Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Khujand, Tajikistan: Internexus interruptus.

Blogging has been a challenge in these extraordinary mountains and along the criss-crosses of the Silk Road. We pulled into Khujand, Tajikistan and settled into the expansive suites of the five-room hotel adjacent to the Mayors Offices - apparently a hotel established 8 years ago specifically FOR the Mayors Office, and still a super bargain. (Hotel Khuchand, tel: +992 3422-6-59-97). The hotel is diagonally across the plaza from the faux fortress of the Khujand Historical Museum. Khujand was the eastern-most point of the areas conquered by Alexander the Great (in Khujand 329 BC) and the regional museum is built on the ruins of his fortification and in its likeness, though smaller..
Glaring out at the same plaza we found a 20th century sculpture of the Capitoline she-wolf feeding the hungry pair Romulus and Remus. Strange indeed, in this the city with the largest statue of Lenin in Central Asia (22 meters high) and with a connection to that imagery such that even recently the city fathers refused to sell it to the Japanese for the best possible price for the metal. We were perplexed by the she-wolf, this most roman of all Roman icons in the the second largest city of the only country in Central Asia speaking a Persian dialect.
Our research on Istaravshan, a nearby city and one of the most ancient cities of the Central Asia, provided some insight. Istaravshan was founded in the sixth century B.C. by Cyrus the Great of Persia who fortified the settlement by means of three wall lines and a citadel. From about 550 BC to Alexander's arrival in 329 BC, the ancient settlement Mugteppa, in the territory of Istaravshan, was the residence of a regional aristocracy who built numerous palaces distinguished by unusual and expressive architecture. The nearby settlements of Bundzhikat (Kala and Kakh-Kakh) and Chil'khudzhra evidenced similar influences, also with fortified structures and palaces and cult buildings decorated with paintings and carved panels. In Bundzhikat archaeologists found a painting with the image of a she-wolf feeding two babies and with inscriptions in Latin associated with these images. This ancient and direct link to the heart of the Roman Empire is celebrated here today as proof of this region's continual and ancient engagement with the West. And one must admit, a large Lenin and a glaring she-wolf do cover your bases re Western connections.
While possibly veering from the verified historical record, I tested my own theory on someone familiar with the material; was it possible that the Latin inscriptions read, "Internexus interruptus"? The contemplated response from my informant (our cab driver) was: "I dunno, maybe", powerfully confirming my suspicion: blogging from here has never been easy.
More soon.

Posted by Gordon Knox

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