Abdulla Qodiriy was born on April 11, 1894 and died in Tashkent in October of 1938 as a victim of Joseph Stalin’s purge. Qodiriy represented one of the troika of great Central Asian reformers– along with Abdulrauf Fitrat and Cholpan– largely responsible for the efflorescence of cultural activity after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. During this period, Central Asia witnessed a deluge of intellectual pursuits that produced a standardized Uzbek prose, a canon of Uzbek literature to include novels, poems, short stories and plays that brought attention to the need for Central Asian society to modernize in order to gain self-rule— a phenomenon,at times as a pejorative, referred to as the Jadid movement. The Jadids beginning in the mid to late nineteenth century sued for reform of common customs and practices along modern lines in order to achieve a society on the same level of development as the Ottoman and Russian Empires, and later modern Turkey and Soviet Russia. With the fall of autocratic rule, the Jadids initially saw the Bolshevik revolution as an opportunity to advance their agenda.
Qodiriy is arguably the most beloved among those who perished in 1938. His two main novels, O’tgan Kunlar and Mehrobdan Choyon, or The Scorpion from the Mihrab, standardized Uzbek prose and provided the benchmark for aspiring Uzbek authors. His plays, such as “The Pederast”, depicted the moral degradation of Central Asian society, in this case through the trials and tribulations of a Bacha, or dancing boy, and the effects this predatory practice has on the life of a young man. Jadid plays were especially important as they represented an oral tradition recognizable to a largely illiterate society. A salient point to all of Qodiriy’s work is that he drew upon the struggles of the common man, or woman, in Central Asia rendering them into a language evocative, humorous, and often dripping with sarcasm.
Abdulla Qodiriy was very much his own man. He came from a family of simple means and through his own force of intellect managed to achieve both a Madrassah and modern education, most notably through the Russian model. Comfortable in Turkic, Persian, Arabic, and Russian, Qodiriy began his career as a scribe for a Tashkent merchant but found his way to the Briusov Institute to study journalism in Moscow by 1924.
After the publication of O’tgan Kunlar in 1926 Qodiriy found himself in jail perhaps for using his characteristic wit against the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan in the journal Mushtum (The Fist), where he served as Editor. Post arrest Abdulla Qodiriy refrained from working in the press, but engaged in work as a translator. He is well known for having translated Gogol’s Marriage and Anton Chekhov’s the Cherry Orchard. Throughout the 1930s he continued to write and eventually became a delegate to the Uzbekistan Writer’s Union. In keeping with his practice of drawing upon the tableau of life presented by the common man, Qodiriy traveled to the collective farms of the UzCCP in order to write Obid Ketman, 1932-1934 in serial form. His work was eventually vilified as nationalistic and antagonistic to Soviet rule and he was arrested in 1937. Between October 4th and 5th 1938 Abdulla Qodiriy died alongside many of his fellow compatriots in a mass execution of Uzbek intellectuals– mostly under the accusation of nationalism.
Such is the emotional dissonance of Abdulla Qodiriy’s work and life he was the first of those murdered in 1938 to be rehabilitated in 1956. Almost every Uzbek of that generation can remember the time they were allowed to own a copy of O’tgan Kunlar. After Uzbek independence the Jadids received wide acceptance as the progenitors of artistic expression and martyrs for the fierce convictions they attempted to champion.
Still today the legacy of the Jadids is felt primarily among the educated elite of Uzbekistan. Every student in both middle school and university is required to read at least a few passages of O’tgan Kunlar. The descendants of the Jadids hold various positions of importance ranging from members of academia to public servants. We see especially the continuation of Uzbek theater, music and literature through those who wish to see the ideas of their forefathers kept alive for future generations.