Reviews

A number of recent studies on collective identity-building in post-Soviet Central Asia postulate that ‘real’ identities of Central Asian populations are those that have survived from the pre-Soviet past or may have been unintentional fallouts of the Soviet national policies.  These identities are usually described as categories either broader (e.g., Turkistan, Islam) or narrower (e.g., kinship, locality) than the Soviet nationality framework suggests, and generally not fitting the requirements of national mobilisation.  However, with few exceptions the former are reserved for the agenda or émigré organisations, whilst there is little indication that the latter have developed into meaningful political categories outside local contexts.  In this article, the author examines narratives relating to Kazakh ethnic identity as they have been appearing in testimonies of informants and historical accounts (especially in genealogical trees—shejyres— of Kazakh tribes and lineages compiled from the early 1870s to the mid-1920s, seen here as part of Kazakh resistance to colonisation).  S. Esenova argues in particular that through the narration of a personified history of the Kazakhs, these early modern shejyres, compiled or used by the leader of the early-twentieth-century Kazakh nationalist movement, have effectively defined the modern-day concept of Kazakh ethnic identity.  As narratives, they have gained prominence with the dismissal of the USSR and the independence of Kazakhstan.  A long historical panorama not devoid of approximations (like that consisting of describing the nineteenth-century Russian territorial delimitations, like the Steppe Territory, as “protectorates loyal to Russia [15]”) is followed by more convincing considerations on the central place of genealogical trees of the Kazakh people—including the myth of a common ancestor, notions of ‘horde [zhuz]’ and exogamy—in the early-twentieth-century Kazakh movement, and in identity claims as they have been developing in the Kazakh SSR since the 1950s, with a particular intensity and state support since the last years of Perestroika and the independence of Kazakhstan in 1991.

The Redaction
CER: I-7.4.C-634