The Republic of Tajikistan (Tajik: Ҷумҳурии Тоҷикистон, Çumhuriji Toçikiston/Jumhuriyi Tojikiston; Russian: Республика Таджикистан, Respublika Tadzhikistan) is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordered by Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east. Ruled by numerous empires with different cultures and faiths, the most recent being the Soviet Union, Tajikistan became an independent nation in 1991. Its capital is Dushanbe.
Traditional Tajik Puppetry
The roots of the Tajik traditional puppet theatre can be found in the cultures of the deltas of the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers, an area referred to by researchers as the Oasis of Khwarezm (also known as Horezm, after the ancient state of Horezm, established in 700-600 BCE). The popular folk arts, including puppetry, were much the same all over this territory. Some researchers note that its genres were identical to those of other nations of Central Asia both in technique, type of performance and repertoire (see Uzbekistan. The closeness of the cultures meant that folk companies could perform in three languages, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek.
As in Uzbekistan, the puppet theatre in Tajikistan was of two types: string puppet (marionette) theatre, chodirkhayol; and the glove puppet theatre, zochabozi (from zocha: “puppet”, and bozi: “play”).
As a rule, puppeteers belonged to theatre companies called nagorachikho, “drummer players”, consisting of six to seven people, including a puppeteer, two musicians (one playing a surnai, a shawm, and the other, a tambourine), a dancer using flat stones for castenettes, and a maskharaboza (comic). Company members usually began their careers as dancers or musicians. Actors in such groups were often related and the company was usually headed by the family patriarch. Puppeteers performed mainly at family events, such as the birth of a son or his first hair-cutting ceremony. As in Iranian and Uzbeki puppet theatres, the repertoire of glove puppeteers was largely based on folk comedies about Pahlavan Kachal.
Influences of Soviet Puppet Theatre
After 1929, when Tajikistan was integrated into the USSR, many changes occurred. The inevitable influence of the Russian and Soviet puppet theatre meant gravitation towards European theatrical traditions. In 1950, in Stalinabad (now Dushanbe) a group of enthusiastic Russian actors took up the puppets. In 1952, a puppet theatre was set up in Leninabad (now Chkalovsk Khujand). In 1956, another company began to operate at the Tajik State Conservatoire, and, in 1985, the Tajik Republican Puppet Theatre was opened, supported fully by the State. As with other soviet republics, two companies, one playing in Russian and the other in Tajik, worked within one structure.
Independence of the republic in 1991 did not change the situation of puppetry. The Chkalovsk Regional Puppet Theatre and the State Puppet Theatre in Dushanbe are both funded by the State and perform in two languages. Their repertoire of fifty titles includes plays for both children and adults.
- Baskakov, N. Narodniy teatr Horezma [Traditional Theatre in Horesm]. Tashkent, 1984. (In Russian)
- Nurdjanov, N. “Tajikskiy traditsionniy teatr” [Traditional Tajik Theatre]. Folklorniy teatr narodov SSSR [The USSR Folk Theatre]. Moscow: Naouka, 1985. (In Russian)