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Uzbek literature.

Today more than a hundred countries have recognized the Republic of Uzbekistan, which has the longest history of any of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. It is a country with more than 120 ethnic groups.

It is well known that czarist Russia, starting in the 1850s, occupied the territory of Turkistan; as a result of the agreement between the Russians and the Chinese and a policy of colonization and occupation, West Turkistan became subject to Russia and East Turkistan became subject to China. The changes instituted by the Bolsheviks in 1917 did not bring freedom to the people of Turkistan; on the contrary, they successfully maintained the former colonial oppression with false laws, continuing the policies of russifying and secularizing the Turkistan peoples and draining their material resources and spiritual wealth. West Turkistan was completely dissolved in 1924, and in its place puppet republics such as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan were formed. The designations "Turkistan" and "Turk" were banned from use. As a result, the history and concept of the Turkish people were crushed in the cogs of the Soviet ideological machine.

Historians of Greek antiquity beginning with Herodotus disdained the term "ancient Turk," referring to Turks instead as "Scythian," "Sak" or "Soghdian," and "Massagetae." For a thousand years following the Arab invasion, Arabic and Persian had ruled. In the states formed from the old Turkistan, the Turkish peoples - Turkmen, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Karakalpaks, and Uighurs, descendants of the ancient Turks who for 10,000 years had lived as the Turks of Turkistan - were revived and designated by the Russians as "young nations." Actually, the Russians were the young nation; Russian literature and history began a mere three hundred years ago with Karamzin and Kantemir. Turkistan is acknowledged the world over as the cradle of civilization and humanity.

Despite the policy of colonization continued in the Uzbek SSR and other republics, national consciousness and national movements did not die out completely. Historians and writers continued to let the people know that the Uzbek civilization was an ancient one and taught people about great historical figures and their writings and deeds. World-renowned scholars such as Beruni, Ibn Sina, Farabi, and Ulughbek as well as great wordsmiths such as Nawaii and Babur were written about. Five-volume collections of Beruni's and Ibn Sina's works and a ten-volume edition of Nawaii's works were published in Russian and Uzbek. By 1990 a forty-volume set of fairy tales and epic songs from Uzbek folk literature was published, and currently a 100-volume edition of Uzbek folktales is being compiled. This in itself attests to the great cultural heritage of the Uzbek civilization.

Encyclopedias written in almost all languages hold to the one-sided idea that Uzbeks are descended from Uzbek Khan, the khan of the Golden Horde from 1313-42, and from the Shaybanids, who arrived in West Turkistan in the fifteenth century. (Shaybani Khan brought down the Timurid dynasty and established Uzbek rule in its place.) True, tribal Turks called Uzbeks did arrive with the Shaybanids, but they dwelled in the territory of Turkistan during the Timurid era, in that of the Khorazmshahs before that, during the Karakhanids and during the reigns of all the Turk khans, because they, after all, were the original Turkish people of Turkistan, right? Why is this not openly acknowledged? Because if the aggressors who have conquered this part of the world let these facts be known, then the mask of colonization would be torn. If this truth were made known to the modern ancestors of the ancient inhabitants of Turkistan and they fully comprehended their interests and rights, the claim could be put forward that "as there is one India, one China, one Iran, and one Russia in the world, in the land between these countries there should be one country of Turkistan, known to the world for the past ten thousand years." Fine, we will address this in a future history. For now let us continue with the main topic.

When our president, Islam Karimov, announced the independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan in parliamentary session in 1991, no one made a sound. Only after he said, "Well, is there no applause?" did our People's Deputies shout and clap. This in itself shows how deeply colonization had etched its stamp into the minds of the people. Today the people of Uzbekistan march bravely toward independence. But the path of freedom and independence is difficult; one cannot make a man who has been a slave for forty years into a free man in five years; this is too difficult. The reference in the Koran to "their hearts having been sealed" means that some people's hearts will never open up to the proper path; and when this is taken into account, as a people which has been freed from colonization travels down the path followed by the rest of the world, the well-meaning countries of the world supporting our young independent country with sincere and practical aid are doing something beneficial for the history of all mankind. The Uzbekistan of today is composed of the descendants of the old Uzbeks and ancient Turks, and their forefathers brought benefits to the world for thousands and thousands of years. One can learn this starting with the books of Herodotus, whose remains repose in the territory of modern Turkey, and from the epic tales of the ancient Sumerians. (The Sumerians headed west from the Sumer and Yulduz valleys near the Tien Shan mountains of Turkistan and founded a world civilization.)

In short, in all encyclopedias, including the Oxford University edition, we read: "Uzbeks, Uzbekistan - one of the republics of the Soviet Union, not just one of the Turkish peoples of Central Asia, but the Uzbeks are the Turks of ancient Turkistan, in other words an ancient civilized people born of the fusion of the Turks of the Timurid era with the Shaybanid 'Uzbeks'." As for Shaybani Khan, he was a Turk and wrote so in his works. Uzbekistan is a part of Turkistan; in other words, Uzbekistan is Turkistan - that is, Turan. Our history and ethnic and spiritual existence are tied to Turkistan and to Turan. Today, when Uzbekistan stands as an independent republic, not to accept what is our due is to signal that the oppression of colonization continues to exert an effect.

The history of Uzbekistan is not just the period 1924-91; the history of Uzbekistan is the history of Turkistan. Stone Age relics from a million years ago have been found in the Selunghur caves of the Ferghana Valley, one of Turkistan's ancient cradles of civilization. The 150,000-year-old Teshiktash man (Surkhandarya) is famous the world over. Five years ago the Japanese found the oldest statue of Buddha in Surkhan and declared that Uzbekistan is one of the cradles of Buddhist civilization. The Avesta was written in our land. The tales, stories, and poems from the seventh to the third century B.C. of Shiraq, Tomaris, Alp Er Tonga, Zarina and Strangio, Odatida and Zariadr are not just history but are also examples of the first written literature; they are considered the modern Uzbeks' national treasures. This is why this truth was stated openly in all the textbooks and books on literary history written during the Soviet era.

There is a theory that written Uzbek literature began with the Yassavids (eleventh century). In my opinion, Uzbek literature, or Turkish literature of Turkistan (including Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uighur, Karakalpak, and Turkmen), started as written literature in the seventh century before Christ. What is the basis for this claim? Here it is: "Alp Er Tonga oldimi? / Issiz achun qaldimi? / Oksiz ochin aldimi? / Endi yurak yirtilur." The poem from which these lines are taken was written in the year 626 B.C. and is dedicated to the death of Alp Er Tonga, referred to as "Scythian" by European historians and as "Soghdian" by Persian historians, but actually the leader of the ancient Turkish people. (In 626 B.C. Alp Er Tonga Khan was tricked into coming as a guest to the Shah of Iran Kaykhusrav and was poisoned and killed.) Although 2,620 years have passed, this poem is still comprehensible to a modern Uzbek. In N. Rahimov's "Uzbekified" translation in the 1993 book Turk Khaqanligi (Turk Khanate), only three words were changed: "Alp Er Tonga oldimi? / Yaman dunya qaldimi? / Zamana ochin aldimi? / Endi yurak yirtilur."

True, in the Sumerian epic tale written four thousand years ago, in the Alp Er Tonga epic, in the writings on the petroglyphs found in the ancient territory of Turkistan, Tonyaquq (712 A.D.), Kultegin (731 A.D.), and Bilge Khaqan (735 A.D.), there are many words still used by today's Uzbeks. These relics give us a basis for saying that Uzbek poetry began being produced in written form in the seventh century before Christ. In the Shahname as well, written by Firdawsi in Persian one thousand years ago, Alp Er Tonga is called "Afrasiyab"; Alp Er Tonga says, "Two-thirds of the world is in my hands, both Iran and Turan are my palaces." In other words, the ancient Turks, the forefathers of today's Uzbeks, ruled over two-thirds of the known world seven centuries before Christ, and such a historical and literary relic was left behind as proof.

In the histories of 2,500 years ago, both the struggle of the ancient Turks of Turan against the Persians of Iran and the heroic deeds of Tomaris and Shiraq against invaders have been preserved in reports and epic tales. These too can be considered the modern Uzbeks' historical and literary national treasures. Or let us take the history of the Kanglis. Before Christ, in the territory of Turan, the Kangli state (which lasted from the third century B.C. to the fifth century A.D.) included the territory of modern Uzbekistan. Judging from archeological excavations, from history books such as those of Greek and Aryan historians, and from other works, this state's great civilization had a huge effect on all of Turan, and naturally it left a great mark on human history. The Kanglis were the first people in the world to build horse-drawn carts (kang means "wagon").(1) As the great twentieth-century Azerbaijani poet Khalil Riza Uluturk said, "The father of the rocket and the first pioneers of space were the Kanglis, since it was they who discovered how to use the horse-drawn cart as a battle weapon." Even today in the Tashkent province some Kangli villages remain inhabited by Kanglis. Their appearance, language, and mannerisms are like those of the ancient Turks: they are straightforward, do not bargain, are frank and stern.

I am using these examples in order to connect history with the present. In the realm of Khorazm, located in the territory of ancient Turan, numerous great states were formed. Khorazm had its own system of writing. It is said that the Khorazm Turks controlled nearly all the lands of Turan in the sixth and seventh centuries B.C. There were many books and manuscripts written in the Khorazmian alphabet; the writings in this script were kept in people's homes and, in the third century B.C., in Khorazmian libraries. The ancient Eastern books and religious texts in Khorazmian script were burned and lost after the Arab invasion. Thus, in the territory of Khorazm, which is considered just one province of Uzbekistan, the fact that there were libraries 2,300 years before the present, and glorious religious books like the Avesta and other philosophical and literary works, shows that the forefathers of the modern Uzbeks were among the world's oldest civilized people.

An important event in the history of Uzbekistan (ancient Turan and Turkistan) was its conquest by Alexander the Great and his subsequent death there. The building of an empire by the Greeks, its fall, and the subsequent establishment of the Salavki state (third century B.C.), the Greco-Bactrian state (250-140 B.C.), the Evtidem empire (250-155 B.C.), and the Tokharian state (second to first century B.C.) complete the history of the states connected to Uzbekistan two thousand years ago. It would be possible to discuss them, but one would have little time left to discuss the following two thousand years.

The powerful state which held sway in the first to the fourth century A.D. was that of the Kushans. A great civilization was also formed during the time the Afrigians ruled (fourth to eighth century A.D.). Those referred to as the "Ephthalites," who actually made up the state peopled by ancient Turks called the White Huns, left important traces in world history in the fifth century. This was an age when the Huns established their own empires in the East, the West, and in Europe. Then came the Turk khanates. In Turan, the Turks' weakening, disintegration, and invasion by the Arabs took place in the seventh century. As a result, in 704, the Turks became subject to the Arabs. As Beruni wrote, and as is stated in the history of Narshakhi, the temples of the ancient Turks were destroyed and mosques were built in their places; books composed in the old Turkish language, all written materials, statues, and images were lost; religious books inscribed on animal skins were also burned. Thus, objects of the ancient Turk civilization were incinerated, buried, and lost. Over the next thousand years the history and culture of the indigenous people, the Turks, was taken away from them and history began to be written to serve not them but the Arabs and the Persians.

The Persians, who were slaves to the Arabs and served as interpreters (they had, since ancient times, been our forefathers' opponents in war), also played an important role in the Arab rule and promoted the slogan "The language of science is Arabic, the language of literature is Persian." Because of this, Turk scholars wrote their works in Arabic. Abu Mansur as-Saalibin's book Yati matut dahr, containing examples of the work of more than a thousand of Turkistan's scholars, writers, and poets of the tenth century, is a testament to this. Or recall that the works of Beruni and Ibn Sina, Farabi, and the father of algebra, Al-Khorazmi, were all written in Arabic. The writing of literature in Persian - Nizami, for example, with his Turkish blood, and the composing of Khusraw Dehlavi's first "Khamsa" in Persian - alienated the Turanian and Turkistanian Turks from their own national consciousness, and as a result they were not able to participate actively in the workings of state in their own lands. No matter how amazing it is that Dehlavi's poem reached a million lines, Turks read these only in Persian, and the majority of the people could not read them at all. In my opinion, the fact that Persian served as the official language in the states formed in Turkistan, and even in the khanates which were toppled at the beginning of this century, can be traced to this early history.

The first writer and thinker to comprehend this situation was Ahmad Yassavi: in his Hikmat book (the Devan-i Hikmat) he wrote the essential meaning of the Koran, the Hadith, and Persian histories in Turkish poetry that the ordinary Turk could understand. Yassavi (1091-1129) lived nine hundred years ago, and the book he left us, the Devan-i Hikmat, constitutes one of the oldest written works which is still read and memorized by our people to this day. Yassavi did not write in Arabic or in Persian but instead composed his beautiful poems in his mother tongue, Turkish, an act which must be considered symbolic of his love for his people and his nationalist feelings. The Turks, who had their own religious book in the Avesta even before the Arabs and before Christ and who conceived of the world as composed of a hundred layers of sky and with a single creator and master of all existence in the hundredth layer, Tangri (they called him Oghan), in other words who had a fear and love of God in their hearts, became ignorant and less civilized and backward as a people due to the successive invasions and wars and the loss of their language with the strengthening of the status of Arabic and Persian. Yassavi put a stop to this process with his book. Poetry in Turkistan was revived once again through his work, and national consciousness began to flow in people's veins. During this same era, the books of Yassavi's predecessors from a century earlier, Yughnaki and Yusuf Khas Hajib, written in Old Turkish, played a significant role in the formation of a national literature in Turkistan.

In Turkistan in those times the Ghaznavids, Karakhanids and Khwarazmshahs (tenth to eleventh century) ruled with might and power; they left behind a great civilization, including the magnificent scientific institution, the Ma'mun Academy, created during this period. As a result of the Turkistan renaissance which was taking shape at this time, the European Renaissance of the fifteenth century was born.

The subsequent era in the history of Turkistan and Turan, even the history of the world, is associated with the empire of Genghis Khan and the states formed by his sons. It is fashionable in historical literature to refer to Genghis Khan as a Mongol and to portray his campaigns of uniting the lands of Turan as only an invasion. But Genghis Khan, like the Turk emperors Oghuz Khan and Attila before him, united the lands of ancient Turan, where the kindred tribes of the Mongols and Turks were brought under one rule, and built capitals in Karakurum and Otukent. This was a tradition inherited from Oghuz Khan. Was Genghis Khan really a foreigner? Were the Mongols really enemies to the Uzbeks? Before answering this question, recall that in Babur's famous Baburname, the Shaybanids and the Uzbeks were portrayed as enemies. What Babur wrote was right: the Uzbeks who arrived with Shaybani Khan were an army which came this way from the Golden Horde. The Turkish homeland in which Babur lived was a land of the Turks that belonged to the West Turkistan Timurid state; what brought an end to the Timurid dynasty was the Uzbek state. But the Uzbeks were a "tribe" who are traced back to Uzbek Khan. In other words, Uzbek is not the name of a nation but instead designates those who were the troops of Uzbek Khan. Uzbek Khan was a descendant of Batu Khan, who was the son of Genghis Khan. So who is enemy to whom?

Today, in my mind, these histories need to be stated and written openly. Only in this way can we put a stop to thoughts which serve the ideology of those who divided and conquered Turkistan and which were deliberately distorted and confused so as to work against us. That is, there will be no more chauvinistic words which bewilder our people such as those of seven or eight years ago: "Neither Timur nor Samarkand and Bukhara have any relationship to modern-day Uzbeks." Or if we hear that "Nawaii was not Uzbek, he was Uighur," we need not be at a loss. If we look at history, and at the age when Nawaii lived, this great poet, who was connected to the Timurid dynasty, referred to himself as a Turk, not as an Uighur or Uzbek; on the contrary, the Uzbeks deposed the Timurids, to whom he was connected; however, today it is clear that the Turks to which Nawaii and the Timurids belonged were forefathers to both the Uzbek Genghisid descendants belonging to Shaybani and the Shaybanids and to the nation referred to as the modem Uzbeks. Disputes have broken out in the West over these very questions. Considering how certain works which were written expressly to leave our national existence in the shadows are referred to in those disputes, the need for clarification is evident.

Indeed, in the literature of the era following Yassavi there appeared dozens of great poets such as Lutfi, Sakkaki, Ataii, Yaqini, and Gadaii. The five hundred years from the tenth to the fifteenth century boasted such authors and works as Mahmud Kashghari's Devan-i Lughat at-Turk, Yusuf Khas Hajib's great philosophical and historical text Qutadghu Bilig, Ahmad Yugnaki's Hibat ul-Haqa'iq, Ahmad Yassavi's Devan-i Hikmat, and Sulayman Baqirghani's Baqirghan Kitabi. Khwarazmian Rabghuzi's Qissa-i Rabghuzi, the first Uzbek prose work, along with the poems and epic tales of Qutb, Sayfi Sarayi, and Dukbek, were great steps forward in Uzbek literature up to Nawaii. When regarded from a linguistic standpoint, the literature of these five hundred years shows little difference between the language used by poets beginning with Yassavi and the modem Uzbek language. All their works can be understood even today without translation or explanations. But the prose works and historical epics (Hajib and Yugnaki, Rabghuzi) retain strong elements of old Turkish, and for this reason as well, considering the Arabic and Persian vocabulary which subsequently entered the language of the Turks of Turkistan, some distance is felt between these works and today's readers. Therefore some of these are published today in a form modified to correspond to the modem language.

Nawaii in his own time perceived this change and composed his Muhakamat ul-Lughatayn in response to those who claimed that Persian was superior and that one could not create literature in Turkish. In this work he shows how rich Turkish is and gives proof not only that it is superior as a language of poetry, but also that it is the oldest and richest such language. The writings which were included in the fifteen-volume edition of Nawaii published during the Soviet era (1960-70) and then later in the twenty-volume "Complete Collected Works" (begun in 1987) are considered literary gems showing the embodiment, development, and crowning achievement of the Turkish literary tradition up to his time. His ghazals written in prose used and improved upon all the widespread forms of poetic verse practiced up to that time in Arabic and Persian literature, and stand apart in their conveyance of Islamic and global ideas and in their wealth of meaning. Nawaii was the first to create a khamsa or five-volume collection of poetry in Turkish. Each of these volumes - Hayrat ul-Abrar, Farhad wa Shirin, Layli wa Majnun, Sab'a-i Sayyar, and Sadd-i Iskandari - is a philosophical-historical-metaphorical novel written in verse.

It must be said that any European or American who has not been schooled in the East and knows nothing of Islamic civilization, science, history, and arts, no matter how "great" a scholar he may be, will naturally understand nothing of Nawaii's poetry and works. The task is similar to someone ignorant of Japan's literature, history, and national experience trying to comprehend Japanese poetry. In short, in order to understand the meaning of the poetry of Turkistan which began with Yassavi and continued to the nineteenth century, especially prose poetry and Sufi verse, it is imperative that one be knowledgable of the Koran, the Hadith, and Islamic and Turkish civilization. This requirement is no different than the prerequisite that a person have eyes, intelligence, and developed thought processes in order to read a book. In a word, if we wish to explain the scale for measuring a work, we can say this: in their poems the classic poets of Turkistan basically speak of the beauty of the beloved. They understood the "beloved" (yar) as this world and other worlds known and unknown to us, human beings, animals and all animate and inanimate beings, and the creator of all: God. They understood this world, human life, beauty, and all conditions as miracles created by God. They summoned others to love God, no matter what befalls them, to be patient and love God more, to love everything that God has created, every human being, every living creature, every day and every night. They conveyed this meaning using various traditional methods and metaphors. People were reared with this very meaning and outlook, and these brought about moral unity and a unity of outlook in society - in other words, ideological unity, and states became strong and developed. Because it is one God that created all Creation, he is the owner of all things, and the feeling of all humans as one family and one society took shape from this.

The writers listed above were studied well in the past; in Soviet times too their books were printed in many editions (with the exception of Yassavi, Rabghuzi, and Bakirghani, who were not published in their entirety because they were deemed "harmful" and "religious"). Today they are being studied more thoroughly, with the new outlook born of independence. Research is currently being carried out on their works.

Nawaii lived in Herat in the fifteenth century, and he is buried there; the works he wrote have been read for some five hundred years throughout Turkistan, even by the Uighurs of East Turkistan, which was later overrun by the Chinese, in Afghanistan, the land in which Nawaii lived and wrote, south of the dismembered Turkistan, in Azerbaijan, and in Turkey. His works were copied by hand and later distributed widely as lithographs. Nawaii became the common poet of the turcophone peoples living in the lands which stretch like a belt from the Great Wall of China to the territory of modern-day Turkey. For example, the thousand-year-old Twelve Maqam have been performed using only the lyrics of Nawaii, in itself a unique musical theater in the world and something truly ethnic in character. Nawaii's works are also the subject of intense study in Afghanistan and have been published dozens of times in Turkey over the past fifteen years. However famous Shakespeare is in Europe, Nawaii is loved to an equal degree among the turcophone peoples.

From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, when Turkistan was divided, wrapped in its own shell, and separated from the rest of the world, a decline set in. The literature created during this period conformed to the times, but several truly national and great writers were also produced, among them Mashrab, Abulghazi Bahadir Khan, Pashshakhoja, Munis, and Agahi. Traditions developed in history, literature, and in the arts, and hundreds of historical and literary works were created. It would not be incorrect to say, however, that literary development was able neither to rise to nor even approach that of Nawaii's time.

At the time of the invasion of West Turkistan by the Russians in the 1850s, the Khokand Khanate, the Khiva Khanate, and the Emirate of Bukhara ruled the lands that make up most of present-day Uzbekistan. From a historical as well as literary perspective, the legacy of these khanates and the emirate belongs mostly to the inhabitants of Uzbekistan, and perhaps for this reason it was primarily scholars in Uzbekistan who revived and published the literary heritage of West Turkistan during the Soviet era. It is also the Uzbeks who have published (without translation) and read the works of Ahmad Yassavi from nine hundred years ago, which are considered today to be the legacy of the entire Turkish world. All our kinsmen, Kazakhs as well as Turks in Turkey, publish his works only after adapting them to their own modern languages. What does this show us? To my mind, it shows modern Uzbek to be the closest language to Old Turkish.

But I digress. European thought, culture, and technical development arrived concurrently with the encroachment of Russia into West Turkistan, and of course not without oppression and pillage. One cannot ignore that a positive European influence also took place, however. It is for this reason that the famous nineteenth-century poet Zakirjan Furkat, in his newspaper articles and in his poems, called on Turkistanians to learn the Russians' advanced way of thinking, culture, language, and technology. What lay behind Furkat's slogan "Learn from the Russians"? Furkat's day coincided with a time when Russian colonization had become firmly situated in Turkistan, and with the increased oppression it was not possible to say anything openly against them. For this reason, the poet, who was thinking of his people's freedom and benefit, entreated them to learn from the Russians, saying that first they should learn the colonizers' language, that if they learned Russian they would come to know the Russians better and to discern their strengths and weaknesses, and thereby learn how to free themselves from the Russian yoke. For this reason it is possible to consider Furkat to be the father of Jadidist thought in Turkistan.

One could also name Muqimi, Zavqi, and Awaz Otar among the poets who, like Furkat, lived in the last century and were studied widely during the Soviet period. While these were called "democrats," there were other great poets who were branded as "court poets," though this was a biased and incorrect characterization. It will always be proper to judge each author according to the times he lived in. The poets, writers, and historians of the past are all ours, the democratic ones, sycophants, religious, and agnostic ones - all of them belong to us equally.

The strengthening of the policy of colonization at the beginning of the twentieth century in Turkistan naturally gave rise to opposition forces. According to what historians have written, during the czarist era there were some forty-five hundred uprisings against oppression. How many more such revolts occurred only in people's minds? Doubtless, these millions of revolts and waves of emotion in people's hearts have been reflected in popular songs and poetry. The writers known in history as Jadidists - Mahmudkhoja Behbudi, Munawwar Qari, Hamza, Sadriddin Ayni, Batu, Elbek, Abdulla Qadiri, Cholpan, and Fitrat - played a significant role in the development of national thought and literature. But with the exception of Hamza and Ayni, who went over to the Soviet side, all were purged or killed. Like Turkey's Ziya Gokalp and the Caucasus's Ismailbek Gasprali, who initiated the intellectual and spiritual awakening in the Turkish world at the beginning of the twentieth century, Turkistan had the great Jadidist (jadid = "new") educator and writer Mahmud Behbudi (1875-1918). In addition to his mother tongue, Turkish,(2) Behbudi knew Arabic and Persian. He also understood life in Russia and her colonies very well. He founded schools, a library, and in 1913 produced the newspaper Samarkand and the periodical Kozgu in Persian and Turkish(3) (in Persian, this was called Ayna). He was the first to write a play in Uzbek: his Padarkush (Patricide) was performed on many stages in Turkistan. In this play the idea is put forth that a child who has no education my kill his father as a result of his ignorance. In other words, the message is conveyed that an uneducated people could bring about their own demise and the fall of their homeland. With the advent of perestroika, the play was published for the first time in the journal Sharq Yulduzi in the 1990s. History, geography, and other textbooks written by Behbudi were also important contributions in their day.

Another author who, like Behbudi, carried on the ideas of the awakening and liberation of Turkistan was Abdulla Awlani (1878-1934), known as an educator, poet, and playwright. Among the several science textbooks and poetry collections he published was the popular Turki Gulistan (Turkic Flower Garden or Paradise; 1913), wherein he wrote of what was necessary to cultivate national spirit. This work was reissued in condensed form in the 1970s, then again later in its entirety. Awlani founded the periodicals Asiya and Shuhrat in Tashkent. His plays such as Advokatlik Asanmi (Is It Easy to Be a Lawyer?), Ikki Muhabbat (Two Loves), Toy (Wedding or Ceremony), S'ezd (Legislative Session), and Oliklar (Dead Bodies) contributed greatly to the development of Uzbek national playwriting and literature.

A literary personality who fought with his pen for Turkistan's independence and who was finally killed by the Soviets was Abdurauf Fitrat (1886-1938). Fluent in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, and Russian, this very talented writer taught at Petersburg University and ultimately earned a professorship there. He had studied in Turkey, in Istanbul, and it was there that his early books appeared. In my opinion, Fitrat stands first in his portrayal of national thought and attitudes in literature and in his open expression of national interests. In Yurt Qayghisi (The Homeland's Distress) he says, "I was born for you, I live for you, oh holy cradle of the Turks!" He summoned people to the cause of Islam and Turkness in his numerous articles in Hurriyat and Ulugh Turkistan. Plays such as Chin Sevish (True Love), Hind Istilalchilari (Hindu Invaders), Oghuzkhan (Oghuz Khan), and Temur Saghanasi (The Tomb of Timur) are priceless for Uzbek literature in their nationalist ideology and literary value.

Another author who performed a great service for Uzbek national life and literature and who was ultimately killed by the Soviets was Abdulla Qadiri (1894-1938). He began his creative works with the play Bakhtsiz Kuyaw (The Hapless Son-in-Law; 1913), in which he was influenced by Behbudi. Afterward he wrote stories. Organ Kunlar (Bygone Days), considered the first Uzbek novel, first appeared in serial form in a newspaper starting in 1922. This novel was widely read and loved in his own time as well as later. His second novel, Mehrabdan Chayan (The Scorpion from the Pulpit),(4) was issued in 1928. In these novels certain historical events which took place in the Khokand Khanate, in Tashkent, Marghilan, Khokand, and in Turkistan in general, as well as Turkistanians' traditional and everyday life, are depicted beautifully and with great care. After the author was purged, his books were not printed for another twenty years. Later they were reissued in multiple editions, and several of his novels were turned into beautiful Uzbek films.

A great poet who took twentieth-century Uzbek poetry to its heights and who was shot in 1938 by the Soviets was Abdulhamid Sulayman Cholpan (1897-1938). His first poems appeared in such newspapers as Sadayi Farghana and Sadayi Turkistan. By the 1920s and 1930s, collections of his verse such as Bulaqlar (Springs), Uyghanish (Awakening), Tang Sirlari (Secrets of the Dawn), Saz (Lute), and Jor (Skylark) had appeared. Cholpan also published a number of plays, including Chorining Isyani (The Revolt of the Slave Woman) and Ortaq Qarshibaev (Comrade Qarshibaev), as well as a good many articles of literary criticism and the novel Kecha wa Kunduz (Night and Day). After Cholpan was executed, he was essentially blacklisted and his works were not published. It was only in the early 1990s that his poems and his novel were reissued.

Uzbek nationalists such as Behbudi and Fitrat in their initial creative works, Sadriddin Ayni (18781954), and Hamza (1889-1929), under pressure from the Soviet government, went over to "the Soviet side," and for this reason their works were published in ten-volume sets in Uzbek, Russian, and Tajik and were carried around like flags. Nothing was said, however, about their initial nationalistic work and their ideas concerning the liberation of Turkistan. Perhaps this complicated issue will eventually be investigated during the era of independence.

During the Soviet Uzbekistan era thousands of writers, poets, and playwrights grew and matured. Today as well in Uzbekistan, more than a thousand authors continue to create literary works. Among the hundreds of writers who became famous in the years 1930-90 one might cite Hamza, Kamil Yashin, Hamid Alimjan, Uyghun, Aybek, Maqsud Shaykhzada, Mirtemir, Mirkaram Asim, Mirmukhsin, Turab Tola, Habibi, Sabir Abdulla, Asqad Mukhtar, Shukrulla, Adil Yaqubov, Pirimqul Qadirov, Erkin Wahidov, Shukur Khalmirzaev, Abdulla Aripov, Rauf Parfi, Jamal Kamal, Aman Matjan, and Muhammad Ali. Their poems and novels have been translated into many of the world's languages, and among the recurring themes in their works are the history of Turkistan and particularly such figures as Shiraq, Tomaris, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Timur, Babur, Nawaii, Beruni, and Muqana. Although these works were written in the Soviet era, they contributed greatly in their unique literary quality, their exposition of various stages of history, and their cultivation of the moral and spiritual issues of the Uzbek nation. Any listing of the finest individual works from this period would have to include the national poet Aybek's novel Nawaii, Maqsud Shaykhzada's tragic play Mirza Ulughbek, all of Mirkarim Asim's historical tales, Uighun and Izzat Sultan's play Alisher Nawaii, Adil Yaqubov's and Pirimqul Qadirov's historical novels, Mirmukhsin's novel Me'mar (The Architect), Shukur Khalmirzaev's hundreds of stories, and Erkin Wahidov's and Abdulla Aripov's poems.

Just as the division of Turkistan during the 1920s and the wooing of nationalist writers to the Soviet cause was a complicated affair, I am of the opinion that it is equally difficult to get the public as well as writers who were brought up in the Soviet system to think, write, and live in the new nationalistic mode. But as the idea of independence becomes more familiar and more widespread, there is no doubt that the Uzbek state will become stronger and our people more united.


Translated from the Uzbek By William Dirks

1 The modern Uzbek word for "wagon" is arawa, which is of Arabic origin. - Translator.

2 That is, Uzbek. - Translator.

3 See note 2.

4 Mehrab actually refers to the niche in a mosque pointing toward Mecca which is in front of the imam as he leads the prayer. - Translator.

TAHIR QAHHAR (b. 1953), currently an editor at the Ghafur Ghulam Publishing House, is one of Uzbekistan's most prominent poets and critics. Among his many verse collections are Aq Orik (White Apricot; 1980), Kun Kozi (The Eye of the Day; 1987), and Taghning Parwazi (The Flight of the Mountain; 1990).
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Title Annotation:Literatures of Central Asia
Author:Qahhar, Tahir
Publication:World Literature Today
Date:Jun 22, 1996
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