Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why are you studying the Kazakhs?

"Why are you studying the history of the Kazakhs?"

I have heard this question many times and it deserves a better answer than I have given in the past. First, I would indicate that the question generally is no more specific than the above. In other words, there is no interest in why I'm studying the 18th century over the 20th century, for example. "Why are you studying the Jüün Ghar wars instead of wars with Russia or Kokand," no one asks me. "Why all this focus on southern instead of northern Kazakhstan?"

For some small portion of people, the question might be "Why does anyone study history at all?" I'm not particularly comfortable with my answers to this question. In brief, I study history because I want to and because, so far, I am able to do so. I want to study history because I love the stories, the explanations, and the way the stories and explanations change over time.

For more people, I think the real question is "Why are you, Michael, studying the history of the Kazakhs." What am I, and what am I not? I am not a Kazakh, first and foremost. I am also not a Russian or other non-Kazakh citizen of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, or anywhere in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. So, perhaps this question has various flavors: "Why is an American studying Kazakh history?" or "Why is a white, non-Russian studying Kazakh history?" or "Why is a Christian studying [Muslim] Kazakh history?"

This is a problem in almost any field of history, or so it seems from my limited experience. A study of Indian History in the American academy who is not themselves Indian (or at least an Indian-American) will face similar questions and assumptions of ulterior motives. Similarly a non-indigenous person studying the history of Native Americans will likely face some serious questions as to just why, exactly, are they so interested in Native Americans? It seems that the majority of history is written by outsiders, in some light. At the end of the day, there are no diaries being published as "historical textbooks." We are separated from the past and our subjects of study by time, if not also by religion, culture, language, and genetics. The measure of that distance may be great, but still we try to overcome through the strength of our arguments, evidence, and perseverance. How else can anyone write anything about the Ancient Greeks or the Han Dynasty in China? Despite what some nationalist policies have intoned, there is very little physically connecting those people to the current residents of our planet. In much the same, the inhabitants of the steppes of Kazakhstan in the 18th century have little in common with the inhabitants of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, or the United States. The way of life alone separates the early Kazakhs from those studying them today, whether they work for a University in Kazakhstan, Russia, or the United States.

One corollary of this assumption is the problem of explanation. When an insider writes the history, very many things get left unsaid, too much information and knowledge is assumed on the part of the reader. In addition, their is a common idea that distance creates clinical disinterest. No one may write without bias. Even the Zulu writing about the Sioux, while perhaps not directly biased in the Sioux's direction, likely shows some preference to another population which faced near extermination at the hands of English-speaking, rifle-bearing invaders from Europe. In this way, I do not assume that because I am not Kazakh, I am the bearer of the sacred sight, free from tendentious favoritism.

This compartmentalization in history seems to come from at least two sources, one of which I think we can resist. Many people are uninterested in "other people's history." One simple example is the programming of The History Channel, which even back in its heyday included very little information on peoples and places unknown to its viewers. While the shows may have included new and interesting information on the construction of the Egyptian pyramids or the military techniques of the samurai, the shows did not need to assume total ignorance on their audiences' part. The History Channel, even then, was hoping to attract viewers -- and reminding viewers that they know very little about parts of the world is not attractive. It seems we can find a similar pattern in the school and university curriculum. If knowing what you don't know is a sign of intelligence, I can intelligently say I know very little about the history of Indonesia, the history of Somalia, the history of Patagonia, the history of Finland, the history of Namibia (notice the focus on the nation/state as the location of history).

"Ah," you say, "but the history of Finland is a waste of time for students in the United States. It isn't important, it doesn't explain anything, there's only so much time in the schools."

I agree, to an extent. The point is that with our limited time in school and at university, many devote their time to a politically and culturally expedient study of history. We study Ancient Greece, perhaps, or Enlightenment France, or World War II, because those are "important," which I take as a synonym for "helping to explain the way the world is." However, I think we fail our students in this regard, as many things which might explain the world are left unexamined. There is a proclivity to "explain" why America and Europe are the great powers of the world -- even when that is no longer the case. In other words, these stories will not help explain why America and Europe are slipping, why they no longer are (or soon will not be) the great powers of the world.

Of course, history as taught in schools in most places in the world serves another goal: the creation of a patriotic and loyal citizenry. The nation and state gave birth to the schools. And the schools, today at least, are where history is born. The creation of professional historians in universities has little to do with the study of history in the schools, however, which is a topic for another post (or rather, another blog).

I am studying the history of the Kazakhs, then, because anyone can study the history of the Kazakhs. I find them interesting because of my personal experiences in Kazakhstan, which came before my interest in the history of the Kazakhs. There are many positive aspects to studying their history which increase my appreciation for this occupation. However, I do not enjoy defending a non-Kazakh's rights to the study of Kazakh history. If anything, I wish more non-Americans studied the history of the citizens of the United States.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Famines and Zhuts: Connections in Kazakh History between the 18th and 20th centuries

On a handful of occasions, I have encountered an interesting phenomenon in conversation with some citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This anomaly occurs when the discussion turns to my subject of research for the first time: the Kazakh/Jüün Ghar wars of the 1720s, part of the long-term struggle of the 17th and 18th centuries, commemorated under the phrase Ak-taban-shubryndy. This phrase, however, doesn't always point the listener to the Kazakh - Jüün Ghar wars. Rather, when I have explained that I study the Aktaban Shubyryndy, my conversation partner may nod knowingly and respond with something about the importance of studying the great famine (sometimes the term "genocide" arises) of collectivization that occurred in the early 1930s.


The first time I was surprised by the swift jump through two centuries, but after some reflection, the conflation of the two events is perhaps more telling than confusing.

The famine of the 20th century, caused directly or indirectly by Soviet policies which brutally ended the nomadic way of life for the Kazakhs, saw the death of approximately one quarter of the population of Kazakhstan, including a rough estimate of 1.3 million Kazakhs. Understanding the depth of this cataclysm is made more difficult by the massive exodus from the territory of the Kazakh SSR into neighboring regions of China, Mongolia, Karkalpakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and across Turkmenistan into Iran and Afghanistan. Indeed, to this day the remnants of the nomadic Kazakh population remain in some of those areas. Several excellent scholars have devoted much time and effort to the study of this period, so that I can happily point the interested towards the work of Niccoló Pianciola,1, the work of Stephen Wheatcroft (now at Nazarbaev University),2 this recent case study by Isabelle Ohayon,3 or the recently finished dissertation (book not yet out, I believe) of Sarah Cameron.4  There has, in short, quite a lot of great scholarship in the last twenty years outside of the Republic of Kazakhstan, published in English, or at least reviewed in English.5

The study of the famine in Kazakhstan is connected with the study of the arguably more famous Holodomor famine (literally "kill by starvation," though other terms have been suggested in its place: "terror-famine" or "famine-genocide") in Ukraine, which killed many more people, though fewer when taken as a percentage of the total population. Part of the struggle to connect these famines is the offset timeline, since the famine in the Kazakh steppe occurred first and recovery had already begun when many in Ukraine were facing the worst periods of death and starvation.

Sarah Cameron gave a thorough presentation on the famine in Kazakhstan at the Woodrow Wilson Center (where she was a Title VIII scholar) which you can enjoy via YouTube:

Stephen Wheatcroft gave an paper at the ASEEES/CESS joint conference at Nazarbaev University this last May also devoted to this topic. Much of work has had to do with the realities of Soviet statistics, too often thrown out in an exercise akin to tossing out the baby with the bathwater, usually while muttering the old stand-by, "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics," or some pithy remark of Stalin's, like the famous "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic."6 Despite such popular perceptions, Wheatcroft has discovered that local statistics were gathered at least somewhat honestly, as there exist two forms: the statistics used by the statistics office and the statistics published by said office for official use. The office was able to doctor numbers to fit political and ideological expectations while practicing something like mathematically reliable data keeping. I have taken some of his slides and animated them in a short video here. My apologies, but I decided to set the slides to somber music - it seemed appropriate, since these statistics represent an ineffable suffering. The selection is from Grieg's Peer Gynt suite, "The Death of Åse."
video


The practice of collecting, editing, and then publishing data in this way reminds me of a similar practice found in the study of China, where local records were edited and collated at the regional level before ending up in large country-wide collections, meaning that at least three versions of the events are available: the relatively unprocessed events, the events processed somewhat to please the central government, and then a version stamped with the central government's approval. Though, to be fair, one could consider all professional historians as practicing a variety of this same occupation: collecting data from official repositories (archives, museums, etc.) before editing and collating that data for a publisher or peer-review panel, which then passes the work onto the masses.

The connections between the Famine of the 1930s and the Bare Footed Flight seem to revolve around two very historically-loaded terms. The first term is the very difficult to handle "genocide," which has been handled better and more thoroughly by others. Let us instead turn to the second term: zhut (жұт). While there are several varieties of zhut, the variety usually mentioned in this context involves a thin coating of ice on pasturage which prevents livestock from eating. In other words, this is a problem particularly for steppe nomads who typically did not need to put aside fodder for the winter, since their horses used their hooves to clear snow from the grass, in turn allowing other animals to feed. Similarly, observers of the time mentioned how horses were adept at using their hooves to break through iced-over streams, ponds, and rivers to reach drinking water, again allowing other livestock to follow suit. Steppe horses were practically a requirement to surviving on the steppe, but a zhut was a dangerous exception to their mastery of the environment.7

РГУ ЦГА КФДЗ   Арх. № 5-3400. Drawing of zhut in Pavlodar Oblast, 1914.
In Tynyshpaev's work on the Bare Footed Flight from the 1920s, he draws several comparisons between the suffering of the 1720s with that found among the Kazakhs during the 1910s, especially during the 1916 uprising, the attempts of the Russian government to control population, and the Russian Civil War. Some of these tribulations were exacerbated by naturally occurring zhut. Tynyshpaev presents folk wisdom in such times when the herds dwindle to nothing, the people can survive by milking birch trees and eating certain bitter roots and shrubs with some meager nutritional value. Indeed, part of the argument of my dissertation is that the Bare Footed Flight resonates with Kazakhs precisely because of the recent history of famines. The end of the nomadic way of life coincided with depopulation through starvation and emigration -- the importance of which is somewhat sidestepped by finger-pointing and the suggestion of Soviet genocidal campaigns against non-Russians, despite the body of evidence that Russians suffered mightily alongside the Kazakhs and Ukrainians, and even more so during the dehumanizing horror of the war with Hitler's Germany.

I should mention that the term zhut, like so many terms in Kazakh, is a cognate in modern Mongolian--zud in Mongolia, jud in Inner Mongolia. However, there seems to be little inter-cultural discussion on the topic in economic and social history -- as witnessed by the completely unrelated articles on the subject in Kazakh and Mongolian language on Wikipedia. This is not so surprising, considering the following. Kazakh and Mongol are far from mutually intelligible languages, despite their large body of shared vocabulary--one could mention here that increasing scholarship in linguistics has led to a widespread challenging of the genetic relationship of Turkic and Mongolic languages (under the umbrella labeled Altaic) in place of the convergence of unrelated languages due to centuries of contact.

Kazakhstan, like so much of the Turkic part of Central Asia, developed away from nomadism into a sedentary-focused society under the Soviet Union. While a Communist satellite state of the Soviet Union, Mongolia did not undergo the same brutally effective sedentarization campaigns witnessed in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. In Atwood's Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, he writes that 35% of the rural population remains involved in nomadic herding. My point here is not to undermine the suffering faced by Mongolians, of course. Rather, a simple comparison shows that unlike Mongolians, the other nomadic populations of the Soviet sphere saw an almost simultaneous transition through collectivization and then sedentarization onto collective ranches/farms and village/agricultural settlements.

The overall affect on the culture and perceptions of history in Kazakhstan has created a hazy, golden era of nomadic plenty ruined by Soviet barbarity and the auguries of fate represented by zhut. In other words, an observer of Kazakh history in the 20th century can choose between blaming the callousness of Russians or blaming the weather, both being seemingly beyond the control of the individual Kazakh. This is not so different from the situation in the 18th century, where one explains the Bare Footed Flight's horrors by blaming either the zhut preceding it or the wiles of the Jüün Ghars (or their shadowy Chinese masters, in Soviet-Kazakh imagination).

In other words, it is no wonder that one could conflate the two events. They are intrinsically interwoven in the history of the Kazakhs by the bitter experiences embedded in the memories of their survivors as preserved (narrated, delivered, if not embellished) for their children.


1 Pianciola, Niccolò. “Famine in the steppe. The collectivization of agriculture and the Kazak herdsmen, 1928-1934,” Cahiers du monde russe 45, no. 1-2 (2004): 137-192.

2 Wheatcroft, Stephen. 1997, “Soviet statistics of nutrition and mortality during times of famine. 1917-1922 and 1931-1933.”"Cahiers du monde russe 38, no. 4 (1997): 525-538.

3 Ohayon, Isabelle. "The Kazakh Famine: The Beginnings of Sedentarization." In: Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on 28 September 2013.

4 Cameron, Sarah. The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Mass Violence and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan. Manuscript in progress.

5 Kindler, Robert. "Die Nomaden und der Hunger: Sesshaftmachung und Herrschaftsdurchsetzung in Kasachstan, 1920-1945." [The Nomads and the Famine: Sedentarization and Assertion of Soviet Rule in Kazakhstan, 1920-1945

6 Perhaps from German writer Kurt Tucholsky, who wrote in 1925 Französischer Witz. A French diplomat is represented as saying, “Der Tod eines Menschen: das ist eine Katastrophe. Hunderttausend Tote: das ist eine Statistik!” ["The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. A hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!"] (Tucholsky, Gesamtausgabe, Band 7, Text 136, page 375).

7 On a side note, it seems this may be an instinct not seen across all breeds of horse. In the American West, the Mustang derived from horses brought over by the Spanish -- usually classified as "Iberian," though a mix of North African breeds. Reading about the Comanche and Sioux, it appears that one problem preventing the rapid spread of horse culture to northern Amerindian populations was finding fodder. From this I conclude that perhaps the Iberian horses were not able to feed themselves sufficiently by finding grass under snow using their hooves.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Archery and Firearms

This post is perhaps more rambling than some...


I have several areas where my hobbies and my academic interests intersect. Since childhood I have loved strategy-based board games and other "war" games on the computer or other video game systems. I believe that that is what fuels my continued interest in military history.

My love of Central Asian history and Turkology easily combines with this interest in several areas, including the military techniques and realities of both horse-archers among the steppe nomads and city defense by sedentary populations within Central Asia. These two groups often intersected, as horse archers would often raid other nomadic populations or the cities of the river valleys of Central Asia, while the city defense forces could also be mobilized to attack other cities. I assume, from my understanding of the limitations of early modern military technology, that the forces defending a city's walls would have little success in marching against a nomadic force in the steppe.

This becomes somewhat complicated by the advent of firearms, both artillery and light arms like muzzle-loading guns. Just in May of this year, I heard an intriguing paper from Professor Scott Levi from the Ohio State University at the CESS/ASEEES conference at Nazarbayev University on "Military Technology and the Early Modern Central Asian State." The audience learned something of the intricacies surrounding firearm technology, like the move from matchlocks to flintlock guns.

From Prof. Levi's example, we can see there is still a great amount of research that remains to be done to increase our understanding of Central Asia during the era of the so-called Gunpowder Empires. This term usually applies to the 1300-1600s, the precise era which sees in Europe the replacement of archery and tension-based siege equipment (i.e., trebuchets) with gunpowder-propelled missiles.

What I find on my mind these days is a diversion: how and why did the various military forces and other users of military technology come to abandon the lethal weapons and techniques associated with masses of horse archers for those weapons of the stationary infantry. Specifically, how did firearms and gunpowder replace spears, bows, and edged weapons? In the case of city-centered tactics, especially in densely populated areas of Europe that saw the evolution of warfare move from city- and castle-defense to battlefield-centric wars--in other words, why there are no cities in Europe maintaining walls.

In terms of mastering the nomads, the masses of horse archers proved difficult to conquer. Even when outmatched in numbers or firepower, little prevented warriors from retreating deeper into the grasslands. Camps could be vulnerable, of course, though travelers accounts from the period give the opinion that few foreigners were able to travel in the steppe without the knowledge of outriders, scouts, shepherds, or other far-sighted steppe-dwellers. For those living in the open fields, the bow and arrow had several advantages -- but were not without cost.

The bow and arrow could be produced locally, given the presence of those with the skills necessary and the time to prepare the necessary materials. Susceptible to damage from humidity, the bows of the steppe did not travel well outside the continental climate of Eurasia--in areas of high humidity, like Mughal India, steel bows traded in power and flexibility for increased effectiveness in humid environments. However, despite their relative weakness in wet climates, in their home territory the bows offered devastating penetrating force in a deceptively small package. While the famous English Longbow or Japanese Yumi could penetrate armor with ease, its users could not fire it in motion, let alone on horseback. This is not to say that the English and Japanese did not ever mount archers -- but by numbers and strategic importance, mounted archery did not dominate other military techniques.

The superiority of the Eurasian bows came from its design, being both "recurve" and "reflex."
Eurasian bow 1) unstrung, 2) strung, 3) strung with arrow drawn


In the steppe, the experience of the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries seemed to prove that conquest was only achievable by taking control of the cities "supporting" the nomads of the interior. Perhaps more than archery itself, the lifestyle of the nomads protected them from the necessity of meeting the Russian forces in any battle not of their choosing. From what I have read, however, the Russians seemed convinced of their superiority in terms of military force and civilization. Still, many observers mentioned with respect the bravery and athletic ability of the "natives" of the steppe and mountains south of Moscow.

Jozéf Brandt, 1885 - "Lisowczycy (Archery)"
From the "steppe" of the American prairie comes an intriguing example of the interplay between early muzzle-loading firearms and archery:
[Viceroy Bernardo de] Galvez authorized [in his Instructions for Governing the Interior Provinces of New Spain] the sale of firearms to Indians, arguing that the use of guns would weaken Indians' fighting ability, because the muzzle-loading rifle was less effective than the bow, which "is always ready to use." [His Instructions] specified that guns should have "weak bolts without the best temper" and long barrels, which would "make them awkward for long rides on horseback, resulting in continuing damages and repeated need for mending or replacement." This... would make the Natives dependent on the Spaniards for repairs and replacements. When Indians "begin to lose their skill in handling the bow," he predicted, they would not only lose their military edge; to keep themselves continually supplied with guns, powder, and shot, "they would be forced to seek our friendship and aid."1

Here I see two interesting points. The first is that archery and firearms could meaningfully coincide and compete with each other. The second is that the former was actually perceived by some Western observers as superior to the latter.

I can also add that the tactics of the Spanish government representatives did not seem so effective, since "After... about 1800, most Comanches began to discard muskets and pistols and to rely on their older weapons."2 The demise of the ability of Comanche's to maintain their autonomy came now with the arrival of gunpowder, therefore, but much later -- and the causes were more likely demographic and economic than force of arms.

Gall of the Hunkpapa Lakota (1840-1894) with his flatbow, 1881.

 This is especially interesting when one considers that the Comanches apparently lacked anything similar to the reflex or recurve technologies for their bows. Perhaps this was because the bow was still a relatively recent invention, as up until 1500 years before the present, the peoples of the Americas used the atl-atl. If the peoples of the North American plains had had horses throughout the last 3000 years, one wonders if there would have been any bison remaining when the Europeans arrived -- but that kind of "what-if" serves almost no purpose.



1 Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire. Yale University Press, 2008: 131-132. The cited material comes from Galvez, Bernardo de. Instructions for Governing the Interior Provinces of New Spain 1786, translated and edited by Donald Worcester. Berkeley: Quivira Society, 1951: 48-49.
2 T.R. Fehrenbach. Comanches, the history of a people. 1974: 125.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Translation: Putin responds to a question about Kazakhstan

Vladimir Putin, attending the 10th All-Russia Youth Forum "Seliger-2014," responded to a student's question on the future of Kazakhstan, as reported by Russia Today (LINK from Tengri News)

The video of the interview [LINK] begins around 59'30" - the translation
below is from a transcription by TengriNews
Anna Sazonova, a student at the Russian University of the Friendship of Peoples (RUDN), asked the President of Russia:
"People today talk endlessly about the growth of nationalism in the Ukraine. [на украине] But there is also another situation to worry about, related to the growth of nationalist sentiment in Kazakhstan, particularly in the south. In our opinion, the current president, Mr. Nazarbaev, is the deterrent of this phenomenon. So our question is this: Should we expect the development of a Ukrainian scenario in the event that Mr. Nazarbaev leaves office? is there a strategy for that situation? Will we offer them the chance to join [the Russian Federation]? What are the prospects for Eurasian integration?"

The Russian head responded to the girl, "Kazakhstan is most familiar to us as a strategic ally and partner. Firstly, President Nazarbaev is alive and well, thank God. He is not going anywhere. But, being a wise leader, he is always thinking about the future of his country. With regard to certain statements on the Internet, discussions with citizens of Kazakhstan, it is natural that there would be differing views. People are different. Kazakhstan, of course, is a country with less than 1/10th of Russia's population, but it is still a large country. I am convinced that the vast majority of the citizens of Kazakhstan are in favor of the development of relations with Russia. We see and know it."

Putin continued, "Nazarbaev is a very competent leader. He is perhaps the most competent leader in the former Soviet Union. He would never go against the wishes of his people. He is sensitive to what his people expect. Everything which Kazakhstan has achieved in the recent years is thanks, in large part, to his organizational talents and political experience, all in the interest of Kazakhstan as a state."

Putin concluded, saying, "He has done a unique thing. He created a state on a territory in which a state had never existed before. The Kazakhs never had statehood. [I originally wrote "The Kazakhs never had a state"] In this sense, he is a unique person for the post-Soviet space, and Kazakhstan as well. I repeat, it was not only him that made this happen, but rather the mood of the vast majority of society. What we are doing now for the construction of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space and the Eurasian Union - which, by the way, was his idea - the Eurasian Union - I have to admit, it was not my idea. Nazarbaev came up with this idea. We are all involved in this work and we will bring it to its logical conclusion. Philosophers know how the Eurasian idea developed in Russia, and who developed it. And the Kazakhs have picked it up. It is to their advantage for the economy to remain in the larger Russian sphere, which is part of the civilization of the world, from the point of view of industry and advanced technology. I am convinced that this will happen in the medium and long-term historical perspective."

Original Text

Владимир Путин, выступая на X всероссийском молодежном форуме "Селигер-2014", ответил на вопрос студентки о будущем Казахстана, сообщает Russia Today.




Анна Сазонова, студентка Российского университета дружбы народов (РУДН), спросила президента России: "Сегодня не смолкают разговоры о росте национализма на Украине. Но беспокоит и другая ситуация, связанная с ростом националистических настроений в Казахстане, в частности на юге страны. На наш взгляд, сдерживающий фактор данного явления - действующий президент, господин Назарбаев. Вопрос: стоит ли нам ожидать развития украинского сценария в том случае, если господин Назарбаев покинет пост президента? Есть ли стратегия по работе в данном направлении? У нас есть предложение, хотели бы присоединиться. И каковы перспективы евразийской интеграции?"

"Казахстан - это наиболее близкий нам стратегический союзник и партнер. Во-первых, Президент Назарбаев жив и здоров, слава богу, и никуда пока не собирается. Но как мудрый руководитель он всегда думает о будущем своей страны, - ответил девушке глава России. - Что касается отдельных высказываний в Интернете, дискуссий с гражданами Казахстана, то это естественно, что там могут быть высказаны разные точки зрения. Люди разные. Это, конечно, страна меньше России по населению в 10 раз, но все-таки это большая страна. Я убежден в том, что подавляющее большинство граждан Казахстана выступают за развитие отношений с Россией. Мы это видим и знаем".

"Назарбаев - очень грамотный руководитель. На постсоветском пространстве, может быть, самый грамотный. Он никогда не пошел бы против воли своего народа, он тонко чувствует, чего народ ждет. И все, что сделано за последнее время благодаря, в значительной степени, его организаторскому таланту, его политического опыту, это все находится в струе интересов Казахстана как государства", - продолжил Путин.

"Он совершил уникальную вещь. Он создал государство на территории, на которой государства не было никогда. У казахов не было государственности. В этом смысле он уникальный человек для постсоветского пространства, и для Казахстана тоже. Повторяю, дело не только в нем, дело - в настроении подавляющего большинства общества. То, что мы сейчас делаем по строительству Таможенного союза, Единого экономического пространства и Евразийского союза - а это, кстати, его идея - Евразийский союз - я должен это признать, это не я придумал. Это он придумал. Мы все включились в эту работу и доводим ее до логического завершения. Философы знают, как развивалась и кем поддерживалась евразийская идея в России. И казахи ее подхватили. Это им выгодно для развития экономики, чтобы оставаться на пространствах большого русского мира, который является частью мировой цивилизации, с точки зрения промышленности и передовых технологий. Я убежден, что так и будет на среднесрочную и долгосрочную историческую перспективу", - так закончил свой ответ Владимир Путин.

Who was Alash Khan?

"The legend of Alash and his three sons may be dismissed as fiction... such stories seem clearly to have been invented to strengthen the legitimacy of the three hordes by the creation of a legendary common ancestor."1
So argues Martha Brill Olcott in the opening chapter of her monograph The Kazakhs, the most recent edition of which appeared in 1995. Olcott mentions Alash in the usual context: the origins of the Kazakhs and the reason for the existence of a Kazakh "trinity," three Hordes among one, supposedly united, people. Indeed, the separation into Hordes, tribes, and clans is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Kazakh nation, whether compared with the neighboring populations or with others further afield.

Introduction to the groups within the Kazakh Nation

A quick explanation: terms like "tribe" and "clan" are largely arbitrary, insofar as they have been used to allow some degree of familiarity for the English-language reader. Unfortunately, I know nothing about how these terms have became commonplace.

A key would go as follows:

English Kazakh Қазақ
Horde Zhuz Жүз2
Tribe El or Taipa Ел3 or тайпа4
Clan Uru/Ru Уру/Ру5

There are three Hordes, each containing roughly between a half-dozen and ten tribes each, while each tribe might contain a handful to more than a dozen clans. However, many of the names of clans also appear as names of tribes, making the system difficult to navigate and quite easy for foreigners to get lost. An example: while there is a tribe within the Middle Horde labeled "Argyn," there are clans named "Argyn" in several other tribes. Likewise, many of the names of the tribes are found among most, if not all, of the various Turkic and Mongol peoples of Eurasia - again, Argyn (Argun) is a good representative example. Perhaps less helpful is the following image (one of many similar pictures floating around the Kazakh-language internet).

The Family Tree (Shezhire6) of the Kazakhs
This image is helpful only so far in creating a sense that there is an unmanageable mass of Kazakh clans and tribes. The Soviet field of national studies produced the 'science' of ethnogenesis -- wherein one attempts to find the genesis of an ethnicity. For the Kazakhs, many believe their "roots" reach back to the steppe peoples described by Herodotus and the other authors of the ancient world. I mean this literally, since the roots of the pictured tree include the Scythians, Huns, Sarmatians, and so on.

Alash and Kazakh Origins

The name Alash appears again and again before those who study the Kazakhs, especially those interested in the last two centuries. According to ethnographers and authors like Tynyshpaev and Divaev, Kazakh oral history recorded that the Hordes were founded by the sons of Alash or Alach Khan. While Olcott and others have been satisfied to classify this as myth and move on, I think there is much potential here in explaining Kazakh history and identity, particular in relation with the neighboring Zünghar people.7

I believe it is possible that Kazakh oral history recalls the name Alash/Alach from the popular historical perception of Ahmad b. Yunus Khan, who roamed what is now southeastern Kazakhstan in the second half of the 1400s. Some of Ahmad's history comes down to us in the Tarikh-i Rashidi of Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat, most importantly Ahmad's famous nickname Alach.8 The Tarikh-i-Rashidi is a work from the mid-1500s and, while its author was particularly negative towards the Uzbek conquerors of Central Asia under Shībānī Khān, the work offers a relatively disinterested view of the first century of Kazakh history. The following selection comes from Chapter 64, on the life of Ahmad Khan. In this section, when Haidar Dughlat speaks of the Kalmak, this likely refers to the Oirat population in the area, of which the Zünghar were later a part.

SULTAN AHMAD KHAN was the son of Yunus Khan, who has been mentioned above. When his father used to go and take up quarters in Tashkand, Ahmad, with a number of Moghuls who objected to towns and settlements, parted from his father, and stayed behind in Moghulistán. It would take too long to relate all that he did and [to describe] his administration in Moghulistan; but the substance of the matter is that it required ten years of residence in the country, before he could bring the people fully under his control.
[...]
No one in Moghulistan dared to oppose [Ahmad Khan]. He made several successful inroads on the Kalmak, and put a number of them to death. He fought two battles with Isan Taishi, and was victorious in both. The Kalmak stood in great awe of him, and used to call him Alacha Khan; Alacha, in Moghul, means Kushanda [the slayer], that is to say, “the slaying Khan.” This title adhered to him. His own people used to call him Alacha Khan. He is now spoken of by the Moghuls as Sultan Ahmad Khan, but all the neighbouring peoples call him "Alacha."

After these events, [Ahmad Khan] carried on hostilities with the Uzbeg Kazak [the Kazakhs], for the reason already stated in the story of Sultan Mahmud Khan. For Sultán Mahmud Khan had, on two occasions, gone to war with the Uzbeg Kazák, and had been defeated on both occasions; on which account Sultán Ahmad Khán attacked the Uzbeg Kazák and utterly routed them three times.

It seems plausible to me that such a figure, renowned as a military hero capable of destroying the Kalmak and routing any rebellious Kazakhs, would live on in Kazakh oral history. Perhaps it is a stretch, but it may also be that Ahmad Khan's routing of some portion of the Kazakhs in turn caused the division into separate units, which in time became the three Hordes. This is certainly only a theory with more speculation than evidence, but I believe there is more here than coincidence. The Kazakh language still uses many names and words of Oirat/Mongolian origin, something which I covered somewhat in my earlier article on "the other Ablai."


1 Olcott, Martha Brill. The Kazakhs. Second Edition. Stanford University Press, 1995 (First edition 1987): page 11.
2 (Turkic) One hundred. However, there is an obvious similarity with (Arabic) d̲j̲uzʾ, "part of a whole," a section of a larger thing.
3 (Turkic) confederation of smaller groups/tribes, sometimes written Īl or él. One basic way to politely ask a Kazakh about his or her genealogy is to ask the question, "Қай елсiз?", "Which el are you?" Over the centuries, this term has meant both a people under a ruler and the territory on which the people lived.
4 (Arabic - Ṭāʾifa) A group of men, a corporation, a sect - its basic meaning, according to the Encyclopedia of Islam, is of a group. The term in Sufi communities fits nicely here, of a branch of a larger community that, in turn, may create new sub-branches.
5 I learned this word as Urug' (Уруғ) in Uzbek. Just now I cannot find its root, but I assume it is Turkic.
6 (Arabic - Shajareh) Literally, "Tree."
7Perhaps because these is no modern nation or state claiming relation to this vanished people, it is exceedingly difficult to find a standardized spelling in the literature. Junko Miyawaki has used Dzungar and Jüün Ghar. Christopher Atwood, author of the Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire used Zünghar. It seems any of these are preferable to the Kazakh (Zhongghar) or Russian (Dzhungar), though it is mostly from Kazakh and Russian sources that I work.
8 It is available online in English translation - Mīrzā Muḥammad Ḥaydar Dug̲h̲lāt, A history of the Moghuls of Central Asia, being the Tarikh-i Rashidi of Mirza Muhammad Haidar, Dughlát, ed. N. Elias and tr. E. Denison Ross, London 1895.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Translation: Tynyshpaev, "Ak-taban-shubryndy"

This translation requires an admission of guilt.

I am ashamed that I have left this translation only half-completed on other occasions. It is a piece that has deserved far better treatment from me. Aside from its direct impact on my dissertation research, it is especially shameful considering how often I write about my respect for Tynyshpaev.

My embarrassment keeps me from guiding you to those earlier not-quite-translations.

On the other hand, I can say that I have read this article closely dozens of times over the last six years. I know Tynyshpaev's writing style fairly well -- though I admit I did not preserve his semi-colon heavy punctuation. I also transliterated his rendition of the ethnonym Kazak, making it Казак instead of the Soviet-standard Казах. Interesting it might be to some that some rationalization exists to explain that the х, which many Kazakhs today pronounce as a Қ, or Q, is actually the more correct way to spell Қазақ in Russian. I remain unconvinced, considering that we do not speak about Хазахстан or the хазахи that live there.
Original Text, First Page

I also would point out Tynyshpaev's pattern of citation: he gives due credit to Levshin and Bartol'd, for their research into the Bare Footed Flight. However, Tynyshpaev makes no mention or citation of Qudaiberdiev's work on this same topic (already posted on this blog). Either this means that by sheer coincidence their works bear such a resemblance, or he felt that somehow Qudaiberdiev's work did not deserve mention. I might add that, in another essay on the genealogy of the Kazakhs, Tynyshpaev references Qudaiberdiev's work by clear citation.

Tynyshpaev's 1927 chapter before you set the gold standard for scholarship on the Bare Footed Flight for the rest of the 20th century, surpassing even Moiseev's monograph on Kazak-Dzhungar relations. I only hope that my own dissertation can have as great an impact -- I am hopeful that will be the case, especially considering the resources I have at my disposal which were not available to Tynyshpaev. Moreover, I have the benefit of his shoulders on which I might stand.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Translation: Qudaiberdiev, "The Origins of the Qazaqs" (excerpts)

This is a translation of a longer work by Qudaiberdiev called "Genealogy of the Turks, Qazaqs, Khans." In one section, Qudaiberdiev discusses the origins of the Qazaqs (Kazakhs) and gives a brief history. In this history he includes a discussion of the Bare Footed Flight. This is significant as being the oldest mention that I can find of the phrase "Bare Footed Flight." I assume the phrase was unfamiliar to some of the people in Qudaiberdiev's Kazakh-speaking audience because he explains the significance of the phrase after its introduction.

Some preliminary notes:
  1. Qudaiberdiev seems to suggest that the song connected with the Bare Footed Flight predated the events in question. There is other evidence for the veracity of that statement (another post which will focus on this song, most popularly known by the title Елiм-ай)
  2. Qudaiberdiev explains the event and its consequences under a subheading "The Origins of the Qazaqs," yet the Bare Footed Flight in his narrative affected the three Qazaq Hordes, Bashkirs, and Qypshaqs (Kipchaks).
  3. In this passage he seems to utilize the account in Levshin, though he directly cites only Nikolai Aristov. The identity of this work is not given (or I've missed it).
  4. Even at this early stage, the primary consequence of the Bare Footed Flight is an increased pressure which 'drives' the Qazaqs into an alliance with Russia.

First the English translation and then the Cyrillic Kazakh version of the Arabic-script Kazakh original (dated 1911). This is a translation in progress -- there were several "best guesses" which will likely be edited.

Genealogy of the Turks, Qazaqs, and Khans

[...]

The Origins of the Qazaqs

[...]
Around the 1690s, Wise Tauke died and his son Bolat took his place as Khan. When he came to power, the former lands of the Qazaqs remained in the hands of the Qalmaq. For that reason there were fights. Finally in 1723 the Qazaqs and Qalmaqs went to war. The Qalmaq leader Tsevan Rabdan destroyed most of the Qazaqs and chased after the survivors. Then the Qazaqs, starving and naked, their feet run ragged, reached the shores of a lake where they laid themselves down exhausted. Then an elder said, "Children, just as we don't forget man's good deeds, so we must not forget the bad deeds that we saw. Let us name this suffering we saw "dragged barefoot, lying exhausted at Alqa Lake." The meaning of this was "running until our feet turned white, until we lie exhausted by the lake." This was the ancient Qazaq song they sang during this flight:

Coming over the Black Mountains
with the travelers comes a lonely camel.
It is hard to be parted from one's family,
tears dripping from dark eyes.
What kind of time is this? A crushing time,
a time when all happiness and wealth is lost.
The traces of our flight throws up a cloud of dust,
greater than a blizzard in winter time.
What kind of time is? A time of chaos,
a time of panic and destruction.
Leaving behind one's family and home
causes a flood of tears to flow.

As they crossed the pass over the Black Mountains [the Karatau Range], a single baby camel came after losing its mother, bitterly weeping and roaring. Sobs from the Qalmaq murder of its family and loved ones, the camel wailed from yearning its mother. The men [batyrs] on guard during this migration, which was a massacre from start to stop, saw this scene [the orphan camel] and sang this song.

[...]

During the aforementioned Bare Footed Flight the Senior Horde moved en masse to the area around Bukhara and Tashkent and stayed there. The Middle Horde went to the Esil, Nur, and Sarysu Rivers. The Qypshaqs went from the other side of the Aral Sea to the Caspian Sea.  At that time a son of Wise Tauke Khan, Abilqayyr the Elder, was khan.  In the Middle Horde, a son of Bolat Khan named Sameke was Khan.  In the Senior Horde, there was a child named Abulmuhamed of the line of Bolat Khan. Qazaqs call him Abilmambet. In the words of [Nikolai] Aristov, "during that retreat the Qanly and Dulat tribes of the Senior Horde were taken by [NB: under the control of] the Qalmaq." The majority of the Qalmaqs fell on our Middle Horde. The three parts of the Qazaqs agreed with one another that "if our day comes, after recovering we'll gather and take back the pastures of our fathers." To overturn the Qalmaq violence, they moved closer to the Russians and in 1731 they escaped the Qalmaqs to enter the protection of the Russians. After this, Abulmuhamed of the Senior Horde informed all of the Qazaqs to gather for war against the Qalmaqs. It was in that time that our Abylai Khan came to the Senior Horde, the story of which is this...

Tynyshpaev's rendition of the same poem, published in 1927


Түрiк, Қырғыз-қазақ һәм хандар шежiресi

[...]

Қазақтың Қайдан Шыққаны

[...]
1690 жылдардың шамасында Әз Тәуке өлiп, орнына баласы Болат хан болды. Ол келгенде қазақтың бұрынғы орнына қалмақ иеленiп қалған екен. Сол тақырыпты жанжал-төбелес болып, ақырында 1723 жылы қазақ, калмақ болып жиылып соғысқанда, қалмақтың бастығы Цеван Рабдан қазақтың көбiн қырып, қалғанын қуып жiберген. Сонда қазақтар аш-жалаңаш, жаяу шұбап бiр көлдiң басына келiп, көлдi айнала сұлап жатыпты. Сонда бiр ақсақал кiсi айтыпты: "Балалар, адам бастан кешкен жақсылықты қандай ұмытпаса, жаманшылық көргенiн де сондай ұмытпау керек, бiздiң бұл көрген бейнетiмiздiң аты "Aқтабан шұбырынды, алқакөл сұлама болсын", - дейдi, мағынасы - "табанымыз ағаршанша жаяу жүрiп, көлдi айналып жатқан күн" дегенi және жолда айтылған қазақтың ескi өлеңi мынау:

Қаратаудың басынан көш келедi,
Көшкен сайын бiр тайлақ бос келедi.
Қарындастан айрылған қиын екен,
Қара көзден мөлдiреп жас келедi.
Мына заман қай заман, қысқан заман,
Басымыздан бақ-дәулет ұшқан заман.
Шұбырғанда iзiңнен шаң борайды,
Қаңтардағы қар жауған қыстан жаман.
Мына заман қай заман, бағы заман,
Баяғыдай болар ма тағы заман.
Қарындас пен қара орын қалғаннан соң,
Көздiң жасын көл қылып ағызамын

Aуып көшкенде Қаратаудан көш асқанда, енесiн ертiп алған бiр тайлақ көштi жанап боздайды. Қарындасын, жақынын қалмақтар өлтiрген жылаулар, оны жоқтап ол да зарлайды, көштiң алды-артын шалып жүрген батырлар қарауылда отырып оны көрiп айтқан өлеңдерi едi.

[...]

Осы Aқтабан шұбырынды болып ауғанда Ұлы жүз Бұхара, Ташкент маңына жақын қалып, Орта жүз Есiл, Нұра, Сарысуға барды. Қыпшақтар онан ары Aрал көлi менен Aқ теңiзге барып, башқұрттар менен Кiшi жүз алшын онан күнбатыс һәм сол тұсқа барды. Сонда Кiшi жүздiң ханы Әз Тәукенiң бiр баласы Қарт Әбiлқайыр деген хан едi. Орта жүзде Болат ханның бiр баласы Сәмеке хан едi. Ұлы жүздегi үлкен хан бәрiнiң үстiнен қарайтұғын Болат ханның Әбулмұхамет деген баласы едi. Оны бiздiң қазақ Әбiлмәмбет дейдi. Aристов сөзiнде "сол ауғанда Ұлы жүздiң қанлы, дулат деген таптары қалмаққа қарап қалды" дейдi. Қалмақпенен көбiнесе ұрысқан бiздiң Орта жүз едi. Қазақтар үш бөлiнерде "күнiмiз туса, тыныққан соң жиылып, қалмақтан ата қонысымызды алалық" деп уағдаласып тарады. Қалмақтың осы зорлығынан ауып iшкерi орысқа жақын барғандар 1731 жылдарда қалмақтан құтылуға орысқа қарамақ болды. Мұнан кейiн Ұлы жүздегi Әбумұхамет хан тамам қазаққа хабар айтып жиылып, қалмақпен ұрыспақ болды. Сол кезде өзiмiздiң Aбылай хан жас бала күнiнде Ұлы жүзге келген кезi едi, оның мәнiсi мынау...