Diary from Uzbekistan (10): You only see it when you get it

Published on 4 October 2018 by Stichting Russisch Ereveld


Uzbekistan is a crossroads of peoples, faiths and languages. And it’s always been that way. Since forever more powerful neighbours have cast a covetous eye on pearls like Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand. From Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan and from the Arabs to the Russians they all conquered the land and left their mark on it.

That turned the country into a beautiful showcase of the human species. Arabic, Mongol, Indian, Slavic and Turkish facial features are to be found everywhere.

In the area of faiths it is equally layered. For over a thousand years Zoroastrianism and its prophet Zarathustra (think well, speak well, do well) were Uzbekistan’s reigning, flourishing and at the same time tolerant monotheist religion.

A basic attitude that stuck to the nation. For instance a small Jewish community has been active in Uzbekistan for 2500 years. And there are catholic and orthodox churches as well.

The Sunni Islam is the dominant faith in the country. Not extremist, but tolerant to dissenters. Without the fanaticism their fellow-Muslims flaunt in neighbouring countries such as Iran and Afghanistan. Surgeons from Pakistan, with whom the delegation shared a train compartment yesterday, were pleasantly surprised by so much forbearance.

Language wise they are just as easy-going. Uzbeks seem to have no trouble changing languages all the time. Just as we as a small nation have always known that command of German, English and French is necessary for our protection and trade, this same vulnerability has made the Uzbeks a sociable people. Resulting in a broad mix of languages and spelling.

Uzbek is a Turkish language with which you can get by in large parts of the country. It is written in Latin as well as Cyrillic letters. However the millions of Tadzhiks in the south of the country don’t speak Uzbek but Farsi, a Persian language. They also practise the Latin and Cyrillic alphabet, although they used the dancing Persian script well into the 20thcentury.

During the past century the years of domination by Moscow have permeated the country with the Russian language. Especially the older generation communicates in that tongue. And after independence English was added to the mix.

Just yesterday Remco discovered how confusing this stew of languages can be, in Qarshi (Uzbek) or Karshi (Russian and Latin script) if you will. Our delegation went in search of a local monument, where all the dead from the Second World War are recorded. With a crying mother, as a form of petrified grief, in front of it.

We were looking for Chatam Kadirov or Zair Muratov. After ten minutes Caroline and Alex gave up. The names were not there. We saw so ourselves.

Remco however persevered. In Kamp Amersfoort a strange Asiatic man once told fellow-prisoner Gerrit de Wilde his name. De Wilde jotted it down as Xatam Kaderu. For years Remco racked his brains over this. His conclusion: it’s got to be Chatam Kadyrov. But… no Kadyrov on the panels.

Then the coin dropped. Karshi = Qarshi. Does that mean that Kadyrov equals Qadirov? Damn, that’s got to be it! Look under the Q.

And so Remco-the-researcher came one step closer to solving the riddle of the 101. Onward and upward.

Gladdened by this development we cited football legend and language virtuoso Johan Cruijff, “You only see it when you get it.”

This was the last but one article from Uzbekistan. The final one ensues on Sunday afternoon.

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