Central Asia Reader: The Rediscovery of History

By H. B. Paksoy | Go to book overview

clearly intended to undermine the civilization they aimed to subjugate. Under tsarist and Soviet rule, a confusing and shifting variety of legal statuses, borders, ethnic designations, and linguistic divisions were imposed on the subject populations of the region.5

The effort to recover the true history of the region, as opposed to Moscow's version of "voluntary unifications" and the like, has engaged Central Asian writers with unprecedented urgency. The selections in this volume exemplify this effort. Most of them were written within the past few years, but some date back to earlier periods of political ferment.6

Since this region of the world always belonged to the Central Asian peoples, whose ancient culture, monuments, written documents, and original writing systems predate by centuries the first mention of the Rus in the chronicles, no attempt was made to Russianize place or personal names. Except for proper names already established in English, all names and terms have been transliterated directly from the language or dialect in which they were first produced.

Editor's notes have been added where appropriate to clarify concepts or allusions that may be unfamiliar for Western readers and also to direct readers' attention to related works and sources. The specialists whose translations are included herein are Audrey L. Altstadt, Hisao Komatsu, Shawn T. Lyons, Joseph Nissman, H.B. Paksoy, and David S. Thomas.

Many of the documents assembled in this collection were first published in translation in the pages of the AACAR Bulletin, published by the Association for the Advancement of Central Asian Research, and are reproduced here with permission.


Notes
1.
See H. B. Paksoy, "Central Asia's New Dastans," Central Asian Survey, vol. 6, no. 1 ( 1987).
2.
As for the nature of "identity," historical or contemporary, there is ample evidence that Central Asians had their own formulas for defining, safeguarding, and, when necessary, defending their collective identities going back centuries if not millennia. These means employed by the Central Asians must be studied on their own terms, not fit into models developed to study other manifestations of "nation" and "nationalism" elsewhere.
3.
Russian rulers had been eyeing the region since 1552, when they took Kazan. To accomplish the aim of conquest, a special "Asiatic Department" was created within the Russian Imperial General Staff. Central Asia was finally overrun by the Russian offensive forces between 1865 and 1884. See H. B. Paksoy, Special Editor, "Muslims in the Russian Empire: Response to Conquest," Studies in Comparative Communism, vol. 19, nos. 3 and 4 (Autumn/Winter 1986). For a glimpse of the operations of the "Asiatic Department," see Charles Marvin, The Russian Advance Towards India ( London, 1882).
4.
Russia's purported "civilizing mission" is articulated in Foreign Minister Gorchakov's famous Memorandum of 1864 to the tsarist diplomatic corps as the explanation to be provided all governments around the world. A copy is found in William K. Fraser-Tytler , Afghanistan, 2d ed. ( Oxford, 1953). For another Russian functionary's frank outline of tsarist Russia's motivations of economic exploitation and recovery of

-viii-

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