Speaking Soviet with an Accent (Paperback)
Culture and Power in Kyrgyzstan (Central Eurasia in Context)
University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822962069, 248pp.
Publication Date: July 30, 2012
Based on extensive oral history and archival research, Ali Igmen follows the rise of culture clubs beginning in the 1920s, when they were established to inculcate Soviet ideology and create a sedentary lifestyle among the historically nomadic Kyrgyz people. These “Red clubs” are fondly remembered by locals as one of the few places where lively activities and socialization with other members of their ail (village or tribal unit) could be found.
Through lectures, readings, books, plays, concerts, operas, visual arts, and cultural Olympiads, locals were exposed to Soviet notions of modernization. But these programs also encouraged the creation of a newfound “Kyrgyzness” that preserved aspects of local traditions and celebrated the achievements of Kyrgyz citizens in the building of a new state. These ideals proved appealing to many Kyrgyz, who, for centuries, had seen riches and power in the hands of a few tribal chieftains and Russian imperialists.
This book offers new insights into the formation of modern cultural identity in Central Asia. Here, like their imperial predecessors, the Soviets sought to extend their physical borders and political influence. But Igmen also reveals the remarkable agency of the Kyrgyz people, who employed available resources to meld their own heritage with Soviet and Russian ideologies and form artistic expressions that continue to influence Kyrgyzstan today.
About the Author
Praise For Speaking Soviet with an Accent: Culture and Power in Kyrgyzstan (Central Eurasia in Context)…
”The book’s special contribution lies in examining the people in charge of implementing what we would now call the ‘soft power’ policies of the Soviet revolution in Central Asia, the Kyrgyz artistic intelligentsia whose subjectivity was formed in the employ of the first Soviet clubs, theaters, and houses of culture.”
—The Russian Review
"Undoubtedly a great contribution to the growing literature on the Central Asian region. In an elaborate analysis of cultural and educational clubs in Kyrgyzstan beginning in the 1920s, historian Ali ??men argues that Kyrgyz tradition meshed with Soviet art in the clubs to create representations of 'Kyrgyzness.' The book sheds light on the ways in which Kyrgyz selectively maintained certain pre-Soviet traditions while casting off others and adopting a new culture that resulted in an entirely new society. . . . Easy to understand and easy to read."
—International Social Science Review
“Igmen contributes an exemplary addition to the fields of oral history, cultural studies, and national identity.”
—Oral History Review
—Marianne Kamp, University of Wyoming
—Choi Chatterjee, California State University, Los Angeles