CHAPTER ONE: Alpamysh and the Turkic Dastan Genre

Alpamysh is a Turkic dastan -- ornate oral history -- and prime representative of the Turkic oral literature of Central Asia. It is the principal repository of ethnic identity, history, customs, and the value systems of its owners and composers. Set mostly in verse, the Alpamysh dastan is known and recited from the eastern Altai to the western Ural mountain ranges and as far south as Band-e Turkestan. It commemorates the Turkic people's struggles for freedom. The events leading to the composition of the dastan may date from a very early period; though some published variants depict these struggles to be against Kalmak oppressors -- perhaps the result of later overlays. A major variant of the dastan, under the title The Tale of Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse, forms part of the Book of Dede Korkut and is known in Azerbaijan and Asia Minor. Alpamysh is shared by Central Asians across the continent and knowledge of this dastan is an inseparable part of identity and national pride. Failure to know it was regarded as a source of shame.

The struggle of the Central Asians to preserve this dastan in the face of Soviet attacks upon it is the central focus of the present work. The attacks and attempts to save the

2 H. B. Paksoy

Alpamysh dastan may be divided into two "phases" -- the first is represented by the Central Asians' own efforts to record the dastan on paper and publish it widely in response to Russian occupation and ensuing Russification campaigns, Christian proselytization, "language reform," boundary revision and creation of special legal classifications and later, "nations," for Central Asians; the second "phase" involves altering the content of the dastan itself and its history or "lineage." The two "phases" are not successive and chronologically distinct, but overlap around the 1930s-1940s. The latest response to the attack has been a revival in the 1980s of dastans in a new form, as befits their own tradition.

The in-depth examination of the struggle over the Alpamysh dastan, however, is more than the study of the treatment of a single historical and literary monument. It represents Soviet policy in Central Asia and Central Asian resilience in preserving the historic identity and values. The case of Alpamysh is a documentable and representative example of Russian rule --both imperial and Soviet -- in Central Asia. The study of identity, inter alia dastans, also has political and military implications. As the academic historian and political actor Z. V. Togan noted at the time of the Bolshevik revolution, it has been the Russian tactic

ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule 3

to absorb (biologically and culturally) the smaller non-Russian nationalities. Under the slogans of "friendship of peoples," the "drawing nearer" or "merging" of the peoples of the Soviet Union and other expressions of so-called "internationalism," Russian nationalism has been at work. The Russian's aim of absorbing the Central Asians could only be realized by breaking the Central Asians' link to their own past.

Many Western groups have unwittingly aided official Russian efforts to assimilate and absorb Central Asians. This is because those in the West too often accepted uncritically Russia's self-proclaimed "civilizing mission," and Russian arguments about alleged Central Asian inferiority. Critical standards normally applied in Western assessment of Soviet economic performance are not always applied in this area of research. Ironically, the Central Asians' own resistance -- expressed in print, in their own language -- has met with hostility abroad, even among those usually critical of the Soviets, perhaps for fear of "offending" the Soviet bureaucracy.

In order to present this struggle to destroy and to save this widely shared dastan, the work at hand includes also a full-length translation of a rare pre-revolutionary printing of Alpamysh as well as synopses of others. The

4 H. B. Paksoy

discussion shall begin with the dastan genre itself and its purpose in the history of Central Asia.


For the Central Asians, the oral record, particularly dastans, is an integral part of identity, historical memory and the historical record itself. The oral tradition in Central Asia precedes the Common Era. It has been preserved across multitudes of generations. It stands, as it always has, as the final line of defense against any attempts to dominate the Central Asians culturally or politically. The topic at hand primarily concerns the Turkic speaking populations of Central Asia, especially the role of the dastans in history, culture and politics. Thus the discussion of dastan in this work is confined to that sphere. Furthermore, it will not be the purpose of the present work to discuss the broad and complex "epic" tradition, which has been studied at length, nor to explore the purely literary aspects of dastans. In this work the Central Asian dastans are kept apart from the Islamic menakib, such as gazavatnama, fetihnama and the like, the bulk of which have appeared and spread after c. 12th century, and especially since the 15th century.

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In Central Asia, the tradition of "expression and celebration of ancestral exploits and identity" is older than the use of the word dastan, which appears as a later borrowing into Turkic dialects. For example, in the Kul Tegin stelas (732 A. D.), Bilge Kagan states: "Bu sabimin adguti asid, qatigdi tinla" ("Hear these words of mine well, and listen hard!").1 Some three hundred years later, Kashgarli Mahmud, in his Diwan Lugat at-Turk (1070s) uses the word saw (sab, sav) to indicate proverbs, messages and admonitions handed down by wise men.2 About a century after Kashgarli Mahmud, Ahmet Yesevi (d. 1167) wrote: "Let the scholars hear my wisdom/ Treating my word as a dastan, attain their desires."3 Certainly the idea of marking important events with versified narrations or songs is not new. In fact, each significant event in the lives of Central Asians had its own type of "marker" song. The suyunju, celebrated good news, including the birth of the alp,4 especially after a tribe or individual had experienced difficulties. The yar-yar was sung at weddings. More than merely celebrating the union of the bride and groom, however, it also signalled the beginning of other courtships at the wedding feast. The koshtau was sung on the departure of the alp for a campaign and the estirtu when an alp's death was announced. The yogtau was sung at yog ashi, the memorial 6 H. B. Paksoy feast (after burial) to lament the death of the alp. The jir, as in batirlik jiri, is the equivalent of dastan and includes all these components. However, in most cases, the celebration of the alp's tribulations and ensuing victory is referenced by the name of the alp only. Oghuz Khan, Manas, Koroglu, Kirk Kiz are some examples. At other times, the term batir, or alp is appended to the name of the individual thus honored -- Kambar Batir, Chora Batir, Alp Er Tunga. However, despite the prevalent use of jir and kokcho (still revered in various portions of Central Asia), the term dastan is employed throughout this work, in keeping with the usage of the secondary literature. Initially, the jir and its constituent components were composed to celebrate the feats and characteristics of the alp. In doing so, it was inescapable that the exemplary individual's attributes be compared to natural phenomena since he or she possesses rare qualities. Thus the alp can run as swift as lightning; his hair glows as bright as the sun; his body, in his prime, is as sturdy as the strongest tree; his punch mightier than a thunderbolt. Such "nature imagery" draws upon the values of shamanism, the dominant belief system of Central Asian Turks prior to the arrival of Islam in the 8th century A. D. Moreover, the use of the term bahsi (also ozan) designating the reciter of the jir also has shamanistic connotations. Such beliefs are

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discernible in the symbolism of the composition of the "marker songs." Later religious beliefs and practices are juxtaposed as additional layers, and can be easily identified.

Traditionally, a dastan is composed by an ozan5 in order to celebrate a memorable event in the life of his people. The ozan will usually set the events in verse and recite them while accompanying himself on a stringed instrument.6 The dastan typically depicts the alp, the travails of a central character, fighting against the collective enemies of his people and tribe, and under whose leadership the longed for victory is achieved. The trials and tribulations endured by this preeminent leader, though aggravated by one or more traitors, are in due course alleviated by a full supporting cast. Nor is the theme of love a stranger to the plot. Often a central figure, the loved one, is abducted by the enemy, only to be rescued by his or her mate after much searching, fighting and sacrifice. There are attempts by the foes and the traitors to extort favors of various sorts from the lovers, but this does not deter the resolve or the eventual triumph of the principal personages. The traitors, frequently from the same tribe as the alp, collaborate with the enemy or abuse the trust of their people and their leaders. However, none of this prevents the inescapable

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success of the alp in the end. The traitors receive their due, being now and then executed for their sins but customarily forgiven and allowed to roam the earth in search of reconciliation between themselves and God. Reference to similar past experiences is standard and reinforces the very important link to earlier dastans.7 Motifs or whole episodes from earlier dastans may be repeated, sometimes with variations, in new dastans. Religious motifs emerge in descriptions of practices and beliefs. Among the Islamic practices earlier modes of worship are apparent. The narration of the dastan, in verse or prose, may also allude to supernatural powers.8

The road to success is fraught with seemingly insurmountable barriers. At times, it appears that the cherished goal of regaining freedom is out of reach. In spite of the immense suffering of the alp and the overwhelming might of the enemy, in the end the people are freed from slavery, thanks to the alp's exemplary character, bravery, strength, and superhuman determination. Freedom is invariably celebrated with a lavish toy (feast) and festivities.

The dastan is revered not only as the word of the forefathers and repository of customs and traditions of the

ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule 9

creators and their descendants, but also because it is the narration of how the enemy was defeated. It celebrates the victory and the success of the leader-alp, and the unity, despite all odds.

The dastan is the collective pride of tribes, confederations of tribes or even larger units, serving as birth certificate, national anthem and mark of citizenship all rolled into one.9 The dastan itself provides the framework to bond a coherent oymak, the ancestral unit, a division of a greater tribe.10 The terms "boy"- clan; "soy" (also, "urug") - family, lineage, are also used to denote subdivisions within a confederation, in which family relations and obligations are well defined and of central importance. Members of the oymak share one language, religion and history. The name of the oymak serves as the surname of an individual as was true for those who fled the Bolsheviks in the 1920s. It can be observed also among the refugees fleeing Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion of 1979. The dastan travels with the Central Asians and, like its owners, it is not limited by geographic frontiers. Indeed, the idea of boundaries in the Western sense were alien to the nomadic societies of Central Asia and imposed on them late in their history. The ancestral homeland and grazing

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pastures, called "yurt" (although the term originally defined the mark left by the cylindrically shaped tent, the tirik) were selected on the basis of traditional, historical, and lineage rights of a given oymak. The necessity to undertake biannual migrations in search of fresh pastures for the livestock complicated the definition of a rigidly-defined "homeland".

In the event that the heirs of a dastan face new threats to their freedom, the importance of the dastan is reinforced. Should the enemy somehow prevail over the oymak, the dastan, by providing an unbreakable link to the past, affords the inspiration to seek independence once again. The fact that more than one oymak may identify with a given dastan has far-reaching implications. In this context, Alpamysh enjoys a very special place among dastans, for all major Turkic tribal units have at least one version which they call their own, although they may exhibit local variations.

The theory that all major dastans are but a restructuring of the fragments of a "mother dastan" has been advanced by A. Inan. According to this theory, Oghuz Kagan is the first dastan and throughout the ages fragments of it have been salvaged from obscurity and embellished by new experiences of other tribes of common ancestry.11 In addition, it is

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said that the Oghuz Kagan dastan has also influenced other dastans, some non-Turkic ones.12

Generally, the contents of dastans are jealously guarded against any major textual changes. The prevailing attitude seems to be: "It has been handed down to us as such, and we'll keep it that way".13 For a given version, not even the minor details are permitted to be dropped or allowed to be changed by the ozan.14 Therefore, traditionally, new dastans are created only under two circumstances: (A) when a major new alp successfully concludes the feats proper to his calling and it is time to celebrate his exploits; (B) when the possessors of a given dastan are threatened with the yoke of an outsider.

(A) Traditionally, every successful major feat must be celebrated by a toy. At such a gathering, "mountains of meat" are cheerfully devoured, and "lakes of kimiz"15 joyfully drained. The center piece of the festivities was the recitation of the dastan which in a real sense sanctified the occasion. If the event preceding the toy was of sufficiently monumental proportions in the minds of its participants and observers, then the ozan may see fit to create a new dastan, which will place the current alp-leader on a

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pedestal. Portions of the new dastan will certainly be borrowed from the older dastans, and the older ones will not be forgotten. It would be a mistake, however, to regard this as plagiarism. The new alp is simply being compared to his predecessors, reassuring the audiences of this new alp's prowess and exemplary and noble qualities, thereby forming yet another link with the collective past. The intention is to prove that he is every bit as brave and resourceful as the ancient Alps. This borrowing need not be verbatim. The ozan may decide to recall worthy incidents or motifs from a more ancient dastan, either by directly quoting these older passages or by adapting them to contemporary needs. This may be one reason for the existence of at least fifty Turkic dastans (exclusive of their variants).

It is conceivable that the audience too may participate in the creation of the new dastan, just as they serve as a judge of the authenticity and completeness of an old one. The listeners are continually evaluating the performance and verifying its contents, comparing it to other recitations they have heard. The ozan usually provides the longest possible version of the dastan in deference to his audience. Manas, the great Kirghiz dastan is a prime example of this love of detail. It contains one million lines and requires up to six months to perform. The

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ornaments of the alp's saddle alone may require many tens of lines to portray adequately.16 If the ozan is for any reason inclined to abbreviate the full narration, the assembled audience will feel cheated and will inevitably protest. In a similar vein, it is not inconceivable that during the creation of a new dastan the audience may suggest the borrowing of certain descriptions from other dastans, which better describe, for example, the details of the alp's sword or headgear.

During extended periods of relative stability, some of the dastans may "spin off" their lyrical parts, thus allowing the creation of new romantic dastans. In this case, the motifs related to the fight to throw off the yoke of an invading oppressor are subordinated to the romantic portions of a dastan. A young man meets a beautiful girl, they fall in love, they desire to be married. However, either the parents do not give their consent or the girl is betrothed to another. The prospective groom may undergo a series of tests or have to overcome monumental difficulties, enduring severe hardships to prove his love. Success brings a happy ending and the lovers are finally united in marriage, although the "happy ending" is by no means always assured.

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Tahir ve Zuhre is an example of such a romantic dastan, seemingly having been "spun off" from Alpamysh. Vambery had encountered Tahir ve Zuhre when he masqueraded as a dervish in Central Asia in the 1860s. He subsequently included portions of it in one of his works.17 Vambery was in Central Asia at a time when inter-tribal rivalry was in decline and immediate Russian pressure was still minimal. This relative calm seems to have favored the development of a romantic dastan. A version of Tahir ve Zuhre was also discovered in Kashgar.18

Later, the lyrical dastans may also have been converted, or simplified into masal or folk tales, perhaps intended to be used much like nursery rhymes, recited to cranky children to help pass the long winter nights.19

When a new leader-alp emerges to take charge of a given tribe or confederation, it is usually out of a desperate need to fight for their rights and traditional way of life. The tribe or confederation may have fallen under the rule of an outside power. If this group is lucky enough to have reared an able alp to lead them, they will either stand and fight on the spot or else migrate beyond their reach (at times temporarily), using elaborate ruses to confuse any pursuit.

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If in the course of previous conflicts the tribe in question has lost many of its young men, or if prevailing circumstances are not favorable, then they may have to wait for a generation or two to act. Under these conditions, an old dastan may be modified to suit foreseeable future needs or a brand new dastan may be constructed from the fragments of several old ones.20

During this gestation period (literal as well as figurative) the dastan is the sole source of consolation. It not only keeps the fires of revenge burning, but also conditions the children psychologically for future "alply" duties. The dastan, then, is employed to convey the aspirations of the present generation to those of the future. The dastan becomes a last will and testament.21 In this case, the adaptation process alluded to above (that is, borrowing motifs from other dastans) may be subtle or not, depending on the languages spoken by the oppressors or the relative distance of the homeland from that of the invaders. If the comparison of the new and the ancient alps can be freely made (i. e. without interference from the suzerain or his administrators), the similarities may not be hidden. If, on the other hand, there is reason to be cautious, borrowed motifs will be cleverly concealed. Only those who are familiar with the original dastan (or with

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the alp) will be able to detect the similarities and understand its new message.22

Since Alpamysh has only been printed under Russian imperial and Soviet administrations, it is instructive to note the description of the dastan in the most accessible Soviet sources. Below is the definition of "dastan" as it appears in the Uzbek Sovet Entsiklopediyasi (USE). "Specific to Eastern literature, multipart lyrical-epic style poetic work. In the dastan, the known historical developments of the people's life are characterized. The essence of traditions, folk tales and legends of the people is related by the bards. In format, as can be observed in various Uzbek literary and folkloric examples, verse is mixed with prose.

"...beginning with the oldest times, the dastan genre is divided into three categories: heroic (for example, in Uzbek folklore, Alpamysh); romantic (many examples) and didactic (such as the Kutadgu Bilig by Yusuf Hass Khajib, Navai's Hayrat ul-Abrar). In some dastans, all three of the above attributes are united (for example

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Navai's Saddi Iskandari is both romantic and didactic).

"The Uzbek dastan has ancient roots. Even in the primitive period, the creative powers of our people began to be seen in their heroic epics. This is verified by the contents of the funerary monuments erected along the banks of the Yenisey and Orkhon rivers, in memory of Kul Tegin and Bilge Kagan (5th-8th centuries), and by the Divan-i Lugat it-Turk (1076-1077) of the medieval Mahmud Kashgari who included literary pieces to this effect in his work....

"In the examples referred to above of literary works of the old civilizations, it is also possible to observe the liberation struggles of Oghuz, Kipchak, Kirghiz, Yagma and Sogdian tribal units against wandering raiders. The defense of their homelands by force of arms, their victories and the rout of their enemies are elaborated in epic style....

"The Book of Dede Korkut, of the ancient literature of the Turkic peoples (written down in the 16th century), displays the format of the

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peoples' epic-lyric style literature and the summarized characteristics above. It contains 12 stories, depicting the exploits of the powerful Oghuz heroes and their Khan Bayindir. What is important is the fact that the narrator of these stories, Dede Korkut, is also a participant in the events he chronicles and is an advisor to the ruling elite. Furthermore, the story of Bamsi Beyrek in the Book of Dede Korkut is an ancient variant of the Alpamysh dastan. It displays detailed scenes from the heroic deeds of the Oghuz people and their patriarchal structure, the courage in combat of their valiant fighters, confirming the evolution of this literary genre....

"...legendary warlike abilities of selfless heroes as perceived by the masses are reflected in these types of works."23

By contrast, the Bol'shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia (BSE), under "dastan" speaks of the "Persian epic genre; among which The Book of Dede Korkut is an example." It states that "Firdousi's Shahname is one such work, among others." The entry, of approximately 240 words, refers only in passing to the fact that there are "Uzbek, Karakalpak, and

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Turkic dastans as well".24 The article "dastan" in the USE (cited above) contains almost 1000 words.

The USE entry contains references to three specific works as predecessors of the dastan genre. They are also hailed as the ancient literary treasures of the Central Asian Turkic peoples and the messages they bear may be found also in the dastan Alpamysh. Below are some relevant passages from two of those treasures -- the Kul Tegin inscriptions (early 8th c.) and Kutadgu Bilig (mid-11th c.).

The Kul Tegin Inscriptions

"When the blue sky above and the reddish-brown earth below were created, between the two, human beings were created... my ancestors Bumin Kagan and Istami Kagan became rulers... they organized

The tablet then describes the "unwise" successors who let the state go to ruin and the "unruliness" of the people who were seduced by the "soft words and soft materials" of the Chinese, left their own country and submitted to the Chinese, became their servants and slaves, gave up their

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Turkish titles and adopted Chinese titles, and went on military campaigns to conquer for the Chinese emperor. "Then, the Turkish common people apparently said as follows: 'We used to be a people who had an (independent) state. Where is our own state now? For whose benefit are we conquering these lands?' they said. 'We used to be a people who had its own kagan. Where is our own kagan now? To which kagan are we giving our services?'

[Despite the Chinese decision to kill the potentially rebellious Turks,] the Turkish god above and the Turkish holy earth and water (spirits below) ... held my father, Ilteris Kagan, and my mother, Ilbilga Katun, at the top of heaven and raised them upwards... (My father, the kagan) after he had founded (such a great) empire and gained power, passed away....

"We had such a well-acquired and well-organized state and institutions. You, Turkish and Oguz lords and peoples, hear this! If the sky above did not collapse, and if the earth below did not give way, O Turkish people, who would be able to destroy your state and institutions? O Turkish

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people, regret and repent! Because of your unruliness, you yourselves betrayed your wise kagan who had (always) nourished you, and you yourselves betrayed your good realm which was free and independent, and you (yourselves) caused discord. From where did the armed [sic] come and put you to flight? From where did the lancer come and drive you away? You, people of the sacred Otukan mountains, it was you who went away... your (only) profit was the following: your blood ran like a river, and your bones were heaped up like a mountain; your sons worthy of becoming lords became slaves, and your daughters worthy of becoming ladies became servants."25

Kutadgu Bilig

156 Wisdom proclaims its own meaning thus: when a man knows wisdom, then illness stays far from him... Intellect is a leading rein: if a man leads by it, he achieves his goal and enjoys countless desires. A man of intellect provides a multitude of benefits and a man of wisdom is very precious. With intellect a man accomplishes all his affairs, and with wisdom he preserves from spoils his allotted time.

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186 I speak these words and give this counsel to you... If I bequeath to you gold and silver, do not consider that to be equal to these words. Apply silver to affairs and it will be used up, but apply my words and you will gain silver. Words are one man's legacy to another. So hold to the legacy of my words, and the profit therefrom will be a hundredfold.

317 Intellect is a good friend who is bound to you by oath, and wisdom is a brother to you, very loyal. To the ignoramus, his own "wisdom" and his own deeds are enemies: even if he has no others, these two are enough trouble for him. The following Turkish proverb has come down illustrating this truth -- read it and take it to heart: To the man of intellect, intelligence is a sufficient companion; to the man of ignorance, a curse is sufficient name.

2386 If the enemy attacks, do not turn your back. Stand firm and his attack will be broken. If he moves, move after him; push on, march forward, do not stand still.26

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The Kul Tegin inscriptions leave a clear message: Your ancestors were surrounded by hostile forces and nations, they made several mistakes -- they did not appreciate their wise rulers, they left their homeland and settled among enemy peoples who promise luxury; they did not use their wits and as a result were almost annihilated. The Turks finally woke up and fought their way to freedom. Do not repeat their mistakes, otherwise you might not get another chance for freedom. When the Turks were united, they were strong, all their enemies stayed away from them. When they became fragmented, they became slaves. Do not be deceived by presents that are designed to placate you. Those nations who give you such presents are actually plotting to exterminate your lineage by separating you from your homeland.

The message of Kutadgu Bilig also is clear: Think, learn, be wise. Value wisdom and intelligence above material riches. The words of the wise are your legacy -- pass on your knowledge to the future generations. Do not fear anything except ignorance and the ignoramus; use your intellect; there are brave and knowledgeable Turks in the past who have done great deeds, they were manly. Money cannot accomplish these things, but if you follow their example you will have money, too. Handing down your experiences is not without danger. However, the potential

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results are well worth the risk -- your legacy is important. Pursue your enemy, do not turn back, be brave. The dastan Alpamysh contains elements from all of the ancestral admonitions noted above -- the appreciation and love of homeland and the dire consequences of settling among adversaries, the beauty of the native language, bravery in battle, the unbridled desire for freedom and the readiness to fight for it, the longing for the cohesion and dignity of the larger family unit, respect for elders and loyalty to members of the family and friends, the necessity of keeping your word, the importance of utilizing one's own wits.

Despite the large area inhabited by the tens of millions of Turks of Central Asian origin, and despite the inevitable diversity of their political experiences throughout history, their differential patterns of nomadism and settlement, adoption of Islam (from the 9th to 18th centuries), and separate treatment and legal classification since the Russian conquests (16th-19th c), there is still great linguistic and cultural unity among them. They constitute something like an enormous, varied family, but with numerous shared customs, values and traditions -- even apart from the Islamic -- as well as mutually intelligible linguistic dialects. These are reflected in the many Turkic

ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule 25

dastans known across Central Asia, Caucasia and Anatolia and were reinforced by realignments at various times -- over the centuries -- of Turkic subtribal units into new tribes or tribal confederations. That Alpamysh is so widely shared demonstrates this firm common ground. Other dastans and written works are also referred to by present-day Central Asians as antecedents to their contemporary language, proverbs and customs.27 The grey wolf legend of the Oghuz Khan dastan (Oghuzname) is part of the "creation mythology" among many groups that regard themselves as descendants of the Oghuz Turks. Contemporary Central Asian scholars and writers emphasize DLT and the Orkhon inscriptions and Kutadgu Bilig as sources for the study of their own written literature and linguistic forms. All this reflects a far greater degree of cultural-linguistic unity -- and the knowledge of it on the part of the Central Asians -- than is suggested by the Russians' artificial use of "separate language" and "nation" terminology. At the same time, this is most emphatically not to be confused, as some writers have done, with Pan-Turkism (sometimes "Pan-Turanism"). Pan-Turkism has long been defined as a movement, ostensibly by Turks, to establish hegemony over the world, or at least Eurasia. A few remarks on this misconception seem appropriate.

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This "Pan" movement has no historical ideological precedent among Turks and has been documented to be a convenient political creation of the age of European imperial expansion. Following the Russian occupation of Tashkent in 1865, which seemed to threaten British India and to which the British responded with their "Forward Policy," the doctrine called "Pan-Turanism" or "Pan-Turkism" appeared in a work by Hungarian Orientalist Arminius Vambery. He described a great potential Turkic state stretching from the Bosphorus to the Great Wall. Its aim was to encourage the Turks to form a buffer between the expanding Russian empire and the British Raj, to check the Russian advance toward South. At the same, this "Pan" movement seemed to justify any action to defend "Christendom," as in the age of the crusades. Vambery, it is now known, was working for the British government.28

The doctrine was invented, propagated and attributed to the Turks by the Europeans, particularly the British, as a diplomatic tool in their relations with each other and with the declining Ottoman Empire. Dubbed the "Great Game in Asia" by Kipling and others, the origins and character of this contest have been amply discussed by E. Ingram.29 The Russians, too, invoked this artificial doctrine for their own purposes. With the encouragement of the government, Russian journalists and academics began to portray their

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conquests of Central Asia as belated revenge against earlier manifestations of "Pan-Turanianism," such as Timur's (d. 1405) invasion of Muscovy and more indirectly, the imposition of the "Tatar yoke" by the descendants of Chingiz Khan (d. 1227).

The doctrine was embellished by French historian, L. Cahun, in his Introduction a l'Histoire de l'Asie, Turcs, et Mongols, des Origines 140530 which argues that a belief in his own racial superiority motivated the conquests of the Mongol Chingiz Khan. It is perhaps not coincidental that this book was published on the heels of the 1893-1894 Franco-Russian rapprochement, at a time when Russia justified its conquest of Central Asia as part of its own "civilizing mission."

In the Secret History of the Mongols, written shortly after the death of Chingiz Khan in 1227, there is, of course, no reference to the racial superiority of the Mongols. Instead, it quotes Chingiz: "Tangri opened the gate and handed us the reins,"31 indicating that Chingiz regarded only himself ruling by divine order. Chingiz himself was and remained the focus of power, as opposed to the clans under his rule. In any event, the Mongols are not Turks and Mongol armies were distinctly multi-racial.32

28 H. B. Paksoy

Another representative sample of this early phase of the "movement" is A Manual on the Turanians and Pan-Turanianism33 (published by the British Admiralty, during the First World War) a work based on Vambery's Turkenvolk34 and compiled by Sir Denison Ross.35 Even Alexander Kerensky, in Paris exile after the Bolshevik Revolution, was utilizing the same "Turanian" rhetoric, calling it "a menace threatening the world."36 Despite its European origins and its European goals, the idea took root among some Central Asian emigres, especially those living in Europe, as it promised the removal of the Russian occupation and subsequent colonization in their homelands.

Accusations of "Pan-Turkism" are still employed today, especially but not exclusively in the Soviet Union, against even cultural movements, scholarly works on the common origins and language of the Turks, used specifically as a charge against those who refute the Soviet position that the Turkish dialects are separate and distinct "languages," and even against the use in works of art of such symbols as the crescent moon, which, in any event, is an Islamic symbol.

ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule 29

History, politics and literature have always been inseparable in Central Asia. This tradition is continuing as always, regardless of the mode of government. Therefore, it is imperative that one be equipped with the necessary historical knowledge to understand fully the implications of any particular historical or literary work. The interrelations of historical references to present conditions roughly display the political tendencies or positions current at the time of writing. From all indications, appearing in the Central Asian press, in their dialects, what the Central Asians are interested in is nothing short of a "commonwealth" of Turki speakers (akin to the "commonwealth of English speakers" around the globe), building upon their historical culture. After all, the Central Asians are living on their ancestral lands.


The Turkic dastan genre has been subjected to a limited type and amount of study by the scholarly world, both Eastern and Western. It is limited in that attention has been focused on the format and translation, as opposed to the reasons why they were composed. Moreover, the effects of the dastans on the populations whose ancestors had created this ornate oral history are seldom if ever

30 H. B. Paksoy

discussed. On the contrary, the dastan genre has been classified by Russians of the tsarist and Soviet regimes solely as folklore. In return, the folklore studies have been elevated to the level of "hard science."37 Such terminology is then imposed on the Central Asian scholars interested in working on the topic.

Major Central Asian collectors and scholars of dastans who stress the importance of the ornate oral histories are A. A. Divay (Divaev)38, Hamid Alimjan [Olimjan], Gazi Alim, M. Ghabdullin, Tura Mirzaev, T. Sydykov, and the Russian V. M. Zhirmunskii, all of whose works are discussed below. In the West, there are a number of interested researchers concerned with oral literature39 and the epic. Between 1964 and 1972, a seminar to study the "traditions of the epic" was led by Prof. Arthur Hatto at Queen Mary College of London University. The participants, mainly scholars with a common interest in epic poetry, by and large concentrated on acquainting each other, and those who cared to read the ensuing works, with the genre in general. One of the fruits of the London Seminar on the epic was published in 1980.40

Since the 1960s Western researchers have been taking more interest in dastans, particularly in the problem of

ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule 31

translation. Besides the translations of the works cited above (the Orkhon tablets, Divan-i Lugat it-Turk and Kutadgu Bilig), the dastans The Book of Dede Korkut, and Kokotoy (a cycle of Manas)41 are two of the more notable complete works that have been rendered into English. Geoffrey L. Lewis, in the introduction to his Dede Korkut translation seems to be the only Western scholar to date who has addressed the question of why the dastan was created. A. T. Hatto, on the other hand, explored the possible political use of Kokotoy in the latter part of the 19th century.42

Zeki Velidi Togan published four papers under the general title Turk Milli Destaninin Tasnifi (Classification of Turks' National Dastan) in 1931.43 According to Togan: "National dastans, rather than describing precise historical events, reflect a nation's spirit and feelings. Dastans may or may not, in their entirety, be based on historical events.

However, they are people's literary monuments. Dastans pass through three evolutionary stages: (1.) Folk poets relate, in small pieces, a series of ventures from various periods; (2.) An event which concerns the entire nation channels these fragments into a focal point, forming a dastan;

32 H. B. Paksoy

(3.) In the end when a nation faces a monumental event, an enlightened poet collects these fragmentary dastans to create the great national dastan...

"Turks have been through the second stage several times. The dastans which collect the ideals of the Turkish nation came into being due to events such as the rule of Oghuz. However, these dastans did not enter the third stage of collection by a great poet in order to become an evolved national dastan. As yet we have only fragments of the great dastans."

Another exception is N. Atsiz, who wrote a number of works on the importance of dastans and pointed to the following debate between Z. V. Togan and F. Koprulu: "Togan, though conceding that the stories pertaining to Danishmend Ghazi and Seyid Battal Ghazi may have taken their themes from the Islam- Byzantium struggles in Anatolia, maintained that these struggles did not reflect the Seljuk period, but the earlier Arab era. Consequently, Togan did not regard them as Turkic dastans. On the other hand, F. Koprulu did not share this

ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule 33

view, stressing the position that these stories may have been born among the Turkic elements present in the Umayyad and especially Abbasid armies during Islam-Byzantium struggles in Anatolia."44

The history of the study of the Alpamysh dastan in the Russian Empire/Soviet Union is complex and interweaves the collection, publishing and republishing since the late 19th century. This was the key arena in which "Phase I" of the struggle to obliterate and to save the dastan was fought. These processes are linked to Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) policy directives to the Oriental Institutes of the USSR and the latter's activities. It is to this "first phase" of the struggle embodied in these broad issues of collection, publishing and the surrounding events that we turn in the next Chapter.

34 H. B. Paksoy


1. T. Tekin, A Grammar of Orkhon Turkic, (Bloomington, 1968, P. 231. Both the original and the translation are from this source.
2. Diwan Lugat at-Turk by Kashgarli Mahmud (written in 1070s), was translated as A Compendium of the Turkic Dialects by Robert Dankoff in collaboration with James Kelly, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982-85). The volume was printed in the Sources of Oriental Literature series, Sinasi Tekin and Gonul Alpay Tekin, editors, Harvard (Volumes, labelled "Parts" I, II, III published in 1982, 1984, 1985, respectively. This term is defined in Part III, p. 157, and used on p. 227 of Part II (P. 512 of the manuscript).
3. Meni hikmetlerim dana eshitsin/ Sozum dastan kilib maksadiga yitsin. See K. Eraslan, Hikmet (Ankara, 1983), P. 280.
4. The term alp is used interchangeably with batir, batur, bagatur meaning "valiant," "gallant," "brave" as attributes of a skilled and fearless champion tested in battle or contest. See Sir Gerard Clauson, An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth-Century Turkish (Oxford, 1972), 127. See also the entry "Batir," in John Hangin, A Concise English-Mongolian Dictionary (Indiana, 1970), 270.
5. In The Book of Dede Korkut, the bard is called an ozan. See the translation by G. L. Lewis (Penguin, 1974). Such a person is also called bahshi, akin, ashik, shaman, kam in various locations. Gazi Alim uses "akin," whereas Hamid Alimjan calls the reciter "bahshi."
6. Usually this musical instrument is referred to as kobuz or kopuz. A descendant of kopuz is still known and used as saz or baglama in Asia Minor. A representative sample may be seen in the Pitt-Rivers Museum. For a full description, with photographs, see Bolat Saribaev, Kazaktin Muzikalik Aspaptari (Alma-Ata, 1978). Also Doerfer, "Turkische und Mongolische Elemente," Neupersischen III (Wiesbaden, 1967), 1546.
7. Even the Orkhon inscriptions of the early 8th century A. D. employ flashbacks.
8. Boratav theorized that the supernatural content of literature in oral tradition is directly proportional to the distance it has travelled from its birthplace. That is, the further away from the location where the work was originally composed, the more magical elements it will contain. See P. N. Boratav, Halk Hikayeleri ve Hikayeciligi (Ankara, 1946).

ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule 35

9. Political borders and boundaries have not applied to the Central Asians until such artificial limitations were forcibly imposed upon them quite recently. See Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, (Tr. N. Walford) (New Brunswick, NJ, 1970), 221-2, 253; also see O. Caroe. Soviet Empire, the Turks of Central Asia and Stalinism (London, 1953); also Zeki Velidi Togan, Bugunku Turkili Turkistan ve Yakin Tarihi, (2nd. Ed.) (Istanbul, 1981).
10. See Z. V. Togan, Turkistan, 39, Note 18. See also I. Kafesoglu, Turk Milli Kulturu (Istanbul, 1984) (3rd. Ed.), passim.
11. A. Inan, Makaleler ve Incelemeler (Ankara, 1968). See also Z. V. Togan, Oguz Destani (Istanbul, 1972); H. N. Orkun, "Oguz Destanina Dair," Ulku, V. 5, Sayi 30, 1935; F. Sumer, "Oguzlara Ait Destani Mahiyette Eserler," Ankara Universitesi DTC Fakultesi Dergisi, 1959; and, D. Sinor, "Oguz Kagan Destani Uzerine Bazi Mulahazalar," (Tr. from French by Ahmet Ates) Turk Dili ve Edebiyati Dergisi, 1952.
12. See introduction to Secere-i Terakime (Facsimile) (Ankara, 1937); A. Inan, "Destan-i Cengiz Han Kitabi Hakkinda," in Azerbaycan Yurt Bilgisi, Year 3, No. 25, 1934.
13. G. M. H. Schoolbraid, The Oral Epic of Siberia and Central Asia (Indiana, 1975).
14. The ozan also had other duties within the oymak. See Fuat Koprulu, "Ozan," in Azerbaycan Yurt Bilgisi, No. 3. 1932. Reprinted in the same author's Edebiyat Arastirmalari (Istanbul, 1966).
15. Kimiz is fermented mare's milk. It is a very popular traditional drink among Central Asians.
16. See the description in A. T. Hatto, The Memorial Feast for Kokotoy Han (London, 1977). This work is a short cycle of Manas.
17. See Arminius Vambery, Chaghataische Sprachstudien (Pest, 1867), 154. (Reprinted by Philo Press, Amsterdam, 1975).
18. Tahir bila Zohra, Original Chaghatay text; (German translation by G. Raquette) (Lund, 1930).
19. A collection of "converted" masal may be found in Amina Shah, Folk Tales of Central Asia, London, 1975).
20. Chora Batir appears to be such a dastan, modified in mid-16th c. For an overview of this dastan, see H. B. Paksoy "Chora Batir: A Tatar Admonition to Future Generations," Studies in Comparative Communism Vol. XIX Nos. 3 and 4, 1986.

36 H. B. Paksoy

21. Examples of such successful gestation periods, among others, are found in Oghuz Han; N. Ural, Ergenekon (Ankara, 1972) and Kul Tegin.
22. See H. B. Paksoy, "Central Asia's New Dastans," in Central Asian Survey (Hereafter CAS), V. 6, N. 1.
23. Uzbek Sovet Entsiklopediyasi (Tashkent, 1971), 112-4. Henceforth: USE.
24. Bol'shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia, Third Edition (Moscow, 1978), Vol. 1, 458. Henceforth, BSE.
25. The passages cited are taken from the Tekin translation (cited in Note 1, this Chapter), 263-267, with corrected spellings.
26. Kutadgu Bilig by Balasagunlu Yusuf, completed in 1077, translated by Dankoff as Wisdom of Royal Glory (Chicago, 1983). The passages cited are taken from the Dankoff translation, including the associated line numbers.
27. See, for example, Azerbaijan filologiyasy meseleleri, No. 2 (Baku, 1984) for more than a dozen essays by various scholars on these topics, including repeated discussion of the Orkhon inscriptions, DLT and several analyses of the dastan Dede Korkut. A similar pattern is evident across Central Asia, in virtually every 'Republic.'
28. For archival references, see M. Kemal Oke, "Prof. Arminius Vambery and Anglo-Ottoman Relations 1889-1907" Bulletin of the Turkish Studies Association, Vol. 9, No. 2. 1985.
29. See his The Beginnings of the Great Game in Asia 1828-1834 (Oxford, 1979); idem, Commitment to Empire: Prophecies of the Great Game in Asia 1797-1800 (Oxford, 1981); idem, In Defense of British India: Great Britain in the Middle East 1775-1842 (London, 1984).
30. Published (Paris, 1896).
31. See Mogollarin Gizli Tarihi (A. Temir, Trans.) (Ankara, 1948), (P. 227). There is also a more recent English translation by F. Cleaves.
32. See T. Allsen, Mongol Imperialism (Berkeley, 1987); M. Rossabi, Khubilai Khan (Berkeley, 1988).
33. Issued by H. M. Government, Naval Staff Intelligence Department (Oxford, November 1918).
34. Published (Leipzig, 1885).

ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule 37

35. On this work, and the identification of its author, see Togan's comments in Turkistan, 560-563.
36. For additional references, see H. B. Paksoy, "Central Asia's New Dastans." Also a work under the title Turkismus und PanTurkismus by M. Cohen (whose pseudonym was Tekin Alp; a colleague of Ziya Gokalp and Omer Seyfettin during 1910s) was published in Weimar (Verlag Gustav, Kiepenheurer, 1915). It appears that British Admiralty had this work translated into English, from German, and classified it "secret." See C. W. Hostler, Turkism and the Soviets (London, 1957).
37. See for example V. Propp, Morfologiia skazki (Leningrad, 1928), translated by The American Folklore Society & Indiana University Research Center for the Language Sciences, published jointly by Indiana University and The University of Texas Press: Morphology of the Folktale (Austin, 1968).
38. Divaev is the form used in Russian language sources. Togan, a fellow Bashkurt, refers to him as Divay. See Chapter Two for additional details on Divay.
39. One such example is Heda Jason, "Oral Literature and the Structure of Language," Rand P-3758 1968, submitted to Current Anthropology, Chicago; idem, "A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Oral Literature: A Proposal," Rand P-3733 1968. (First read to the American Anthropological Association, Washington D. C., 1967).
40. Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry, A. T. Hatto, Editor. (London, 1980).
41. Hatto's Kokotoy-Khan, cited in Note 16 above.
42. See the Introduction to the Commentary by Hatto, in his Kokotoy, Pp. 90-91.
43. Z. V. Togan, "Turk Milli Destaninin Tasnifi," in Atsiz Mecmua, May, June, July, September 1931, cited in, N. Atsiz, Turk Tarihinde Meseleler (Istanbul, 1975), 157.
44. N. Atsiz, ibid.

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