November 24, 2021
Abstract: This paper examines Pirimqul Qodirov’s historical novel Starry Nights (Bobur), which told the story of the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, Timurid dynast Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur. At the time of its first publication in 1979, on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and at the peak of Soviet cultural diplomacy in the Third World, Qodirov’s novel ostensibly fit squarely within the Party’s ideological priorities. Born in Andijan (modern-day Uzbekistan), reigning from Kabul, and ending his life in modern-day India, Babur represented the paradigmatic transnational “Easterner.” Accordingly, the novel was quickly translated into nearly ten languages, including Hindi, Bengali, and Urdu, and was awarded a number of prestigious prizes. Within ten years, however, the novel was roundly denounced within the literary establishment as an exemplar of regressive nationalism. The fall of the Soviet Union offered a new opportunity to reinterpret the novel, and it has been thoroughly incorporated into the post-Soviet nationalist literary canon in Uzbekistan, alongside Babur’s reinterpretation as a founding father of the Uzbek nation.
Bio: Claire Roosien is an Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures Yale University where she teaches courses on modern Central Asia, Soviet and post-Soviet culture, and Russian empire and imperialism. Her book-in-progress, Socialism Mediated: Culture, Propaganda, and the Public in Early Soviet Uzbekistan, examines how Central Asian cultural intermediaries imagined and mobilized mass participation through Socialist Realist cultural production: poetry, novels, film, newspapers, and material culture, among other media.
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