Amir Timur and the Battle of Stalingrad

Habib Khan from Quetta: Amir Timur (aka Tamerlane) allegedly learned perseverance from an ant. According to legends, and the school curriculum, Timur observed an ant repeatedly trying to climb a wall, falling countless times, and ultimately succeeding to conquer the wall. Inspired by the ant’s perseverance, his attacks on the enemy continued until final victory was achieved. In some versions of the legend, the wall becomes a small stream, and like ant’s determination, Timur’s remained the same, so goes the legend.

A student of history or that of common sense might think that “Timur and ant” is just a story, while “Timur and the pyramids of skulls” is a fact. But visit Gur-i-Amir, his mausoleum in Samarqand, and you’ll hear more stories about the curse of the dead Timur linked to a more recent fact.

During Stalin’s rule, Timur’s body was exhumed leading to two stories.

The first story which seems plausible, is that Stalin upon hearing about anthropologist Gerasimov’s skills in reconstructing faces from skulls, ordered him to draw his friend’s face (who had died earlier in a Siberian prison). Impressed, Stalin asked Gerasimov to open Amir Timur’s grave and draw his real face, which he did successfully.

The resulting face is available in Gur-i-Amir’s tuck shops–it looks Mongolian (Amir Timur was half-Mongol), but Uzbeks prefer and display a different face –more Central Asian.

The second story is well more ludicrous:

During the exhumation, two elderly men appeared, warning workers to stop or the country will face destruction, carnage, and humiliation on a large scale. When Gerasimov emerged to talk to them, they had already vanished! Ignoring the warning, the work continued, and the grave was opened, and Timur’s body was sent to Moscow on June 21, 1941. The very next day (June 22, 1941), Hitler’s Army attacked the Soviet Union, bringing unprecedented devastation, misery and humiliation which continued through the subsequent year. Some wise men advised Stalin that the only way to end the misery and humiliation was to rebury Amir Timur’s remains at Gur-i-Amir.

Stalin, though usually a non-believer complied, and the body was reburied in the middle of January 1943. Hitler’s 6th army surrendered in Stalingrad on January 31, 1943 paving the way for Germany’s ultimate defeat in 1945.

Some add masala (spices) to the story–that the pilot carrying Timur’s body had circled Stalingrad before continuing to Samarqand to give the curse more time to be effective.

In light of the above, it may make sense to write off the thousands of books written on the German war strategy and on the Soviet sacrifices, and replace them with stories one hears on Gur-i-Amir.

1 thought on “Amir Timur and the Battle of Stalingrad

  1. So stories should remain stories. Creates an aura that keeps history interesting.

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