The History of a National Catastrophe

Rahim Masov

Edited and Translated
Iraj Bashiri

The University of Minnesota
Department of Slavic and Central Asian Languages and Literatures

© Iraj Bashiri, 1996

In Opposition to the Sabotage of National Politics

Session: Commission Regarding the Tajik Question

July 26, 1929

The nationality and the linguistic problems in Samarqand and its environs have not been solved. Along with the daily economic progress of our nation and the expansion of our village administration, many other issues like elevation of the peoples' cultural level, preparation of cadres, combating illiteracy, expansion of women's rights, and the cultural revolution are also making advances.

Progress in the resolution of the problems of diverse people must concern itself with the diversity of their native languages. But the fact that the questions of nationality and language have not been resolved in Samarqand and its environs is a great obstacle in the way of our progress.

Daily setbacks in our progress toward nationality relations are created by those Tajik intellectuals who were affected first by Pan-Islamism and, later, by Pan-Turkism. Everyone knows that before the Revolution there were two ideas: Pan-Turkism (or the creation of a unified Turkish government) and Pan-Islamism (or the creation of a Turkish rule under the auspices of a Turkish caliph or a sultan). After the Revolution, these same intellectuals occupied key positions in the cultural organizations and in Soviet officialdom.

After the establishment of the Republic of Turkistan, a series of other issues which include the elevation of the cultural level of people, opening of schools, and the training of teachers took center stage. It is obvious that putting these theories into practice was not easy. This situation was not specific to Samarqand but to the entire Turkistan. At the conclusion of WWI, Turkish Prisoners of War came to Turkistan and, together with our jadids, monopolized the education field.

The Tajik jadids, too, began to work under the guidance of their Turkish teachers. They gathered the Tajik students in groups and, in the course of several sessions, exposed them to the following platform: "The inhabitants of Turkistan: Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyzes are not separate people. They all belong to the same Turkish nation. As for the Tajiks, they emerged from the Turks but have become Tajiks under the influence of the Iranians. Therefore, the Tajiks are Turks."

Under the influence of such teachings, Tajik youths and intellectuals, considering themselves the offspring of a united Turkish people, began the promotion of this ideology in the schools and among the public. For instance, Akbar Shamansurov, who once was the director of the Samarqand Party Organization, sought all possible avenues for destroying the Tajiki language. He even made those who spoke Tajiki pay a fine. The members of the Pan-Turkist group of "Chaqatai," which had been organized by the Uzbeks at that time, had declared war against Tajiki and had become one of its most ardent enemies. Therefore, at that time, school children, cadets, and the "Chaqatais" sang famous Turkish anthems in the streets. The following three excerpts from the newspapers of the time prove that the media, too, was influenced by the Pan-Turkists.

"In the Land of the Tajiks" was published in Turkistan, in January 1924. Here is what it says, "The use of this language (i.e., Tajiki-Sh.J.), has the meaning of departure from life, because life and the progression of history are opposed to it. Acceptance of this language is tantamount to accepting a wrong and useless means of communication."

After such a learned argument, the author continues, "That is why it is necessary for the Tajiks who live in cities and villages to learn Uzbeki and not stay with any special (Tajiki) language."

The author of the article explains the situation for the Tajiks who are away from the cities. "Now we come to those Tajiks who live in separate villages and regions far from the cities. Although at the present they do not have any connection with the Uzbeks, we believe that if they stay in touch with the Uzbeks for two or three years, they would become like the urban Tajiks-they will achieve what Fate has allotted for them."

The process outlined above is not a social process; it has developed as a result of Pan-Turkist activities. This process lasted a long time. And, for a long time, the Tajik Pan-Turkists supported it and made every effort to fortify it. One of the Tajik Pan-Turkists writes in The New Way (novyj Put), published in Khujand (No. 14, 1924), as follows, "I think, if we undertake the process of Tajikification (they do not confess to this-Sh. J.), or if we claim to do that, our culture will retrogress."

In Zarafshan, No. 182, September 1924, in the article entitled: "About the Tajik Problem," after the clarification of the fact that the Tajiks are a branch of the Uzbeks, we read, "There is no denying that urban Tajiks (Samarqand and Khujand) are related to the Uzbeks, are mostly of Uzbek extraction and, therefore, cannot form an independent government of the type created by the Uzbeks.

In the opinion of the author, these Tajiks have been influenced by Iranian literature. Historical evidence shows that, in reality, they were Turkish tribes, who after the rule of the Iranians over the Turks, became Iranianized."

The author believes that the citizens themselves wish to be Uzbek. "The inhabitants of Samarqand and Bukhara would not have protested, if the supporters of the Tajiki movement had not talked to them. They would not know the difference."

The author, even though unhappy about the creation of Tajikistan SSR, accepts it. Out of the fear that the Tajiks of Uzbekistan might revolt, he writes, "I believe that instead of racking our brains as to whether the residents of Samarqand and Khujand are Uzbek or Tajik, and instead of creating reasons that do not really exist, we should bring the Tajiks of the Pamirs within the fold; their distance from us, like the citizens of the above-mentioned cities, is detrimental to them."

The national-administrative divisions started in Central Asia under these circumstances. The Turkologists evaluated the process this way: "The Bolsheviks introduced this to weaken the Turks. The future of these divisions is dim." Saddened by the establishment of Tajikistan, they pretend that, "Tajikistan cannot have any importance. After all its pride is in its high mountains."

The Uzbek intellectuals did not stay away from the problems of the Tajiks. They clarified their position by creating the "Great Idea" (Uzbek chauvinism) and prepared themselves for anti-Tajik activities. Those who were afraid to speak openly about this, spoke in the far-off regions to specific people. On the eve of the national-administrative divisions, the famous Uzbek chauvinist Shakirjan Rahimi came to Tajikistan. Sometime ago he had been the Director of the Socialist Education of the People's Committee on Culture. Excited, he established a confederation here and announced, "Whoever teaches in Tajiki, will be exiled mercilessly to the Kuhistan. His place will be given to Uzbek teachers. The teachers of Samarqand are prime examples of this."

After the completion of the divisions and the establishment of the ASRT the situation changed. Tajik teachers who called themselves Uzbek were teaching Tajik students who did not understand Uzbek in Uzbeki. Faced with difficulty, they requested that in some schools they be allowed to carry out instruction in Tajiki. But they could not force their request.

The forced assimilation of the Tajiks created many problems. People protested. As a result they evaluated the instruction in Samarqand and concluded that instruction in Uzbeki was incorrect. From 1926-1927, instruction began in Tajiki in the majority of Samarqand schools, and the language problem was resolved. The youth now openly identified themselves as Tajik. But, in spite of this, there were people in the Soviet apparata who, under the guise of "internationalism," entered Samarqand to implement the Uzbekization of the Tajiks. In fact, they made the struggle more intense. Turkish pride, grab for power, high status, and a desire for fame united them. In opportune circumstances, they did not distinguish their treasonous politics from the nationality policies of the Party. Consequently, they put the Tajiks under a great deal of pressure and the Party to shame.

But the Party and Soviet officials, even the Communist division, did not take any steps to stop this. These political mistakes continued to happen and, to a great extent, influenced our party leaders. Not understanding the policies of the party, they all were soon misguided.

There are a number of reasons for this.

In the meeting to report the city's accounts, which took place in the 3rd-Tajiki school where 1,000 people had gathered, it was suggested that the meeting be held in Tajiki. But, even though half the audience was Tajiks who did not understand Uzbeki, a certain Abdulla Umarbaev said, "This is the capital of Uzbekistan. It is not possible to hold a Tajiki meeting. The Tajiks should go to Tajikistan." Umarbaev himself is a Tajik. The reporter (he, too, is a Tajik), Sattarov, member of the Main Party, who does not know Tajiki, gave his report in Uzbeki. As a result, of the 1,000 who had come to the meeting only 100 remained. The others left the hall. This incident had happened in Haiderabad.

There, too, the Tajik Abdulrafiq Irashivi, member of the Party and ex-member of the City Committee, behaved in quite the same way with regard to the Tajik question. Rajab Ghaffarov, the ex-secretary of the rayon Party committee is a Tajik. He speaks Tajiki at home. His parents don't understand a word of Uzbeki. He himself has difficulty speaking Uzbeki. Yet, in a large meeting, he got up and said, "Certain Tajiks say that some Tajiks are becoming Uzbeks. Let them. Let us all do it." He thought that it would be much easier if we all became Uzbek than to have to constantly distinguish the Uzbeks from the Tajiks. In a large meeting it had been suggested that, in as much as the people of Samarqand are all Tajiks, and the language of instruction is Tajiki, the People's Soviet, too, should be elected from among the Tajiks. The former okrug secretary, V. Rahimov, opposed this, saying, "No responsible person would say that the people of Samarqand are Tajik. For several centuries Samarqand and Bukhara have been the economic and cultural centers of Uzbek rulers. These cities, however, have been related to Iran economically and culturally and because Persian is a subtle language, it has influenced their minds and replaced their mother tongue. For this reason it would be wrong to call the majority of the people of Samarqand Tajiks. From this we can conclude that if the people of Samarqand and Bukhara have become Tajiks, 'at the point of a sword,' if necessary, we must force them back to being Uzbek."

What difference is there, one wonders, between this ideology and the Pan-Turkist ideology outlined above?

Last February, in addition to V. Rahimov, Shakirov (of the okrug propaganda committee), Ghaffarov, and some other official participated in a similar meeting. In the meeting, Shakirov reported on the expediting of the implementation of the rights of women. Even though the discussions were extensive, not a word was said about the rights of Tajik women. The following resolution was suggested, "The majority of the women of Samarqand are Tajik. Therefore, half the women in the club must be Tajik. There must be one employee who knows Tajiki, and the language of interaction must be Tajiki. An expert in Tajiki must be appointed to the women's section and activists must be chosen from among the Tajik women."

Was there any anti-Soviet thought in the above statement? Yet many opposed it. Ghaffarov spoke against it.

We know our limits; therefore, this suggestion is not acceptable. The Comrade rose to support his initial statement, but the audience, under the influence of Ghaffarov, shouted, "Let the Tajiks go to Tajikistan," and "Tajikistan must serve the Tajiks." When people like Shakirov, Rahimov, and Ghaffarov fill the key positions, an anti-party spirit sets in. This is the core problem. It is not necessary to seek hidden motives for the prolongation of the Tajik issue and the public outcry over it. If the leadership wishes to stay away, it can always use the "lower echelon" to shout, "The Tajiks should go to Tajikistan." No one dares oppose that.

During the 1926 census taking, similar rumors were floating about, "It is necessary that they identify themselves as Uzbek. They say that if someone identifies himself as Tajik, they would confiscate his land and send him to Tajikistan."

The above-mentioned comrades had created this situation to frighten people to register themselves as Uzbek. This situation affected our task adversely. What did the people call itself before the revolution, until 1920? In order to find that information we shall turn to the 1917 and 1920 mateirals of the Bureau of Statistics, published in 1925. And we cite only Samarqand and its okrug?

37,820 Tajiks 50.88%
18,094 Russians 24.34%
11,210 Iranians 15.09%
7,208 local Jews 9.69%

In three Samarqand districts (in the Dargham-i Bala district) the national composition is as follows:

In the Shahyalla volost:
7,913 Tajiks 65.17%
4,229 Uzbeks 34.83%
In the Siyab volost:
5,952 Tajiks 65.65%
3,639 Uzbeks 34.37%
In the Khaja Ahrar volost:
7,913 Tajiks 65.17%
4,229 Uzbeks 34.37%

In general, in the city and its environs, the population is 111,487 including 65,824 (57.32%) Tajiks and 12,512 (10.88%) Uzbeks; 18,094 (15.77%) Russians; 11,210 (9.4%) Iranians and 7,208 (6.45%) local Jews.

In addition, the Tajiks lived in the villages of the former Samarqand uezd: 1,103 in Arabkhana; 312 in the Bukhara village; 1,167 in Panjshanbe-Siab; 707 in Yarimtuq; 7,855 in Kamargaran; and 217 in Aqsai. The population of the city of Urgut is 7, 855 (5,486 are Tajiks). In general, the Tajik population of the former Samarqand uezd was 76,700. If we considered the nine years between 1920 and 1929, the Tajik population would have passed 100,000. But according to the most recent census, that population has decreased to 10,700.

So many Tajiks could not have died in the course of six years. Rather, not being able to withstand the Pan-Turkists' pressure, they changed their identity to Uzbek. But since language does not easily accept change, they remained Tajik. While everywhere they were identified as Uzbek, the Tajiks did not know Uzbeki. At the present time, the nationality question is the most pressing and important issue before the Party. For this reason, the time has come to fight the Turkic elements and purge the Party and the soviets of them. The Party decrees regarding the establishment of special national soviets for national minorities, i.e., the ones that have majorities in their districts, have passed. These directives should be followed 100% so that we can correct some of the political errors of the past.

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