This Land Seems Familiar to Me
by Sabir Rustamkhanli (1946-)

Several of the former Soviet Union republics have a Turkic heritage, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan. The Soviet government tried to suppress this fact as they feared these former nations might join together and demand their independence. Even ties to Germany were considered less threatening than ties to Turkey.

Sabir Rustamkhanli was one of the first Azerbaijani poets to pay serious attention to the similarities between the Turkic republics. He traveled to other republics such as Kyrgyzstan and witnessed many of the same Turkic customs and traditions identifiable in his home republic. He incorporated these impressions into poems even though it was very dangerous to do so.

Written in Frunze
1 (1982)

With its saddled horse tied to the post,
With its night and morning,
With the ringing voices
of its bright-eyed children
This land seems familiar to me.

The yurts 2 like white mushrooms
Are heart-shaped here, round there.
And when the gopuz
3 is played
I remember my own music there.
The white dome over my head
And the white cover of the tent,
The fringes of the carpet
Remind me of my mother in my land-
This land seems familiar to me.

My elbows leave indentations on the pillow,
My feet, prints on the ground.
The sea of secrets creates
Thousands of miracles on the carpets.
And one heavenly whisper
Is taking me to the past.
The life horse on which I have been riding
Was tied to my life tree
A thousand years ago.
This land seems familiar to me.

To die here silently
While the gopuz is playing?
Is impossible.
Whether I have lived here or not
Is too difficult to determine;
Somehow, though, this land seems familiar to me!

Frunze was the name of the capital city of Kyrgyzstan during the Soviet period. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the city has reverted to its earlier name, Bishkek. Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze (1885-1925), a military theorist and the father of a Red Army officer, was born there in 1885.
2 Yurt - a circular, domed portable tent used by nomads.
3 Gopuz - a stringed musical instrument similar to the Azeri saz, played throughout the region.

Translated by Aynur Hajiyeva

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