Reviews

This monumental encyclopaedic work about the Turkmens constitutes to date ― though, as far as modern times are concerned, it deals only with the Turkmen-peopled regions of Iran ― one of the most ambitious, if not successful assessments of this people’s history and culture. The first, larger chapter is devoted to a historical overview of the Turkmens from ancient times (through populations which preceded them on their present territories, and through the history of the Turks since their origins in Inner Asia) till the Russian conquest and colonisation of the regions north of the Atrek River in the 1880s, with additional, substantial chapters on agriculture and cattle breading (pp. 1516-1678), Turkmen language and literature (1679-1928), religion and gnosticism (1929-2063), and traditional arts and crafts, including music (2064-2604). Written in a mood of valuation of Turkmen patrimony and traditions, on the basis of an exclusively Persian (and, by the way, very literary) bibliography, the three volumes deal at length with all those aspects of Turkmen society and culture that can be looked on as survivals of a remote, trans-historical past. So doing, the unique author of this gigantic work has let aside of his study not only elements linked with modernisation (such as religious currents propagated among the Turkmens of Iran since the nineteenth century), but also all those non-documented by the limited selection of textual Persian sources utilised (Sufism, for instance, is introduced almost exclusively through reference to the early regional history of the Yasawiyya and Naqshbandiyya). More significantly, the history of the whole twentieth century and the current economic and social situation of the Turkmens of Iran have been prudently let aside of the chronological scope of the study, which considerably restricts its potential interest. From this viewpoint unfortunately, this publication remains representative of the essentially apologetic folklorist literature published on Iran’s ethnic minorities.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-6.4.F-534