epic poems, Shirin, intelligentsia, historical novels, Turkic
Before the 20th century, much of what is today claimed as the Uzbek literary tradition was shared with other Central Asian peoples. Many writers who were born or created literary works in the territory of present-day Uzbekistan wrote in Persian or in both Persian and Turkic. Tenth-century poet Abu Abdullah Rudaki lived and worked much of his life in Bukhoro, which is now located in Uzbekistan. Considered the father of Persian poetry, he is revered not only in Uzbekistan but also in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.
The early literature of Central Asia that was popular among the general population was in the form of song. Traveling bards, called sha’ir in Uzbek, composed and performed verse tales and epic poems to a melody, making their stories accessible to a mostly illiterate populace. This tradition, which continues to this day, has preserved an ancient oral literature. Farhad and Shirin is one of the most renowned of the Uzbek oral epics.
The best-known Uzbek writer of the 20th century is Abdullah Qadiri. He became famous for his two historical novels, Days Gone By and Scorpion in the Pulpit, both published in the 1920s. Tragically, Qadiri was executed during the Soviet purges of the 1930s, when anyone accused of opposing the regime of Joseph Stalin, including many members of the intelligentsia, were summarily executed or imprisoned.
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