Cinema, Nation, and Empire in Uzbekistan, 1919-1937


209 Pages
Read an excerpt
Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more


Between the founding of Soviet Uzbekistan in 1924 and the Stalinist Terror of the late 1930s, a nationalist cinema emerged in Uzbekistan giving rise to the first wave of national film production and an Uzbek cinematographic elite. In Cinema, Nation, and Empire in Uzbekistan Cloé Drieu uses Uzbek films as a lens to explore the creation of the Soviet State in Central Asia, starting from the collapse of the Russian Empire up through the eve of WWII. Drieu argues that cinema provides a perfect angle for viewing the complex history of domination, nationalism, and empire (here used to denote the centralization of power) within the Soviet sphere. By exploring all of film's dimensions as a socio-political phenomenon—including film production, film reception, and filmic discourse—Drieu reveals how nation and empire were built up as institutional realities and as imaginary constructs.

Based on archival research in the Uzbek and Russian State Archives and on in-depth analyses of 14 feature-length films, Drieu's work examines the lively debates within the totalitarian and so-called revisionist schools that invigorated Soviet historiography, positioning itself within contemporary discussions about the processes of state- and nation-building, and the emergence of nationalism more generally. Revised and expanded from the original French, Cinema, Nation, and Empire in Uzbekistan helps us to understand how Central Asia, formerly part of the Russian Empire, was decolonized, but later, in the run-up to the Stalinist period and repression of the late 1930s, suffered a new style of domination.

Note on Transcriptions




Part 1: Decolonizing Central Asia: Film Structures and Representations (1919-1927)

Turkestan Prior to the Birth of the USSR: Revolts and "Colonial Revolution"

1. Cultural Autonomy and the Nation (1919-1924)

2. Revolutionary Exoticism and the Colonial Imaginary—Cinema and Entertainment (1924-1927)

Part 2: Cultural Revolution and Its Paradoxes: Nation, Modernity, and Empire (1927-1931)<\>

"Cinematographic Cultural Revolution"

3. The National Cinematographic Sphere

4. Uzbek Film and the Shift Towards Imperial Domination

Part 3: The Paradoxes of the Nationalities Policy: Nationalism vs. Internationalism (1931-1937)

Working as an Uzbek Artist under Stalin: Ambivalence, Resistance, and Nationalism

5. The Nationalist Cinematographic Imaginary: Subjugating Class to Nation

6. The Empire of the Proletariat—Subjugating Nation to Class

Conclusion: Social Rank in the Neoliberal Era







Published by
Published 01 January 2019
Reads 0
EAN13 9780253037879
Language English
Document size 27 MB

Legal information: rental price per page 0.0062€. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

Report a problem
Cloé drïEû Translated by Adrian Morfee
Inïana UnïvErsïy PrEss
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press Office of Scholarly Publishing Herman B Wells Library 350 1320 East 10th Street Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
Originally Published as: “Fictions nationales. Cinéma, empire et nation en Ouzbékistan (1919–1937)” © Éditions Karthala – Paris, 2013
English Language translation: © 2018 by Indiana University Press
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Drieu, Cloé, author. | Morfee, Adrian, translator. Title: Cinema, nation, and empire in Uzbekistan, 1919-1937 / Cloé Drieu ; translated by Adrian Morfee. Other titles: Fictions nationales. English Description: Bloomington, Indiana : Indiana University Press, [2018] | “Revised and expanded from the original French.” | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018019384 (print) | LCCN 2018025311 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253037855 (e-book) | ISBN 9780253037831 (cl : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253037848 (pb : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Motion pictures—Uzbekistan. | Communism and motion pictures—Uzbekistan. | Motion pictures—Social aspects—Uzbekistan. | Nationalism and communism—Uzbekistan. Classification: LCC PN1993.5.U9 (ebook) | LCC PN1993.5.U9 D7513 2018 (print) | DDC 791.4309587 —dc23 LC record available at
1 2 3 4 5
22 21 20 19 18
To my daughter Ellie
Note on Transcriptions Prologue Acknowledgments
Part 1: Decolonizing Central Asia: Film Structures and Representations (1919–27)
Part 1 Introduction: Turkestan Prior to the Birth of the Soviet Union: Revolts and Colonial Revolution
1Cultural Autonomy and the Nation (1919–24) 2Cinema and Entertainment (1924–27)Revolutionary Exoticism and the Colonial Imaginary: Part 2: Cultural Revolution and Its Paradoxes: Nation, Modernity, and Empire (1927–31)
Part 2 Introduction: Cinematographic Cultural Revolution
3The National Cinematographic Sphere 4Uzbek Film and the Shift toward Imperial Domination Part 3: The Paradoxes of the Nationalities Policy: Nationalism versus Internationalism (1931–37)
Part 3 Introduction: Working as an Uzbek Artist under Stalin: Ambivalence, Resistance, and Nationalism 5The Nationalist Cinematographic Imaginary: Subjugating Class to Nation 6The Empire of the Proletariat: Subjugating Nation to Class
Appendix Glossary Notes Sources and Selected Bibliography Index
Note on Transcriptions
T HE SOURCES USEDfor this work are predominantly Russian but also include works in Turki (Uzbek), which used four different writing systems over the twentieth century: Arabic script until 1929 (with the reform in the mid-1920s advocating that long vowels be indicated), Latin script (1929–40), Cyrillic script until 1993, and since then, Latin script once again. Diacritics have not been used for the transliteration system for simplicity. The following concordances have been used for Cyrillic alphabets (Russian and Uzbek):
The following have been used for the Latin alphabet (Uzbek 1927–40):
And these have been used for the Arabic alphabet (Uzbek until 1929):
The most frequently used names are transcribed in their habitual form. The letterj is used for thedj sound—for instance, in Khojaev (Khodjaev), Jadid (djadid), and Andijan (Andidjan).
P UBLIC READINGS WITHmagic lantern images were held at Tashkent gymnasium and then at the public library. Among the measures taken to enable indigenous men of learning to discover modern science, the most spectacular trials with electricity were held on several occasions in the gymnasium, producing a great impression on the Muslim scholars of Tashkent. Afterward brochures were produced and translated by the editors of theTuzemnaia Gazetaand read out for the auditors. One of these readings in Samarkand met with particular success and was described by an eyewitness in the following terms:
At eight in the evening on March 18, 1901, at the height of the Muslim festival of Kurban Bayramı, for the very first time, in the Shir Dor madrasa, a reading took place accompanied by obscure 1 images, organized by the Samarkand Public Reading Circle. And now, fifteen hours after this reading, I still cannot clearly picture what this evening was—I cannot speak calmly of what I witnessed for the first time in my life, for I am still under the influence of the enchanting nature of the evening in question. Yes, the strength and clarity of the images made this an essentially extraordinary event in our Russian life, and even more so in the monotonous lives of the natives of Samarkand. I am convinced that since the days of Tamerlane and Ulugh Beg, the madrasas of Registan have never seen such a large number of spectators within their walls as there were yesterday to be found in the Shir Dor madrasa. The theater was formed by the large, square courtyard of the madrasa, paved with marble slabs and surrounded by two-story buildings with numerous balconies and arcades in the Moorish style, entirely covered with magnificent ceramic tiles dating from the days of Tamerlane, which have remained unaltered for centuries. The screen for the obscure images was lit by the powerful light of an acetylene lamp, recently received by the Public Reading Circle, and carefully positioned so that the images on the screen were visible from any point in the theater. There was a reading, for the first time, of Tolstoy’s work “What Men Live By” in a good 2 translation into the Sart tongue. The reading was given by the young mullah Mahmud. It was not easy for him that evening to win the well-deserved honors that normally go to the first reader. He read from 7:30 until 9:30, during which time he left his place to others about five times in order to recover his strength. He read so loud, as only a mullah with healthy lungs can do, calling with his voice that resounded like a bell summoning his countless faithful to prayer! And despite all that, the size of such an open-air theater; the acoustic conditions, which were ill-suited to a reading; and the almost unbearable hubbub of several thousand excited spectators were so disagreeable for the reader that the powerful and expressive declamation pouring forth from his lips all but died on reaching the back rows of those present. The spectators were all on the parapets and balconies and in all probability could not properly hear the reader bawling out at the top of his lungs. A final reward, comprised of a miraculous spectacle of flying birds, was out of sight for those sitting lower down. How many and numerous were the people? It can be worked out based on the surface area, 3 which was about 850 square meters. It was entirely filled by children (at the front) and adults standing or sitting behind them. It may be said without exaggeration that there were at least 4000 people there, and about 5,000 counting those on the balconies. As may be expected, most of the public were Muslims from the towns, indigenous Jews, Persians, Russians, and Armenians. Admittance to the reading was free. . . . Before the reading began, V. Medinskii [the military governor general] congratulated the indigenous Mohammedans on this day of festival and suggested raising a cheer to the long life of the emperor and sovereign. He hoped the natives would appreciate the true worth of this public reading held for them and that they would be as attentive to the readings as they were currently being. These words from the leader of the province were welcomed with long and deafening “hurrahs” from the crowd of several thousand people. An hour before the reading began, the Zerabulavskii Battalion wind band . . . played on Registan Square and then in the theater itself. The band may not have been complete, but what an incredible and joyous spirit was awakened among this countless and beturbaned public by the powerful, enchanting, and divine sounds of our Russian music resonating within the ancestral walls of Shir Dor!
+n leaving this gathering, General V. Medinskii expressed his thanks to the organizers of this public reading, who were members of the Circle . . ., for having successfully put on this first reading for natives, even though it had been difficult to set up this innovative undertaking. His Excellency also thanked the Shir Dor madrasa principal teacher (mudarris), Isa Khoja, a respectable and pleasant scholar, for the support he had lent the circle and for his administrative adroitness during the reading. As natives, had they understand what mullah Mahmud had read to them? Had they understood what was being illustrated in so spectacular and lively a manner by the views of the Karelin 4 workshops, based on paintings by Ge? Had they understood “what men live by”? Judging by the sustained attention and interest with which the hundreds of natives sitting at the front had listened and watched, enraptured, I believe that they had understood and recognized what our great philosophical author was telling them with such simplicity and artistic skill. However, the influence of the religious institutes (ishans), which were powerful and of long date, and the instruction received by natives in their schools (maktab and madrasa) were not propitious for the future development of our Sarts. Modern Muslim education does not prepare the natives or predispose them to seeking a closer understanding of a culture that is foreign to them 5 (Ostroumov 1908, 200–205).
T HIS BOOK ISbased on research presented in November 2008 at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales. It was supervised by Jean Radvanyi, without whose help it would never have been completed. It was initially published in French by Karthala in 2013. I wish to extend all my gratitude to Stéphane A. Dudoignon, who answered all my requests for help and whose many remarks and criticisms helped me develop my ideas. Special thanks go to Stéphane Vibert for his infallible replies, frequent insights, updates, and help putting ideas into perspective—all of great help in completing this work. I wish to thank the members of the examining panel for all their comments and criticisms that I have sought to incorporate: Alain Blum, whose support and observations have helped improve this work; Nathalie Clayer, thanks to whom this work was published in the Meydan/Karthala collection launched by the Centre d’études turques, ottomanes, balkaniques et centrasiatiques; last, and especially, François Georgeon for all his support. I also wish to express my gratitude to Martine Godet, head of the Iconothèque russe et soviétique at L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales for her friendship and continual encouragement. Adeed Khalid’s numerous comments and remarks have also contributed much to this work, as has the kindly support of Marc Ferro. I wish to thank all of them here. My research was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Institut Français d’Études sur l’Asie Centrale and the encouragement of its former director, Rémy Dor. I also thank Bayram Balci and all the team at the institute, including Kirill, Muhabat, and Umid, for their help with trips to Central Asia and my research. I also extend my warmest thanks to Ulugbek Mansurov for having answered my requests for bibliographical information so rapidly. This work would not have been possible without the cooperation of the directors of the Uzbekistan National State Archives and the director of the Art Academy; the reading room staff, Sarofat F. Muminzhanova and Marhamat S. Turakhojaeva; and all the archivists. The research was initially conceived as a comparative analysis of the cinema in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran during the interwar period, but lack of time meant it finally focused solely on Uzbekistan. The work nevertheless benefited from several months spent researching in Teheran, partially financed by the Institut Français de Recherche en Iran. Many historians have helped me develop my ideas, including Naim Karimov, Boris Golender, Shirinbek, and researchers at the Institut d’histoire. Many people have participated directly or indirectly in my research as it progressed and in the writing of this book, including the Ismailov family (Tursun Oi opa, Abdurakhim aka, Adolat, Bobur, Saodat), Dilbar Rashidova and Uchkun Nazarov, Olia and Margarita, Anaita Khudonazar (whom I met at the Cinema Museum engrossed byAlisher Navo’i), Ömer Akakça, Agnès Devictor, Xavier Bougarel, Jean-Claude Penrad, Gilles Dorronsoro, Jean During, Philippe Tarabella, Samuel Frydman, Hamid Khezri, and many other friends and researchers. I wish to thank all of them here. Last, I would like to thank my family, and especially my father for his support and encouragement.