Building Soviet Central Asia, 1920-1939: Kyrgyz houses of culture and self-fashioning Kyrgyzness
This dissertation is concerned with the ongoing process of fashioning new possibilities for what it meant to be Kyrgyz during the 1920s and 1930s; it analyzes this dynamic development through the prism of clubs. This study examines the discourse in the language of official documents on Soviet club activities and celebrations, such as the Cultural Olympiads, in the expressed sentiments of several Kyrgyz intellectuals, such as actress Sabira Kumushaliyeva, and in the early fiction of author Chingiz Aitmatov. These artists and intellectuals, who greatly influenced Kyrgyz culture during the second half of the twentieth century, help us frame questions of gender, power and public performance. The narratives of these artists and intellectuals, who first experienced Soviet culture in Houses of Culture, underscore the story that this study draws out of the official government documents. The main method of this dissertation is the analysis of the Soviet discourse of cultural development, conveyed by Soviet institutions such as clubs and Soviet intellectuals in Kirghizia or Kyrgyzstan. It argues that Kyrgyz people who were involved in the cultural activities of the Houses of Culture, Stalinist festivals, Soviet theater, and literature helped make a new Kyrgyz community. Through public performances and artistic expressions, they negotiated Kyrgyzness within the limitations of Soviet citizenship. It suggests that club officials and national talents asserted Kyrgyz culture onto the official Soviet concept of "culturedness." This study shows that in the 1920s and 1930s, club administrators, theater professionals and Olympiad organizers were encouraged to showcase the ethnic features of their nationalities in the clubs and Stalinist celebrations. These Kyrgyz elites accepted this responsibility and learned to play their ethnicity. They learned to speak the language of the cultural revolution with a Kyrgyz accent. Their national narrative portrayed Kyrgyzness wrapped in a Soviet cloak.
- History