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“Tajikistan is not the Center of the World”: Rewriting of Country's History Spurs Ridicule

Ever since Tajikistan's independence 22 years ago, historians in the Central Asian nation have been busy rewriting its history books. Searching for the “more ancient roots” [pdf] of the Tajik people and fitting ancient history to the current political agenda were key to this process. However, as the country's historians seem to be in a race to move the origins of the nation as far back in time as possible, netizens are increasingly distrustful of the updated history.

Fake “discoveries”?

On November 2, 2013, one of the leading newspapers in the country published an article titled “Rewriting History?” [ru]. Based on interviews with foreign historians, the article alleged that a number of recent “discoveries” which made several regions in Tajikistan appear much more ancient than had been previously thought were fake. For instance, the country celebrated the 2,700th anniversary of Kulob in 2006 and is preparing to mark the 3,000th anniversary of Hisor in 2015, although historians outside the country argue that the available evidence suggests that these towns are significantly younger.

Commenting under the article, Joseph suggested [ru] that some historians claim they made significant “discoveries” to boost their careers and earn material benefits:

Не стоит забывать и о том, что за описание и дальнейшее документальное оформление таких псевдо исторических памятников вполне возможно претендовать на получение каких-то академических бонусов или степеней.

We shouldn't forget that by describing and documenting these pseudo-historical [discoveries], one can seek to earn academic degrees and bonuses.

Meanwhile, Farid opined [ru] that given the conditions in present-day Tajikistan, it made little sense for its people to portray themselves as an ancient nation:

Очень сильно завышать возраст нашей цивилизации вредно, так как могут спросить, почему за эти тысячи лет у нас нет никакого прогресса, почему мы живем как в каменном веке, и свет у нас горит только 9 часов в сутки и почему каждый 4-й житель работает в России? Наоборот будут смеяться, что прошло тысячи лет, весь мир ушел вперед, а у нас ничего не изменилось.

Arguing that our civilization is much older than it actually is makes little sense because one can, then, ask us, why we haven't made any progress in the past thousands of years, why we still live in what looks like the stone age, why we have electricity for only 9 hours a day, and why every fourth resident [of Tajikistan] works in Russia. [If we do make such claims], they would laugh at us, saying that the rest of the world has mover forward over the last thousand years, while we still remain where we were then.

History writing and Freud

LiveJournal user Icekandar proposed [ru] a Freudian explanation for Tajikistan's search for the “more ancient roots:

Историю своей страны знать необходимо…
Но одно дело заниматься написанием реальной истории, основанной на фактах и археологических открытиях, и совсем другое это придумывать историю в угоду каким-то политическим проектам. К сожалению, в последнее время историки в Таджикистане занимаются последним. Единственное, в чем они преуспевают, так это в фальсификации истории нашего народа, в представлении его более древним и более значимым, чем он есть на самом деле. Постоянно обновляется возраст городов. Оказывается, каждый город еа территории нашей республики в разы древнее Самарканда и Бухары. Вот только историки и археологи из других стран крутят пальцами у виска и спрашивают: “Что они там в Таджикистане курят?”.

It is necessary to know the history of your country…

However, writing a real history which is based on facts and archaeological discoveries is one thing, while making up a history to serve political objectives is a different thing altogether. Unfortunately, it is the latter that historians in Tajikistan have recently been busy with. The only practice in which they succeed is the falsification of the history of our people, and its portrayal as more ancient and more significant than it really is. The age of our cities is constantly revised. It turns out that any town in [Tajikistan] is several times more ancient than Samarkand and Bukhara [important centers of Tajik culture, now in Uzbekistan]. However, historians and archaeologists from other countries [think we are insane] and ask, “What do they smoke there in Tajikistan?”.

He continued [ru]:

У меня есть всего одно объяснение тому, что происходит – ярко выраженный комплекс неполноценности. Психологи давно доказали, что мужчины, наиболее усердно рекламирующие свои огромные *пардон* пенисы, на самом деле жутко комплексуют, считая их очень короткими.

Вот так и у нас с историей. “Историки” и те, от кого они получают директивы, похоже жутко комплексуют по поводу того, что мы малюсенькая страна, не преуспевшая ни в чем, кроме объемов коррупции, трафика афганского героина и уровня нищеты в обществе. Поэтому и сочиняются эти сказки про “древнейшие” центры мировой цивилизации на территории Таджикистана.

I see only one explanation for what is happening – a severe inferiority complex. Psychologists have proven that men who tirelessly praise their large *pardon me* penises have a severe complex, considering [their penises] to be too short.

We have the same thing with history. “Historians” and those who give them orders seem to have a complex about us being a tiny country which has not succeeded in anything except the scale of corruption, volumes of Afghan heroin trafficking, and poverty levels. This is why all these fairy tales are created about the “most ancient” centers of world civilization found on the territory of Tajikistan.

4,000 years

Another recent story [tj] that social media users in the country have found hard to believe claimed that Farkhor, a small town in southwestern Tajikistan, had a 4,000-year-long history. The story was based on an interview with Rahim Masov, a controversial Tajik historian, serving as Director of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Ethnography in the Academy of Sciences.

Commenting under the article, Mavzuna R. refused [ru] to believe Masov:

Какая глупость! Мы уже праздновали 2,700 лет Куляба, насмешили весь мир. Может хватить выдавать желаемое за действительное? Таджикистан не пуп земли, и совсем не здесь зародилась человеческая цивилизация. Хотя я уверена, что Масов скоро “найдет” доказательства тому, что это произошло именно здесь.

This is really stupid. We have already made the entire world laugh by celebrating Kulob's 2,700th anniversary. Maybe we should stop engaging in wishful thinking? Tajikistan is not the center of the world, and it is not here that the human civilization was born. Although I am confident that Masov will soon “find” evidence suggesting that that occurred [in Tajikistan].

On Twitter, several Tajikistani users ridiculed Masov and his new “discovery”:

Farhor is older than 4,000 years? Looks like Masov has forgotten than he is a scholar, and scholars are not supposed to bullshit

If we continue this way, we will soon claim that [Tajikistan] dates back to the dinosaurs. And Kulob [a town and region in southern Tajikistan from where most of the country's political elite comes] was their capital.

@BachaiSako I have devised a title for Masov's new book: “Kulob, the Holy City of the Dinosaurs” (:

I have just returned from Farkhor. [It looks] no different than any other village. But it turns out that it is a very ancient town :-D Masov kicks ass.

Some netizens believe in these “discoveries”, however. Under the both articles, and in comments to Icekandar's blog, they defend Tajik historians and the process of rewriting the country's history. These debates are part of a broader discussion within society about the proper place of the people of Tajikistan in the region's political and cultural history.


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