When Tajikistan was hived off from Uzbekistan in 1929, the new nation-state was forced to leave behind all its cultural baggage. The new Soviet order set about providing a replacement pantheon of arts, introducing modern drama, opera and ballet, and sending stage-struck Tajik aspirants to study in Moscow and Leningrad. The policy paid early dividends and the 1940s are considered a golden era of Tajik theatre. A kind of Soviet fame came to some Tajik novelists and poets, such as Mirzo Tursunzade, Loic Sherali and Sadruddin Ayni, the last now remembered more as a deconstructor of national culture because of his campaign to eliminate all Arabic expressions and references to Islam from the Tajik tongue.
Since independence, ancient figures from the region’s Persian past have been revived in an attempt to foster a sense of national identity. The most famous of these figures is Ismail Samani (Ismoil Somoni), but also revered is the 10th-century philosopher-scientist Abu Ali ibn-Sina (980–1037), author of two of the most important books in the history of medicine. He was born in Bukhara when it was the seat of the Persian Samanids, to whom Rudaki (888–941), now celebrated as the father of Persian verse, served as court poet. Tajiks also venerate Firdausi (940–1020), a poet and composer of the Shah Nama (Book of Kings), the Persian national epic, and Omar Khayyam (1048–1123), of Rubaiyat fame. Both were born in present-day Iran but at a time when it was part of an empire that also included the territory now known as Tajikistan. Similar veneration goes out to Kamalddin Bekzod (1455–1535), a brilliant miniaturist painter from Herat.
Pamiris have a particular veneration for Nasir Khusraw (1004–1088), an Ismaili philosopher, poet and preacher who worked in Merv and was exiled to Badakhshan, where he wrote his Safarname, the account of his extensive seven-year travels throughout the Muslim world.
Tajik Persian poetry is fused with music by hafiz (bard musicians). Falak is a popular form of melancholic folk music, often sung a cappella. Music and dance is particularly popular among the Pamiri and Kulyabi.