Reviews

The object of multiple studies in historical geography (see notably Central Eurasian Reader 1 [2008], review No. 139 p. 106), the city of Qarshi (ancient Nasaf) in present-day Uzbekistan is celebrated in the present monograph on the occasion of its official 2700th jubilee. On the basis of a model largely applied in city historiography as it has been developing in Central Asia since the end of the Soviet period, the author has displayed the content of legends on the city, and a selection of historical data from chronicles and oral traditions on the city’s walls, neighbourhoods, cemeteries, mosques, madrasas (with a special chapter on the history of learning and teaching in the city, pp. 123-36), on Nasaf’s scholars of the mediaeval period, and on the city’s calligraphers. As usually in works pertaining to this genre, the inspiration of the book is largely apologetic, and tends to assess the continuity of the city’s past from the most ancient times to the present, with particular attention to the valuation of its Islamic legacy. At the same time, the author has endeavoured to give to his work a genuine historical value, notably through the use of a selection of classical Arabic and Persian geographical works, of nineteenth-century Russian narrative sources (of travel accounts, in particular) and of a large set of archive documents (unfortunately non-described nor dated, as usually in Soviet and post-Soviet history writing). Conversely and contrary to present-day city historiography in Central Asia, modern and contemporary primary sources in Chaghatay or in modern Uzbek do not seem to have been solicited for the preparation of this work still deeply marked by the Soviet tradition of history teaching in Central Asian universitues. The Soviet period ― still a taboo in Uzbekistani history writing ― has been completely neglected, despite the innumerable resources of oral history for the reconstruction of a number of cultural traditions, from Islamic learning to calligraphy.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-2.4-87