Monday, June 7, 2021

Kumyk Dramatist Says Her Work Reflects that She is Both a Woman and ‘a Natsmenka’ Despised by Many

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 4 – Zukhra Yanikova, a Kumyk woman from Daghestan who lives in Moscow, says that as a dramatist she can never forget that she is both a woman and a member of a national minority if she is to be sincere. But she says her outsider status allows her to discuss other situations better even than her own.

            Thus her plays which are beginning to be put on in Turkey, Great Britain and the United States are about people in Russian cities and villages rather than about her home region. That is because she wants to be able to show both sides of all issues and allow viewers to make up their own minds (

            Were she to focus on Daghestan, something she has not yet done, Yanikova says she would fear being imprecise or worse the advocate of one side or the other in conflicts there, a stance she says would preclude her viewers from forming their own views and suggest to them the incorrect notion that there is only one possible point of view.

            She grew up in Moscow and encountered the negative attitudes of many in the Russian capital to “persons of Caucasus nationality,” but she also found that many of the immigrant communities there in response became caricatures of what they had been when they were in their homelands. Neither outcome is a good one, Yanikova continues.

            “I am a Kumyk from Daghestan and a woman, but I write somehow about people who are called Vanya, Petya and Vasya.” Her first plays focused on the questions of feminism and only more recently have they been devoted to national identity. Neither issue can be avoided, she says.

            But in writing about national identity, Yanikova so far has avoided writing about Daghestan because she doesn’t want to appear to be giving instructions to anyone and because she now recognizes that identity is vastly more complicated than those on both sides of the issue there assume.

            Earlier, the dramatist says, she thought about the repressive nature of society toward women and minorities only from one side, but now she says she “understands that this is quite a one-sided point of view.” What she wants to do in both cases is to raise questions rather than provide answers, to insert question marks where most put explanation points.

            Yanikova says that initially she “herself was a hostage of stereotypes about Caucasians. A person of Caucasian nationality in mass culture constantly is shown with knives, dancing the lezginka or shooting a Kalashnikov.” Of course, that exists; but it is hardly the complete picture of people there.

            She says she found it hard to identify with all that now says in response to questions: “Yes, I’m from the Caucasus, just like philologist Aza Takho-Gody, ethnographer Sakinat Gadzhiyeva and artist Taus Makhacheva.” All of them are “persons of Caucasus nationality” but also so much more.

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