The faithful assistant. Muhiddin Faizulloev's life and work in the light of Soviet ethnography


Muhiddin Faizulloev studied ethnography in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) and Moscow and finished his dissertation after a long and painful struggle against established authorities. Over the course of his career Muhiddin Faizulloev accompanied more than thirty ethnographic and archaeological expeditions and produced many ethnographic field diaries. Even more interesting was that he had worked with and for Sergei Polyakov (Moscow State University) and Valentin Bushkov (Main Archival Department, Moscow), two ethnographers who have published extensively on the Tajik people. Faizulloev's view of events and scholarly works is refreshing and helps contextualize the sometimes problematic books that Moscow's ethnographers produced. The article sheds light on the question of ethnographic knowledge production more generally and on the ethnographic work and life of Muhiddin Faizullov in Tajikistan more specifically.

The author

Sophie Roche is currently leading the junior research group “The Demographic Turn in the Junction of Cultures” at the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context at the University of Heidelberg. She worked at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany between 2005 and 2010 and received her PhD from the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in 2010 with a thesis on the problem of youth bulge and conflict. She then joined the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin (2010 to 2013) with a project on jihad in text and context. At this institute she also edited a book containing the texts and biographies of leading orientalists (Arabists) from Central Asia and Russia. In 2014 she received a grant by the FMSH in Paris to work on Islam among Central Asian migrants in Russia. She has extensive ethnographic experiences in Tajikistan since 2002 and in Russia since 2010 and has authored several articles that contextualize Tajikistan within theoretical debates.
Recent publications: The Faceless Terrorist. Jihād and Mujāhid in the Cultural Context of Central Asia. (Accepted by Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context); Domesticating youth. The Dynamics of Youth Bulge in Tajikistan. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014; Central Asian Intellectuals on Islam: between Scholarship, Politics and Identity. (Editor of the volume) Berlin: Klaus Schwarz, ZMO Studien 32, 2014.

The text

This paper was developed during a research stay as a Directeur d’étude associé (DEA), with the FMSH in Paris in 2014, based on material provided between 2013 and 2014 by Muhiddin Faizulloev from the University of Khujand, and has profited from the careful comments and suggestions by Tsypylma Darieva, from the University of Jena.


Published at 25 November 2014