This generous volume constitutes the proceedings of the Seventh ESCAS conference that took place in September 2000 in the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna. The one hundred and five papers given at the conference had been dispatched into five distinct panels that have been preserved for the publication of the final materials. Despite the contestable quality of some contributions included in the proceedings, the Editors have considered these contributions as valuable documents revealing the current state of the arts in the field of Central Asian studies as exhibited in the various research traditions “in the West and the East (p. 12).”
Part One is devoted to the “Processes of State Formation and Nation Building in Central Asia.” It is opened by an article by Kiliç-Schubel Nurten, “Balancing ‘Yasa’ and ‘Shariat’ in the Shibanid Uzbek Khanate in the 16th Century,” 17-30, followed by a study on the inner divisions of Bukharan society under Emir ‘Abd al-Ahad Khan, based on a small selection of Russian and translated vernacular primary sources (‘Ayni, for the most part): Chatterjee Suchandana, “The Emirate of Bukhara in the 19th and 20th Centuries: Reflections on the Transition,” 31-52, bibliography. An examination of the Ming rulers’ strategy in Kokand casts light on the quest for new legitimacy, notably through the introduction by ‘Umar Khan and his indirect successor Khudayar Khan of Islamic norms and of a new system of ranks and offices, in order to overcome the shortcoming of tribalism (Geiss Paul Georg, “The Problem of Political Order in the Khanate of Kokand: Between Tribalism and Patrimonialism,” 53-66, bibliography). A historical sociology of vernacular ruling élites in the early modern Qipchaq Steppe brings its author to the conclusion that all the attempts made by the Tsarist regime to reform the traditional system of power distribution within the nomadic society had little impact before the upheavals of the Soviet period (Erofeeva Irina, “The Evolution of the Traditional Governing Elites in Kazakhstan within the Russian Empire between the Middle of the 18th and the Beginning of the 20th Centuries,” 67-80, bibliography). In one of the volume’s most substantial and productive contributions, the rarely visited history of the Emirate of Kunduz allows for analysis of change in the patterns of governance when the region became the focal point of Russian and British interests. The fixing of firm borderlines and zones of influence changed the political options for Qataghan Uzbeks, especially after the establishment of Soviet power north of the Panj River. Henceforth the interaction between the Afghan state and Qataghan Uzbeks was marked by a strong centre-periphery pattern. North-eastern Afghanistan also functioned as a frontier and hinterland to be exploited and to increase the power of the Afghan state (Rasuly-Paleczek Gabriele, “Frontiers, Hinterlands, Centres, Peripheries: Adapting to Changing Fortunes — The Uzbeks of Afghanistan,” 81-108, bibliography). Suggesting the necessity of a modified perception of conflicts and conflict potentials in present-day Central Asia, the next study endeavours to demythologise the legendary figure of Basmachi fighter Ibrahim Bek. On the basis of OGPU interrogation materials, the author sketches a new moral image of the warrior, trying to make a deal with with his superior opponent, inspired by a traditional notion of honour, loyalty and justice that had nothing to do with the mental world of his interrogators (Eisener Reinhard, “Who Was Ibrahim Bek?,” 109-20, bibliography). Questioning Central Asian construction of modernity, a richly documented article tries to assess the impact of the Southern Caucasus and Iran on Central Asian Jadidism, notably through a discussion of the influence of Persian and Azerbaijani newspapers, and of the interaction between Azerbaijani and Central Asian drama in the 1910s-30s (Atabaki Turaj, “Enlightening the People: The Practice of Modernity in Central Asia and Its Trans-Caspian Dependencies,” 121-32, bibliography). In a completely different spirit, the last contribution to this section is an uncritical overview of the main themes of history writing in early independent Uzbekistan (Malikov Azim, “History in Uzbekistan (1989-1999),” 133-8, bibliography.)
Part Two, “Cultural Manifestations in Central Asia: Literary Traditions, Music, Arts, Sports and Games, Archaeology,” begins with a short and elusive evocation of the reflection of nomadic life in Mongol epic tradition (Morozova Irina Y., “Nomadic Culture in Written and Oral Epic Tradition,” 139-43). Through an analysis of the poetic work in Chaghatay by Muhammad Shaybani Khan (r. 1500-10), the following article suggests the ruler’s tentative synthesis of different legacies, from the prestigious Timurid reference to a marriage of the respective norms of the nomadic and sedentary worlds (Erkinov Aftandil, “The Poetry of Nomads and Shaybani Rulers in the Process of Transition to a Settled Society,” 145-50). Through an examination of 2008 Goncourt Prize winner Afghan writer Atiq Rahimi’s story Khakistar u khak [Earth and Ashes], a short article discusses the émigré writer’s reflection on the reversal of traditional values in present-day Afghan society, and on the involution of the status of woman (Frison Philippe, “Afghanistan’s Smashed Mirror: What Do Afghans Say of Themselves and of the Tragedy Which Has Stricken Their Land?,” 151-6). Two studies in the history of classical Persian, Indian and Central Asian music and their interrelations (Dadadjanova Iroda, “Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi about Musical Instruments,” 157-64; Karomat Dilorom, “Interrelations between Indian and Central Asian Music (11th – 19th Centuries),” 165-70 ― both reviewed infra in No. 246 & 253) and an anthropological assessment of the social role of festive music in Muslim Central Asia (Macrae Craig, “The Role of Contemporary Uzbek To’y Music in Reinforcing Traditional Central Asian Muslim Values,” 171-82, reviewed infra in No. 543) are followed by a short evocation of the influence of a Central Asian journey made in 1894 on the work of Georgian painter Gigo Gabashvili (1862-1936), a founder of modern realistic easel painting in Georgia. Unfortunately deprived of illustrations, the article evokes the architectural and genre themes painted by Gabashvili in Bukhara (Beradze Grigol, “Georgian Painters in Central Asia,” 183-92, bibliography). Through the history of miniature painting, a short article reconstructs the history of [court] costume in Central Asia, notably from the viewpoint of exchanges with Mughal India (Ashrafi Mukaddima M., “Central Asian Mediaeval Costume: Milestones of Its Evolution (12th – 17th Centuries),” 193-7, bibliography). An extremely panoramic of the development of applied arts in the Steppe in the course of history (Tokhtabayeva Shaizada, “Kazakh Applied Art: The Problems of Cultural Interrelations,” 199-206, bibliography) precedes an historical overview of traditional ‘sports’ ― the notion itself is not discussed ― in pre-modern Central Asia, from equestrian arts to chess playing (Mukminova Roziya M., “The Sporting Contests and Games of the Peoples of Central Asia,” 207-12, bibliography). The last article of this section is precisely an account of the activity of the Initiative Group Königstein of research on the origin of chess playing, the ‘Silk Road’ being the place where many members of this initiative believe the game arose (Josten Gerhard, “Chess along the Silk Road,” 213-8).
Part Three (“Multi-Culturalism: The National, Regional, and Global in the Cultures of the Central Asian Region”) is opened by an evocation of the complex and unstable situation in Tashkent, especially from the viewpoint of relations between Uzbek and Russian language in a context of global change of alphabetic system (Alpatov Vladimir M., “Multilingualism in Modern Tashkent,” 219-23, bibliography). Describing Russian participation in a variety of Uzbek rituals in rural Uzbekistan, ethnologist Olga Brusina observes that in certain circumstances barriers are being broken down. At the same time and despite the formation of what she calls ‘buffer’ forms of behaviour, this author also notices that there remains a certain estrangement between the Slavic residents and what she also calls the ‘indigenous’ population (“The Participation of Slavic Rural Inhabitants in the Ritual Life of Uzbek Communities,” 225-30, bibliography). A detailed analysis of the 1999 census in Kazakhstan allows its author to develop on Astana’s intention to crown the achievement of Kazakhs as a majority people in their own ethnic homeland for the first time in nearly seventy years. At the same time, the author warns that only when neighbouring states such as Russia and Uzbekistan will hold their own censuses can be clarified the validity of this census’ ethnic distribution (Sinnott Peter, “The View from the Top: The Changing Hierarchy of Identities in Kazakhstan’s 1999 Census,” 231-46, tab., bibliography). A short examination of the language policy in Mongolia and the Central Asian states in the 1990s suggests that, in this sphere, political decisions work very slowly, or do not work at all ― a rather clear implicit critic of the ongoing change in a country like Uzbekistan (Boikova Elena, “Reversion of Mongolian Script: A Revival of Self-Consciousness of the Mongols or a Political Campaign?,” 247-53, bibliography). A short account of the history of Arabic language in Central Asia is followed by an examination, notably through local place names, of the hypothesis of the settlement of the ancestors of Bukharan Arabs in present-day Uzbekistani district of Ghijduwan (Chikovani Guram, “Some Evidence on the History and Language of the Arabs of Central Asia,” 255-60). After a short overview of the social themes of present-day Kazakh cinema (Rorlich Azadeh-Ayse, “Identities in the Flux: The Mirror of Popular Culture (Kazakh Cinema at the End of the Twentieth Century),” 261-72, reviewed infra in No. 307), a last paper examines the impacts of South Korean arrival in Central Asia after the end of the Soviet period with regard to the Koryo Saram minority in the region, but also to development issues in Central Asian foreign politics and Central Asian integration into the international community (Schlyter Birgit N., “Korean Business and Culture in Former Soviet Central Asia,” 273-82, bibliography, reviewed infra in No. 633).
Part Four (“Religion and Society”) displays an exceptional set of studies in history and social sciences of Shamanism in Mongolia, of Islam and Christianity in Central Asia: Schlehe Judith, “Shamanism in Mongolia and in New Age Movements,” 283-96, bibliography, reviewed infra in No. 339; Babadjanov Bakhtiyar, Ghulmanov Sanjar, “Ritual Practice of Sufi Communities in Mavara’annahr (18th – 19th Centuries),” 297-308, bibliography, reviewed infra in No. 399; Wang Jianping, “Islam in Uighur Society as Recorded by Chinese Gazetteers in the Late Qing Dynasty,” 309-24, bibliography, reviewed infra in No. 429; Bellér-Hann Ildikó, “The Micro-Politics of a Pilgrimage,” 325-38, bibliography, reviewed infra in No. 515; Wilcke Caroline Antonia, “Spiritual Bonds — Symbols of the Hereafter: Gender Images in the Religious Practice of Women in Uzbekistan,” 339-54, bibliography, reviewed infra in No. 552. A short article is devoted to the Great Trek of a group of Mennonites from European Russia to Khiva in the early 1880s, and to their spiritual leader, the eschatological visionary Claas Epp Jr., until the community’s deportation from Khiva by the Soviet authorities in 1935. In this paper, the author has studied two sets of sources, Henri Moser’s papers in the Bern Historical Museum, and copies of two manuscripts given to him by former members of the Ak-Mechet’ community who had migrated to the frg. The article notably evokes the way Epp was remembered in the anniversary play performed in 1934 (Yaroshevski Dov, “Central Asian Context for the Khivan Mennonites Story,” 355-64, bibliography). This part is concluded by a short article on the progression of Christianity in Central Asia since the Perestroika period, with particular attention for the prevailing of the ethnic factor over religion as a vector of community affiliation in this specific region (Peyrouse Sébastien, “Between Politics and Religion: The Christian Movements in Post-Soviet Central Asia,” 365-72, bibliography).
Though apparently devoted to “Economy and Politics in Central Asia,” Part Five gives a large room to historical anthropology of Central Asian societies, most notably from the viewpoint of nomadic tradition and pastoral life. Such is the case of an evocation of the difference between Bedouin and Inner Asian nomadic traditions: The latter gave way to the formation of vast empires including sedentary populations and entities, but became settled themselves only in extreme situation. Arabs are credited of the achievement of “a higher cultural level” thanks to their partial settling (Zimonyi István, “Notes on the Differences between Bedouin and Inner Asiatic Nomadism,” 373-80, bibliography). A study on the Russian colonial period insists on the failure of Tsarist land legislation to open new land and resettle new contingents of Russian cultivators, and on the subsequent aggravation of tensions between the Russian and Kazakh populations, contributing to the outbreak of the 1916 riots in Central Asia (Kendirbai Gulnar, “The Struggle for Land on the Kazakh Steppe at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century,” 381-96, bibliography). Comparative case studies lead Peter Finke to observe the impact of Soviet state policies and on the present-day dissolution of collectives on the gradual differentiation of the ways of life among Kazakh and Kyrgyz pastoral groups along the twentieth century (“Contemporary Pastoralism in Central Asia,” 397-410, bibliography). A second set of articles deals much more specifically with international relations as they have been developing in and with Central Asia since independences. It begins with a rapid overview of the development of relations between Austria (including the OSCE) and Central Asia (Gürer Heidemaria, “Austria’s Relations with Central Asia,” 411-8), continues with an assessment of the absolute lack of impact of the OSCE in a country like Turkmenistan (Ullmann Paul, “Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democratisation in Turkmenistan: The Role of the osce,” 419-23) ― a comparative study with, for instance, Tajikistan, would have permitted the author to draw more optimistic perspectives. An analysis of the diplomacy of three Central Asian countries brings its author to conclude on the rapid erosion of the power of traditional interest groups inherited from the Soviet period and the gradual appearance of new protagonists, within and beside state institutions (Abazov Rafis, “Foreign Policy Making in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan,” 425-46, tab., bibliography). A study on the evolution of international relations in Central Asia since the end of the Soviet period insists on the extreme instability and unpredictability of this sphere, despite the continuity of political powers over the last two decades (Aydin Mustafa, “Eurasian Security and Geopolitics: Conflicts and Cooperation since the End of the Cold War,” 447-65, bibliography). The volume’s conclusive contribution is an overview of China’s instrumentation of Xinjiang for the expansion of her economic influence towards ex-Soviet Central Asia (Warikoo Kulbhushan, “Central Asia and China: The Changing Equations,” 467-80, tab., bibliography).
A kind of Zibaldone of Central Asian studies, this rich and extremely diverse volume offers instructive insights into a wide variety of ongoing researches, implemented in the most diverse institutions and parts of the world. An uneven combination of Western-style research articles and Soviet-style tezisy, it offers numerous perspectives for epistemological reflection of the state of the arts in an exceptionally rapidly developing field.