizdan airikkanbiz va yana aman qaitishga arzularni yuz bar yaratganne parvardigarni." The authors concluded by repeating "goodbye" (khair) five times.

(94) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 3, 1. 142 (Cyrillic): "Jurnal ko'rib yurak burdi/baqsam rasming pinak urdi/ yana qaitib qarab baqsam/ko'ngil kushi uchib k'undi."

(95) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 124 (Latin).

(96) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 56 (primarily Latin, with switches into Cyrillic).

(97) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 92 (Latin).

(98) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 274 (Latin). See also 1. 190.

(99) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 268 (Latin).

(100) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 216 (Latin). He also spelled his name Nosirdjon in Cyrillic.

(101) AANRUz f 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 197 (Cyrillic).

(102) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 3, 1. 140.

(103) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 3, 1. 141.

(104) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 3, 1. 157.

(105) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 261; d. 3, 1. 128; d. 3, 1. 123; d. 3, 1. 126.

(106) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 125. Although Zlobin's surname and patronymic were Jewish, he introduced himself without nationality as a frontovik.

(107) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 3, 1. 137.

(108) For example, a love poem written to a nurse, appeared alongside a coquettish photo of the Komsomolka nurse Tania Bogdanova. See "Exclamation of the Heart" (Yurak nidosi), by Adham Hamdam, Front haqiqati, 23 May 1944.

(109) This was a frequent topic of conversation in interviews I conducted with Uzbek veterans in Tashkent in 2013 and Andijan in 2014. See also RGASPI f. 17, op. 88, d. 942, 11. 84-86; f. 574, op. 1, d. 22, 1. 123.

(110) Schechter, "'People's Instructions,'" 129.

(111) Mikhail Kalinin, "Edinaia boevaia sem'ia," Krasnaia zvezda, 21 August 1943.

(112) For agitators teaching Russian, see Amanzholov, Opyt politiko-vospitatel'noi raboty v deistvuiushchei armii. For Uzbek-Russian glossaries, see, e.g., "Learning Russian" (Rus tilini organ), and on Russian-language learning, see A. Vel'kovskii, "How We Work with National Soldiers Who Don't Know Russian" (Rus bo'lmagan millat jangchilari o'rtasida biz qanday ishlaimiz), Qizilaskar haqiqati, 12 February 1944.

(113) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 89 (Cyrillic).

(114) In order: AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 79, 64, 184.

(115) In order: AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 11. 81, 99, 99 ob.

(116) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 85.

(117) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 248. He signs his last name twice, first in Cyrillic, then in Latin.

(118) AANRUz f. 54, op. 1, d. 21, 1. 69 (Kyrgyz-Cyrillic); 1. 193 (Cyrillic).

(119) Interview with G'ulomjon Makkamov, Tashkent, 26 June 2013.

(120) Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917: Drafted into Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

(121) Interview with Imakhon Madrakhimova.

(122) RGASPI f. 17, op. 125, d. 507, 11. 169-76.

(123) Hansen, "Ambivalent Empire."

(124) On self-immolation, see RGASPI f. 17, op. 18, d. 810, 11. 6-10. Other assessments of rising byt crimes can be found at RGASPI f. 574, op. 1, d. 22, 1. 137; and Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv noveishei istorii (RGANI) f. 5, op. 16, d. 696; op. 33, d. 55.

(125) Shaw, "Making Ivan-Uzbek," chap. 6.
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Title Annotation:O'g'ulxon Qurbonova and Inobatxon Xoldarova
Author:Shaw, Charles
Geographic Code:9UZBE
Date:Jun 22, 2016
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