At EAST seminar on October 24, 2013, Daniel Beben will discuss with us his research on the image of Nasir-i Khusraw and Ismailism in Soviet Orientalism. Nasir-i Khusraw was a prominent Persian poet, philosopher, and traveler of the eleventh century. Aside from his literary heritage, Nasir-i Khusraw also served as a missionary for the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam and his name is credited with the conversion and foundation of the Ismaili communities of Central Asia.
In the 20th century many of the territories inhabited by Ismailis in Central Asia came under Soviet rule and the figure of Nasir-i Khusraw in later decades became a popular fixture of Soviet orientalism. While Nasir-i Khusraw was largely ignored by Soviet ideology in the early decades of the Soviet era, beginning in the 1940s his figure underwent two dramatic transformations: first, as an exemplar of the Tajik literary heritage and a signpost of an emerging Tajik national identity, and second as a “proto-Bolshevik” philosopher of class warfare and anti-clericalism.