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La période soviétique : disjonction et développement

Romance, Passion Play, Optimistic Tragedy: Soviet National Theatre and the Reforging of Farhad

Samuel Hodgkin
p. 239-266


Romance, passion, tragédie optimiste : le théâtre national soviétique et la refonte de Farhad

Les études formelles des arts dans les républiques nationales soviétiques ont mis l’accent sur le transfert des genres et des formes du centre russe aux périphéries nationales. Cet article explore la façon dont les genres cosmopolites vernaculaires et non-européens ont modifié les formes importées en traduction. Il examine trois spectacles musicaux de l’ère stalinienne: tadjik, ouzbek, et azéri, tous adaptés du même roman persan. La tactique des librettistes dans la transposition des mathnawīs classiques varie, mais chaque spectacle modifie radicalement la forme théâtrale et le genre tragique. Leurs suppositions esthétiques communes suggèrent une vision de la «littérature mondiale» soviétique qui pourrait inclure une zone de la culture cosmopolite Persique dont le centre n’était pas Moscou.

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1An oft-cited instance of unsuccessful generic transfer in the prehistory of comparative literature comes from the twelfth-century Andalusian scholar Ibn Rushd. In his careful and lucid commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics, he translates kōmōidía [comedy] as hijā’ [satire], and tragōidía [tragedy] as madḥ [panegyric] (Habib, 2005, pp. 197-201). Jorge Luis Borges, in his short story Averroes’s Search, recounts this moment of misreading as a tragedy in itself, the result of Ibn Rushd’s life in a society where theatre was relegated to the play of children (Borges, 1962, pp. 148-155; Berg, 2010, pp. 148-159). But Ibn Rushd’s moralistic, purposive interpretation, so congenial to the humanists of the European Renaissance, still found favour with at least one twentieth-century observer, in the Soviet Union of the 1930s. In the transcripts of the first All-Union Soviet Writers’ Congress held in 1934 in Moscow, we encounter the old Bolshevik Nikolaj Bukharin’s erudite speech, in which he approvingly cites Ibn Rushd as a pedagogical critic who “spoke of tragedy as the ‘art of praising’ and comedy as the ‘art of censure’” (Bukharin, 1977, p. 213).

  • 1 For contemporary reactions to Bukharin’s speech, see Robin, 1992, pp. 20-25.

2The period of high Stalinism that followed the Writers’ Congress is a good context in which to observe the transformations that have accompanied generic transfers between literary traditions. Idiosyncratic and controversial as Bukharin’s address to the Congress was, it highlights the central principle that informed the massive recirculation of artistic modes, genres, and forms in the Soviet sphere during the early Stalin period.1 This was the concept of ‘world literature,’ taken up by Maxim Gorky in the revolutionary moment but articulated from a material, organizational standpoint in the 1930s. The Soviet multinational writers’ bureaucracy on the one hand, and a series of leftist international writers’ congresses on the other, formalized and sometimes centralized the process of cross-cultural literary exchange.

  • 2 In my choice to use the term ‘cosmopolitan’ despite its potentially confusing association with Stal (...)
  • 3 Two quite different approaches to this process are Suny, 1993; and Slezkine, 1994.
  • 4 See also Levin, 1980; During, 2005.

3As Kris Manjapra has observed, in the 1920s this leftist internationalist discourse had “tended to prioritize cross-cutting categories of identification, such as ‘oppressed people of the world,’ ‘youth of the world,’ ‘toilers and labourers,’ ‘the colonized,’ as opposed to state identities” (Manjapra, 2010, p. 173). The formalization of writers’ organizations in the 1930s complicated this internationalism, insofar as writers attended and spoke not only as cosmopolitan individuals but as representatives of nations or nationalities.2 Particularly within the Soviet Union, the movement toward the cosmopolitan unification of cultures envisioned by Marx paradoxically entailed the recognition (not to say reification) of distinct, local artistic traditions, in order “to prepare the elements of an international socialist culture by means of maximum development of national culture,” in Stalin’s formulation (Clark and Dobrenko, 2007, p. 62). Since the end of the Soviet Union, scholars have built an account of the process by which a variety of peripheral and central actors constructed distinct Soviet nationalities.3 The ‘national’ arts had a crucial role to play in this process: for Soviet nations without effective political sovereignty, the national arts could function as not a symbol but the ‘content’ of national sovereignty. Thus, accounts of the Soviet republics’ construction emphasize generic transfers from the Russian artistic establishment to the many Soviet nationalities, and the process by which “the raw material of vernacular form was processed,” and applied “to an organizing matrix of neoclassical form,” in the formulation of the architectural historian Greg Castillo (Castillo, 1997, p. 108).4

  • 5 For a critique, see Igmen, 2012, pp. 98-119.
  • 6 Masrhall Hodgson coined the term ‘Persianate’ to suggest a second phase of Islam’s spread and devel (...)

4Such top-down accounts often underplay the transformations that vernacular artistic forms wrought in the easel-painting, theatre, ballet, opera, and novels that they informed (and had been informing, in many cases, since the Russian Imperial period).5 Further, they assume that a single, European neoclassical matrix organized Soviet artistic production. In fact, several revivalist cosmopolitan traditions existed in the Soviet sphere; we may think in particular of the Persianate cultural sphere as it was reimagined by a variety of early twentieth-century modernity-minded writers, from Anatolia and the Caucasus across the Iranian Plateau to South and Central Asia (Karimi-Hakkak, 1995; Jazayery, 1973; Jazayery, 1981; Ahmadi, 2008; Khalid, 1998; Ertürk, 2011).6 Soviet Russian and non-Russian writers and officials, whatever their chauvinisms, recognized and deployed these traditions’ prestige, not only to sway the nationalities, but also as an integral element of the Soviet international claim to be the centre of world culture.

5To overlook this claim is to place excessive emphasis on the divisive nationalization of traditions and figures shared by multiple republics, at the expense of a public discourse of cosmopolitanism that reflected a complicated reality in the 1930s. On the one hand, the late 1930s saw the dismantling of the Comintern and the purge of foreigners and those with any foreign connections. On the other, the Writers’ Union and the anti-fascist congresses of the period immediately preceding the purges established the precedent and the discourse for the world-literary organizations and discourse of the later twentieth century. Another potential confusion is the long retrospective shadow that the exclusivist cultural nationalisms of the post-Soviet states have cast over the Soviet national arts of the 1930s. Although contemporary nationalisms draw on Stalin-era theoretical and rhetorical formulations, it is a mistake to conflate the two periods.

6A case study from the Stalin-era national arts will elucidate some of the less chauvinistic ways that national writers conceived of Soviet cosmopolitanism and world literature. Further, by focusing on one of the key mechanisms of this cosmopolitanism, transposition from non-European to European genres and forms, I will suggest that the European-ness of these forms played a less central role than it may seem at first glance. This article examines the transformation of one genre, tragedy, in theatrical adaptations of a single classical Persianate romance plot, the tale of Khusraw, Farhād and Shīrīn, from three Soviet nationalities, Tajik, Uzbek, and Azerbaijani.

7These pieces, two operettas and an opera, present an interesting case for the possibilities of inter-canonical transfer in multiple dimensions: the painted scenery, the music, and acting styles. Because of the limited documentation of these works’ early performance, and the limits of my own discipline as a literary scholar, this article focuses on the works’ librettos. My examination of the 1936 Tajik musical Khisrav va Širin, by Abdusalom Dehotī and Mirzo Tursunzoda, emphasizes the relationship between the Persianate literary canon and the newly-imagined world literary canon. Discussion of the 1928-1940 Uzbek musical-turned-opera Farhod va Širin, by Abdulhamid Čölpon and Khuršid Šarif, will draw out the process of transposition. My treatment of the 1941 Azerbaijani musical Färhad vä Širin, by Sämäd Vurghun, will draw out commonalities and vernacular specificities in the Stalinist spectacle of heroic suffering. By attempting to distinguish those aesthetic elements that are vernacular or idiosyncratic from those that are more broadly Persianate or reflect the Stalinist artistic ecumene, I hope to demonstrate the generic range that Soviet national artists achieved under conditions of unpredictable state violence. The alternate neoclassicism of these works permitted a series of creative misreadings of tragedy and the tragic, capable of addressing a heterogeneous Soviet public.

Tracing the Lovers Through the Canon: Imitation, Translation, Transposition

  • 7 Key studies of the theme include Orsatti, 1996, 2003, 2006; Moayyad, 1999; Burrill, 1974; Souchek, (...)

8At the outset, it is necessary to review the nature of the canonical process into which these librettists inserted themselves – that is, the many conversing versions of the romance between the Armenian princess Shīrīn, her husband, Shah Khusraw of Persia, and her faithful, hopeless lover, the architect Farhād.7 A brief summary of the Shīrīn romance and its imitations, translations, and transpositions will follow.

  • 8 For a fuller summary, see Chelkowski, 1975, pp. 21-45, commentary, pp. 46-48; for original text, se (...)

9The characters of Khusraw and Shīrīn have their basis in a historically documented sixth-seventh century Sassanid Persian king and queen. In the tenth century epic Shāhnāma of Firdawsī, Khusraw appears in a brief, chronicle-like episode as a venal king corrupted by the low-born Shīrīn and consequently killed. The twelfth-century poet Nizāmī, who lived in present-day Azerbaijan, expanded the episode into a full mathnawī [a long-form poem], Khusraw va Shīrīn. This mathnawī is the second of five that comprise Nizāmī’s Khamsa, a cornerstone of the Persianate canon. Nizāmī, the Persian romance-writer par excellence, makes Shīrīn a loyal lover who waits for the inconstant Khusraw through a series of confusions, only to see him murdered after their wedding by Khusraw’s son from another marriage, Shīrūya; she kills herself rather than marry the son. Likely drawing on folkloric sources, Nizāmī adds the brief episode of Farhād, an engineer smitten with Shīrīn who digs a canal for her palace. Khusraw jealously assigns Farhād the impossible task of digging through Mount Bīsutūn and, when he completes it, sends the message that Shīrīn is dead. Farhād kills himself.8

  • 9 For prose romance, see Rubanovich, 1998; for epic, see Yamamoto, 2003.

10Classical Persianate poetic response, imitation, and discourses of originality have received significant attention, though little of it on verse romance (Lewis, 1994; Losensky, 1998).9 Recent scholarly discussions of influence and response between courtly romances in the mathnawī form have hinged on the practice of khamsa-nawīsī [khamsa-writing], the practice of attempting to replicate Nizāmī’s feat in a sort of literary pentathlon (Parrello, 2010; Rādfar, 1371; Orsatti, 1996, 2003, 2006; Shackle, 1995; D’Hubert, 2006-2007; Toutant, 2012; Aliev, 1985; and more generally, Meisami, 1987, pp. 77-236; Bürgel, 1988). Many of the most famous imitations of Nizāmī’s Khusraw wa Shīrīn were written by poets laying claim to the Persian tradition from its periphery, such as the thirteenth-fourteenth-century Amīr Khusraw of Delhi. Amīr Khusraw writes the romance as Farhād wa Shīrīn, judging Farhād (once transformed to a Chinese prince in disguise) as a more appropriate model of the suffering mystical lover (Sharma, 2005, pp. 54-55).

11The poems of the Khamsa were also imitated in languages whose literary standards were bound to Persianate culture, from Bengali to Ottoman. The late fifteenth-century poet Alī Shīr Nawā’ī of Herat’s Farhād wa Shīrīn was one book of a Chaghatay Turkish Khamsa, at the heart of his larger project to establish that language as Persian’s literary equal (on terms established by the Persian canon). Nawā’ī compares his version anxiously to those of Nizāmī and Amīr Khusraw (Toutant, 2012). In his plot, Nawā’ī closely follows Amīr Khusraw, but the poem is a translation only in the sense that a linguistic dimension is added to the imitation/reply (Burrill, 1974, p. 56; Abdullah, 1948, pp. 565-567). Nawā’ī was conscious of Chaghatay as a language benefitting from coexistence with Persian (he also wrote a Persian divan), but also in competition with Persian for courtly recognition. Thus, to the usual personal battle, for an imitator to be recognized as worthwhile, we must add a battle for his minor language to be likewise recognized (an important subtext for the Soviet period).

12At this stage, a third dimension must be added: transposition, the transfer of artistic works between forms or media. The Shīrīn romance had been transposed numerous times before the twentieth century, most obviously in miniatures illustrating the story, but the adaptations that concern us here are from poetic romance to staged drama. The leap is not so far as might be expected; Persian literature scholar Peter Chelkowski has described the romances of the Khamsa as “closet dramas” (Chelkowski, 1988, pp. 179 ff). While these romances were not written to be staged, they are full of long dialogues, monologues, and set pieces. Before the Soviet period, Azerbaijan, the first Islamic region with a European-style theatre, was the site of a 1911 operatic version with a classical Caucasian mugham score. After the adaptations examined here, the story would continue to feature in Soviet and international leftist theatre and film, such as the Turkish fellow traveller Nazım Hikmet Rân’s 1945 play Ferhad ile Şirin.

13Caryl Emerson provides a theory of transposition in her study of the Boris Godunov story in the nineteenth century. Transposition, Emerson writes, “is that one category of ‘translation’ where co-authorship is not hidden but rather celebrated, where the independence of the second voice is guaranteed by the new genre or medium, and where dialogue among versions is inevitably explicit” (Emerson, 1986, p. 8). Emerson’s model is imperfect for the Persianate literary tradition, where explicit dialogue between imitator and model is quite typical, not a special feature of transposition. Nonetheless, she does highlight an important shift: in transposition, the question is no longer whether the later artist is worthy of standing beside the former, but whether the later artist has adequately represented the work of the former.

14The Soviet context likewise requires some modification to this model of transposition. Philip Ross Bullock, who describes transposition as “a central feature of Soviet culture,” contrasts Emerson’s “inclusive unity between competing versions” with the culture of Soviet opera under Stalin, in which any difference between accounts of a narrative was to be suppressed in favour of a single, totalized narrative (Bullock, 2006, p. 97). It is unclear whether the Uzbek, Tajik, and Azerbaijani librettists watched, read, or encountered each other’s adaptations, though both the plays and the writers travelled extensively. Still, what emerges from these works is a genuine diversity of representations of the story, representations that are not entirely nationalized, but do reflect distinct approaches to its transposition into the theatre, its translation into national languages, and its approach to imitation according to Soviet aesthetics and ethics. Rather than examine the works in chronological order, I will begin with the most direct adaptation of a classical model, the Tajik version, and move through the somewhat freer Uzbek version toward the radically transposed Azerbaijani version.

Dehotī and Tursunzoda’s Khisrav va Širin: Claiming World Culture

  • 10 For an account of this process, see Bergne, 2007; for the development of Tajik literature specifica (...)

15On September 15 1936, a Tajik-language musical adaptation of Nizāmī’s mathnawī, entitled Khisrav va Širin, premiered in the Tajik theatre of Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Dehotī & Tursunzoda, 1965, p. 55). This version’s libretto had been written and compiled by Mirzo Tursunzoda, then the most prominent writer born within the subsequent borders of the Tajik SSR, with Abdusalom Dehotī, a Samarkand writer who, like the play, straddled the Uzbek and Tajik literary worlds. By 1936, the Tajik capital of Dushanbe had already had a working theatre and printing presses for several years, but key writers and institutions of Tajik culture were still based in Samarkand.10 Although this is usually associated with the struggles between Tajik and Uzbek officialdom for territory and power, it also reflects bicultural writers’ sense of a shared culture. Khisrav va Širin, seemingly the least ‘Soviet’ of the three plays, must be understood in the context of the Soviet Union’s imagined transnational, transtemporal republic of letters.

  • 11 This narrative was established by Allworth, 1964, pp. 81-89.
  • 12 For the Azerbaijani case, see Schild, 2010, pp. 137-156; and, for an earlier period, see Tolz, 2011 (...)

16Discussions of Uzbek Soviet literature often emphasize the Nawā’ī jubilee, planned for 1938 and held in 1948, as the crucial moment in which the ‘nationalist’ discourse of the purged older generation of Uzbek writers was replaced with an acceptable, contained celebration of national identity.11 Likewise, scholars have pointed to the establishment of Nizāmī, who did not write in a Turkic language, as a specifically Azerbaijani writer (Slezkine, 1994, p. 446).12 Nationalization of literary heritage played an important role in the rhetoric of the 1930s, particularly at events such as the 1934 Writers’ Congress where individuals spoke as representatives of their republics.

  • 13 For the “friendship of nations” generally, see Tillet, 1969.

17As I have argued, the shadow of contemporary nationalism obscures the internationalist element in Soviet official discourse on literature, which is visible in the recasting of these medieval vitae. In the 1930s, several orientalist studies anthologized as a single twelfth-century Caucasian poetic movement Rustaveli, the Georgian national poet, and the Persian poets Khāqānī (whose mother was Georgian) and Nizāmī (ostensibly connected with Azerbaijani culture) (Marr & Čajkin, 1966). Likewise, accounts of Nawā’ī often emphasized his personal friendship and poetic partnership with Jāmī, a central figure in the Central Asian Persian (and thus Tajik) canon (Bertel’s, 1947).13

18As Vladimir Paperny writes, “by the beginning of World War II, [Soviet culture] already saw itself as the inheritor of all the traditions of all humankind” (Paperny, 2002, p. 21). Katerina Clark, in her Moscow, the Fourth Rome, has outlined the process by which the Stalinist cultural authorities laid claim to the mantle of the cosmopolitan centre of world culture, the Hegelian heir of the best writers and works of every era and region (Clark, 2011). Although her account focuses on Europe, the discourse that she describes encompassed Asia as well. In the Soviet imagination, the position of the ussr between Europe and Asia made it uniquely qualified to embody a truly broad literary international. ‘Great-Russian chauvinism’ did return to acceptability in the later 1930s, but in the same years, the affirmative action empire gave levels of recognition to ‘national’ writers that did reflect a certain Soviet cultural provincialization of Europe (Platt & Brandenburger, 2006; Martin, 2001). If Goethe provided the clearest source for a world-literary imaginary, his engagement with classical Persian poetry made that tradition the non-European literature par excellence. Thus, the first of many major Soviet celebrations of past non-European writers was the 1934 Firdawsī Jubilee, held in Moscow, Petersburg, and Central Asia, with a large delegation also sent to the Iranian celebration (Shahbazi, 1999).

  • 14 To interpolate ghazals into a Persian mathnawī is rare but not unheard of (Dankoff, 1984).

19The Tajik Khisrav reflects this concern with literary heritage. In a literary milieu where anthologies and literary-linguistic chrestomathies had only recently displaced the classical anthological genre of tadhkīra, Tursunzoda and Dehotī produced a wide-ranging collaged verse play. Long passages quoted directly from Nizāmī appear among passages of their own text in Nizāmī’s meter, producing an impression of staged mathnawī. For one scene of boasting and battle, the librettists switch to the Shāhnāma’s meter and style (Dehotī & Tursunzoda, 1965, pp. 22-26). In lyric intervals, the characters sing shash maqām renditions of ghazals by major Persian poets, including Jāmī, Kamāl-i Khujandī, Kātibī (of Nishapur), Fuḍūli (a poet of Iraq who also wrote in Oghuz Turkish), and Hāfiz (of Shiraz).14 Compared with the Bukharan writer Sadriddin Ajnī’s 1926 Namunai Adabiëti Todžik, the seminal chrestomathy of Tajik literature, this musical is decidedly transnational (‘Aynī, 1926). Ajnī had set apart a locally Tajik idiom for a millennium of literature, but Tursunzoda and Dehotī successfully blurred their modern literary Tajik with the entire Persian literary tradition. They made the breadth of that tradition accessible to illiterate or semi-literate audiences that would have been familiar with the story, and known some of the ghazals and parts of the Shāhnāma from the renditions of singers and storytellers, but who would not have read Nizāmī’s dense masterpiece.

20On the level of idejnost’ [political consciousness], a desideratum of socialist realism, there is little to mark this problem play as an appropriately Soviet work. The audience must preserve an uneasy sympathy with Khisrav as he wins Širin’s love by trickery, jealously deceives the worthy Farhod into labour and death, and is murdered because of his son’s poor moral education. Farhod, the more plausible worker-hero, is limited to two scenes that, as in Nizāmī, focus on his personas as singer, sculptor, and lover. Even where Širin marvels at Farhod’s canal, this soon shifts to a more classical aestheticization of the labour project: a Kamāl-i Khujandī ghazal with a refrain of čašm [eye/spring], playing on thirst for love and weeping (Dehotī & Tursunzoda, 1965, pp. 36-37).

  • 15 As for instance Ivan the Terrible Part One’s Erasmus and Machiavelli figures (Clark, 2011, pp. 318- (...)

21A rebellion against the king provides another moment of dialogic ambiguity, with a scene in which the rebel Bahrom is given convincing anti-royal rhetoric drawn directly from Firdawsī (ibid., p. 26). In more conventional plays of the 1930s, this might have been the central action; popular rebellions provided a recurring subject in Soviet theatre. This episode, however, passes quickly, and the plot returns to the multinational romance of its royal protagonists, surrounded by famous exemplars of courtly skills: Farhod the builder, Šopur the painter, Borbat the bard, and Buzurgummed the sage (better known as Buzurjmihr). This emphasis on historical-mythical figures is in keeping with the times: the historical epic was just taking off in Russian film as part of a broader attempt to reclaim Russian pre-modern history through its larger-than-life, semi-mythic heroes – world-historical figures often framed by cosmopolitanism and world history (Platt & Brandenburger, 2006).15

22Khisrav va Širin draws both poets and characters together into the same post-historical apotheosis. Tursunzoda makes this claim more explicit in a 1941 poem, The Treasury of Song. There, the Mongol invasion disrupts a Persian culture of craftsmanship, but the revolution restores it for the Tajiks:

When they learned the precepts of Lenin
The light of knowledge was kindled in their hearts
Now, Rūdakī’s song came to life
Firdawsī’s zenith arrived in the spheres
For Hāfiz and Sa‘dī of Shiraz
The Tajiks opened wide their embrace
(Tursunzoda, 1971, p. 51)

23Read through the bombastic primordialism of later Soviet Tajik works, such as Bobodžon Ghafurov’s monumental national history of the 1960s, this poem would seem to exemplify the reification of the Soviet nations, making a broad claim for Tajikistan as the authentic heir of Persian culture (Gafurov & Litvinov, 1963-1965). A contrary reading, however, captures more of the specifically early Soviet vision of national identities: dialectical materialism and the Soviet ecumene allowed the Tajiks to once again tap into the mainline of world literature, and participate in the wider culture from which they had (ostensibly) been isolated.

Čölpon and Khurshed’s Farhod va Širin: Collective Labours

24In 1937, a year after the Tajik Khisrav va Širin, an Uzbek Farhod va Širin premiered in Moscow (Madžidi, 1937; Uspenskij, 1937). It was not a new play, strictly speaking, but the product of almost a decade of criticism and reworking by Uzbek and Russian writers, composers, and directors. In its initial form, it had premiered in Tashkent in 1928, with a libretto by Abdulhamid Čölpon, one of the most important Uzbek poets of the first Soviet generation, in collaboration with Khuršid Šarif, a playwright, and directed by Mannan Ujghur. Both Čölpon and Ujghur were former members of the Chaghatay Gurungi, a literary circle interested in classical Chaghatay Turkish literature that had been forcibly disbanded in the early 1920s. Their 1928 play was the product of three state-ordered years of re-education in Moscow, in which they had studied Russian language and learned contemporary theatrical techniques from Vsevolod Mejerhold, and others (Allworth, 1964, p. 221). After performances in Tashkent and at the Moscow multinational theatre olympiad in 1930, the play left the stage under harsh criticism. When it returned at Moscow’s 1937 Uzbek art festival before Stalin, it was credited to Khuršid but not Čölpon, who had been purged by this point. That production, for which a substantially new score was prepared, proceeded under the direction of the Tashkent transplant Emil’-Ol’gerd Ûngval’d-Khilkevič, advised by Ujghur (Madžidi, 1937, p. 10). Between 1928 and 1937, the musical evidently underwent an operatic transformation that illustrates the complexities of multinational collaboration.

  • 16 Given Fitrat’s history of travel in Turkey before the October Revolution, he may have been inspired (...)

25Over the course of the 1930s, Soviet Russian composers contributed to the establishment of appropriate musical repertoires for the ‘nationalities’ by arranging vernacular and non-Western classical music for orchestral, choral, and operatic performance. The Uzbek Farhod va Širin is a clear example of this process, and music historian Marina Frolova-Walker recounts its musical redactions in her study of national opera. In the first post-1928 version, she writes, “the Russian ethnomusicologist Viktor Uspensky notated three thousand bars of folk music that were then harmonized and orchestrated by guest composers Georgiy Mushel’ and Tsveyfel’.” In subsequent renditions, these composers “eliminated spoken dialogue and national instruments, and reduced the opera’s dependence on the mere quotation of folk sources” (Frolova-Walker, 1998, p. 338). Uspenskij had laid the groundwork for these musical adaptations in his 1927 transcription of the central Transoxanian musical canon, the shash maqām, which was ordered not by Russian or even russified cultural officials, but by Abdurauf Fitrat, a cosmopolitan Bukharan who had been a leading member of the Čaghataj Gurungi.16

26Theatre and opera were aspirational forms in the hierarchy of the socialist realist arts (Yekelchyk, 2000, p. 600; Adams, 2005, pp. 351-353; Frolova-Walker, 1998, pp. 333 ff.). Opera in particular was a young and struggling Soviet art throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but it was a key form to establish in each Soviet republic (Bullock, 2006, pp. 83-85). Further, transposition to opera represented the best chance for a beloved pre-Soviet writer or literary work to find full multinational recognition as an important part of the world literary heritage. This may be explained in part by the distinct history of the Russian adoption of opera in the late nineteenth century, in which ‘The Five’ and their successors attempted to produce specifically national epics. In Soviet Russia and in the national republics, the stakes for establishing an operatic idiom specific to each nation were high. Beyond the specifically Russian or Soviet valuation of these forms, Laura Adams has highlighted their hegemonic importance in Soviet and post-Soviet Uzbekistan in connection with more general discourses of modernity and development, and the formation of modern subjectivity (Adams, 2005, p. 336).

  • 17 The continued relevance of Nizāmī’s model should not be understated, even if it was mediated by Naw (...)

27Though only a summary of the earlier Uzbek version was accessible for my research, the play seems to have shared much in common with its Tajik counterpart in its aspiration to bring a classical mathnawī to the stage. It drew extensive passages from Nawā’ī’s original Chaghatay text rather than Nizamī’s Persian, and its plot likewise followed Nawā’ī, focusing on a Farhod who is secretly a prince of China labouring for love of Shirin (Allworth, 1964, pp. 222-223; Madžidi, 1937, pp. 13-21).17 While the plot remained the same in the 1937 version, the Chaghatay text disappeared from the libretto. The new version completed a leap that Čölpon had been unwilling to make: for all his accomplishment as a poet, Čölpon had regarded his task as primarily transpositional, but the new version went further, into imitation and Chaghatay-Uzbek translation.

  • 18 For further discussion, see Miller, 1990.

28The Uzbek productions also all emphasize the folkloric lineage of the Farhad and Shirin story, as “an epic popular (narodnaâ) legend, beloved by all the peoples of the Orient,” according to 1937 promotional materials (Madžidi, 1937, p. 8). Credit is given to Nizāmī and Nawā’ī’s classic renditions, but they are given no precedence over renditions in folklore: “Thus, Farhad is a prince, a shepherd, an architect, the son of a painter or a carpenter, a knight, and so on. Every social order, evidently, wanted to name Farhad as ‘their own’ hero” (ibid., p. 8). This is a remarkably frank admission that Farhad is a cypher, but it reflects a broader process that was at its peak by 1937: the construction of a ‘spontaneous’ Soviet folk imaginary populated by appropriate archetypes. If Soviet literature needed roots in the greatest moments of world literature, then Soviet labour heroes could not be historically rootless either. In Gorky’s speech at the 1934 Writers’ Congress, he asserted that “The most vivid and profoundly conceived, artistically perfect hero-types were created by folklore, by the oral traditions of the working people. Hercules, Prometheus, [a series of Russian folk heroes follow] they are all perfect in their way [...]” (Oinas, 1973, p. 47).18

29As such, the story was appropriate not only for the historical drama, but for the totalizing, monologic epic. Viewers were invited to experience the story as a work collectively authored by the Uzbek folk, mythologizing their own experience with a single voice. In all versions of the Uzbek Farhod va Širin, the plot is framed throughout by the narration and singing of a baânči [traditional storyteller], “who conveys our audience into the alcove of Uzbek everyday life (byt)” (Madžidi, 1937, pp. 10, 13). During the cultural revolution of the late 1920s, with a ubiquitous struggle underway against the backwardness of Soviet citizens’ byt in Russia and Central Asia, such ethnographic elements were often criticized as ‘orientalizing’ (aziâtŝina) or ‘ethnographizing’ the progressive Soviet nationalities. In 1929, the Uzbek ‘proletarian’ critic S. Husainov criticized Farhod va Širin for a “curious exoticism” (Allworth, 1964, pp. 66-67).

30Without multiple full texts, it is difficult to judge aesthetic shifts, and the telephone game that transmitted artistic campaigns and terms of criticism between Moscow and national academies makes the question of periodization for arts policy even blurrier for the non-Russian arts (Yekelchyk, 2000, pp. 597-601). However, whatever changes did take place, the 1937 version was presented before a more receptive critical and official establishment. In the later 1930s, (delimited) difference was publicly fetishized as ‘local colour’ and the spontaneous feeling of the folk was the natural source of legitimacy for the state. This horizontal vision of the artist as a naive mouthpiece for the folk coexisted uneasily in the 1930s with the vision of the artist as a genius who can see the people’s condition from a position of transcendence, as in a world literature that is a range of vertiginous peaks (Vurghun, 1976, p. 92).

31However opportunistic accusations of exoticism may have been, there is plentiful orientalist discourse in the version of Farhod produced for the 1937 Moscow festival. Much of this enters in the libretto’s Russian translation. In one Uzbek aria, Farhad addresses the breeze:

Morning breeze, traveling, take my greeting along the path to my beloved,
From my distressed mind, take a petition to my dear.

32The breeze in question, the sabah, is a messenger in classical Arabic and Persian lyrics. The Russian translation performed for the dekada in Moscow extends the image:

Morning breeze, gentle breeze, you rush to my beloved
Carry along, o heart, the thrill of a heart full of love
Recount, ah, how I thirst, how I am attracted by passion
Warm wind, Southern wind, stroke my beloved.
(Uspenskij, 1937, pp. 10-11)

33Listeners are carried out of Persianate conventions into a pastiche of Pushkinian imperial reverie. In other instances, orientalist discourse is externalized through the nightmare Iranian court, with its Asiatic despot eager to add Širin to his large harem by force. The characterization of the Bukharan emir’s decadent oriental culture as specifically Persian was a feature of pro-Turkic Jadid rhetoric that played an important role in the formation of Uzbek historiography, and it is unsurprising to find it here.

34Thus, the non-Persian Širin and her mother Mahin-Bonu, unlike Khusrav, rule benevolently over a seemingly classless kingdom where rulers and labourers freely mix. In this account of the lovers’ first meeting, Širin, reviewing her workers, awards Farhod a labour prize; in a telling moment of the erotics between worker and state, he asks to take his prize in the form of a glance beneath her veil (Madžidi, 1937, pp. 16-17). When the Uzbek theatrical Farhod performs labours, they are never in submission to Khusrav, but to strengthen the fortress walls against his attack.

  • 19 The latter category became ubiquitous with the popularity of Vsevolod Višnevskij’s 1934 play, An Op (...)

35This defiant resistance to tyranny, even if it ends with death, makes the Uzbek version the least confusing of the three from the standpoint of Soviet aesthetics. It straightforwardly reflects the distinctive solution that Soviet aesthetic philosophers and literary scholars of the 1930s had developed for the problem of tragedy under socialism. If tragic transcendence through defeat was inimical to the hoped-for apotheosis through victory, Soviet critics hoped to reclaim tragedy’s moral seriousness and prestige through a new distinction, between pessimistic and optimistic tragedy.19 Scholar of aesthetics James Scanlan, discussing ‘orthodox’ Soviet aesthetics, distinguishes two acceptable tragic types:

the representative of the old order who comes to see that his class is doomed, but who cannot escape his situation to join the class of the future; and the revolutionary who, although personally defeated by a temporarily recalcitrant reality, knows that his ideals will triumph in the end.
(Scanlan, 1973, p. 330).

  • 20 It is beyond the article's scope here to enter debates on the nature of the ‘tragic,’ but a strain (...)

36The irrelevance of such a division to the Tajik Khisrav va Širin is apparent. The Uzbek opera’s Farhod, in contrast, successfully becomes a worker, and the story ends with a temporary victory of evil over good that precludes any ‘tragic guilt’ on the part of the hero.20

Vurghun’s Färhad vä Širin: The Spectacle of Suffering

37If the Uzbek version eliminates the classical romance’s ambiguity of sympathy, and the Tajik version sidesteps such ambiguities as a purportedly naïve adaptation, the Azerbaijani Färhad vä Širin occupies a middle ground that is more ideologically deft, and also more unsettling. Sämäd Vurghun, an Azerbaijani poet of the first Soviet-educated generation, entered with his 1941 musical Färhad vä Širin into a theatrical tradition that had already produced one operatic adaptation of the same story, in classical mugham modes (Vurghun, 1974, pp. 113-222). By the mid-Stalin period, Azerbaijani musical theatre was far more engaged with the conventions of European and Russian opera and verse drama. Though Vurghun was intimately familiar with Nizāmī, having translated his Laylī va Majnūn to Azerbaijani, he composed his version almost entirely in blank verse. The Azerbaijani composer Äfrasijab Bädälbäjli produced a harmonized score, for which the Russian composer Reinhold Glière provided additional material after the war.

38In thematics and plot, too, Vurghun’s adaptation of Nizāmī is quite free. If all of the three adaptations make Širin’s world before Khusraw a pastoral realm of singing maidens, to which the Uzbek version adds singing labour-ers, Vurghun develops this utopian labouring ecosystem along national lines. He moves Princess Širin from Armenia to an ancient Azerbaijan with fire temples, bull statues, and pre-battle prayers. Her love for the humble builder Färhad is blessed by both her mother, Queen Mahin Banu and Färhad’s father, a sage who is not Buzurjmihr but the nationalized Azär Baba. In a discussion of the new fortress that Färhad has just completed, Azär and Mahin introduce all of the key words repeated throughout the play that establish physical labour as a folk value: sänät [craft/industry], hünär [skill/bravery], and zähmät [effort/labour]. Färhad declares upon entering: “To create in the world is my duty,” and proceeds to discuss the technical specifications of the roof with his father (ibid., pp. 115-117).

39Into this world enters Färhad’s dark double, Šapur. As in Nizāmī’s account, the two are old classmates who studied together the parallel crafts of architecture and painting, but Šapur presents an alternate vision of craft. He uses his art to deceive on behalf of his master Khosrov, whose Iran again provides a despotic foil for the ideal kingdom (in 1941, presented contemporaneously with the Soviet occupation of Iran). Färhad’s ultimate characteristic here is not craft, ambiguously associated with guile, but force of will, transmuted into physical force. Thus, Vurghun participates in contemporary Stalinist discourses, from the cult of sincerity and mania for unmasking to the belief that technical norms can be exceeded by enthusiasm. As he enacts his labours, he performs another Soviet trope, the “war with nature,” declaring, “man was made to tunnel through mountains” (ibid., p. 197).

40The self-annihilation that follows, though apparently a needless death based on the misapprehension that Širin is dead, is in fact the only appropriate sacrificial end-point for the ritual excesses of Färhad’s enthusiasm. This forced toil and suffering, which the Tajik and Uzbek adaptations either deemphasize or omit, is the central subject of Vurghun’s play – to achieve this effect, Khosrov’s murder by his son is moved to an earlier scene. The representation of labour and the state, thus, takes an uncomfortable turn when the sincere worker begins fulfilling Khosrov’s absurd, intentionally impossible design for a mountain tunnel. The painful echo of 1930s infra-structural projects such as the Belomor canal, sustained by forced labour that was rhetorically educational ‘reforging’ but effectively pure punishment and exploitation, is impossible to ignore now.

  • 21 On the larger topic of Soviet anxieties about the ‘body,’ see Naiman, 1997; Livers, 2004; Hellebust (...)

41If we historicize the Soviet vision of labour as suffering, however, this apparently subversive subtext becomes ideologically legible. Several recent studies have noted the prominence of the suffering body as a spectacle in the Soviet arts.21 Katerina Clark, in The Soviet Novel, highlights the central role that the hero’s martyrdom plays in the schematic narrative: “All Stalinist novels include some kind of ‘death’ [...] because death is involved not only in the preparatory or liminal phase of the rite [of passage] but also in the moment of passage itself” (Clark, 1981, p. 178). The exemplar of dutiful self-annihilation in socialist realist literature is Pavel Korchagin, the hero of Kak zakalâlas’ stal’ [How the Steel Was Tempered], published serially in 1932-1934. Both the hero of the novel and its author, Nikolaj Ostrovskij, undergo a series of debilitating injuries in service of the Soviet project, and finally, blind and paralyzed, turn to the writing of inspirational semi-fictional literature. As Lilya Kaganovsky observes:

In its attempts to articulate the coming into being of the New Soviet Man, socialist realism (governed by the ideological fantasy of which it is the discursive expression) produces a mangled or mutilated (male) body as often as it produces the hyperbolically healthy and strong Stalinist man.
(Kaganovsky, 2008, pp. 21-22)

  • 22 On empathy and physical violence in European religious art, see Merback, 1998; Effenberger, 2004.

42Although presented in a secular framework, these narratives and images of martyrdom perform an operation on the audience that is most familiar from religious artworks (Clark, 1981, p. 4 passim). This connection becomes clearer if, following Lotman, we regard the tableau-making tendency of literature and theatre and the gestural language of painting as part of a system in which signs are exchanged between artistic media (Lotman, 1993, pp. 53-54). Slavic scholars, drawing on the 1920s writings of Pavel Florenskij and Kazimir Malevich, have identified Soviet iconography, both avant-garde and socialist realist, with the deployment of the visual aesthetic of the Orthodox icon for profane instruction. Recent scholarship has shown how Soviet posters, like icons, “wielded the vividness of a large-scale picture to educe [in the viewer] an approximation of conditions that could not in essence be logically explained or even really seen—agony, fear, conviction, loss [...] to spur an empathetic pang” (Bird, Heuer, et al., 2011, p. 10).22 As we have seen, similar affective principles govern earlier works of literature and, in the case of Vurghun’s Färhad, theatre.

  • 23 On the significant role of ta‘ziya since the Islamic Revolution, see Chelkowski, 1979, 2005.

43Soviet (and particularly socialist realist) images of suffering, then, reproduce the effect of religious art’s passions and martyrdoms. In addition to Azerbaijani reception of Orthodox and Soviet Russian culture, we may link Vurghun’s Färhad to an Azerbaijani-language, Persianate generic model for the contemplation of suffering: the Shi‘ite rituals surrounding ‘ashūra in general, and ta‘ziya theatre in particular.23 These occur as part of Shi‘ite commemorations of the murder of the prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein at Karbala on the orders of the caliph. Ta‘ziya plays, performed in Iran, South Asia, the Arab world, and the Caribbean today, present scenes from and surrounding this passion through symbolic tableaus, surrounded by other semi-theatrical ‘ashūra events: parades, recitations, and rituals of self-flagellation. The ta‘ziya is far from Aristotelian mimesis: the director remains on stage and the actors, ordinary members of the community wearing little or no costume, visibly read their lines. These gestures avoid the sacrilege of semblance, but instead allow both actors and audience to properly contemplate the injustice and suffering inflicted by the tyrant on the righteous innocent. Numerous Western travellers have noted the very real sorrow and rage that the ta‘ziya induces in its audience, and the avant-garde theatre directors Peter Brook and Jerzy Grotowski pointed to it as a model for agitational theatre.

44The idea that ‘ashūra and ta‘ziya contained revolutionary potentialities was not an original one: it recurs in the works of writers from the fin-de-siècle Azerbaijani reformist Ähmäd Aghaoghlu to the more familiar Iranian leftist ‘Alī Sharī‘atī and his revolutionary heirs (Aghaoghlu, 1892, pp. 528, 538; Rahnema, 1998, p. 315; Chelkowski & Dabashi, 1999). At least once, the young Bolshevik party attempted to adapt the symbolism of the Shi‘ite passion for a similar purpose. As Michael G. Smith has shown, following the assassination of the Baku Union leader Khanlar Säfäräliev in 1907, the Bolsheviks combined his red funeral with local ‘ashūra commemorations, in a mass demonstration at which Stalin gave his first major speech (Smith, 2001, pp. 366-373; Suny, 1972). In fact, two years before Färhad, Vurghun wrote a play based on Säfäräliev’s life and martyrdom. Any Bolshevik aspiration to use the ritual ended with the anti-religious campaigns that followed the revolution, but ‘ashūra rituals seem to have continued, much to officials’ dismay (Goyushov, 2008, p. 69). The Soviet theatre, strongly committed to broadening its audience base by offering workers free tickets and pre-performance explanations, must have been in direct competition with ‘ashūra commemorations for crowds and sympathies.

45Stagings of Vurghun’s play, with costumes, elaborate sets, and Russian-trained actors, were far more concerned with mimesis than that of ta‘ziya. Nonetheless, the passion of the worker Färhad, like that of Hussain, invites the spectator to bear witness, and to vicariously experience a painful injustice. Hamid Dabashi has argued that ta‘ziya is not structured to produce catharsis, but rather a feeling of communal responsibility “to change the course of history, as it was unjustly determined at the battle of Karbala” (Dabashi, 2005, p. 95). Soviet aesthetic and dramatic theory of the 1930s had its own uneasiness with catharsis. The long article on tragedy in the 1939 volume of the Literaturnaâ ènciklopediâ only mentions catharsis once, and sets the problem aside as “one of the controversial points of tragic theory in bourgeois aesthetics” (Kozina, 1939, pp. 371-372). In the article’s own discussion of the idealized tragic death, the author draws on nineteenth-century Russian critic Vissarion Belinsky’s didactic vision; the ideal tragedy “evokes not pessimistic despair [...] but the will to live and struggle,” a formulation that puts catharsis to work for a cause, as in ta‘ziya (ibid., pp. 369-370).

  • 24 People in the Central Asian cities and countryside did have many other theatrical and ritual-theatr (...)
  • 25 For a recent similar attempt in Persianate cinema, see the shared vocabulary of Abbas Kiarostami’s (...)

46In some respects, this reading of the Farhād legend as a quasi-religious passion is specific to the Shi‘ite world. Even before the October Revolution, ‘ashūra and ta‘ziya in Central Asia were limited to Isma’ili communities in the Pamirs and the small Iranian émigré communities in the cities.24 Vurghun’s choice of Farhād and Shirin, however, injects this Shi‘ite theatrics of empathy into a pan-Persianate romance dramatized, as we have seen, from Tajikistan to Turkey.25


47In these works transposition to the theatre, then, the generic certainty of their source material (mathnawī, courtly romance) is replaced with grave generic indeterminacy. Certainly, all are historical epics, all remain courtly romances, but on the stage, do they become tragedies? If classical Islamic scholastics had trouble translating the concept, so did Soviet aesthetic theorists. Laura Adams, in her account of the Uzbek theatre, opposes artworks’ content, in which ideological orientation may be manifest, with their forms as “an essential, if often unconscious, part of cultural domination and transformation” (Adams, 2005, p. 351). In doing so she highlights an opposition – form/content – that was and remains important in the way that Uzbek, Tajik, and Azerbaijani writers and artists articulate the choices that they make. In her observation that the form can have ideological significance in itself, another kind of blurring between form and content is obscured. If forms and genres have internal logical rules that shape the content that they are capable of conveying, in a Bakhtinian sense, the form or genre from which a work is transposed can also restrict the meanings that a work carries, particularly in a close adaptation such as the Tajik Khisrav va Širin. Likewise, adjacent, more familiar artistic forms or genres shape the work’s content, both as it is composed and as it is received by its audience, as in the case of the Azerbaijani Färhad vä Širin.

  • 26 Both the Uzbek and Azerbaijani adaptations discussed here did tour extensively, for the most part i (...)

48A further formal problem appears with the physical and linguistic translation of these works to Moscow. If we follow the theatrical histories produced at the centre and give priority to the versions of the play performed there (productions whose documentation is often more ample and accessible, for both linguistic and archival reasons), we may have a truncated experience of its meaning. In Moscow, in Russian, a play may appear to be a kitschy performance of national difference, when the same play, before a variety of other Soviet audiences across multiple republics, could have been understood as a radical recoding of a familiar system of signs.26 If, then, Stalinist theatre and opera is intended as a perfect instantiation of the Wagnerian “Gesamtkunstwerk of Stalinism,” in Boris Groys’s formulation, then the totality of a play, its symbolisms and affective mysteries, is experienced substantially differently in different zones of cultural affinity (Groys, 1992). A fuller exploration of these ecumenical possibilities could help us to understand the incredible breadth of socialist realism’s appeal and influence in the post-colonial world.

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1 For contemporary reactions to Bukharin’s speech, see Robin, 1992, pp. 20-25.

2 In my choice to use the term ‘cosmopolitan’ despite its potentially confusing association with Stalin’s ‘anti-cosmopolitan’ campaign, I follow Clark, 2011, p. 5. There is no other English-language word that as aptly draws together Soviet multi- and internationalism with previous modes of world citizenship on the same territory.

3 Two quite different approaches to this process are Suny, 1993; and Slezkine, 1994.

4 See also Levin, 1980; During, 2005.

5 For a critique, see Igmen, 2012, pp. 98-119.

6 Masrhall Hodgson coined the term ‘Persianate’ to suggest a second phase of Islam’s spread and development, for which Persian language, culture, and literature was an important medium and, by extension, the resulting cosmopolitan culture in part of the Islamic world (as well as connected, only partly Islamic regions such as the Caucasus and India). It is in the second sense that I use it (Hodgson, 1974, p. 294 passim).

7 Key studies of the theme include Orsatti, 1996, 2003, 2006; Moayyad, 1999; Burrill, 1974; Souchek, 1974; Aliev, 1960.

8 For a fuller summary, see Chelkowski, 1975, pp. 21-45, commentary, pp. 46-48; for original text, see Nizāmī, 1366.

9 For prose romance, see Rubanovich, 1998; for epic, see Yamamoto, 2003.

10 For an account of this process, see Bergne, 2007; for the development of Tajik literature specifically, see Yountchi, 2011.

11 This narrative was established by Allworth, 1964, pp. 81-89.

12 For the Azerbaijani case, see Schild, 2010, pp. 137-156; and, for an earlier period, see Tolz, 2011, pp. 152-153.

13 For the “friendship of nations” generally, see Tillet, 1969.

14 To interpolate ghazals into a Persian mathnawī is rare but not unheard of (Dankoff, 1984).

15 As for instance Ivan the Terrible Part One’s Erasmus and Machiavelli figures (Clark, 2011, pp. 318-323).

16 Given Fitrat’s history of travel in Turkey before the October Revolution, he may have been inspired by extensive collaboration in this period between Eastern European and Turkish ethnomusicologists.

17 The continued relevance of Nizāmī’s model should not be understated, even if it was mediated by Nawā’ī here. In 1937, an Uzbek opera of Layli and Majnun also premiered, adapted from another mathnawī from Nawā’ī’s Khamsa produced in imitation of Nizāmī.

18 For further discussion, see Miller, 1990.

19 The latter category became ubiquitous with the popularity of Vsevolod Višnevskij’s 1934 play, An Optimistic Tragedy.

20 It is beyond the article's scope here to enter debates on the nature of the ‘tragic,’ but a strain of critical thought beginning with Aristotle points to ‘tragic guilt’ as a key feature of tragedy (Heilman, 1968). See however a critique of this tendency in Michelini, 1987, pp. 321-323.

21 On the larger topic of Soviet anxieties about the ‘body,’ see Naiman, 1997; Livers, 2004; Hellebust, 2003; Kaganovsky, 2008.

22 On empathy and physical violence in European religious art, see Merback, 1998; Effenberger, 2004.

23 On the significant role of ta‘ziya since the Islamic Revolution, see Chelkowski, 1979, 2005.

24 People in the Central Asian cities and countryside did have many other theatrical and ritual-theatrical genres with some limited bearing on the plays described here. For mourning rituals in particular, see Nurdžanov, 2001, pp. 117-134.

25 For a recent similar attempt in Persianate cinema, see the shared vocabulary of Abbas Kiarostami’s 2003 multimedia ta‘ziya theatre production and his 2008 film Shirin (Jaggi, 2009).

26 Both the Uzbek and Azerbaijani adaptations discussed here did tour extensively, for the most part in the post-war period.

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Samuel Hodgkin, « Romance, Passion Play, Optimistic Tragedy: Soviet National Theatre and the Reforging of Farhad », Cahiers d’Asie centrale, 24 | 2015, 239-266.

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Samuel Hodgkin, « Romance, Passion Play, Optimistic Tragedy: Soviet National Theatre and the Reforging of Farhad », Cahiers d’Asie centrale [En ligne], 24 | 2015, mis en ligne le 10 mars 2016, consulté le 26 mars 2017. URL :

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Samuel Hodgkin

Samuel Hodgkin is a Ph.D. student in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His dissertation research focuses on the Iranian émigré poet Abū al-Qāsim Lāhūtī, and his place in the institutionalization of world literature through Soviet multinational and international networks. Other research focuses on issues of genre, translation, and canon formation in Turkic and Persian literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. Contact:

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