Reviews

This book consists of thirty genealogies of lineages in the Kazakh White Bone élite stratum, both secular (khans and sultans) and religious (sayyids and khwajas), compiled in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by Russian officials and cooperating Kazakhs. The oldest dates to 1735, and the most recent to 1905. A number of them have appeared in previous publications (e.g., the early twentieth c. works by Dobrosmyslov; the collected works of Valikhanov and Bukeikhanov; and recently republished accounts of Kazakh history by Russian officials such as Andreev, Rychkov, and Levshin), but some came straight from archival collections in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Orenburg and elsewhere. The thirty genealogies were originally composed in a variety of formats, and I. V. Erofeeva has systematised them, using the French system created in 1941 by Jacques d’Aboville, to create vertical tables with a numerical code to indicate relationships between individuals within and across generations. The tables are preceded by two chapters of analysis. The first is a well-worn, a-historical description of the two “estates” [sosloviia] of eighteenth-nineteenth cc. élites, the töre (pp. 12-18), which will be more than familiar to those who have read other of Erofeeva’s works on the subject dating from the mid-1990s (or Soviet-era works by T. I. Sultanov), and the “estate” of sayyids and kozhas (pp. 18-37), which is based largely on the works of A. K. Muminov. In the second analytical chapter I. V. Erofeeva examines the sources of Kazakh genealogies in general, and identifies and assesses the compilers of the specific information that she includes in this volume.

It is certainly convenient and interesting to have so many genealogies placed in the same volume, systematised into one format. It makes for useful comparative analysis of specific lineage claims. I. V. Erofeeva’s critical approach, which in many cases examines the compiler’s identity and possible inspiration for the compilation, provides a model for how a scholar may use genealogical information as a source for the reconstruction of the history of Kazakh political and religious élites. There are limits to the usefulness of this volume, however. While it is without doubt that the number of recorded genealogies from this era are limited, all of them in this volume come from Russian-language publications or archival documents generated by the Russian state. Information that I. V. Erofeeva includes about compilers who were Kazakhs is consistent with Soviet-era scholarship that applauded “enlighteners” and “progressive” thinkers who were educated by and worked within the Russian imperial structure. Her recitation of Russian praise for Akhmet Zhanturin and Mukhamedgali Taukin are cases in point. Only one of the genealogies came to her in a non-Russian language. The names in all of the tables are all clearly Russified; no attempts were made to render them more closely to Turkic orthography.

Second, while one may excuse the Russo-centric presentation of the volume because the raw genealogical information within it is so useful empirically, there is another significant flaw, and that is the a-historical, structural-functional description that forms the basis of her analytical chapters. It is highly problematic, given the profound changes to population, state structures, geopolitics of the region, economy, etc. brought about by the expansion of the Russian and Chinese empires (from NW and SE, respectively), the formation of the Kokand Khanate, defeat of the Junghars, increasing role of Kazakhs in regional trade, changes to Sufi networks, etc. over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to present the “identity” of an “estate” of “élites” in an a-historical manner. The political power of khans was waning, the religious position of khwajas within communities of Kazakhs was arguably being transformed, so how is it possible to describe the “social function” of either of these groups of élites over two centuries without noting changes?

Virginia Martin, University of Wisconsin at Madison
CER: II-3.4.C-272