The Nineteenth Annual
Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies
Northwest Conference

 

Panel 2C
Cultural Circulation or Colonial Conquest: Russian Expansion into Central Asia in the 18th-20th Centuries

1:45-3:15 PM

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Testing the Boundaries of Translation and Circulation: A Linguistic Analysis of Selected 18th c. Kazak-Russian Diplomatic Documents
Eric Johnson, History Department, UW

The tragedy of colonialism – Tajik phenomenon: the history of Tajiks at the second half of XIX – beginning of XX centuries
Inomjon Mamadaliev, History Department, UW

Towards an Historiography of the Millennium of Orthodoxy in Russia
David Wishard, REECAS, UW

 

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Testing the Boundaries of Translation and Circulation: A Linguistic Analysis of Selected 18th c. Kazak-Russian Diplomatic Documents
Eric Johnson

Historians have often emphasized the tenuous nature of the ties between the Kazak hordes and the Russian Empire in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It is well known that during the first half of the eighteenth century, the khans of the Kazak Little Horde (Kishi zhüz) and Middle Horde (Orta zhüz) sought Russian protection in the face of military pressures posed by the Jungars, Chinese, Bashkirs and Yaits Cossacks; and that in subsequent decades Kazak leaders kept up a regular diplomatic exchange with both Russian frontier officials and the imperial center. Yet this exchange has often been interpreted anachronistically, in terms of subsequent events and more recent analytical frameworks. Thus proponents of an expansive Russian Empire—and later Soviet Union—have described these documents as early manifestations of a voluntary and mutually-beneficial confederation that gradually developed between the Kazaks and Russia. Kazak nationalists and their supporters have understood such dialogue as reflecting Kazak attempts to organize transitory military alliances—limited efforts that were (inadvertently or deliberately) misinterpreted by Tsarist officials, then and later. From the perspective of colonial historiography, these exchanges have also been seen as the initial stages of a process by which Imperial Russia reduced the Kazakhs to military, economic and political dependence.

In all cases, however, these links between the Kazaks and Russia during this period are seen as relatively superficial: conducted at an elite level, and within a narrow political register ranging from shallow opportunism to straitened necessity. Without denying the important role of power-politics on the steppe—and the violence and dispossession that all too often ensued—this paper represents a preliminary step in a larger effort to challenge some of these assumptions. It is true that the documentary record from the period is limited, and reflects largely elite political exchanges. Yet a close reading of these documents appears to offer evidence of richer and less stylized relations between the Kazaks and Russia, characterized neither by abject subjugation, nor by arms-length military alliance. Rather, it seems possible to describe a system of intellectual and cultural circulation, asymmetrical but mutual, centered around evolving concepts of political legitimacy, right relations between subjects and rulers, and the compatibility and essential natures of sedentary and nomadic cultures. As such, this was system of circulation deeply enmeshed in larger currents of thought that spanned the Eurasian landmass.

In this presentation, we will undertake a close linguistic and literary analysis of a limited selection of eighteenth century Kazak-Russian diplomatic documents. The paper will examine both the original Chagatay Turkic texts, as well as the Russian translations made at the time by Tsarist officials. In so doing, it will attempt to trace elements of cross-cultural conversation on governance and political legitimacy—studying how Kazaks understood, assimilated, contested and rejected Russian views on these subjects, and how Russians, in turn, perceived this Kazak response. In the process, the paper will also attempt to tease out the discrepancies and discontinuities that occurred at the boundaries of translation within this network of circulation. Understanding how and where mistranslation and misunderstanding occurred provides particular insight not only into the challenges of Kazak-Russian diplomacy during this period, but also on the respective attitudes and beliefs that underlay formal diplomatic language. The result is to begin to suggest that politically, culturally and intellectually, the linkages between the Kazaks and Russians at this time were anything but shallow and content-free. Instead, as often occurs in frontier zones, such exchange provided the basis for fruitful synthesis and the emergence of new ideas and practices.

To read the full paper click here.

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The tragedy of colonialism – Tajik phenomenon: the history of Tajiks at the second half of XIX – beginning of XX centuries
Inomjon Mamadaliev

During modern times, as in the past, Tajiks residing in relatively independent state formations in Central Asia, with a hard despotic control, dominated an alien ethnic government. Territorial economic and cultural fragmentation, degradation, without rights, inadequate living conditions, constant harassment and persecution by the nomadic Turkic tribes threatened with complete physical destruction, especially in the cultural areas of Central Asia. Tajiks have almost no chance of creating a national public education, to possess a common territory, the development of economic and cultural community, not to mention the revival of the unity of the people. As a result of this national disaster Tajiks for a long time were divided among themselves, which greatly affected the addition of a single culture, a single literary language, a single economic community, the only mental, a single, national mentality. This, in turn, led to a dialectical separation of language and culture, and a complete loss of national identity and ethnic unity.

Despite the fact that the accession of Central Asia to Russia, which has a clearly progressive momentous importance for the people of the region, at the same time for the Tajiks, their original neighborhoods, language, ethnicity, identity, self-knowledge and self-awareness was a tragic event.

Conquest of Central Asia has caused irreparable damage to the economy of the people: it was injured or killed a large number of male working population, destroyed towns, villages and fortresses destroyed valuable library, the cultural and historical heritage of the people. So far, not specifically studied the question of how much time and effort it took to make the local population, in economic opportunity, could restore his farm and feed their families.

The local population had experienced until then other wars and conquests of the feudal states, could not tolerate the domination of the newly-minted, unknown to his culture, faith, the power of the Gentiles. But mostly, the destruction of traditional institutions existed for centuries. What prompted the fight for their rights and independence. The history of many popular uprisings is a prime example of that.

Consequence of the occurrence of cities, villages of modern Tajikistan to Russia, is expressed in the fact that all of the changes taking place in Central Asia in general, and in northern Tajikistan, individually, were a direct result of the ongoing colonial exacerbated ethno politics has become a tragic fate for the Tajik people.

Conquest of Central Asia, Russia, lasted a quarter century. The main distinguishing feature of the colonial policy of tsarism, which lasted more than half a century, was completely ignoring the rights of the working population of the conquered lands, as they put it - "semi people stood away from civilization." Such policies were riddled with virtually all of the Central Asian side of life - economic, social, cultural, and political-administrative and impacting on the edge of control Turkestan.

Thus, even chronicles tell us some useful information about the colonial Turkestan, showing structural changes in the social life of Central Asia. And also about the destructiveness of these changes for the entire Central Asian society.

To read the full paper click here.

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Towards an Historiography of the Millennium of Orthodoxy in Russia
David Wishard

Histories of perestroika are typically devoted to elite-level machinations, infrastructural collapse, nationalism and secession. The Millennium was of course interwoven with all of these processes. Yet its thus-far relegation to the niche publications of Christian historians has meant that it has not received the full spectrum of analyses that wider academia has devoted to the usual, “canonical” Soviet events. I will therefore attempt to trace the outlines of the extant historiography on the Millennium, as it exists in English, with the purpose of establishing the grounds for future historical work. I have chosen a sample of the issues and paradigms that emerged in a selection of authors’ treatments of the Millennium (none of them analyze the Millennium exclusively, and some do not even mention it). The first of these issues will be the role the Millennium played in heightening the tension between the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the Ukrainian churches. The ROC’s relationship with Ukraine was paradigmatic of its attitude toward the profusion of heterodox denominations. I then cover the debates over the social value of the Millennium beyond its publicity value, especially in light of the restrictions on attendance. Connected to this debate were arguments over the “success” of the Pomestnyi Sobor, the historic reform-minded gathering of the ROC, the Council of Religious Affairs and various clergy that convened during the Millennium. Many long held hopes for change bore down on the sobor, but were stymied by an ROC leadership that had been controlled by the state since 1943. Lastly, borrowing from Alexei Yurchak, I do a preliminary survey of key actors’ public pronouncements, suggesting that a fruitful area for future analysis would be the authoritative discourse’s adoption of religious themes during perestroika, a time when Soviet “speak” still had some social purchase.

To read the full paper click here.

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