In Tajikistan, a process of official de-Russification is underway. This includes appeals to the citizenry to change Slavicized family names.
The lede to the VZGLIAD story (which does not have a byline) is that the citizens of Tajikistan, upon receiving new official identity cards, must spell their family names using only morphemes from the Tajik language. Russian morphemes have been banned. This law was passed back in March, and was signed by the country’s president. Who had previously changed his name from the Russified Emomali Sharipovich Rahmonov to the more Tajik-sounding Emomali Rahmon.
According to the article, raditional Tajik family names end in such morphemes as –zod, –zoda, –i, –idn, and –far. From now on, these are the only permitted morphological entities on official registration papers. As was announced by the Deputy Chief of the Tajik Service for Registration of Citizens, an office under the Ministry of Justice. Whose name happens to be Jaloliddin Rakhimov.
Or should I call him, Jaloliddin Rakhizod ? (heh heh- sounds like somebody that Superman should be bowing down to).
In googling Rakhimov, I found this English-language piece about the story, which provides more information about the background to this decision. And here is another link, Paul Goble also covered this story.
The campaign to de-Russify names dates back to 2007, when the President changed his name to Rakhmon. Ever since then it has been an uphill battle to de-Russify names. This is part of an also uphill battle to form a national identity among Tajiks, and to inculcate more conservative (and Muslim) values among the youth. According to the VZGLIAD piece, university students are particularly resistant to the persistent attempts to Tajikize names. President Rakhmon has also criticized young women for wearing “modern dress”, and has criticized the youth in general for their constant use of cell phones in public places.
Tajik Language and Morphology
I did a bit of online research. Here is a list of typical Tajik first names for boys:
Here is a more complete list of Tajik first names, which I found on this website.
Now, as for last names, a quick search doesn’t reveal much. Googling “Tajik last names” just brings up this same story, about the de-Russification process. But I couldn’t really find a decent list of Tajik surnames, the way they are now, and the way they are “supposed” to be.
As for the Tajik language itself, here is the wikipedia entry. Apparently — and this is something I never knew before, it is actually an Indo-European language, from the Persian branch of languages. It is also known as “Dari”.
Tajik’s origins as an Indo-European (or Indo-Aryan, as it is sometimes called) dialect are shown by such core vocabulary cognates as:
Quick catalogue of inventory of this language:
The official dialect of the language possesses 6 vocalic phones, and 24 consonantal phonemes. This is a reasonable number.
Grammar: Word order is what linguists call SOV (Subject-Object-Verb). For example, if this was English, we would say, “The dog the man bit.” Starting with the biter, then the bit-ee, then the action of biting. Here is the Tajik example from the wiki:
Man maktub navišta istoda-am.
(“I am writing a letter.”)
“I (man) letter (maktub) write (navišta)
[followed by some kind of participial form istoda-am, similar to English “am -ing” type verb construction, apparently]
Tajik has apparently lost the Indo-European markers for grammatical gender. For number, it has only single and plural (as opposed to Proto-Indo-European and even Old Russian, which had singular, plural, and a special marker for dual).
Putting on my Linguistics cap, and just from my very very cursory skimming of the attributes of this language, I would have to say that its simplified grammar is not what one would expect from an isolated language, say one which developed all alone and lonesome up on the mountain tops; but rather shows the ear-marks of a language which was widely distributed geographically and employed by a diaspora across several territories. Which is, in fact, what apparently happened with this language. Tajik speakers dwell throughout Central Asia, there are pockets in Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, and even a significant ethnic minority in Afghanistan. It is the very process of a diaspora and slight creolization of a language (as new speakers are brought onboard through settlement or inter-marriage) that grammar tends to simplify and rid itself of ornamental frills. This is a logical and even benign process of language development.
In conclusion, I have to say, though, looking through the lists of Tajik names, it seems like there is more of an Arabic than a Russian influence. And in fact it is quite normal for cultures, when they come in contact, to affect each other in this manner. People should not worry too much, if other people are borrowing words and even names. If a boy’s first name is Muhammad, does it really matter if his last name is Volk-ov or Volk-Zod?
We are all human beings, after all. Like Shakespeare once said, “What’s in a name?” Does it matter if we call a rose a “rose” (English) or a “roza” (Russian) or a “barkhosta” (Tajik) ??