29 May 2010

Who do you spy?

Richard N. Frye has been a scholar in Iranian studies all of his very long life. He spent much of his academic career as a visiting prof in Tehran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. He is the author of The Heritage of Central Asia From Antiquity to the Turkish Expansion which I have just finished as part of my North Iranian research project. That's the one I am working on with the Mad Cossack of the History Department. Knowing the Mad Cossack and working with him, the following anecdote Prof Frye wrote has a special resonance.
In 1965, on another trip to Moscow I met my friend Bobojan Gafurov, Tajik head of the Orientalists in the USSR, and I said to him, "Bobojan I have a problem." "What is it?" he asked." In the USA they say I am a Soviet spy and in the USSR people think I am an American spy, what can I do?" He answered, "Don't worry, we who are your friends know that if you are a spy you are a spy for Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan."

From my experience with Prof Cossack I am not sure Frye's friend was joking.

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