Kristof D'hulster deposited Licit Magic – GlobalLit Working Papers 12. “The World’s Richest yet Most Unfortunate Language” – Four Texts by Abdurrauf Fitrat on Uzbek Language & Literature in the group Digital Middle East & Islamic Studies on Humanities Commons 6 months, 2 weeks ago
This working paper presents in full translation four texts of the Uzbek early 20th-century jadid reformist Abdurrauf Fitrat. Identifying educational reform as the main key to progress, he advocated for the emancipation and nationalisation of the Chaghatay/Uzbek language as a tool to educate the masses rather than to serve the interests of a religious-obscurantist elite only. However, as Fitrat was living at a time when even such seemingly “laudable objectives” could quickly turn into “subversive acts”, he fell victim to Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937. Although he was official rehabilitated in 1956, Fitrat remained a toy in the hands of successive ideological spin-doctors. Each pushing their own agenda, the pre-1991 Uzbek SSR framed Fitrat as “a true advocate of socialism”, while the post-1991 independent Uzbek republic hailed him as “a champion of the Uzbek national language”. Fortunately, starting with the Perestroika and Glasnost, Fitrat’s writings are no longer banned and/or heavily censured, and we can finally assess the author and his work on our own terms.
The first three texts appeared in the newspaper Ishtirokiyun (The Communists), while the fourth text is a lecture delivered by Fitrat at the 1921 Til va imlo quriltoyi (Uzbek Congress of Language and Orthography). In Our Language (I), Fitrat points out that Chaghatay is “the world’s richest yet most unfortunate language”. Being the world’s richest language in terms of lexicon, morphology, etc., Chaghatay is perfectly capable of standing on its own feet, of accommodating progress, and of serving the man in the street. However, being the world’s most unfortunate language, Chaghatay had failed to capitalize on its rich potential for a variety of reasons. Instead, it had opted to blindly follow first Arabo-Persian models (Poetry and Versification), and, more recently, Ottoman and Tatar Turkic models or some fictitious “common Turkic literary language” (On the Literariness of Our Language).