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Uzbekistan: Turkestan Historian Hayit Remembered

By Taher Shirmohammadi Mourners at Boymirza Hayit's funeral on November 7 (RFE/RL) Hundreds of Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Turkmen, Turks, Tatars, and others gathered in the large mosque of the Muslim community in Cologne, Germany, on November 7 to pay their last respects to the famous Uzbek historian Boymirza Hayit. Hayit -- who died on October 31 at the age of 89 -- was the author of some 15 books on Turkestan and Turkestani national movements, all of which were banned in the Soviet Union and still remain unpublished in Uzbekistan.

COLOGNE, November 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- In Islamic tradition, an imam read out verses from the Koran to begin the funeral service.

The service's leader then told the more than 400 people in attendance that Hayit was born in the Ferghana Valley city of Namagan in 1916. He fought as a Soviet soldier during World War II and was taken prisoner by German troops. He later joined Germany's anti-Bolshevik Turkestan Legion and settled in West Germany at the end of the war.

"Basmachi," about the battle for Turkestan in the years 1917-34, is his most famous work.

Believer In Turkestan

One speaker at the ceremony said that Hayit "was indeed an Uzbek, though he believed in Turkestan and loved all Turkic people."

Hayit's two sons, Ertay and Mirza, and daughter Dilbar, attended the service. Absent from the ceremony was an official representative from Uzbekistan or any of the other Central Asian countries.

Uzbek author Safar Bekjan, a member of the international PEN club living in Switzerland, said that Hayit "actually should be buried in his homeland, Uzbekistan."

His oldest son Ertay, in his early 50s, explained to RFE/RL the reason for his father's burial in Germany.

"His whole life he had an incredible yearning for his homeland of Uzbekistan," he said. "He had many tears in his eyes...and he devoted his life to Uzbekistan and all Turkic peoples. But he also had a family in Germany and it was very important for him to be with his family. And he knew quite well that Germany is not Uzbekistan and Uzbekistan is not Germany. But it was his explicit wish that he be buried near his family."

Recognized By Opposition

Among the speakers at the service was Ismail Dadajanov, a representative from the Uzbek opposition based in Europe. Dadajanov, a deputy leader of the Birlik (Freedom) party, said that Uzbeks are proud to have such a great historian among them. He added that:

"In the name of all Uzbek people, democrats and the Birlik party would like to express out condolences [in the death of Hayit]," he said. "It makes the Uzbeks and the other Turkic peoples very sad that we cannot see him alive and cannot speak with him. We see it as our duty to finish what he began."

"Your father is writing a book, be quiet." Hayit's son, Ertay, says that is what he and his siblings constantly heard while growing up. Such was life when your dad was "always writing books and essays."

As a historian, Hayit wanted to write the entire history of Turkestan. He wrote as a "Turkestani" about his homeland and his worldview was described by Ertay.

Author Of 'Basmachi'

"There are Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Turkmen, Turks from Turkey, Azeris, Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Norwegians, French, Iranians, Germans, Americans, Arabs, Indians, and many, many more people [in the world]," Ertay said. "[My father] taught us to treat all people equal -- regardless of their educational-level, which nationality they have, or where they come from."

If one looks for literature on the history of the Turkic peoples it is difficult not to come upon Hayit's work. His book "Basmachi," about the battle for Turkestan in the years 1917-34, is his most famous work.

Until it was published there was no book in the West about the Basmachi movement. Hayit was the first author who wrote on this topic, of which little was known by many historians. The book richly describes the fight by the Turkic peoples against Soviet hegemony.

Hayit always held the opinion that this battle against the Soviets continued as long as the Soviet Union existed, not ending until the USSR perished in 1991.

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

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