Bilateral cooperation between Uzbekistan, on the first hand, and on the second hand Germany (the Martin-Luther University of Halle) or Japan (the University of Tokyo) had already given way to notable successes in the edition of catalogues of manuscript texts and documents from the very rich collections of the Biruni Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent (cf. B. Babadjanov, A. Krämer, J. Paul, eds., Kratkii katalog sufiiskikh proizvedenii xviii-xx vv. iz sobraniia Instituta vostokovedeniia Akademii nauk Respubliki Uzbekistan im. Al-Biruni [A Short Catalogue of Sufi Manuscripts (18th – 20th Centuries) in the Collections of the Biruni Oriental Institute, Academy of Sciences, Republic of Uzbekistan], Berlin, 2000; A. Urunbaev, T. Horikawa, T. Faiziev, G. Dzhuraeva, K. Isogai, comp., Katalog khivinskikh kaziiskikh dokumentov xix – nachala xx vv. [Catalogue of Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Qazi’s Documents from Khiva], Tashkent – Kyoto, 2001: see my review in this section). To be signalled also, though more anecdotic since it reproduces for the most part the eleven-volume catalogue published in Tashkent between 1952 and 1987: the Persian-language catalogue edited from 1997 onwards through cooperation with Iran (cf. Sayyid ‘Ali Mawjani, ‘Ali Bahramiyan, ‘Asam al-Din Urinbayeff, Shah-Niyaz Musayeff, eds., Fihrist-i nusakh-i khatii-yi Institu-yi sharqshinasi-yi Abu Rayhan Biruni-yi Farhangistan-i ‘ulum-i Uzbakistan, Tehran, vol. 1, 1376/1997).
Bringing about substantial innovations relatively to these previous endeavours, the present catalogue offers precise descriptions and high-resolution photographic reproductions of 122 mostly unpublished nomination decrees and charters between the Shaybanid period and 1919. Classified according to their inventory numbers, the documents appear in relatively coherent ensembles, stressing their specificity according to their respective geographical origins, allowing sometimes the reader to follow the successive confirmations of privileges, or careers developments in the course of time (e.g., in No. 25, 27 and 29 the successive appointments given by Emir ‘Alim Khan to the mudarris Qari Mulla Zakariyya). Whilst nominations prevail in documents from Kokand, and exemptions from taxes in charters from Khiva (benefiting notably to dynasties of Sufi caretakers — jarubkash — of holy graves), a wide set of yarlïqs from Bukhara under Russian dominance (from Muzaffar al-Din Khan to ‘Alim Khan) provide a good insight on the nomination, privileges and respective (though widely overlapping) functions of the judges of the shar‘, madrasa teachers, and officials in charge of public order and morality (muhtasibs, ra’is). The acceleration of the turn-over of the main judicial charges of the Emirate of Bukhara in 1918-9 illustrates the extreme political instability of this specific period of time. Besides, a significant proportion of the documents emanating from the Khanates of Kokand and Khiva also attest to the massive phenomenon of the transfer of state land to private ownership (milk-i khalis) in the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
More generally speaking, the precise description of the documents and their high-quality facsimile publication provide invaluable material on the terminology of tax systems, on the tables of ranks (No. 85: on the promotion of different categories of dignitaries of the Emirate of Bukhara in 1918), on the relation between central and local rulers (No. 54: between Emir ‘Abd al-Ahad Khan and the rulers of Shughnan and Rushan, in the Pamir Mountains), on the specific status and role of varied ethnic groups (No. 86: on the mobilisation of soldiers among the “‘Arab Persian-speaking community” ― jama‘a-yi ‘arab-i farsi-guy ― of Bukhara in 1918), and on the construction and restoration of citadels, mosques and madrasas at different periods of time. The presence of detailed indexes in both Arabic and Cyrillic scripts, of a detailed and well-informed glossary, and of a rich bibliography is all the reader needs for gaining a maximal benefit from the perusal of this very well-edited and genuinely captivating collection of documents.