Thursday, December 17, 2009
The big question after the fall of the Soviet Union is what will happen to its former republics inn the south. Armenia, Azerbaijan Uzbekistan and Georgia as wel as Tajikistan are now feeling the pull of Iran and Turkey. The iron curtain that insulated the Soviet south from its ethnic relatives no longer exists.
I see the effect of this locally when I go into a grocery and see money from Azerbaijan which has the Latin rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. Jewish immigration from Uzbekistan, Georgia and other former Soviet Republics is sweet consolation for the poverty and economic instability that spurred their immigration to the US and to Israel.
Tajikistan has Tjik as its main language. Tajik is essentially Farsi. The two languages are mutually intelligible. I enjoy listening to the music and watching movies from that part of the world. Iranian films have developed a surprising following in the west and especially in societies with stricter standards of what may be shown on the silver screen. People in my synagogue who are from Iran maintain a fondness for music and films from Iran. One particularly popular film was Marmoulak (The Lizard) about a convict who escapes and disguises himself as an imam. Although it was banned after a short time, it is really not directed against the regime or against Islam.
I found a good video of a singer whose rise to local stardom reminds me a lot of Tanya Tucker. Her name is Nigora Holova, and she sings in Tajik (Farsi). Ste started singing when she was barely into her teens and is now about 20. She sings in traditional style. Even when she dresses in western clothing she is subdued in her style. Some of the videos of her performances have her being introduced in Russian, indicating that her fan base crosses ethnic lines. One video shows her singing in front of a giant poster of Emomali Rahmon, Tajikistan's Premier. Another video which I have posted with this article is of a traditional Tajik wedding. The elaborate traditional dress as well as some of the pre wedding ceremonies remind me of my son's wedding to a Yemenite girl. Both had the feeling of timeless tradition transported to modern times. Separate dancing for men and women is a feature of every Jewish wedding I have been to. The women portrayed in this wedding video are modestly clad yet not in an extreme way. It is a living reminder of the moderate sort of Islam that does not often make the 6 o'clock news.
An Afghan Prime Minister back in the 60's once told a journalist "I like to light my American cigarette withs Russian matches. It was a succinct metaphor for deriving benefits from cordial relations with the east and the west. I can easily imagine Tajikistan attempting to stick to such a course. With a million men out of its 7 million people working outside Tajikistan, it probably is not eager to make enemies.
I hope America cultivates friendships in Tajikistan, Turkmenia, Uzbekistan and all the former Soviet Republics. Iran and Turkey are certainly making their presence felt there and there is much mineral and petroleum wealth, particularly in Azerbaijan. Their cultural wealth is certainly worthy of consideration. I feel confident that my readers will agree.
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