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Marianne Kamp

Reappraising an Uzbek Literary Hero

Funded Projects, February 2014

Researcher: Marianne Kamp

Department: History Department

WIHR Research Presentation: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 3:10 p.m. in Classroom Building, Room 215

"Hero to Hamburger: the Decline of Hamza's Status in Uzbekistan"

Abstract: Hamza Hakimzoda Niyoziy, a famed and beloved poet and playwright in Soviet Uzbekistan in the 1920s, was the focus of my research in May 2014, with support from WIHR. My core question was: how do stories about a famous historical figure change as political and social transformations provide a demand for new versions or interpretations? In Hamza's case, those changing historical circumstances produced an acute shift in meaning. During the Soviet period, Hamza was lauded not only for his literary production but also for his exemplary life and death. He joined the Communist Party, worked with the new Soviet system to enhance culture and education, supported women's unveiling, and attacked obscurantist Islamic clergy, who killed him, turning him into a genuine Communist martyr. After Uzbekistan's independence in 1991, nearly every facet of Hamza's story that had been celebrated was re-evaluated: rather than a heroic Communist atheist, Hamza could easily be seen as someone who undermined Uzbek cultural values. How does today's cultural elite deal with a problematic poet whose literary works are still read and loved? Findings from my research in Uzbekistan point out the nuances of re-interpretation in historical rewriting, through erasure, shifts in emphasis, efforts to find new evidence that would support a more acceptable version of the past, and commercialization.

Kamp   Kamp


My purpose for this grant is to support the final research and writing of a paper on cultural memory after an ideological earthquake. For 60 years, Hamza Hakimzoda Niyozi (1889-1929), an Uzbek playwright, was celebrated in Communist Uzbekistan as a martyr in the struggle for atheism and women's unveiling, against Islam. Since Uzbekistan's 1991 independence, Hamza has been removed from public space and discourse by a state that is erasing the Communist past and making ideological use of Islam. This research concerns culture, history and memory: how does the rise and fall of a hero illustrate change as a nation sunders itself from a socialist past and forges an Islamic present? Research in Uzbekistan will allow me to finish an article that juxtaposes the historical past (that which is demonstrated by the evidence of documents) against changing national narratives of the disappearing Hamza.

 Hamza Hakimzoda Niyoziy (a book of illustrations)

Hamza Hakimzoda Niyoziy (a book of illustrations)
(Hamza Hakimzoda Niyoziy (a book of illustrations), editor, Hamid Sulaymon
Illustrators: Q. Bashirov and E. Oxunov
Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences and Alisher Navoi Literature Museum publication, 1973, page 14 & 19)

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