Posted by: Christian | July 19, 2009

Buddhas and Grieving Mothers: Destroying History

The Buddhas of Bamiyan? Everybody knows that story. There is a less known, or rather unknown, act of historical vandalism just north in Tajikistan: the Bereaved Mother of Hoyit.

Photo by Alexander Yablokov:

Hoyit, Tajikistan

The image of this grieving mother was constructed out of white marble to commemorate the  victims of Tajikistan’s 1949 Khait (Hoyit) earthquake and landslide (20km long and 1km wide). As many as 28,000 people may have died and the bodies that could be recovered are in a mass grave behind the statue.

Now, this is no 1,500 year old Buddha, but it was by Soviet standards a beautiful and meaningful monument. And the locals likely had a lot of emotions tied into this memorial.

Unfortunately, this monument was located in the Karategin (Rasht) valley, next to the Yarhich River between Jirgitol and Gharm where field commanders of the Islamic Rebirth Party held territory during the Tajik Civil War. Unfortunately, the Grieving Mother of Hoyit was “unIslamic” and had to go. So they destroyed it. I thought at first that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan may have had a hand in this, but I can’t quite match the timelines with the available info. I’ll ask when I go there (and get an “honest” answer, I’m sure). [Update, April 2015: I talked to at least one local, unsympathetic to the opposition and to Islamists in particular, who said that government soldiers destroyed the monument after the opposition had left].

For more info you will need to google “Скорбящая мать Хаита,” (lit. “Bereaved Mother of Khait”) as most of the writing is in Russian.


  1. This is a really interesting – and rather sad – post. I hope you manage to unearth a little more of the story on your travels.

  2. It’s sad and familiar pattern in the region.
    There was also the recent case of the destroyed/defaced buddha statue in Swat, Pakistan.


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