The newspaper Turkistan wilayatining ghaziti (TWG), which appeared from 1870 until 1916 in Tashkent as an official periodical of the Russian administration of Turkistan, plays an important role in the history of the Muslim press in Russia, being both the first periodical in a Turkic language there and one of those with the largest circulation. Traditionally it has been dismissed by Western and Soviet historians alike as a mere instrument of the coloniser; in recent years, however, a more heterogeneous picture has begun to emerge, which emphasizes the publishing activity of local Muslim intellectuals, the key role of its long-term editor Ostroumov in the development of journalism in Turkistan, and its value as a factual source on local Muslim society. Regrettably, due to the lack of an index to the extensive amount of material, the TWG has been difficult to use in the past and has seen less utilisation than it should have. The publication under review is designed to fill this gap by providing a thematic index to the TWG as a whole. It was produced by the Department of National Bibliography at the Navoiy State Library of Uzbekistan, and its main author Rahim Faizullaev has extensive experience with the TWG from his former function as head of the library’s Rare Books Department, where the newspaper itself is kept. The book consists of a short introduction, a list of 1786 numbered bibliographical entities in 26 thematic sections in alphabetical order, and an index of authors’ names. The material basis for the index is the collection of the TWG in the Navoiy Library. The collection there is missing a few numbers as well as the complete volumes for 1891 and 1892, which are not covered in the index either; the authors mention this in the introduction, but seem to have made no effort to complete the index from other sources. Given the fairly complete character of the Tashkent collection, this is no great loss, but it would have surely have benefitted the index as a whole.
The authors treat the TWG as an Uzbek-language newspaper. While understandable given the political climate, this decision is not without consequences. Firstly, for many years the TWG was, in fact, bilingual. During the first years there was an edition in “Sart” (i.e., Turki, identified with modern Uzbek) and another in “Kyrgyz” (i.e., Kazakh). Both editions were evidently produced from the same source material, which was probably in Russian, and had largely, but not completely identical content; the TWG would appear in “Sart” first, in “Kyrgyz” a few days later under the same number. In the Navoiy Library these are usually bound into the same volume and were thus accessible to the authors, but apart from a brief remark in the introduction, the index largely ignores the existence of Kazakh copies, and issues where only the Kazakh copy survives (e.g., for 1876: No. 6, 10, 20 and 25) tend to be completely absent from the index. Similarly, the TWG was largely bilingual in “Sart” and Russian between 1885 and 1906, which is not reflected in the index at all. Secondly, bibliographical references are often translated into modern Uzbek. While articles regularly appeared in Turki under Russian headlines, these show in the index under contrived Uzbek titles (e.g., No. 751, “Khon davridagi qozilar khususida,” original title: “O kaziiakh v khanskoe vremia”). The very idea of an index where titles appear only in translation makes a bibliographer cringe! Titles in Turkic languages are similarly subject to a modernising translation; for example, Hajji Mu‘in’s translation of Fitrat’s Munazara, which was published in 1911 under the distinctly Ottoman-sounding title “Bukharalik mudarris ila farangini [sic] hindustanda makatib-i jadida khususinda ulun munazarasi [بخارالیک مدرس ایله فرنگینی هندوستانده مکاتب جدیده خصوصنده اولان مناظره سی]” appears in the index as “Hindistonda bir fransuzning Bukhoro mudarrisi bilan bo’lgan savol-javoblari (yangicha usul maktablari va A. Fitrat haqida)” (No. 910), leaving little of the original and turning the Frank into a Frenchman.
Preparing an index for a newspaper with a 46-year print run and tens of thousands of pages overall is a daunting task, and the editors can be commended for not shying away from this effort. A bibliographic project of these dimensions is usually subject to granularity constraints, and it can be difficult to maintain a consistent level of detail, especially with news reporting in a semi-official paper with its often repetitive, monotonous character. The authors do not make it explicit what their guiding principles were. They evidently had major examples in Betger’s 1926 thematic index to the Russian official newspaper Turkestanskie vedomosti and Maslova’s 1940 index to the last third of the Turkestanskii sbornik, both kept in the Navoiy library in typescript form. To compile the index, the authors probably drew up a rough category scheme, then went through all of the newspaper and sorted each article into one of these categories, creating more finely-grained sub-sections on the fly. There are two main drawbacks to this approach. The first is that articles are only listed once, rarely twice, even where they would fit into several sections. Local news reporting is sometimes listed geographically, sometimes thematically, and articles pertaining to more than one topic are usually listed under only one of them. Unlike Betger’s index, there are no cross-references; where entries actually appear twice, this is never indicated. This principle is especially problematic with letters to the editor, which were a common journalistic genre in Russian and Central Asian newspapers in the early twentieth century, with a considerably broader scope than today. Taking the example of a prolific letter writer such as Mahmud Khwaja Behbudi, we find most of his letters under “Journalism” (some 20 letters between No. 783 and 821) and “Education” (No. 1123, 1125) and some under highly specialised subcategories (e.g., No. 697, 1611 and others). There is actually a separate section dedicated to letters to the editor, where, however, we find only one of them (No. 914, a letter on the Russo-Japanese War, which also appears under “Journalism” as No. 821, but which is neither marked as a double entry nor present in the dedicated subsection on the Russo-Japanese War!).
The second disadvantage is that a thematic index usually stands and falls with the consistency of the category system, which, however, can be difficult to maintain when this system is built ad hoc. This shows in several places with the present book. For example, the history section is dedicated to “material relevant to the history of Turkistan.” History being seen from the early twenty-first century point of view, however, it includes a vast bulk of material in several subsections dedicated to colonial Turkistan in general, to ethnographic, economic and statistical material, to the Russo-Japanese war, to reporting on benevolent societies or pan-Islamism and so on, some of them with distinctly Soviet-sounding titles such as “Party” or “Socio-political movements”. Because of their often considerable thematic overlap, and because articles appear usually only in one place, in search for specific articles one ends up skimming the whole history section over and over again, so that its thematic subdivisions are more of a hindrance than a help. In a similar vein, there are large categories for “Journalism” and “Press”, for “Literary works”, “Books” and “Travelogues”, or for “Islam”, “madrasas” and “Education” with unclear boundaries. There is a category “Cities”, with subsections for Tashkent, Bukhara, Fergana, Kokand as well as Afghanistan and Turkey as well as one for the tram in Tashkent, but no subsection for Samarkand, where the newspaper had a prolific contributor of local news in Behbudi. With the alphabetical rather than chronological order of entries, the non-exhaustive character of categories, and the fact that titles are often translations, the index can be frustrating to use. It would have been much better, had the authors simply organised everything in a flat, numbered chronological list and then compiled thematic sections with references to article numbers, similar to the index of authors in the book itself.
Even though they never make it explicit, it is clear that the authors were interested mainly in questions of culture, education, literature and modernism. Coverage on these subjects is excellent. Articles on other subjects are treated with considerably less detail. Large portions of the newspaper before 1900 were dedicated to translations of Russian administrative texts, which admittedly are not particularly enticing from a literary point of view, but arguably not without importance for colonial Turkistan; only a part of this has found its way into the index. One gets the impression that the authors shared part of the traditional Soviet sentiment against the TWG as a colonising instrument. For example, when in 1894 the Russian administration issued regulations on teaching in madrasas, the TWG printed a short translation of these which does appear in the index (no. 1064); then over the next months they printed a lengthy and interesting commentary on these regulations by Ibn Yamin Bek Khudayarkhanoff, son of the last khan of Kokand, which fills some twelve pages over five issues (between 1894.19 and 1894.30), but which is missing from the index. In a similar vein, the newspaper had a column with bazaar prices for various goods in Tashkent, which appeared fairly regularly every two months on average after 1888, but the index only shows a small fraction of these (No. 392, under “History”; for example, for 1895 it is complete, for 1893 one column is missing [No. 30 of July 30], and in 1894 the column appeared eight times, none of them showing in the index). A similar column from Bukhara is missing completely. The authors either missed these or discarded them, considering them uninteresting, which is both questionable and a pity, because this present extremely valuable economic indicators for everyday life in Turkistan.
To conclude, this index to the TWG leaves a mixed impression. It is certainly a welcome addition to the bibliographic material on the Central Asian press, where it addresses a huge gap. Its usefulness, however, depends heavily on the user’s concrete research interests. For the literary and journalistic activity of the Jadids it is outstanding; for factual material on the history of Turkistan it is acceptable, if difficult to use; for other topics, such as official administrative policies and their impact, it is insufficient. The authors themselves admit in the introduction that since it is the first time such an index is produced in the Navoiy library, it may not be without shortcomings. It would be enormously beneficial to have an enlarged index with a clearer category system, with bibliographic fidelity to the language of the original entries, and possibly in electronic form for easier accessibility. The present volume could serve as an excellent first step towards such a project; in the meantime it will serve as an indispensable, if at times frustrating tool for every researcher working with Central Asian periodicals.