Pressure from Uzbekistan notwithstanding, Kyrgyzstan does not intend to mingle literature with politics
Ferghana.Ru's brief report last week with references to Radio Ozodlik that Muhammad Salikh's works were studied at the Uzbek Humanitarian Teacher-Training College generated considerable public excitement in Osh. This news agency reported that professors had decided to include Salikh's works in the curriculum along with the works of other classics.
"Studies of the comprehensive Uzbek literature will be incomplete without studies of this poet's work," Uzbek literature professors Davron Nasibkhonov and Mujassar Khalmatova told Ozodlik.
The works of Salai Madaminov (alias Muhammad Salikh) were banned in Uzbekistan ten years ago and withdrawn from all libraries throughout the country. All references to him were removed from curricula.
Reporting on the plans to include Salikh's works in the curriculum, Ferghana.Ru news agency never intended any political coloring, while Nasibkhonov and Khalmatova never thought their words would be taken as a political barb.
In the meantime, Osh television reported the news after Ferghana.Ru on February 13, and these channels are watched all over the Ferghana Valley including its Uzbek part. Hence apparently the rage of official Uzbekistan.
The day following local TV journalist Khulkar Isamova's report with references to Ferghana.Ru, Ravshanbek Tursunov made a scathing denouncement on the local OshTV channel (Tursunov is director of the Uzbek Humanitarian Teacher-Training College of Osh State University).
It became known afterwards that once the news had been reported, Tursunov was summoned to the top echelons of Osh State University and that officers of Uzbek and Kyrgyz national security services paid a visit to the college where nearly 700 students from Uzbekistan studied. Secret services demanded an explanation. Tursunov announced rather meekly that "the comprehensive Uzbek literature curriculum has not been amended."
These attempts to mingle literature with politics and ideology are an alarming symptom. In any case, the works of the Uzbek poet in question are not banned in Kyrgyzstan, officially or unofficially. Nobody has banned anyone's works in this country and - we hope - nobody will.
Official Tashkent's reaction to the news that the works of an Uzbek opposition leader are studied in Kyrgyzstan offers an undistorted picture of the political atmosphere in Uzbekistan which resembles Josef Stalin's era. Just like nowadays, the black lists of the NKVD in the 1930's included great Uzbek poets and writers like Abdulla Kadyri, Abdulkhamid Suleiman Chulpan, Usman Nasyr, and others.
Why would Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan pretend that Salikh the poet does not exist?
Valentina Ulivanova of the Osh Regional Library recalls how Alexander Solzhenitsyn's books were banned in the Soviet Union.
"We were given the lists of the authors whose works had to be removed to where visitors would not see them," Ulivanova said. "We did not destroy them, just put them into repository."
Disintegration of the Soviet Union put an end to orders like that. Nobody banned Salikh's books in Kyrgyzstan even though he himself is out of favor with the authorities of his own country.
There are works by Salikh in the Osh Regional Library nowadays, his books of poems of the Soviet vintage. Readers are welcome to read his "Beshinchi Fasl" (The Fifth Season), "Valfazhr" (Singing), "Olis Tabassum Sojasi" (Shade Of A Distant Smile) in the Uzbek language. "Mujtadil Ranglar" (Tale Of An Errorless Life), a book of poems by his brother Maksud Bekzhan, is also available.
"We even have books by Askar Akayev here. Nobody has ever outlawed them, not even in the wake of the March revolution," librarian Arzykhan Sabirova said.
Sabirova complains that the law demanding a copy of a book to be sent to all libraries is history now. There have been practically no entries in the Osh Regional Library since the collapse of the USSR. Librarians say that they will gladly receive anything in the Uzbek language.