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INVENTING A NATIONAL WRITER: THE SOVIET CELEBRATION OF THE 1948 ALISHER NAVOI JUBILEE AND THE WRITING OF UZBEK HISTORY

  • Boram Shin (a1)

Abstract

This article traces the process through which Alisher Navoi, a fifteenth-century Chagatai-Turkic poet from Herat, Afghanistan, became uzbekified and sovietized by Uzbek writers and scholars from the 1920s to the 1940s. It focuses on how shifting visions of nation-building affected Navoi's representation in Uzbek national historiography during the early Soviet period. The 1948 Soviet celebration of the 500th anniversary of Alisher Navoi's birth established the poet as a symbol of Uzbek “national-exceptionalism” that distinguished the Uzbek nation from other Central Asian nations. As a consequence Alisher Navoi's legacies that had regional significance were reduced to national heritage and the region's history was revised accordingly. The article, however, argues that the Soviet canonization of Alisher Navoi was not a rootless imposition of cultural history unfamiliar to the Uzbek people. Rather it was a realization of a nation-building project initiated by native Central Asian intellectuals called Jadids before the very creation of the Uzbek nation-state. Even though these intellectuals were persecuted during the 1930s Stalinist Terror, their ideas survived and were picked up by a new generation of Uzbek writers. This article also discusses how World War II provided an opportunity and justification for the Uzbek writers to rediscover their nation's pre-Revolutionary history and strengthened the Uzbek national ownership of Navoi legacies.

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References

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