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CENTRAL ASIAN LITERATURE. Central Asia is understood to include the territories of present Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, the native population of which is Turkic in race and Muslim in religion. The Turkic peoples of Central Asia had a state structure and a rich literary tradition long before the Russian conquest of the region.

The development of a significant literary tradition in Turkic-speaking Central Asia dates back to the ninth and tenth centuries CE. Historically and sociopolitically, we may distinguish three significant periods in the development of literature in Central Asia-the Islamicimperial, the colonial, and the post-independence periods.

Islamic-Imperial Period. The longest era lasted until the second half of the nineteenth century. During this period numerous literary and poetic works were produced, often under the aegis of the great Turkic Muslim emperors, kings, sultans, and emirs and their courts. Some of the best-known patrons of and contributors to the literature of Central Asia include the Qarakhanids (tenth century); the Timurids (fourteenth through sixteenth centuries) such as Amir Timur (1336-1405), Ulughbek (1394-1449), and Husayn Bayqara (143815o6); the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483-1530); and the late nineteenth-century emir of Khoqand, Umarkhan.

Yusuf Khass Hajib was one of the best-known writers of eleventh-century Central Asia. Unfortunately, only one of his works survives, a long didactic poem entitled Kutadghu bilig (Wisdom of Royal Glory), which is considered one of the oldest monuments of Central Asian Turkic literature.

Ahmad Yasavi was a Central Asian Turkic Sufi and poet. He was born in the second half of eleventh century near the city of Sayram in Turkistan. Divan-i hikmat, a collection of his didactic character poems written in Central Asian Turki, is still very popular among the peoples of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The oldest surviving manuscript of this work dates from the seventeenth century. Yasavi’s poems created a new genre in Central Asian Turkic literature, that of religious folk poetry. In the following centuries many religious poets such as Sfifi Allahyar and Sulayman Baqirghani were influenced by Ahmad Yasavi.

The best-known poets of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries whose works have been preserved to modern times are Qutb, Khvarizmi, and Durbek. Qutb’s Khusraw va Shirin, Khvarizmi’s Muhabbatndmah, and Durbek’s Yusuf va Zulaykhd are still popular among Central Asians, especially Uzbek people. The prose work Nahjul faradis, written in the second half of the fourteenth century in Central Asian Turki by an unknown author, consists of four parts. The first part is devoted to the life of Muhammad, and the second part describes the activities of Caliph Rashid id-Din, `All, and four imams.

Under the Timurids (fourteenth to sixteenth centuries) Central Asian literature flourished, and a new generation of poets appeared. The poems of Lutfi, Atayi, Sakkaki, Gada’i, Nava% and Babur are still read and appreciated by the peoples of Central Asia.

Lutfi was the great early master of the ghazdl genre later perfected by Nava’i and Babur. Lutfi’s poetry is more accessible to modern readers because it contains more Turkic words than Arabic and Persian. His works influenced the poetry of his contemporaries Atayi, Sakkaki, and Gada’i, whose poetry was esteemed even during their own lifetimes.

Gada’i is one of the most remarkable Central Asian Turkic poets of the fifteenth century. The language of his divans (collections of poems) is Turki, the literary language of the Turkic people of Central Asia. Turki was highly developed under the Timurids. Central Asian literary Turki took its classical shape especially in the works of Mir `Alishir Nava’i (1441-1501) and Muhammad Zahiruddin Babur (1483-1530).

Nava’i was an outstanding thinker and poet as well as the great literary patron of his day. He was a statesman and a prominent member of the court of Sultan Husayn Bayqara, the Timurid prince who ruled Herat from 1473 to 1506. Nava’i wrote all his works in Central Asian Turki. His Hamsa (Quintet) is comprised of five dastdns (long poems): Hayrat al-abrdr (Amazement of the Pious), Farhad va Shirin (Farhad and Shirin), Layli va Majnun (Layli and Majnun), Sab`a yi sayydr (Seven Planets), and Saddi Iskandari (Alexander’s Wall). His four divans were entitled Ghard’ib al-sighar (Curiosities of Childhood), Nawadir al-shabdb (Marvels of Youth), BaddTal-wasat (Wonders of Middle Age), and Fawa’id al-kibar (Advantages of Old Age); they contained more than sixty thousand lines of lyrical verse. He was also the author of a number of scientific treatises and the linguistic work Judgment on Two Languages. He exercised great influence on the literatures of Central Asia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, and his works (numbering more than thirty) also influenced the development of Uzbek literature and language.

Muhammad Zahiruddin Babur also made a great contribution to the development of Central Asian literature. Babur’s lyrical poems are colorful. His biographical work Baburnamah is valuable as the first monument of realistic prose written in Central Asian Turki.

In the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries Central Asian literature developed in the domains of three independent khanates (kingdoms) in their capital cities in Bukhara, Khiva, and Khoqand. The Bukhara khanate existed until 1920. In 1753 it was renamed the Bukhara emirate. In the territory of the khanate where the population spoke mostly in Central Asian Turki and Persian, the literary works were also created mainly in these languages. The most famous poets of the Bukhara khanate were Mujrim Obid, Turdi Faraghi, Sayido Nasafi. Mujrim Obid (late eighteenth-early nineteenth century) was one of the best lyric poets, who wrote ghazals. Turdi Faraghi lived during the reign of the king Nadir Muhammadshah (governing from 1640) and his sons Abdulaziz (1645) and Subkhanqulikhan (1680). In this period it was difficult for poets to survive in the territory of the khanate; for this reason they left their homeland for the court of the Mughals of India. In the first stage of his creative activity Turdi wrote Sufi poems, and he considered himself as follower of `Alishir Nava’!. His poem Muhammas-i Turki Turdi is one example. The character and motif of his poems later changed; he began writing poems that expressed social ideas.

In the Khiva khanate the best-known writers were Nishati (sixteenth century), Munis (1778-1844), Agahi (1809-i874), Muhammadniyaz Komil (1825-1899), Avaz Otaroghli (1884-1919). Munis and Agahi were poets as well as historians. Munis began writing a history of Khwarazm titled Ferdaus ul-lqbal (The Paradise of Happiness), but he could finish only the introduction and first chapters. Munis’s follower, the poet Agahi, finished this excellent work.

The Khoqand khanate for many centuries was the center of poets. Such outstanding poets as Mashrab (seventeenth century), Mahmur (eighteenth century), Gulkhani (1770-1820), Muqimi (1850-1903), Furqat (1859-1909), Zavqi (1853-1921), as well as the many poetesses such as Uwaysi (1780-1846), Nodira (1791-1842), and Anbaratin (1870-1915) were the best in Turkistan of this period.

Colonial and Post-Independence Periods. Little scholarly attention has yet been addressed to literary developments in Central Asia during the period since the imposition of Russian colonial rule in the second half of the nineteenth century and the most recent period leading to the regaining of national sovereignty and independence in 1991. What work was done by former Soviet scholars needs to be critically reviewed from a nonideological perspective.

The colonial period in Turkistan, beginning with the Russian military invasion and occupation in 1861, marked a dark and tragic era for indigenous literature. From the beginning of their colonial incursion in the region the Russians attempted to make use of literature to further their interests by creating and promoting works that praised Russian culture, political system, and identity. Local poets and writers like Abay, Zhambyl Zhabaev (Kazakh), Ahmad Danish (Tajik), Furqat (Uzbek), and others began praising Russians in their works.

Some of Furqat’s poems-Suvorov haqida, Gimnaziia (Gymnasium), Vystavka (Exhibition), and Rus askarlary ta’rifida (About Russian Soldiers), praised everything Russian. Archival materials now indicate that whenever Furqat published a poem praising Russians he was rewarded by the Governor-general of Turkistan. This type of antiliterature was produced under the initiative of the editor in chief of the Turkistan Vilayatynyng Gazeti and the chief inspector of Turkistan public schools, a Russian named Ostroumov. During the first years after the Russian invasion of Turkistan, Ostroumov and his teacher II’minsky, a Russian missionary from Kazan, attempted to replace the Arabic script that had been used for more than a thousand years with Cyrillic and to ban Islam; for this purpose the Bible was translated into Uzbek. Although the tsarist rulers of Turkistan did not succeed in implementing these ideas, what they did not do was done by the Bolsheviks.

Eventually Furqat understood the mistake he had made and began to write poetry criticizing the oppressive nature of Russian rule in the Ferghana valley. As a result he was exiled by the Russians and died in Chinese Turkistan.

During the early decades of the twentieth century a new generation of writers, the so-called Ziyahlar (Enlighteners), who were followers of Ismail Bey Gasprin skii and supporters of Jadidism, emerged, making major contributions to the modern literature of Turkistan. Among them were Mahmudkhodzha Behbudy, Abdurauf Fitrat, Abdulhamid Cholpon, Maghjan Jumabayuuli, and Manan Ramiz. [See Jadidism and the biography of Gasprinskii. ]

In addition to poetry, this period also saw the writing and performance of plays as a new literary and artistic genre in Turkistan. In clear contrast to the nineteenthcentury writers and poets who demonstrated their literary skills by praising the beauty of spring or magical moonlight, the Jadlid writers turned their attention to the critique of ideas and social practices. For example, Behbudy’s play Padarkush (Patricide) written in 1911, and a play by Abdulla Qodiry entitled Bakhtsyz kuyov (Unlucky Bridegroom), together with Cholpon’s short stories, concentrated on the serious problems families faced in Turkistan following Russian colonial occupation.

Abdurauf Fitrat (1886-1938), one of the early dramatists and an outstanding scholar of the Jadidi era, both inspired and provided the ideological framework for the indigenous reform movement in Turkistan. Many of Fitrat’s plays took the form of historical dramas that depicted actual figures from the early and medieval Islamic periods. His works helped raise national consciousness and feelings of patriotism among the peoples of Turkistan. Some of his best-known plays in this genre include Abu Muslim (1918), Temiirning saghanasy (Timur’s Mausoleum, 1919), Oghizkhan (1919), Abul Fayz Khan (1924), Isyon’i Vose (Vose’s Uprising, 1927), and others written in either Uzbek or Farsi.

Like Fitrat, many Central Asian writers of this early colonial period were bilingual. Through their efforts to unify the various spoken forms of Turkic they developed the Literary Turki language. Historically and politically, they considered Turkistan to be a single, indivisible state with a common historical and cultural identity. Fitrat played a leading role in this movement and supported the introduction of an array of progressive changes in Turkistan. However, he opposed the imposition of the “proletarian” revolution exported from Russia. Fitrat sought to improve socioeconomic conditions in Turkistan by strengthening its ties with other Turkic and Muslim peoples in the region.

Another new genre, the realistic novel was introduced in Turkistan in the twentieth century by Abdulla Qodiry (1894-1938). Some of his better-known novels in this genre include Otgan kunlar (The Bygone Days, 1922), and Mehrobdan chayon (Scorpion from the Altar, 1929). He crafted a new method of writing historical novels that differed significantly from the well-known style of Arab writer Jurji Zaydan, whose aim was to describe the history of Islam through his novels. Abdulla Qodiry’s method of writing historical novels more closely resembled that of Walter Scott. The central importance of Abdulla Qodiry’s novels lay in their sympathetic rendition of the lives and times of the people of Turkistan before they were robbed of their freedom and independence by Russian colonists. When the Turkistani people read these novels, especially before 1991, they always recalled the long history of their independence and yearned for the return of their freedom. Many other Turkistani novelists like Mukhtar Avezov (Kazakh), and Khydyr Deryaev (Turkmen) followed Abdulla Qodiry’s example.

Not surprisingly these writers were much criticized by pro-Soviet authors who accused them of harboring sympathy for the old order. In his satirical writings Abdulla Qodiry criticized everything he considered bad in society, and the Soviets reacted with hostility. His first arrest by the Soviet regime followed the publication of one of his pieces in the satirical magazine Mushtum (Fist) in 1926.

By far the most significant contributions to Turkistan’s modern literature were made by an author whose entire life and works were dedicated to the realization of the ideals of a democratic and independent Turkistan. This extraordinary writer was Abdulhamid Sulaymon ughli Cholpon (1897-1938). The first collection of his poems, Uyghonish (Awakening) was published in 1923. In these poems Cholpon advocated the awakening and resistance of his people against the invaders:

Oh my heart! why for so long

Have you become friendly with chains? What complaints, what demands have you? Why have you become weakened?

You’re alive, not dead

You are a man, you are a human Don’t be in chains

Don’t beg

Because you also are born free!

The last three lines of the above poem by Cholpon have become the motto of the Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (ERK) today.

For Cholpon, as the following verses indicate, the struggle for freedom and independence was the sole reason for living a noble life or dying a glorious death:

O you widows and helpless ones O you bound in chains

O you beggars for freedom Do not beg from them!

Cholpon’s patriotism, love of Turkistan, and hatred of the invaders always echoed in the hearts of his readers. His poetry remained a strong source of inspiration and a major symbol of constant struggle for Turkistanis who held the independence and freedom of their homeland as their cherished goal. Only four collections of his poems were published during Cholpon’s own lifetimeUyghonish (Awakening), Buloqlar (Springs), Tong sirlary (Secrets of Dawn), and Soz (Musical Instrument). In addition, Cholpon also published part one of his novel Kecha va kunduz (Day and Night, 1935) and a number of plays and short stories.

The Communist rulers of Turkistan feared Cholpon, Fitrat, Maghjan, and Abdulla Qodiry because of the appeal their views had among the population at large. The regime attempted to exploit their popularity by encouraging them to write in support of the Soviet colonial system, but these efforts failed.

The classical literary language of Turki was the dominant medium of written expression throughout Central Asia during the fifteenth to late nineteenth centuries. In 1924 the Communist regime split the region into five Soviet republics and instituted a campaign (carried out all over the Soviet Union) of secular education in local indigenous languages. The government supported the writing and publication of works for schools and general readers in these vernaculars, resulting in bodies of Soviet Kazakh, Kirghiz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek literature.

During the 1930s the literary community in the Soviet Central Asian republics suffered an unprecedented loss in human lives and incurred serious social, cultural, and psychological damage to the community. In 1937-1938 almost all well-known writers and many of their followers and family members were arrested by the Soviets. Special archival materials made available in the period of glasnost indicate that many national literary figures of Central Asia (Fitrat, Abdulla Qodiry, Cholpon, and others) were sentenced to death by the Military Group of the Supreme Court of the Ministry of Inner Affairs of the USSR but in fact were shot before sentencing (Sharq Yulduzi, Tashkent, No. 6, 1991, p. 9o). Numerous honest and talented writers were annihilated and their works removed from public circulation and banned. Despite the concerted efforts of the Soviet rulers to mute the calls for freedom unleashed by these courageous writers, they have continued to inspire a new generation of writers in Turkistan. Today, many carry forward the tradition of pride in the heritage of contemporary Turkistan. They include major literary figures of the present era such as Chingiz Aitmatov (Kirghiz), Olzhas Suleymenov (Kazakh), Erkin Vahidov, Abdullo Oripov (Uzbek), Gulurukhsor Safieva (Tajik), and many others who have resumed the interrupted creative work of their teachers.

The execution of many of the heroes of Turkistani literature during the first decades of Bolshevik rule nonetheless had a chilling effect on literary circles. The decades from 1940 to the 1970s saw the rise of mediocrity as dutiful but unimaginative servants of the invading poweramong them Hamza, Ghafur Ghulam, Hamid Alimjan, Yashin, Uyghun (Uzbek), Ayni, Mirzo Tursunzoda, Lahuti (Tajik), Berdi Kerbabaev (Turkmen), and T. Satilghanov (Kirghiz)-eulogized the regime under the banner of “socialist realism” in verses like these:

Joseph Stalin, the whole people say We saw Lenin in you.

And it is true.

(Ghafur Ghulam)

My elder brother is Russian

If I’ll praise [him] in this poem It will be in good conscience. (Ghafur Ghulam)

Russia, Russia, the gigantic land. I am not a guest, I am your son. (Hamid Alimjan)

These were considered good examples of socialist realism among the ruling circles, and their authors won much praise. The sons and daughters of this land who had suffered so much under the yoke of colonialist oppression found it shameful to label such works literature.

A recurrent theme in Soviet literature was an attack on Islam and its supporters, and this theme became a standard subject for Central Asian pro-Soviet writers. In the 19206 they even founded a literary magazine called Khudosizlar (Atheist). Hamza Hakimzada Niyazi (18891929) expressed his opposition to Islam not only in his literary works Maysaraning ishi (The Tricks of Maysara), Burungi saylowlar (Former Elections), and Boy ila khizmatchi (Rich and Servant), but also in his political activities; he was stoned to death by a mob.

Even under these difficult circumstances, many talented writers like Mukhtar Avezov (Kazakh) and Aybek (Uzbek) wrote historical novels chronicling their nations’ heroic part. Other writers, such as Chingiz Aitmatov (Kirghiz), employed legends and allegories in their novels in order to avoid praising the Soviet reality of this period.

More recently, authors of great skill and genuine talent have offered more truthful approaches to the facts, events, and conditions in contemporary Turkistan. However, the history of Turkistan has continued to inspire new works. The 1970s was a particularly productive period when a number of historical novels were written including A. Yakubov’s Ulughbek hazinasi (The Treasure of Ulughbek), PirimquI Qadirov’s Yulduzli tunlar (Starry Nights) and Avlodlar davont (The Barrier of the Generation), Mirmuhsin’s Me’mor (The Architect) and Kh. Deryaev’s Qismat (Destiny). Banned historical novels by Abdulla Qodiry and Mehrobdan Chayon and Cholpon’s novel Kecha va kunduz (Night and Day) were republished.

During the Soviet period the Central Asian classics were published, but always in shortened form. Until today no full editions have appeared. Even NavdTs linguistic work has never been printed in full form in Central Asia, because the writer praised the Prophet and saints. When the Central Asian republics gained independence, authors were allowed to write about their historical past and began more freely to describe the themes of Islam, Sufism, and the Islamic heritage of the country. Abdullo Oripov’s Hadzh daftary (The Hajj Diary) was the first popular work in this genre.

A country without democracy, and a nation that for years was turned into a labor camp, was referred to only a few years ago by puppets of the ruling circles as the Bakhtlar Vodysy (Valley of Joy). The realities of life during the final years of occupation, however, were described in the works of more objective writers-including Erkin Vahidov, Chingiz Aitmatov, Olzhas Suleymenov, Abdullo Oripov, Muhammad Salih, and A. Sher,-as exemplified in the following poem entitled Vatan umidi (National Hope):

Though my name means Free (Erkin)

I have no freedom, I am a chained prisoner. I am blindfolded, my heart is full of pain

I have no tongue, I am speechless.

(Erkin Vahidov)

True to the prophetic voices of the national writers, after 130 years real independence came, and it did so with considerable sacrifices and serious economic hardships to the peoples of Central Asia. The end of the twentieth century promises great activity in literature and criticism, with resurgent Islamic influences likely to play a part.

[See also Islam, article on Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus.]


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Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/central-asian-literature/

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