The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Need to Establish a Common Culture for A Greater Iran
By: Mohammad Raoof Moradi
Abstract: Momen Qanaat, the editor of the Tajik magazine "Sedaye Sharq" (the Voice of the East), is an active and prolific writer in Tajikistan and has so far lined forty books. In the following interview he reveals important points about the background of the Persian language in Tajikistan, its present condition and ways and means for broadening cultural ties between Iran and Tajikistan.
Q: Please give us an account of yourself, your works, the positions you have held so far and the works you done to advance and promote the Persian language and literature.
A: I was born in a farmer family in the year 1932 in the Kargavoud village in the autonomous Province of Badakhshan. In 1954 I graduated in the field of Tajik Persian language and literature and have since held many positions. I have been a director of poetry branch and editor of the Sedaye Sharq (voice of the east) magazine, head of the Union of Writers of Tajikistan from 1974 to 1991, acting chairman of the Union of Writers of Tajikistan since 1968, a parliamentary deputy, head of the former Supreme Soviet International Commission, head of the Organization for Peace and Friendship in Tajikistan Republic and presently a member of the Tajikistan Sciences Academy. Up to now I have published more than 40 book titles. In 1960 I published my first book called `the Sparks'. My Soroush of Stalingrad won the Soviet state prize in 1977 and my Cradle of Sina (renamed Roudaki Sazavar in Tajikistan) was the winner of Tajikistan's government prize.
Being a deputy and chairman of the Union of Writers of Tajikistan I had the authority to recommend the publishing of Tajik Persian classic literature and through my efforts thousands of books were published in Tajikistan, Russia, Ukraine and other republics in the former Soviet Union. The critical review of Shahnama, published in Moscow, is one of the best known scientific versions of Shahnama which has been well received and recognized in Tajikistan. The works of Roudaki, Nassir Khosrow, Omar Khayyam, Saadi, Abu Ali Sina, Molana Jalaluddin Balkhi (Rumi), Nezami Ganjavi, Hafiz, Sheikh Attar, Kamal-e Khojandi, Sayeb Tabrizi, Molana Banayi, Abdulrahman Jami, Amir Khosrow Dehlavi, Mirza Bidel, Mirza Ghaleb, Seyeday Nasafi, etc. were books that were published in these series.
Meanwhile since Tajikistan is a member of the Geneva Convention, it has undertaken to propagate the publication of Iranian scientific, literary and cultural works in European countries such as a cultural history of Iran in former Czechoslovakia and Germany, miniature works during the time of Jami, Iranian miniature and artistic works during the time of Abu Ali Sina in Leipzig, Germany, with the best book illustrations and ornaments. Meanwhile the Shahnama and selected works of seven prominent Iranian poets have been translated into Bulgarian language and published. Besides, the Iranian literary works have been translated and published in all the republics of former Soviet Union and all these works were recommended by the chairman of the Tajikistan Writers' Union.
To commemorate the festivals held for upholding Iranian scientific and cultural scholars was another duty of Tajikistan Writers' Union and Tajikistan Academy. The 1100th anniversary of Roudaki (1957), 650th anniversary of Molana Jami (1962), 1000th anniversary of Ferdowsi (1991), the centenary of Eini and Lahouti, 70th anniversary of birth of Mirza Nersenzadeh, etc. were opportunities for Iranologists and researchers of Iran to assemble from different parts of the world and to comment and exchange opinions about the works of these famous scholars. On the occasion of these festivals, the selected works of these eminent writers in Persian, Tajik and Russian languages were published. Meanwhile, these festivals prompted the erection of the statues of poets laureate Roudaki, Abu Sina, Ferdowsi, Omar Khayyam, Eini in Dushanbe in pomp and grandeur and the tombs of Nersenzadeh and statue of Abulqasem Lahouti were repaired.
I have participated in different symposiums and international congresses on the Persian language and literature in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Samarkand, Moscow, Baku, Tblisi, etc. and have published reports on such gatherings.
Q: What was the relation of Tajik people with their past culture and the Persian language after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and how is their condition now? What sort of letters are now being used in Tajikistan? Are Persian letters being used in your country?
A: In reply to your second question I must say that the Tajik Persian language is the same language that was used during the time of Roudaki, martyr Balkhi, Nassir Khosrow, Khajeh Abdullah Ansari, Sheikh Sanayee, Molana Jalaluddin Balkhi (Rumi), Kamal-e Khojandi, Molana Jami, Seyedan Nasafi and Ahmad Danesh. The small changes in the language due to disintegration of Greater Iran in the fifteenth century and 70 years of communist rule were made only in terms and words. Naturally, during this period that Tajikistan lived apart from the Iranian mainland, new political, cultural and technical derivations from Russian, European and Uzbek languages were adopted and naturalized in the Tajik language in the same manner that many Arabic, English and French words entered the Persian language in Iran. During the reconstruction of Tajikistan we have exerted to make the Tajik language the national and state language in our country and our other objective is to change the name of Tajik into Tajik/Persian language in the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan.
We must do a lot to refresh and smooth the Tajik Persian language, but the domestic war in Tajikistan has prevented such an attempt. We have many pure Persian entries in the Tajik language similar to the terms that are found in the Dari Persian language in Afghanistan. I think it is necessary to establish a joint organization of linguistic scholars and experts to refresh and renew the language and to coordinate and organize a common literary Persian language.
During the reconstruction period from 1989 to 1991 thanks to the endeavors of the Tajik community much progress was made in the learning of the paternal language and letters and the Tajik citizens were learning the Persian language in schools, universities, government departments, ministries, in the high council of ministers and even in the president's office. But unfortunately the civil war in our country which stems from the same drive for self-recognition has weakened and limited our efforts in that direction.
The present letters used in Tajikistan is the same Russian Cyrillic and only few research centers, universities and several Tajik schools are using Persian letters for instruction of the language. The Turkish speaking Central Asian republics and Kazakhstan adopted Latin letters but we are still stalled in pursuit of our ancestral letters and identity.
In the present chaotic condition from political, economic and cultural points of view, Tajikistan is not able to return to its ancestral letters and it is necessary for Iran and other Islamic states to help us in this national drive.
Q: What is the capacity of Tajik universities for absorption of students in the Persian language and literature? Can your academies respond to the Persian speaking Tajik nation?
A: This question needs some analysis to respond. Even during the period that our language was reckoned a Tajik language, instruction of the Tajik Persian was commenced from Roudaki and incorporated all the great Persian poets and writers from Khorassan, Transoxiana and India. But we lacked principles and methodology of instruction. Because literature was taught in terms of its guild and ideological nature. I mean to say that only such pieces of the poets which were exotic or complained of kings, Emirs or hermits were taught and mystical or lyrical pieces were omitted in our curriculums. In the university 150 hours was allocated for instruction of native and Tajik Persian language, 200 hours for instruction of Russian literature and another 150 hours for instruction of other European literatures. Naturally the allotted 150 hours was not enough to teach the Persian language to Tajik students and we had no professor in the university to explain the meaning of one of the stanzas of Hafiz' Lyrics. As a result of following this method, the students remained estranged of the main genre of Persian poetry. Nowadays with the exception of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, new universities have been built and a unified methodology for instruction of sciences is being followed in all provinces and towns. Our problem is not the problem of language but the method of instruction.
Q: What impediments are hindering the formalization of Tajik Persian language?
A: We have three problems. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, the `Tajikistan' denomination is derived from the main tribe that gradually settled in Tajikistan i.e. to say the Tajik speaking tribes. The former Soviet republics have taken their official state languages from the same model.
Unfortunately, Tajiks dwelling north of Tajikistan, oppose the adoption of the Persian language. The second problem is that those countries who have dismembered the Greater Iran are opposing another Greater Iran or Iranshahr. An adoption of the Persian language in Tajikistan is construed as a serious step by the government to return to the Greater Iranshahr. The third problem that hinders such a drive is Pan Turkism.
Q: Do you have a Persian language academy in Tajikistan to prevent inflow of align words into the Persian language or to find out new terms for the foreign terms that have crept into that language?
A: We have many researchers on the Persian language and literature working in the Tajikistan Academy of Sciences. Another organization called the Committee for Improvement of the Tajik Persian is working in the Academy in that field, but at the present chaotic and disorderly state of affairs in Tajikistan such efforts will lead to nowhere. In Tajikistan Tajik/Russian or Russian/Tajik dictionaries as well as a two-volume Tajik to Tajik dictionary is regularly being printed but we do not have big dictionaries such as Moeen's or Dehkhoda's unabridged works in Tajikistan.
Q: To what extent cultural relations between Iran and Tajikistan can contribute and enrich the Persian language?
A: The question is not enrichment of languages but making them closer to each other or unifying the literary and official government language of Tajik Persian, Iranian Persian and Dari Persian.
Q: How many Tajik people are interested in the Persian language and poetry and the contemporary and revolutionary poets in Iran?
A: Due to non-existence of their poetry in Tajikistan, these revolutionary poets have not been properly introduced to the Tajik literati.
Q: Please describe the status of new poetry, story writing and (novel) story literature in Tajikistan.
A: The new poetry in Tajikistan is mostly concerned with the way of life of people and is revolutionary. The modern poetry of Russian scholar Mikavoski did not produce a good result. From the 50's until the advent of new poetry in France, Asia and Latin America, the impact on the modernization drive was strong. In 60's Iranian modern poetry and that of Mohammad Iqbal Lahouri made very good impression in Tajik poetry and in my opinion this period is the most rich, prolific and active period for development of themes and forms in our poetry.
Some Tajik poets were mere imitators and one smells the traits and scent of foreign poets in their works. Only two or three poets were able to digest the foreign poetry and compose new poetry.
The format and pictorial image of our stories were taken from Russian and European literature.
Q: What solution you have to emancipate the Persian language from the present chaotic status and prevent its disintegration?
A: It is necessary to make a serious analysis of the political and sociology factors of the culture to answer that question. What I know and would recommend would be a personal and private opinion. The disintegration of Greater Iran was based on a secret agreement signed in Paris (in 1886). Against this foreign intervention for dismemberment of Iranshahr, domestic factors such as lack of a strong central government, domestic tribal and religious skirmishes, the ambitions and haughtiness of Iranian kings, Emirs and regional rulers, and backwardness of statesmen in administration and diplomacy, contributed to such an economic, social and political disintegration and only our language, science, literature and great culture has so far helped us to retain our identity and dignity.
Nowadays without Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the Iranian tribes do not own a nationally represented government.
Therefore, this problem has no political solution and we must again resort to the strong and effective weapon of national identity and common culture. By resorting to such commonalties we can make things easier. Perhaps by establishing a central cultural bureau which can teach us the correct methods and recommend instructions and programs this aspiration can be fulfilled, but we can not rely on chance to solve our problems because there are many barriers in our way.
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