Russian-Tajik Dictionary for Philosophical Terminology (Tajikistan)

Russian-Tajik Dictionary for Philosophical Terminology (Tajikistan)

This bilingual dictionary with more than 3000 entries on 65 pages was published by Dushanbe’s state publishing house “Irfon” in 1966. According to its introduction, the aim of the publication of the Russian-Tajik Dictionary for Philosophical Terminology was “to end the lack of conceptual clarity” in Marxist and Soviet terminology in Tajik.

It was mainly compiled in the Mid-1950s by Mordekhay ben Hiyo Bachaev and finally modelled on the Russian “Philosophical Dictionary” which was published in 1963. Its main author (who according to Soviet practice is mentioned in the book’s imprint as its second author) had a twisted life story and an interesting family background. 

Born into a Jewish tailors’ family in Marv (today’s Turkmenistan) in 1910, Mordekhay grew up in the Jewish neighborhood in Samarkand. In the late 1920s and 1930s he was one of the most famous and praised Bukharan Jewish Soviet poets, known under the pen-name “Muhib”. From 1927, he worked as a journalist, translator, and editor for several Bukharan Jewish periodicals and participated in developing a Soviet Bukharan Jewish language and alphabet. In 1938, when the Soviet government stopped its support for “national minorities” and closed down all their cultural institutions, he as well as many other intellectuals was denounced, arrested, and sent to a labour camp in the Urals for “bourgeois nationalism” and “anti-Soviet propaganda”. 

Mordekhay Bachayev survived the GULAG and in 1945, after the end of the Second World War, he was released and permitted to return to Uzbekistan. However, as a former “political prisoner” he had no right to settle down in one of the major Soviet cities. To be close to his wife and two children, who still lived in Tashkent, Bachayev moved to the Parkent district, where he found a job as an accountant in a fluoride mine. When Stalin died in March 1953, the Soviet government decreed a partial amnesty for victims of the Stalin era. Since there was no chance for him to get a better job in Uzbekistan, Bachaev continued to work at the mine and visited his family when he had time off.

Things seemed to be easier in the Tajik SSR. An old childhood friend from the Jewish quarter of Samarkand worked in Dushanbe (then still called Stalinabad) at Institute of Party History under the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of Tajikistan. This local branch of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism (IML) under the CC of CPSU, was formed in August 1950. It was responsible, in particular, for the proper translation and publication of Lenin's works in Tajik and badly in need of capable translators.

Mordekhay Bachayev’s friend suggested him to his superiors. The director of the IML invited Bachayev and showed him the volumes of Lenin’s collected works waiting to be translated into Tajik. When Bachaev asked for a dictionary to translate these difficult philosophical works the director replied: ‘If you want a dictionary of political terminology, go ahead! There is one published in Uzbek and one in Azeri! If you want a Tajik one, take these as a model and create it yourself.’

Bachayev accepted the job. Six months later the first draft of the dictionary was completed. In 1955, Bachayev and his family moved to Stalinabad. In the following years he completed the translation of two volumes of Lenin’s collected works: Volume 14 (Materializm i ėmpiriokrititsizm) and Volume 38 (Filosofskie zapiski Lenina). In 1966, the dictionary Lughat-i rusi-tojiki-i terminologiya-i filosofiya was published in Dushanbe with Muhammad Osimi, Mordekhay Bachaev and Muso Dinorshoev named as the “three” editors. It is a historical irony that an “enemy of the people” was needed to make the key texts of Soviet ideology available for Tajik-speakers. In 1973, when the gates for legal Jewish emigration had just opened, Mordekhay Bachaev, his wife and his grown-up children took the chance and left the Soviet Union. In Israel “Muhib” restarted his career as a Bukharan Jewish poet, translator, and writer.

Additional Literature:
Thomas Loy, Bukharan Jews in the Soviet Union. Autobiographical Narrations of Mobility, Continuity and Change. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2016.
Muhib, Kulliyot (Collected Works), 7 Vols, edited by Lydia Bachaeva, Mikhael Zand et al, Jerusalem: Tsur-Ot, 2006 (vol. I-IV) and 2007 (vol. V-VII).   

Thomas Loy is a Research fellow, Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences