Brigands, burqas, and bushy eyebrows: Central Asia and the Caucasus in Soviet cinema
My ability to speak Russian like a native constantly brings about assumptions about my ethnic heritage, from jokes about vodka and imitations of Russian accents to comments about how I should be used to cold weather, whenever I so much as shiver. I, along with many Russian-speaking Central Asians and Caucasians (i.e. from the Caucasus) from countries belonging to the former Soviet Union, are caught in an identity limbo. How, for example, do I explain why it is that I’m more fluent in Russian than my native Juhuri, a Jewish variety of the Iranian Tati language closely related to Persian? Today, I force myself to wrap my tongue around the few Tati phrases I know, in a desperate effort to preserve what is left of my identity – an identity that is falling like sand through the spaces between my fingers. In the past two generations, my family’s heritage was subdued under Russian dominance; and now, as immigrants, we’ve had to adopt new American identities.