Abdurauf Fitrat

Abdurauf Fitrat (sometimes spelled Abdulrauf Fitrat or Abdurrauf Fitrat) (Uzbek: Abdurauf Fitrat / Абдурауф Фитрат) (1886 – 4 October 1938) was an author, journalist and politician in Central Asia under Russian and Soviet rule. He was a jadid reformer and made major contributions to modern Uzbek literature with both lyric and prose in Persian, Turki, and late Chagatay.[1][2] After the end of the Emirate of Bukhara he accepted several posts in the government of the Bukharan People's Soviet Republic before being executed without a trial during Stalin's Great Purge. After his death, his work was banned for decades, but is now being claimed by both Tajiks and Uzbeks.

Abdurauf Fitrat
Abdurauf Fitrat on an Uzbek stamp published in honour of his 110. birthday (1996)
Abdurauf Fitrat on an Uzbek stamp published in honour of his 110. birthday (1996)
Died(1938-10-04)4 October 1938
OccupationTeacher, theorist, politician, educator, writer, and scholar
Literary movementJadidism

Naming variantsEdit

Fitrat's name has a lot of variation across forms and transliterations: He mostly went by the pen name Fitrat (فطرت‎Fiṭrat, from the Arabic فطرة‎fiṭra “instinct, creation”). His first known pseudonym is Mijmar.[3] Fitrat's Arabic name is عبدالرؤوف بن عبدالرحيم‎ʿAbd ar-Raʾūf b. ʿAbd ar-Raḥīm (sometimes عبدالرئوف‎‎), with Abdurauf as proper name and sometimes the Nisba Bukhārāī. In reformed Arabic script, Fitrat was depicted as فيطرەت‎‎ or فيترەت‎‎. The Turkic variant of the Nasab is Abdurauf Abdurahim oʻgʻli.

Some of the many Russian variants of his name are Абдурауф Абдурахим оглы Фитрат Abdurauf Abdurakhim ogly Fitrat and Абд-ур-Рауфъ Abd-ur-Rauf; Fitrats soviet, russified name is Абдурауф Абдурахимов Abdurauf Abdurakhimow.[4] In Uzbek-Cyrillic script his name is to be depicted with Абдурауф Абдураҳим ўғли Фитрат. Fitrat sometimes bore the titles of "Hoji" and "professor". His first name can be found as Abdurrauf, Abdulrauf or Abdalrauf in Latin transliterations.

Life and WorkEdit

Education in BukharaEdit

The Mir-i-Arab madrasa in Bukhara

Fitrat was born in 1886 (he himself stated 1884[5]) in Bukhara. His father Abdurahimboy, a devout Muslim and well-travelled trader went on hajj with his son[6] and then left the family in the direction of Margilan and later Kashgar.[7] After his education at a maktab, Fitrat in 1899 began his studies at the Mir-i-Arab madrasa, which he completed in 1910. Between 1907 and 1910, Fitrat travelled through Russian Turkestan and the Emirate of Bukhara.[6] Fitrat came by most of his worldly education through his well-read mother Mustafbibi, who brought him into contact with the works of Bedil, Fuzûlî, Alisher Navaiy and others.[8]

In his autobiography, published in 1929, Fitrat wrote that Bukhara had been one of the darkest religious centres. He had been a devout Muslim and initially had opposed the reform movement of the Jadids (usul-i jadid ‚new method‘).[5] However, under his mentor Mahmudkhodja Behbudiy, he joined the reform movement[4] and started to criticize the incompetence of the mullahs, the imams and the emir, whose politics he opposed.[9]

Stay in Istanbul and jadidist leaderEdit

Fitrat in 1908 sitting in the middle

Fitrat himself received no elementary education in the jadidist "new method".[10] However, with financial support by the secret "society for the education of the children" (Tarbiyayi atfol), which had been founded by reformers, he stayed in Istanbul (Constantinople) for fours years, starting in 1909.[11]

During his stay in Istanbul, the destitute Fitrat worked in restaurant kitchens, studied at the Vaizin madrasa and collaborated with several cultural organisations.[12] He came into contact with several other Near-East reform movements, one of which was the Pan-Turanist, and became the leader of the Jadids in Istanbul.[4] He wrote several works in which he – always in Persian language – demanded reforms in the social and cultural life of Central Asia and a will to progress.[13] His first texts were published in the Islamist newspapers Hikmet of Şehbenderzâde Filibeli Ahmed Hilmi and Sırat-ı Müstakim of Mehmet Akif Ersoy, furthermore in Behbudiys Oyina and the Turkist Türk Yurdu.[11]

Two of the three books Fitrat published during his stay in Istanbul, the "Debate between a Teacher from Bukhara and a European" (Munozara, 1911[14]) and the "Tales of an Indian Traveller" (Bayonoti sayyohi hindi), achieved great popularity in Central Asia[11] Munozara was translated into Turkestani Turkish by Haji Muin from Samarkand in 1911 and published in the Tsarist newspaper Turkiston viloyatining gazeti and later as a book.[15] While the Persian version did not, a Turkish version expanded by a foreword by Behbudiy circulated in Bukhara as well.[16] Behbudiy also translated Bayonoti sayyohi hindi into Russian.[17] He also convinced Fitrat to expand Munozara by a plea to learn Russian.[18]

From Emirate to People's RepublicEdit

After the start of World War I, Fitrat and other Bukharian students made their way back to Transoxania. In 1915, Fitrat was one of the first reformers to write about the hard life of women in Turkestan in Oila ("Family").[19] Fitrat also became the leader of the jadid movement in Bukhara. The activities of the movement were observed under Tsarist and Soviet rule by Okhrana and Soviet secret police.[20] In 1917, he penned a reformist agenda together with Munawwar Qari Abdurrashidkhan ogli that should later become the basis of the jadid's political agenda; he also wrote a column and became publisher of the Samarkand newspaper Hurriyat.[9][21]

Due to increasing repression by the Bukharan emir Mohammed Alim Khan, Fitrat had to flee to Tashkent (Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) in 1917,[4] where he worked in the Afghani consulate[22] and was organizer of the nationalist intellectuals.[23] He also began to publish primarily in a purist Turk language[21] and founded the multi-ethnic literature group Chigʻatoy gurungi ("Chagataian discussion forum").[4] During this next two years, this was the roots of a growing Chagataian nationalism.[21] Fitrat also wrote his first dramatic work, Begijon or Muqaddas qon ("holy blood").[24] His Temurning sogʻonasi ("Timur's mausoleum", 1918) showed a turn towards Pan-Turkism: A "son of a Turkic people" and "watcher of the border of Turan" prays for the resurrection of Timur at his grave - and the rebuilding of the Timurid Empire.[25]

During the years from 1917 to 1919, Fitrat discovered the "real enemies of the Muslim, and especially the Turkic, world" in the events in Russia and the Ottoman Empire: As he thought, the British now had the whole Arab world - with the exception of Hejaz - under their control and were enslaving 350 million Muslims. Since it was their duty to be enemies of the British, Fitrat now supported the Soviets.[26] This view, expressed for example in his analysis of Asian politics (Sharq siyosati, "Eastern politics", 1919)[22][27] provoked resistance by Behbudiy, Ayni and others.[28]

Fitrat's signature (in the form فيطرەت‎‎) on a 2.500 Soʻm banknote of the Bukharan People's Republic (1922)

In the hope of securing his homeland's independence, Fitrat was a member of the Communist Party of Bukhara from 1918 to 1924 and in the first party congress in June 1919 he was elected into its Central Committee. After the Emir of Bukhara had been overthrown by the Red Army under Mikhail Frunze in September 1920, Fitrat led a state-sponsored Waqf until 1921. He went on to become foreign minister (1922), minister of education (1923), deputy chairman of the council for work of the Bukharan People's Soviet Republic and was shortly minister for military and finances (1922).[29] In 1921, Fitrat ordered the language of instruction to be changed from Persian to Turki, which also became the official language of Bukhara. A year later, Fitrat sent 70 students to Germany so they could teach at the newly founded University of Bukhara after their return.[4]

However, Fitrat voiced his disapproval of bolshevik misjudgments in Central Asian affairs in his Qiyomat ("The Last Judgment", 1923).[29] Together with the head of government Fayzulla Khodzhayev he tried, without success, to ally with Turkey and Afghanistan to secure the independence of Bukhara[30] Once the Soviets took control in Bukhara, the former political leaders, including Fitrat, but not Khodzhayev, were expulsed to Moscow on 25 June 1923.[22] Fitrat's Chigʻatoy gurungi had already been closed down in 1922.[31]

Teacher and victim of StalinismEdit

The Lazarev Institute in the 19th century, now seat of the Armenian embassy

After Bukhara had lost its independence, Fitrat wrote a number of allegories in which he criticized the new political system in his homeland[32] but then withdrew from politics and committed himself to teaching.[4] He worked at the Lazarev Institute for Oriental languages in Moscow, later at the Institute for Oriental Studies at Petrograd (St. Petersburg) University.[32] In 1924, he was awarded the title of professor.[33]

After his return to Tashkent and Samarkand in 1924[34] he taught at several high schools in the Uzbek SSR, after 1928[4] up to his arrest[35] at Samarkand University. In the same year, he became a member of the Academic Council of the Uzbek SSR.[4] In his academic activity as historian of literature[36] he stayed true to his own beliefs rather than to the conformity demanded by the Communist Party.[33] After 1925, this included criticism against the communist theory of national cultures in the supra-ethnic structure of Central Asia,[37] which brought him the reputation of a political subversive in Communist circles.[38]

Fitrat wrote two works dealing with Central Asian Turk languages (in 1927 and 1928), in which he denied the necessity to segregate Soviet Central Asia along ethnic lines. This, together with his way of presenting classics of Chagataian literature, was criticized by Communist ideologues as "nationalist". This "Chagataiism" would later be one of the heaviest accusations against Fitrat.[39] Even though he had turned towards Pan-Turkism, Fitrat wrote his last book with political relevance on Emir Alim Khan in Persian Tajik in 1930.[40] After 1932, Fitrat became a powerful control instance of political and social activity in his homeland.[37] His last play, Toʻlqin ("the wave", 1936), was a protest against the practice of censorship.[33]

Fitrat was arrested during the Great Purge in 1937. His further fate was a subject of discussion for over 40 years.[4]

Legacy and criticismEdit

Only the release of archive material during the Perestroika revealed the circumstances of Fitrat's disappearance: He had been executed in early October 1938[41] in Tashkent without formal prosecution or trial.[42] According to the secret files, Fitrat broke during questioning and was willing to admit any ideological crime.[43]

In the beginning, the Soviet Union discouraged the memory of Fitrat and his followers.[44] While he was posthumously rehabilitated in 1956[45] or 1957[42] due to the activity of the critic Izzat Sulton[46] and his achievements in the areas of literature and education now recognized, the Soviet press continued criticizing him for his liberal and the Tajiks for his Turkophile tendencies. Many Jadids had been eliminated by the Soviets; apart from Fitrat, this included Abdulla Qodiriy, Choʻlpon and others. Their works often stayed banned up to Perestroika.[4] However, some copies of Fitrat's dramas were preserved in academic libraries.[47] For a long time, Fitrat was remembered as an Uzbek or Turkish nationalist.[48] While his prose started being recognized by Uzbek scholars of literature in the 1960s and '70s[49] and several stories were once again published, explicitly negative comments were still in circulation up to the '80s. Even in the '90s it was still nearly impossible to find sources on Fitrat in Uzbekistan. Only after 1989 were several works of Fitrat printed in Soviet magazines and newspapers.[50]

Today, authors like Sadriddin Ayni and Mikhail Zand argue in favour of Fitrat's importance for the development of the Tajik language and especially of Tajik literature.[48] Ayni, for example, called Fitrat a "pioneer of Tajik prose". However, not only Tajiks, but also Uzbeks claim Fitrat's literary legacy for themselves.[4] Izzat Sulton even classified Fitrat as an important spokesman of Soviet Socialism, while Ahmad Aliev recognized an "unconventional complexity" in Fitrat's dramatic work.[45] On the other side, Fitrat was a pioneer of a simplified Persian literary language that circumvented traditional flourishing.[4]

In 1996, Fitrat's native city of Bukhara dedicated the Abdurauf Fitrat Memorial Museum to the "distinguished public and political figure, publicist, scholar, poet and expert of the history of the Uzbek and Tajik nation and their spiritual cultures".[51] In several other Uzbek cities including Andijan, Samarkand and Tashkent, roads have been named after Fitrat.


The scholar of Islam Adeeb Khalid describes Fitrat's interpretation of history as "recording of human progress".[13] as with other reformers, Fitrat was interested both in the glorious past of Transoxania as well as the present state of degradation which he observed[52] for example with the practice of pederasty.[53] Similarly to Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī, Fitrat was searching for reasons for the spiritual and temporal decay of the Muslim world in all his works. Additionally, both al-Afghānī and Fitrat saw it as the duty of the Muslims themselves to change the present state of things. Fitrat saw the reason for the state of Bukhara in the development of Islam into a religion for the rich. As a solution he proposed a reform of the education system and the introduction of a dynamic form of religion freed from phantasy, ignorance and superstition in which single individuals would be the focus.[35][54] Fitrat criticized both the clerics (Ulama) as well as the worldly rulers and the people:[4] While the clerics had divided and therefore weakened the Muslim community, the others had followed them and the emir "like sheeps".[52]

«[…] روی وطن ز ناخنی قفلت جریحه‌دار
آنها به یاد روی باطن کرده جان نثار […]»
«[…] Ruy-i vatan ze nākhon-i ghaflat jarihe-dār
Ānhā be yād-i ruy-i bātan karde jān nesār
"[…] The face of Watan is scratched by the fingernails of carelessness
To the face of your loved they gift their lines […]"
- Abdurauf Fitrat
Fragment from the Tajik poem تازیانه‌ای تأديب‎‎ (1914)[55]

Fitrat was opposed to an orientation on western cultures; according to him, the success of the west came out of originally Islamic principles.[35] For example, in Bayonoti ayyohi hindi he cites the words of the French historian Charles Seignobos on the greatness of the medieval Muslim civilization.[56] In Sharq siyosati he wrote: "Up until today, European imperialists have given nothing to the East but immorality and destruction."[26] Fitrat also opposed holding on to a scholasticism that he described as "not helpful to a human in the modern world" in his Munozara. He argued in favor of reforms in family relations, especially improvements in the status of women. Fitrat's way towards peaceful reform therefore consisted both of changes from the top and of personal initiative in the form of a necessary political and social revolution. For him, taking part in these jadidist activities was the "duty of every single Muslim".[35]

What Fitrat demanded was less a compromise between western and Islamic values and more a clean break with the past and a revolution of human concepts, structures and relations with the end goal of freeing Dār al-Islām from the infidels.[57] That the path toward social progress would be complicated and long was another belief of Fitrat, which he articulated by "projecting the revolutionary aims and arguments onto historical attempts at renewal whose outcome did not justify the effort" (Sigrid Kleinmichel).[58]

Interesting is the repeated use of India as setting for Fitrat's works. For this, the scholar Sigrid Kleinmichel identifies several motives; the anti-British orientation in the Indian struggle for independence (while the Emir of Bukhara was drawn towards the British), the movements' broad possibilities for alliances, the developing Indian national identity, congruent ideas for the overcoming of backwardness (like with Muhammad Iqbal) and the pro-Turkishness of parts of the Indian independence movement.[59]

While Soviet ideologues denounced Fitrat's "Chagataiism" as nationalist, Edward A. Allworth saw him as a convinced Internationalist since young age,[33] who was forced to deny his opinions.[60] Kleinmichel describes the accusations of nationalism and Pan-Islamism against Fitrat as "always general, never analytical",[61] Hisao Komatsu describes Fitrat as "patriotic, Bukharan intellectual".[48] Khalid, on the other hand, sees a connection between the agenda of local Ulama and an "ethnical nationalism" of Fitrat tangible especially in his literary works.[21]

Work AnalysisEdit

Statistical and thematical developmentsEdit

A list of the works of Abdurauf Fitrat, compiled by Edward A. Allworth, covers 191 texts written during 27 years of active work between 1911 and 1937. Allworth sorts these texts into five subject categories: Culture, economy, politics, religion and society. An analysis of all 191 texts has the following result:[62]

Number of Fitrat's texts by period and category
Category 1911–1919 1920–1926 1927–1937 Total
Culture 24 48 50 123
Economy 2 0 4 6
Politics 28 9 2 39
Religion 7 1 5 13
Society 9 0 1 10
Total 70 59 62 191

Two thirds of Fitrat's works deal with the subject of "culture" (broadly construed) while some 20 percent of his texts deal with political matters, which was his main subject in his early years. The political texts mostly originate during is active engagement in the jadid movement and in the government of the Bukharan People's Soviet Republic. After the creation of the Uzbek SSR and the Tajik ASSR 1924/25 and especially after the Communist Party started exercising strong control over culture and society Fitrat wrote less on political matters. Even though Communists accused Fitrat of deviating from the party line in his texts on culture, they are decidedly less political than his earlier texts.[63]

According to Allworth, the reason for the almost complete disappearance of texts on society after 1919 was a missing secure opportunity of discussing non-orthodox interpretations.[64] Fitrat reacted to restrictions on press freedom by stopping to freely express his political views in print[65] and by choosing subjects that followed Bolshevik notions of society.[4] Questions of family and education were exclusively discussed before 1920.[40] Some of the most important works of Fitrat from the 1920s are his poems examining group identity.[36]

Similar categorizations of Fitrat's work can be found in a list of 90 works in 9 categories from 1990, a list of 134 titles compiled by Ilhom Gʻaniyev in 1994 and Yusuf Avcis list from 1997.[66] An issue is the disappearance at least ten of Fitrat's works and the unclear dating of others, for example of Muqaddas qon, which was written sometime between 1917 and 1924. There are different dates for Munozara as well, but according to Hisao Komatsu Allworths dating of 1327 AH (1911/1912) can be called "convincing".[67]

Like many Central Asians, Fitrat started his writings with poems and later penned prose, dramas, journalistic works, comedies, political commentary, studies on the history of literature and the politics of education as well as polemical and ideological writings.[68] Fitrat republished many of his earlier works in a reworked form or translated into another language.[69]

Language and ScriptEdit

According to Allworth, Fitrat's first language was - typically for an urban Bukharan of his time - Central Asian Persian (Tajik); the traditional language of education was Arabic. In the Istanbul of Fitrat's time, the Ottoman Turkish language and Persian were in use. Fitrat had a personal aversion to the broken Turki (Uzbek) in use in Tashkent which he taught himself out of a dictionary. Contemporary analyses describe Fitrat's Turki as "peculiar" and speculate that he learned the language without prolonged contact with native speakers.[70] Additionally, Fitrat spoke Urdu and Russian.[23] Borjian sees the question of Fitrat's first language as open.[4]

Until the beginning of the political upheaval in Bukhara, Fitrat had published nearly exclusively in Persian (Tajik) language. Howevever, in 1917 he transferred to a highly purist Turki, in which he even explained some words in footnotes.[21] The aim of Fitrat's Chigʻatoy gurungi was the creation of a unified Turkish language on the basis of Chagataian language and literature, which was to be achieved by the distribution of the classic works of Navoiy and others and the purification from foreign influences (from Arabic, Persian and Russian) on Turki.[71] After this development, Fitrat denied that Persian was a language native in Central Asia. His partial return to Tajik during the 1920s can, according to Borjian, be ascribed to the end of Jadidism and the beginning of the suppression of Turkish nationalisms. Another reason that "could" (Borjian) have motivated Fitrat was the creation of the Tajik SSR out of the Tajik ASSR, which had been a part of the Uzbek SSR, in 1929. Fitrat himself named the promotion of Tajik drama as the motive.[4] Bedil (1923) was written bilingual, with passages in Persian and Turkic.[72]

In Fitrat's time, it was usual to write using the Arabic alphabet: The Arabic script of Arabic, of Persian and of Ottoman. After 1923, a reformed Arabic alphabet with better identification of vowels came into use in Turkestan; however, it still could not accommodate the variety of vowels in the Turkic languages.

Fitrat "obviously" (William Fierman) did not interpret the Arabic alphabet as holy or as an important part of Islam:[73] Already in 1921, he argued in favour of abolishing all forms of the Arabic letters apart from the initial form during a congress in Tashkent. This would have made possible easier teaching, learning and printing of texts. Furthermore, he wanted to abolish all letters that in Uzbek did not represent their own sound (for example the ث‎‎). The end result was the introduction of diacritical signs for vowels and the abolition of "foreign" letters, the up to four forms of each letter (for example, ﻍ، ﻏ، ﻐ، ﻎ‎) survived.[74] For Fitrat, the differentiation between "hard" and "soft" sounds was the "soul" of Turkish dialects. The demand to harmonize the orthography of foreign words according to the rules of vowel harmony was implemented in Bukhara and the ASSR Turkestan in 1923, even though many dialects did not know this differentiation.[75]

Extract out of Qiyomat (here: Qjamat) in a version published in Uzbek Latin script - here apparently strongly edited by the Soviet Union

Until 1929, the alphabets of the Central Asian Turkic languages were Latinized - Fitrat was a member of the Committee for the new Latin alphabet in Uzbekistan[76] and had significant impact on the Latinization of Tajik, whose Latin script he wanted to harmonize as much as possible with the Uzbek one.[48] Uzbek and Tajik only got their cyrillic scripts - as they were usual in Russian - after Fitrat's death.


A series of nonfiction and educational publications can be found in Fitrat's oeuvre: Rohbari najot ("The leader towards deliverance", 1916), for example, is an ethical treatise supporting the jadidist reforms with citations from the Quran.[77] Another of his books deals with the topics of correct Islamic householding, the parenting of children and the duties of husband and wife. The work also argues against Polygyny.[78] He also wrote on the history of Islam,[79] the grammar of the Tajik language[80] and music.[4]

In the anthologies Eng eski turkiy adabiyot namunalari ("Examples from the oldest Turkic literature", 1927) and Oʻzbek adabiyoti namunalari ("Examples of Uzbek literature", 1928), which were directed at more advanced students, Fitrat strongly diverged from the Communist line on nationality politics by denying a strict segregation between "pure Uzbek" literature and Central Asian literature in general.[81] The article Eski maktablarni nima qilish kerak? ("What should we do about the old schools?", 1927) brought him the attention of the GPU. He was classified as a friend of the Basmachi movement, which he however opposed.[82] Other noteworthy nonfiction publications are Adabiyot qoidalari ("Theory of literature", 1926) and Fors shoiri Umar Hayyom ("The Persian poet Omar Khayyam", 1929).[36]


Fitrat was influenced by classical poetry during his first creative phase in a way similar to Sadriddin Ayni.[15] He was probably writing poems in Persian language from his adolescence, first on religious subjects, later for pedagogic reasons and in Turki. Some of the traditional metres he used were Mathnawi and Ghazal.[4]

In Shaytonning tangriga isyoni, Fitrat was one of the first Turki poets to use Turkic suffixes for tail rhymes, along the usual internal rhymes.[83]


Allworth recognizes four different types of dialogue and drama in Fitrat's work: Discussions with strangers (1911-1913, for example in Munozara and Bayonoti sayyohi hindi), counseling with heroes from the past (1915-1919, Muqaddas qon and Temurning sogʻonasi), allegorical dialogue (1920-1924, for example in Qiyomat and Shaytonning tangriga isyoni - "Satan's rebellion against God"), and dialectic (1926-1934, in Toʻlqin).[84] Bedil unites elements of "allegorical dialogue" and the discussion with strangers.[85]

In his dramatic work, Fitrat often uses the passive voice as genus verbi - using this technique, he avoided having to name protagonists. According to Allworth, this and the use of homonyms created an effect of mystification that was connected with Fitrat's interpretation of Allahs exclusive knowledge of all motives and deeds.[86]

Avoidance of Conflict in DialogueEdit

The dispute (a genre called munozara, "discussion", in Uzbek) is a traditional, Islamic genre of literature that was present both in prose and in verse and can in Central Asia be seen as preceding theatre. The form Fitrat chose in Munozara, in which it becomes clear which side of the dispute the author takes, was less valued.[15] Like drama or short story, the classic Turko-Persian literature did not know the genre of dialogue;[87] analphabet bystanders sometimes mistook performances for reality.[88]

In Munozara, Fitrat contrasted a progressive European with an arrogant madrasa teacher from Bukhara. The European argues factually and in an instructional manner and is superior to the teacher even in the area of Islamic studies. Finally, the mudarris is convinced and recognizes the "new method" as supreme - how this conversion came to be is not shown.[89] Since the classic Turko-Persian literature does not know real conflict, only discourse between master and teacher, the conversation stays calm, even though the teacher sometimes shows his anger. In order to further reinforce his message, Fitrat added an epilogue to the dialogue in which he demanded reforms from the Emir - many other "reform dialogues" did not have such an epilogue.[90] Fitrat's method of having criticism of Bukharan society come from "outside", from a European and neutral India, was one of the few accepted possibilities. He used a similar method in Bayonoti sayyohi hindi, in which an Indian tourist recalls his experiences in Bukhara.[89] Stylistically, the work is strongly resemblant of the first Iranian novelist Zayn al-Abedin Maraghei.[11]

Dramas of AmbiguityEdit

Fitrat's works from the years between 1922 and 1924 - especially Qiyomat, Bedil and Shaytonning tangriga isyoni - are, according to Allworth, marked by subtleties and intended ambiguities,[91] the reason for which can found in the political and social circumstances in which these works were written. Through his choice of words, Fitrat made his subversive messages accessible only to the initiated in contemporary Central Asian literature, while his anger found the form of indirect, entertaining criticism.[85]

Shaytonning tangriga isyoni is sometimes described as short drama, sometimes as epic poem (Dastaan).[92] Fitrat's polemic against Stalinism is packed up in an allegorical dialogue between angels and the devil.[93] Allworth interprets the use of the term Shaitan (instead of Iblis or Azazel) for the devil as an example for the allegorical nature; the term is phonetically close to the name Stalin and was in fact used in Central Asia to invoke Joseph Stalin.[94]

The historical drama Abulfayzxon ("Abulfaiz Khan", last ruler of the Bukharan Janid dynasty of the Uzbek Khanate, 1924) draws parallels between historical and contemporary upheaval and absolutisms in Bukhara and is held as first Uzbek tragedy.[45]

Satire and Nasreddinic FiguresEdit

Nasreddin statue in Bukhara

Like Abdulla Qodiriy and Gʻafur Gʻulom, Fitrat increasingly used satiric concepts in his stories from the 1920s onwards. Only a few years earlier, prose had started gaining ground in Central Asia; by including satirical elements, reformers like Fitrat succeeded in winning over the audience. These short stories were used in alphabetization campaigns, where traditional characters and mindsets were presented in a new, socially and politically relevant context.[95] In order to stay similar to the structure of traditional anecdotes, the writers kept direct agitation from within the narrative, instead often adding didactic epilogues where tradition would have demanded the summarized joke.[96] After 1920, the "victims" of Fitrat's satire, besides mistaken ideologues and cumbersome bureaucrats, also included the Soviet rulers.[97]

Similarities to Nasreddin stories can be found in several of Fitrat's texts, for example in Munozara, Qiyomat and Oq mozor ("The white Tomb", 1928), even though the actual Nasreddin figure is missing in the last text.[98] In works like Qiyomat, Fitrat mixed traditionally fantastical elements with parts of fairy tales, with historical or contemporary pieces. According to Sigrid Kleinmichel, the confrontation of Pochamir, the protagonist of Qiyomat, an opium smoker like Nasreddin, with the Last Judgment in a fever dream can be seen as a reference to Karl Marx' words of the Opium of the people. Qiyomat was first reworked in 1935, which led to the loss of contemporary references; Fitrat transferred the story into the time of Tsarist rule. In the Soviet versions, the focus of the story is no longer on the colonial oppression of the Tsarist era and the satiric presentation of life in the Soviet Union, but on the criticism of religion.[99] Due to its "atheism", the Communists later translated the text into several languages, even though the satire originally was directed at Communist dogmas.[4] Allworth sees a special humour and sense of wordplay in Qiyomat.[100]

Incorporation of older Islamic LiteratureEdit

In Shaytonning tangriga isyoni, Fitrat portrays Shaitan, the devil, similar to Quran and dīwān literature, but expands the topic into a "justified resistance" against the despot Allah. The quranic figures Zaynab bint Jahsh, a wife of Mohammed, and Zaid ibn Haritha are central to Zayid va Aynab ("Zaid and Zainab", 1928); the angels Harut and Marut are important to Zahraning imoni ("Zahras belief", 1928). Both Meʼroj ("Mi'raj", 1928) and Rohbari najot are densely peppered with citations from the Quran.[77] In Qiyomat, Pochamir encounters Munkar and Nakir, but the numerous references to the Quran and the irreverence directed at Allah were only added under Soviet rule.[101]

In Bedil, Fitrat cites the Indo-Persian Sufi and poet Bedil, but even though the subject of the text is religious he abstains from exclamations like In schā'a llāh and the Basmala.[102]

Works (Selection)Edit


  • 1916: Rohbari najot
  • 1916: Oila
  • 1919: Sharq siyosati
  • 1926: Adabiyot qoidalari
  • 1927: Eng eski turkiy adabiyot namunalari
  • 1927: Eski maktablarni nima qilish kerak?
  • 1927: Oʻzbek klassik musiqasi va uning tarixi
  • 1928: Oʻzbek adabiyoti namunalari
  • 1929: Fors shoiri Umar Hayyom
  • 1929: Chigʻatoy adabiyati
  • 1934: Abulqosim Firdavsiy


  • 1911: Munozara
  • 1911/12: Bayonoti sayyohi hindi
  • 1916: Begijon
  • 1916: Abu Muslim
  • after 1917: Muqaddas qon
  • 1918: Temurning sogʻonasi
  • 1920: Chin sevish
  • 1923: Hind ixtilolchilari
  • first in 1923: Qiyomat
  • 1923: Bedil
  • 1924: Shaytonning tangriga isyoni
  • 1924: Abulfayzxon
  • 1926: Arslon
  • 1927: Isyoni Vose
  • 1934: Toʻlqin


  • Edward A. Allworth: Uzbek Literary Politics. Mouton & Co., London/Den Haag/Paris 1964.
  • Edward A. Allworth: The Modern Uzbeks. From the Fourteenth Century to the Present. A Cultural History. Hoover Institution Press, Stanford 1990.
  • Edward A. Allworth: The Preoccupations of ʿAbdalrauf Fitrat. Bukharan nonconformist: an analysis and list of his writings. Das Arab. Buch, Berlin 2000.
  • Edward A. Allworth: Evading Reality. The Devices of ʿAbdalrauf Fitrat, modern Central Asian reformist. Brill, Leiden/Boston/Köln 2002.
  • Habib Borjian: Feṭrat, ʿAbd-al-Raʾūf Boḵārī. In: Encyclopædia Iranica; Band 9: Ethé–Fish. Routledge, London/New York 1999, p. 564–567.
  • Hélène Carrère d’Encausse: Fiṭrat, ʿAbd al-Raʾūf. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition; Vol. 2: C–G. Brill, Leiden 1965, p. 932.
  • William Fierman: Language Planning and National Development. The Uzbek Experience. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York 1991.
  • Adeeb Khalid: The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform. Jadidism in Central Asia. University of California Press, Berkeley CA u. a. 1998.
  • Sigrid Kleinmichel: Aufbruch aus orientalischen Dichtungstraditionen. Studien zur usbekischen Dramatik und Prosa zwischen 1910 und 1934. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 1993.
  • Sigrid Kleinmichel: The Uzbek short story writer Fiṭrat’s adaption of religious traditions. In: Glenda Abramson, Hilary Kilpatrick (ed.): Religious Perspectives in Modern Muslim and Jewish Literatures. Routledge, New York 2006.
  • Charles Kurzman: Modernist Islam, 1840–1940. A sourcebook. Oxford University Press, New York 2002.


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