Wednesday, October 24, 2018


                                          ( Ali Sardar Jafri and Faiz Ahmed Faiz with Asimov)
                                                                   (Dr.K N Pandita )
                                                             ( Muhammad Asimov )

Muhammad Asimov And Padamshri Dr. Kashi Nath  Pandita  ......(  Tajikistan Connection.)

Muhammad Asimov or Muhammad Aesimi of Tajikistan is known to the world as a bright star of humanism, liberalism, modernity and scholarship. He was an administrator, scientist, writer, philosopher, translator and cultural ambassador of Tajikistan. As President of the Tajikistan Academy of Sciences, he was responsible for presenting the rich cultural heritage of his native land to the world. He also brought world literature to his people through translations. As Education Minister of Tajikistan, he brought revolutionary reforms in the educational setup of his country.


Asimov's scholarly contribution is considerable and multifaceted. His primary subject of interest was philosophy in the broad sense of the word, with particular attention to the achievements made in the East. As a political and intellectual leader, Asimov mastered the subtle art of protecting national values and interests within the Russian-dominated culture of the Soviet Union. He was the only prominent Tajik who used two surnames: Aesimi in Tajik Persian and Asimov in his Soviet and international publications.

Aesimi won the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Prize in 1980, two Orders of Lenin, two Orders of the Red Banner of Labour and the October Revolution Award apart from many national and international awards. Like Bobodzhan Gafurov, Aesimi is also known as the strong pillar of Modern Tajik identity.

Richard Nelson Frye , noted  American scholar of Iranian and Central Asian Studies, and Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Harvard University , writes this about Muhhamad Asimov :-

“ On 29 July 1996 Professor Asimov was shot in the head by an unknown assailant as he left his home in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. He died instantly, leaving a gap in the ranks of his country’s intellectual leaders, as well as in the International Scientific Committee which initiated the project for the History of Civilizations of Central Asia (Asimov was one of the editors of Volume IV). He was also a Co-editor of Volume IV of the History of Humanity. In short, Asimov was UNESCO’s most active contact in Central Asia. He made many friends in Paris and contributed greatly to the success of these two major projects.

I first met Muhammad Asimov in Dushanbe in 1965, just after he became President of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, and talked to him many times afterwards. His kindly mien and willingness to help others, even an American, was unusual at that time of stress between the great powers. After the departure of Bobojan Gafurov to Moscow to head the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR, Asimov became the leader of cultural and intellectual pursuits in Tajikistan, and the representative of Tajikistan in all-Soviet and international meetings.

 Asimov was born on 25 August 1920 in Khujand and studied physics at the University of Samarkand. But his interest and studies took him into fields of philosophy and history and other facets of culture. He had a distinguished career, the details of which cannot be elaborated here, except to mention a few items. He was Minister of Education of the Government of Tajikistan in 1962, and, as already noted, President of the Academy of Sciences until his retirement in 1991. He received the Nehru Prize for his contribution to friendship among peoples in 1980. In 1990 he was the founder of Payvand, a cultural organization for scholarly relations between Persian-speaking peoples in which he was active until his death.Asimov was a kindly man who refrained from the attacks on colleagues that are characteristic of some scholars. He was active in intellectual pursuits until his death and he wasa great help to those working on the projects of UNESCO. He will be sorely missed by his friends and associates.”

Aesimi had a wide circle of close friends the world over that included Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ali Sardar Jafri, Pablo Neruda, Nazim Hikmet and many more. From Kashmir, Dr Kashi Nath Pandita, eminent Persian scholar, translator and historian was his intimate friend. To me, Dr Pandita said this:-

" I have travelled to many places in Central Asia and lived in Tajikistan .Aesimi or Asimov as he was known in the then USSR, was an intimate friend. He was a scientist, historian, Tajik Persian scholar and a great human being. I have lived with him in his native province and the entire family is known to me including his brother. In 1996, Aesimi was killed by armed militants and I wrote a detailed article on him that was published in a leading paper in Tajikistan. A member of the Aesimi family, a prominent surgeon, was also killed by the militants in Dushanbe sometime in 1994. The entire clan of 70 members had to leave the country as threats started pouring into them after Aesimi's killing. They decided to leave Tajikistan and sought asylum in the US. The presiding official dealing with their asylum application in the US asked them to produce external evidence about Aesimi's conduct, beliefs and threats to his life. The family approached me and sought my permission to produce the copy of the newspaper cutting that had my write upon him. I advised them to go ahead. Later, I received a letter from the court asking me as to(1) Who I was? (2) How I knew Aesimi? (3) Was he liberal? (4) Did he face threats? and many more clarifications. I replied what was true and based on my clarifications, all the 70 members got asylum in the US. His children treat me with respect and reverence. I stayed with his elder daughter in the US last time. She treats me like her father.His entire family about 70 souls have been given green card and they live in Denver.

I have met Prof.  Richard Nelson Frye in Dushanbe. He was close to Asimov. In 2016, I was invited to Denver where my book on Asimov was released in a big function. On the basis of that book, a North American film company made one and a half hour long film on Asimov , most parts of which were shot in New Delhi and my several bites of about 25 minutes are included in that film. The film also shows some photos of me and Asimov taken in Kashmir.."


For more insights, I would suggest reading Dr Pandita’s book ‘ MY TAJIK FRIENDS ( A Travelogue ) ‘ that won him the then’ Soviet-land Nehru Award ‘


(Avtar Mota)
In spite of his many administrative duties,  Bobodzhan  Gafurov published more than 500 works in Russian, Tajik, and other languages. His monumental study, Tadzhiki: Drevneĭshaya, drevnyaya, i srednevekovaya istoriya (The Tajiks: Prehistory, Ancient, and Medieval History), was edited by Boris A. Litvinskiĭ .Bobodzhan Gafurov was a regular visitor to India and a friend of Nehru. Gafurov also visited Kashmir in 1972 or 1973.

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