Мухиба изучают в Германии
Литература | Проза

Бухарско–еврейская литература и культура становятся объектом пристального внимания со стороны ученых США, Узбекистана, Германии, Таджикистана, Франции и Израиля. Молодой немецкий ученый Томас Лой, автор работ по литературе бухарских евреев, опубликовал свои воспоминания о выдающемся поэте, прозаике и публицисте Мухибе.

Muhib, the penname of Mordaxaj ben Hijo Bacaev, was created out of the initial letters of his first name (Mordaxaj), the name of his father (Hijo) and their surname (Bacaev). The Persian meaning of «Muhib» is «the one who likes, loves, prefers» or simply «friend». Bacaev who was born in 1911 in the city of Marv is the most important and well–known representative of Bukharan Jewish literature in the 20th century.

Domullo Muhib deceased on 9 March 2007. By far the greatest part of his writings is poetry, though it is a piece of prose, namely his memoirs Dar \'guvol–i sangin\', that may be regarded as his opus magnum. Nevertheless, Muhib\'s life and work so far, have been quite neglected by the international scholarly community dealing with Central Asia or the Bukharan Jews. This may change now, since his voluminous collected works are available now, thanks to the great efforts of his daughter Lydia. In 2005 and 2006 I visited Muhib several times to speak with him about his memoirs and record some of his memories of his life in the Soviet Union and in Israel. In this paper I try to combine both sources to create a portrait of both the author and his major piece of prose.

The two volumes of Dar guvoli sangin (taj. «In a stony sack») contain a period of almost 30 years in the life of a Bukharan Jewish intellectual and the members of his family (1918–1944). The memoirs bear a resemblance to a series of autobiographic writings of new Tajik prose. Muhib dedicated this work to the victims of Stalinism. One of these was the author himself. The first volume starts with his first interrogation after he was arrested being accused of anti–soviet and Zionist activities and his first night in a solitary cell in a GPU prison in Tashkent in July 1938.

«[The cell] was designated as 'stony sack', because it looked like a sack, but it was built of stone or brick. The aim of this book was, that I wanted to show, that not only in this special cell but in these days the Soviet Union as a whole was a guvol–i sangin, one huge \'stony sack\' and all its people lived through it as if they were prisoners. For that reason I\'ve chosen this title for both volumes. In my view this title perfectly fits to the life in the Soviet Union in these years.»

Muhib's memoirs are much more than the picture of a Bukharan Jewish intellectual\'s life in the Soviet Union though. In the 15 chapters of volume one, in which the events and experiences of one or two years are displayed, Muhib unfolds a cultural history of the Jews of Central Asia between 1918 and 1938. The author depicts the consequences of the soviet repressions and changes of politics for Bukharan Jews (as well as for Uzbeks, Tajiks, etc.) from an everyday perspective and demonstrates the living conditions of Samarqand and Tashkent in the 1920s and 30s. On the whole he falls back upon personal experiences and those of his family members and close friends. Flashbacks and the usage of oral traditions of the Bukharan Jews (anecdotic narratives, fairy–tales, poems, proverbs, etc.) enable Muhib to break open the linear mode of narration. Episodically he throws light on his childhood days in the 1910s and the cultural memory of the Jews of Central Asia (their daily life, customs, mourning–rites, etc.).

The second volume of the memoirs ranges among the long list of memorial literature taking issue with the experiences of the soviet GULAG system. While there exists a lot of Gulag literature, Bacaev\'s description of the everyday life in prison as well as of the forced labour and the living conditions in the camps is the first depiction of such experiences in Tajik. In its composition and structure the second volume resembles the closed \'link and frame\' story of the first volume. Volume one begins and ends with the event that completely changed Muhibs life. The day of the arrest (and the following night) in 1938 frames the author\'s memories of the life and years before. In volume two this framing event is a double train–ride in late 1944. End of November, Bacaev conceded a short release to visit his family in Tashkent and Samarqand. Only three weeks later he enters the return–train to Sverdlovsk. On these trips Bacaev remembers the events and experiences of the past six and a half years in prisons and camps between Tashkent and the Ural.

Courses of a life

«I was born in Marv. This town is now in Turkmenistan. But at that time it was a Russian colony … I was born in Mary, because my father was working there as a mosinduz [he had a shop with a sewing–machine] as a tailor. He was a tailor. What does a tailor want? He wants to make some money. So he took his family and went from Samarqand to Marv. There he settled down and opened up a tailor\'s shop and bought a sewing machine. At that time sewing machines were a novelty and sold by the Russians. These machines were driven either by hand or foot. I was born there in 1911. Then for some reason, my family decided upon leaving Mary for Qoqand. The brothers of my mother already lived in Qoqand. I was a boy of five or six years when we moved there hoping to make our living with their help. I do remember that».

But already in 1918, only one year after their arrival, units of the Bolsheviks and Dashnaks committed pogroms within the local Muslim population. In these hostilities Jews fell victim as well and Bacaev\'s family fled, as well as many other Jewish families, to relatives in Samarqand. There, in the Jewish quarter behind the Registan (the famous «mahalla–i sarq») he spent the last days of his childhood and all of his adolescence. His father set a high value on a comprehensive education, both traditional and contemporary Russian.

Bacaev was sent to a xeder to get a classical Jewish education and to a Russian teacher and later on to a Russian language school — even if at that time his father didn\'t speak Russian. He acquainted his son with the rich Bukharan Jewish literary tradition, especially with the works of Simon Xoxom who went from Bukhara to Jerusalem in the late 19th century:

«This man, Simon Xoxom, was a poet and an accomplished person. He even had a school for Jewish children to teach them the language of the Bukharan Jews. Simon Xoxom who knew the language very well, [one may even call him] a linguist, translated the complete Tanax, the Bible, into the language of the Bukharan Jews of that time. He prepared it for printing and published it. He collected money from the people, at that time he had already quit living in Bukhara and moved to Jerusalem where he asked rich Bukharan Jews who came from Tashkent, Bukhara and other [Central Asian] towns to make their living in this town, for money. Wealthy people supported him in his efforts to print and publish [Bukharan Jewish] books […] Simon Xoxom printed books in Jerusalem and sent them to Bukhara and Samarqand where he had some deputies. In every town he had some representatives. These deputies distributed the books among the subscribers…

When I was a little child we also had these books in our house. My father liked the books published in the language of the Bukharan Jews very much. This is why I started to develop passion for reading the books of Simon Xoxom. My father always guided and encouraged my efforts, telling me 'Read these things my boy, it is very beneficial!\' He praised these books a lot. He also was a learned man. So I started to read poems in my childhood when I was twelve or thirteen years old. I also started writing poems when I only was an adolescent.» It didn't take very long and Bacaev became, to use the words of Jiri Becka, a continuator of the Judeo–Persian literary tradition.

After a short period of cultural and religious autonomy, from the mid 20s on, the soviet state laid an increased interest on the so called «local Jews». In 1925, young Bukharan Jewish intellectuals from Samarqand founded the (Judeo–) Persian language newspaper Rosnaji (taj.«Light») which was published in Hebrew letters. The initiative for this newspaper, which started on 16 November 1925 with low budget and in a very small edition, was a rather nostalgic one. It aimed at a revival of the tradition of a newspaper by the Jews of Central Asia, which was cut in 1914. The then 15–yearsold Bacaev witnessed the foundation of this newspaper at close range. Enthusiastic for the literary heritage as well as for the new era he started to write his first poems for Rosnaji, already with his penname \'Muhib\'. In 1928 he already was part of its regular editorial staff. The newspaper developed quickly. In 1930 the editorial office was moved to the new capital of the Uzbek SSR, Tashkent. Bacaev, still unmarried then, followed up. In the same year (8 April 1930) the newspaper was renamed as Bajroq–i mihnat (taj. «Banner of labour») and its Hebrew script was changed to a Latin based alphabet step by step. One year after the editorial office was moved to Tashkent, the newspaper was printed three times a week with almost 3000 copies and in Latin script only. Muhib published his first anthologies of poetry: Bahor–i surx (1931) and Sadoji mihnat (1932) as well as the colourfully illustrated children\'s book Quvat–i kolektivi (1931).

In 1932 he married with his wife, Klara, and they moved into a small flat situated in the upper floor of the former Uqci synagogue in Tashkent. The main floor of this Bukharan Jewish synagogue was transformed into the editorial office of Bajroq–i mihnat and its printing facilities. A «literary page» («varaqa– i adabijot») was included and since 1933 Bajroq–i mihnat was published three times a week. New contributors were needed and engaged. The editor in chief, Aharon Saidov, appointed Menase Aminov as his deputy. Together with the «political advisor» Pinhos Abromov they headed the daily editorial affairs. The censorship was increased as the newspaper became the official «organ of the Central Bureau of the Bukharan Jews affiliated to the APO of the ChK KP (b) Uzbekistan as well as of the Organization of the Commission of Representatives of the National Minorities affiliated to the CIK of the UzSSR».

In the early 1930s times changed in Central Asia. The soviet nationality policy and its approach to the national minorities followed new and even contrary rules. In 1929 the first Five–Year Plan was set up and the economic situation in soviet Central Asia declined further. Bread and later, all other kinds of food was available only with ration cards. In 1932 the soviet authorities started to confiscate private property, a «robber»– campaign that became famous among Bukharan Jews as «tillogiri» (taj. «taking the gold»). Branches of Komzet and Ozet aimed at engaging Jews in agriculture and industrial labour. Since the late 1920s the number of refugees among the Bukharan Jews went up quickly. Two of Bacaev\'s brothers (Hiskijo and Juno), and later on one of his sisters, and his mother left the Soviet Union illegally via Afghanistan or Iran to Palestine. At that time Muhib decided to start working on a voluminous poem (doston) on the life of the «new» Bukharan Jewish women and the local Jews at the Jewish quarter in Samarqand. Bacaev asked for a one year break, to go to Samarqand and work on the poem. The poem\'s title as well as its female hero\'s name was «Panino». Saidov accepted, also because he wanted to protect Bacaev, who was in the line of fire since his relatives took to flight, and sent him and his family to Samarqand. When the first part of «Panino» was finished it was published as a serial in Bajroq– i mihnat and in Hajot–i mihnati. While the infrastructure and hygienic standards in the Jewish quarter of Samarqand were still poor then, the economic and social situation was even worse than it used to be in the 1920s.

End of January 1934 on the invitation of the republic\'s union of writers a literary evening dedicated to «Muhib\'s work» was announced and held at the editorial office of Bajroq–i mihnat in Tashkent. In preparation of the first Writers\' Union Congress Bacaev was invited by the Uzbek section of the Union to take part as a representative of the Samarqand division. For this occasion the department of Bukharan Jews at the UzGIz prepared a compilation of Bukharan Jewish writers. Contrary to Bacaev\'s expectations, in both occasions the sore spot of having relatives who illegally abandoned the Soviet Union was not put forward against him.

The promotion and stimulation of this «national minority group» ended abruptly in 1938. All cultural and political activities which had been propagated before were banned and prosecuted by the authorities. Parallel to all the other groups of Central Asia almost the complete intellectual elite of the Bukharan Jews was seized by the Great Terror.

«The Bolsheviks amputated the Russian people. Among them were also the Bukharan Jews. The Bukharan Jews are a small minority group. They arrested 300– 400 of them, they amputated teachers, journalists, intellectuals, and so on from the system … in my book I wrote about how letters arrived from every corner, from every single city. People wrote about those who died and they also reported about those who were arrested the night before…the people sent these letters to friends and relatives. Then it was my turn. I was arrested as well.»

In Muhib's memoirs we learn more about the animosities within the editorial staff of Bajroq–i mihnat and the increasing gravity of the political situation in 1936 to 1938. Already in 1936 one of Muhib\'s poems was heavily criticised within the editorial staff because of «political mistakes». Menashe Aminov said that class conflict is worked out inadequately and the poem has a «smell of nationalism». The climate within the editorial staff of the Bukharan Jewish newspaper deteriorated while step by step the threat of violence from the central parts of the Soviet Union reached the peripheries. «Especially within the past two years, after the killing of Kirov, the situation became more critical and dangerous from day to day. Everybody felt like a tightrope walker on a thin line with a balancing pole in his hand, hardly keeping his balance, tumbling along.» Nevertheless in 1936 the consequences for Bacaev were still manageable. A couple of month the newspaper only published his translations of Pushkin and Shevchenko but other personal networks of Bacaev withstood the rising pressure. His mentors and friends Rahamim Badalov and Yakub Kalontarov still managed to provide him with some work.

Only one year later the situation changed dramatically. The ChK sent a «one man commission» to screen the editorial members of Bajroq–i mihnat. The investigator was Avrom Abdurahmanov, a Bukharan Jew and former people\'s judge of the Jewish quarter in Samarqand and known to Bacaev as well as to most of his colleagues. On the forth day of the investigation it was Bacaev\'s turn. The main questions of Abdurahmanov referred to the time of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and to the family members who illegally left the Soviet Union. At its end Bacaev was asked to submit a curriculum vitae (beginning with his grandfather) and a written comment on all these questions at the Ministry of Justice. Bacaev was upset.

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