“The Dissemination of Knowledge on Iran, the Persian Language, Literature and Culture to the Polish Public” – Interview with Zaur Gasimov

We regularly introduce scholars that work in the project by letting them answer three short questions. Today, we talk to Zaur Gasimov, who studied International Relations at Baku State University and Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2009, he graduated from the PhD program at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, and joined the Leibniz-Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany. From 2013 to 2019, Gasimov was a Senior Research Fellow at the German Orient Institute in Istanbul, Turkey. In September 2019, he joined the Russian Studies Department of the University of Bonn, Germany. He published extensively on Russian-Turkish relations, and the entangled history of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. His most recent monograph is the “Historical Dictionary of Azerbaijan” (Rowman & Littlefield 2018).

What will you be working on while being involved with the “Knowledge Unbound” project and what did you work on before?

Being trained in East European Studies with a special focus on Russian and Polish history, I have elaborated on the misuse of history in the military-related press in the late Communist societies in my PhD thesis. In my postdoctoral project, I worked on the Polish strategy against the USSR that involved the backing of Ukrainian, Caucasian and Tatar emigrants in Paris, Istanbul and other places in the interwar period. Another accomplished project was the “Historical Dictionary of Azerbaijan”, a sort of a past & present-focused encyclopedia of an amazing historical landscape between Russia, Turkey, and Iran. These two projects brought me closer to the entangled history of both Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Within “Knowledge Unbound”, I elucidate the trajectory of life of the amazing Iranian exile Communist Kaweh Pur Rahnama, who left Shah-ruled Iran because of anti-Communist persecutions, read film arts in Sofia and later on in Lodz. Afterwards Pur Rahnama moved to Warsaw and co-shaped Polish Iranology by publishing textbooks of Persian. He influenced Polish images of Iran by authoring several novels on his country of origin.

What role does the concept of “knowledge” play in your own research?

The concept of “knowledge” plays a central role in my research. I investigate how the production of knowledge took place, how Pur Rahnama cooperated with his colleagues, especially the ones from Poland, while producing this knowledge, how he used the knowledge infrastructure in Communist Poland, and how he disseminated the knowledge on Iran, the Persian language, literature and culture to the Polish public.

Have there been any surprising moments in your research recently?

Pur Rahnama wrote several literary pieces describing the ideoscape of Iranian Communists and reflecting on the question of how they perceived the realities in a Communist society, and what their dreams and despairs were. My grandparents were born in the early 1900s, and moved to freshly Sovietized Baku from Ardabil, Iran, in the early 1920s. I repeatedly asked myself what their perceptions of Communism in theory and in practice were. Accordingly, this case-study also made me think on my own family’s past.


Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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