chapter  5
37 Pages

Writing on Islam: the 1960s

During the 1960s an understanding developed concerning how to appreciate the Soviet Union having a large Muslim population.

In this period US scholars began to study Central Asia. Allworth became interested in the field as a result of a pre-existing interest in Turkic studies and as a teacher in the Central Asia Center at the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, and others were attempting to understand what was, in US terms, a new field. American scholars did not attempt to hide a hostility towards the USSR, which could lead to a romanticised portrayal of pre-Soviet Central Asia. As Allworth claimed:

In capitals made great by medieval princes a Central Asian who matured after the mid-nineteenth century was born into a tradition still vital enough to provide him with the opportunity for extending his interests widely and becoming, if he had the drive and curiosity, a scholar and a kind of latter day Renaissance man … he engrossed himself in the magnificent old literature, the legendary history of the past and the geography of West Turkestan … outside the seminary he engaged in vigorous sports, practised techniques of irrigating arid land, or conducted foreign trade or travelled abroad. The talented Central Asian composed and performed original music, wrote elegant poetry employing a fine calligraphy and actively participated in the witty intellectual circles found in every important centre.1