Thursday, November 6, 2014

Elim-ai: An investigation

Previously I wrote that I would use the blog for writing practice, more specifically for writing things outside the scope of my dissertation. Today I am making an exception: this is an attempt to write coherently about the subject of my next dissertation chapter. My next chapter is about the poem/song now commonly known by the title "Elim-ai," a text closely connected with the story of the Bare Footed Flight.

Before getting to the history of the Elim-ai song, let us observe just how close this relationship was in the last century.

The Text and the Flight

Let us begin with Mukhamedzhan Tynyshpaev's 1927 article on the Bare Footed Flight. That article included the text of the song Elim-ai with a Russian translation. Tynyshpaev included the text (see below for his version) of the poem, which he introduced: "The historical disaster remains in folk memory with the following verses."

About fifteen years later, the poem again appeared connected with the Bare Footed Flight in the 1943 edition of the History of Kazakhstan edited by Anna Pankratova: "In the music of the 18th century, as in the literature of the same period, we see the song and melody "Qara taudyn basynan kösh keledi" ("Over the Karatau mountains come the nomads") written about the event "Bare Footed Flight." The music and words are full of bitterness and sorrow. They tell of the heavy oppression endured by the people."

Some twenty years later still, now outside the academy, one finds the poem/song alongside the Flight once again in Esenberlin's trilogy Kochevniki/Köshpendiler (The Nomads). In the 1986 edition, the song appears on page 241, supposedly a nationwide response to the tragedies suffered by the Kazakhs.

Presently, the connection is much more nationwide than Esenberlin imagined. Since 2004, every student hoping to attend university in the Republic of Kazakhstan must pass the so-called Unified National Test (ENT/ЕНТ in Russian, UBT/ҰБТ in Kazakh). The test is divided into several subjects, one of which is mandatory: the history of Kazakhstan. Thanks to this country-wide testing system, every citizen of Kazakhstan under the age of 30 knows by heart at least some details of the Bare Footed Flight. On that same test, one may have to produce the "fact" that Elim-ai was the name of a song produced by that catastrophe. Whatever the veracity of this connection, let us trace the origins of this "fact."

The history of the Elim-ai poem/song can be traced through history to the middle of the nineteenth century. Its content, form, meaning, and associations have changed as it passed through the hands of  ethnographers, "nationalist" historians, and later Soviet-trained scholars before being enshrined in the heart of  twenty-first-century "Kazakh identity." Following independence in 1991, the song has indeed metamorphosed into a kind of trademark of Kazakh-ness. Now (in 2014) one can stay at any of a dozen Elim-ai hotels, send one's children to a similar number of Elim-ai nursery or music schools, cheer on the Elim-ai soccer team, enjoy a meal at an Elim-ai restaurant or cafe, or even use the Elim-ai cell-phone plan from Aktiv.

At least one reason for the popularity of the name is its meaning, though difficult to translate simply in English. Elim-ai in partial translation breaks down as "Oh, my El!" The final step of translation is the most difficult, since when one breaks open a dictionary, the word El denotes a state, a country, the homeland or fatherland, people or a people, the public, tribe, clan, a union, or more poetically an ally or friendly person.

Understanding the word El does not become easier with progressive delving into its etymology.  The Encyclopedia of Islam states that El "has undergone a wide semantic development," from its first known occurrences in the Orkhon inscriptions of the early eighth century, whose meaning V. Thomsen explained as "empire" or, more precisely, "a people, or union of people, organized under a kagan." We also see El used in the title Ilek Khan, possibly coming from "El-lig," or "holding an empire." El appears in the eleventh-century Arabic-Turkic dictionary of Maḥmūd Kāshgharī with the definition al-wilāya, or "district, territory." Kāshgharī's definition coincides with its use in the Ottoman Empire in place-names like Rūm-eli ("Rumelia"), meaning "territory conquered by Rome."

So it is very difficult to conclude what, exactly, the title "Elim-ai" signifies. Soviet-era writers seem to have prematurely settled the issue, translating the song into Russian as Rodina moia, or My Motherland. However, Esenberlin's Russian translator of Kochevniki/Köshpendiler offered the more poetic O, moi mnogostradal'nyi narod, (O, My Long-suffering People.)

History of the Text

To follow the history of this song, let us move in chronological order. The oldest identifiable text appeared in a collection published in 1885 in Orenburg, one of the administrative capitals of the Kazakh subjects of the Russian Empire. Petr Raspopov translated into Russian translation several Kazakh songs collected by Akhmet Zhantöreuly, an official within the Bukei Horde who graduated from the Officer School (Kadetskii Korpus) in Orenburg. Guessing the original Kazakh is made more difficult by the fact that Raspopov put the Russian translation into rhyming verse. Even so, as we will see, the text is clearly the progenitor of later versions:
С горы Кара-Тау идут караваны:
То, знать, перемена киргизской кочевки;
Верблюдов грузить молодых еще рано:
Нет клади на спинах, в носах нет веревки!
Тяжка нам разлука с родными, с семьею,
И жжет наши очи слеза за слезою.
И как наме назвать это время? Ужасно,
Что всякий лишь прошлое счастие знает!
Погода к тому же буранна, ненастна,
И пыль, и песок нам пути заметают.
Для нас непогодье теперь будет хуже,
Чем в зимнее время январская стужа.
В какую ж живем мы тяжелую пору!
Вернется ль когда к нам прошедшее счастье,
Все семьи в разброд, и в детях опоры
Родители больше не видят, к несчастью!
Там мать, там отец без детей остаются,
И слезы рекою все льются да льются!
Увы, сколько бедствий послал ты нам, Боже,
В гневе своем! И земля, что нам к ночи
Постель заменяет, не мягкое ложе.
Лежать ночью больно, идти днем нет мочи:
Подошвы распухли, хоть в степи и гладко.
Хотя бы плохую послал Бог лошадку!2
Raspopov gives the title as "Karatau" (cf. Karatau Mountains) with a subtitle explaining the poem refers to migrations following bad/unproductive years.

The next version of the song appears only in a 1911 book titled Түрiк, Қырғыз-қазақ һәм хандар шежiресi, which I mentioned in a previous post about Shakarim Qudaiberdiev.
"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".3

This version matches the Russian translation so closely, there can be no doubt that it is the same text. This text is the oldest version available in Kazakh. Qudaiberdiev gives the song no title, explaining that those who suffered from the Bare Footed Flight sang a song they already knew: "...және жолда айтылған қазақтың ескi өлеңi мынау..." -- "...and on their way, the ancient Kazakh song they sang was this..."

Shakarim's explanation makes it clear that the text predated the Bare Footed Flight, but the connection had been made. As we will see, the song's adaptability to Kazakh catastrophes in the 20th century will illustrate the malleability of the song and its text.

In 1914, a poem under the name "Elim-ai" appeared in issue 52 of the journal Qazaq, written by Mir Yaqub (Mirzhaqyb) Dulatov. The poem appeared again in 1915 in a poetry collection published in Orenburg under the title "Terme." The text of the poem in no way resembles the others,3 which isn't so surprising considering the vagueness of the title (Oh, My Homeland!). A thorough study of the topic demands an investigation of any text under the title "Elim-ai," but it seems we may safely dismiss this text's possibility of describing the Bare Footed Flight.

The Text and the Music

The early Soviet era witnessed an era of renewed Russian interest in Kazakh culture, or more accurately, the problems of the lack thereof. Aleksandr Zataevich (1869-1936) was a European-oriented amateur composer from western Russia.4 A skilled pianist, Zataevich arrived in Orenburg in April of 1920 as part of a "concert brigade" and quickly found work teaching in a recently opened music school for the Muslim population. The Civil War was entering its final years and Orenburg soon became part of the autonomous Kirgiz (Kazakh) region of the RSFSR in October of the same year. Already in November, officials invited Zataevich to collect and publish traditional Kirgiz (Kazakh) folk songs, the results of which labor was a song collection in 1925, "1000 pesen kirgizskogo naroda" (1000 Songs of the Kirgiz (Kazakh) People). Without the aid of a recording device, musical ability with Kazakh instruments, or even a basic understanding of the Kazakh language, Zataevich collected fifteen hundred "songs" between 1920 and 1923. Particularly difficult to collect were the instrumental works played on the dombyra. Song no. 714 below showcases this excellently with an unrealistically simple and repetitive dombyra ostinato. Varvara Dernova, a Soviet musicologist who began her career with a deep analysis of Zataevich, criticized the composer-turned-ethnographer for actively "correcting" the folk music he collected with simplistic notation.

In this case, I feel confident that my own undergraduate training in music composition at Western Michigan University in combination with my own experience listening to Kazakh folk music gives me the necessary credentials to suggest that Dernova was being too kind. His notations of folk-songs are simplistic and confusing. Too often he relied on erratic time-signatures to represent the prevalent poly-rhythms while simultaneously neglecting to represent any but the most basic embellishments of the melodic line. Vernova's dissertation rose from a study of his original research notations, from which she concluded that once Zataevich decided to highlight the "whimsical" nature of Kazakh melody, he simply excluded the tunes which did not fit that general hypothesis.

Zataevich and his work fall into the gaze of this project because he collected several songs titled "Elim-ai," none with text attached, though each included a "vocal" line, one with dombyra accompaniment. Zataev included several pages of notes detailing the collection of the tunes and some interpretation of the un-included texts. In the case of Elim-ai, no connection is made with the Bare Footed Flight or more generally with the eighteenth century. Indeed, Zataevich explained that he collected No. 714 from a musician who explained its provenance as a tune sung by destitute Kazakhs forced to labor in the mines near Semipalatinsk in 1916.

I have transcribed Zataevich's "Elim-ai" tunes below:

No. 444

No. 493

No. 714, with dombyra accompaniment

Not long after Zataevich published his encyclopedic magnum opus, Tynyshpaev presented his work on the Bare Footed Flight in a festscrift dedicated to V. V. Bartol'd, the orientalist then guest-lecturing in Tashkent. Tynyshpaev follows Qudaiberdiev exactly in his usage of the poem, explaining that the text relates to the Flight, but giving it neither name nor tune.

As late as the 1920s, then, the song Elim-ai and the text connected to the Bare Footed Flight remained completely separate.

In the early 1930s, the Kazakh polity had changed significantly. The Arabic script had been replaced by Latin, the borders had shifted drastically to exclude Orenburg, Omsk, and Tashkent while including Verny (Alma-Ata, today's Almaty) and Ak Mechet (KyzylOrda, the capital of the Kazakh SSR until 1927). In 1933, the Union of Composers invited Evgenii Brusilovskii (1905-1982), a recent graduate of the Leningrad Conservatory, to move to the capital Alma-Ata and teach at the Kazak Music and Drama College.

Here it is important to note the changing face of Bolshevism/Communism in the 1920s and 1930s. During the early days following the Civil War, it was impossible to predict which aspects of imperial culture were sufficiently revolutionary to remain while the bourgeois portions were liquidated. However, the "cultural" production under Stalin in the 1930s very quickly returned to the "safe" Russian Romanticism of again lionizing such icons as Pushkin, Tchaikovsky, and Glinka. In this way, instead of allowing some indigenous Kazakh artform to take center-stage, the Soviet leadership quickly explained that the lack of Kazakh operas, plays, and other European artforms was a problem with an easy solution: hire Russians to write them! The level of ignorance of Kazakh culture reached such heights that some suggested the Kazakhs had no form of musical culture prior the arrival of the Soviets in 1917!

And so, not to put too fine a point on it, Brusilovskii, armed with Zataevich's book of "authentic" Kazakh tunes, had all the resources necessary to write hundreds of Soviet-Realist operas. Brusilovskii admitted that he was willing to work in Alma-ata particularly because of his fondness for Zataevich's book. Temirbek Zhurgenev, the Kazakh Commissar of Education, put the question directly: "Would it be possible for you to write an opera for us based on Kazakh folk music?" Perhaps Brusilovskii should have hesitated in his answer, because after replying in the affirmative, he was given thirty days to create the music for the opera which became the centerpiece of Kazakh national culture: Qyz zhibek. This process was undoubtedly made easier by Zataevich's work, since Brusilovskii essentially harmonized already-existent tunes before delivering them to the librettist who then set the text.

Naturally we can ask the question: were the tunes selected by Brusilovskii according to their connection with the Qyz zhibek story? And more naturally we may reply: of course not. Rather, Brusilovskii selected songs whose characteristics he felt construed the themes of the lead figures in the tale. First performed in November of 1934, the story was praised for its emphasis of the class struggle.

Brusilovskii's second opera Zhalbyr (1935) is the point to which this essay is racing, for in this work we have the actual origin of the song/text "Elim-ai," though ironically without a connection to the Bare Footed Flight in the plot of the opera. The plot of the opera revolves around a group of rebels struggling under tsarist labor conscription in 1916, which suggests that Brusilovskii took the idea from the note Zataevich attached to Song No. 714. I have transcribed here an excerpt from the opera showcasing the leit-motif, the theme "Elim-ai." Notice that, though the note to No. 714 inspired the opera's plot, the composer clearly based the motif on No. 444.

This dissertation chapter will also approach several other problems related to Elim-ai, including its supposed authorship by the legendary figure Khozhabergen, a statement made more precarious by its unequivocal stance on the poem's title being "Elim-ai." As we have seen, the text did not go with this specific title until the 1930s and its inclusion in the second Russian-composed Kazakh opera.

Over the Karatau come the nomads: The Kirgiz (Kazakhs) are changing camps; The camels are still too young to load: No baggage on their backs, no ropes in their noses! Grievous the separation from loved ones and family, And our eyes burn from tear after tear. What, then, should we call this time? It is terrible, That only past happiness is on everyone’s mind. Weather more inclement than blizzards, Dust and sand will blow us away. For us this weather is even worse Than the frost-covered fields of January. What awful times we live in! How will times of past happiness return, All the families scattered, alas the parents no longer see their children as support! There mothers, there fathers without children, And there a river of tears, weeping and weeping! Alas, so many disasters you sent, God, In your wrath! And the hard earth upon which We rest replaces our soft beds. Laying at night in pain, going in the day without strength: Our soles our swollen, though the steppe is smooth. If God could give us even a poor horse!
2 Translation
 "Over the Karatau come the nomads. With them 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."

3 The untranslated text is below:
Ем таба алмай дертиңе мен ертеден,
Сол бiр қайғың өзегiмдi өртеген.
Тырп етпейсiң бас көтерiп көрпеден,
Енсең неге түстi мұнша, елiм-ай?

Өткен сағым, келер алдың бiр мұнар,
Қызылшылсың қызарғанға тым құмар.
Сақтан деген сөздi жан жоқ шын ұғар.
Жемге шапқан, қармақ құрса, елiм-ай!

Қандай едiң, қара кейiн қайрылып.
Қандай едiң, тұрсың одан айрылып.
Мүгедек боп қос қанатың майрылып.
Өксiп жаылап өгей ұлша, елiм-ай!

Мұны құр бос өлең десең, өзiң бiл.
Жұрт болмаймын өлем десең, өзiң бiл.
Не болса да көнем десең, өзiң бiл.
Босағада жүрген құлша, елiм-ай!

Түзелесiң қашан, жұртым, оңалып?
Тiл алмасаң, кетпеймiсiң жоғалып?
Қайтер едiң өткен дәурен оралып,
Жылы жүзбен мойнын бұрса, елiм-ай!?

Сол күнiңдi көрсем -- менiң арманым,
Жоқтамас ем өзге тiлек қалғаным.
Сұм жүрегiм селк етпейдi жалғанын,
Бұл мiнезiң бойда тұрса, елiм-ай!

4 Here I follow Michael Rouland's 2005 dissertation on Zataevich and his role in the creation of the Kazakh nation and national identity. "Music and the Making of the Kazak Nation, 1920-1936." PhD Dissertation, Georgetown University.

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."

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...

After the fact

First, a digression: several centuries ago, the English language was quite a different beast. I love to look through the entries at the online etymological dictionary for insights into the changing vocabulary of English as a means to getting at the change in thinking patterns over time. Many times it is the most mundane or boring words that have the most interesting entries. A good example is the entry for "the."

For the study of history in particular I find interesting the evolution of the words "event" and "accident," which at one point were very close in meaning.

Event (Latin - Eventus: ex- "out"  + venire "to come")
Accident (Latin - Accidens. accidere:  ad- "to" + cadere "fall")

Both could be used to refer to "something that happens," but over time accident came to have the added meaning of "by chance." Though rare, this older meaning does persist in some phrases, like "accident of history." Of course, there are other meanings to consider: a car accident for one, and the philosophical accident (sometimes accidence) of Aristotle for another. In the Russian language, however, these three meanings do not belong to the same word and only the philosophical meaning is a cognate with English (Aкциденция, or Aktsidentsiia).

The reason I find this interesting is how providence or chance manifested itself in the one word and not the other. Historical events have actors, planners, executives, members, participants -- while historical accidents have participants, but not necessarily knowledgeable participants. To be fair, both historical events and accidents have victims. This difference in connotation I think is useful to discussing the measurement and judgment of historical actions and outcomes.

I enjoy anecdotes about people in "historical situations" as much as anyone, when someone recalls being in or near a certain place at the specific time when a memorable "event" or "accident" occurred. However, I believe that most of these events are measured for their importance after the fact and the chance participants are later asked to account for the momentous nature of the occasion. There seem to be two outcomes in terms of anecdotes, the first I find most convincing:
1) "No one knew at that time, but later we realized just what it meant..."
2) "Of course no one knew at the time, but one could feel that something big was going on..." 

This is my setup for a discussion of "after the fact" history.

I paraphrase Chase Robinson when I write that a large part of understanding early Kazakh history requires coming to grips with how, as Kazakh identity emerged, oral traditions were complemented and, to some extent, replaced by written history. The transformation of story to history is conditioned not only by record keeping. Religious and national/ethnic attitudes play a role as well.

Chase Robinson showcases this tendency by directly comparing early Islam with early Christianity. The early Christians were most concerned with Christ's resurrection and its implications. The early Muslims were most concerned with Muḥammad's career as God's final messenger. Consider the difference in these simple statements: the wheres, whys, and who-said-whats of Christ's prophetic career were (and are) of secondary importance to Christians, which is why any attempts to recreate the final years of Christ's life (or any years of life) rely on conjecture and contradictory accounts. Belief in Muḥammad's prophecy defined Muslims in start contrast to the other prophets that lived among the Hebrews, all of whom struggled with the disbelief and doubt of their constituents. The Muslims stand out as actually realizing a messenger of God walked among them during the lifespan of the prophet.

However, Chase Robinson points out that both of these communities (early Christians and Muslims) very quickly ran into doubters and skeptics, whose arguments had to be addressed. "How do we know that theirs was God's work?" The community of believers squabbled amongst themselves as they wrestled with these questions, the importance of which they knew to be secondary. But - the questions were answered, because they had to be, and "early Christians and early Muslims eventually came to tell the whole story.1"
What they could not remember they duly provided in the form of legends, myths, conjectures and reasonable guesses, all about things that they had no real memory of, since they had not really mattered before. This explains why Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth, which were first set down about two generations after His death, are so much less reliable as history than accounts of his Passion; while Mark and Acts reflect earlier views and say nothing of Jesus' birth, Matthew and Luke do, because these two later writers saw in it an opportunity to grind theological axes. This is also why Muslim historians began to fill in details of Muhammad's pre-prophetic career, proposing a number of inconsistent solutions to a variety of academic questions. In what kind of caravan trade were the Quraysh involved on the eve of Islam? Where and when did these caravans travel? How old, exactly, was Muḥammad at the time of his father's death? [Emphasis Added]
I would only suggest one change to Robinson's argument in this chapter. He writes, "for most Christian and Muslim historians, the purpose of history was generally not to test, probe or explain, nor to provide an accounting for all events that correspond precisely with what had once happened." I would alter this ever so slightly be removing the qualifiers 'Christian and Muslim,' since it seems to me that "most historians" throughout history had other purposes for writing, including the modern era, the American academy of historians, and even the author of this blog. It's difficult to articulate the ultimate causes for our actions, but suggesting that it is a love of objective history is confusing and not very convincing.

In short, much of what makes studying the Bare Footed Flight for my dissertation exciting is placing two problems against each other. The first problem is finding and understanding contemporary early 18th-century sources describing the destruction of the Kazakhs at the hands of the Dzhungar/Junghar/Жоңғар. The second problem is following how these sources survive and change as the importance of those same events alters over time. In other words, the answer to the question "What did the events of the early 1720s mean?" changed many times in the following centuries -- and the changes in that meaning offer a lot of useful information for the study of the region from 1700 to the present.

1 Chase F. Robinson, Islamic Historiography. Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 8-17

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Histories and Stories

I'm hoping to share more translations, but in the meantime I wanted to put together some words to articulate an idea. It's an idea I've had as long as I've studied the history of Kazakhstan. I haven't questioned or reconsidered this idea critically, though.

With many historically important events in history, I believe that one possible avenue of research is to separate the event from its name. I think the reason for this is obvious: events happen in the unending flow of time, which passes without a name more significant than the date, whether that include century, decade, year, month, day, hour, minute, and/or second.  In my research I am working on the Bare Footed Flight of the Kazakhs, but I think I can draw a useful comparison from most events in history in this regard. So, at random I picked the first event that came to mind: the shot heard round the world. Different people attach this phrase to different events, but the one I had in mind was the opening of the American Revolutionary War.

This shot (famous in America, at least) refers to the first bullet fired under orders during the American Revolutionary War, more specifically by the rebel side. When one arrives at that definition, it becomes relatively easy to trace the shot generally to a skirmish on a bridge near Concord, Massachusetts. For non-Americans, let me explain that the Battles at Lexington and Concord are taught to every American child. Or, more accurately, the names of these events are taught to every American child; the actual causes of the battles and the controversy in the colonies at the start of the war are not taught. And, to be perfectly clear, there is no historical evidence on the actual "shot heard round the world," since its importance was not suggested until years later. Even more interesting, there are contradictory accounts from the previous Battle of Lexington, so it remains possible that the "shot heard round the world" actually was fired in another place, earlier that same day. In other words, it becomes painfully obvious that that shot wasn't heard even "around the county," let alone "around the world." This is the wonderful intersection of literature and history: the American Revolution did become recognized as an important event to many people around the world, though perhaps not during the Revolution itself. At that later date, the start of the War of the American Revolution also became important.

But where does the phrase come from, if not from a historical description of gunfire and violence? For historians (and other chronically cynical people), the answer is not surprising. The phrase sprang ripe and mature from the fertile ground of patriotic imagination. About sixty years after the supposed event, the shots were memorialized by a very famous essayist and poet whose name is also taught to American children: Ralph Waldo Emerson. I can say truthfully, though, that I have no memory of learning the connection between the event and the man -- I imagine that is not something taught in schools.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
As it turns out, this event is actually a much better example than I knew when I picked it. The reason is that the phrase happens to be poetic, literally coming from a piece of poetry rather than from contemporary accounts of the shot. To reiterate, there is an important historical event: the beginning of the War of American Independence. However, sources are contradictory and difficult to parse for specific, clear pictures of how the war began. More importantly, the feelings of the people involved are largely a mystery, save for those who both articulated those feelings in writing, which itself would not be a 100% true account of their actual feelings and beliefs. While some people may have felt and believed they were living on the cusp of a historical change, for the vast majority of people it was just Wednesday, perhaps a terrible Wednesday or a normal Wednesday. So, there are two ways to approach these events, possibly in tandem: studying the historical sources related to the event itself and studying the historical sources related to the naming of the event, what I would call for our purposes the story of the event. Doing this in combination allows the reader to have a more complete understanding of the story, the origins of the story, the facts that made up that version of the story, and the array of other facts that were not a part of the story. Some of these facts were difficult to find or forgotten, certainly, but at the end of the day the person writing the story of the event was a poet, an essayist, a lecturer, and not as concerned with presenting the fullest, most complete vision of history as with the presentation with the story of that history.

In much the same way I study the Bare Footed Flight, which has both a story and a history. The story is much younger than the history, since I have struggled to find written evidence of the story dating  before 1900. Certain elements of the story, like the poem Elim-ai, do have a written history dating to the 19th century. However, there are many pieces of historical evidence contemporary to the events of the 1720s that do not agree with the story as preserved in so-called Kazakh National Culture.

And I believe that studying both the history and the story is important for approaching a more complete understanding of the history of the Kazakhs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Translation: Qudaiberdiev, "Qazaq Has No Month Names"

There are no month names in Qazaq

"Saryarqa," Issue 25, March 22, 1918. 

Our names for the months come from the names of stars [astrology]. We understand the stars' names as connected to the time of the year in which a person is born. That's why sometimes we argue whether "it's this or that month." For example, half of us say "Qangtar" and half say "Aqpan" for the star [astrological sign] of one born on the 15th of December.

In my opinion, our ancient ancestors (the ancient Turks) may have had names for the months. However, what those names were has been lost and the names of the stars we have mixed up. Those who have heard about the old months from old scholars have written to "Saryarqa." We say that maybe the old Turks didn't need to name the months. They named twelve stars [astrological signs], which made a year. Then they gave a name to each year in twelve, called a "mushel." There is also a name for each "mushel." After five times, or sixty years, the system repeats. So the Turks only paid attention to descriptions of the moon phases, as in "a new moon," "an old moon," "a full moon."

Now let's get to the stars' names. In our country there are many different names for the stars. For example, please look at the names of the months (from stars) in Issue 173 of the "Qazaq" newspaper in 1916, written out by the honored Hussein Ali mulla: in order, the months are Äz, March, Otzhaqpas, Kökek, Shilde, Sarsha, Qyrküyek, Mizan, Qarasha, Qazan, Qangtar and Aqpan, so that the name of one of them was unknown (March). However, here we call them, in order: Kökek (March), Mamyr, Mausym, Shilde, Tamyz, Mizam, Qazan, Qarasha, Zheltoqsan, Qangtar, Aqpan and one month.

Do you see the problem!? And how amazing it is that a Qazaq hearing these two can name another list of months! We see that the names of the highest stars come loosely from Arabic. For example, Mizan, Mamyr (Ma'mur), Mausym (Mausim) - these three are from Arabic. In the proverb that goes "Қараша-қауыс, кәрi-құртаңды тауыс," "Қауыс" is from Arabic. Also, in the proverb "Сәуiр болмай тәуiр болмас," the word "Сәуiр" is Arabic, and there are similar examples for the rest. My point is this: We should find old Turkic names for the months to use in Qazaq. If such names cannot be found, the people must get used to the Arabic names. If so, I think that all stars should be appointed to name only one month and the order of the stars [in astrology] must be kept in mind.

Қазақша ай аты жоқ

"Сарыарқа". 1918 22 Март. No. 25.

Бiздiң ай аты деп жүргенiмiз - жұлдыз аты. Жұлдызға қойған атты сол кездегi туған айға қоя саламыз да, ай аты деп ұғынамыз. Сол себептi кейде "бұл бәлен ай" деп таласамыз. Мысалы, декабрь жұлдызының он бесiнде туған айды жартымыз "қантар", жартымыз "ақпан" деймiз.

Менiң ойымша, бiздiң ескi тұқымда (ескi турiкте) ай аты болса керек. Бiрақ ол ескi аттар не бiржола ұмытылды, не жұлдыз аттарына араласып кеттi-ау деймiн. Осы айтылған ескi айлар туралы бiлетiндерiн ескi құлақты қариялар, оқымыстылар "Сарыарқаға" жазса екен. Ескi түрiктерде ай аты болмай қоймаса керек дегенiмiз: олар он екi жұлдызға ат қойып - бiр жыл жасап, он екi жылға ат қойып - бiр мүшел жасап, бес мүшелге ат қойып - алпыс жылдық бiр айналыс жасап отырған түрiк, "жаңа ай", "ескi ай", "толған ай" деп отырған түрiк не қылып ескерусiз қалдырсын.

Ендi жұлдыз атына келейiк. Бiздiң әр жерде жұлдыз аты әр түрлi. Мысалы, 1916 жылғы 173-нөмiр "Қазақ" газетiнде ардақты Хасенғалидың Байеке молдадан жазып алған ай (жұлдыз) атын қараңыз: әз, март, отжақпас, көкек, шiлде, сарша, қыркүйек, мизан, қараша, қазан, қаңтар һәм ақпан, ендi бiреуiнiң атын бiлмейдi. Aл бiздiң жақта: көкек (март), мамыр, маусым, шiлде, тамыз, мизам, қазан, қараша, желтоқсан, қаңтар, ақпан һәм бiрдiң айы.

Көрiңiз бе, атында қанша шатақ! Және бұл екеуiн естiген басқа түрлi ат қоюшы қазақтар мұны қандай таңырқар екен! Онан соң жоғарғы жұлдыз аттары арабшадан алынғаны көрiнiп тұр. Мысалы, мизан, мамыр (мағмур), маусым (маусим) - үшеуi де арабша. Мақалдағы "Қараша-қауыс, кәрi-құртаңды тауыс" дегендегi "қауыс", "Сәуiр болмай тәуiр болмас" дегендегi "сәуiр" арабша, тағы сондайлар толып жатыр. Мақсұт: қазақша ай атын ескi түрiкшесiн iздеп таппақ. Ол табылмаса, амалсыз арабша ай атына халықты жаттықтыру керек деп бiлемiн. Һәм жұлдыз атын тамам бiр атпен ретiн бұзбай атау керек деп ұғамын.

Notes on the Translation

Zodiac Fountain
Zodiac Fountain outside Academy of Sciences in Almaty
 Astrology and the Zodiac, while perhaps a laughable subject of study for many in the United States, provides much interesting insight in historical studies. While many dismiss astrology as useless superstition, the fact remains that many more people used to practice and study this field -- and still many people continue today, around the world.

In this article, Shahkarim mentions not only the monthly zodiac, but also the 12-year cycle. This cycle is familiar to anyone eating at a Chinese restaurant, with a few exceptions. The tiger is called a барыс, which is a more general term for large cat, including both the extinct Aral tigers and the snow leopard. The dragon is sometimes called a snail, but there are competing versions of that animal.

There are many that have looked for patterns of particularly fortunate and unfortunate years. In other words, some argue that the Barys (Tiger) year is generally one that brings about enormous change. A typical set of example years (in Kazakhstan, findable on many internet sites): AD 570 (birth year of Muhammad), 1890 (birth year of Mustafa Chokai), 1938 (Stalinist purges), 1986 ("Zheltoqsan" uprisings in Almaty), etc. Now, one can easily suggest that it's odd that Tiger years completely miss both World Wars, as far as citizens of the Russian Empire/Soviet Union were concerned.

Rabbit years are universally bad in this same system, being the years of Zhut (Жұт), famine, war, and other national catastrophes. The Bare Footed Flight of the Kazakhs supposedly began in 1723, a Rabbit year. 1963 was a Rabbit year, during which many livestock died. However, the great hero that united the Kazakhs, Ablai Khan, was born in 1711, a Rabbit year.

My point here is not to dismiss this system, but to point out that so-called "Mushel" years mattered in history at least as much as in contemporary Kazakhstan. Moreover, Shahkarim references the five-mushel-system, which I assume corresponds to the Five Element system (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water) in Chinese astrology, minus the Yin and Yang variations.

The Calendar in Kazakhstan today seems to have followed Shahkarim's suggestion: avoid Arabic names in favor of Turkic names for months. Some of the months' names are descriptive (February is Aqpan, from Aq Iqpa, or White Drifts), while others are neologisms (March is named for vernal equinox holiday Nowruz). When Shahkarim suggested avoiding Arabic names, it's not altogether clear if he meant the Arabic names of Astrological signs (in order in Kazakh spelling, starting with Aquarius): Dalu, Qut, Khamal, Kökek, Säuïr, Zauza, Saratan, Äset, Sümbile (actually Persian, not Arabic), Mïzan, Aqyrap, Qauys, and Zhädi.

Shahkarim also mentions the Arabic names of certain stars [Mizan, Mausym, Mamyr], but here I am confused. If he meant astrological signs, Mizan is the Arabic form of Libra. Mausym (mausum), also the source of English Monsoon, means season generally in Arabic, especially the difference between the rainy and dry seasons (in Kazakh: маусым, мерзiм, мезгiл). I am uncertain what Mamyr means, though perhaps it refers to al-bayt al-ma'mur, the heavenly version of the kaaba around which the angels worship. It is supposed to be directly over the kaaba in the heavens, so perhaps it is the name of a star? I have not found information that suggests or proves this directly.

List of Months/Astrological Signs:
English-Qazaq (Latin)-Qazaq (Cyrillic) - Arabic Astrological Sign (Cyrillic) - English Astrological Sign

  1. January - Qantar - Қаңтар - Дәлу - Aquarius
  2. February - Aqpan - Құт - Pisces
  3. March - Nauryz - Наурыз - Хамал - Aries
  4. April - Kokek OR Sauir - Көкек OR Сәуiр - Сәуiр - Taurus
  5. May - Mamyr - Мамыр - Зауза - Gemini
  6. June - Mausym - Маусым - Саратан  - Cancer
  7. July - Shilde - Шiлде - Әсет - Leo
  8. August - Tamyz - Тамыз - Сүмбiле (PERSIAN) - Virgo
  9. September - Qyrquiek - Қыркүйек - Мiзан - Libra
  10. October - Qazan - Қазан - Aқырап - Scorpio
  11. November - Qarasha - Қараша - Қауыс - Saggitarius
  12. December - Zheltoqsan - Желтоқсан - Жәди - Capricorn
For comparison:
Kazakh Month List A (Hussein Ali)
  1. Äz
  2. [March]
  3. Otzhaqpas
  4. Kökek
  5. Shilde
  6. Sarsha
  7. Qyrküyek
  8. Mizan
  9. Qarasha
  10. Qazan
  11. Qangtar
  12. Aqpan

Kazakh Month List B (Shahkarim)

  1. Kökek
  2. Mamyr
  3. Mausym
  4. Shilde
  5. Tamyz
  6. Mizam
  7. Qazan
  8. Qarasha
  9. Zheltoqsan
  10. Qangtar
  11. Aqpan
  12. ?