Monday, October 19, 2020

Tajikistan: Hurramabad, by Andrei Volos

My library copy of "Hurramabad" describes Volos as a Russian writer, however he was born in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in 1955, and left after high school for further study in Moscow. In this collection of stories he vividly describes the period shortly after the break up of the USSR, when ethnic Russians were forced to pack up their lives in Tajikistan and return to Russia, even though their families may have lived in Tajikistan for two or three generations. While the stories focus on ethnic Russians, there are also many Tajiks pictured, from various ethnic groups. There is a good deal of lawlessness, with Mafia style gangs seizing power locally, and the necessities of life in short supply. Russians had to sell their houses and belongings for whatever they could get, and try and leave the country safely - in one story the protagonist, who has already sent his wife and child to safety, is depicted as having to wait while the blown up railway is repaired before his train can depart. While at one point I grew a bit weary of all the depictions of strife, on the whole I enjoyed the stories and their vivid depictions of the bazaar and the various groups of characters. None more so than the Russian in the first story who wanted only to be known as a local man. In the end he got his way, as his accent, picked up from his wife, marked him as from the Kulyab ethnic group, and led to his being killed in inter tribal conflict. Hurramabad was translated from Russian by Arch Tait, and published in the Glas series of New Russian Writing in 2001.