Tajik Memoirs [under construction]

Description

This project aims to significantly widen the spectrum of Central Asian voices in the historiography of Soviet Central Asia.  While Central Asian politicians, writers, intellectuals, and even workers have written numerous memoirs spanning the postwar period, the majority are frequently overlooked and infrequently cited.  They are not systematically categorized, catalogued, or made available in even regional libraries. Self-published and self-financed, they are most frequently available only from the authors themselves or at local bookshops.  As a result, most researchers gain access to a limited and essentially random collection of memoirs from the region, rather than the true breadth of its many voices.

By collecting and digitizing this body of memoirs, this project will make these unique sources available to historiographical enquiry in a systematic and more complete fashion.  Initially, it will start by digitizing memoirs from the postwar period in Tajikistan.  These memoirs include those of public officials and intellectuals, as well as engineers and social scientists.  The majority was published in very small print runs of 100-500 and has been largely absent from library collections.  Printed for the most part in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, the memoirs are written in Russian and Tajik, including a small number in the Persian script.

These memoirs provide an important perspective on many aspects of life in Soviet and post-Soviet Tajikistan, from the institutions in which individuals worked, to the relationship between Moscow and Dushanbe, to the changing atmosphere of perestroika in the 1980s and the Civil War of the 1990s.  Some memoirs take a broad view of Tajikistan, describing major events and political changes, while others are essentially collections of anecdotes about a famous person and his or her works.  Both perspectives are deeply important for going beyond the normal source base of archives, macroeconomic statistics, and other faceless and voiceless documents on which historians are forced to rely: they provide the lived experience of history, both big and small.  Gossip is also a deeply important aspect of daily life, and can often be used to track relationships and informal networks. Together, these memoirs are invaluable as a guide to the networks of Soviet-era political, intellectual, and cultural elites.

Contributor(s)

  • Artemy Kalinovsky (University of Amsterdam)
  • Isaac Scarborough (London School of Economics)
  • Marlene Laruelle (George Washington University)
  • Vadim Staklo (George Mason University)