Alpamysh: Central Asian Identity under Russian Rule

H. B. Paksoy

Rounded Globe

To the memory of Abubekir Ahmedjan Divay (1855-1933) and to his intellectual heirs.


Chapter One: Alpamysh and the Türkic dastan genre
Chapter Two: Attempts to destroy and save Alpamysh, Phase I
Chapter Three: The Alpamysh dastan

Translation of Divay’s 1901 Alpamysh

Chapter Four: Attempts to destroy and save Alpamysh, Phase II
Select Bibliography
Appendix: Published versions of the Alpamysh dastan
About the Author

Preface to the Rounded Globe edition

Dastan is a part of human history, under many names. The principals, languages and motives show a good bit of variation, but the end result is the same. After a major event, the valor and determination of the actors are recounted orally by a singer, poet, or bard on behalf of admirers and for the benefit of the general population. The resulting poem or narration is recited at important events in the life of the polity. At some point, it may be committed to paper.

In Central Asia, perhaps in a majority of cases, the subject matter is devoted to the seeking of justice under severe conditions. These may be called independence dastans, composed after victory is attained and the attacking enemy is defeated. After freedom is won, the romantic portions of independence dastans are extracted and take on the color of romantic literature. These may fuel romance among young couples. In the fullness of time, this romantic literature gives birth to much shorter versions. These are recited to children during winter months, perhaps as bedtime stories. A dastan is therefore a threefold literary genre.

The enemy may not always be the same, and the creator-owners of a dastan may come to face another crisis of independence. Unlike many other geographic locations hosting many other polities, Central Asia is comprised of vast expanses of dun-meadow, known as bozkir. The borders are usually demarcated by large deserts and water sources are confined to small areas where the cities emerge. So, another neighbor may arrive and propose to take over the land and people owning a dastan. That is the moment when another hand, or voice, is extended to its contents. The dastan, once again, becomes the constitution, passport and national anthem, all rolled into one.1

After the next victory, since the actors necessarily belong to a different generation, a new dastan is usually composed. However, a few motives may be borrowed from the earlier dastan. This is much like Liszt's Paraphrase on the “Dies Irae,” which he called Totentanz.

The Imperial Russians and the Soviets knew about the power of the dastans over Central Asians. In light of this knowledge they attempted to change the contents, especially the endings of every dastan they came across.2

Accordingly, this volume deals with two stories. The first is contained in the original dastan Alpamysh, to the extent we have it, as composed by Central Asians. The second concerns the efforts of the Imperial Russian and Soviet apparatus to change its contents. The work as a whole follows this intertwined road.

At this point, all that remains is to thank Simon John Cook for undertaking the republication of this study as a Rounded Globe ebook, and Noyan Turunç for creating an original painting for the cover. Thank you, you two gentlemen.

Preface to the 1989 edition

The present work employs the detailed study of one case to illustrate a pattern that may well exist in other cases. It must be borne in mind that the subject population comprises approximately one fifth of the Soviet Union (and is steadily growing at a rapid pace) and is spread across a substantial portion of the Asian continent. What is described in the following pages may have taken place with respect to other non-Russian nationalities in the USSR. Therefore, although this work focuses on Central Asian-Russian relations, it constitutes a possible model for analysis and investigation of Soviet policy toward other nationalities. There is strong evidence to indicate that those policies toward history and literature which were applied to Alpamysh have already been employed with respect to various developing countries as well, not the least of which are those bordering the USSR.

It is the hope of this writer that this inquiry will induce others to pursue the questions raised here. Various disciplines and area studies might benefit from this investigation, aside from the obvious Central Asian and Soviet studies. The artificial separation of “areas” and disciplines, which did not exist during the evolution of the subject matter, cannot yield complete understanding. Given the restrictions imposed by the Soviet censorship and bureaucracies who control collections of materials and published works, documentation is not exhaustive. It is anticipated that subsequent research shall unearth additional information. Therefore, the temptation to hold back and wait for such new discoveries is immense. I almost succumbed to it, except for the constant reminders from friends and colleagues - among other reasons, pointing to the number of copies of the manuscript I had circulated in the academic community for comments and criticism - who have insistently hounded me to go to print. I do so with mixed feelings, for, since the completion of this manuscript, a German translation (GDR printing) of Alpamysh has been issued. It was translated, not from the original, but from an earlier Russian translation. Moreover, it has been discovered that at least one, or perhaps two additional printings of Alpamysh have been offered for sale in Central Asia.

Chapter One: Alpamysh and the Türkic dastan genre

Alpamysh is a Türkic dastan – ornate oral history – and prime representative of the Türkic oral literature of Central Asia. It is the principal repository of ethnic identity, history, customs, and the value systems of its owners and composers. Set mostly in verse, the Alpamysh dastan is known and recited from the eastern Altai to the western Ural mountain ranges and as far south as Band-e Turkestan. It commemorates the Türkic peoples’ struggles for freedom. The events leading to the composition of the dastan may date from a very early period; though some published variants depict these struggles to be against Kalmak oppressors – perhaps the result of later overlays. A major variant of the dastan, under the title ‘The Tale of Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse,’ forms part of the Book of Dede Korkut and is known in Azerbaijan and Asia Minor. Alpamysh is shared by Central Asians across the continent and knowledge of this dastan is an inseparable part of identity and national pride. Failure to know it was regarded as a source of shame.

The struggle of the Central Asians to preserve this dastan in the face of Imperial Russian and Soviet attacks upon it is the central focus of the present work. The attacks and attempts to save the Alpamysh dastan may be divided into two “phases” – the first is represented by the Central Asians’ own efforts to record the dastan on paper and publish it widely in response to Russian occupation and ensuing Russification campaigns, Christian proselytization, “language reform,” boundary revision and the creation of special legal classifications and, later, “nations” for Central Asians; the second phase involves altering the content of the dastan itself and its history or “lineage.” The two phases are not successive and chronologically distinct, but overlap around the 1930s-1940s. A recent response to the attack has been a revival in the 1980s of dastans in a new form, as befits their own tradition.

The in-depth examination of the struggle over the Alpamysh dastan, however, is more than the study of the treatment of a single historical and literary monument. It represents Soviet policy in Central Asia and Central Asian resilience in preserving historic identity and values. The case of Alpamysh is a documentable and representative example of Russian rule – both imperial and Soviet – in Central Asia. The study of identity, inter alia dastans, also has political and military implications. As the academic historian and political actor Z.V. Togan noted at the time of the Bolshevik revolution, it has been the Russian tactic to absorb (biologically and culturally) the smaller non-Russian nationalities. Under the slogans of “friendship of peoples,” the “drawing nearer” or “merging” of the peoples of the Soviet Union and other expressions of so-called “internationalism,” Russian nationalism has been at work. This Russian aim of absorbing the Central Asians could only be realized by breaking the Central Asians’ link to their own past.

Many Western groups have unwittingly aided official Russian efforts to assimilate and absorb the Central Asians. This is because those in the West too often accepted uncritically Russia’s self-proclaimed “civilizing mission” and Russian arguments about alleged Central Asian inferiority. Critical standards normally applied in Western assessment of Soviet economic performance were not always applied in this area of research. Ironically, the Central Asians’ own resistance – expressed in print, in their own language – met with hostility abroad, even among those who were usually critical of the Soviets, perhaps for fear of offending the Soviet bureaucracy.

In order to present this struggle to destroy and to save this widely shared dastan, the present work includes also a full-length translation of a rare pre-revolutionary printing of Alpamysh as well as synopses of others. The discussion begins with the dastan genre itself and its purpose in the history of Central Asia.

The dastan genre

For the Central Asians, the oral record, particularly dastans, is an integral part of identity, historical memory and the historical record itself. The oral tradition in Central Asia precedes the Common Era. It has been preserved across multitudes of generations. It stands, as it always has, as the final line of defense against any attempts to dominate the Central Asians culturally or politically. The topic at hand primarily concerns the Türkic speaking populations of Central Asia, especially the role of the dastans in history, culture and politics. Thus the discussion of dastan in this essay is confined to that sphere. Furthermore, it will not be the purpose of the present work to discuss the broad and complex “epic” tradition, which has been studied at length, nor to explore the purely literary aspects of dastans. In this essay the Central Asian dastans are kept apart from the Islamic menakib, such as gazavatnama, fetihnama and the like, the bulk of which appeared and spread after around the twelfth century, and especially since the fifteenth century.

In Central Asia, the tradition of “expression and celebration of ancestral exploits and identity” is older than the use of the word dastan, which appears as a later borrowing into Türkic dialects. For example, in the Kül-Tegin stelas (732 A.D.), Bilge Kaĝan states: “Bu sabimin adguti asid, qatigdi tinla” (Hear these words of mine well, and listen hard!).1 Some three hundred years later, Kashgarli Mahmud, in his Diwan Lugat at-Türk (1070s) uses the word saw (sab, sav) to indicate proverbs, messages and admonitions handed down by wise men.2 About a century after Kashgarli Mahmud, Ahmet Yesevi (d. 1167) wrote: “Let the scholars hear my wisdom. Treating my word as a dastan, attain their desires.”3 Certainly, the idea of marking important events with versified narrations or songs is not new. In fact, each significant event in the lives of Central Asians had its own type of “marker” song. The suyunju celebrated good news, including the birth of the alp,4 especially after a tribe or individual had experienced difficulties. The yar-yar was sung at weddings. More than merely celebrating the union of the bride and groom, however, it also signalled the beginning of other courtships at the wedding feast. The koshtau was sung on the departure of the alp for a campaign and the estirtu when an alp’s death was announced. The yogtau was sung at yog ashi, the memorial feast (after burial) to lament the death of the alp. The jır, as in batirlik jıri, is the equivalent of the dastan and includes all these components. However, in most cases, the celebration of the alp’s tribulations and ensuing victory is referenced by the name of the alp only. Oghuz Khan, Manas, Koroglu, Kırk Kız are some examples. At other times, the term batir, or alp is appended to the name of the individual thus honored – Kambar Batir, Chora Batir, Alp Er Tunga. However, despite the prevalent use of jır and kokcho (still revered in various parts of Central Asia), the term dastan is employed throughout this work, in keeping with the usage of the secondary literature.

Initially, the jır and its constituent components were composed to celebrate the feats and characteristics of the alp. In doing so, it was inescapable that the exemplary individual’s attributes be compared to natural phenomena since he or she possesses rare qualities. Thus the alp can run as swift as lightning; his hair glows as bright as the sun; his body, in his prime, is as sturdy as the strongest tree; his punch mightier than a thunderbolt. Such “nature imagery” draws upon the values of shamanism, the dominant belief system of Central Asian Turks prior to the arrival of Islam in the eighth century A.D. Moreover, the use of the term bahsi (also ozan) designating the reciter of the jır also has shamanistic connotations. Such beliefs are discernible in the symbolism of the composition of the “marker songs.” Later religious beliefs and practices are juxtaposed as additional layers, and can be easily identified.

Traditionally, a dastan is composed by an ozan5 in order to celebrate a memorable event in the life of his people. The ozan will usually set the events in verse and recite them while accompanying himself on a stringed instrument.6 The dastan typically depicts the alp, the travails of a central character, fighting against the collective enemies of his people and tribe, and under whose leadership the longed for victory is achieved. The trials and tribulations endured by this preeminent leader, though aggravated by one or more traitors, are in due course alleviated by a full supporting cast. Nor is the theme of love a stranger to the plot. Often a central figure, the loved one, is abducted by the enemy, only to be rescued by his or her mate after much searching, fighting and sacrifice. There are attempts by the foes and the traitors to extort favors of various sorts from the lovers, but this does not deter the resolve or the eventual triumph of the principal personages. The traitors, frequently from the same tribe as the alp, collaborate with the enemy or abuse the trust of their people and their leaders. However, none of this prevents the inescapable success of the alp in the end. The traitors receive their due, being now and then executed for their sins but customarily forgiven and allowed to roam the earth in search of reconciliation between themselves and God. Reference to similar past experiences is standard and reinforces the very important link to earlier dastans.7 Motifs or whole episodes from earlier dastans may be repeated, sometimes with variations, in new dastans. Religious motifs emerge in descriptions of practices and beliefs. Among the Islamic practices earlier modes of worship are apparent. The narration of the dastan, in verse or prose, may also allude to supernatural powers.8

The road to success is fraught with seemingly insurmountable barriers. At times, it appears that the cherished goal of regaining freedom is out of reach. In spite of the immense suffering of the alp and the overwhelming might of the enemy, in the end the people are freed from slavery, thanks to the alp’s exemplary character, bravery, strength, and superhuman determination. Freedom is invariably celebrated with a lavish toy (feast) and festivities.

The dastan is revered not only as the word of the forefathers and repository of customs and traditions of the creators and their descendants, but also because it is the narration of how the enemy was defeated. It celebrates the victory and the success of the leader-alp, and the achievement of unity, despite all odds.

The dastan is the collective pride of tribes, confederations of tribes or even larger units, serving as birth certificate, national anthem and mark of citizenship all rolled into one.9 The dastan itself provides the framework to bond a coherent oymak, the ancestral unit, a division of a greater tribe.10 The terms boy – clan; soy (also, uruĝ) – family, lineage, are also used to denote subdivisions within a confederation, in which family relations and obligations are well defined and of central importance. Members of the oymak share one language, religion and history. The name of the oymak serves as the surname of an individual as was true for those who fled the Bolsheviks in the 1920s. It can be observed also among the refugees who fled Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion of 1979. The dastan travels with the Central Asians and, like its owners, it is not limited by geographic frontiers. Indeed, the idea of boundaries in the Western sense was alien to the nomadic societies of Central Asia and imposed on them only late in their history. The ancestral homeland and grazing pastures, called yurt (although the term originally defined the mark left by the cylindrically shaped tent, the tirik) were selected on the basis of traditional, historical and lineage rights of a given oymak. The necessity to undertake biannual migrations in search of fresh pastures for the livestock complicated the definition of a rigidly-defined “homeland.”

In the event that the heirs of a dastan face new threats to their freedom, the importance of the dastan is reinforced. Should the enemy somehow prevail over the oymak, the dastan, by providing an unbreakable link to the past, affords the inspiration to seek independence once again. The fact that more than one oymak may identify with a given dastan has far-reaching implications. In this context, Alpamysh enjoys a very special place among dastans, for all major Türkic tribal units have at least one version which they call their own, although they may exhibit local variations.

The theory that all major dastans are but a restructuring of the fragments of a “mother dastan” has been advanced by A. Inan. According to this theory, Oghuz Kaĝan is the first dastan and throughout the ages fragments of it have been salvaged from obscurity and embellished by new experiences of other tribes of common ancestry.11 In addition, it is said that the Oghuz Kaĝan dastan has also influenced other dastans, some non-Türkic ones.12

Generally, the contents of dastans are jealously guarded against any major textual changes. The prevailing attitude seems to be: “It has been handed down to us as such, and we’ll keep it that way.”13 For a given version, not even the minor details are permitted to be dropped or allowed to be changed by the ozan.14 Therefore, traditionally, new dastans are created only under two circumstances: when a major new alp successfully concludes the feats proper to his calling and it is time to celebrate his exploits; or when the possessors of a given dastan are threatened with the yoke of an outsider.

Traditionally, every successful major feat must be celebrated by a toy. At such a gathering, “mountains of meat” are cheerfully devoured and “lakes of kımız15 joyfully drained. The centerpiece of the festivities is the recitation of the dastan which, in a real sense, sanctifies the occasion. If the event preceding the toy is of sufficiently monumental proportions in the minds of its participants and observers, then the ozan may see fit to create a new dastan, which will place the current alp-leader on a pedestal. Portions of the new dastan will certainly be borrowed from the older dastans, and the older ones will not be forgotten. It would be a mistake, however, to regard this as plagiarism. The new alp is simply being compared to his predecessors, reassuring the audience of this new alp’s prowess and exemplary and noble qualities, thereby forming yet another link with the collective past. The intention is to prove that he is every bit as brave and resourceful as the ancient alps. This borrowing need not be verbatim. The ozan may decide to recall worthy incidents or motifs from a more ancient dastan, either by directly quoting these older passages or by adapting them to contemporary needs. This may be one reason for the existence of at least fifty Türkic dastans (exclusive of their variants).

It is conceivable that the audience too may participate in the creation of the new dastan, just as they serve as a judge of the authenticity and completeness of an old one. The listeners are continually evaluating the performance and verifying its contents, comparing it to other recitations they have heard. The ozan usually provides the longest possible version of the dastan in deference to his audience. Manas, the great Kırghız dastan, is a prime example of this love of detail. It contains one million lines and requires up to six months to perform. The ornaments of the alp’s saddle alone may require many tens of lines to portray adequately.16 If the ozan is for any reason inclined to abbreviate the full narration, the assembled audience will feel cheated and will inevitably protest. In a similar vein, it is not inconceivable that during the creation of a new dastan the audience may suggest the borrowing of certain descriptions from other dastans, which better describe, for example, the details of the alp’s sword or headgear.

During extended periods of relative stability, some of the dastans may “spin off” their lyrical parts, thus allowing the creation of new romantic dastans. In this case, the motifs related to the fight to throw off the yoke of an invading oppressor are subordinated to the romantic portions of a dastan. A young man meets a beautiful girl, they fall in love, they desire to be married. However, either the parents do not give their consent or the girl is betrothed to another. The prospective groom may undergo a series of tests or have to overcome monumental difficulties, enduring severe hardships to prove his love. Success brings a happy ending and the lovers are finally united in marriage, although the “happy ending” is by no means always assured.

Tahir ve Zühre is an example of such a romantic dastan, seemingly having been “spun off” from Alpamysh. The Hungarian Orientalist Arminius Vambery encountered Tahir ve Zühre when he masqueraded as a dervish in Central Asia in the 1860s. He subsequently included portions of it in one of his works.17 Vambery was in Central Asia at a time when inter-tribal rivalry was in decline and immediate Russian pressure was still minimal. This relative calm seems to have favored the development of a romantic dastan. A version of Tahir ve Zühre was also discovered in Kashgar.18

Later, the lyrical dastans may also have been converted, or simplified into masal or folk tales, perhaps intended to be used much like nursery rhymes, recited to cranky children to help pass the long winter nights.19

When a new leader-alp emerges to take charge of a given tribe or confederation, it is usually out of a desperate need to fight for their rights and traditional way of life. The tribe or confederation may have fallen under the rule of an outside power. If this group is lucky enough to have reared an able alp to lead them, they will either stand and fight on the spot or else migrate beyond their reach (at times temporarily), using elaborate ruses to confuse any pursuit. If in the course of previous conflicts the tribe in question has lost many of its young men, or if prevailing circumstances are not favorable, then they may have to wait for a generation or two to act. Under these conditions, an old dastan may be modified to suit foreseeable future needs or a brand new dastan may be constructed from the fragments of several old ones.20

During this gestation period (literal as well as figurative) the dastan is the sole source of consolation. It not only keeps the fires of revenge burning, but also conditions the children psychologically for future “alply” duties. The dastan, then, is employed to convey the aspirations of the present generation to those of the future. The dastan becomes a last will and testament.21 In this case, the adaptation process alluded to above (that is, borrowing motifs from other dastans) may be subtle or not, depending on the languages spoken by the oppressors or the relative distance of the homeland from that of the invaders. If the comparison of the new and the ancient alps can be freely made (i.e. without interference from the suzerain or his administrators), the similarities may not be hidden. If, on the other hand, there is reason to be cautious, borrowed motifs will be cleverly concealed. Only those who are familiar with the original dastan (or with the alp) will be able to detect the similarities and understand its new message.22

Since Alpamysh has only been printed under Russian imperial and Soviet administrations, it is instructive to note the description of the dastan in the most accessible Soviet sources. Below is the definition of “dastan” as it appears in the Uzbek Sovet Entsiklopediyasi (USE).

Specific to Eastern literature, multipart lyrical-epic style poetic work. In the dastan, the known historical developments of the people’s life are characterized. The essence of traditions, folk tales and legends of the people is related by the bards. In format, as can be observed in various Uzbek literary and folkloric examples, verse is mixed with prose.

...beginning with the oldest times, the dastan genre is divided into three categories: heroic (for example, in Uzbek folklore, Alpamysh); romantic (many examples) and didactic (such as the Kutadgu Bilig by Yusuf Hass Khajib, Navai’s Hayrat ul-Abrar). In some dastans, all three of the above attributes are united (for example Navai’s Saddi Iskandari is both romantic and didactic).

The Uzbek dastan has ancient roots. Even in the primitive period, the creative powers of our people began to be seen in their heroic epics. This is verified by the contents of the funerary monuments erected along the banks of the Yenisey and Orkhon rivers, in memory of Kül Tegin and Bilge Kaĝan (fifth-eighth centuries), and by the Divan-i Lugat it-Türk (1076-1077) of the medieval Mahmud Kashgari, who included literary pieces to this effect in his work....

In the examples referred to above of literary works of the old civilizations, it is also possible to observe the liberation struggles of Oghuz, Kipchak, Kırghız, Yaĝma and Sogdian tribal units against wandering raiders. The defense of their homelands by force of arms, their victories and the rout of their enemies are elaborated in epic style....

The Book of Dede Korkut, of the ancient literature of the Türkic peoples (written down in the sixteenth century), displays the format of the peoples’ epic-lyric style literature and the summarized characteristics above. It contains twelve stories, depicting the exploits of the powerful Oghuz heroes and their Khan Bayindir. What is important is the fact that the narrator of these stories, Dede Korkut, is also a participant in the events he chronicles and is an advisor to the ruling elite. Furthermore, the story of Bamsi Beyrek in the Book of Dede Korkut is an ancient variant of the Alpamysh dastan. It displays detailed scenes from the heroic deeds of the Oghuz people and their patriarchal structure, the courage in combat of their valiant fighters, confirming the evolution of this literary genre... legendary warlike abilities of selfless heroes as perceived by the masses are reflected in these types of works.”23

By contrast, under “dastan,” the Bol’shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia (BSE) speaks of the “Persian epic genre; among which the Book of Dede Korkut is an example.” It states that “Firdousi’s Shahname is one such work, among others.” The entry, of approximately 240 words, refers only in passing to the fact that there are “Uzbek, Karakalpak, and Türkic dastans as well.”24 The article “dastan” in the USE (cited above) contains almost 1000 words. The USE entry contains references to three specific works as predecessors of the dastan genre. They are also hailed as the ancient literary treasures of the Central Asian Türkic peoples and the messages they bear may be found also in the dastan Alpamysh. Below are some relevant passages from two of those treasures – the Kül Tegin inscriptions (early eighth century) and Kutadgu Bilig (mid-eleventh century).

The Kül Tegin Inscriptions

When the blue sky above and the reddish-brown earth below were created, between the two, human beings were created... my ancestors, Bumin Kaĝan and Istami Kaĝan, became rulers... they organized.

The stela then describes the “unwise” successors who let the state go to ruin and the “unruliness” of the people who were seduced by the “soft words and soft materials” of the Chinese, left their own country and submitted to the Chinese, became their servants and slaves, gave up their Turkish titles and adopted Chinese titles, and went on military campaigns to conquer for the Chinese emperor:

Then, the Turkish common people apparently said as follows: “We used to be a people who had an (independent) state. Where is our own state now? For whose benefit are we conquering these lands?” And they said: “We used to be a people who had its own kagan. Where is our own kagan now? To which kagan are we giving our services?”

[Despite the Chinese decision to kill the potentially rebellious Turks] the Turkish god above and the Turkish holy earth and water (spirits below)... held my father, Ilteris Kaĝan, and my mother, Ilbilga Katun, at the top of heaven and raised them upwards... (My father, the kagan) after he had founded (such a great) empire and gained power, passed away...

We had such a well-acquired and well-organized state and institutions. You, Turkish and Oguz lords and peoples, hear this! If the sky above did not collapse, and if the earth below did not give way, O Turkish people, who would be able to destroy your state and institutions? O Turkish people, regret and repent! Because of your unruliness, you yourselves betrayed your wise kagan who had (always) nourished you, and you yourselves betrayed your good realm which was free and independent, and you (yourselves) caused discord. From where did the armed [sic] come and put you to flight? From where did the lancer come and drive you away? You, people of the sacred Ötüken mountains, it was you who went away... your (only) profit was the following: your blood ran like a river, and your bones were heaped up like a mountain; your sons worthy of becoming lords became slaves, and your daughters worthy of becoming ladies became servants.25

Kutadgu Bilig

156 Wisdom proclaims its own meaning thus: when a man knows wisdom, then illness stays far from him... Intellect is a leading rein: if a man leads by it, he achieves his goal and enjoys countless desires. A man of intellect provides a multitude of benefits and a man of wisdom is very precious. With intellect a man accomplishes all his affairs, and with wisdom he preserves from spoils his allotted time.

186 I speak these words and give this counsel to you... If I bequeath to you gold and silver, do not consider that to be equal to these words. Apply silver to affairs and it will be used up, but apply my words and you will gain silver. Words are one man’s legacy to another. So hold to the legacy of my words, and the profit therefrom will be a hundredfold.

317 Intellect is a good friend who is bound to you by oath, and wisdom is a brother to you, very loyal. To the ignoramus, his own “wisdom” and his own deeds are enemies: even if he has no others, these two are enough trouble for him. The following Turkish proverb has come down illustrating this truth – read it and take it to heart: “To the man of intellect, intelligence is a sufficient companion; to the man of ignorance, a curse is sufficient name.”

2386 If the enemy attacks, do not turn your back. Stand firm and his attack will be broken. If he moves, move after him; push on, march forward, do not stand still.26

The Kül Tegin inscriptions leave a clear message: your ancestors were surrounded by hostile forces and nations, they made several mistakes – they did not appreciate their wise rulers, they left their homeland and settled among enemy peoples who promised luxury; they did not use their wits and as a result were almost annihilated. The Turks finally woke up and fought their way to freedom. Do not repeat their mistakes, otherwise you might not get another chance for freedom. When the Turks were united, they were strong, all their enemies stayed away from them. When they became fragmented, they became slaves. Do not be deceived by presents that are designed to placate you. Those nations who give you such presents are actually plotting to exterminate your lineage by separating you from your homeland.

The message of Kutadgu Bilig also is clear: think, learn, be wise. Value wisdom and intelligence above material riches. The words of the wise are your legacy – pass on your knowledge to future generations. Do not fear anything except ignorance and the ignoramus; use your intellect; there are brave and knowledgeable Turks in the past who have done great deeds, they were manly. Money cannot accomplish these things, but if you follow their example you will have money, too. Handing down your experiences is not without danger. But the potential results are well worth the risk – your legacy is important. Pursue your enemy, do not turn back, be brave. The dastan Alpamysh contains elements from all of the ancestral admonitions noted above – the appreciation and love of homeland and the dire consequences of settling among adversaries, the beauty of the native language, bravery in battle, the unbridled desire for freedom and the readiness to fight for it, the longing for the cohesion and dignity of the larger family unit, respect for elders and loyalty to members of the family and friends, the necessity of keeping your word, the importance of using one’s own wits.

Despite the large area inhabited by the tens of millions of Turks of Central Asian origin, and despite the inevitable diversity of their political experiences throughout history, their differential patterns of nomadism and settlement, adoption of Islam (from the ninth to eighteenth centuries), and separate treatment and legal classification since the Russian conquests (sixteenth-nineteenth centuries), there is still great linguistic and cultural unity among them. They constitute something like an enormous, varied family, but with numerous shared customs, values and traditions – even apart from the Islamic – as well as mutually intelligible linguistic dialects. These are reflected in the many Türkic dastans known across Central Asia, Caucasia and Anatolia and have been reinforced by realignments at various times – over the centuries – of Türkic subtribal units into new tribes or tribal confederations. That Alpamysh is so widely shared demonstrates this common ground. Other dastans and written works are also referred to by present-day Central Asians as antecedents to their contemporary language, proverbs and customs.27 The grey wolf legend of the Oghuz Khan dastan (Oghuzname) is part of the “creation mythology” among many groups that regard themselves as descendants of the Oghuz Turks. Contemporary Central Asian scholars and writers emphasize DLT and the Orkhon inscriptions and Kutadgu Bilig as sources for the study of their own written literature and linguistic forms. All this reflects a far greater degree of cultural-linguistic unity – and the knowledge of it on the part of the Central Asians – than is suggested by the Russians’ artificial use of “separate language” and “nation” terminology. At the same time, this is most emphatically not to be confused, as some writers have done, with Pan-Turkism (sometimes “Pan-Turanism”). Pan-Turkism has long been defined as a movement, ostensibly by Turks, to establish hegemony over the world, or at least Eurasia. A few remarks on this misconception are appropriate.

This “Pan” movement has no historical ideological precedent among Turks and has been documented as a convenient political creation of the age of European imperial expansion. Following the Russian occupation of Tashkent in 1865, which seemed to threaten British India and to which the British responded with their “Forward Policy,” the doctrine called “Pan-Turanism” or “Pan-Turkism” appeared in a work of the Hungarian Orientalist Vambery. He described a great potential Türkic state stretching from the Bosphorus to the Great Wall. His aim was to encourage the Turks to form a buffer between the expanding Russian Empire and the British Raj, to check the Russian advance toward the South. At the same, this “Pan” movement seemed to justify any action to defend “Christendom,” as in the age of the crusades. Vambery, it is now known, was working for the British government.28 The doctrine was invented, propagated and attributed to the Turks by the Europeans, particularly the British, as a diplomatic tool in their relations with each other and with the declining Ottoman Empire. Dubbed the “Great Game in Asia” by Kipling and others, the origins and character of this contest have been amply discussed by E. Ingram.29 The Russians, too, invoked this artificial doctrine for their own purposes. With the encouragement of the government, Russian journalists and academics began to portray their conquests of Central Asia as belated revenge against earlier manifestations of “Pan-Turanianism,” such as Timur’s (d. 1405) invasion of Muscovy and, more indirectly, the imposition of the “Tatar yoke” by the descendants of Chingiz Khan (d. 1227).

The doctrine was embellished by the French historian, L. Cahun, in his Introduction à l’histoire de l’Asie, Turcs, et Mongols, des origines à 1405,30 which argues that a belief in his own racial superiority motivated the conquests of the Mongol Chingiz Khan. It is perhaps not coincidental that this book was published on the heels of the 1893-1894 Franco-Russian rapprochement, at a time when Russia justified its conquest of Central Asia as part of its own “civilizing mission.”

In the Secret History of the Mongols, written shortly after the death of Chingiz Khan in 1227, there is, of course, no reference to the racial superiority of the Mongols. Instead, it quotes Chingiz: “Tangri opened the gate and handed us the reins,”31 indicating that Chingiz regarded only himself as ruling by divine order. Chingiz himself was and remained the focus of power, as opposed to the clans under his rule. In any event, the Mongols are not Turks and Mongol armies were distinctly multi-racial.32

Another representative sample of this early phase of the “movement” is A Manual on the Turanians and Pan-Turanianism33 (published by the British Admiralty during the First World War), a work based on Vambery’s Turkenvolk34 and compiled by Sir Denison Ross.35 Even Alexander Kerensky, in Paris exile after the Bolshevik Revolution, utilized the same “Turanian” rhetoric, which he described as “a menace threatening the world.”36 Despite its European origins and its European goals, the idea took root among some Central Asian émigrés, especially those living in Europe, as it promised the removal of the Russian occupation and subsequent colonization in their homelands.

Accusations of “Pan-Turkism” are still employed today, but were especially if not exclusively prominent in the old Soviet Union, where the charge was levelled even against cultural movements and scholarly works on the common origins and language of the Turks. The charge was levelled specifically against those who refuted the Soviet position that the Turkish dialects are separate and distinct “languages,” but also against the use in works of art of such symbols as the crescent moon (which, in any event, is an Islamic symbol).

History, politics and literature have always been inseparable in Central Asia. This tradition is continuing as always, regardless of the mode of government. Therefore, it is imperative that one be equipped with the necessary historical knowledge to understand fully the implications of any particular historical or literary work. The interrelations of historical references to present conditions roughly display the political tendencies or positions current at the time of writing. From all indications, appearing in the Central Asian press, in their dialects, what the Central Asians are interested in is nothing short of a “commonwealth” of Türki speakers (akin to the “commonwealth of English speakers” around the globe), building upon their historical culture. After all, the Central Asians are living on their ancestral lands.

Study of Dastans

The Türkic dastan genre has been subjected to a limited type and amount of study by the scholarly world, both Eastern and Western. It is limited in that attention has been focused on the format and translation, as opposed to the reasons why they were composed. Moreover, the effects of the dastans on the populations whose ancestors had created this ornate oral history are seldom if ever discussed. On the contrary, the dastan genre has been classified by Russians of the tsarist and Soviet regimes solely as folklore. In return, folklore studies have been elevated to the level of “hard science.”37 Such terminology has then been imposed on the Central Asian scholars working on the topic.

Major Central Asian collectors and scholars of dastans who stress the importance of the ornate oral histories are A.A. Divay (Divaev),38 Hamid Alimjan [Olimjan], Gazi Alim, M. Ghabdullin, Tura Mirzaev, T. Sydykov, and the Russian V.M. Zhirmunskii, all of whose works are discussed below. In the West, there are a number of interested researchers concerned with oral literature39 and the epic. Between 1964 and 1972, a seminar on the “traditions of the epic” was led by Professor Arthur Hatto at Queen Mary College, London University. The participants, mainly scholars with a common interest in epic poetry, concentrated primarily on becoming acquainted with one another and, for those who cared to read the works in hand, with the genre in general. One of the fruits of the Queen Mary College seminar was published in 1980.40

Since the 1960s Western researchers have been taking more interest in dastans, particularly in the problem of translation. Besides the translations of the works cited above (the Orkhon tablets, Divan-i Lugat it-Türk and Kutadgu Bilig), the dastans Book of Dede Korkut and Kokotoy (a cycle of Manas)41 are two of the more notable complete works that have been rendered into English. Geoffrey L. Lewis, in the introduction to his Dede Korkut translation, seems to be the only Western scholar to date who has addressed the question of why the dastan was created. Meanwhile Hatto has explored the possible political use of Kokotoy in the latter part of the nineteenth century.42

Zeki Velidi Togan published four papers under the general title Türk Milli Destaninin Tasnifi (Classification of the Turks’ National Dastan) in 1931.43 According to Togan:

National dastans, rather than describing precise historical events, reflect a nation’s spirit and feelings. Dastans may or may not, in their entirety, be based on historical events. However, they are people’s literary monuments. Dastans pass through three evolutionary stages: (1) folk poets relate, in small pieces, a series of ventures from various periods; (2) an event that concerns the entire nation channels these fragments into a focal point, forming a dastan; (3) eventually, when a nation faces a monumental event, an enlightened poet collects these fragmentary dastans to create the great national dastan...

Turks have been through the second stage several times. The dastans which collect the ideals of the Turkish nation came into being due to events such as the rule of Oghuz. However, these dastans did not enter the third stage of collection by a great poet in order to become an evolved national dastan. As yet we have only fragments of the great dastans.

Another exception is N. Atsız, who wrote a number of works on the importance of dastans and pointed to the following debate between Z.V. Togan and F. Koprulu:

Togan, though conceding that the stories pertaining to Danishmend Ghazi and Seyid Battal Ghazi may have taken their themes from the Islam-Byzantium struggles in Anatolia, maintained that these struggles did not reflect the Seljuk period, but the earlier Arab era. Consequently, Togan did not regard them as Türkic dastans. On the other hand, F. Koprulu did not share this view, stressing the position that these stories may have been born among the Türkic elements present in the Umayyad and especially Abbasid armies during the Islam-Byzantium struggles in Anatolia.44

The history of the study of the Alpamysh dastan in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union is complex and interweaves the strands of collection, publication and republication since the late nineteenth century. This was the key arena in which “Phase I” of the struggle to obliterate and to save the dastan was fought. These processes are linked to Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) policy directives to the Oriental Institutes of the USSR and the latter’s activities. It is to this first phase of the struggle that we turn in the next chapter.

Chapter Two: Attempts to Destroy and to Save Alpamysh

Phase I: Russian imperial policies in Central Asia

The Russian military conquest of the steppe and Turkistan was a protracted process whose origins can be traced to the conquests of Ivan IV (1533-1582). It was Ivan IV who began the Russian state’s eastward expansion into non-Slav territory with his annexation of the entire length of the Volga as well as much of Siberia. From that time on, the territory ruled from the Russian capital continued to expand by treaty and, more often, by conquest. In the eighteenth century, Peter I began building on the territorial requisitions of Ivan IV (whom Peter greatly admired) by such diverse actions as military reform and creation of programs of Oriental studies. Peter and his immediate successors extended the building of forts in the northern steppe, including Omsk (1716), Orenburg (1737), Petropavlovsk (1752) and others. Cossack settlements were established from the 1730s to the 1760s along the entire Siberian-steppe frontier. These were bases from which the nineteenth-century conquests east of the Caspian were launched. The culmination of that process can be narrowed to the last four decades of the nineteenth century from the capture of Chimkent in 1864 to the border agreement with the British in 1892, which established the Russian Empire’s southern border along the Amu Darya River, at the Afghan border.1

Once in control of this vast territory, the tsarist government set about governing. Although the Volga-Ural region, like the North Caucasus and Transcaucasia, were incorporated into European Russia, the steppe and Turkistan were divided into two large districts, the steppe krai and the Turkistan krai. The former lay south of Siberia and the latter, south and southeast of Lake Balkhash to the Chinese border. There, military governors general, rather than civilian administrators, were placed in power. To the south lay the still nominally independent khanates of Khiva and Bukhara (through which the Amu Daya flowed).2 During the subsequent years of imperial rule the Central Asians were differentiated by legal status – while Tatars (like Azerbaijani Turks) were citizens, the population of Turkistan and the steppe (like those in North Caucasus) were classified as inorodtsy, “aliens.” The territories’ status as colonies was undisguised. During the years of the State Duma (from 1906 until the fall of the ancien régime) the population of the steppe and Turkistan was at first sparsely represented, then disenfranchised on the grounds of “backwardness.”

Another by-product of Russian rule was the establishment of Russian Orthodox churches in the region and missionary work among the local population. These efforts were begun with the conquest of Kazan by Ivan IV (1552) and continued in various forms thereafter. Part of religious proselytization, especially in the nineteenth century, included efforts to encourage the spread of Russian or to create Cyrillic alphabets for the native language. In this regard, the work of Russian-Orthodox missionaries, led by N.I. Il’minskii,3 a contemporary of Divay, provides a clear example of the interlinkages among these policies. Furthermore, later Soviet language policies (discussed in detail in the following section) would be inspired by Il’minskii’s example.

The Il’minskii method was originally based on an attempt to separate Tatar and Kazakh (then called “Kırghız”) dialects and establish for the latter a Cyrillic alphabet. Il’minskii strove to emphasize tribe-specific and regional vocabulary, using Cyrillic characters to stress differentiation visually and codify variations in pronunciation, however minor. Another Russian Orthodox missionary and graduate of the Kazan Academy, Mikola Ostroumov, built on Il’minskii’s work to attempt the creation of a “Sart” language for the settled population that used the Tashkent dialect and to differentiate it from Tatar and Kazakh.4

Ostroumov established a newspaper in Tashkent, Turkistan vilayetinin gazeti: Tuzemnaia gazeta, which was published for 35 years, from 1883-1917 (between 1890 and 1896 it is known that 600-700 copies per issue were produced). He called the language of the newspaper “Sartiye” and tried to establish a circle of “Sart literature” around it. Togan5 remarks that this newspaper’s language was a “broken” (bozuk) dialect and records Ostroumov’s “special methods” for distancing this “language” from “Tatar” and “Kazakh”:

For example, in the articles whenever the words ‘kelgen,’ ‘toqtay turgan,’ ‘tilegen,’ ‘Büyük,’ ‘pek,’ ‘güzel,’ etc., appeared, he would become angry at these words, labeling them as ‘Tatar’ and ‘Kazakh,’ and insert ‘kilgan,’ ‘toqhtay durgan,’ ‘khohlegan,’ ‘katte,’ ‘cude,’ ‘ciraylik,’ respectively. Furthermore, he would change the spellings of loan words, for example ‘vagon,’ ‘poezd’ would become ‘vagan’ and ‘fayiz.’ This exaggerated pronunciation style was mostly used while Ostroumov was publishing his newspaper. Despite that in the works of the literati and the journalists of Kokand and Khiva, the language preserves the beauty of their Chagatay tradition.

Thus distorting the phonological aspects of local usages constituted a step toward the later Soviet policy (discussed below) of recording such differences in subsets of Latin, then Cyrillic orthography, and dubbing each product a “separate language.” When the Soviet sources claim that Central Asian peoples did not have a written language of their own before they came under the protection of the Russian elder brother, and that the Soviets gave them one, this is what is to be understood.6

It should be noted that these efforts built on resentment between nomads and Tatars, generated in the reign of Catherine II (1762-96). Catherine granted privileges to Tatar merchants and mullahs when conducting trade (and acting as semi-official representatives of her government) with the cities of Transoxiana and, at the same time, spreading Islam among the nomads. It was apparently Catherine’s belief that Islam would break the unity of the oymak and render the nomads more malleable.

Central Asian responses

The response of the Central Asians was as broad as the areas in which the Russians exerted pressure, and ranged from armed resistance to education reform and publishing. Our focus in the present work, however, is the response that was in some ways the most central and deep rooted – the protection of the repository and symbol of the past. Several individuals began to collect and record versions of the dastans already, as far as available records indicate, on the heels of the Russian conquest of the late nineteenth century. We can identify four identifiable waves of “saviors” – interested parties who attempted to save Alpamysh and the Türkic dastan genre from oblivion by collecting and publishing transcriptions from bahshis.

The first wave, striving to make Alpamysh available in print, was based in Kazan in the latter part of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Very little is known about most of the people involved, since they largely avoided using their names as a protective measure to avoid reprisals from the Tsarist secret police.7 The earliest known printed Alpamysh (Item 1 in the Appendix) carries the following inscription on its title page:

This episode is related by Yusuf bin Hoca Sheyhulislamoĝlu. The date is the 1316th year of the Hijra; 8 March 1899 according to the Russian calendar. I finished it in one day and one night. The mistakes are due to the shortage of time.

This edition must have proved popular with the native readership, judging from the seven additional printings between 1901 and 1916 (noted in the Appendix). According to Togan,8 Sheyhulislamoĝlu’s broader efforts contributed substantially to the establishment of Kazakh-dialect publishing and the adaptation of various stories to Kazakh tastes:

In the 1880s, works in the Kazakh literary dialect started appearing in print. One of those who has served as propagator in this line is Seyhulislamoglu [sic] Yusufbek. He is a hoca from Qarkara [sic]. He is considered to be the Ahmed Midhat9 of the Kazaks. He wrote books as long as a few hundred or even a few thousand couplets within a day or even a night.

He published many works of popular literature (halk edebiyati), especially Shi’i legends such as those tales of Hazreti Ali, Hasan and Husein, Kerbela, Salsal Zerkum, etc.; also [he published] the Iranian dastans such as Rustam, Jemshid, Ferhad-u Shirin in the Kazakh dialect. Yusufbek adapted these Islamic Iranian works to the Kazakh life. Ali and Husein, in his works, are in the full sense nomadic Türk-Kazakh types. From this point of view his works have performed great deeds in the publication of Islamic traditions. Radloff, in amazement, records that one such work, Kissa-i Jümjüme, undercut completely the work of Christian missionaries that had been going on for years.10 Those old Turkish dastans, mythology and folklore, still alive among the Kazakhs, were made known to Europe by Radloff, Altynsaryn, Letsch, and Platonov. On the other hand, Yusufbek, of course mixing a certain amount of Islamic elements into them, collected and recorded them from among the people for the benefit of successive generations. Yusufbek’s Kazakh can be understood by those Turks who are not Kazakh and his grammar is taken from the old Chaghatay grammar. Among his publications, Qizjibek, Alpamysh, and Ayman Cholpan are well known.

Perhaps the most eminent of this first wave was the man whose redaction of Alpamysh appears in English translation in Chapter Three, Abubakir Ahmedjan Divay [Divaev]. Divay’s career is known partly because he spent his life in the Russian imperial service, where he gathered his material, and became famous as an ethnographer who published widely in the old regime. He held several posts under the Bolsheviks. Divay, a Bashkurt,11 was born on 19 December 1855 in Orenburg and lived most of his life among the Kazakhs. He attended the Orenburg Nepliuev military academy, studying first in the Asiatic Division, where the majority of his classmates were reportedly Kazakhs, and later in the division for the preparation of translators of Oriental languages for the steppe regions.

In 1876-1877, at the age of 21, Divay left school to accept an appointment in the Russian bureaucracy of the Turkistan krai. There in the southern steppe region Divay travelled and was able to visit many Kazakh, Kırghız and Özbek auls. He was Divisional Inspector12 of the Aulie-Atinsk uezd (district) and then became translator and junior official of Special Missions attached to the Governor-General of the Syr-Darya oblast’. This latter post gave him wide opportunities to travel throughout the Turkistan krai.13

In 1883, Divay began collecting ethnographic materials. The following year, the Governor-General of the Syr-Darya oblast’, N.I. Grodekov, initiated the collection of information on Kazakh and Kırghız customary law in order to publish a code of juridical customs of the nomadic peoples (among whom were included “Kazakh,” “Kırghız”14 and “KaraKırghız”) of the Syr-Darya oblast’.15 While working on this project, Divay reportedly collected “historical legends from ancient manuscripts, in the hands of educated Kırghız, [and] heroic poems, aphorisms, fables, riddles, incantations, etc.”16 A portion of these materials was published in Grodekov’s book and the remainder, including fables, legends, songs, poems and dastans, was publishd in Sbornik materialov dlia statistiki Syr-Dar’inskoi oblasti in the years 1891-1897, 1901, 1902, 1904, 1905, and 1907. These articles by Divay were reviewed by various prominent Orientalists.17

Divay also published his articles in other periodicals in the 1890s, including the journal Okraina, the almanac Sredniaia Aziia and the semi-official Turkestanskaia Vedomost’. Also at this time he began to publish in the scholarly journals of the major Oriental and ethnographic societies of the Empire: Zapiski Vostochnogo otdela Russkogo arkheologicheskogo obshchestva, Izvestiia Obshchestva arkheologii, istorii, i etnografii, Izvestiia Turkestanskogo otdela Russkogo geograficheskogo obshchestva, and Zapiski Russkogo geograficheskogo obshchestva. In 1896, Divay was one of the founding members of the Turkestanskii kruzhok liubitelei arkheologii (Turkistan Circle of Lovers of Archeology).18 In 1906, he became Director of the Tatar [sic] school in Tashkent and participated in the compilation of materials on Central Asia in the Turkestanskii Sbornik statei i sochinenii otnosiashchikhsia k Srednei Azii, 1878-1887.19

Divay’s twenty-fifth anniversary as a Turcologist and ethnographer was celebrated in 1915. In celebration of the occasion the journal Zhivaia Starina published reviews of his work and much biographical material. This was not the end of his efforts, however, which continued under the Bolshevik regime.

Soviet era policies

The policies of the Bolshevik and Soviet Union governments were continuations of many tsarist practices, but carried out more thoroughly and brutally, and with greater determination and new rhetoric. The “civilizing mission” was replaced by the goal of “liberation through communism.” Rule by commissars and soviets (composed primarily of Russian railroad workers) replaced the tsarist governors general; successive “republics” were created in place of the imperial krai and oblast’; missionaries were replaced by those proselytizing the new faith of Marxism-Leninism; and churches were supplanted by communist clubs and the League of the Godless Zealots.

The language of “backwardness” was abandoned, but the Stalinist criteria for determining a “nation” in the Western European sense was used to imply the same thing. The Central Asian Turks – a dangerously homogenous mass that seemed unreceptive to communism borne by Russian workers – had to be “pared down” into more convenient units – “nations.” To conform to the Stalin model as articulated in his 1913 work Marxism and the National Question, each nation had to have, or in this case be given, a single distinct language, territory, economy and history. The Turks of Central Asia, despite regional economic diversity, shared a single language, territory and historical tradition. Thus they seemed to constitute, by the Stalinist criteria, one huge “nation.” Nevertheless, the Soviets set about the task of making several “nations” in its place. The steps were obvious – create separate territories and implant contrived “literary languages,” economies and histories in each. The guiding imperative was to create differences and division. Dialects became “separate languages,” tribal or other subgroups become “nations.” Now historians could “prove” the historic distinctiveness of each “nation” by projecting the new differentiation back into history.20 In the way, stood the dastans.

Boundary changes and language reform

The boundaries in Soviet Central Asia were drawn and redrawn during the 1920s and 1930s to create ever smaller administrative units, which on paper enjoyed sovereignty and rights, including that of secession. For example, what is now Kyrgyzstan, and was in the Soviet era known as Kırghız SSR, was initially part of the Kazakh SSR but separated from it in 1932.21

Terminology also changed. The term “Kırghız” was used in the late Russian imperial period to denote Türkic speakers east of Orenburg. In the Soviet period, those who had been called “Kırghız” began to be called “Kazakh,”22 while those to the southeast of the “Kazakh steppe” who had been called “Kara-Kırghız” before the 1917 Revolution were called simply “Kırghız.” This renaming coincided with the division of the former Turkistan krai and the protectorates of Bukhara and Khiva into Soviet Socialist Republics and with the “language reforms” of the 1920s and 1930s.

In the Soviet period, a language policy was implemented in Central Asia that strove to establish the various dialects as separate languages.23 The current Özbek, Kazakh, Kırghız, Türkmen and other Central Asian “languages” (the designation “Türkic” in connection with any of them is mostly avoided in popular, though not scholarly, publications) so rigidly favored by the Soviets were, as noted above, inspired by Il’minskii’s work. The formulation of “new” alphabets (actually the addition of new symbols to the Latin, then the Cyrillic alphabets) for each “language” was yet another aspect of this policy. Exploitation of phonetic differences between the local dialects was the starting-point. When the different pronunciations were then written down with the aid of deliberately differentiated subsets of Cyrillic, the foundations of “independent” languages were established. In essence, this practice amounted to no more than changing the spelling rules and calling the final product a “language.” According to such rules, the English spoken in Alabama, Boston and London would be written slightly differently and could so be classified as separate languages.

To take a simple but representative example, the publishing houses of the Academies of Sciences are named “knowledge,” (from the Arabic ‘ilm) as follows: Gyilem (Tatar), Elm (Azerbaijani Turkish), Ylym (Türkmen), Ilm (Özbek), Ghylym (Kazakh) and Ilim (Kırghız). Significantly, nearly all dictionary entries for this word use the Türkic term bilim in the definition. Noticeable in this example is another feature of these alphabets, the use of different characters for the same sound – the “e” in Azerbaijani, the “y” in Türkmen and the “i” in Özbek represent approximately the same sound. The character for the “j” (which does not exist in Russian and must always be represented by the cumbersome “dzh”) varies from alphabet to alphabet.24

Furthermore, each of these alphabets is organized in a different order, particularly placing letters that do not occur in Russian in various places in each alphabet. Although all alphabets begin with “a” they all end differently: Azerbaijani ends with “j” and “sh”; Tatar, with “ng” and “h”; Kazakh with the Russian characters “iu” and “ia,” which exist in various locations in the Tatar and Özbek alphabets but were removed from Azerbaijani in a 1957 reform; and Özbek ends with “gh” and “kh.” The letter “gh” follows the Russian “g” in Azerbaijani (where it is the fifth letter) and in Kazakh (where it is the sixth), but is placed next to last in the Özbek alphabet and does not exist at all in Tatar. The letter “u” comes toward the end of all alphabets, but, again, in different sequence. In Kazakh it is twelfth from last, in Azerbaijani seventh from last, in Özbek and Tatar, fourth from last.25

The Arabic alphabet, used at the turn of the century and at least the sixth to be employed by Türkic speakers, effectively obliterates regional phonetic differences. Türki, usually written in a series of Arabic alphabet subsets, is still read with no trouble by almost all literate Central Asians over the age of sixty. This does not mean, however, that the Arabic alphabet is the most suitable writing system for Türki. The three vowel signs in the Arabic alphabet fall far short of representing the minimum eight vowels required. The created subsets of Cyrillic for the “languages” of Central Asia err in the opposite direction, codifying one region’s pronunciation and establishing that spelling as the “approved” literary form.

The next step in the creation of “new languages” was to highlight the vocabularies not common to all the dialects. Depending on the locality, every dialect may contain such specialized words through historical development or contact with other languages. These geographic or tribe-specific words have often been cited by the Russian linguists as yet another proof of the existence of “independent” languages. To facilitate the proliferation of these “languages,” particularly among the youth, Soviet linguists from the 1920s were busy turning out scores of grammars for each “language.” The lexicographers were even busier, compiling at least two dictionaries per “language” in the same period. These dictionaries, especially the ones from the native “language” to Russian, included various words from the Soviet vocabulary (including many words from Western languages that have entered Russian). Among relevant entries are “kolkhoz,” “sovet,” “radio,” “tank”, (translated as “kolkhoz,” “sovet,” “radio,” and “tank,” respectively) as though these were native words that required translation.

The campaign against the dastan Alpamysh

According to Leninist doctrine, “Every culture of the past includes progressive, popular elements, which should be preserved in socialist culture as well as reactionary elements bearing the mark of the parasite classes which must be eliminated.” To this dictum Stalin added: “the culture of Soviet peoples must be proletarian and socialist in essence and national in form.”26 It was within these guidelines that Soviet commentators analyzed dastans. Tura Mirzaev, an Özbek Alpamysh scholar, observed that during the 1930s and 1940s close attention was paid to dastans in general and to Alpamysh in particular. He noted, “Different variants have been collected, the contents of which have been analyzed from historical and social points of view. It was stressed that the dastans contained motifs of the labors of people who lived in the distant past, of their high ideals, lives, histories, objectives and aesthetic tastes.”27

Nonetheless, a campaign against the dastans began in 1951. Alexandre Bennigsen describes the general pattern:

The campaign to purge the national cultures of those elements incompatible with the dominant Marxist-Leninist world view began in 1951. Initial attacks followed a standard pattern, beginning with derogatory comments in a local newspaper, Pravda or Literaturaia Gazeta. The theme would then be picked up by the Central Committee of the respective republican Communist Party, next by various local, political, social, academic or literary organizations, and finally by the oblast’, raion or city Party Committee, the Komsomol, Academy of Science, state university, Union of Writers and so forth. The operation would culminate... with: (1) the universal condemnation of local intellectuals who were charged with idealizing the bourgeois-nationalist aspects of their national patrimony; and (2) a shower of approving telegrams and letters addressed to the Central Committees of the republican party organizations, thanking their leaders for rescuing the Socialist Fatherland from the clutches of its most vile enemies.28

The treatment of Alpamysh followed this pattern. In the late 1940s, the “progressive” elements of the dastan had been praised. Alpamysh was deemed: “One of the most perfect epic poems in the world”;29 “the liberty song of Central Asian nations fighting against the alien invaders”;30 and an “authentic popular movement, voicing the ideology of the toiling masses.”31 However, when it was discovered that Alpamysh strengthened the sense of individual identity and independence of their creator-heir-owners, the tone changed rapidly. During the “crisis” of which Bennigsen spoke, an attack was mounted on Alpamysh similar to that against other dastans, charging it with being: “Impregnated with the poison of feudalism and reaction, breathing Muslim fanaticism and preaching hatred toward foreigners.”32

Alpamysh was condemned by the Central Committee of the Uzbekistan Communist Party before its tenth plenum33 by a special conference of historians of literature at the republican university in Samarkand34 and by the joint session of the Academy of Sciences and the Union of Soviet Writers in Tashkent. At this last meeting, the defenders of Alpamysh were declared to be “Pan-Türkic nationalists.”35 The key article in this assault seems to have been “Ob epose ‘Alpamysh’” (About the epic ‘Alpamysh’), which appeared in Pravda Vostoka (Tashkent) in January 1952.36 The article was authored by A. Abdunabiev, identified elsewhere37 as a doctoral student of the Uzbek section of the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute of the Central Comittee of the CPSU, and by A. Stepanov, who has not been identified, but was apparently a Russian.

The Abdunabiev and Stepanov article is one of the few detailed and specific attacks on Alpamysh. It was the only such article printed in the first five months of 1952 in Pravda Vostoka, the Uzbek Party organ that was a leader in this campaign. Later articles merely repeat charges made by Abdunabiev and Stepanov. Their article also served as the basis for the March 1952 meeting (later called the “Trial of Alpamysh”), as reported in Pravda Vostoka.38 “Ob epose ‘Alpamysh’” begins by recalling the importance of the theme of opposition to foreign and local class oppressors in the popular oral tradition. It states that this tradition glorifies the moral qualities of the hero, his actions in the name of justice, the protection of his homeland and people and his faith in love and friendship. The authors concede that the Uzbeks have a rich oral tradition of this type, but state that Alpamysh is not a part of it.

Primarily, the authors blame the folklorists for their mistaken praise of the dastan Alpamysh. These folklorists were not guided by the classics of Marxism-Leninism and therefore were able to see in this folklore only “the living past.” They evaluated dastans only from the literary point of view, which led to serious ideological errors including an idealization of a work that contains harmful ideas.

Abdunabiev and Stepanov then enumerate the various harmful ideas of the dastan, mentioning in passing its similarity to the “reactionary epic” Dede Korkut. It is stated that their remarks are based on the Penkovskii translation of the 1939 printing of the Fazil Yoldashoglu variant of Alpamysh. The central figures of the dastan Alpamysh are khans who have slaves – two clearly “anti-populist” motifs. The authors state:

The embodiment of terrible “evil” and “vice” in the epic are represented by some “unbelievers,” settled in the country of the Oirots [Kalmaks], which is a six-month journey from Baysun. As we learn from the poem, the Oirot people live peacefully, are occupied in land cultivation and cattle raising and never dreamed of making raids on the land of the Kungrats.

The authors of this article describe the welcome given Baysari’s family in the land of the Kalmaks and criticize Baysari’s refusal to permit Barçın to marry an “unbeliever.” This, the authors state, fosters hatred based on religion. Alpamysh himself, the authors continue, has no positive qualities. He goes after his betrothed only under pressure from his sister. Indeed, the desire to save his bride is merely Alpamysh’s excuse to cover up his goal of slaying enemies, whom he defines as all unbelievers – more evidence of hatred based on religion. The pair have little to say about Alpamysh’s behavior in the land of the Kalmaks. The bloodshed accompanying his return, however, is noted and held up as another harmful example. Ultan (the usurper and suitor to Barçın) is portrayed as willing to step down from power on Alpamysh’s return. The defeat of Ultan by Alpamysh, according to the authors, is meant to convey a lesson – “only a ‘pure-blooded khan’ may rule a country, and a slave must remain a slave.” Clearly, conclude the authors, this dastan is not “populist,” but rather is a glorification of khans, religion, slave-holding and the power of “feudals.” Even the attempt of Penkovskii, in his translations of the dastan, to introduce “improvements” and “refinements,” they say, cannot conceal the “reactionary essence” of this dastan.

This remark about Penkovskii’s “improvements” and “refinements,” made so casually in this article, is striking. It is one of the rare admissions of deliberate changes introduced into a translation. In this context, it can be understood that the changes were made to attempt to bring the contents of the dastan into conformity with current Russian tastes. Since this is the translation that is regarded as “the most complete” at a later date, this early alteration will have important repercussions and will be discussed again below.

Writing in the 1960s, Tura Mirzaev discussed some of the charges levelled against Alpamysh during this “crisis” period. Describing a joint meeting of the Uzbek SSR Academy of Sciences Institute of Language and Literature and the Uzbekistan Soviet Writers Union (March 1952), Mirzaev argues that this meeting, which Şark-Yılduzı called “The Trial of the dastan Alpamysh,” distorted the objective sense of the dastan. Alpamysh was accused of idealizing the feudal past and of bearing traces of Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism. It was declared devoid of historical or educational value. The scholars of the chairs of literature of the Uzbek State University asserted their readiness to instruct their students in the dangers contained in this dastan. The entire assembly declared that Alpamysh indulged in “glorifying bloody fights, the brigandage of khans and beks and their oppression of the masses...”39

In Pravda Vostoka’s report of this meeting,40 Candidate of Philological Sciences Iu. Sultanov is quoted as articulating the anti-Alpamysh view, using the article “Ob epose ‘Alpamysh’” as a basis for his remarks. Abdunabiev criticizes the folklorists for permitting this work to reach the masses. Several university faculty members confess their errors in failing to criticize Alpamysh and state that they will be more vigilant in the future. Pravda Vostoka notes that Hadi Zarif, a senior Orientalist and co-author with Zhirmunskii of a seminal work on the “Uzbek epic,” evaded serious self-criticism and limited himself only to repeating “generally known facts.”

After the crisis ended in 1952, defenders of Alpamysh emerged. At a Moscow meeting on Epics of the Peoples of the USSR (June 1954), prominent Orientalists, A.K. Borovkov, Hadi Zarif, O.A. Valitova, M.I. Afzalov and others, severely criticized those who found nihilistic tendencies in the dastan Alpamysh.41 Immediately after this conference, according to Mirzaev, new variants of the dastan began to be collected. The folklorists of the Gorkii Institute of World Literature also criticized the previous attacks on Alpamysh, stating the need to “study the problems of the epics and the traditional folkloric ideals,” and argued that “these national epics must be understood and studied in the deepest scientific manner.”42

With this official encouragement by the Gorkii Institute and the Pushkin Institute of Language and Literature (Tashkent) of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, debate and commentaries on Alpamysh began to appear in the republican press. Again, Abdunabiev and Stepanov came in for criticism for their “distortions” and for their claim that this dastan is nihilistic.43 Perhaps the most decisive event was the decision of the 20th Party Congress (1956), “in the name of Soviet science and especially Soviet folklore studies,” to convene an investigative conference on the Alpamysh dastan “in order to bring to a close these dogmatisms, commentaries and theoretical problems and once and for all to investigate these matters in detail and come to a decision.” Thus a regional conference was held from 20-25 September 1956 in Tashkent, co-sponsored by the Gorkii Institute and the (Tashkent) Pushkin Institute, the purpose of which was “reconciling the studies [of Alpamysh] with party directives.”44

Specialists on Alpamysh from Moscow, Leningrad, Uzbekistan, Karakalpakistan, Kazakhistan, Tajikistan, Tataristan, Bashkurdistan, Altai, Georgia and “other fraternal peoples’ scholars of epics” attended. The speakers discussed the various versions of the dastan and stressed “the objective meaning of the dastan Alpamysh and its rhetorical and populist particulars.” Twenty papers were read and the transactions published.45 Mirzaev particularly notes the contribution of A.K. Borovkov, who examined and discussed the history of the collection of Alpamysh, its transcription and its variants among the Özbek, Karakalpak and Kazakh peoples.46 Mirzaev pointedly adds that Alpamysh “belongs to the Türkic peoples (Tiurki halklar).”

Hadi Zarif wrote a decisive retort to the denigration of Alpamysh in Shark Yilduzi in 1957:

The intellectual basis of the dastan was not to glorify brigandage, nationalism, religiosity, [but] instead to show bravery, humanism, love of homeland, loyalty, close friendship, noble ideals. This dastan is an encyclopaedia dealing with the most beautiful examples of rhetoric, literary form, the peoples’ humor and aphorisms, and examples of the speech of the masses.47

Mirzaev criticized the former critics:

Some individuals during the 1950s regarded this valued oral monument as nihilistic. Those individuals, on the pretext that these pearls created by the masses were bankrupt, tried to destroy them. Those critics from a social and political point of view denied the populism of Alpamysh. They... misrepresented the motifs of the dastan, analyzing those separately from the era in which it was created and called it a “reaction against populism.”48

In 1958, the “most complete” Alpamysh, a Penkovskii translation of the Fazil variant, was published. It was subsequently reissued several times. Official comments on the dastan have since then been laudatory. Earlier printings are unavailable. This republication is not necessarily to be seen as a victory for the dastan, but rather a shift by the authorities to a subtler mode of attack. That attack, “Phase II,” will be the subject of Chapter Four.

The campaign against Alpamysh and the struggle for its rehabilitation, like the history of its earlier printings, fit into a larger pattern of CPSU politics and, especially, the organization and reorganizations of the Oriental Institutes. Indeed, the Phase II efforts to destroy and save Alpamysh cannot be understood outside this context.

Party, Oriental Institutes and policy

The origins of the Oriental Studies Institutes in the Russian Empire, with reference to their political significance, have been traced by Richard N. Frye.49 After the 1917 Revolution, the Soviet government, in recognition of the “revolutionary potential” of the Asian peoples, took a variety of actions that reflected the importance they attached to propaganda and agitation among the Eastern nationalities. During the Civil War, the Bolsheviks began to expand both the scope and the staffs of the Oriental Institutes, although this was not fully accomplished until after World War II (see below). Gradually they were brought under a single umbrella.50 At the same time, “the General Staff of the Red Army of Workers and Peasants acquired an Oriental Section in 1919, which later became the Oriental Faculty of the General Staff’s Military Academy.”51

These actions, as well as the founding of the Kommunisticheskii Universitet Trudiashchikhsia Vostoka – KUTVa (Communist University of the Toilers of the East), were aimed at linking the expansion of Communism in the “Soviet East” to the export of revolution to the rest of Asia. The pivotal event of this effort was the Congress of the Toilers of the East, held in Baku (a city that was seen as a key springboard for the export of revolution) in September 1920. Although the result of this Congress was the reinforcing of Russian rather than Central Asian control over the process, the interest in exporting Communism remained alive into the mid-1920s.52 After the Baku Congress, the efforts to study and propagandize the East continued:

[Recognizing] the great need for agents and agitators proficient in the tongues of the various Oriental peoples and familiar with their history, the Military-Revolutionary Council of the Turkestan Front established in October 1920 a special program of Oriental Studies. This served as the nucleus of the Higher Military School of Oriental Studies founded in 1922.53

In Moscow, on 13 December 1921, the Soviet government established Vserossiiskaia nauchnaia assotsiatsiia vostokovedeniia (All Russian Scientific Association of Oriental Studies) – VNAV. This was attached to the Narodnyi kommissariat po delam natsional’nostei (People’s Commissariat for Nationalities Affairs) – Narkomnats, headed by Stalin and in charge of all nationalities policy. VNAV “assisted the government and the party in the implementation of official policy and with propaganda work in the Asian regions of the Soviet Union. It had cells in Moscow and in several other places both at home and abroad whose members forwarded information to VNAV.”54 Mirzaev notes that the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party passed a resolution on 18 June 1925 on “Party policy in the field of artistic literature.”55 Contained in this resolution was the declaration that “in a classless society there is and can be no neutral art.”56 As a result of this resolution, the Uzbek Commissariat of Education and Knowledge ordered new collections of Alpamysh variants to be conducted “in an organized fashion.” In 1928, the Turcological Cabinet of the USSR Academy of Sciences was founded and, immediately, “sponsored translations of Turkish classics and historical records, published monographs on the history and culture of the Türkic peoples...”57 Wayne Vucinich articulates the relationship between education of “scholars” and agitation:

From the very beginning the Soviet Government undertook to establish completely controlled communist centers of Oriental research and training. It wanted Orientalists to be militantly missionary, to dedicate themselves to the cause of communism and to interpret, popularize and implement the policies of the government and the party.58

Examination of Oriental studies in the USSR reveals two sets of linkages. The first is that between the study of history and current problems; the second between institutional reorganization and ideological redirection. Of the first, the Party itself provides straightforward documentation:

Naturally, the study of these most important problems must be based on full and exhaustive research... Deep scholarly analysis of these problems must necessarily be based on serious study of the entire history of Eastern peoples, including ancient and medieval history; but the basic issue of the Oriental Institute is the study of problems of contemporary history... [I]n the study of the ancient and medieval East it is necessary to concentrate attention on questions having timely [aktual’nyi] significance... (using) Marxist-Leninist methodology... and guided by the historic decisions of the Central Committee of the VKP(b) on ideological questions....59

The second linkage, that between institutional reorganization and ideological redirection, is more complex. The first period of institutional reorganization and redirection was roughly from 1928 or 1929 to 1931.60 This was the period of the purges of Central Asians for “national deviation.”61 It was during this period that VNAV was dissolved (in 1930) and replaced by the Institute of Oriental Studies within the reorganized Academy of Sciences. Among the tasks of the historical-economic sector of the Institute was the investigation of “socialist construction in Soviet eastern regions and republics...”62

Another reorganization took place in 1935 on the eve of the Great Purges. Any remnants of Central Asian “national deviationists” from the first purges were liquidated in the 1936-38 period. An additional institutional change took place in 1937 when the Academy of Sciences finally absorbed the institutes formerly under the Communist Academy. Even after these changes, complaints were made about the quality of work and understaffing.63

Within this context of purges for “national deviation,” repeated “reorganizations” and, presumably, greater ideological control over Oriental studies, the attempt by Hamid Alimjan to rescue Alpamysh takes on a new, dramatic significance. He may well have seen this 1939 publication of Alpamysh as his last chance to preserve a central monument of culture and repository of identity. Alimjan was literally risking his life, an act which by itself is eloquent testimony to the importance of the dastan Alpamysh.64

The pace of Oriental studies was slowed but not halted during World War II. The Institute of Oriental Studies worked closely with the party and the military organization. It published propaganda materials.65

The task of training future generations was not neglected. The Oriental Institute in Leningrad was moved to Tashkent and Central Asians were admitted for training. The Central Asians constituted a portion of the enlarged cadres in this Institution even when transferred back to Leningrad after the war.66 In March 1944, a major Conference on Central Asian folklore was held in Tashkent.67 The convening of such a conference during the war bespeaks the significance of the topic, probably in connection with the Oriental Institute’s propaganda function.

More relevant for this topic is the postwar renewal of interest in Oriental studies and the institutional and ideological vicissitudes of the Oriental Institute. In the wake of enormous war losses, the contribution to victory of the Russians (who, in official propaganda, received sole credit for the victory) and, by extension, relations between non-Russians and Russians received new emphasis.68

Orientalists were invited to engage in ideological warfare against falsifiers of history, including those who sullied the friendly relations between Soviet peoples. Vucinich perceptively describes this era:

From 1949 until 1951 leading Soviet newspapers and journals often published warnings to historians and literati, as well as to the institutes sponsoring them, and offered acceptable interpretations of controversial issues in the history of the Soviet Muslim and certain other Asian peoples.... In their writings Asian authors were obliged to refrain from expressing any ideas or interpretations that were anti-Russian and were told to honor and extol the many virtues of the “Great Russian people,” under whose leadership the Soviet peoples would attain a common supranational culture for the entire “Soviet family” of nations.69

The period of the crisis of dastans, 1949-1951, coincided roughly with the beginning of a protracted period of reorganization of the Oriental Institute and the Oriental departments of the Academy of Sciences. In its plan for 1950, the Oriental Institute called for a new emphasis on several fields, including literature.70 The 1950 report of the Presidium called for a major reorganization. The Oriental Institute was moved from Leningrad to Moscow and workers from other academic institutes were transferred to it. In addition, the Oriental Institute was transferred from the Department of Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences to the more politically oriented Department of History and Philosophy.71 Among new sections created was the Section of the Soviet East, headed by the well- known Orientalist E.E. Bertels.72 However, as late as the early part of 1951 the Institute was still understaffed and the quality of its work was still being criticized.

The organizational reforms and ideological redirection continued into the middle of the decade. The 19th Party Congress (October 1952) criticized the Orientalists for having failed to follow party directives. Among other matters, the Orientalists were told to produce scholarly works on Eastern literature.73 Again, a (perhaps the) major issue was relations between the Asian peoples and the Russians.74 Also in 1952, historians were purged for “erroneous ideas” and for having fallen into “bourgeois ideological waters” concerning the “Muslim heroes” Shamil and Kenesary Kasymov and the national question.75 In 1953, the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences criticized the output of the Oriental Institute since 1951 as having a low “political-conceptual” (ideino-politicheskii) level. It further stated that the cadres were weak in theoretical training and lacking in systematic control. Among the priorities handed down for the Institute were “production of scholarly-popular literature illuminating the successes of popular democracy in the East, the liberation struggles of peoples of dependent and colonial countries,” and “production of qualified help for the academies of science in the republics on questions of the history and literature of peoples of the Soviet East.”76

A decree of the Academy Presidium of February 1953 established an “independent section” of the history and culture of the Soviet East. Some subsequent adjustments were made, presumably linked to the death of Stalin in March 1953. Twelve sections were created.77 The section on the Soviet East was now upgraded to an “independent section” (of which there were only three) on the “history and cultures of the Soviet East.”78 It was still headed by Bertels.79

In 1954, the Central Committee of the Party demanded that a careful research plan be drawn up for all disciplines.80 In that same year a Coordinating Commission for Eastern Literature was established under the Central Coordinating Council for Oriental Studies.81

The following year, the journal Sovetskoe Vostokovedenie resumed publication. Seemingly for the first time, the Oriental Institute was not understaffed. There were reported to be 220 workers, of whom 155 worked on the Far East, South Asia and the Middle East.82 That would leave 65, presumably for work on Soviet domestic issues. The Oriental Institute embarked on a new path in 1955. From that time, the Institute invested “serious effort” in the publication of “historical and literary monuments,” which certainly included the dastans. Under the editorship of Bertels himself, the Institute began publishing “significant monuments of medieval literature,” including Firdousi’s Shahname and Rashid al-Din’s Chronicles. In connection with this effort, the Institute also carried out preparatory research on Kutadgu Bilig and the Şecere-I Terakime by Abul Gazi.83

Criticisms continued, however. In a meeting of December 1956, the Academy Presidium attacked the Institute’s treatment of a number of issues, including “national trends of peoples of Central Asia and criticisms of nationalistic errors in the work of historians and literati.”84 The on-going displeasure of the Presidium with the Institute led to new guidelines and yet further reorganization. The new guidelines, stated to be in conformity with the resolutions of the 20th Party Congress, included the continued publication of literary and historical monuments of the peoples of the East. To facilitate this publication agenda, a publishing house of Eastern Literature was established in 1957.85 The new structure of the Oriental Institute was far more complex than before. Sections on the Far East and Near and Middle East included subsections on individual countries. Gone was the old “independent section” on the peoples of the Soviet East. A new division was added, however, to replace the Soviet East department headed by Bertels, who had been the chief of the various Soviet East sections since 1950.86 Along with the structural change of the Institute, the plan was changed as well. For the “first time”87 the Institute called for large scale publication of literary and historical monuments.

Several events had led up to the “rehabilitation” of Alpamysh in 1956 – the Party Congress of 1952, the Moscow Conference on Epics in 1954, the Tashkent “Trial of Alpamysh” in 1952 and, in 1956, the 20th CPSU Congress. All issued guidelines relevant to Alpamysh. Finally, with the institutional reforms of 1957, the reorganization of the Oriental Institute was pronounced “completed.” The Institute was now ready to carry out the dictates of the Party Congress.88 In the following year, the “definitive” and “complete” version of Alpamysh appeared. In the light of the reforms and ideological directives of the 1950s, and particularly the increasing emphasis after 1955 on the “literary and historical monuments” of the peoples of the East, the beginnings of the reemergence of Alpamysh after 1958 becomes more explicable. Its republishing has a specific place within the broader pattern of activity in the field of Oriental studies. Only with the newly enlarged staff and with the establishment of “final” ideological instruction could the Oriental Institutes undertake the work necessary for the publication of Alpamysh. In this regard, Bennigsen is perhaps overly optimistic in his assessment of the reappearance of Alpamysh (and other dastans) as a sign of the victory of the Central Asians.89 In fact, the Oriental Institutes finally had the personnel and the “proper” ideological framework with which to edit the dastan according to the dicta of the CPSU.

Central Asian response: collection and publication of Alpamysh under Soviet rule

In the Soviet period, as before the Bolshevik Revolution, collecting and publishing efforts continued among the Central Asians. These efforts produced dozens of published versions and a still unknown number of manuscripts, which were occasionally cited by Soviet authors and reportedly kept in restricted access manuscript archives of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Academies of individual republics.

Mirzaev, in his 1968 work,90 cites 29 reciters’ variants in the Tashkent archives of the Academy of Sciences alone; in his 1969 work,91 he cites 33 variants of Alpamysh in this same archive. Zhirmunskii92 and M. Ghabdullin and T. Sydykov93 cite additional manuscripts in Nukus, Alma-Ata, Kazan, Moscow and Leningrad. Unfortunately, the available individual printings of Alpamysh do not provide sufficient information for tracing the origin of the variant in question. Introductions remark on the dastan’s antiquity without detail. None of the Russian translations, as far as this writer has been able to determine, incorporates a critical apparatus. Even in those instances where the editor-translator is of Central Asian origin, such as Divay, only occasional footnotes are included. These footnotes are usually limited to the explanations of words. The native dialect editions rarely if ever provide any explanations since the readers are, after all, familiar with the dastan.

One of the main reasons for the ignorance about the “genealogy” of any of the variants may lie in the fact that the known versions of Alpamysh appear to have come down to the present day through diverse sources – various reciting schools, tribal units, localities and collection efforts. Reports of these collection efforts show little or no evidence that the collectors attempted to trace the historical line of descent for any given variant.

Regardless of the cause, this failure by the collectors to trace the origins of individual variants renders comparison extremely difficult. Establishing descent, if that task were to be attempted, would also be problematical, even for those who may have full access to all known manuscripts. The first monographic treatment (discussed in Chapter Four) devoted to the “Uzbek national heroic epic,” and including a large section on the dastan Alpamysh, is the 1947 work coauthored by V.M. Zhirmunskii and Hadi Zarif (under the name Kh.T. Zarifov, the form used in Russian-language sources). The sections on dastans were written by Zarif, according to the work’s Introduction. Although Hadi Zarif attempted to examine various historical events and documents in order to establish the approximate time of the dastan’s creation, even he did not deal with any particular variant of Alpamysh, and confined himself primarily to what he labelled the “Kungrat” version. This lack of a genealogy is disappointing because, by virtue of his personal knowledge and access to documents, he was well positioned to trace such a lineage. Alpamysh has apparently never been printed anywhere except in the Russian and Soviet domains. There have been 55 known published versions of Alpamysh offered for sale since 1899. A complete bibliography of those works is given in the Bibliographical Appendix. They include versions published in Kazakh, Özbek, Karakalpak, Tatar, Kırghız, Altai, Russian and Tajik, the last being confined to portions of Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan.94 It is not known to exist in any other language and the very name is unknown in the Turkish Republic.95

The dastan Alpamysh was the subject of at least 185 books and articles in the USSR between 1923 and 1967 alone. These publications of evaluation and research were the products of Kazakh, Kırghız, Özbek, Başkurt, Tatar and Russian authors and do not include editions of the main texts or major translations of this dastan. The bibliography included in the Bibliographical Appendix is compiled from various sources and covers publications known to me at the time of writing. As this Alpamysh bibliography demonstrates, approximately one third of the items are Russian translations of one or another variant. Most publication efforts, however, reflect the dedication of several individual Central Asians, who can be regarded as saviors of dastans.

Saviors of dastans: second and third waves

As the Bolsheviks continued tsarist policies, so the Central Asians also continued their efforts to collect and publish the dastans after the revolution. Attempts to collect the dastan from bahshis and to publish them were numerous in the 1920s and 1930s, until the death of many reciters in the purges. Mirzaev96 also notes new collection efforts around the Ferghana Valley in 1956, after the so-called “Trial of Alpamysh.”

This second wave of saviors, concentrated in Tashkent, managed to publish the dastan at least three times between the Revolution and the demise of the Turkistan Republic in 1924. Slightly more information is available on this group by virtue of the individuals’ affiliation with Narodnyi kommissariat prosveshcheniia (the People’s Commisariat of Education) – Narkompros and the Kazakh-Kırghız Bilim Kamiyasi (roughly: Society of Kazakh-Kırghız Scholarship). It is because of this history that information is available on Divay, Yusufbek and Gazi Alim.97 Other individuals are likely to come to light in the course of further research. Available information on Divay’s career indicates that he continued his efforts to record and preserve elements of Türkic culture after the revolution as before. In 1918, Divay offered courses in Kazakh ethnography and language at the Central Asian University and at the Turkistan Oriental Institute, where he held the chair of Kırghız ethnography and language. He was first an “independent instructor” and later a professor. He organized a major expedition to Semirechie in spring 1922 as a member of the Kırghız Scholarly Commission of Narkompros of the Turkrespublika (Turkistan Republic). During the following year, Divay is reported to have gathered, described and systematized approximately eight thousand pages of notes from this expedition.98

As before, Divay’s findings were published in the various scholarly and popular journals in Russian and the native language during 1922. He also participated at this time in the special commission for the elimination of the kalym (“bride price”) and for the “reform of the study of native languages.”99 A second jubilee for Divay was celebrated in 1923. Divay’s Soviet biographers are silent on the ensuing years of his life and note only that he died ten years later. Much has been written and said about Divay by his contemporaries. A few items are revealing. In an issue of Zhivaia Starina, V.A. Gordlevskii noted that one of Divay’s “praiseworthy tendencies” was “to extract articles from Turkestanskaia vedomost’ and republish them, thus saving them from oblivion.”100 This praiseworthy tendency would explain the multiple printings of Alpamysh and, apparently, the goal behind them. Zeki Velidi Togan wrote about a visit to Divay’s Tashkent home in 1913. Zeki Velidi had read Ismail Gasprali’s Rusya Muslumanlari, which he had found in Divay’s personal library. In a conversation with Divay (Togan refers to him as “Miralay” (colonel) and “Divay Agha”), Togan criticized Gasprali’s “timidity.” Divay responded:

During those times our thoughts were somewhat different. In addition, if this language had not been used, that book would not have cleared the censors. Political repression in Russia in those days was much more stringent. In those hours of our need, works such as this gave us some relief.101

Detailed information on the dastans and on Divay himself is to be found in the Kazakh Academy of Science’s Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia.102 The first chapter was presumably written by one or more members of the editorial committee that produced this work – N.S. Smirnova, M.G. Gumarova, M.S. Sil’chenko and T.S. Sydykov. The chapter describes Divay’s method of collecting materials. Divay often sought out those among the Kazakh population who owned manuscripts of traditional oral works. Often the bahshis themselves had manuscripts of dastans. These manuscripts he collected or, when unable to acquire them, had them copied. “Divaev made a request of the responsible persons of the Turkestan krai to copy manuscripts for him. In this way in June 1896 he received a manuscript of the epic Alpamysh. The manuscript itself is reported to be in the Manuscript Fund of the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazak SSR, ‘Materialy A.A. Divaeva, folder 1162.’”103

A piece by Sydykov in the same volume gives the details of the collection in 1896:

In this same year 1896 Divaev received a manuscript of the Karakalpak of the Turtkul volost’ of the Amu-Darya otdel of the Syr-Darya oblast, Dzhiemurat Bekmukhamedov [sic], a professional bahshi. The manuscript was prepared for publication by Divaev in November 1897. It was published in the pages of Sbornik materialov dlia statistiki Syr-Dar’inskoi oblasti in 1902.104

Sydykov also noted that Divay had already known about Alpamysh and first mentioned the work in an article published in 1896 in Zapiski Vostochnogo otdeleniia Russkogo arkheologicheskogo obshchestva , 1896, v. XI, no. III-IV, p. 292.

Another major savior of dastans was Gazi Alim. He published a version of Alpamysh in 1923 (Item 15 in the Bibliographical Appendix). Togan tells of Gazi Alim’s collections in the 1910s and 1920s, both in the vicinity of Tashkent during the short life of the Turkistan Republic (1918-1924), and from Fazil Yoldashoglu in the environs of Samarkand in 1928.105 The collection process did not always proceed smoothly. In compiling his 1923 Alpamysh, Gazi Alim, then a member of the Bilim Kamisiya, reportedly collected one variant from Yoldashoglu and another variant from the reciter Hamrakul Bahshi. According to Mirzaev, the 1923 printing was “spliced” from recitations of the two ozans. Mirzaev further states that this very manuscript was subsequently “lost” and the dastan had to be collected again later in the decade.106

In his introduction to the 1923 printing (Item 15), Gazi Alim describes the importance of this dastan and thus suggests his motives in wanting to save it:

The dastan occupies the most important place in the people’s literature. The dastan is a literary genre encompassing all the particulars of the tribal life in the most lucid manner. If we do not know the Türk-Özbeg [original spelling] dastans, we will not become familiar with the struggles of the Türk tribes, the reasons underlying their politico-economic endeavors, their methods and rules of warfare, the characters and the social places of their heroes in their societies; in short, the details of their past. National dastans contain the styles and customs of local akins, which is a fundamental characteristic of the dastans. The Turkish land is rich in dastans. All Türk tribes have their own dastans: the Kipaks have their Koblndi Batir; the Nogays, Idige Batir; the Kungrats, Alpamis Batir; the Naymans, Shora Batir; the Kirgiz, Manas Batir.

In addition, there are many others in the Altay mountains, the Turkistan steppes and the Idil [Volga] shores that are repeated by the Türk-Özbeg akins, but are not yet written down.

Our awakening period is just beginning, and our national literature will undoubtedly serve an important purpose within this context. This rebirth of our own native literature will become even more powerful, if it can be saved from the false classicism of aghatay, which in turn is influenced by and has taken its form and spirit from Persian. Consequently, our new literature must be based on the power and the purity of our people’s soul.

In the 1930s it appears there was another group working to further the efforts of their predecessors. Within this group Hamid Alimjan, then head of the Uzbek Writers’ Union, is most visible.

The 1939 compilation of Alpamysh is not available in the Western world. Even in the libraries of the former Soviet Union it is exceedingly difficult to see a copy of this printing. The volume begins with an extraordinary introduction, more fiery than the one by Gazi Alim. In the copy which was available to this author for one thirty-minute session, pages 8 through 25 were missing from the introduction. They had been removed. In these missing pages Alimjan apparently describes the reasons why he believes that this dastan is important and must be kept alive.

Passages below are extracted and translated from the introduction written by Hamid Alimjan to the 1939 printing of Alpamysh as taken down from Fazil Yoldashoglu (Item 20 in the Bibliographical Appendix).

The Kungrat tribe of the Özbeks are seeking refuge with the Kalmak ruler. Alimjan uses the spelling Özbeg (rather than Uzbek); this form is probably to be related to the popular etymology: Özüm Bek, “my essence is princely.” The text, which is reproduced below, is in Latin orthography and all spellings are as in the original.

Kungrat Aksakallar Qalmakga qarab bir soz eb turgan ekan:
Aja şahim sizga ajtar Arzım bar,
Almadajin solgan gülday tArzım bar,
Turkistandan bizar kaib kelibdi
Bu bajlardan şahim baldin bexabar
Abla menin aqli husim alibdi
Sum falak basima savda salibdi
Bizning elga qattik talan qilibdi
Davlatini kordim cuda qalibdi(r)
Aslin bilsan Turkistandan kelibdi
Ekinmin barni nabud kilibdi
Uqur edin qanatindan qagrildin
Jugruk bolsan tujaqidan tajrildin
Biz avqatdan, sen sursatdan tajrildin
Xazan bolib baqda gullar soladi

The Kungrat whitebeards introduce themselves to the Kalmaks:
My lord, allow me respectfully to declare
I appear like a wilted rose, discarded (because of our ordeal)
We have escaped from Turkistan
My lord, you are unaware of those gentlemen (of our homeland)
The disgrace has taken away my senses
The heavens have burdened me with this shame
And severely devastated our lands
I have seen it prosperous; now it is gone
As for our origins, we come from Turkistan
Our cultivated fields have been destroyed
I used to fly, but now I am bereft of my wings
When we left, we had to part from our belongings
We have been prevented from worship and the revenues (of our holdings)
Autumn has come; roses have wilted in the garden.

Alpamis is a dastan shared among the Özbeg, Karakalpak, Kazak and one of the oldest such lineages, the Kungrats, describing their way of life. Alpamis has entered into the literatures of these native Central Asian peoples. Özbegs, Kazaks, Kırghız, Türkmens and Karakalpaks have read and cherished Alpamis as their own.

These people have regarded Alpamis as a part of their own history, and rightly so. All of the best akins of the Özbegs knew Alpamis. Among these poets, lack of knowledge of Alpamis was considered a shame. Therefore, all poets began their recitations with Alpamis.

The original contains 15,000 lines of verse. Poet Yoldashoglu of the Jani Mihnat (New Labor) Kolkhoz, located in the Bulungur oblast of Samarkand, is considered the most authoritative of its reciters.

Alpamis is one of the oldest dastans of the Özbeg people. Among the Özbeg folklorists, there are those who consider Alpamis to be at least a thousand years old. These claims are, of course, not without foundation.

The fourth wave of Central Asian intellectuals concerned with the fate of Alpamysh and the Türkic dastan genre in general is just beginning to emerge. The challenge they face shall be the focus of Chapter Four. In biological terms, the members of this group are actually the third generation and a virtual intellectual replacement of the independence-minded “nationalists” who were physically liquidated by the Stalinist purges of the 1920s and 1930s. It is from the point of view of intellectual heritage that they constitute the fourth group. Each and every one of these writers, mostly born since World War II, chose to utilize the dastans in placing their historical fiction onto paper. They liberally incorporate motifs from a variety of dastans into their works.107

The theme of their efforts is perhaps expressed by this 1982 poem, signed “Shakir Jumaniyaz,” from the Özbek journal Muhbir:

Give me a chance, my rebellious dreams
My father has erected his statue in my memory
May years and winds be rendered powerless
May his legacy not be erased from my conscience.
Give me a chance, my rebellious dreams
Grant my father a Holy dastan
May years and winds be rendered powerless
May his memory never be allowed to fade.

Chapter Three: The Alpamysh dastan

Alpamysh collection

The 1901 Tashkent version of Alpamysh prepared for publication by Abubekir Ahmedjan Divay is the oldest variant printed in Central Asia the circumstances of whose collection are known. The copy from which the following translation was made was published in Tashkent in 1901 in book form by V.M. Ilina. The first page tells us that the work was reprinted from Sbornik materialov dlia statistiki Syr-Dar’inskoi oblasti (hereafter Sbornik), v. X (1901), the publication of the Syr Darya oblast’ Statistical Committee, of which Divay was a member. As noted in the Bibliographical Appendix, it was not the only printing of this version in Tashkent in 1901. The same version was also reprinted in 1922, again apparently in multiple editions in various serial publications. Ghabdullin and Sydykov cite a third 1901 version of Divay’s Alpamysh, published in Pamiatniki Kirgizskogo narodnogo tvorchestva (Tashkent, 1901).1 Thus there were apparently three different printings of the same version in 1901. Ghabdullin and Sydykov also state that the second publication of this version (apparently only in the original language) came out in 1922 in Batyrlar Vol. VI2 and also in Russian translation in Kirgizsko-kazakhskii epos, no. VI, Tashkent 1922.3 Although the 1922 issue was a reprint of the 1901 variant, Divay made changes in the vocabulary, weeding out Persian and Arabic elements (which he noted in his brief introduction to the 1901 editions) and replacing them with Türkic vocabulary. Some of these changes are documented in a line by line comparison of the two texts in Ghabdullin and Sydykov (p. 42), and in greater detail by Sydykov alone in his presentation to the Kazakh Academy and published in Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia (p. 183):

1922 edition:

Yerde Otken Alpamysh
Jerde tken Alpamysh
batyrdyn taghrif hikaiaty abiyatydur batyrdyn hikaiasy.
Bul dnieden bi ferzend Bul dnieden bir balasyz ter boldyk tetin boldyk.
Kette beiram toy tarkap lken toy tarkap ketti.
Sahardyn faiyz uakytynda Tan bozaryp atyp kele jatkan uakytta.
Alghanlaryna Alghandarymen kyzyk deuran jakynlyk etti sristi.
Boiyna hemile bitti Boiyna bala bitip.

The language of the dastan Alpamysh

The language of Alpamysh is Chaghatay, adorned with a liberal sprinkling of tribe-specific vocabulary, such as Kırghız, Kazakh, Özbek etc., depending on which tribal unit’s version is examined. The Chaghatay language is alive and well across Central Asia.4 It has never died, and is often referred to as Turkistani, or simply by its earlier name, “Türki.” The designation “Turkistani” certainly carries political implications, conjuring up memories of more ancient associations and of the Turkistani movement at the turn of the twentieth century.5 The label “Turki” refers to the language of Yesevi (twelfth century), Timur (fourteenth-fifteenth centuries), Babur, Ulug Beg, Navai and Baykara (fifteenth-sixteenth centuries), among other significant historical figures. This latter designation has been preferred by nearly all the authors who have written in it.6 In short, Türki is probably the one dialect understood by virtually all the Türkic peoples of Central Asia.

Abubekir Divay’s 1901 printing of Alpamysh is written in the Arabic script, half in verse and half in prose. The text contains some 9000 words. Divay called it Alpamysh Batyr; Kırghız Poem. As noted in Chapter Two, the term “Kırghız” was replaced in the Soviet period by the term “Kazakh” to denote Türkic speakers in the steppe; those who had been called “Kara-Kırghız” before 1917 were called simply “Kırghız.” This renaming coincided with the division of Central Asia into soviet socialist republics (the so-called razmezhevania) and with the “language reforms” of the 1920s and 1930s.7 Here, when quoting, the term Kırghız will be used as in the original;8 otherwise the term Kazakh is employed.

Soviet-era disputations on the proper designation for the 1901 version notwithstanding,9 Divay noted in his brief introduction (translated below) that the bahshi from whom this version was recorded was Karakalpak, but the version itself is “Kırghız” (Kazakh). In view of Divay’s life long research on the steppe, his judgment should prevail. An examination of the text itself establishes the close association with Kazakh/Kırghız rather than the dialect of the Karakalpak. In Line 724 we find a reference to Aycurek, the woman of Semetey, the son of Manas, alp of the dastan by the same name. The dastan Manas is primarily associated with the Kırghız. Furthermore, the informants consulted for this translation, were Kırghız of the Pamirs who had a native’s familiarity with the particular dialect of this text.

The version of Alpamysh that follows is neither the longest, nor the shortest variant known. Furthermore, it presents two major difficulties:

(1) The script suffers from misspellings, demonstrably due to poor typesetting, perhaps because the work was done by non-native typesetters. For example, in a number of cases the spelling of the same word varies from one appearance to the next. Even the name “Alpamysh” is not immune. This not only makes the reading of the text somewhat difficult, but in many cases (noted in the commentary) alters the meaning of the relevant passages greatly.

(2) The style of narration is somewhat erratic, making the distinction between who is speaking when, or who is doing what to whom, rather tenuous. The first problem is purely a mechanical one, albeit a nuisance, and can be dealt with. The second is of a structural nature, possibly due to the recitation of the bahshi, the original transcription or even the second copy made from the first. The text also suffers from the use of faulty grammar.

It must be emphasized that neither of these drawbacks diminishes the original fiery spirit of the dastan nor reduces this edition’s critical importance and value. Indeed, there are several reasons for selecting this version for translation and analysis:

(1) Aside from the fact that it is the earliest printing outside Kazan, it constitutes a very early attempt by an individual (Divay) to save the dastan from extinction.

(2) The transcription and printing pre-date the 1917 Revolution. (The majority of the Alpamysh printings are products of post-revolutionary efforts.)

(3) It is in the Arabic alphabet, which is the earliest of the three major alphabets in which this dastan has been published.

(4) The specific location and conditions in which it was collected are known.

(5) It is possible to observe the “time-layers” in the text, juxtaposed over prolonged historical periods.

At an early state in the process of translation, it became evident that a group of tribe-specific words, as noted above, were not covered by any accessible or extant dictionary. Therefore, it was imperative that a native speaker be located to serve as a language informant. After an extensive search, Rahman Kul Kutlu and his tribe, who became refugees from the Afghan Pamirs when the Soviet Army invaded that country, were discovered to have been settled in the Van province of the Turkish Republic.10 Despite his advanced age, Rahman Kul Kutlu11 graciously agreed to submit to an incessant barrage of questions. As a result, many a misprinted word has been corrected and semantic and narrational difficulties clarified.

The translation strives to reflect the style and flavor of the original narration. It is done primarily for the sake of reference to the historical treatment of the topic at hand and has not been undertaken for purely linguistic analysis. At the same time, it became necessary to inject explanatory words and phrases, within the parenthesis pair (), into the translated text. First of all, the bahshi, or perhaps the transcriber, seems occasionally to have disregarded grammatical niceties. Thus, inserted remarks are sometimes needed in order to overcome the effects of this sloppiness and to make the text palatable for the Western reader. Such remarks are also needed because of a poetic method employed by Central Asian bahshis, which I call indexing.

Authors writing in Chaghatay, a language especially suitable for terse and concise expression, tended to bring into view entire concepts with one operative key word. This had the effect of compressing a large body of information into one central word, the understanding of which was pivotal to the comprehension of a couplet or quatrain. This applies equally to verse as well as prose written in Chaghatay.

Indexing was a favorite mechanism among the authors who produced literary works in Chaghatay. In fact, a survey of the Chaghatay literary output would suggest that the higher the level of indexing, the more sophisticated the poetry was considered. On the other hand, due to the practice of indexing, and because the nature of the classical Chaghatay is rather to the point (without flowery redundancies), the translation may, at times, give the impression that the text is composed of incomplete or random sentences. In the original, however, the rhyme scheme holds the verse together.

Divay began the 1901 version with a very brief foreword in Russian. This introduction is unsigned in the 1901 version. However, this same introduction reappears, over Divay’s signature, on p. 5 in the 1922 reprint of this version in Batyrlar VI. The introduction is as follows:

We present here for the attention of the reader, the translation and text of the poem Alpamysh Batir, which enjoys great popularity among the Kırghız of the Syr-Darya oblast.

This manuscript was sent for our use by the former head of the Amu-Darya otdel of the Syr-Darya province, Major General K.I. Razganov, for which we render to His Excellency our sincere gratitude.

It was recorded by a Karakalpak of the Tortkol volost Amu-Darya otdel, the improvisator Djia-Muradov Bek-Muhammedov [sic], by profession a bahshi.

The poem is presented, almost from beginning to end, in a poetical form, and its content is extremely interesting. Although the poem Alpamysh Batir is a purely Kırghız work, because of the fact that it was here set down by a Karakalpak, a near neighbor of Bukhara, the text of it is sprinkled with Persian and Arabic terms. In the translation, we have tried, as far as possible, to remain close to the text.12

Importance of the name

There is no satisfactory explanation of the name Alpamysh. Three suggestions may be mentioned, though neither of the first two is convincing and the third is untenable.

(1) The man known to historians of India as Altamish,13 who in A.D. 1211 assumed the throne of Delhi as Shams al-Din.14 Given that the Kırghız and Kazakh versions spell the name Alpamysh as Algamysh and Alfamysh, it could be that Altamysh is yet another variant. Indeed, Digby tells us that the pronunciation “Altamysh” has been used in India since the eighteenth century.15 But Digby’s findings seem to bear out the traditional reading “Iltutmish.”

(2) In the Şecere-I Terakime by Abul Gazi Bahadur Han,16 there is a mention of Barçın, wife of Mamiş Bey, daughter of Karmiş Bey. Abdülkadir Inan suggests that this alp + Mamiş may lie at the root of the name Alpamysh.17

(3) The words “qagani alp Armiş” in the eighth-century Tonyukuk Inscription18 might seem at a casual glance to support the obvious though impossible etymology “Alpermish.” But of course there is no question of a name here; the words mean “Their Qagan is said to be brave.”

It is, however, possible that “Alp Imis” (“it is said that he was an Alp” or, more probably, “he proved that he indeed is an alp”) may lie at the root of the name Alpamysh.

Place of origins

A.K. Borovkov is of the opinion that the dastan Alpamysh arose between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries among Türkic speakers of the Dasht-i Kipchak.19 Both Hadi Zarif and Zhirmunskii, on the basis of various Byzantine and Chinese sources20 and the works of Bartold,21 note that “ancient forms” of the dastan “existed probably in the foot-hills of the Altai as early as the sixth-eighth centuries at the time of the Türkic Kaghanate.”

Zhirmunskii’s synopsis of the history of the dastan reflects the views of his predecessors, Bartold and Hadi Zarif:

From the Altai [an ancient form of the Alpamysh dastan] was brought by the Oghuz tribes, no later than the tenth century, to their later seats at the lower reaches of the Syr-Darya... From there it penetrated into Transcaucasia and Asia Minor under the Seljuks in the eleventh century.... In the twelfth-thirteenth centuries, with the movement of Kipchak tribes, the tale, in still another version, penetrated into Başkurtia and the Volga region... At the beginning of the sixteenth century it was carried by the nomadic Uzbek tribes of Shibani-Khan into... the bekdom of Baysun.... whence the poem was later spread...22

Concerning the locale of this 1901 Alpamysh: Togan states that a variety of Türkic tribes of the Kipchak group, among which he includes the Kungrat, have occupied various locations stretching from Western Siberia to the Aral Sea and the Ferghana valley.23 From the mid-fourteenth century, they inhabited the Tobol River region and in the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries, the south banks of the Aral Sea and the shores of the Syr-Darya. He includes the Kungrat among the important tribes found in the Kazakh, Özbek and Nogai confederations.24

Hadi Zarif argues that the localization in Baysun dates from the early sixteenth century when that region became the yurt of the Kungrats (whose name, he says, appears in the late twelfth century) as a result of a division of lands among Türkic tribes that entered Turkistan with Shibani Khan. He further argues that this localization is common to all the variants, and that, “at the present time, the Kungrat constitute the majority of the Türkic peoples of Central Asia: the Uzbeks, Karakalpaks, Kazakhs, and Türkmen.”25

In the last quarter of the fourteenth century, two successive Kungrat leaders, the brothers Hussein and Yusuf Sufi, battled Timur, established a state in Khorezm and ruled from Urgench until Yusuf’s defeat by Timur in 1379.26 Perhaps as a result of this experience, the Kungrat became the object of Timur’s policy of dispersing the tribes.27 As for the Kungrats’ adversaries in the dastan, the Kalmaks (ethnically Mongolian, adherents of Buddhism) made several migrations westward. One of the first recorded migrations took place in the middle of the fifteenth century. During this time the Kalmaks held a vast territory from the Altai to the western shores of Lake Baikal and “their plundering bands ranged from the outskirts of Peking to Western Turkestan.”28 Other major migrations of Kalmaks to the regions north of the Aral and Caspian Seas took place in the mid-seventeenth century, when they reached Bashkurt lands.29

Another migration westward in the mid-eighteenth century increased their numbers. In the 1760-70s, part of the Volga Kalmaks returned to Jungaria at the request of the Manchus; during their return they fought endless battles with the Kazakhs and the Kırghız.30

Thus the Kalmaks seem to have been present north of the Kungrat Uzbeks from the lower Volga all the way to Jungaria and south to the Pamirs.31 The two may, therefore, be said to have been neighbors not in any one limited area or time, but along a rough line stretching from the Aral Sea to the Pamirs over a period of centuries. From the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries the Kalmaks made numerous raids into Semirechie and were a major enemy of the Türkic tribes inhabiting Turkistan.32

Just where the exploits of Alpamysh took place, or indeed where exactly his homeland was, is a moot point. All that can be safely asserted is that the poem arose in Central Asia. Zhirmunskii states that there are separate “national versions” of Alpamysh. In his introduction to the 1939 Alpamysh, Alimjan writes that all Central Asians share Alpamysh. By implication, Alimjan’s words suggest a greater degree of unity – not a common origin to separate versions, but a single shared dastan. Hadi Zarif states the case even more directly: “Alpamysh at its foundation is more ancient than the contemporary national division of the Türkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia.”33 Virtually every major Türkic tribal unit within Central Asia has at least one version of Alpamysh that they call their own. Under these circumstances, we may accept the fact that Alpamysh is an alp, indeed the premier alp, of the Central Asians. No Central Asian dastan alp shares a similar honor.

A commentary follows the translation, but readers may jump from the linked lines to the corresponding commentary (and back).

A translation of Divay’s 1901 Alpamysh

1. In the times past, at a place called Jidali Baysun,
2. these are the verses of the ancient tale of Alpamysh Batir.
3. In the times past, in the land of Jidali Baysun, Baybörü and Baysari
4. were two equal Princes. There was abundance all around. Princedom did not take away
5. worries about being barren. “What is the use of the possessions beyond the (yurt) threshold Baysari Bay?”
6. The two princes conferred: “Listen Baybörü, we are about to leave the world without offspring.
7. If God favored, the apostle interceded, patron saints (performed a) miracle; only
8. progeny we should ask.” These words sounded reasonable to both. (It is agreed that) patron saints
9. are to be visited, God petitioned. With tears, the two princes promised each
10. other. “If God gives us children, a son to one of us, and a daughter to the other,
11. would you agree to their betrothal?” “I certainly would” said the other. “If I had a son,”
12. (and) “if I had a daughter;” “we will match them,” they promised each other.
13. Even in the absence of a daughter, they became kudas.
14. Great God showed mercy, their wishes were granted. Time passed,
15. days followed days. They went back to their lands. Safely
16. they arrived in their homes. Jan Talas was Baybörü’s wife.
17. Baysari took Altun Sach his wife.
18. There was togetherness. Their tears were accepted, and there was pregnancy.
19. Nine months and eleven days passed. [...]
20. [...] When stomachs protrude with pregnancy, eyes could not see the ground. The celebrated day
21. arrived. Baybörü’s wife gave birth to a son and a daughter. Baysari’s
22. wife, to a daughter. A great feast was arranged. Ninety mares
23. were skinned, hearths were fired in every direction, altun kabak was shot.
24. Smart sword plays were made. Wrestling contests arranged. Games lasted thirty
25. and the feast forty days. Golden cribs were placed in the house. Both Princes
26. brought their children, and placed them in the arms of the mollas.
27. “You, the chosen people of God, name the children” (the mollas were asked), “and pray for them.”
28. All the princes thus displayed confidence (in the mollas). Robes of Honor were presented (to the mollas). Discussion ensued, names were suggested for the children.
29. The Princes were not satisfied (with the proposed names).
30. Upon casting an eye toward the kible, hoca mollas
31. (in their distinctive garb) were beheld. These were God’s servants, seven kalendars.
32. The hoca mollas stated: “Baybörü Bay, your tears are answered.
33. From the unknown world, destiny sent the dervishes.
34. Let them name the children. Whatever (names) they choose is acceptable to us. We will raise our hands” (in prayer for their acceptance in the presence of God).
35. Their share (of the food) was presented to them from the house of the feast. The seven kalendars were invited to the center.
36. “You, the wanderers of the unknown, name these children” they were asked.
37. The kalendars agreed. “The only son of Baybörü Bay should be,
38. valiant Alpamysh. His daughter’s name, Kirlangich. Baysari Bay’s
39. daughter, Gülbarçin. May Gülbarçin be
40. a match to Alpamysh.” The seven kalendars have embraced Alpamysh,
41. patted him on the back, calling him the only son. “We are your seven pirs.
42. If you slip on a muddy road, burdened with worries, and ask for help
43. from your seven pirs, and God sends his help, it will be our duty to render it.”
44. The forty wanderers of the unknown disappeared. The grand festivities
45. ended. Seven years passed. One day, the two Princes sat down and conferred.
46. “We asked for a son, and were endowed with one; same for a daughter. We became
47. kudas. We are getting old, youth is fleeting. We have feasts (to attend)
48. yet. Let us mount the Karakasga horses, and braid their tails.
49. When we get older, it will hurt more when we fall off the horse while playing kök börü.”
50. They chose good horses, and proceeded to play kök börü. Baysari Bay
51. grabbed the goat and took the lead. Baybörü Bay gave chase after him, grabbed
52. a leg of the goat. Baysari Bay did not let go. Both of them contested,
53. became adversaries, struck each other with whips and (in due course) entered into the crowd of contestents. Baybörü Bay’s
54. family was teeming. Baysari Bay’s family was not as numerous.
55. During the kök börü grappling, the goat assumed the personality of the Devil. Baysari Bay
56. experienced much difficulty and belittling from his kuda Baybörü.
57. If the lock of hair remained, and life left. He (Baysari Bay) resented his kuda and his actions (during the kök börü).
58. “He (Baybörü) caused me to remain childless.” Because of his ill feelings
59. Baysari left the field and went back to his home. Due to his distress
60. he did not leave his house or bed for seven days and nights. He spent his time surmising.
61. “Baybörü was my eternal relation. Since he caused me grief, I should
62. move away, find another place to live.
63. Find a place (to go) where I will not be belittled. I should not
64. allow my daughter to marry his (Baybörü Bay’s) son. I should not give him a pinch of my salt. In this false world
65. I should not see Baybörü Bay’s face again.” Thereby, he decided to move to a distance of forty days and six months
66. to the land ruled by Taysha Khan. After loading his ninety camels,
67. he stopped at Ak Bulak. Spent the night.
68. At dawn, he loaded his camels one more time.
69. On a black camel, with Barçın in a gold kibacha,
70. his wife Altun Sach said (to Baysari): “May it rain
71. and turn the bright days into floods; may your prosperity be increased from year to year
72. you loaded ninety camels at dawn. You, GulBarçın’s father,
73. may your journey be auspicious. We have tightened the girth on the horse’s saddle. We
74. are listening to hear the tongue of the Mongol. We loaded the ninety camels at dawn.
75. Which lord’s land are we going to?” Baysari Bay answered: “Pencil
76. thin eyebrows are the ornament of a face. I could not eat because of my grief.
77. I declare that I was treated condescendingly. Do not shed tears
78. Altun Sach, you were as high as the full moon in this world,
79. you were known (the distinguished one) in the four corners; in the past,
80. we were two equal princes living a plentiful life on this land; the full moon was up high.
81. (Now) in this world all around me is lost in the past
82. (living) on my plentiful land; when (we had) the horses run, it was a festive occasion
83. my exuberant heart was overflowing with joy as I whipped my horse. On that day I
84. grabbed the goat and got away; who reaches his goal in this world? The
85. dignity of (granted) offspring was fleeting. Baybörü was my eternal kuda.
86. He chased after and caught me. My eternal kuda. He
87. struck me on the head with his whip. I do not have elder or younger brothers.
88. (If only it had not been for) the lack of an offspring! My eternal kuda struck me on the head with his whip.
89. I tightened the girth on my camel’s belly. Traversing a distance of forty days and six months.
90. I will arrive in the Kalmak Taysha’s lands. I will braid the horse’s tail.
91. I will lead a life without worry. My only daughter Barçın to the atheist Kalmak
92. I (freely) choose to give (in marriage).” Answered Altun Sach: “I cry with tears in my eyes,
93. forming lakes. My dark hair on my back became felt-like. In such difficulties
94. my only daughter Barçın could not enjoy her days as a young girl. The roses in the garden
95. wilted before the ninety days of the winter. The valiant dies for his honor.
96. Who does not argue, fight with his elders? We have our dignity, shouldn’t we live on our own land?
97. Mighty God will not approve anything other. Those who do not know religion will suffer.
98. Who does not argue, fight with his elders? So what if you have your
99. honor now? The good horse eats well because he heeds his master. You’ll
100. lose the best days of your life. Let us go back to our honorable land. The insolence of the atheist
101. will be even worse.” They migrated. They
102. travelled forty days and six months, arrived
103. safely in the land of the Taysha. They were given a tract of land to set up camp. Animals received pasture. They
104. became poor in the land of the Taysha, paid the enforced tax, and passed their days. They
105. did not have anybody of their kind around. They were looked down on. In short, seven years passed.
106. When they arrived, Barçın was seven years old. Seven years passed, she
107. reached fourteen. Who will you hear the news from? Hear
108. it from the Kalmak Taysha. The news of Barçın’s beauty reached the ear of the ruler of the land. Sixty two
109. alemdar, thirty two mühürdar, all of whom heard about it. They all
110. gave a description of Barçın to Taysha Khan. “May we be sacrificed, the pauper Baysari,
111. who came earlier (to your land), has a daughter. She is worthy of you.” The Ruler was amenable (to the suggestion).
112. (Taysha said) “Wouldn’t he give me his daughter, and call me his son-in-law?”
113. The officers and servants declared: “Who will he find better than you, Taksir?” (Taysha said:) “Go
114. ask him.” At that time, there was another Kalmak named Karacan,
115. who was a valiant and mighty warrior. He was the lord of a castle.
116. (Upon hearing the word, Karacan said:) “The business of a Ruler must be that of governing. He should not force (his subjects), what business does he have with that girl?
117. If it was written, she will spend her life with me.” Karacan (added):
118. “I will take her (as my wife).” Taysha said: “I will take her”.
119. Among the many vezirs of the gathering (of vezirs) is Hizir, among the thousands is found a saint.
120. Vezirs said to the Ruler: “Ey Taksir, cease the argument, you are the Ruler. You send nine
121. ambassadors, let Karacan send nine ambassadors. To whomever he (Baysari) consents, it will be your destiny.” This
122. was agreeable to the Ruler. This explanation was acceptable. The Ruler chose his
123. nine ambassadors. Karacan chose his nine ambassadors. The Ruler instructed the
124. eighteen ambassadors: “If he chooses the Ruler, let Baysari give his daughter to me. If he says the Warrior,
125. then to Karacan. The choice belongs to Baysari. The Ruler will not use force.
126. Let him decide.” Eighteen Kalmaks mounted their horses. They headed
127. toward Baysari Bay’s camp. The Ruler’s good Vezir, was the head of his (the Ruler’s) nine ambassadors.
128. He was Kokemen Kaska. He arrived at the white tent of Baysari Bay.
129. “The silhouette of the horses fell on the mountain” (he added). “Do not stay away from us.
130. Is there anybody in this house? Communicate with us. We rode
131. our horses over stony ground; shed bloody tears from eyes. If there is a person in the white tent
132. come out and communicate with us.” Baysari came out. He recognized the men sent
133. by the Ruler. His color faded. He welcomed
134. them. At that time, Kokemen Kaska spoke up: “We taught a lesson
135. to the enemy bedecked with rubies, corals and mother of pearl. Stewards caused us
136. to come as ambassadors. The world is transitory and false. We
137. came as ambassadors. Baysari, who is an outsider, is
138. one of the stewards. We tied on our lances; the standards, arriving to visit the Bay.
139. To look at the white camp site. We came to offer greetings, to
140. ask for his Muslim daughter’s hand in marriage. Matchmaking is done by ambassadors; so is
141. making enemies. I am a hunter who let loose his birds of prey. You have a daughter, we have a son.
142. I came as an ambassador for your daughter, you braid the mane of your horse. You
143. are the respected leader of the Kungrat. Nine of us sent by Taysha. Nine by Karacan.
144. If you say the Ruler, then to Taysha; if you say Warrior, then to Karacan; you have the choice,
145. Baysari. You permit Barçın (to marry); how do you answer?”
146. Baysari lost all hope. His luck ran out.
147. He went back into his tent, saw his daughter:
148. “You are my pearl, apple of my eye. Who else. An
149. embassy from Taysha came asking for you. He is disputing
150. with Karacan. Which one will you choose. May I be sacrificed to you, light of my eye.”
151. At that time Barçın Jan said: “My mind
152. became tired from thinking. Both Kalmaks want the possessions of this world. Do
153. not cry, dear father, my heart is broken too. God’s will shall prevail. Do
154. not speak disparagingly. Do not look down upon any other man.
155. Do not cry, father, my heart sinks too. Do not lose your hopes, dear father, you still have your Barçın.
156. I will look at my face in the mirror and see what God created.
157. Do not cry, dear father, I will give thanks (to God, for what we already have). I will give my answer to the Kalmaks.
158. I have grown from year to year. The worry of my loved one has been troubling me
159. You do mount your horse and leave the gathering place. You braid your horse’s tail on the
160. day of the battle. You agreed to give me to the Sultan of the Kungrat. Is
161. he not also fourteen now. Do not braid the horse’s tail without (the prospect of) a battle.
162. I know, you are an anxious man. The real owner of the property will (eventually) arrive.
163. (For that reason) please be careful in your answer dear father.” (Altun Sach intercedes): “At dawn
164. you had loaded the castrated yellow camels, led them toward
165. the atheist Kalmaks. I cried heartily upon migrating from my land. What richness
166. have you gained (from that action)?” Barçın responded,
167. she grew angry, tightened her belt, twisted off the bird’s neck. Barçın
168. folded her arms, looked at the ambassadors sent by
169. Taysha Khan, and stated: “I cried deeply when I saw you
170. However, what can crying accomplish? We came here believing that you Kalmaks were men.
171. If I listen to my heart, it has a message. To those ambassadors sent by the Ruler,
172. this is what I have to say: “Go and tell Taysha Khan the mane of the horse is
173. braided, valiant elders are superior (to those who are cowards). If he is Taysha Khan
174. I am Barçın. We are the guests (in his dominions). He should
175. give us six months grace. When six months pass, thin
176. becoming fat. Then he can strike his white lance. I will wear my gold garments.
177. I need the time to gather my mind. From a distance of forty days. That I, Barçın came.
178. I will submit myself to spend a life
179. without worries. From a distance of forty days (he) whose horse comes first,
180. not calling him Kizilbash or Kalmak I am
181. unlucky Barçın. Go tell your Khan. I will marry the one I (thus) choose.” That is
182. what she said. Ambassadors left. Taysha Khan’s ambassadors reported that
183. (Barçın) would marry him. Karajan’s ambassadors told (Karacan)
184. that she would marry him (Karacan). Taysha said: “I will marry her.”
185. Karacan said: “I will marry her.” Both
186. were determined. They were at loggerheads over Barçın. “What is your business?”
187. “What concern of yours?” they queried of each other. Words became soldiers. Their noise reached the sky.
188. Both sides became enemies. If one was to look toward nine directions, one could behold nineteen thousand warriors.
189. Warriors with red colored lances. White and blue tents were erected
190. in camps. Battle took place. The blood (of the warriors) ran down the breasts of the horses
191. and down the stirrups. The black stones of the roads. formed
192. new roads and bridges. Fighters slew each other. Barçın
193. was the cause. Believe it or not.
194. For four months Kalmaks struck each other down.
195. Now (let us) hear of Alpamysh, who (later) mounted his Baychoba
196. and went to the land of Kalmaks, after his beloved.
197. Baybörü had a servant. If you ask his name, it was Kultay.
198. Kultay was the head of ninety (other individuals or horses). He was in charge of the horse herd.
199. His (Alpamysh’s) father and mother (earlier to each other had) said: “Only death will do us part. No need (for Alpamysh) to go after
200. the bride.” Alpamysh took the golden saddle to his house, and went to see Kultay,
201. who was the overseer of the horse-herd. He
202. was intending to give Alpamysh a horse, when he (Alpamysh) reached the age of seven.
203. Duldul was also seven years old. If the northern winds
204. mounted him, no human yet did. Baychobar said:
205. “Only a bahadur or the northern winds can mount me. Only that bahadur
206. who can lift me (off my feet) by my tail may mount me.” That is what Baychobar
207. had in his heart. (Alpamysh) said: “Let me have a horse to go after (my) bride,
208. to the land of the Kalmaks.” (He was told by Kultay:) “Let us see
209. your valor first. To test your skills (to determine your ability in undertaking such an action), I’ll let the entire horse herd run toward you.
210. You lay low under a rock. I will determine the correctness of your value judgement (from the horse you choose).
211. You catch the horse you think is worthy. I shall
212. see your worth thus my son, and separate you from the rest.”
213. He gathered and drove the entire herd over him. “The whole herd is at your disposal.”
214. The whole herd galloped over Alpamysh.
215. He was not satisfied with any of his father Baybörü Bay’s
216. horses. Finally, at the back he spotted a Chobar.
217. Its mane flowed over its ears, surefooted,
218. bushy tailed. When it came closer,
219. Alpamysh, who had been under a corner of a boulder, emerged.
220. Alpamysh spread the fingers of his hand, jumped up.
221. Alpamysh Sultan, grabbed the tail of the fourteen-year-old horse’s tail
222. like a lion. Alpamysh stood like an elif (like the letter I). Baychobar kneeled like
223. a camel. Licked his face, stiffened his ears. Tried to get away thrice. Alpamysh did not let go.
224. Alpamysh (thus) established his power, his supremacy. Baychobar
225. had promised himself that “only the man who could grab and lift me by my tail
226. may mount me. Then, he is my master.” He (Alpamysh) rode
227. in (toward Kultay) on his young horse. (Kultay said:) “May your horse be auspicious. You
228. are my only hope. May your Chobar be auspicious. Hang the amulet on the neck.
229. When the horse runs, one forgets all one’s worries. It will light up your soul
230. when you ride your Chobar.” (Alpamysh) put a golden saddle on, with double girth. He had the iron
231. drums sound. He wore his shield on his back, hung his lance across his saddle.
232. (He) regarded this mount as an equal to himself. He took
233. the reins from Kultay, mounting the horse, rode out, to the land of the Taysha Kalmak.
234. Here and there he rode. (He) heard many tongues on the way. His face turned pale (from the hard riding).
235. (He) sustained difficulties on the way to Barçın. Caused his
236. Chobar mount to become tired. Who did you hear the news from? As the soldiers of Taysha Khan and Karacan
237. were feuding, asleep in their forts, one morning at dawn,
238. the noise of hoofs reached Karajan’s ears. While
239. the others slept, Karacan speedily arose. (He said) “Taysha’s
240. men (these must be). Get up my men, on your feet, one thousand men are coming. We
241. are going to be ambushed. Let me wear my white mail braid
242. the tail of my horse. I will not let the name Karacan be belittled. (I will) attack the enemy
243. like a hungry wolf. If the dogs fight each other, they will unite upon spotting a wolf (so, forget your feud and unite against this coming force).”
244. Thus Karacan and the others left for their lands. Karacan rode until dawn broke. The day
245. rose scarlet. Karacan could not see the reason behind the noise. In the darkness
246. of the dust (raised by the same source that is making the noise, such as a rider), could not even see the ears of his horse.
247. The spirit of (he who is looking after) Alpamysh was very powerful. Thus, even though Karacan had good saints looking after him, he could not see Alpamysh. Karajan’s black
248. tulpar did see Alpamysh. Baychobar’s stars were mightier than
249. those of the tulpar of Karacan. Thus, Karajan’s horse was afraid of Baychobar,
250. moving side to side on the road, in his fear.
251. (Karacan states:) “The eyes that look at the bright face of the black horse are blinded. May your elder brother be sacrificed
252. to you. With your God given eyes, what did you see black horse,
253. what did you see? I tried to get you to walk, you balked, you refused to eat.
254. You became agitated without my whipping you. What have you seen? You are a fourteen-year-old
255. tarlan. I did not see an equal to you in my life. If I whip you, you fly (your feet barely touch the ground). What
256. did you see black horse, what did you see? Princes do not erect tents (their orderlies do). The lion
257. does not fall under his foe. Are those coming more valiant than we? What did
258. you see black horse, what did you see? Horse is covered with perspiration. Are those coming more brave than we?
259. The coward worries only about food. What did you see black horse, what did you see?”
260. At that time, the cloud of dust (restricting Karajan’s vision) settled. North wind stopped. When Karacan looked, he
261. beheld a youth of fourteen with white face and brown eyes. One of his locks of hair was from gold,
262. the other, of silver; he beheld Alpamysh, the zbek
263. of Jidali Baysun. (Karacan said:) “Are you a sorcerer or a saint? I’ll take your life,
264. spill your blood. You are a powerful enemy. May the bright days turn into floods. May my rule grow more prosperous
265. from year to year. In all my life, I did not see a youngster like you.
266. Bandit natured sultan, may this be your last foray. The mountain of Kalmaks is tall.
267. Seisens know the prime condition of a horse. Where are you coming from,
268. where are you going? Who are you, a prince or a pauper?” Alpamysh
269. answered: “I tightened the girth on the horses back. I drank the water of
270. the Baysun lake. If you ask my name, it is Alpamysh son of
271. Baybörü. I left my land many days ago.
272. White geese were flying on the Baysun lake. I chose my horse at the age of fourteen,
273. mounting it. I come after Barçın.” When
274. Alpamysh said that, (his) horse of prime condition neighed. (Alpamysh continued:) “He who is patient will attain his wish. At
275. the age of seven I (learned how to) read and write. My dear Barçın came to this land.
276. In the garden there were apples and pomegranates. In the realm of God, there is a sweetheart.
277. I was separated from my beloved. Is there anyone who
278. saw my sweetheart?” Karacan laughed with contempt (and responded:) “There are two other suitors
279. besides you. Roses need (a garden) to bloom. In order to (be) burn(ed), one
280. needs a tongue. In order to take the beloved from us
281. one has to be more valiant than we. If I get angry, I will take your life,
282. spill your red blood. Go back where you came
283. from. You cannot take back Barçın. If you run away,
284. I’ll catch you and lance you down. If you stay, I will grab you. You
285. cannot take back your Barçın. Go back where you came from.”
286. Alpamysh Batir’s patience ran out, he became angry:
287. “Do not speak ill. If you see someone, do not
288. think that he is less than you. Do not speak of vanity on the field. Do you
289. believe in what you are saying? Do not be vain on the field. Do not think
290. you are valiant and I am not. Do not believe
291. that you can scare me. God gave you a bird brain Kalmak,
292. do not try to act with that small mind. If I get angry I’ll behead you. Did
293. you think that you could scare me, when Barçın’s honor is at stake?”
294. At this time Alpamysh added: “No need to speak down to me,
295. or attempt to argue.” Kalmak Karacan said:
296. “If I argue, I’ll draw my bow, strike with the sword.
297. Then what will you do?” Karacan added: “Argument is upon your six ancestors,
298. get used to it.” At this time, Alpamysh undid his golden belt.
299. He dismounted Baychobar. Karacan unfastened his golden belt.
300. Both prepared to fight and die for Barçın,
301. pledged their lives for the cause. Both took up positions to wrestle.
302. Alpamysh said: “You go first.” Karacan said:
303. “You go first.” Alpamysh said: “Your beard is white, you are older, therefore I defer to you.
304. You go first.” Karacan grabbed Alpamysh like a lion.
305. Alpamysh Sultan took refuge in Hz. Ali.
306. At that time, the seven saints who named Alpamysh appeared.
307. The saints came and worked their magic, weighed down (Alpamysh).
308. Alpamysh became so heavy that Karacan was not able to lift him up.
309. Karacan tried to throw him. Karacan was not able to move him.
310. Karacan thought: “Is this a walnut tree, deep rooted, that it does not move?”
311. Karacan deferred to Alpamysh. He (Alpamysh) called God’s name three times.
312. He called his seven saints, grabbed Karajan’s belt.
313. Picked him up, turned and heaved Karacan under himself. Embraced him so tightly
314. that Karajan’s nose started bleeding. When Alpamysh threw him down, Karacan started to beg for mercy
315. and said: “Young horse runs in his time, the
316. one who is a batir, will use his shield. You broke my back,
317. took my life. If it is Barçın you are looking for, she will be found. I was
318. alone, now I have an equal. I was fooling myself with the falsehood of superiority.
319. I accept your God, and his apostle. I become friends with you,
320. as of now. If blood is spilled, then the golden throne will shine (because, there will not be anyone to sit on it). I speak,
321. elders listen. I became friends with you.
322. I accept your God, and his apostle. He (God) is the creator of all.
323. Shall I, the offender, can I ever be forgiven? I became
324. friends with you. I became Muslim, my God is one.” At this time,
325. Alpamysh thought: “If I kill him, the black earth will not be filled.
326. (Furthermore) he (Karacan) invoked the name of God and his apostle; became a Muslim.” He (Alpamysh) stopped.
327. Karacan collapsed. (Karacan) came to, about the time of the noon prayers,
328. and said to Alpamysh: “I became friends with you out of my fear.
329. Now teach me the creed (of Muslims).” He
330. recited the creed. They placed the Isfahan sword between them, embracing, became
331. friends. Karacan mounted his black horse. Alpamysh mounted his Chobar.
332. They arrived at Karajan’s house and inner circle. Karacan served his friend.
333. Five days passed. The face of the sixth day was seen. Spring arrived.
334. Karacan said: “Bay came from a distance of six months looking for his beloved, became friends
335. with me. My friend, if you allow me, I should
336. go find Barçın, give her the good news.
337. What do you think?” (Alpamysh said:) “That is a good idea my friend.”
338. Karacan mounted his friend’s Chobar,
339. reached the white tent of Barçın. (Karacan said:)
340. “The silhouette of my mount on the mountain, do not be afraid of my presence. Is there anyone
341. in this house to speak with me? There are relatives at the black mountain. I shed
342. bloody tears (because of the hard ride). If there is anyone in the white house, come out
343. and speak with me.” Barçın finally said: “I suffer from heartache
344. but (I have) no friend to welcome. Whoever you are, do not lose time.
345. I do not have anyone I need to speak to. I lost all hope and worldly riches
346. too. I do not have anyone I need to speak to. Whoever you are, do not lose time.”
347. Answered Karacan: “If there is war, (I) braid my horse’s tail. Your
348. name is Barçın, what did you say, apple of my eye, Barçın
349. Jan? I have news for you from the land of Baysun. Mounted on the horse, arriving from
350. the field. Countless Kalmaks are dead in Isfahan. One who is at the age of fourteen.
351. His name is Alpamysh. This boy comes looking for you. He
352. has a gold amulet on his neck. One loses all his worries in the battle. He is
353. fourteen, named Alpamysh. If you do not believe me, (look) I came on his Chobar.” When
354. Barçın heard of Alpamysh’s Chobar, she became crazed with excitement.
355. (She) ran out to the square, shining like the full moon. When she looked, spotted the Baychobar.
356. When she looked at the rider, saw a boiled iron colored, shapeless stranger,
357. godless Kalmak. Barçın sighing deeply,
358. recognized Baychobar. She was disheartened. Tears rolled down her eyes. (She said to Baychobar:)
359. “I wear a gold amulet on my neck. I have cried loudly day and night.
360. May I be sacrificed to your canter. Baychobar, when you were a tiger, you fell as booty.
361. I cried, my tears formed a lake. My hair on my back
362. became felt-like. Apple of my eye, Baychobar.
363. You were free like a tiger, but now are a prisoner. When I beheld your image, it was like
364. the new moon, as my heart throbbed with joy. May I be sacrificed
365. (to you) Baychobar. When I left, you were a mere colt.”
366. Karacan answered: “Do not deny your intended. With your tears
367. do not stun me. May I be sacrificed to you, Barçın Jan. Do not display
368. your womanhood. I tightened the girth on my horse’s back; listen
369. to Karajan’s words. Believing he (Alpamysh) was unmanly, I deceived myself (when we first met). Like a lion,
370. he (Alpamysh) grabbed me by my belt. I cried for the gods, horse was covered with sweat. He (Alpamysh) called
371. for the saints. Believing he was unmanly, I deceived myself, he swung me around, and like an eagle,
372. threw me to the ground. In this transitory world, I entertained my destitute heart. I
373. was alone, I gave advice to a younger brother. I accepted the one God. His apostle as his messenger.
374. Out of my fear, (I) became friends with Alpamysh. Led him by his arm
375. to my house, dismounted and welcomed him. Offered him food.
376. Barçın, if you were to accept me, and call me Alpamysh’s friend, I’ll go
377. back to my friend. This would give me pleasure.”
378. Barçın jumped up, searched the chest, pulled out
379. an overcoat with gold buttons, left it next to him. Karacan said: “Your
380. father was Baysari. Where did your father, mother go?”
381. (Upon hearing that) Barçın cried: “Khan behaves like a Khan, and a pauper, like a pauper.
382. Taysha Khan has been difficult toward us. Saying, ‘If you don’t give your virgin daughter to me,
383. neither will you give her to Karacan.’ He imprisoned my father and mother. Today is the third day
384. they are in prison.” (Karacan said:) “If my friend were to query me about your father and mother (and discover that they are in prison) he will be distressed.
385. This is not something I can tell my friend.”
386. He mounted the horse (and said:) “My mind became upset on this
387. field (under these circumstances). Kungrats are in a revolt over their honor. When
388. the owner arrives from the land of Baysun, Taysha Khan will be in trouble. Mounting
389. horses from every direction. Countless Kalmaks died in Isfahan.
390. When I look, I see that your house is on fire, Taysha. Valiant Alpamysh arrived from the land of
391. Baysun. When the roses of the garden wilt before the ninety days (of the winter). When my
392. time is up, the appointed hour cannot be deferred. All my limbs are devastated. When he was our guest (for) the six days
393. Padishah, hear that I am crying. Taking (draining) my life
394. away, consumed my sustenance at every
395. (travel) stage, ate my nine camels; even when the Kalmak could not eat one baby camel (causing me intentional difficulty and devastation).”
396. Thus (Karacan) was displaying his degree of friendship (toward Alpamysh). Kokemen
397. Kaska was the head of the executioners. (Karacan said:) “Hear Taysha Khan, if you had nine camels eaten at every stage,
398. that won’t last (you cannot keep it up until the end of time). Won’t you admit that?
399. You are an impostor when I listen to God in the morning, become angry and
400. take your head. You will die doing what you have always done. Of all your bad deeds, you do the worst to me.
401. You have imprisoned my father and mother.”
402. Kokemen Kaska realized that Khan was changing his mind. Speedily
403. coming to the jailhouse, Kokemen Kaska released father-in-law Baysari Bay and mother-in-law
404. Altun Sach to Karacan.
405. Baysari Bay recognized the Baychobar, walked around it, hugged it. Jumped
406. and mounted Baychobar. Karacan mounted (Baychobar) behind him.
407. Altun Sach mounted behind him (on Baychobar). Horse’s chest got longer, with
408. a gallop, speedily left. The horse was covered with foamy sweat.
409. (Baychobar) invoked the help of the saints. My sorrowful heart became joyful. Baysari
410. arrived at his expectant house. He dismounted
411. picking up the overcoat handed to him by Barçın Jan, presented it to the friend of
412. Alpamysh, Karacan. Barçın spoke: “I lost my mind, it became scarce as precious stones.
413. May God have mercy on this sorrowful servant. This grieving
414. (person) has something to say. When you come (next)
415. riding (your) horse on the open plains, I await with erected tents. Do not come
416. with empty hands, or with much. When batirs arrive speedily
417. I am the blooming rose in the garden. May you (and your kind) be free. Kungrat
418. with Baysun horses. Following our trail with many soldiers bearing banners
419. to the creator God. My dedication will not be temporary. Batir’s
420. mind is uncomplicated, like young brothers to the atheist Kalmak. Do not again
421. arrive alone, without my beloved.” Karacan answered: “Do not make this your worry.
422. Your beloved is not less than any other batir. When there is serious battle
423. in the field, Alpamysh is equal to forty thousand soldiers.” Answered Barçın: “My
424. eyes resemble black narcissus. My face is brighter than red apples. Before
425. my batir arrives to the atheist Kalmaks, those who cannot speak the truth, I have
426. something to say. White strands appeared in my hair. Does that bother you?
427. Tears rolled down my eyes. When six months passed.
428. The one whom I (must) choose (as my husband) arrives; from a distance of forty days. Whoever wins the
429. race, riding on the horse-herd, I must call him my man. Let me lead a
430. trouble-free life. From a distance of forty days arrives (my husband to be) on the running horse.
431. I wear my gold embroidered clothes. If need be, (I) gather my wits, without
432. saying Kizilbash or Kalmak from a distance of forty days
433. to (him) whose horse wins (I fall as the prize). Luckless Barçın I am. I cannot say I am
434. free. Karacan, who is a friend, I promise (this) with a heavy heart.”
435. That, Barçın said for (Karacan to tell) Alpamysh and went back to her house. Karacan went back to
436. his friend Alpamysh. Told his friend what Barçın said.
437. (Alpamysh asked:) “Are my elders well?” “They are well my friend.” Upon hearing this news, they
438. rested Baychobar for seven days and nights. Kalmaks, rode hard
439. toward the fortress of Taysha Khan over the stony ground. Hid their beloved in the castle.
440. (To the winner of the horse race contest) Barçın was the prize, hence all hell broke loose. For the lady
441. and the child. Horsetails were braided. Death is an order of the creator.
442. No Kalmak was left behind, all gathered. All cried with the hope of (receiving the hand of) Barçın.
443. Four hundred and ninety swift horses from the side of Taysha entered
444. (the race). Karacan called for his friend Alpamysh,
445. who was ready to enter the race. He (Alpamysh) himself was not permitted (because) children only fetch the horses. His friend
446. Karacan was fielded (instead). (Saying) “For the sake of friendship,
447. I will be the horsegroom.” (He) mounted the Chobar. (Alpamysh) entrusted Karacan
448. to the care of God, and Baychobar to the care of Karacan. Four hundred and ninety horses
449. were recorded by the mollas. (Alpamysh said:) “I came from the fortress of Baysun, my
450. wish is from God. I allowed you
451. to mount Baychobar because of our friendship. Do not betray this trust Karacan. When you run (Baychobar), do not take his life.
452. No horse with full belly races after the black one. For reasons
453. of friendship I allowed you to mount him. Remember, for good or bad, he is mine. Hungry
454. or not (be careful with him). I implore God with tears. I let
455. the gray falcon on my arm take flight. I let you mount Chobar out of friendship.
456. I commend you to the creator.” (Alpamysh) thus bid farewell and sent them on their way.
457. Karacan received prayers from the Sultan, who gave him his (precious) rose. Time
458. passed. Upon receiving starting orders from Taysha Khan, valiant Karacan, batir
459. by birth, (along with) four hundred and ninety horses (ridden by other contestants) started the race.
460. The horse was covered with foamy sweat. Saints’ help was called for. Karacan
461. (would) progress for forty days. For five days
462. Karacan travelled. He arrived everywhere, he was running at the edge
463. of the crowd. He slept for a while, remounted Chobar. (Along with) four
464. hundred and ninety (other horsemen, on their) horses. After ten days made another stop.
465. Rested for a while, slept a spell.
466. Tested his friend’s horse. After fifteen days reached
467. the fountain of Ak Bulak, where the Kalmaks were entertaining themselves.
468. They were saying over and again (for Karajan’s ears): “I cried heartily in the field. My heart is
469. heavy with tears. Do not leave these prosperous lands on account of a Sunni.
470. Your bone is like ours. (His) mount is a carriage horse, of his stupidity thinks
471. it is a racehorse. (He) combed his tail. (He) asked
472. directions from the elders. Go back to your land Karacan, what good
473. is it to be a vagabond? (We) tightened the girth on the horse’s back. You
474. accepted the religion of Mohammed. There is no place for you in this race. Do not
475. race your horse Karacan. Go back to your own kind.”
476. At that time, Baychobar thought about these words. His understanding was better than men’s.
477. He was a horse protected by the saints. Upon hearing these words, fell down
478. as if hit by an arrow. Karacan
479. hit him with his whip. Baychobar did not move. Karacan
480. became angry, lifted Baychobar, by picking him up by his tail and ears.
481. The horse’s weight was not of consequence (to Karacan) compared to the words weighing in his heart.
482. (Karacan) let the horse down on his four feet. Carried him for three stages
483. in succession. Finally picked up a piece of wood, hit the horse.
484. Hit it every which way. The horse neighed noisily, (as if) saying “Do not hit,
485. my flesh is in pain.” Karacan, born as a batir,
486. mounted the horse once again, ran for a day and a night. Five
487. days passed, twenty days ended. (The riders) reached Kok Derbend,
488. where the horses (were scheduled to) turn back. White faces turned pale. His
489. heart was filled with sorrow. Upon reaching twenty days’ distance. Horses mounted
490. by the Kalmaks stopped at a stage. (Karacan) observed this from the corner of his eye.
491. He reached the boundary. Kalmaks were having a discussion. Karacan
492. had an idea: “I should allow Baychobar to rest for a day,
493. give him five handfuls of feed.” (He) picked up the feedbag, approached
494. Baychobar. Baychobar was afraid of the feedbag.
495. Baychobar had never seen a feedbag.
496. Karacan patted the forehead of the horse, pulled on its ears to force its head into the feedbag.
497. Baychobar lowered his head, Karacan forced on the feedbag. Baychobar did not eat the feed, did
498. not know its value. He was foaming at the mouth. Kalmaks were
499. laughing and having fun. “Fuck you, your horse will win,”
500. they said (to Karacan) mockingly. Everyone went back to their places (in the encampment).
501. A tore was sent by Taysha
502. to observe the order of the race,
503. and was instructed to keep an eye on the four hundred and ninety Kalmaks. He was At Peshin Tore,
504. (who, at once) spoke about the horses. “We saw the four hundred and ninety horses as they
505. filed past us. We watched all. Next to the chestnut of Taysha Khan,
506. and Karajan’s horse, all the others seem like oxen.
507. Karajan’s friend’s horse is some mount,”
508. he said. “Let us go see it.” He gathered nine Kalmaks to go with him.
509. They all went near it. Ever since Karacan
510. became friends with Alpamysh, and became Muslim,
511. Karacan never missed a single prayer time. While he was performing
512. his morning prayers, Baychobar was walking around behind him.
513. The tore inspected Baychobar’s body and flesh with his own hands.
514. Discovered the wings on his shoulders,
515. and the way the horse folded them, moving occasionally. Atpeshin Tore
516. became scared of Baychobar. He fled, rejoined the crowd.
517. He gathered all of the four and hundred ninety Kalmaks. Whom do we now hear from?
518. From Atpeshin Tore: “Now, hear this, I tightened the girth on the back of the horse
519. waging war against the Muslims. Barçın cannot be yours. Run
520. your horses, return to the lands of the Kalmak. I raced my horse over rocks and plains.
521. The armor you wear does not reach your knees. Go back
522. to your lands while you have your honor. Take a look at your future with calm eyes. As long
523. as the beautiful Baychobar is in existence, you may as well forget about Barçın. Karacan,
524. with grace, brought Baychobar to peak condition. Also, master Alpamysh
525. chose a true pure-blooded animal. If his wings are not clipped, hooves taken out, graceful
526. Baychobar, roads of twenty days will cover in seven.”
527. At this time, Karajan’s only son, Dost Mohammed, spoke to
528. Atpeshin Tore: “Do not make this your worry. As long as I am here, do not be concerned
529. with my father. My father still has to sleep his seven days’ batir slumber. After seven days,
530. the tired horses will have rested. Consider all this. Therefore
531. when my father Karacan starts his seven days batir slumber, we can kill Baychobar,
532. and tie my father’s hands and feet.” Kalmaks
533. considered all this. Small minded batir (Karacan) tied the feet of his young mount,
534. placed his head on the saddle cushion, rested his head on his palm, and laid down. (He) Immediately
535. became motionless like a tree. His son Dost Mohammed came over his father Karacan,
536. knew that he (Karacan) was asleep. He called four hundred and ninety Kalmaks
537. to his side. (They) tied together his father Karajan’s
538. hands behind him securely. Along with the four hundred and ninety Kalmaks,
539. (he then) went near Baychobar. Some grabbed him by the reins, others by the stirrups, turned
540. Baychobar and put him on his back. They built a fire from the brushes.
541. Drove horseshoe nails into the four hooves of Baychobar
542. noisily. They forced the horseshoe nails into his hooves. Kalmaks then
543. mounted their horses in unison. They were pleased with themselves. All of them lined up,
544. received their marching orders from Atpeshin Tore, and left. Three
545. days passed. Karajan’s heart was heavy. He jumped awake.
546. When he looked around, what he saw
547. took his mind away. He was alone in the field. It had been three days
548. since the Kalmaks left. The dung of their horses was drying. He
549. got up like lightning. Because his arms and hands were tied like a ram
550. he fell down, sprawling. He realized he was tied up, restrained.
551. He crawled, and righted himself. Searched for Baychobar,
552. spotted something dragging on the ground. He got close, and
553. discovered Baychobar lying on his back as the Kalmaks had left him.
554. Baychobar’s four hooves were showing (in the air), moving.
555. He could not get hold of the horse, his hands being tied. He said:
556. “My color faded seeing the select horse. I ran the horse without failing to put forth the effort.
557. (They) drove four nails into four hooves. I became a prisoner,
558. became last (in the race). If I die, the camel will be orphaned. He
559. who serves his friend will be admitted to heaven. Four nails were driven into four hooves.
560. If I am a Muslim, I must succeed. Roses that bloom in the spring garden.
561. Alas, my friend’s Kungrat lands of Baysun. Four nails were driven
562. into four hooves. Where are you, the protector saints of my friend? I made
563. the horse’s blanket out of manat. The lion days of my youth are being wasted.
564. Four nails were driven into four hooves. May the bones of those who committed this treachery
565. be exposed. I have erred in my heart. I implore the aid
566. of anyone. Four nails were driven into four hooves. You,
567. the protector saints of the Chobar, Yilkici Ata, listen to this lament at this time! I
568. am imploring God. For those who know, the Day of Reckoning is near.”
569. When he listened, he heard a voice crying “God.”
570. When he understood (what he heard) and looked – (there they) were, the good servants of God. Kalendars
571. wearing yende, praising God, wearing klah, appeared
572. with dispatch, like Hizir. They came near Karacan. Karacan gave the greetings of God,
573. received like greetings. Seven saints gave their hands to Karacan.
574. With a burning desire, Karacan, with the strength of a lion, grabbed Chobar, who was lying in the pit.
575. He got Chobar on his feet, four small nails in
576. four hooves. Batir is but a small minded child. (Karacan) forgot that there were nails in Baychobar’s hooves.
577. Seven saints trusting him to the prophets, spoke (to Baychobar): “May we be sacrificed
578. to you.” Petting his forehead: “Our auspicious stars above. Sunny days
579. are longed for. Karacan, our lamb, may your path be open.
580. May Hizir be your companion, leader of your people, our tiger.
581. Our leading tiger. May you be free from dangers. Ruler
582. of his lands, sultan, be safe our child,” they said. “May your horse’s path be open.
583. May you live without worry. May the fateful Baychobar
584. come first in the contest. Barçın, our dear child
585. may be a match to the Sultan. God created them for each other. Barçın for
586. the Sultan, may you be honored,” they said.
587. Forty saints prayed and left. Karacan
588. set out on his way. Batir whipped (the horse). “May I be sacrificed to your eyes, Baychobar” (he said).
589. Baychobar (running) became fire-like, burning. Four nails in four hooves
590. caused Baychobar’s eyes to flame (with pain). His life was taken away (by the pain of the nails). His mouth agape,
591. foamy sweat pouring from his breast. Horse was an ocean, overflowed. Karacan
592. whipped him. Baychobar’s hooves became hot, could not step down squarely.
593. One full day he ran. During the time of the evening prayers, ran under the force of the whip.
594. At the time of the night prayers, Karacan begged of Chobar, taking the right path
595. Karacan-named batir. Rump of Chobar became fiery hot. On stony ground
596. began tripping, as if he had a hunchback. On narrow paths
597. began swaying from side to side, his eyes rolling. If you look at his breast,
598. it became the size of a (door) threshold. His mane, with the beauty of silk,
599. beautiful locks, like the velvet at the market place, beautifully blazed creature.
600. Like the house erected on a hollow land, with a beautiful rump. Like the reed pens cut by the mollas.
601. Creature with beautiful ears. Like the plates that come from the Russians.
602. Creature with beautiful hooves. Like the rabbit’s shining teeth, its molars are two fingers long.
603. Over the six fathom tall rocks, as if a lightning bolt, rumbling, it jumps.
604. Three days time passed, chasing after the Kalmaks.
605. When the dawn broke to the Kalmaks, who speak a language no one knows, God granted him (Karacan) his wish.
606. Karacan chasing after, and caught up, having run without stopping. Bats (at dawn)
607. gathered and folded (their wings). Chobar who was (artificially) restrained (at) morning prayer time
608. passed the Kalmaks. After four days, at dawn
609. upon looking back, Taysha’s tarlan spotted the spreading wings of Baychobar.
610. Chobar’s wish was granted, noon prayer time
611. like the northern winds of spring, at the heels of the tarlan, came
612. close. Baychobar passed. On the way bit (the tarlan).
613. The tarlan stayed behind, having been passed
614. (Baychobar) ran all day. Ran all night, after
615. five days on the slopes of the Karadag the only one left (ahead) was Dost Muhammed.
616. Riding on a black horse belonging to Batir Karacan.
617. Karajan’s son received a request. Looking at his flank, saw (the source) from the corner of his eye. (Karacan said:) “You are my pearl,
618. apple of my eye. If you wouldn’t, who would ask how I am?
619. May your khan father be sacrificed to you. My only sultan, hear me,
620. you are my light, crying my wish to God. If you die,
621. wouldn’t my wings be clipped. If you were to say, “Father, your eternal friend’s horse should not be left behind.
622. Rein back your horse, son. (A) fast horse races in its time. The batir
623. wears white armor. Rein back your horse, do not worry if you fall behind.
624. Barçın-like girls will be found. I braid the horse tail before the battle.
625. My dear son you are mindless, what should I do Barçın-like girl will be found
626. from your land. I will select one for you.” (His son:) “Dear father, I am
627. not listening to you. In this struggle, I will not heed you. Whichever bey’s
628. horse is better, deserves to win. I will not have any other but Barçın.” Karacan
629. became angry, whipped Baychobar. His son whipped his mount. Karacan whipped (his mount) as well.
630. Two horses raced. Batirs were enraged.
631. The black stones disturbed by the hooves were sparking. Holes
632. were dug in the sand, where the horses’ hooves stepped. Beautiful-faced, short-haired black horse did not give way.
633. Karacan became very agitated, very anxious. The white
634. armor he was wearing became too small for his body. He could not catch the one ahead. God
635. did not allow satisfaction. Three hours passed. Beautiful faced black horse
636. did not give way, nearly dead (Karacan:) “Apple of my eye,
637. Baychobar!” Baychobar hung his head in shame. The creature grunted in his effort to pass
638. (Dost Mohammed), behaved like an adversary. (Karacan:) “Four times I asked. You did not stop. You did
639. not respect me.” Karacan grabbed his son’s head, who was named Dost Mohammed
640. and belt with his other hand, invoking the protection of God
641. onto the millstone-sized rocks threw his only one, killing
642. his son, Dost Mohammed. (Karacan) got hold of his son’s white sword (and) the winged tulpar (of his son)
643. beheaded. If you will have a friend, he should be thus. My lords, he killed
644. his son and his son’s horse. Karacan, born as a batir, performed the duties of a friend.
645. (He) proceeded, lamenting. Seven days passed. Now, from whom do you hear the news?
646. Hear it from the Kalmak Taysha. Observers were looking.
647. They could see anyone coming. There was one observer from Taysha Khan
648. and another from Karacan. They spotted the horse coming.
649. Taysha Khan’s observer said:
650. “Khan’s happiness will be increased shortly, there will be an end to his worries, Barçın Jan
651. now belongs to the Khan, tarlan horse is in sight.” Karajan’s observer
652. (recognizing) gold amulet on the neck: “Once
653. the battle begins, all worries are forgotten. You cannot say contradictory words.
654. The one coming is Baychobar.” Upon hearing these words,
655. Batir Alpamysh climbed the white hill and saw Baychobar coming.
656. “I hung the golden amulet on his neck. Whoever rides you
657. will forget his worries. Glory will be won by one’s self.
658. May I be sacrificed to your eyes Baychobar. I do not have tulips blooming on the nearby mountain
659. You are priceless, even beyond one hundred thousand tumans. When you walk
660. you earn honor. God is my witness, I do not have elders.
661. I have no roses blooming in the spring, if you do not run, earning honor.
662. God is my witness, I have no brothers. I am but a poor beggar, away from my land.
663. Forty saints have touched my head. When you run, my worries disappear.
664. May I be sacrificed to your eyes. When you win, the future of the Kungrats
665. will be secure.” The race was to end where Alpamysh stood,
666. at Kakbali Karatash. Taysha conferred with his vezirs. “Whoever’s horse
667. comes across this rock, will have Barçın,” he said.
668. Alpamysh was standing there. The creature, passing Alpamysh one step,
669. collapsed as if hit by an arrow. When Alpamysh looked, saw that the creature’s hooves
670. were swollen to the size of a (human) head. Alpamysh grabbed his sword. Unsheathing,
671. spat on Karacan, and said: “I won’t cause
672. any harm to a Muslim. When I saw the horse, I lost my mind. Four small
673. nails in four hooves. Valiant Karacan, where is your friendship toward me?
674. Utter your last prayers, I’ll cut off your head. I am too young to know the value of the horse. I drink wine from the
675. golden cup. Utter your last prayers, I’ll cut off your head.
676. Where is your friendship to me, you atheist? I’ll let alone the horse and beat the dust out of you.
677. In my anger, I will make your face turn yellow. Four small nails in four hooves
678. you have deceived me with words.” Karacan answered:
679. “I started out, praised God. After
680. fifteen days I reached Ak Bulak. Atheist Kalmaks
681. made fun of us. Baychobar was ashamed, fell down as if hit by an arrow.
682. I hit him (to make him run), forced him. In twenty days time
683. we reached the turnaround point. Kalmaks deceived us
684. making us believe that we would rest for seven days. Batir (myself) simple minded small boy
685. believed and agreed. Invoking the name of God, when my eyes were
686. filled with sleep, both of my arms were tied collapsed with sleep, I Karacan. To Chobar, whose eyes I love
687. four nails were driven, making him unable to walk.
688. I cried to my God. Atheist Kalmaks left on their way.
689. After satisfying my sleep in the field, I jumped from my sleep, I realized that I was lucky
690. realized Chobar was lying down, approached him crying. My coatskirts became wet
691. with the tears running down my eyes. I almost died on the field.
692. God is alone, I was alone. Who comes to my side? God
693. had mercy. With tears running down my eyes, I cried to God. Seven patron
694. saints appeared at my side, saying ‘God.’ ‘Do not cry, son. We
695. came to help,’ they said. Seven patron saints untied my arms
696. I gave thanks to God. Chobar was lying in the pit. With the strength of a lion
697. I grabbed him, pulled him out of the pit. After mounting me on
698. Baychobar, the seven patron saints (said:) ‘Our tiger of tigers
699. may you not have difficulties on your way
700. our tiger,’ they said: ‘The child Barçın, may she find Alpamysh,’ they said.
701. I mounted Baychobar, not of us, but of God
702. ‘May he cross the finish line,’ they said. Seven saints prayed
703. for us. Ninety days passed. Tarlan belonging to
704. Taysha, (Baychobar and I) caught up with. As Baychobar passed
705. bit him (tarlan) on the ear. The tarlan slowed down. My
706. only son Dost Mohammed, I caught up with. I told him to stop, he did not.
707. He did not call me father, or respect my wish. I begged of him, he did not listen.
708. I killed my son. Afterwards, I killed my own black horse.
709. I wore golden clothes without a belt. I performed my duty to you, lion
710. of my white house, garden of my gray sheep. I killed my only son.
711. Luckless am I in this passing world. I am separated from my son Dost Mohammed.
712. I give thanks to Islam. May I pass through this empty world with
713. the name of God on my lips.” At these words, Alpamysh and his friend
714. started to weep. Gülbarçin answered: “My Sultan’s horse came as well.
715. I shall go and take a look at him and congratulate (him).”
716. Reclaiming what was hers, taking it back. Her cheeks tanning
717. raising her eyebrow, biting her lip, resting a hand on her hip
718. gathering her hair on her breast, Barçın
719. Jan said (to Alpamysh): “You lost your color worried that your horse
720. would not win (crossing) through the finish line (first). Chobar came first
721. Batir, congratulations. (With the) amulet on your neck. When you ride all worries are forgotten.
722. Did not your Chobar come first? (Your) horse came Batir,
723. congratulations. The horse is covered with sweat. May your arm be strong in the battle.
724. May Aychrek be sacrificed to you. The horse came Batir, congratulations.” Alpamysh
725. answered: “The horse is covered with black sweat. The race took away my breath.
726. If it be auspicious, it should be for both of us. Go back to your house, Barçın. Let the
727. Kalmak faces fade. May they be plagued by my sword If the occasion be auspicious, it should be (auspicious) to (both of) us.
728. Barçın, go back to your house. Let them not drink from your fountain. May there be
729. separation no more. May no other stranger’s eye fall (covetously) upon you again. Go back
730. Barçın, to your house.” At that time, Barçın answered: “You are priding yourself with the victory
731. of your horse. Your horse nearly died in the land of Kalmaks.
732. Its bones nearly left to dry. When the horse arrived, you collected your thoughts.
733. I am going to the orda, my beloved Sultan. Send your
734. friend Karacan after me.” (Alpamysh) sent after Barçın his friend Karacan.
735. Barçın arrived at her house. (She) put on her arm four lamb
736. tails. On the back of friend Karacan
737. the beauty named Gülbarçin. Picked up a cauldron with her right hand. (Together they) headed
738. to the place where Baychobar was lying. With Karacan, at speed (they) arrived urgently.
739. (From the) horse Baychobar (who had) four nails in his hooves
740. with pliers, twisting (they) removed (the nails) The bad
741. blood collected in four hooves. (They) dressed and dried. Not even a trace was left of them.
742. Placed the tails of the four lambs in the cauldron
743. boiling. Poured the fat into the wounds. The winning horse Chobar
744. she nursed for fifteen days. Karacan, fifteen days
745. (and) Alpamysh (for) ten days. The winning horse Chobar
746. (Alpamysh) walked forty nights, made Barçın and Kalmak weary.
747. The swelling of the hooves disappeared. Mounting, (Alpamysh) went galloping. The winning
748. horse walked forty days and nights. When he (Alpamysh)
749. was satisfied that Baychobar has totally recovered he joined Barçın.
750. With Karacan the three gathered in the house in the land of Kalmak.
751. The marriage ceremony was held. They enjoyed themselves.
752. When the girl and the young man get together, who does not know of the custom? They
753. conversed. Dawn broke. (The two) renewed ablution
754. performed the morning prayers. Now, conferring with Barçın, (Alpamysh) spoke of
755. their longing for the homeland. Now we hear of Taysha Khan, his vezir
756. spoke: “Will you really allow him to take away Barçın
757. because his horse won? Only the Judgement Day is final. Life leaves the mouth,
758. so does the word. If we were to change our word and promise,
759. what would happen?” This is what the vezirs said.
760. They added: “Our Ruler, do not let Barçın go, on account of one promise. Call Alpamysh
761. into your presence. You have servants, ninety wrestlers. Tell him that you have seen him riding his horse.
762. Let there be another contest. (Tell him:) ‘Wrestle with champions. If you defeat the wrestlers, I’ll
763. believe in your might, then I’ll let you have Barçın.’ Command is yours,
764. we will cause it to happen.” In short, Taysha sent a man,
765. summoning him. Alpamysh arrived and appeared before Taysha Khan. Taysha Khan saw
766. when he looked, a young boy of fourteen. I am mistaken
767. in calling him a boy. An angel from paradise, with his locks. Son of a Ruler,
768. pearly and beautiful. Taysha lost his mind. Those who
769. looked at Alpamysh left the streets, climbed the walls.
770. “My young son, from a distance of six months, you came following your beloved.
771. You ran your horse over many roads. Your horse won the contest.
772. Your God gave you your beloved. Barçın is yours. However, for the hand of Barçın,
773. wrestlers and men of fast horses came from seven lands.
774. Will you just say, ‘My horse won, and I’m leaving for my land’? You must contest
775. with the wrestlers.” Alpamysh thought to himself: “God is alone, so am I. In
776. these lands who do I have besides God and Karacan. I will brace my waist for
777. the sake of manliness. Kalmaks are behaving treacherously. Taksir (Oh God). Khan, you are lying.
778. You are trying to go back on your word. Taksir (fate).” (He said to Taysha:) “I will contest.” The ruler called
779. one of his wrestlers to the field.
780. The wrestler came out to wrestle. Alpamysh prayed to Hz. Ali,
781. grabbed and threw him mightily at the
782. feet of the Ruler. False wrestlers cannot survive. In half an hour,
783. he demolished the Ruler’s nine wrestlers. Then, no one else wanted to contest. When he looked behind him,
784. he saw Baychobar standing at the edge of the crowd. While Kalmaks
785. were deciding what to do next, plotting to take Alpamysh’s horse and standard,
786. and saying: “Let us kill him.” Baychobar was stepping on those (Kalmaks) who were trying to get close to him.
787. He was kicking those who were approaching from the side. In the clamor of the crowd, he was not allowing the Kalmaks near himself.
788. Sultan Alpamysh saw all this. No other wrestlers were contesting. He walked over to his horse.
789. Batir mounted the Chobar, fixed his thoughts on the Kalmaks. Soldiers
790. surrounded him. Batir understood (the meaning of this) at one look. All atheist Kalmaks
791. prevented him from moving. Batir was enraged started playing with
792. the hilt of his sword. Unsheathing the sword halfway now, sheathing then saying: “Guilt (the consequences of my drawing)
793. is upon you.” Ruler’s vezir, Kokemen Kaska, without the
794. knowledge of the Ruler, shot an arrow at Alpamysh, displayed his enmity.
795. The arrow did not touch the Batir, whose days had not reached an end. He drew his sword.
796. Into the countless Kalmaks whipped, the Chobar (Kalmaks)
797. scrambled. He swung (his sword) again and again, took many a Kalmak’s head.
798. The Kalmak that came straight on he split from head on down. The Kalmak who approached
799. from the side, he took the head of. One hour passed.
800. Much fighting took place. From the struggle, (his) sword was bent. The mountain of Ayralik (?) was cruel.
801. Khans and those from the blood-line of the khans, and the beys with their followers. (All) Kalmaks at this time,
802. took refuge in the big castle, and closed the doors. By that time,
803. Sultan Alpamysh had killed many a Kalmak. Barçın’s house,
804. along with his friend Karacan, (he) reached hastily.
805. Whom do you hear the news from? Hear it from Taysha Khan: “Who started this fight?” (he asked)
806. Vezirs said: “Alpamysh.” Taysha said: “This fight
807. was started by you, by Kokemen.” He summoned Kokemen and said:
808. “It was you who started this fight, you caused it.” He had Kokemen put to death.
809. For (the hand of) Barçın, Alpamysh Batir had his horse win the race, defeated the wrestlers,
810. killed those Kalmaks of Taysha whose days came to an end. Caused pain to those whose days were not yet up.
811. Along with his ninety camels, with all kinds of possessions on the camels, in a white
812. ship, with his beloved named Barçın, Alpamysh Batir, with his father (in-law) Baysari Bay
813. giving thanks to God, started out for his land. (Also) with his mother (in-law) Altun Sach. With tears (in his eyes)
814. bid farewell to his friend Karacan (and) set out to his land. His white face
815. turned pale. Tired the loaded camels. He covered the road of six months
816. forty days. To the land of Jidali Baysun of the Kungrat, where his mother cried
817. he arrived safely. His father and mother weeping, his male and female relations
818. likewise. He made a grand feast. (He) gathered the crowd, had
819. horses race on the plains. He placed his beloved in the castle (while everyone said:) “He brought back Barçın Jan!”
820. All adored him. Alpamysh named (youth), at this time upon whom the
821. saints have cast their eyes, had the altun kabak contest, had his swift horse race. Wrestlers (were)
822. matched. Thirty days of games, forty days of feasts were made.
823. (They) knew only one God, and His apostle. (They) gave thanks for all his affairs
824. obtained (their) desire(s) and wish(es). All have reached their aims and God knows best. We receive the reward.
825a. Apple (size) headed mallard
825b. is an ornament in his own lake.
826a. Precious handled knife
826b. is worthy of the Bey’s belt.
827a. Everyone is happy on his own land.
827b. The taste of bread is good at home.
828a. Alpamysh was transcribed
828b. from the worthy tongue of Jiyamurad.
829a. If you fall in love with your beloved for five days
829b. that is fine, before your beard grows.
830a. Said all this finely
830b. by accompaniment to the saz.
831a. To serve the Ruler is to serve God
831b. (and) I serve the Ruler well.
832a. One who recites these words
832b. is Jiyamurad, son of Bekmuhammed.


The commentary addresses a number of issues. First, it clarifies discrepancies created by typesetting errors, inconsistencies, or sloppiness, as noted earlier. Second it elaborates on the key words employed in indexing as well as certain other phrases, references and allusions. The bahsi, Jiyamurad, son of Bekmuhammed, assumed – and rightly so at that time and place – that his audience was entirely familiar with the general conditions under which the events of the dastan took place, the customs and beliefs mentioned, and the action of the dastan itself. The modern Western reader requires some elucidation of these references. In the commentary, the line number links to the corresponding line number in the translated dastan above.

1. The location of Jidali Baysun has been discussed by various scholars. Togan associates it with the Syr-Darya area.34 Zhirmunskii refers to it as “formerly the Baysun bekdom in southern Uzbekistan.”35 According to A.T. Hatto, “Baysun lake” may be referring to the Aral Sea. This possibility was also suggested by Zhirmunskii. Furthermore, L.S. Tolstova, in Istoricheskie traditsii iuzhnogo Arala, notes:

It is not without interest that among the Karakalpak of the Choresm Oasis legends concerning arrival from Jidali-Baysun are, basically, distributed especially among the tribes of Aris Kongrat. (The leading hero of the Karakalpak epic, Alpamysh, whose activity according to the dastan takes place in Jidali-Baysun, also belonged to Aris Kongrat of the tribe Irgakli.) The same legend also has been located/recorded by ethnographers among the Özbek-Kongrat of the Amu-Derya Delta.36

However, the map accompanying Materialy dlia statistiki Turkestanskogo kraia, Ezhegodnik (Vol. III, St. Petersburg, 1874) shows a Baysun in the south of what was formerly the Uzbek SSR. Divay’s own note to the Russian translation (henceforth the translation and the accompanying notes are cited as Divay) discusses Jidali Baysun:

The central point of the Baysun bekdom in Hissare [Russ: Gissare] located on the slope of a mountain. Baysun-tau is near the river Surkhin, at a height of 3680 feet above sea level. The Baysun bekdom is settled by Uzbeks and Tajiks, the main occupation of the inhabitants is cattle raising. Baysun-tau is at the southwest end of the Hissar range to the south of Samarkand and southwest of Bukhara. Through this range passes the great caravan road from Bukhara to Hissar and the Amu-Darya. It goes along a narrow gorge with cliffs of 150 meters, which bear the name the Iron Gate. See the Entsiklopedicheskii slovar’, Brokgauz and Efron, vol 4, p. 731. According to the information of our Kırghız, Jidali-Baysun is located at the boundaries of two bekdoms: Kuliab and Hissar. There is located a large lake called Baysun. Living there are Kırghız of the Lesser Horde, and also Kungrat and Argyns of the Middle Horde.37

5. The title Bay (often translated “prince”) is appended to the name of a tribal elder or a member of the ruling elite; it may simply signify “man of wealth.” It may precede or follow the proper name. Therefore, the term is retained as in the original throughout the text. Hence, Bora and Sari are the actual names of the princes. Regarding the question: “What is the use of possessions beyond the (yurt) threshold?”, Remy Dor suggests that: “since ‘eshik-toz’ is commonly used for yurt, possessions, so possibly the sense is ‘because of the lack of posterity, they derived no pleasure from inventorying their possessions’,”38 i.e. what is the use of having possessions if one has no progeny.

7. Divay in his notes states “In the text ‘pir,’ from the Persian, meaning old man, head of monks, founder of a religious order. Pir and sheikh are the same: sheikh is Arabic, pir is Persian.”39

8-9. That is, the tombs of the saints are to be visited.

13. Kuda connotes giving or taking a girl from another family in marriage. Baybörü and Baysari have thereby became “in-laws.” In a society that values kinship, relations established by marriage are significant and carry certan obligations. In the beginning, the audience is informed that Baybörü and Baysari are two equal “bays,” establishing the terms of reference. “In the absence of a daughter” simply refers to the fact that, as yet, neither has children.

16. “Jan” can be a proper name, as well as a term of endearment.

19-20. Other versions here contain the phrase Kabir tapsa kan bayda, boyurgansa tun fayda, an ancient Kırghız proverb, as attested by the émigré Kırghız elders. Rahman Kul testified that he heard it in this form as a child but could not remember its meaning. It is not surprising that there is no unanimity over the text or the interpretation. The following analysis was provided by Prof. A.T. Hatto: “The play is on bayda (Pers. paida) ‘clear’, ‘manifest’; and fayda (Pers-Arab. fa’ida) ‘profit’, ‘advantage’ - both of which would be bayda/payda in the vernaculars, only the editor is learned. The second phrase may be read as: buyurgense tun fayda ‘if you make as if pleat/fold, a cloak would be a good thing’ (cf. Kirgh. buyur); -gense may be ‘when one folds’. Therefore, the following may be hazarded: [with] mourning (Pers. tafsa) at the burial (qabir), blood is seen. That is, bereaved women lacerate their faces”.40 Prof. Remy Dor has the following reading and observation: “Kabir togulsa kan bayda, buyurgansa tun fayda. Therefore, it can be translated as ‘If the grave overflows blood affairs [sic], if you give orders night is useful.’ Meaning: ‘It is better to give orders at night when you cannot be spied upon because if what must be kept secret is known there can be blood feud’.”41

In view of the context, I am inclined to the following explanation: Kabir tapsa – “If the grave is encountered”; kan bayda – “when the blood is noble”; boyurgansa – “for establishing order” or, in this case, to maintain your lineage; tun fayda – “darkness is useful.” Thus the meaning can be: “If you are old (i.e. death is near), but your blood is noble, then the darkness of night may be useful for conception, i.e. to maintaining your lineage.” Such references to the conceiving of sons in the darkness of the night are found in the Book of Dede Korkut, notably in the tale of “Boghach Khan.” Divay’s own Russian translation entirely omits this line and goes to the next line: “their stomachs grew so much that when they squatted down, they could not see the earth.”42

23. Divay explains: “During great holidays in olden days, the Kırghız organized a game called ‘altyn-kabak,’ which means ‘golden gourd.’ A long pole was brought, at one end of the pole was suspended a gourd with gold or silver coins and the pole was put in the ground. Then marksmen came out and shot (with arrows) at the gourd. Whoever split the gourd received the contents. They say that even now sometimes this game is played.”43

Altun kabak was a well-known contest, popularly held at such joyful occasions. Its origins may well go back to early times about which we know very little. In addition to its ceremonial use, the game of altun kabak (golden pumpkin) was clearly regarded as an essential military training exercise even outside Central Asian domains, for instance among the Mamluks.44 For example, the Mamluk historian Ibn Taghribirdi portrays it as follows:

On a tall mast a gourd would be fixed, made of gold or silver. A pigeon was put inside the gourd. The horsemen would advance toward the target and shoot at it (with bow and arrow) while moving (most likely at full gallop). If he hit the target and made the pigeon fly away, he would receive a robe of honor and take the gourd as his prize.... The kabak game was frequently performed on a large scale and with great pomp on the occasion of the birth or circumcision of the sons of the Sultans and of the Grand Amirs.45

31. Jelle is a garment, usually without a collar, made of naturally pink colored cotton fiber, especially favored by the mollas or mystics. Of the kalendars, Divay states:

Kalender [sic] is the name of an order of dervishes taken from the name of its founder Kalender Yusuf Andaluzskii [sic] (the word means ‘pure gold’ - it alludes to a pure heart, demanded of proselytes), the dervish is a mendicant, the ‘kalender hane’ the place of residence of these dervishes. See the dictionary of Budagov, p. 25, part II. See also “Dervishi v musul’manskom mire,” Issledovanie Petra Posdneva. Orenburg, 1886. “In Russian Turkestan are spread chiefly two orders, the Nakshbendi (kalenderi) and Kadrie [sic - Kadiriyye]. The kalenderi or Nakshbendi are considered ‘khufiia,’ as the founder of their order, the kalenderi Nakshbend was ‘khufiia,’ that is, one who performed the zikr to himself, secretly.”46 Also see EI2 entry “Kalendar.”47 Kalendar, besides being the name of a class of dervishes is also applied to good natured, unconventional people who do not complain or want.

39. Divay notes: “Further in the text everywhere she is called by the abbreviated (form): Barçın, without the prefix “Gul,” but for uniformity, we use ‘Gulbarçin.’”48

41. Some numbers are considered to be holy, fateful or simply lucky. Three, seven, forty are in this category. Other round numbers occur for the sake of random representation of crowds, distance, time, etc.

44. Concerning the phrase Gaib-iran-kryk-chilten [sic for gha’ib-iran-kyrk-cihilten], Divay explains the following in his footnote [comments in brackets are supplied by the present author, from Redhouse, A Turkish and English Lexicon, indicated pages]:

According to the information of M.N. Aidarov, the entire composition of the holy gaib-iran is divided into seven categories. The supreme one over them is called Qutb [“the chief of God’s saints upon earth,” 1461]. The second category is called Emanman, they consist of two persons and are considered the vizirs of Qutb. One is found at the right hand, the Alem-i melekut [“the heavens above, the kingdom ruled by God,” 1278, 1972] supervising the invisible; the other on the left is called Alem-i meleke [“world of possessions, the material world,” 1972], ruling over the visible.

The third category is Evtad [four cardinal saints on earth, one for each cardinal point, 10, 235] and consists of four persons. They keep watch over the four corners of the world. The fourth, the Budela [saintly persons maintained by God on earth, 9-10], consists of seven persons. The fifth, Ruqaba [seven seers or saints, 983, 984] consists also of seven persons and they are called simply “the seven.” The sixth category is called Nujeba [noble ones, 2073], of forty persons and they are called usually, “chilten [sic],” and finally, the seventh category is called Nuqaba [deans of communities, 2097], consisting of 366 persons, and they too are gaib-iran and are divided into two divisions: Iqrar [those who declare, 165] and Umena [those who conceal, 202]. Those who wish to request help from the gaib-iran sit with their backs to them [Divay’s note includes a sketch suggesting a direction of the compass needed to make the prayers in various parts of the globe] and then perform their prayer. In order to determine in which direction are the gaib-iran in the known lunar months, there exists the circle reproduced here with indicated compass points and numbers of lunar months.

Below the drawing, Divay adds, “Additional information can be found in Budagov, part II, p.58.”49

48. Karakasga is a horse with a blaze on his face.

49. A description of this game is provided in an article published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1985.50 Portions are excerpted here:

Kök Börü is the ancient name for Oglak Tartis, which is a game reserved for the able bodied young men who must field formidably agile and hardy horses. The latter designation literally means “contest for the goat,” actually the carcass thereof. Usually a young goat is killed, then its abdominal organs are removed and replaced by wet sand to weight it.

The contest has very few rules and is deceptively simple. The starting point is a circle, the diameter of which is generally proportional to the number of participants, varying from ten feet to one hundred. As soon as the Aksakal51 judges give the starting signal, the goat is picked up by one of the players. The object is to bring it back to the starting point.

This is easier said than done, each horseman plays for himself. The game has all the elements of mounted combat, although the only weapon allowed is nothing more dangerous than a whip, which may, however, have lead- reinforced tips. The horseman in possession of the goat tries to outmanoeuvre all others in order to bring it back to the circle. The rest oppose him fiercely and reach for the goat, seeking a hold, tugging. Hence the “tartis.”52 The new possessor attempts to ward off the pursuers by clutching the goat between his thigh and his saddle....

Historically, the contest of Oglak Tartis was an occasion to assess the courage and skill of the new generation as well as re-test the durability of the older one. It also served as a means by which the millennia-old horsemanship skills were transferred from the master to the novices.

Kök Börü53 was the wolf’s head symbol adorning the standards of the early Türkic Khanates of Central Asia, and the expression as well as its derivatives also repeatedly appear in the Oghuz Khan dastan.54 It commands respect and fear simultaneously, variously appearing as a guide, ancestor and cherished symbol...

58. The Central Asian tribes are almost always exogamous. They marry outside their immediate tribal unit. As a result, the daughter leaves her father’s home. Hence Baysari will once again be childless.

65. The distances represented by “forty days” and “six months” are probably used metaphorically to indicate a long distance.

66. Taysha is a title given to a Mongol ruler, Ta’i-shih. It was apparently utilized by the Kara Khitay as well.55 Later on in the text Taysha is also referred to as the Kayser (from Arabic via Persian) and Padishah (from Ottoman).

67. Ak Bulak is identified as being a location “northeast of Karaburghaz bay.”56 However, this term need not strictly refer to a geographic location. It could conceivably be used symbolically to mean a place of refuge, an oasis.

69. White or black camels are rare, thus indicating these are choice beasts. Divay explains the term kibacha as “a wooden crate, in which are carried dishes and other things, and when migrating, it is used to carry children on a camel.”57

70. “May it rain and turn the bright days into floods” appears to denote a wish for a turn of events for the better. In semi-arid climates, one expects rain to be auspicious and bring lush pastures for the herds.

74. “To hear the tongue of the Mongol,” i.e. to be where Mongols live.

78. “Full moon” is a standard phrase, describing the beauty of a human being, usually a young girl or boy. In this case, he may be exalting the beauty of his wife.

88. There is double indexing in this phrase, one within the other. The first one is: “If I (Baysari) had not been without an offspring, then, I would not have been obliged to enter into an oath with Baybörü.” As it follows, Baysari is implying: “Hence, I must compete with him in such a contest and be humiliated.”

94. Divay explains: “The Kırghız divide the year in four ‘nineties,’ specifically, the winter ninety, the spring ninety, the summer ninety and the autumn ninety. The ‘ninety’ comprises three months. Concerning the times of the year, see the article by A. Divaev, ‘Mesiatsy po kirgizskomu stiliu s oboznachenykh narodnykh primet,’ in Izvestiia Obshchestva Arkheologii, Istorii i Etnografii, vol. XIII, No. 4.”58

95. Divay notes: “There exists among the Kırghız a proverb: Kuyandi kamis oldurur, erdi namus oldurur “The reed kills the hare, and honor (striving for it or losing it) the brave one.”59

109. Mühürdar, literally: seal bearer. In this context, probably a high level bureaucrat, a non-military official. Alemdar, in the strictest sense, means standard bearer. In most Central Asian tribal hierarchies, such officers had additional responsibilities above and beyond what the offical title implies.60

110. “May we (I) be sacrificed” is an emphatic statement used to underline the importance of one’s thoughts or the intensity of desire. This phrase is also used to indicate deep affection and devotion.61 Divay calls this “an affectionate phrase, remaining from an ancient custom, according to which, making a sacrifice, for example for the recovery of an ill person, they circled around the patient and then a possession of the victim is either sacrificed [presumably an animal] or given to the poor. See Budagov, p. 212, Part I.”62 In this explanation, Divay is perhaps recalling the action of Babur (1483-1530, a direct descendant of Timur, and the founder of the “Moghul” empire), who, according to record, performed this ceremony to cure his son Humayun; and died shortly afterwards.

113. Taksir is a term of respect used in the Kırghız dialect, to address a ruler.63 Divay translates the term (in Russian) as “ruler” (gospodar).64 See also commentary on Lines 777-778.

119. Divay’s Russian translation states that this is a proverb. His note identifies Khizr as “the name of the prophet who found the source of living water and drank from it, and then lives to the end of the ages; the prophet Ilya; the helper, savior (one who defends [those travelling] on the water, [in] Kazak [is] Khizr; [in] Kırghız [is] Kidr) = [thus the saying] Juru tikaningda joluneng bolsun; Kudrata joldasining bolsun; [meaning] I wish you good journey, may your companion be the prophet Khizr (good journey); [also] Khizr, [means] green, pleasant to the eyes. See the dictionary of Budagov, p. 534, Part I.”65

131. “Shed bloody tears” refers to the difficulty of riding through rough and treacherous terrain. Lewis (p. 11) notes that “when the characters are distressed they weep bloody tears...”

135. “Stewards” refers to those in authority.

142. “Braiding the mane,” but especially the tails of horses was a requisite prior to engaging in battle. So prepared, the horse becomes spirited and more responsive to the rider.

147. “Lost all hope” because he fears the Taysha’s wrath if he turns down a request of this sort.

158. “The worry of my loved one has been troubling me” refers to Barçın’s worrying about Alpamysh, his health, his whereabouts and if he is aware of their difficulties.

159. Braiding the tail of the horse: see the comment on Line 142 above.

162. Referring to Alpamysh, and his expected arrival to marry Barçın.

167. “Twisted the neck of the bird” is a description of anger. It may also suggest that the lady in question has a shapely neck.

174. In his Russian translation, Divay retains the use of the term misafir, and explains that this term “among Muslims” denoted “those who came temporarily to a strange land or to another city. Also included amog misafir are travellers.”66

175. “Thin becoming fat, then he can strike his white lance.” Barçın is likening herself to a sacrificial lamb, fattened for sacrifice. She is also buying time.

180. In other words, without distinguishing origin, ethnicity, language or religion.

188. “Nine directions, nineteen thousand warriors” is probably figurative.

190. “The blood ran down the stirrup” is the traditional bardic reference to blood from the battle wounds of the warrior, first filling the boot, overflowing and finally running down the stirrup and the breast of the horse.

192. From the disturbance of the horses’ hooves, stones fly and are reassembled into new roads and bridges.

195. Baychobar is the name of Alpamysh’s horse, so named because of his color, gray with white “rose” spots, called “Chobar.” “Bay” (see comment on Line 5 for a definition of Bay) is added as a prefix to indicate that this is an unusually noble and beautiful animal.

197. These lines are rather unclear, as noted in the introduction of this chapter. Here the bahshi seems to be assuming previous knowledge of a series of details. It is difficult to determine when the bahshi stops referring to Baybörü and begins referring to Kultay. Accordingly, the reader cannot be certain if Kultay, a servant, personally decided to give Alpamysh a horse, or whether he was instructed by Baybörü to do so. Moreover, there is a rather severe misspelling (Line 200); taladin (open space) is substituted for tilladan (golden).

200. Alpamysh must know of the existence of his betrothed, both were seven years of age at the time of parting (Line 106 notes Barçın arrived in the land of the Kalmaks at age seven). Alpamysh’s parents are specifically against his pursuing Barçın, and appear to have concealed their betrothal from him. However, he is preparing to mount a quest for his fiancé and claims a golden saddle, the origins of which are not alluded to by the bahshi.

202. There are a certain number of conceptual inconsistencies in the text, most of which pertain to numerical values. In this line, it is stated that Baybörü was desirous of giving Alpamysh a horse when he reached the age of seven. In Lines 207-208, Alpamysh specifically asks for a horse on which to seek his fiancé. He captures Baychobar in Line 24. In Line 233, he takes the reins and rides out to the land of the Kalmaks. Only in Line 254 do we discover that Alpamysh is fourteen years of age immediately after selecting his own mount. It is not clear whether Alpamysh waited seven years after the point at which we learn of his father’s intention to give him a horse, making do with other horses before encountering Baychobar. The effect of this narrational sloppiness is not critical for the conclusion or even the flow. It is simply a nuisance for the orderly mind.

203. “Duldul” is the name of Ali’s horse.

205. The text uses bahadur which, as stated earlier, is a variant of batir.

218. Seksavul (Anabasis ammodendron, holoxylon) is a plant abundantly found in the Central Asian steppes.

221. “Sultan” is used to further honor Alpamysh, albeit before the reader (or the listener) is presented with his feats. It is a rather forward looking compliment.

222. Divay’s Russian translation says here that Alpamysh was brave, young and strong like an “elif.” In his note he explains: “The letter elif is depicted in the Arabic alphabet by a thin stick and corresponds to the letter a; here it refers to the slenderness of his figure.”67

228. Explaining the term tumar, Divay calls it “amulet, a case with a talisman.”68

246. The term ervaghi (ervah, pl. of ruh; spelled arvakhi in the Russian translation) is explained by Divay as “the spirits of saints which help people, an unseen force. Further description of arvakhi in A. Divaev, in Sbornik, and in book XI, ‘Etnogr. obozrenie,’ p. 24.”69 Divay gives no further information on these sources.

248. Tulpar, a “winged horse,” usually belongs to an alp or batir. See the comment on Line 514 below.

251. Karacan here says “may your elder brother be sacrificed to you” to stress his astonishment at the goings on. There is no actual intention of sacrificing anyone. See comment on Line 110 above.

254. Divay’s Russian translation states: “The life of tarlan [rendered in Arabic characters], a bird of good luck, lasts only fourteen years...” [Divay’s ellipsis]. His note explains: “The precise meaning of tarlan we could not obtain from the Kirgiz. One said it was a bird of good fortune, others compared it to the khomai, the legendary bird, a noble breed like the eagle, a heavenly bird like the phoenix, which never comes down to earth, always commanding the upper heights of the atmosphere. If its shadow falls on someone’s head, that person will be made a king and have good luck. From it comes humayun – the auspicious, august epithet of sultans of the Turkish Empire. See Humayun in Budagov, p. 315, Part II.”70 If the khomai above is a reference to “Omay” (Umay, Huma, etc), it should be noted that the word appears in Kül Tegin E31, as well as in Tonyukuk II, W3. Moreover, I. Kafesoglu, citing A. Inan, traces Huma to Iranian-Indian beliefs. D. Sinor indicates that “Umay” is a Mongol spirit honored by the Turks.71

266. The bahshi is using kaysar for sultan. Divay says “Kaysar seems to be a Kalmak personal name, signifying adversity in life.”72

267. Divay translates: “Only seisens know the value of the Bedouins,” which he thus explains: “Seisens must suggest the owners of Bedouin horses, and then those who value them.”73 There may be a connection between the Zaysan (the Türkic speaking `Two-tribute’ Mountain Kalmak of the Altai) referenced by Hatto and the seisen mentioned by Divay.74

267-8. Divay translates the interjection as: “O [you] with bristling bottom,” which in the note is clarified as “a curse, expressed more strongly in the text.”75 It appears that Divay excluded the “more strong language” of the expression from the text.

279. Divay’s translation is: “On our steppes, one needs buds to blossom.” His note refers to a Kirgiz quatrain: Jigitdining jiyirme bis gunu emesbe/ kiz deygan jengi achulghan gul emesbe/ Bulghanda giz gizil gul jigit bulbul/ bulbul gus gizil gul ki tunaasbe? Translated as: “The best of times for young men is 25 (years)... Is the maiden then not a newly blossomed rose? If the maiden is a rose and the youth a nightingale, then is it not possible that the nightingale may pass the night on the roses?”76

279-280. “To be burned one needs a tongue” seems to mean “words will get you into deep trouble.”

297. “Argument is upon your six ancestors” is a manner of cursing Alpamysh’s lineage. The number is rather curious for the usual number employed in this context is seven. Perhaps the “six” is a double insult, indicating that in the lineage there is an unknown. Even the children are taught, at the earliest possible age, to recite their seven ancestors when asked who they are: yedi atang kim? It is very shameful for a child not to be able correctly to recite seven consecutive lineal ancestors. This failure also reflects badly on his parents and lineage.

301. The implication is that the fight is to the death.

303. Karacan being clearly older, Alpamysh may be deferring to Karajan’s age. It is a requisite act of etiquette. On the other hand, Alpamysh may also be needling Karacan, implying that Karacan is too old to fight and should not hope to win the wrestling contest. Probably, Alpamysh is doing both. Prior to actual fighting, such verbal combat is commonplace.

306. According to Sufi tradition, saints can travel without being encumbered by physical laws. Therefore, they can appear and disappear at will.

320. Because if the occupier of the throne dies, the sun will reflect off the empty throne.

330. Isfahan is referenced in two contexts. (See also Lines 350 and 389.) In this case the Isfahan sword is placed between two men as a sign of conciliation. However, the tradition is much older. The Kırghız are known to place an arrow (vertically) between those who are about to take a brotherhood oath before the two embrace.

336-337. Divay refers to a suyunji, which Karacan expects to receive from Barchn for giving her this news. Divay defines suyunchi [sic] as “a present, given as a reward for carrying joyful news.”77

350. The possibility must be raised regarding the reference to “Kalmaks dead in Isfahan” that this is an erroneous reference, confusing Isfahan in Iran with the town Isfijab (also called Sayram, Sefid Ab and Ak Su)78 north of Tashkent in what is today the Chimkent region. Such an error could be accidental or deliberate on the part of the bahshi, or yet another typesetter’s error. In any event, there is historical basis for the allusion to the deaths of “many Kalmaks” in the Isfijab area because of a Kalmak attack in 1681.79

The second possibility, of course, is that the reference to Isfahan is correct. If so, the historical basis is somewhat more obscure and may refer to conflicts of Hulagu’s forces in their conquest of Iran in the mid-13th century,80 to an uprising and slaughter of Timur’s tax gatherers in Isfahan in 138781 or to some other, later event in which some Mongol and probably non-Muslim force (such as the Kalmaks) were defeated at Isfahan.

353. Barçın “recognizes” Baychobar, for she claims that Baychobar was a mere colt before she left the land of the Baysun. It must be remembered that Alpamysh did not ask for a mount to go after Barçın until long after Baysari took Barçın away to the land of the Kalmaks (in Lines 207-208). She may simply recall him as a horse from her childhood, or even from Baybörü’s herd.

358. Barçın naturally believes that Alpamysh was either captured or killed in battle with the Kalmaks. She or any other sane person in that setting would scarcely believe that a Kalmak has befriended a Kungrat. See comment on Lines 353-365 above.

367. Karacan means “Do not behave like a drippy eyed woman.”

373. This means, “I behaved as if he were my younger brother, hence inexperienced, green.”

386. “My mind became upset on this field” is a direct translation. Reference is to the necessity to think on the verge of action. The field is almost always the combat or battlefield.

392. On a secondary level, the allusion may be that losing a limb and staying alive is definitely worse than death.

393. Padishah is the traditional title for the Ottoman Ruler. See Islam Ansiklopedisi on the origins of the term.82

394. The reference to eating camels is meant to indicate that a “guest” (Taysha?) is consuming his (Karajan’s) wealth. The rate at which the camels are consumed obviously outstrips the supply.

396. This “executioner” may be the same Kokemen appearing in Lines 128 and 807.

399. Impostor, i.e. one who is impersonating a just ruler, but is actually a usurper, not fearing God, nor shying away from depriving other people of their rights.

401. Karacan seems to be accepting Alpamysh’s future in-laws as his own.

402. Perhaps Kokemen Kaska understands Karajan’s resolve. The reference to Khan is unclear. Given the context, it may be to Karacan.

407. Under the weight, no doubt.

410. Obviously it is not the home that is expectant, but Barçın, who is inside.

411. It is not clear when Baysari had a chance to discuss with Barçın the matter of a present to be given to Karacan. Baysari simply picks up the coat and hands it to Karacan.

416. “Just bring Alpamysh,” seems to be the meaning.

424. The reference to “black narcissus” obviously relates to the rarity of the item. “Cheeks like red apples” is a traditional phrase, much like “peaches and cream complexion.”

440. “Lady and the child” though reminiscent of the Madonna, appears to be a simple bardic filler. In the original, hatun menan balaga may be referring to Barçın and Alpamysh, since Alpamysh has already been called “bala” (Line 265). See Comment on Line 445 immediately below.

445. Alpamysh is still being considered a mere child by the Kalmaks and therefore only fit to fetch horses.

447. Karacan means, “I will do this easy riding, much like in the manner of the horse grooms who fetch the horses.”

449. Mollas were presumably the only individuals who were literate, and being the most trustworthy individuals because of their piety, undertook the registration. It is curious though, to find mollas among the “atheist” Kalmaks.

457. Here “rose” refers to Baychobar, to portray him as a valued and beautiful creature. In addition, this is a play on words. See comment on Line 195 above.

461. “Started on a race to last for forty days” is meant.

466. For the first time, the bahshi’s arithmetic is correct.

469. Kalmaks are chastising Karacan for throwing his lot in with a Sunni. As the Kalmaks are portrayed as “atheist” throughout, and Karacan having been introduced as a Kalmak, this singling-out of one sect, as opposed to the entire religion of Islam, is rather curious. In this regard, it should be remembered that earlier the Kalmaks talked about Muslims in general terms. See Lines 140, 519. Moreover, as Alpamysh has been asking the help of “Hz. Ali” (Lines 305, 780); and as Baychobar is likened to Ali’s horse “Duldul” (Line 203) when in difficulty, one wonders about the intention behind such differentiated inferences. As Togan has observed, an early transcriber of Alpamysh, Yusufbek, had injected Shi’i references into all his published works, including his 1899 Alpamysh. This fact may have further motivated Divay to elect to simplify the language of the 1922 printing of his Alpamysh, noting the proximity of the collection place to Bukhara as his reason.83 It will be remembered that Bukhara was one of the main population centers where Sunni-Shi’i struggles had spilled over into armed combat between their adherents, the last major occurrence of which took place in 1910.84

471. The phrase “combed his tail” means to display him (Baychobar) as if he were a race horse.

472. The Kalmaks are saying, “Karajan asks directions because he does not even know where he needs to go.”

487. “Kok Derbend” might be a reference to “Barçın’s Kok Kashane.”85

500. The Kalmaks are most probably riding in specially arranged formations.

503-504. The name of the tore (elder, variously spelled as At Peshin and Atpeshin) translates as “the observer of the horse that is leading the race.” It is perhaps a title rather than a proper name. The word tore also means “tradition.”

514. A tulpar is a horse worthy of a batir and naturally would have “wings” like Pegasus. Perhaps the exceptional speed of a horse, such as Baychobar, suggested to the Central Asians that it was flying. See comment on Line 248.

518. An obvious allusion to the fact that he is ready for action.

521. Although this may be a reference to the Kalmaks wearing armor covering only the torso, by implication it suggests the inadequacy of the Kalmaks and their horses in competition against Baychobar.

523. Divay’s translation contains the phrase “As long as Baychobar exists, lest (unless?) sores cover him, I think Barçın will not be seen by you.”86 In his footnote, Divay explains this reference to the sores: “The Kirgiz jamalar atmak is an epidemic disease, fatal to horses. During the course of this disease the spine of the horse swells near the neck or at the tail.”87

525. “Hooves taken out” is a direct translation intended to mean “destroyed,” “removed.”

527. It is odd that the atheist Karajan’s son is named Dost Muhammad before Karacan becomes a Muslim. Divay’s own note remarks: “Probably he received the name Dost-Muhammad after Karacan accepted Islam.”88

529. The batir or alp slumber also occurs in the Book of Dede Korkut. It is one of the attributes of an alp. They are capable of non-stop riding and fighting for a prolonged period without sleep. After such exhausting feats, the alps must sleep the “batir slumber.” In Asia Minor, some mothers are known to ask: “Did you go down for Oghuz sleep, son?”89

533. “Tied the feet” here means that he hobbled Baychobar’s legs together (usually any two) with a short rope to give the horse some limited mobility but prevent him from wandering too far.

540. “Built a fire” presumably to heat the nails that the Kalmaks will drive into Baychobar’s hooves; not to shoe him but to injure him.

545. Karacan could not sleep his full seven days because he was subconsciously worried about the race or sensed that disaster had occurred.

556. Karajan’s color faded upon discovering what had happened to Baychobar.

558. Karacan means “No one will care if I die.”

563. According to Rahman Kul, manat is a precious fabric, or material that is expensive. Hatto agrees with that evaluation. Generally, manat is used to denote a unit of currency or simply money.

564-565. Corpses will dry under the sun, thus the bones become exposed, i.e. the liars will die and no one will be inclined to bury them because of their reputation.

567. Yilkiji Ata is the “patron saint” of all horses. Confirmed by Divay (who calls him Jilki Ata, however) in a note and refers the reader to his own “Legenda o Kazikurtovskom kovchege,” in Sbornik, Vol V.90

571. Kulah is the conical headgear worn by members of the mystical orders. Divay defines the janda as “halat, sewn from multicolored scraps, which is worn by dervishes and kalendars.”91

572. The proverb “when (God’s) servant is not in difficulty, Hizir will not come to help” is often used to assert that God will send help only to those who are in trouble.

573. A saint “giving a hand” ordinarily means that the saint has approved the deeds and intentions of the person receiving help. Consequently, in this manner, the saint (giving a hand) causes the disciple to be admitted into the inner circle. When the saint decides that the auspicious time has arrived, the disciple becomes a newly created saint or head of his own following, thereby forming a chain or cell in the order. In this case, however, it may be presumed that Karacan is only receiving “emergency relief” from the saints to complete his assignment, because both the horse and the owner of the horse are under the protection of the saints. See the comment to Line 469.

578. References to stars and sunny days are also bardic fillers. In Line 248, employing an obvious astrological reference, Baychobar’s stars are stated to be “more powerful than Karajan’s Tulpar’s stars.”

579. From the style of speech of the saint or saints, it is not clear how many are speaking or if one is speaking for the rest.

590. Now the bahshi remembers that Baychobar is also in pain. Baychobar’s life is pulled out of his eyes.

603. A kulach is “approximately three arshins.”92

605-608. The bahshi uses transposed syntax here, first giving the end result (catching up and passing the Kalmaks) then describing the process (chasing). In translation this gives the feeling of disjointed narration if read in single lines.

646. Divay anachronistically explains durbenci as “one who looks through binoculars.”93

659. Tuman is a unit of currency. It also signifies an army division among the Türkic and Mongolian tribes, composed of ten thousand troops.

674. “I am too young to know the value of the horse” and so I allowed you to mount him. It may also be an ironic turn of words, i.e. “you are older, you should have known better.”

674-675. Alpamysh perhaps is posing a rhetorical question: “Shall I make a drinking vessel out of your skull?” This was indeed practiced by the Scythians and at least as late as 1510 when Shah Ismail made a drinking cup from the skull of Shibani Khan.

677. Alpamysh is now speaking with sarcasm. The audience is already familiar with the fact that Karajan’s complexion is reminiscent of “boiled iron color.” See Line 356.

689. Karacan considered himself lucky to have awakened before the seven days had passed.

690. Karacan would be wearing a long coat-like outer garment called, among other names, chapan, hence the “skirts.”

703. “Ninety days” is yet another exaggeration for emphasis. This time it is unlikely to have been carelessness on the part of the bahshi.

709. This statement seems to mean: “I have won a hollow victory because winning the race cost me my only son.”

714-719. The bahshi is stressing the fact that Barçın is very sensuous.

724. Aychrek is the woman of Semetey, Manas’s son.

729-730. “May no other stranger’s eye fall on you again” is not an order for Barçın to conceal herself as in urban Islamic societies, but a sign indicating her public commitment to Alpamysh.

733. Orda in this context refers to the camp site where the tents are erected. Ordinarily, orda is the largest confederation of nomads. It may also of course mean “army,” cavalry.94

742-743. This is a standard method of healing horse hooves in case of a cut or penetration by a sharp rock.

749. In the original, the bahshi likens Baychobar to a five-year-old sheep. This appears to be a general term of endearment.

752-753. The bahshi is being extremely coy or courteous. This very modest allusion increases the impact of the description of Barçın’s posture in Lines 714-719.

753. “Renewed ablution” is the proof that Alpamysh and Barçın became man and wife in earnest, since washing the entire body is the Islamic requirement after carnal contact.

777-778. References “Oh God” and “Fate” are my interpretations, given the context. In the original, the bahshi uses the word Taksir. Concerning Taksir, see Comment on Line 113.

800. “Mountain of Ayralik” (ayralik: separation) perhaps refers to the cruelty of separation rather than a place.

812. The use of the word “ship” is rather incongruous here. However, the saddle of the camel might have resembled one.

Chapter Four: Attempts to Destroy and Save Alpamysh, Phase II

The attack on the content and history of the dastan itself – “Phase II” – constitutes a more sophisticated, often subtle, undermining of the dastan, not only as a literary and historical monument but as the repository of historical identity, tradition and the wisdom of the ancestors. Part and parcel of this campaign is the attempt to obscure the origins of the dastan, including complex pseudo-analytical verbiage about “variants” and “versions,” to divert attention from the common origin of the dastan and the people who share it.

The Soviet offensive: studies of Alpamysh

The existence of at least 55 printings of Alpamysh – although these actually represent only a small number of distinct variants – invites comparison. Indeed, there are numerous commentaries on the dastan Alpamysh, including some comparative discussions. Tura Mirzaev’s bibliography1 cites 185 secondary sources on Alpamysh published between 1890 and 1967, excluding the papers of two major conferences, one on folklore, held in Moscow (1954), and the second, on Alpamysh, in Tashkent (1956). The majority of the works cited by Mirzaev were published in Tashkent. Because of the abundance of materials published annually in Alma-Ata, Moscow and Leningrad, it is likely that a comprehensive list would be much longer. Virtually all confine themselves to general remarks about the dastan rather than engaging in analysis. Many writers often draw upon one or two early commentaries and merely repeat those works’ main assertions. Indeed, some works are singled out for large scale publication and mass distribution. Even the most widely circulated monographs concerning the Alpamysh dastan do not treat in detail one particular variant or edition in its entirety. Comparative studies, such as those by Tura Mirzaev, V.M. Zhirmunskii, M. Ghabdullin, N. Smirnova and T. Sydykov, usually group a number of variants into categories and discuss the category rather than individual variants. These scholars write about the “Kazakh Alpamysh” or the “Uzbek Alpamysh,” lumping together all the variants of each of these categories, themselves artificial, and determined by place of collection rather than content (this point is elaborated further below). They then make what are, for the most part, obvious generalizations or point to superficial or minor discrepancies among the variants such as different words used in the same context or a missing line. Lacking are details of collection and previous publication, analysis of historical context, exploration of levels of meaning. Even citations of printed versions are incomplete, inaccurate and contradictory.

In his Russian language work of 1960 on the dastan Alpamysh,2 Zhirmunskii offers only fragmentary citations of previous printings of Alpamysh. In a footnote, Zhirmunskii cites Divay’s 1901 printing of Alpamysh, noting its original publication under the heading “Ethnographic materials” in the Sbornik, in which Divay frequently published his findings during the 1890s and 1900s. Zhirmunskii incorrectly identifies the 1901 edition of the Sbornik as Vol. IX. He also notes only one Russian-language publication in which the 1922 edition appeared.3 Only by piecing together fragments from numerous Soviet sources is it possible to determine the numbers of printings of this version by Divay,4 the languages of publication and the changes Divay himself made for the 1922 reprinting.

A later (1969) English language work (alternately translation and synopsis of the 1960 monograph), repeats the claim that Divay’s 1901 Alpamysh is a Karakalpak variant, of which a second edition was printed in 1922.5 Various notes in this 1969 text are even more confusing (sometimes misleading) than those of 1960. One note (p. 276) refers to the printing in the Sbornik without citing the date of the specific number containing Alpamysh. A later note (p. 292) cites only the reprint from the Sbornik, published separately, and merely notes the existence of a second edition in 1922 without any details. Ghabdullin and Sydykov in their 1972 work, however, not only do not cite the two printings cited by Zhirmunskii but also omit other printings of the dastan including a 1964 collection of the works of Divay in which Sydykov participated.6 In the matter of Alpamysh’s genealogy, the lack of precise tracing of individual variants (described in Chapter One7) leaves the door open to deliberate obfuscation. Neither the secondary sources (which themselves lack discussions of origins) nor the manuscripts are readily available to researchers, even those working inside the former USSR. It was standard procedure for Soviet libraries to restrict access to portions of collections, especially to books and periodicals published before 1932. Restrictions applied (although not always the same ones) to both Soviets and foreigners. Only a handful of the 55 identified printings of Alpamysh were accessible at all, even to Soviet researchers, as indicated by notes and bibliographies in Soviet works. Indeed, no single comprehensive bibliography of Alpamysh printings exists in any Soviet or other work on that dastan of which the present writer is aware. As for the manuscripts themselves, the field records of those individuals who collected Alpamysh directly from the ozans were strictly confined to the restricted-access manuscript archives of various branches of the Academies of Sciences. In this climate of restriction and control, it is no wonder that those versions and commentaries that were singled out for wide circulation should enjoy exaggerated, indeed contrived, prominence. Penkovskii’s translations and Zhirmunskii’s commentaries are cases in point. These two men have been perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of this selective treatment. Penkovskii effected the translations of Alpamysh that have been most widely disseminated, including the printing cited during the “Trial of Alpamysh” that was noted for the translator’s “refinements” and “improvements,” and the 1958 “most complete” version. It has been his translations that have been distributed outside Central Asian republics and outside Russia. As a result, his work has formed the foundation for Russian-language and Western analyses of Alpamysh.

V.M. Zhirmunskii, long regarded as the doyen of Alpamysh scholars, has achieved and held that distinction by use of a former colleague’s work and through the wide distribution of his own publications. The typology and themes he has established for the study of the dastan are widely used by both Russian and Western scholars, and his arguments carry great weight. For these reasons, it is necessary to review his treatment of the Alpamysh dastan. Careful examination of Zhirmunskii’s works indicates that he, along with Penkovskii, has been perhaps the major contributor to the campaign to subvert the dastan. His influence among Western specialists has generated widespread misunderstandings of Alpamysh and the dastan genre. At the root of Zhirmunskii’s assertions is the presumption, which he states explicitly in all discussions of the dastan cited here, that one variant of Alpamysh is “authoritative” and can serve as a “yardstick” by which to measure all others – namely, Penkovskii’s translation of the variant by Fazil Yoldashoglu. In view of the documented changes Penkovskii made in Fazil’s versions, this foundation is immediately suspect. Yet Zhirmunskii uses it to categorize “versions” and “variants” and to tag “missing” parts. He provides surveys of reciters, with varying degrees of information, as a means to classify individual versions by place of collection rather than dialect or content.

On the distinction between “version” (versiia) and “variant” (variant), Zhirmunskii himself does not tackle this issue head on but, by virtue of his chapter titles, the reader may infer that each “version” of a dastan has or may have several “variants.” Precisely what delimits a “version” is left unstated, and usage in the text is inconsistent.

Each chapter of Part One of Zhirmunskii’s monograph is named for a “version” of Alpamysh – Kungrat, Oghuz, Kipchak and Altai. The Kungrat “version” includes, according to the chapter subtitle, Özbek, Karakalpak, Kazakh and Tajik “redactions.” However, the Kipchak chapter includes Başkurt, Kazan Tatar and Kazakh “variants.” At no time does Zhirmunskii explain the dual classification of the Kazakh “variant.” Zhirmunskii also refers to Özbek, Karakalpak, Kazakh and Tajik “variants” of Alpamysh, and to an “Uzbek version” (p. 30), “Tajik version” (p. 33), “Karakalpak version” (pp. 26, 35, 42) with its “variants” (p. 37) and a “Kazakh version” (pp. 26, 39). All this is confusing, but the synopses themselves often provide sufficient information for the reader to discern the content of any particular redaction regardless of its classification.

Tura Mirzaev, clearly influenced by the imposition of such distinctions, addresses the issue directly. He raises six points concerning the scope of “version” as opposed to “variant” – that of the former being decidedly wider than that of the latter. His main point concerns the historical differentiation of human groups. Mirzaev argues that the differential development of a “people” (halk) leads it to evolve a “version” of a dastan differentiated from that of other peoples. Thus, as the title of his work implies, there is a single “Uzbek version” the “variants” of which he writes about.8

Zhirmunskii argues that there are several “variants” of Alpamysh, including Kazakh and Karakalpak. He classifies the Divay (1901) version as Karakalpak because it was taken down from a Karakalpak bashi. He therefore calls Divay’s own labelling of the version as Kırghız “imprecise”: “In Karakalpakia at the present time there are recorded five variants of Alpamysh of which three have been published”:

In 1901 A. Divaev under the imprecise title “Alpamis [sic] Batir, Kırghız poem” published in the original and in Russian translation a manuscript “recorded by a Karakalpak of the Turtkulskii volost’ of the Amu-Darya otdel, the improviser Dzhiyamurad Bekmuhamedov [transliteration from Russian] by profession a bahshi.” The manuscript contains only the first part of the legend.

This quotation brings together two components of Zhirmunskii’s assertion – the categorization of the Divay redaction and the issue of a “missing part.” The Divay version, for example, he says is missing the second part.9

Collection efforts

As noted, the most widely available printed version of Alpamysh was taken down from the reciter Fazil Yoldashoglu in 1928 (Lev Penkovskii’s Russian translation is the accessible form rather than any printing of the original, which is no longer available, even in libraries). It was collected under the directorship of Hadi Zarif after the earlier transcription by Gazi Alim had been lost. The edition recorded from Fazil Yoldashoglu in 1928 contains about 14,000 lines. The manuscript is No. 18 in the folklore archive of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences.10

It was this redaction that was eventually prepared for publication by Hamid Alimjan in 1939. This was the first publication of that version. Zhirmunskii notes that the Fazil variant was published “with abridgements.” It has been translated into Russian with “refinements” at least twice by Lev Penkovskii,11 and has been reprinted in numerous editions, including the 1958 edition that was declared “most complete” by Soviet sources. Zhirmunskii cites the Alimjan 1939 edition as “first” and a 1958 edition as “third,” implying the existence of a second edition, but furnishes no particulars.12 Mirzaev indicates that a second edition was published in 1957. All three were published in Tashkent.13

Zhirmunskii reports only briefly on redactions by four of Fazil’s contemporaries who lived in other areas of what became the Uzbek SSR: Pulkan (abbreviated: P) (1874-1941) of the Samarkand oblast; Berdi-bahshi (BB) (no dates given) of the Tashkent oblast14, Jurabaev (Jur) (dates not give) of the Samarkand oblast and Buri Sadykv (Sad) of the Ferghana oblast.15 He notes only differences from Fazil’s variant. He does not state that his list is exhaustive, however, and thereby implies that these variants are extremely close to Fazil’s except as noted. In the composite below, no such assumption has been made and the portions translated from Fazil’s variant have been attributed only to him.

Nine variants were apparently collected in the Kazakh SSR or are printed in what Zhirmunskii identifies as Kazakh dialect.16 The manuscripts were kept in the Folklore Archive of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR.17 Of the nine recorded versions, three have been published:

(1) Kissa-i Alfamish (hereafter: Kazan 1899). However, Zhirmunskii states that the form “Alfamish” was, “by a fantasy of the editor,” considered more literary, and “proceeding from the placing, common in Türkic languages, of the letter ‘p’ instead of ‘f’ in borrowed words.” According to Zhirmunskii, this variant skips from the description of the “miraculous” birth of the batir to what he calls the “second part” describing the captivity and return. He further states that the “introduction” (meaning the genealogy and birth of Alpamysh) and the “second part” were combined with the “first part” (Divay’s 1901 redaction) and published as a “whole” variant in Sbornik obraztsov Kazakhskoi narodnoi literatury (Kyzyl Orda, 1931). (Item 16 in the Bibliographical Appendix. It was reprinted later in the book Batyrlar (Alma-Ata, 1939; Item 19). This text, he says, was widely disseminated. This is reaffirmed by Academician A.S. Orlov in a 1945 publication.18 This was the same redaction which, as noted in Chapter Two, Togan described as part of a larger effort on the part of its publisher, Yusufbek Sheyhulislamoĝlu, to develop literature in the Kazakh dialect and to combat Christian missionary activity.19

(2) “Velikan Alpamysh” (VA) (“The Giant Alpamysh”), recorded by Divay and published in the journal Turkistanskaia Vedemost’ in 1916 (Item 12 in the Bibliographical Appendix). Zhirmunskii gives no information on its collection.

(3) “Alpamys batyrdyng kissasy,” “collected by an expedition of the Academy of Sciences in 1958 from the akin Jelsu Jakpov who lived in the South-Kazakh oblat. The text had reportedly been written down by Jakupov himself in 1948 from an old akin named Akkojaev, who had learned it in the late nineteenth century from a famous akin named Maykot. According to Akkojaev, Maykot had taught the dastan to him “from some kind of manuscript or book.” This variant of Akkojaev-Maykot was published by the Kazakh Academy of Sciences in 1957 (Item 36) and translated into Russian.

Zhirmunskii gives the date of the Russian translation as 1953 – five years before the expedition in which this variant was collected.20 (Item 35. Abbreviated AM for Akkojaev-Maykot.) Zhirmunskii also notes a fourth redaction taken down, although never published, by K. Nurgaliev, whom Zhirmunskii describes as a “student.” Nurgaliev recorded the text from a manuscript given him by Iskak Jusupov, of the North-Kazakhstan oblast. The text of Jusupov was recorded in 1934 according to words of the reciter Rahat. Of this version, only the episodes of the birth and selection of the tulpar remain from the first journey of Alpamysh. Barçın is absent and Alpamysh marries the Kalmak princess. Zhirmunskii includes it in his synopsis and it is therefore mentioned in the composite below (JR for Jusupov-Rahat). Three more printings are classified by Zhirmunskii as “Karakalpak.”21 He identifies five recorded “variants,” of which three were published – 1901 Divay variant (Div. 1901), “a variant recorded in 1934 by K. Aimbetov from a reciter Hojabergen Niyazov in the Chimkent region of the Karakalpak ASSR [sic. Chimkent was in the Kazakh SSR, but there is a Chimbai region in the Karakalpak ASSR, which is within Uzbek SSR.] (Items 18 and 25. Abbreviated: N),22 and the third recorded by A. Karimov from the reciter Kiiaszhrau [sic - Khosrow?] Khairatdinov in Nukus” (Abbreviated: Kh) (Item 37).23 The two unpublished variants were recorded in 1956-57 from the reciters Kurbanbai Tajibaev (1873-1958) and Esemurat Nurabullaev. Zhirmunskii lists these, but gives no information on them.

After these considerations, one comes to the question of Zhirmunskii’s own expertise. The passage below illustrates that the bulk of the material on which Zhirmunskii built his career and reputation was in fact written by Hadi Zarif in their 1947 collaborative effort on the Özbek heroic epic.

Hadi Zarif on the Alpamysh dastan

The 1947 work by Zhirmunskii and the Özbek Orientalist Hadi Zarif, Uzbekskii narodnyi geroiceskii epos (Tashkent, 1947), is, as noted, probably the first book-length work dedicated to a study of dastans in Central Asia. The Introduction explains the war-time conditions out of which the study grew, provides an indication of contemporary attitudes to the Central Asian dastan and indicates the division of labor of the collaborating scholars. It pays homage to the man who inspired the study, Hamid Alimjan:

This book was conceived and written in the difficult and the glorious days of the Great Patriotic war, when the peoples of our Union carried on a heroic battle against the fascist invaders, defending the freedom and honor of our homeland, striving for a better future for all of mankind. In these days our national epic poetry [nasha narodnaia epicheskaia poeziia (The use of the singular here raises the question: which narod?)], those great forms of the heroic past which are so rich, became especially near and dear to us.

The peoples [narody] of the Soviet Union are justly proud of their most rich treasure house of the heroic epic, oral and written. The Russian legends and the Lay of the Host of Igor, the Ukrainian ‘dumy,’ the Georgian poem of Shota Rustaveli, The Champion in the Tiger Skin, the Armenian epic David of Sasun, the Nart epic of the peoples of the North Caucasus, the Kırghız Manas, the Kazakh batir songs famous at present far beyond the borders of their homeland, repeatedly published in the original and in fine translation, have become the general cultural property of all the brotherly peoples of our Union.

In this new form of its own being, the heroic form of the national [natsional’n(yi)] past, having been retained in folk [narodnoi; also means ‘national’]24 monuments in the form of epic idealization, received unprecedented social significance as a means of patriotic education, worthy of our heroic epoch.

The study of the epic creative work of the peoples of our Union is one of the foremost and most relevant [aktual’n(yi)] problems of Soviet historical science. The Soviet Union is the single country in the world possessing inexhaustible sources of living and current, actual national [narodnyi] epic works... That is why all kinds of special research in the field of the national epic, built on new, formerly unknown material, inevitably brings into our circle more general problems of the principles of the comparative study of epic literature.... material... underlines the wider perspective of historical generalization – the picture of the many centuries of development of the epic work of the Uzbek people in a range of details is thus far necessarily preliminary and hypothetical. Such research necessarily goes beyond the narrow national culture: Alpamysh, historical and romantic dastans, the cycle of Koroglu, all in various ways bring the Uzbek epic close to the creative works of other peoples of our country, with whom the Uzbek people were closely tied for centuries of their history....

The book is the result of the joint work of two specialists. One, in the course of many years, collected and studied the folklore of his own people. The other came to the Uzbek epic from the general problems of comparative study of epic works. According to this [expertise] the tasks of each in this common work were delineated. The authors acknowledge the great help from their comrades... In particular, the authors want to note the continual friendly cooperation of correspondent-members of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR A.Iu. Iakubovskii and E.E. Bertels, of whom the latter participated in the editorial examination of the book....

The book on the Uzbek epic was first suggested to us by the Union of Soviet Writers of Uzbekistan on the initiative of its leader, the Uzbek poet Hamid Alimjan. One who knew and valued his own native folklore, a poet in his own creative work, one who experienced its fruitful influence, Hamid Alimjan wanted to spread the epic works of his own people [narod] widely and comprehensibly to all the fraternal nations of our Union. In our friendly cooperation and in our work, which he initiated, he saw one of the numerous phenomena of that great Stalinist friendship of peoples of our Union, which developed in the years of peaceful construction of Soviet socialist culture and was steeled in the heroic battle against the fascist invaders and carried us to victory over the evil enemies of progressive mankind.

To the memory of Hamid Alimjan, poet and patriot, we dedicate this book.

– The Authors.

This Introduction reflects the post-war political emphasis on the friendship of peoples of the USSR discussed in Chapter Two. Particularly interesting is the statement that the heroic epics of the peoples of the USSR have become the “general cultural property of all...” The implications of such an assertion may be profound, especially in view of the right of owners of dastans to alter them. The mention of Bertels’ editorial assistance recalls the intimate link between the Oriental Institutes and the publishing of Central Asian literature. It foreshadows Bertels’ later role as head of the sections of the Soviet East and Oriental Literature in the Oriental Institute hierarchy. Those thanked in this Introduction are Russians – the “elder brother” even provides a guiding hand in the field of indigenous literature and its interpretation. The Introduction also indicates that Hadi Zarif was the principle author and wrote those portions of the book on Central Asian dastans and their reciters. Zhirmunskii evidently authored the portions that made comparisons with non-Central Asian literature.

The designation of Zhirmunskii in this Introduction as a student of epic is not entirely accurate. According to a recent book on Zhirmunskii’s career,25 Zhirmunskii was a specialist on comparative literature. His earlier works focus on European literature and include a comparison of Byron and Pushkin and several studies of German literature of the early nineteenth century.

Turning to the book itself, Hadi Zarif’s first chapter presents an in-depth discussion of ozans generally, then a brief discussion of some reciters of Alpamysh. In a subsequent chapter, he compares variations of the different versions of Alpamysh, lists some of the published versions of the dastan and briefly discusses the Bashkurt and Altai versions.26

As for the matter of Zhirmunskii’s subsequent borrowing, examination of this 1947 work reveals that Zarif’s description of the Fazil variant of Alpamys is nearly identical to the synopsis in Zhirmunskii’s 1960 work. The latter differs only rarely and then in minor rewording or by the addition, between sentences or paragraphs, of some descriptive material or quotations from the text. In the later English language work with Chadwick some important sections by Zhirmunskii are merely translations of the 1960 monograph.27

Because the Fazil variant, as translated and amended by Penkovskii, has been elevated officially (as reflected by Zhirmunskii) to the pinnacle of Alpamysh “variants,” it is essential to explore the differences between it and the many others. Perhaps the most accurate way to approach such a comparison is by means of constructing a single “composite” Alpamysh and examining the range of variations.

Composite synopsis of Alpamysh

The following composite of Alpamysh is based on twelve redactions taken down from at least fourteen different reciters cited by Zhirmunskii (and those noted above). Some redactions were taken down from two ozans or represent one or two reciters’ reworkings of variants they learned from an older reciter. Twelve are known – Fazil Yoldashoglu, Muhamedkul Jamratoglu Pulkan, Berdi Bahshi, Bekmurad Jurabaev, Buri Sadykov, Jiyamurat Muhammedbek, Akkojaev, Maykot, Rahat, Niyazov, Khairatdinov. Two other printings are Kissa-i Alfamis (Kazan 1899), collected by Yusuf bin Hoca Sheyhulislam oglu (Yusufbek 1899) and Velikan Alpamysh published in 1916, collected by Divay. The synopses provide useful, if sometimes incomplete, information on more than a dozen Alpamysh variants that are not readily accessible (or are completely inaccessible) inside or outside Russia and neighbouring territories. Also incorporated are the original printings: Divay 1901, Yusufbek 1899. As noted, the 1960 synopses of what Zhirmunskii calls the “Uzbek variants” differ little from those of Zarif.28 End notes give pages of both volumes where relevant. One uniform spelling has been followed. Variations, when they occur, are noted in parentheses based on the Library of Congress standard transliteration from Zhirmunskii’s (or Zarif and Zhirmunskii) Russian text. An exception is made only for the letters “j” and “h” which exist in the original Türkic language and English, but not in Russian. Parentheses () within quotations were translated from the original Russian text. Brackets [] indicate the Russian or Türkic original or explanatory remarks inserted by the present writer. In order to preserve the original flavor of the text, translations are often more literal than literary.

There are several major events of this composite synopsis. It begins, as do most individual variants, with the birth of the alp to barren parents, his betrothal to Barçın “in the cradle,” the conflict between their fathers and the departure of Barçın’s father for the land of the Kalmaks. Alpamysh subsequently goes after them to reclaim his bride. He undergoes various trials and wins her hand. He returns to the Kalmak territory and becomes a prisoner for seven years until he is rescued by a Kalmak princess. He defeats the Kalmaks and (in several versions) returns home to rescue his wife and family from a usurper.

Not all variants include all these episodes. Some omit either the first journey or the second. Names may vary slightly as do the religious themes, the degree of fighting and the detail of description. Several variants of the dastan begin with a description of Alpamysh’s family and the prayers for children of either his parents or of his father and Baysari, who in some variants is Baybörü’s brother. Fazil’s (F) variant, which contains the greatest number of episodes, begins as follows:

In a remote time in the 16-generation tribe of the Kungrat in the region of Baysun lived Dabanbii. Dabanbii had a son Alpinbii. Alpinbii had two sons – Baybörü and Baysari. The older, Baybörü was the ‘shah’ of the Kungrat; the younger, Baysari was the ‘bii’ [Bey] and stood at the head of ten thousand yurts of Baysun families.

The brothers were knowledgeable and rich, but they had no children. In order to make their petition, they set off on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Shahimardan [the legendary grave of the Caliph Ali Shahimardan... in the Ferghana oblast’]. They travelled forty days and nights and at the expiration of this time they heard a voice, addressing their wish: “Baybörü, God sent you a son and a daughter, not one by one, but immediately at once he sent them. Baysari, to you God sent a child, not two, but a daughter he sent. Return home now and when the children are born, gather the people and give a toy [feast]. To the toy in the clothes of a kalendar [wandering dervish] I myself will come and give each child a name.”

In the Akkojaev-Maykot (AM) and Kazan 1899 variants, Baybörü and Baysari [Saribay in these variants] are heads of different tribes. Those praying for offspring are Alpamysh’s future parents:

Baybörü comes from the country Jidali-Baysun from the tribe of the Kungrat, Sarybai is from the tribe Shekti. Kultay is the relative (third cousin) of Baybörü and Ultan is the illegitimate son of Kultay from a slave woman “who gathered kizyak [dry dung].” He is taken into the home of the childless Baybörü. Ultan grows up huge and uncouth... He does not listen to his foster father and ridicules his childlessness.

(In Kazan 1899 variant, Alpamysh, when still young, cuts off Ultan’s ears and pierces him through his foot in retaliation for this ridicule.) Baybörü and his wife, whose name is Analyk, make a pilgrimage to a lake near the holy mountain Karatau, and pray for offspring to “Shashty Aziza” (AM and Kazan 1899). Zhirmunskii translates his name as “hairy saint” and states that this is the name for Baba Tuklas, “a respected Kazakh saint.” The saint promises the couple a son and daughter – Alpamysh (here Alpamys) and Kaldyrgach (here Karlygash). In Akkojaev-Maykot and Kazan 1899: “The pregnant Analyk expresses the desire to eat the meat of a leopard [kablan]” – such ancient representations of sympathetic magic are widespread in the epics of the Central Asian people (the same thing is told of the mother of Manas.)29 At the same time, Barçın [here Gulbarshyn] is born to the childless Sarybai and betrothed immediately to Alpamysh. In order to give the flavor of this earliest printing, a portion is translated below.30

1899 Alpamysh

In the times past, when the religion was Islam
At a place called Jidali Baysun, in the land of the Kungrat
There was a Prince called Baybori,
who was wealthy but was crying longingly for progeny.
Baybori had an elder (relative) named Kultay.
Sinibay came from the same well-spring as Kultay.
Sinibay’s woman bore a boy named Tortay, who was raised by Kultay.
One day, while he was walking among his herds,
Baybori looked around thinking:
If I had a son, he would have enjoyed all this;
riding the horses, driving the herds.
When I die, who will inherit all my wealth?
Longing for offspring, walking in the fields, weeping daily, Baybori said:
“Heart filled with anxiety, bosom stricken with grief.
Absence of offspring is a perpetual worry in the land.
With my eyes open, I am about to leave this world.”
Baybori implored God:
“You did not take my soul, I continue to endure.
One child’s absence will cause my possessions to be left to my older brother.
Worry embraced my heart;
Almighty God created me, may he also be my refuge.
The absence of a child created hardships for me.
Pronouncements are made by the elders who have many sons.
I supplicate to you, Almighty, You are my Creator.
My bones grow weak, friends are distant.
Seeing eyes turn blind, falling in love with a baby,
my streaming tears are ridiculed by the distant mountain.
A man without child is without credit.”
Baybori said these touching words from his bones.
“Creator, Ruler, if you were not going to grant me offspring,
why did you (bother) to bring me to life?”
Baybori was weeping thus, asking for a child from God daily.
The bones of those who heard Baybori’s pleading ached.
Tears drenched Baybori’s face.
His words echoing, he wished to be dead.
At that time, on that laggard black day, a boy was born to Kultay.
Baybori spoke out his thoughts, he was tormented.
Grief chased away his being.
Meeting the baby, downtrodden, he placed him in his abode.
He named him Ultan.
Thereafter, Baybori regarded Ultan as his own.
Bodies dried-up, noses like hills.
Incisors dull, throat seemed that of Juhut.
Where he sat, deep as six wingspans.
Ears like shields, noses like foul flour
Eyes like deep dungeons, traces of steps like ditches.
Mouth, fireplace; mouth, knife-like.
Nostrils like holes in the ground; grounds trembled.
While such idiots existed, Baybori’s tongue was tied.
Even if you are enraged, do not speak of it.
Baybori saying: “If Almighty was not going to grant me offspring,
He would not have created this one,
I would rather die than keep hearing about this newborn.”
He took crutches, wore clothes [appropriate for visiting]
and set out to pay homage to a Saint named
Babay Tukti, who was known for ages.
He repeated his wish for progeny during his visit.
The Saint gave his blessing for a son and a daughter,
admonishing to name the boy Alpamysh, the girl Kadirgach.
“When the boy reaches the age of ten, he will be impervious to arrows,
water will not drown him, swords will not cut hm.
He will be a Khan.”
Then Baybori went back to his home, joyful.
His woman became heavy with child.
Nine months ten days later a boy was born.
He was named Alpamysh.
Next, Karligach [sic] was born.
At a place named Shekti, there was a Bay named Saribay,
who had a lone daughter named Gülbarçin.
They (Baybori and Baysari) became kudas.
Alpamysh reached the age of ten,
Saribay, who did not have another child, said:
“My progeny was thus left stunted (in numbers).
If, for some reason, his (Alpamysh) fortunes change (leave this life)
my daughter would be left to Ultan in an instant.”
He (Saribay) therefore decided to leave for the land of Khitay and carried out his thoughts.
Then, Alpamysh became the eagle of the Kungrats at the age of ten.
Alpamysh, saying: “Are you the one who is
denouncing my father?" cut Ultan’s ear and flayed his soles.
Alpamysh, while playing, killed those whose necks were pliant.
One day Alpamysh was playing with the son of an old woman, the boy died.
The old woman said:
“Here there, instead of destroying those children who cannot withstand you,
if you were any good, you would go to Khitay
and take your intended beautiful GulBarçın from your father-in-law Saribay.”
This was news that had not touched his (Alpamysh) ears.
When Alpamysh heard this, he massed troops, disregarding day or night,
without dismounting, covering distances with equal lengths,
swallowing his own blood instead of water,
breaking many men, in forty days secured and brought his woman back.
However, while Alpamysh was after his woman,
Taysha carried off Alpamysh’s herds.
When Alpamysh returned, Baybori Bay said:
“Of my blood, Alpamysh; disappear from my sight
You have done nothing useful for me, by becoming a man.
Taysha took away my herd, swiftly carried away my belongings.
Do not stand before me, go away,” he (Taysha) said with enmity.
“Chase after the herd taken by Taysha.
Avenge this act of his.
If you cannot, be a slave and remain the last.”
Then, Alpamysh said this:
“I will pursue the herd taken by Taysha. If Shahimardan gives me his help,
I will chase your herd back.
Do not cast a sorrowful glance, for I cannot act on your word.
I placed the saddle-blanket on the horse’s back,
I lived the life of a Bey on Karatau.
After I leave, my dear father, you will suffer hardships from the servants.
I placed the saddle-blanket on the horse’s back.
After I leave, my dear father, you will feel guilty.
You have weak servants, my father, waiting behind you.
They are your enemies.”

Descriptions of Alpamysh’s origins and parents are sparse in the variants of Niyazov (N), Khairatdinov (Kh) and Divay, 1901. Baybörü and Baysari are not brothers but equal beys. Zhirmunskii writes (see note 28):

The genealogy of Alpamysh is absent. Baybörü and Baysari live in the land of Jidali-Baysun... which is located near Bukhara (Kh) and belongs to the Kungrat tribe. Bald Ultan’ (Ultan-taz) – is a shepherd, a slave, who stands at the head of 90 families of slaves (N). The name of Alpamysh’s bride is Barçın or GulBarçın. The children are born of childless parents by the intercession of forty cihilten who later intervene on the alp’s behalf. (Div. 1901).

The Jusupov/Rahat variant (JR) begins with the birth of the alp from barren parents and the selecting of the batir’s horse. Divay’s Velikan Alpamys (VA) has none of these events. Both variants (JR and VA) omit Barçın and, therefore, themes connected with her – the “marriage journey” (to rescue her) and the return of the husband theme. These two variants consist of the captivity of the alp and his salvation by the Kalmak princess, whom he marries.

In the variant of Pulkan (P), Baychobar and a black camel (who turns up only at the end of the dastan) were born on the same day as Alpamysh, an auspicious sign. Alpamysh was nursed on that camel’s mother’s milk, making the batir and the young camel “milk-brothers.”

In Fazil’s variant, the births of the children were celebrated with a feast, to which came a wandering dervish who had been called by the new fathers earlier in a dream. The dervish names the son of Baybörü, Hakim, his daughter, Kaldyrgach (Swallow), and the daughter of Baysari, Barçın. He foretells the glory of Hakim as a batir and conducts his betrothal to Barçın. He touches the boy on the shoulder “and Hakim retains the mark of the ‘five fingers’ on his shoulder.” It is this touch (in the Fazil version, it is the hand of Ali) that makes Hakim (Alpamysh) invincible – in fire he is not burned, a sword cannot wound him and arrows cannot penetrate his skin.

In variants Akkojaev-Maykot and Kazan 1899 also, Alpamysh’s invulnerability is due to the saint’s intervention. To the litany of his invulnerability is added: “he will not be hurt by bullets [sic], they will slash, no sword will cut him, he will be the enemy of the Kalmaks.” Later that saint will become the protector of Alpamysh. In Divay 1901, seven kalendar arrive to name the children. They call Baybörü’s son Alpamysh and say they shall be his pirs. The batir’s invulnerability, however, is not attributed to their influence. Fazil’s variant describes the education of the children, which is lacking in other variants: “When the children reach the age of three, their fathers send them to school [mekteb] to learn to read and write.” When they reach the age of seven and have already become literate, their parents bring them home again; Hakim studies “kingship and military affairs,” and Barçın “tending the sheep.” Some variants include reports that “The batir youth crippled his own playmates during their play” (AM, Kazan 1899).31 Fazil describes Hakim’s first batir feat, performed at age seven. He draws the old bow of his grandfather Alpinbii, made from 14-batman copper: “the arrow flies like lightning and topples the summit of Mount Askar.” For this feat, Hakim receives the sobriquet Alpamysh: “In the world there were... 90 batirs, their leader was the batir Rustem, let there now also be a batir [‘alp’] Alpamysh.” This batir bow will reappear in later episodes of nearly all variants.

Among the variants, there are three reasons for Baysari’s departure from Baysun. According to Fazil’s variant, in which Baybörü and Baysari are brothers, the two quarrel over the payment of the zakat:

Having learned from Alpamysh that Muslims according to the Koran are obligated to pay the zakat, Baybörü demanded that his younger brother pay the tax [sic] to him. Baysari refused to fulfil this demand, saying it was unheard of among the Kungrat people and insulted his brother with words and inflicted on him a cruel mutilation. After this he decides with his ten thousand tribes [sic - tents] and all the cattle to emigrate and go to the country of the Kalmaks, a six-month journey from Baysun, through the mountains of the Altai and to place himself under the patronage of the Kalmak shah Taysha [here Taichakhan].

It is interesting that this dispute is articulated in terms of a discrepancy between religious obligation and Kungrat tradition. Furthermore, this variant makes it plain that Baysari’s departure splits the Kungrat and reduces the collective wealth by removing Baysari’s ten thousand tribes (perhaps a symbolic figure) and their herds from the confederation.

In variants of Divay 1901, Niyazov and Khairatdinov, the argument between the two fathers (who are not related) stems from the oglak tartis competition. Baysari feels that Baybörü wins unjustly. Another motivation for Baysari’s emigration is the fact that Alpamysh is the only son of Baybörü; in case of Alpamysh’s death, Baysari fears, Barçın must fall to his foster brother, the slave Ultan (AM, Kazan 1899). The depiction of the Kungrats’ arrival hints at the historic conflict between the nomads and the settled populations. Fazil notes (similar to Divay 1901):

Having arrived in the country of the Kalmaks, the Kungrats stopped in the steppe Chilbirchol near lake Ayna-kol. Not having known property ownership in their homeland [sic], they trampled the sewn land of their host, using it as pasture for their cattle. The Kalmaks complained to their khan and [he], upon learning of the conditions of the matter, accepted Baysari and his kinsmen under his own patronage and gave them the Chilbir steppe as their yaylak and the lake Ayna-kol to water their cattle.

In the variant of Berdi bahshi (BB), this land is given by Taysha as kalym for Barçın. Taysha is not, according to Berdi bahshi, represented in the horse race for Barçın’s hand.

In Fazil’s variant the Kalmak shah has 90 batir-giants who lived together in the caves in the remote forest in the region of Tokaistan, the country of the Tugai. “Every one of them carried armor weighing 90 batman, every one ate each day 90 sheep, every one received from the shah every month 90 gold tumans;” “every one has 40 girl-servants.” Among these batirs the strongest were seven brothers, the sons of the evil and crafty old woman [‘mastan-kampir’] Surkhaiil... the youngest son was Karacan. Barçın evokes the love of these batirs (F).

Surkhaiil-mastan wants Barçın to marry her youngest son Karacan, but does not succeed: “The smartly dressed Karacan rides his horse in vain around the velvety yurt of the beauty.” Srkhaiil’s second son, Kukamon (Kokemen) tres to seize Barçın by force, but “the batir maiden wrestles with him, squeezes the air out of him and throws him to the ground.” Finally, the eldest son Kokaldash, in order to avoid discord among the brothers, suggests to Baysari that he give his daughter either to one of them or to all collectively as a “common wife.” Baysari and Barçın refuse their solicitation, but the Kalmak batirs threaten to seize Barçın forcibly if she does not select one of them. “Barçın requests an interval of six months and sends a messenger to the Kungrat, to her own promised suitor.”

According to Divay 1901, Niyazov and Khairatdinov, both the old Kalmak shah Taysha-khan and his head batir Karacan pay court to Barçın at the same time. The two fight but there are no other batirs nor the old woman character. An evil old woman does appear, however, in Alpamysh’s second journey to the Kalmak domains. This latter episode is found in Niyazov and Khairatdinov, but not in Divay 1901. Kokemen-kaska appears as the faithful slave (N) or the vezir (Div 1901) of the Kalmak shah. In these three variants, Barçın promises to marry the winner of a 40-day baiga (horse race). The other contests are absent. The wrestling is initiated later by the shah as an additional test of the victor. Two events precede Alpamysh’s departure for the land of the Kalmaks – the acquisition of his Chobar and knowledge of Barçın and her plight. Alpamysh receives his horse from the herder Kultay. In all variants Chobar is homely: “His mane rises above his ears, he walks evenly, on all four feet, in step (gait), on his tail he carries a whole armful of saksaul, and his forelock and mane you do not see, on them sticks a whole patch of tumbleweed thorn” (Div 1901).32

Alpamysh initially learns about his bride from an old woman who had been offended by him (N, Kh; in AM and Kazan 1899, she is the mother of a child whom Alpamysh crippled or killed in play). Alpamysh elicits the truth from the old woman “by squeezing her palm in which, by his request, she brings hot wheat kernels for him to taste.” This incident is absent in Divay 1901, in which it is unclear how Alpamysh knows about Barçın. In Fazil’s variant, as in Akkojaev-Maykot and Kazan 1899, the acquisition of the horse is linked to the journey to save Barçın:

Learning about Barçın’s situation, Alpamysh, prompted by his sister Kaldyrgach and in spite of the advice of his father, decides to go to the country of the Kalmaks. He goes for a horse to the old man Kultay – the herder, slave and servant of Baybörü. Warned by his master, Kultay tries to refuse Alpamysh and even falls upon him with words and blows, but the angered young batir overcomes the old herder, forces Kultay to give him the ukruk [lasso?] to catch a horse. Three times Alpamysh’s lasso falls the same homely Chobar colt. Alpamysh sees in this an indication of ‘fate’ [takdir], although he doubts his own choice. But Baychobar, as it turns out, is a real tulpar – a winged batir horse; on him Alpamysh, having taken his grandfather’s batir bow, heads out on the long road to the country of the Kalmaks. (F)

In the Akkojaev-Maykot variant, Alpamysh learns about Barçın’s troubles from a letter, which she had written him on a roadside rock (a motif, not found in other versions, which Zhirmunskii states is very ancient). The description of Alpamysh’s journey is nearly the same in all variants which involve the rescue of Barçın. Fazil, however, embellishes the journey by including a magic dream:

On the way Alpamysh finds lodging for the night in a tomb at the grave of a saint. Here the batir in a magic dream sees Barçın who is coming to him with a goblet of wine and greets him with a song. Alpamysh refuses her love until he defeats his enemies, the oppressor-Kalmaks.

On his arrival, Fazil’s Alpamysh finds shelter with the shepherd Kaikubat-Kal, who in this variant tends the sheep of Baysari. Alpamysh inquires of him about his uncle and Barçın.

According to Akkojaev-Maykot and Kazan 1899, the Kalmak khan is Karaman and he is a contestant for Barçın’s hand. On his arrival in the land of the Kalmaks, Alpamysh defeats a huge Kalmak force and the shah himself (who is killed) and reasserts his own right to his bride. The Akkojaev-Maykot variant has no specific “suitor contest.” Karacan and the other Kalmak batirs are absent. In most variants, however, Karacan and Alpamysh meet as Alpamysh nears the land of the Kalmaks. In Niyazov’s account of the meeting of Karacan and Alpamysh, the two speak in riddles. Alpamysh answers Karajan’s questions saying that when he (Alpamysh) “was eight years old, his old camel went away, and after him went the she-camel, and after them went a [camel’s] calf with copper [ornamented?] reins, and searched for them everywhere.”

In Fazil’s variant Alpamysh refers allegorically to himself as a falcon [lain] who is pursuing a wild duck [suksur], which had flown from lake Kok-kamysh; he also calls himself a he-camel [nar] searching for his she-camel [maya]. Karacan answers in the same allegorical manner: “The duck which flew away from you is now settled at lake Ayna-kl, 90 birds of prey [gajır] surround her.” And further: “Your she-camel is grazing on the steppe Chilbir-Kol, the covering on her head has 1500 gold coins [tilla]. I saw 90 batirs threaten her.” In variants of Pulkan, Berdi bahsi, Divay 1901, Akkojaev-Maykot and Niyazov, Karacan accepts Islam and befriends his rival only after the two batirs engage in physical combat in which Alpamysh defeats Karacan. This conflict is absent in Fazil’s variant: “On the heights of Murad-Tepe, the Kalmak batir Karacan waits for Alpamysh. He had seen Alpamysh in a dream, felt his excellence and decided to conclude with him a friendly union and become a Muslim.”

All variants that include Karacan and Barçın recount how Karacan befriends Alpamysh, takes him to his yurt and entertains him. He acts as messenger to Barçın, but she does not believe Karajan’s sincerity. His rejection of her feigned seduction proves his friendship for Alpamysh. In Divay 1901, Barçın makes a request of Karacan – that he have her parents freed from a dungeon in which they had been confined by Taysha Khan.

It is at this point in Fazil’s variant that Barçın informs Karacan that she will give her hand to whichever suitor emerges victorious in four contests. To win, a suitor’s “horse must surpass all the other horses in the baiga, he must draw the batir bow without breaking it, shoot [with a rifle (sic)] a tenga [a small silver coin] at a distance of 1000 paces, and defeat his opponents in a wrestling match [kurash]. ‘The people will not be offended; whoever wins will marry me.’”

In the variants of Pulkan and Berdi bahsi, there are three contests – the 4-day baiga, wrestling, and shooting the bow. Only the first two are described in detail. In Berdi bahsi’s variant, the attempt to draw the bow is not made by the suitors but by the bride herself, who breaks all 90 batirs’ bows except that belonging to Alpamysh. Jurabaev retains only the first two contests.

Fazil tells little of the second and third contests (drawing the bow and shooting the coin with the rifle). The descriptions of the baiga and the wrestling occupy a central place. Karacan, however, emerges as Alpamysh’s true friend and “matchmaker,” as in Divay 1901. Karacan rides Baychobar in the baiga, but in Fazil’s variant, his main rival is his own brother Kokaldash. The Kalmak batirs overpower Karacan, tie him up and drive nails into Baychobar’s hooves. Here the traitorous son is absent as is the batir slumber. Karacan gets no supernatural help in freeing himself. Baychobar wins, despite the nails in his hooves, by “spreading his wings.”

In the variants of both Niyazov and Divay 1901, the description of the race is also important and the groom of Taysha-khan (or of Kokaldash in Fazil’s variant) notices Baychobar’s wings, confirming that this is a real tulpar against whom it is impossible to compete. The groom in all three variants is blinded for this observation by his angry master.

In the baiga of Niyazov, Khairatdinov and Divay 1901, the main competitor of Karacan is his son Dust-Muhammed (Dosmambet – Kh, Kallimjan – N), and it is he who informs the Kalmaks that his father is sleeping his seven-day batir sleep (Div 1901, Kh). During the slumber, the Kalmaks bind Karacan and Baychobar. In Divay 1901, Karacan gets supernatural help in escaping. Finally, Karacan overtakes all his rivals, except his son, whom he kills in order to win the race.

In these variants, the wrestling is not part of a predetermined set of contests but is started by the Kalmak shah, on the advice of his advisor, in order not to give up Barçın to the “newcomer” batir, who has “only one horse to his name” (N). The description of the wrestling of Alpamysh with the khan’s wrestlers Kaytpas and Kokjal in the variant of the reciter Niyazov is compared by Zhirmunskii to the wrestling scene in the “Uzbek” composite version. This scene ends with general bloodletting, which in the other variants (Kh, Div 1901) is provoked by the treacherous shooting of Alpamysh by Kokemen (with a rifle in Kh or arrow in Div 1901).

In Divay 1901, the khan has Kokemen killed for his treachery. Alpamysh and Barçın return to their homeland, Baysari remains in the land of the Kalmaks. The Divay 1901 variant of the dastan ends here.

In Fazil’s rendering of the final wrestling match, Karacan defeats and kills all the opponents of Alpamysh, even several of his own brothers. The only one who remains at the end is Karajan’s eldest brother – Kokaldash, the oldest and strongest of the Kalmak batirs. Fazil injects hyperbolic humor into his description of the batir-giants:

One of them ate 90 camels in a day, another girded on a sash of 50 arm-lengths, one wore boots sewn from 90 large ox skins, and a fourth had a cap made of 60 cubits of alaci (striped cotton cloth). Koshkulak is a healthy youth, his mustache grew on all sides and among the hairs mice propagated, cats ran after them and, chasing them, caught them only six months later.

In the end, it is Alpamysh who wrestles with Kokaldash: “Alpamysh himself wrestles, but for a long time cannot overcome him, until Barçın, with her own jibes, arouses the manliness and malice of her betrothed, threatens to come herself out into this single combat.” Thus provoked, Alpamysh throws Kokaldash up into the sky “like a doll” and kills him.

“After this,” Fazil tells us:

the whole people recognized Alpamysh as the victor. After celebrating the marriage to Barçın, he with Karacan and the majority of the Kungrat return to their homeland. On the way, Alpamysh and Karacan defeat an attack by a Kalmak force that is sent after them by the Kalmak shah on the instigation of the evil old woman Surkhaiil. In the country of the Kalmaks remain only the family of Baysari who will still not be reconciled with his elder brother.

In Pulkan’s variant, Barçın forces Alpamysh to solve a riddle before accepting him as her husband. This Zhirmunskii identifies as an “ancient” motif of the competition between the suitor and the bride, the batir maiden. The same could probably be said of Berdi bahsi’s recounting of Barçın’s breaking all the batirs’ bows except that of Alpamysh. In variants Kazan 1899 and Akkojaev-Maykot, the second journey of Alpamysh to the land of the Kalmaks is provoked by the theft of Baybörü’s cattle, in the absence of Alpamysh, by the Kalmak shah (here Taishyk: in variant AM he is in no way identified with the shah Karaman, who was killed during the first journey [AM] by Alpamysh). The angry Baybörü sends his son after the herd, threatening him with a paternal curse if he disobeys. Alpamysh sets out alone. Variants JR and VA begin with this event. The Niyazov and Khairatdinov variants include the episodes of Alpamysh’s return to the land of the Kalmaks, but in their variants he is motivated by the violence that Baysari suffers at the hand of Taysha-khan. He sets out alone to help his father-in-law, but forgets to pray to God and the holy cihilten. On the way, an old man appears to him in a dream and foretells his punishment – seven years’ captivity in the land of the Kalmaks.

Fazil recounts how, after the departure of Alpamysh:

Taysha-khan, on the advice of the vindictive Surkhaiil, takes from Baysari all his property and makes him a shepherd. News of this reaches the Kungrat and Alpamysh again sets out for Kalmak lands at the head of forty jigit [noble young men with batir-like qualities]. Among them is the husband of Kaldyrgach, Bek-Temir, a bek of the Kungrat lineage Tartuvli (Alpamysh, was a bek of the Kanjigali lineage).

In this variant, Surkhaiil lays a trap: she leads the batirs to a meeting on the mountain Murad-tepe with forty beauties who seduce the alps and make them drunk. While the jigit are in their slumber “from drunkenness and love,” the forces of the Kalmak shah kill them all except Alpamysh and burn their bodies in a fire. Alpamysh, sleeping a batir slumber, is invulnerable. But the indomitable Surkhaiil tells the Kalmaks to dig a deep pit (zindan), tie the sleeping batir to the tail of his horse and drag him into the pit. When Alpamysh awakes, he “bitterly weeps over his fate.” (F) The news of the death of the other batirs reaches the Kungrat and Alpamysh, too, is presumed dead. Ultan-taz (taz – ‘baldheaded mangy’), here Baybörü’s son from a “slave-captive of the ‘Kizilbash,’ seizes power among the Kungrat. He makes Baybörü and his baybiche (the senior wife, Alpamysh’s mother) his servants. Kaldyrgach sends to the steppe, to lake Babir-kl, to herd camels. He banishes Karacan to the mountains of the Altai, forbidding him to come to Baysun. Barçın, who gave birth to a son Iadgar shortly after Alpamysh’s departure, he does not harm: “Wherever she gets away to, she must remain mine all the same.” (F) (By custom the widow of the elder brother passes to the younger, explains Zhirmunskii).

According to Kazan 1899, Akkojaev-Maykot, Jusupov-Rahat and VA, the Kalmak shah had a frightening dream foreshadowing the destruction of his rule: he is threatened by a rabid he-camel (bugra). The old woman character is an ugly sorceress (mystan-kempir), who says she will save the shah from his fate but demands in compensation the hand of the khan’s daughter Karakoz-Aim (lit: ‘blackeyed beauty’) for her own wretched and ill son. The frightened shah agrees. Then follows, as in other variants, the seduction of Alpamysh engineered by the sly old woman, in which besides the 40 girls, the shah’s daughter herself participates. The latter, falling in love with the batir, secretly tries to warn him, but to no avail.

Again, the alp’s enemies can neither burn him nor wound him with weapons. The formula of invulnerability is repeated. The old woman has Alpamysh thrown into a deep pit (also in N, Kh). A wild goose that had been wounded by a hunter takes refuge in Alpamysh’s dungeon and the batir cures him. The goose then bears a message (in BB the goose is absent and the messenger is an angel) to the Kungrat. The goose evades the hunter and succeeds in flying to the Kungrat camp, landing at the lake Babir-kol, where Kaldyrgach finds the letter. At her request, Karacan travels to the country of the Kalmaks to save Alpamysh.

In Khairatdinov’s variant, the hunter Shakaman, heedless of the advice of his old mother, shoots at the goose-messenger, but the arrow does not find its mark and returns to hit the hunter himself. In Niyazov’s as in Fazil’s variant, Shakaman is the name of the place. Karacan tries to rescue Alpamysh at Kaldyrgach’s request, but fails: in the variant by Niyazov, Karacan hears Alpamysh ask: “Has not my friend Karacan come to me, (he) who became my friend from fear before my sword?” In the variant of Khairatdinov, Alpamysh does not at first recognize his friend, and inquires about his loved ones, but forgets to asks about Karacan. Offended, Karacan wants to go back, but in the end says farewell to Alpamysh and lowers a branch to him. Half way up, Alpamysh decides that his savior will boast of his feat, cuts the branch and again falls into the pit. Karajan’s (here Karabay) attempt to rescue Alpamysh is found also in variant VA. Here Alpamysh refuses help because he fears that accepting it would be “dishonorable.”

In Fazil’s variant, Alpamysh refuses aid at the last minute because he does not wish to be obligated to Karacan for his salvation: “half way up, he tears the silk wrap [arkan] which was thrown to him and remains in the dungeon. Returning to his homeland, Karacan tells Kaldyrgach about his misfortune and tells her to keep silent about his having found Alpamysh. “Let them think he’s dead.” Also a trace of what Zhirmunskii calls an “original” trait is another episode absent from Fazil’s variant but included by Jurabaev – the return of Karacan, after his failed attempt to rescue Alpamysh from the zindan, to become the vezir of the usurper Ultan. Alpamysh kills Karacan with an arrow shot from his batir bow in a final scene. Alpamysh is saved from captivity finally by the Kalmak shah’s daughter who falls in love with him.

In Fazil’s variant, the princess’ favorite kid falls into the pit and is retrieved by the shepherd Kaikubat-kal. This shepherd was in love with his royal mistress. Alpamysh promises to obtain for him the princess when he gets out of the zindan and defeats her father. As kalym, Alpamysh demands from the shepherd one sheep each day. Once he consumes Kaikubat’s whole flock he tries to teach the shepherd to steal, but without success.

Then Alpamysh makes a changavuy (lip harmonica) from the bones of the sheep he had eaten and sends Kaikubat to sell it at the bazaar. The daughter of the Kalmak shah, hearing Kaikubat play, sends her own servant girls to invite him to the palace. They force Kaikubat to take the princess to see the imprisoned batir and she immediately falls in love with him. She orders the digging of an underground passage from her own palace to the zindan and begins every day to call on her beloved. Surkhaiil accidentally learns about this and succeeds in informing Taysha-khan, who, on her advice, orders that the zindan be filled up immediately with dirt. In order to be saved from certain death, Alpamysh asks the princess to bring his horse. She takes dried isryk – steppe grass– to Baychobar. (In BB she takes Alamysh’s clothing, which Zhirmunskii calls a “more primordial motif.”33) Baychobar then calls his master and breaks out to freedom.

Baychobar lets his tail down into the pit. The tail miraculously lengthens to 40 kulach (arm-lengths) and thus he pulls out his master who then defeats the Kalmak forces and kills the shah and the evil Surkhaiil. He puts on the throne the shepherd Kaikubat to whom he gives the promised princess. Kaikubat frees Baysari (his own former master) and with honors returns to him his confiscated property. In order that the Kalmaks will listen to their Shah-shepherd, Alpamysh, according to an agreement with him, gives the appearance that he himself is submitting to Kaikubat. After this Alpamysh bids farewell and returns to his homeland.

The variations on this series of events are few. According to VA and Akkojaev-Maykot, in which Barçın is absent, Alpamysh places Kaikubat (here Keikuat) on the throne and gives him the first of the 40 maid-servants of the princess. Alpamysh himself marries the Kalmak princess Karakoz. This characteristic of these versions distinguishes them from others in which the hero gives the princess to the shepherd.

The marriage of Alpamysh to Karakoz ends the variant VA. In variant Jusupov-Rahat, Alpamysh becomes lonely for his own homeland and decides to return home. This is told in a short conclusion. Again there is no Barçın and, therefore, no theme of the “returning husband.” In variant Akkojaev-Maykot, the batir forsakes his second wife within a month after an ominous dream urging him to hurry to his home. Karakoz saddles his horse and, crying, follows after him. Three times Alpamysh returns to his beloved. At the end, in the general celebration, Karakoz “is not forgotten” – Alpamysh visits her twice a year.

In the variants of Niyazov and Khairatdinov the shepherd is named Ashim-kal and the Kalmak princess, Arzaim. Alpamysh promises to make Ashim-kal the shah and for that reason Ashim feeds Alpamysh the shah’s flock. Then, disguised as a dervish, the shepherd goes begging and finally steals in order to feed the batir. The princess is in love with Alpamysh and, as elsewhere, gets his horse and weapon from her father by a ruse. Alpamysh is saved by the aid of a silk arkan (in variant Kh it is tied to Baychobar’s tail). Vengeance is meted out to the Kalmaks and the shepherd Ashim-kal becomes shah and marries the princess.

The return home, in those variants in which it is depicted in detail, is always remarkably similar: “Returning from his seven-year imprisonment, Alpamysh crosses through the Alatau and for the first time from the mountain Askar he again sees his native steppe, the summer camp of the Kungrat tribe” (F).

Caravan leaders, whom Alpamysh meets on the way, tell him about the changes that took place in Baysun after the news came of the alp’s supposed death. They tell him of the new master, Ultan-bek. In anger, Alpamysh kills them.

According to Zhirmunskii’s “Kazakh composite,” Alpamysh returns to his homeland in the dress of a divane (mendicant dervish). The first person he meets is his relative Tortay, now a servant to five slave-herders who had been made beks. Alpamysh kills the bek-slaves (probably a variant of the killing of the caravan merchants). Baychobar, upon entering his native pasture, “neighs, chews his bit. Hearing his neighing, an old grey mare, his mother, comes running from a horse herd that was grazing in the reedy brushwood, and with joyful neighs she circles around her foal.”

Then, Alpamysh encounters a young slave-herder who, with tears in his eyes, tells the stranger about the fate of Alpamysh and his family. Further on he sees his sister Kaldyrgach, “barefoot and in rags, tending a herd of camels on the shore of the lake. An old black camel, who had been laying down in the pasture for seven years, now suddenly raises himself up and runs straight to his old master. He circles Alpamysh seven times. Kaldyrgach goes after the camel and thinks she recognizes her brother. Alpamysh passes by without identifying himself. (These episodes with Kaldyrgach and the camel are not found in N or Kh.) In Zhirmunskii’s Kazakh composite, it is Baybörü whom Alpamysh sees driving his herds and calling, “Arai, canim, arai!” Finally, Alpamysh sees flocks of sheep that formerly belonged to Baybörü. There he meets the old Kultay, who still weeps over Alpamysh as “a beloved child.” In the variant Khairatdinov, Kultay together with Iadgar (here, Jediger) slaughter a sheep in order to feed the unknown guest. In the Kazakh composite, two goats, once Alpamysh’s favorite kids, recognize him.

Alpamysh identifies himself, but Kultay does not believe him until Alpamysh shows him the familiar mark on his shoulder – the sign of the ‘five fingers’ of Shahimardan. Discovering the impending wedding of Barçın with the usurper Ultan, Alpamysh changes clothes with Kultay in order to remain unrecognized at the wedding feast: “I want to see with my own eyes who are my friends and who my enemies.” Kultay kills a white she-goat, and “The batir cut out from the white goat skin for a beard for himself and from the hide cut out a nose with scissors [sic]” and became unrecognizable.

In the Kazan 1899 variant, Alpamysh sends Kultay to warn Iadgar, whom Ultan keeps in chains and wants to use instead of the goat carcass to play oglak tartis at the wedding! Fazil, Khairatdinov and Niyazov all mention this same incident on the way to the wedding:

On the way Alpamysh encounters some simple women who are hurrying to the wedding feast and take him for the grey-bearded old man, Kultay. He eats their food and unnoticed places in [their] container “dry kizyak of a cow, manure pellets of a sheep and goats.” The women, upon opening the dishes, curse the old joker. (F)

The description of the wedding feast in variants of Fazil and Sadykov begins with oglak tartis, in which Alpamysh, disguised as Kultay, wins. Unrecognized, the batir sees the injuries and offenses caused by Ultan to his relatives and friends. His old mother on the side of an irrigation ditch cleans the entrails of sheep slaughtered for the wedding banquet. Baybörü carries wineskins with water. The seven-year-old Iadgar endures beatings by Ultan and his servants.

Barçın all the while refuses to acknowledge the oppressor Ultan as her suitor, and with her own steadfastness upholds the taciturn resistance of Alpamysh’s family.

The scene with the cook (F, N, Kh) presents what Zhirmunskii labels one of the very ancient elements. The disguised Alpamysh congratulates Ultan, who then sends him off to the kitchen for food. The cook treats the poor man crudely and gives him leftovers. The angered Alpamysh throws the cook into the cauldron.

The competition of shooting the bow appears in all versions that include the “return of Alpamysh” theme. The alp breaks the ordinary bow (he breaks seven in N, 80 in Kh). He asks that the old bronze 14-batman bow of Alpamysh be brought to him. Barçın orders that the bow be brought. It had long remained at lake Arpali, now overgrown with steppe grass. The minions of Ultan did not have the strength to lift it and it is brought by the batir boy Iadgar (Kh has with the help of the cihilten). Apamysh, drawing it without difficulty, shoots off the top of a distant plane tree.

In the evening, the disguised Alpamysh participates in singing improvised olan (wedding verses). He sings with Ultan’s mother. “The overbearing old woman is a comic figure: she cannot pronounce the sound ‘r’ and this deficiency of her speech is especially funny in the wedding song with the traditional love refrain: ‘yar-yar!’ She sang ‘yay-yay!’” Then Alpamysh “exchanges lyrical, heartfelt lines with the sad bride Barçın. From this he is convinced of her fidelity and alludes to his own arrival.”

In the Kazakh composite, Alpamysh meets his old mother, now blind, carrying a bundle of wood on her back. She recognizes “her only one,” her “withered, unlucky breast” again became filled with milk, her “deafened and long blocked ears” again were opened, and “wax poured out of them.” Only after the singing does the archery contest take place, and Ultan offers Kaldyrgach as the prize to the winner.

Many of the wedding guests had already begun to guess that under the mask of Kultay was concealed the returned master Alpamysh. Now the real Kultay proclaims to all the people the return of the ruler. The batir together with his friends destroy Ultan and his followers and put Ultan to death by torture. At this time, Baysari returns from the land of the Kalmaks with his family. “The poem ends with the unification of the dispersed tribes of the Kungrat under the leadership of... Alpamysh” (F).

The Anatolian Variant: “The Tale of Bamsi Beyrek,” despite its title and some other differences, including its localization in Asia Minor, is clearly a version of the Alpamysh dastan.34 The variants of Alpamysh and “Bamsi Beyrek” are quite similar both in the action of each and in motifs. Both exhibit the desire of two equal princes for offspring, the betrothing of their children “in the cradle,” joyful festivities greeting the newborn, falling into captivity, the fight for freedom, the false suitor to the alp’s betrothed – at appropriate places incognito, bloody armed combat to secure the final victory and finally regaining liberty, celebrated with traditional feasts. Concerning the similar motifs, both contain references to pre-Islamic as well as Islamic practices.

In the 1890s, V.V. Bartold published, with a Russian translation, four episodes from the Book of Dede Korkut, including the “Tale of Bamsi Beyrek.”35 Bartold, in his first translation, noted that “The Oghuz version of the tale of Alpamysh is presented in the ‘Story of Bamsi-Beyre, Son of Kam-Bori,’ appearing in the cycle of the Book of Dede Korkut...” Bartold calls the “Bamsi Beyrek” story “Bamsi Beyrek, Son of Kam Bori,” although Beyrek’s father’s name is Bay Bori-Bek (similar to the name of Alpamysh’s father).

There is no Gam Khan in the story, although in the first sentence of Bartold’s translation he notes that Gam Khan (a possible variation of Kam Bori) is the father of Bayindir, the Oghuz “khan of khans.” Bartold called these “epics” (Russian: bylina). He published a translation of the full work in 1922.36 Two manuscript versions of Dede Korkut survived from the sixteenth century – a Dresden manuscript, made known to modern scholarship in 1815, and a manuscript discovered in the Vatican in 1950. The only English translation of Dede Korkut was made by Professor G.L. Lewis on the basis of these two manuscripts. Lewis points out:

The substratum of the stories [of Dede Korkut] is the struggles of the Oghuz in Central Asia in the eighth to eleventh centuries against their Turkish cousins the Pecheneks and the Kipchaks... It is significant that the ‘infidels’ are given Turkish-sounding names: Kara Tuken, Boghajuk, and so on....

This substratum has been overlaid with more recent memories of campaigns in the Ak-koyunlu period against the Georgians, the Abkhaz..., and the Greeks of Trebizond. The Ak-koyunlu Sultans claimed descent from Bayindir Khan and it is likely, on the face of it, that the Book of Dede Korkut was composed under their patronage. The snag about this is that in the Ak-koyunlu genealogy Bayindir’s father is named as Gok (‘Sky’) Khan, son of the eponymous Oghuz Khan, whereas in our book he is named as Kam Ghan, a name otherwise unknown. In default of any better explanation, I therefore incline to the belief that the book was composed before the Ak-koyunlu rulers had decided who their ancestors were. It was in 1403 that they ceased to be tribal chiefs and became Sultans, so we may assume that their official genealogy was formulated round about that date.37

In Lewis’ translation, “The Tale of Bamsi Beyrek” is about 12,000 words long. Except for Fazil’s 1928 manuscript (14,000 lines), all published versions and many other variants of Alpamysh are shorter than “Beyrek.” Divay’s 1901 variant, for example, is nearer to 9,000 words. The differences are partly due to a number of humorous but philosophical passages that “Bamsi Beyrek” contains. These are of the type associated with another Türkic personality, Nasreddin Hoca, who probably predated the compilation of the Book of Dede Korkut. The insertion of this humorous material is not a common occurrence in dastans. By definition and tradition, dastans are primarily created for very solemn purposes, and as a literary genre reflect the “self-identity” of their composers.

“Bamsi Beyrek” is approximately one third verse, especially those portions in which the individual characters make emphatic statements. The Divay variant is, after a prose introduction of about 500 words, almost wholly in verse. Neither format is particularly unusual, however. Almost everything Radloff reported from South Siberia is in verse, as are the fruits of the classical Chaghatay (Türki) period in Central Asia. On the other hand, around the Caspian Sea – the western edge of this cultural domain – many tales are related in prose.

The basic plot of “Bamsi Beyrek” is as follows:

Bay Bore is desirous of a son and prays for one in front of the teeming Oghuz. His friend and fellow prince Bay Bijan, hearing Bay Bore’s wish, prays for a daughter so that she may be betrothed to his friend’s son in the cradle. A son, nicknamed “Bamsa,” is born to Bay Bore. Banu (or Lady) Chichek is born to Bay Bijan. The offspring are betrothed in the cradle. The boy grows up, performs “alply” deeds, for which Dede Korkut gives him the name Bamsi Beyrek. Bamsi wishes to marry Lady Chichek and Dede Korkut is commissioned to negotiate with her brother, Crazy Karchar, on the issue of kalym.

Crazy Karchar demands stallions, camels, rams, dogs without ears or tails and huge fleas – 1000 each. He is given the stallions, camels, rams, dogs without ears or tails. Karchar demands the huge fleas. The teeming Oghuz are puzzled and dismayed as to how to find and present the fleas. Finally, Dede Korkut undertakes to solve the problem. The ensuing humorous exchange, constitutes one of the primary differences between Divay’s Alpamysh and “Bamsi Beyrek”:

He (Dede Korkut) took Crazy Karchar to a flea-infested sheep-fold, tore the clothes off him and pushed him in. Then he said, “Take what you want and leave the rest,” and barred the door firmly. The fleas were starving and they swarmed all over Crazy Karchar, who shouted and roared, “Help Kede! For the love of God, open the door and let me out!” “Karchar my son,” said Dede Korkut, “why the uproar? There are the goods you ordered; I’ve brought them for you. What’s wrong? Why have you gone all stupid? Stop the chatter, take the fat ones and leave the thin ones.” “Dear Dede,” said Crazy Karchar, “these are not the kind you can sort into ones you like and ones you don’t. For God’s sake open the door and let me out!” “Afterwards you’ll quarrel with us again,” said Dede Korkut, “just you see.” Crazy Karchar reared up to his full height and stamped and bellowed, “Help, dear Dede! Just you let me out of this door!” Dede opened the door and Crazy Karchar came out, stark naked and swarming with fleas. Dede saw that he was at the end of his tether and scared stiff; his body could not be seen for fleas, and his face and eyes were invisible. He fell at Dede Korkut’s feet and said, “Save me, for the love of God!” “Go, my son,” said Dede Korkut, “throw yourself in the river.” It was a cold day, but as if his life depended on it, Crazy Karchar trotted to the river and plunged up to his neck in the icy water. The fleas, as fleas will, streamed into the water and left him. “Dear Dede,” he said, “may God not be pleased with them, neither the thin ones nor the fat ones.” He put his clothes on, went home, and saw to the preparation of a lavish wedding-feast.38

After the wedding, Bamsi Beyrek and 39 companions are abducted by the infidels. The entire Oghuz Kulus mourns the loss.

For sixteen years nothing is heard from Beyrek and his 39 companions. Finally, a group of merchants happen to stop at the domain of the infidels holding Beyrek and his companions captive. From the merchants, Beyrek learns that Yaltajuk, son of Yalanji, is preparing to marry his betrothed on false pretenses. After securing the help of the infidel king’s daughter, Beyrek makes his escape and returns to his homeland.

Close to the kishlak (winter quarters), Beyrek meets people in succession who are mourning his death and cursing Yaltajuk. In order better to identify his friends and enemies among the Oghuz, Beyrek decides to assume the identity of a minstrel. In his disguise as a poor wanderer, Beyrek joins the festivities, participates in contests, particularly arrow shooting. Finally, he makes his way to the ladies’ tent where his betrothed is surrounded by the women of the Oghuz. In this gathering, Beyrek exchanges verses with Lady Chichek, who has no idea who this minstrel is, on specific events only Beyrek and Lady Chicheck would know.

Finally it is understood that this crazy minstrel is the lost Beyrek. After forgiving Yaltajuk for his crime, Beyrek sets out with the rest of the Oghuz following him, to the land of the infidel where his 39 companions are still in captivity. The ensuing furious battle frees the men of the Oghuz. Beyrek marries the “infidel” princess who helped him escape, as in several Alpamysh variants. Lady Chichek is not mentioned in the final outcome.39 What follows is a standard forty days and forty nights of festivities during which all eligible young men and girls get married, blessed by Dede Korkut himself, who gives his name to this tale.

Comparisons of the “Variants” and “Versions”

The following section will make a cross-comparison and analysis of all those versions of Alpamysh from which the composite synopsis was compiled, and of “Bamsi Beyrek.” Then, some conclusions concerning the Alpamysh dastan in its various forms will be offered.

Zhirmunskii has grouped the various redactions of Alpamysh into what he calls “national versions”: Özbek, Kazakh and Karakalpak. The classifications are based on the place of collection or, sometimes, on the perceived dialect of the text. This classification system will be one topic of the following discussion.

The issue of the primacy of Fazil Yoldashoglu’s version, not only among “Uzbek variants” but over other “versions,” will also be explored. In view of the wide variety that the many variants of the dastan encompass, it is difficult to see by what criteria one version can clearly be established as the “standard” against which to judge others. We will conclude with a discussion of the possible reasons for the elevation of the Fazil variant.

The wide variation among the Alpamysh versions described in the above synopsis is striking. Some include only the birth of Alpamysh, his early feats, betrothal to and separation from Barçın, selection of his Chobar, the first journey to the land of the Kalmaks and the winning of his bride. Pulkan’s “Uzbek” and Divay’s 1901 variants encompass only this group of events. Among the “Kazakh variants,” these events are given little attention, including variants of Akkojaev-Maykot and to an even lesser degree in Jusupov-Rahat and Kissa-i Alfamysh (Kazan 1899), or are absent altogether, as in Velikan Alpamysh.

It is not only the Pulkan (“Uzbek”) and Divay 1901 (“Karakalpak”) variants that omit the “Odyssey theme.” Both Velikan Alpamysh and Jusupov (both “Kazakh”) variants are without Barçın, and thus lack the “return of the husband” as well as Alpamysh’s son Iadgar. Beyrek does have a betrothed, but extant manuscripts do not indicate their marriage, and Beyrek has no son.

Versions which have the second journey include Alpamysh’s return to the land of the Kalmaks, his imprisonment, subsequent escape and, usually, return home. In all “Kazakh” variants, Alpamysh makes his second journey to the Kalmaks’ territory to retrieve Baybörü’s stolen cattle. In those two of the five “Karakalpak variants” that include this journey (those of reciters Niyazov and Khairatdinov), as well as in the “Uzbek variants,” Alpamysh returns to defend his father-in-law, Baysari (or Saribay) from the Kalmaks.

The ending of the second journey also may vary. Usually, Alpamysh returns home as Barçın is about to marry the usurper Ultan-taz, variously cousin, half-brother and/or slave shepherd. This is the famed “Odyssey theme” about which Zhirmunskii has written so much. Obviously, in those variants that omit Barçın, this theme, too, is absent. Jusupov-Rahat (JR) ends with a lonely Alpamysh returning home, apparently forsaking his Kalmak bride. Akkojaev-Maykot sends Alpamysh home to Barçın, but ends his narration before the batir arrives. Velikan Alpamysh, like “Beyrek,” ends with the marriage of Alpamysh and his Kalmak (or “infidel”) princess. Only Kissa-i Alfamish, among the “Kazakh” variants, includes the return home, the meeting with Kultay, Kaldyrgach, the wedding scene and revenge on the usurper. Jurabaev (“Uzbek”) includes the killing of Karacan (now Ultan’s vezir) in his finale, and Berdi Bahsi and he both omit oglak tartis.

In the “Bamsi Beyrek” story, the initial separation is a result of the departure (kidnapping) of the batir rather than the bride and ends with the return of Beyrek to the wedding of his lady to a usurper, whom he forgives. The second journey is made in order to rescue the companions taken prisoner with Beyrek in the first part. Thus similar events are found but in reverse order to the other Alpamysh versions.

Certainly, the Odyssey-like theme can be identified at once. As Lewis states:

Much ink has been spilled over the puzzle of how the Homeric tale found its way into the Book of Dede Korkut... [One can] imagine that Homer borrowed some themes which he found circulating orally round western Asia Minor and which, still circulating after two millennia, were borrowed once more, this time by the unknown Turkish author of the Book of Dede Korkut in the east of the country.40

The origins of this motif in Anatolia might explain, at least in part, the absence of this theme from those variants of Alpamysh circulating on the steppe, which is far from Asia Minor, and the frequency with which we find it in the “Uzbek” variants.

In addition to these structural differences, variants also exhibit significant divergences in presence or absence of major actors and motifs. The absence of Barçın in some variants has been noted. In the variants in which she is included, the degree to which she exhibits the traits of the “batir maid” varies. In Fazil’s variant, she is more “batir-like” than Alpamysh, wrestling her suitors and pulling the nails out of Baychobar’s hooves with her teeth. Lady Chichek, too, behaves like a “batir maid” in testing Beyrek’s skills in riding and wrestling against her own. Divay’s Barçın is independent and spirited, but performs no such feats to rival Alpamysh. Concerning the behavior of Barçın in the variant of Akkojaev-Maykot, Zhirmunskii’s synopsis is strangely silent. In the end, however, Alpamysh forsakes his second (Kalmak princess) wife for Barçın. Abul Gazi wrote in Şecere-I Terakime about Barçın, the second of seven “Batir Maidens” who was the daughter of Karmysh-Bay and the wife of Mamysh-Bek (sometimes identified as Alpamysh). Barçın’s tomb was believed by the population of the Syr-Darya region (in the mid-seventeenth century) to be located near that river. It was called Barçınin Kok Kashane. Abul Gazi described it as having “a magnificent dome, decorated with tiles.”41 Karacan does not appear in any “Kazakh variant,” nor is there a corresponding personage in “Beyrek.” In all variants except that of Fazil, he is converted to Islam after his combat with Alpamysh. In variants in which Karacan has a son (the “Karakalpak variants”), the son’s name varies and Karacan kills him in the baiga. But in the “Uzbek variants” there is no son and thus his treachery toward his father and the competition between him and Karacan is absent from the baiga. Karacan does not sleep his batir slumber in Fazil’s “Uzbek” variant, nor in the “Karakalpak” variant by Niyazov, but is overpowered by the other batirs who tie him and Baychobar. Both Divay 1901 and Khairatdinov (“Karakalpak”) include the batir slumber.

Zhirmunskii notes the coincidence of names between the Alpamysh variants and “Bamsi Beyrek.” The fathers of the batirs are Baybörü/Baybori and Baybura-bek. He remarks on the origins of the names of the alps: “The name Alpamysh (Alpamys) according to information of Abul Gazi (Mamysh-bek) and the Altai tale (Alyp-Manash) is explained as alp-Mamysh, that is as the batir Mamysh; Bamsi, agreeing with the interpretation of Hadi Zarif,42 may be a phonetic distortion of the same name – from alp + Mams(i).”43 The heroine in “Bamsi Beyrek” is Banu Chichek, not Barçın, the name of Banu Chichek’s father is Baybijan-bek. These have no parallel in other versions. Also the suitor-usurper in the Oghuz version is called Yaltajuk, a name that does not appear in other versions. Furthermore, in the tale of “Bamsi Beyrek” this usurper is not a slave or the brother of the alp, but “friend-betrayer.” He carries the false story of the alp’s death to get the hand of the betrothed. (This motif Zhirmunskii identifies with the Altai Alyp-Manash.) Apparently there is also an Armenian variant of “Bamsi Beyrek,” recorded in Kayseri.44 According to Rossi, the tale was widespread in the region of Bayburd and many Armenian families living in the village Almyshka of that region before the First World War claimed descent from Beyrek and an Armenian princess.45

Further comparisons of the variants of Alpamysh are hindered, not only by the lack of genealogy as mentioned above, but also because the unavailability of many printings (not to mention original field records and manuscripts) requires reliance on the composite synopses of Zhirmunskii. Although they contain considerable and useful detail in most instances, as synopses they reflect Zhirmunskii’s choices concerning which portions to include or exclude. Furthermore, these synopses are not totally reliable in the details they do include. The few available printed variants make it possible to trace some of these erroneous omissions or attributions. The following example compares Zhirmunskii’s composite “Karakalpak” synopsis to Divay 1901. Zhirmunskii states that in the Karakalpak variants the children of Baybörü and Baysari are born due to the intervention of the cihilten. However, Divay’s 1901 variant actually states that the two men agree to pray to saints. Only in naming the children do seven kalendars appear. When they disappear, they are referred to as the 40 cihilten. In the wrestling scene, Zhirmunskii states that the bloodletting is begun by vezir Kokemen’s shooting Alpamysh with a rifle. In Divay’s variant, there are no rifles. Kkemen shoots Alpamysh with a bow and arrow.

In comparing “Bamsi Beyrek” with Alpamysh, Zhirmunskii uses whichever version of Alpamysh best illustrates his point, even if that leads to unclear, ambiguous or even misleading conclusions. For example, he notes that “Bamsi Beyrek” exhibits ancient elements, as does the Kungrat Alpamysh. His following paragraphs comparing motifs of “Bamsi Beyrek” and Alpamysh refer sometimes to one variant, sometimes to another. After a series of examples drawn from Fazil’s variant he adds the “friend-usurper” role of Yaltajuk in “Bamsi Beyrek,” which has no counterpart in Fazil’s variant but is, however, the role Karacan plays in Jurabaev’s variant.46 At no point does Zhirmunskii mention that he has switched referents. Zhirmunskii also spends considerable time on the “romantic” and marriage motifs, which are certainly secondary (if not tertiary) to the main purpose of the dastan. This is perhaps self-serving because it allows him to pursue his analogy with The Odyssey and, more seriously, to undermine the primary purpose of the dastan – to recall the liberation struggle.

These considerations lead to larger issue of Zhirmunskii’s classification system. First, as noted above, each variant is categorized by its place of collection, rather than by content. The flaws with this method are obvious from the above discussion – “variants” within the same “version” may be quite different from one another. They may, in fact, have more in common with “variants” that are classified as being within another “version” category. For example, Pulkan’s “Uzbek” variant is much closer in scope to Divay’s 1901 (which Divay himself called “Kırghız,” meaning present-day Kazakh, but which Zhirmunskii classifies as “Karakalpak”) than either one is to other “variants” of its “own” category. Classification may be convenient and useful, but not when the categories are artificial, when they obscure relevant trends or run contrary to actual similarities that suggest more useful groupings. It is also surprising that material Zhirmunskii himself presents undermines his classification scheme by revealing such differences among variants.

A second question posed at the outset of this section is what makes the Fazil version, among the dozens recorded, many of which were recorded earlier, the “classic.” Zhirmunskii notes at the outset that Fazil’s variant is distinguished by “remarkable completeness and artistic cultivation,” suggesting that it is more than mere length that makes this variant so noteworthy.47 However, the remainder of his lengthy chapter using this “variant” as a basis of comparison reveals some inconsistencies in Zhirmunskii’s own treatment of the Fazil “variant.” Zhirmunskii begins his 1960 monographic treatment of Alpamysh with the declaration: “The classic variant of the Uzbek Alpamysh was recorded from Fazil Iuldashev [sic] (1873-1953)...”48 In contrast, he begins the comparison of the variants by suggesting that there is little to distinguish other “Uzbek variants” from Fazil’s: “The variants of the Uzbek Alpamysh do not concern the basic lines of subject: they are limited only to separate, more particular, motifs.”

In his detailed treatment of individual features of the “variants,” Zhirmunskii not only emphasizes this theme of relatively minor differences but in fact points out incidents in the narrative, motifs and elaborations that exist in other reciters’ “variants” and do not exist in Fazil’s. Since the reader has already been assured that Fazil’s is the “classic” version, the absence of some significant events and details is puzzling. This is especially so in view of the great length of this variant – 14,000 lines in manuscript49 and what Zhirmunskii and Hadi Zarif call the “richness of detail” of the Fazil variant.

Zhirmunskii’s own comments on other reciters’ variants cast a shadow on the “classic” status of Fazil’s. By Zhirmunskii’s own statements, other “variants” contain elements that are more “ancient” (combat between Karacan and Alpamysh before the conclusion of their friendship), “original” (Karajan’s becoming the vezir of the usurper Ultan), and “primordial” (Tavka-Aim bringing Baychobar Alpamysh’s clothing, rather than steppe grass). Possibly there is another reason for the supposedly “classic” status of this one variant.

Fazil’s “variant” depicts Karajan’s conversion to Islam as occurring because of a persuasive dream, unlike other variants which include combat. In that combat, Alpamysh is victorious, convincing Karacan not only of his rival’s “excellence” but also of the strength of his faith. Perhaps this seemingly greater weight on the religious element qualifies Fazil’s version as “classic.” According to Hadi Zarif, however, Fazil consistently refused to recite variants of Alpamysh that included religious elements and particularly rejected intervention by saints or the cihilten. Fazil argued that the need for such intervention detracted from the “alply” qualities of the batir:

What kind of hero is it that feels himself helpless before every difficulty and in order to overcome them needs direct divine intervention? With the help of saints, even a weak person can overcome any obstacle. Such help from above only weakens interest in the hero.50

Indeed, comparing Fazil’s variant with that of some other ozans, notably Berdi bahsi, whose variant employed several such divine interventions, bears this out. Fazil rejects the idea of saints’ aid to the bound Karacan during the race (reportedly saying that if Karacan is a real batir, why should he need the saints’ aid to free himself?)51 Fazil, like some other ozans, includes the letter-bearing goose, who carries the news of Alpamysh’s captivity to Kaldyrgach, where Berdi Bahsi places an angel. Thus Fazil’s “variant” is not consistently religious, but neither does it denigrate nor exclude religion.

Furthermore, because of certain aspects of Fazil’s narrative, the characters seem to act with almost undetectable motivations or with none at all. The inspiring dream seems unconvincing as sufficient motivation for Karajan’s religious conversion, much less for his friendship and willingness to endure all hardships to win for Alpamysh his betrothed. This is especially so in view of Karajan’s own earlier entry into the contest to win Barçın for himself.

Alpamysh’s own behavior – in Fazil’s variant as reported by Zhirmunskii – is hardly deserving of the creation of a dastan or the bestowing of the title batir. (This was noted by the dastan’s 1952 critics, as described in Chapter Two.) In Fazil’s “variant,” Alpamysh goes after Barçın only on the urging of his sister. He does not defeat Karacan, nor does he participate in any of the contests for Barçın’s hand until Karacan has eliminated all the competition. Then the batir steps in at the end to finish off the exhausted Kokaldash, and this he does only after Barçın threatens to enter the fray herself. When imprisoned, he weeps on waking in the zindan. He teaches Kaikubat to steal in order to feed him.52

Among these examples of “unalply” behavior, at least one incident, the batir’s weeping, is known to be uncharacteristic of Fazil’s recitations. According to Hadi Zarif, Fazil not only rejected religious motifs, he especially disliked the variant of Alpamysh recited by Pulkan precisely because in it the batir weeps.53 It is surprising, therefore, to find this incident in a variant attributed to Fazil. In this regard, two facts must be kept in mind: first, Zhirmunskii used Penkovskii’s translations rather than any original manuscript;54 and second, it has been documented that Penkovskii deliberately altered Fazil’s version after his (that is, Penkovskii’s) earliest translation. Thus, it is quite probable that Penkovskii’s changes are responsible for these elements in content that are contrary to Fazil’s own views. One wonders what other such “refinements” there may have been.

Hadi Zarif, too, calls the Fazil variant a “classic,” but not without qualification. Here we encounter one of several significant passages by Zarif that are never repeated in later works by Zhirmunskii. In the 1947 work, Zarif couches the declaration of Fazil’s version’s “classic” status in highly cautious language that restricts and specifies the “classic” qualities: “In richness of detail, fullness of epic content and high level of artistic mastery – this is the classic text of Alpamysh.” But Zarif follows this qualified statement by an even more ambiguous one:

However, the epic breadth, the artistry of the ‘trimmings’ [otdelki] by itself does not fulfill the criterion of antiquity of epic tradition: on the contrary, in a series of cases, wide and full development of epic subject, the abundance of episodes and working over of details conveys a maturity [zrelost’] of this tradition, of the long road from short epic songs to the epic of great scale. Obviously the redaction of Fazil Yoldashev in many cases carries signs of such stylistic breadth.

In the final analysis, one characteristic of Fazil’s variant does indeed set it apart from all others – the fact that it, and it alone, has been so often translated (by Penkovskii) into Russian (1943, 1944, 1949 – twice), and so widely reprinted (one 1949 translation was reprinted in 1958, 1973 and 1982) and distributed in large numbers. This list of translations and reprintings is probably not exhaustive. It was the Fazil variant that was declared the definitive version (1958) in the wake of the “Trial of Alpamysh” and the extensive reorganizations of the Oriental Institutes of the mid-1950s. This variant, with its weak and indecisive batir, is thus the most widely circulated. Such is the model officially sanctioned for Central Asian youth to follow and for all nationalities to see.

Alpamysh and the dastan genre in perspective

A dastan is a living and changing monument, recalled to duty by its owners as needs demand. For that reason, it is more correct and more useful to see each “version” of Alpamysh as a “freeze-frame” in an on-going, dynamic process rather than as ossified and ancient “folklore” containing this or lacking that “part.” Each recitation or printing can be viewed as a “frame” of the “original film.” It is for us to see the larger, moving picture of which each variant is one still photo. In order to try to put together the larger picture it is necessary to take into account the “still photos,” that is, the variants themselves, what we know about their collection, and the larger pattern suggested by students of the dastan genre such as Hadi Zarif and Zeki Velidi Togan. The incomplete information about the general collection process and the lack of a complete genealogy for any one variant remain a handicap. Any variant, version or genealogy – conveniently discovered or rediscovered in the future – should be viewed with all due caution. Keeping these conditions in mind, we can proceed with the available information.

Only three variants of Alpamysh are known to have been collected and published before the 1917 revolution. The earliest printed variants are those of Yusufbek (1899 Kazan) and Divay (1901 Tashkent). The only other distinct variant collected and published before the revolution, to my knowledge, is Divay’s Velikan Alpamysh (1916). The information concerning the collection circumstances of the 1901 Divay Alpamysh is the most detailed, as noted above. Inan’s theory of fragmentation from “mother dastans” would seem to be in agreement with Hamid Alimjan’s remark about the dastan being shared by the Turks in Central Asia and with Hadi Zarif’s statement that Alpamysh dates from the time before the division of the Türkic tribes. In that case, the present-day “variants” may be fragments of one ancient dastan. Any one may be in the process (described in Chapter One) of “spinning off” from liberation dastans (which remain intact) to lyrical songs and finally, to masals. The content of many extant variants reflect various stages of the “spinning off” process. Most published variants include the so-called “part two,” often in very elaborated form which sometimes utterly dwarfs or eliminates “part one.”

The original liberation theme is embodied in the “first part.” The 1901 Divay variant concerns the struggles of an alp, Alpamysh, primarily for the good of his kin and tribe. This becomes obvious if we consider that Baysari took with him a large number of families and thereby split the tribe. Thus Alpamysh’s mission takes on the aspect of a unification, certainty of offspring, and also a liberation struggle, of which his marriage to Barçın is merely a symbol. Indeed, Alpamysh himself states (line 664-5) “When you [Baychobar] win [the race for Barçın’s hand], the future of the Kungrats will be secure.” Certainly this declaration takes the whole journey out of the realm of the merely personal and makes it an attempt to ensure the unified future of the tribe.

By comparison, other variants that emphasize “part two” place greater weight on personal revenge or on romantic themes. Yusufbek’s 1899 printing, like Fazil’s and many other post-revolutionary variants, highlight this “second part,” within which Alpamysh is saved from captivity by a princess who loves him and whom, in some variants, he marries. In many of these variants, the batir returns from imprisonment and exacts revenge on those who mistreated his family during his long absence. Although most of these variants may be said to uphold values of family loyalty, their emphasis on personal as opposed to collective, tribal sufferings and needs can be seen as part of the devolution of liberation dastans into romantic ones.

The 1899 printing, although its date of publication is the earlier, appears to be much further along the “spin-off” process than the 1901 Divay. Both seem to have been collected at approximately the same time, in the mid-1890s, but appear to be “frames” of different scenes in the “motion picture.” Divay’s 1901 variant is more immediately occupied with liberation and the Yusufbek 1899 (“Kazakh”) shares more with 1939 Fazil (“Uzbek”) than with 1901 Divay. From this point of view, Hadi Zari’s reference to the “maturity” of the Fazil version of Alpamysh may be seen from another perspective (if not as veiled criticism of a decadent narrational style). He seems to be describing the “spin-off” process described in Chapter One. Fazil’s variant had already moved quite far from its original form as a liberation song toward a lyrical dastan stage.

New meanings of “saving” dastans

Those who first recorded the variants of Alpamysh were perhaps also trying to preserve the dastan as the liberation song it was originally intended to be. The earliest level in the process of saving dastans concerns collecting available fragments and fixing them onto paper in order to disseminate them widely. Efforts to reach and to reassemble the original liberation song from available variants represents a higher level of “saving.” The highest level is the effort to place the dastan in historical context, to match how the dastan related to the lives of the original composers and how it affects the owners at the time of the study. (These levels are not to be confused with the “waves” of rescuers discussed in Chapter One. The two do not coincide, i.e. the “waves” do not represent a progress from one level to another in this process.)

Divay, Yusufbek, Gazi Alim, Alimjan, Hadi Zarif, Tura Mirza were among the men engaged in saving dastans at the first level – collection, transcription and large-scale dissemination. A number of these individuals made use of existing manuscripts as a basis for their published versions. Divay, for example, received his 1901 Alpamysh in the form of a bahshi’s manuscript. Other evidence of the use of manuscripts before the revolution comes from statements by bahshis whose variants were collected in the Soviet era. Some bahshis stated that they had learned Alpamysh from manuscripts or from older ozans who were themselves making use of manuscripts. Publication of manuscripts was a part of the first level of saving and disseminating dastans. The multiple printings of both the 1899 and 1901 variants appear to have been made with the same goal in mind. Since both the 1899 and 1901 printings (and their reprintings) had long been in circulation, these may have been available to other reciters like Fazil.

Togan noted that Yusufbek, who operated solely within the first level, mixed Islamic elements into the dastans he collected. Presumably this was true also of his 1899 variant of Alpamysh. He added these religious motifs, which were not part of the original liberation dastan, apparently to combat the vigorous efforts of Russian Orthodox missionaries based in Kazan. Other “saviors,” including Divay and Fazil, rejected such use of religious elements. Their own statements suggest their faith lay in the power of the dastan’s original message.

Gazi Alim and Togan personify the second level of saving dastans. In his 1923 introduction, Gazi Alim states that he had seen both the 1899 Yusufbek and the 1901 Divay variants of the Alpamysh dastan. Both, writes Gazi Alim, are incomplete and omit many incidents. He further criticizes the reciter of the 1899 variant as an “untalented” individual who “ruined the structure” of the dastan. Gazi Alim had intended to publish a “complete” variant, accompanied by explanatory notes. He writes that he did not have the time to accomplish this task.55

Gazi Alim’s effort constitutes the collecting of fragments to form a single, complete dastan. It is strikingly reminiscent of Togan’s observation, cited in Chapter One: “In the end, when a nation faces a monumental event, an enlightened poet collects these fragmentary dastans to create the great national dastan.” It is probable that Togan and Gazi Alim spoke of this matter. Gazi Alim’s action seems to express Togan’s thought. (They were in Tashkent at the same time).

Because of their efforts and vision, Togan and Gazi Alim, as well as Alimjan and Hadi Zarif, must be seen also as proponents and practitioners of the third, highest level – placing the dastans in their historical context and articulating the meaning of the dastans for both their creators and present-day owners. Like Togan and Gazi Alim, Alimjan and Hadi Zarif emphasized the significance of dastans as part of their people’s history. Alimjan (in his 1939 Introduction quoted in Chapter One) notes that the Alpamysh dastan is shared among various Türkic peoples and that it has been part of their history for a millennium. Therefore, it is no surprise that “lack of knowledge of Alpamysh was considered a shame.”

The power of Alpamysh and its implications

That so many “saviors” chose the Alpamysh dastan as the object of their efforts on all three levels suggests the power of that dastan’s message and its continuing relevance.

That power is further implied, and confirmed in Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, by the use of the Alpamysh dastan as a propaganda tool during World War II. At that time, a number of Alpamysh variants (at least ten) appeared in print. In view of severe war-time shortages, the allocation of precious resources to publish “folklore” – in original dialects and Russian translation, in Moscow and Central Asian cities – is indeed a reflection of its power to mobilize its owners. Even then, it was not the 1901 Divay variant that was the focus of attention and re-printing. Instead, Fazil’s variant and others that contained the “return of the husband” theme (no doubt striking a sensitive war-time chord) were published and translated.56 The 1901 Divay variant appears not to have been republished after Divay’s death. The dastan’s denigration during Soviet post-war reconstruction suggests that such stirring, martial “liberation songs” – even in the lyrical form, such as Fazil’s – were no longer required. Indeed, they might now be dangerous – with the removal of the German threat, the “alien” might be understood to be the Russian “elder brother.”

Finally, the current emphasis on “variants” may reflect the regional pride of their editors and the manipulation of such feelings by official circles. Despite the relatively late collection of the Özbek versions of Alpamysh, both the longest manuscript and the earliest monographic work on dastans were produced in the Uzbek SSR by native Central Asians. Feelings of local pride exude from Gazi Alim’s statement that he wanted to collect Alpamysh from “Uzbek” bahshis, after his criticism of the Yusufbek and Divay versions. At the same time, the Kazakh authors have been tracing their studies of Alpamysh to Divay’s efforts. Divay’s collections took place before the printing of the 1899 variant and therefore represent earlier scholarly efforts than those of the Uzbek Academy. Mirzaev, Gabdullin and Sydykov also engage in this type of effort of establishing “their” variants of Alpamysh – Özbek and Kazakh, respectively – as the earliest.

Officially proclaiming this “Uzbek variant” of Fazil as the “classic” may have been part of another policy by official circles, attempting to incite not so friendly competition among the Central Asian populations. The differentiation of versions contravenes the original message and intent of the dastan. Such differentiation implies separateness of peoples, as Mirzaev argues, and each “nation” may be incited to strive for the supremacy – or primacy – of “its own” version. On the other hand, Central Asians are beginning to display signs indicating that they are becoming aware of this perspective.

The appearance, in the 1970s and 1980s, of various works such as Singan Kilic by Tolongon Kasimbekv (Frunze, Kırghız SSR, 1971); “Baku 501” by Azize Jaferzade (Azerbaijan, Nos. 7 and 8, 1982); “Altin Orda” by Ilyas Esenberlin (Culduz, Alma-Ata, Nos. 7 and 8, 1982) and “Olmez Kayalar” by Mamadali Mahmudov (Sark Yildizi, Tashkent, Nos. 9 and 10, 1982) attest to the authors’ awareness of unspoken policies. But they also demonstrate a recognition of other issues. These literary works reflect knowledge of the dastans and an understanding of their intent and power. All these works of “historical fiction” employ the format and messages of a dastan, often quoting from older and more ancient dastans when not borrowing themes liberally.57

Mahmudov’s work and those of his contemporaries is not only part of the “saving” process of dastans, individually or collectively. In addition, it embodies the tradition and the message of the dastans themselves. This contemporary “fiction” in fact constitutes new dastans in the proper Central Asian tradition, written in a new guise.

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Appendix: bibliography of published versions of the Alpamysh dastan

This list does not include the Alpamysh extracts found in school textbooks or readers.

1. Kissa-i Alfamish. By Yusufbek Seyhulislam (in Arabic alphabet.) Kazan, 1899.
2. Second edition of (1), 1901.
3. “Alpamis-Batir.” In Sbornik materialov dlia statistiki Syr-Dar’inskoi oblasti . Edited by A.A. Divay. Vol. X, Tashkent, 1901.
4. Alpamis-Batir. Djia-Murad Bek Muhammedov version. Editor: A.A. Divay. Reprint of (3). Text in Arabic alphabet in Kazakh, with Russian translation. Tashkent, 1901.
5. “Alpamis-Batir.” In Pamiatniki kirgizskogo narodnogo tvorchestva. Reprint of (3). Tashkent, 1901.
6. Third edition of (1), 1905.
7. Fourth edition of (1), 1907.
8. Fifth edition of (1), 1910.
9. Sixth edition of (1), 1912.
10. Seventh edition of (1), 1914.
11. Eighth edition of (1), 1916.
12. “Velikan Alpamis.” In Turkestanskaia vedemost’, no. 217-218. Russian translation, collected (during 1916?) and edited by A.A. Divay. Tashkent, 1916.
13. “Alpamysh.” In Batirlar. Vol. VI. Editor: A.A. Divay. Second edition of (3), Tashkent, 1922.
14. “Alpamysh.” In Kirgizsko-Kazakhskii bogatirskii epos. Vol. VI. Reprint of (13), Tashkent, 1922.
15. “Alpamish dastani.” In Bilim Ocagi, No. 2-3, 18 May 1923. pp. 39-59. Editor: Gazi Alim. Tashkent, 1923.
16. “Alpamis Batir.” In Sbornik obraztsov kazakhskoi narodnoi literatury. Editor: S. Seyfullin. Kizil Orda, 1931. (-Unverified-) [Alpamysh Batir. Reprint of (3 and 13) 1933.]
17. Alpamysh. Karakalpak (?) version. (Latin alphabet?) Moscow, 1936.
18. Alpamys. Russian translation from Hojabergen Niyazov. Moscow, 1937.
19. “Alpamis Batir.” In Batirlar Jıri, V. 1. Compiler: Sabit Mukanov. (Latin alphabet?) Alma-Ata, 1939. (Reprint of Item 16?)
20. Alpomish dastani. Uzbek Fanlar Akademiyasi Nasriyati. In Latin alphabet. Fazil Yoldash oglu version. Editor: Hamid Alimjan. Tashkent, 1939.
21. Altai-Buchai. Russian translation of (23), Ulagashev variant. Moscow, 1939.
22. Altai-Buchai. In Altaiskie skazki. Shortened version of (23), Ulagashev variant. Moscow, 1939.
23. Alyp-Manash . N. Ulagashev variant. Moscow (?) 1940.
24. “Alpamysh i Barsin Khyluu.” In Başkurtskie narodnye skazki, No. 19. Recorded and translated by A.G. Bessonov. General Editor: Prof. N. Dimitriev. Ufa, 1941.
25. Alpamysh. Second edition of (18), Moscow, 1941.
26. “Altay Buchai.” In Oirotskii narodnyi epos. Editor: A. Koptelev. N. Ulagashev variant. pp. 79-126. Novosibirsk, 1941.
27. “Alpamysh.” In Uzbekskii narodnyi epos; Glava iz poemy . Significantly abridged translation (by L. Penkovskii) into Russian. Probably contains only the suitor competition section. Tashkent, 1943.
28. Alpamysh. Partial translation by V. Derzhavin, A. Kochetkov and L. Penkovskii. Tashkent, 1944.
29. “Alpamysh.” In Kazakhskii geroicheskii epos, Moscow, 1945.
30. “Alpamys.” In Tatar Halk Ekiyatlara . Kazan, 1946.
31. “Alpamis.” In Tatarskie narodnye skazki, vol I. Russian translation of a Kazan Tatar version, 1946.
32. Alpamisha i Barçın-huluu, Başkurtskie narodnye skazki. Collected by A. Bessonov, edited by N. Dimitriev. (Second edition of (24) ?) Ufa, 1949.
33. Alpamysh. Uzbeksii epos po varianti Fazila Yoldasha. Translated by L. Penkovskii, foreword by M.
Sheykhzade. Tashkent, 1949.
34. Alpamysh. Uzbekskii narodnyi epos. Translated from Fazil Yoldash text. Translator: L. Penkovskii. Moscow, 1949.
35. “Alpamysh.” In Kazakhskii epos. Russian translation. Alma-Ata, 1953.
36. Alpamys. Text prepared by G.G. Musabaev, editors N.S. Smirnova and T.S. Sydykov. Alma-Ata, 1957.
37. Alpamys. From Kiyas-jray Hayreddinov. Nukus, 1957.
38. Alpamysh i Sandugach. Tatarskie narodnye skazki. In Tatar. Kazan, 1957.
39. Alpamysh. Second edition of (20), Tashkent, 1957.
40. Alpamysh. Third edition of (20), Tashkent, 1958.
41. Alpamish: Tatar Halk Ekiyatlara. Edited by H. Yarmuhametov. Second edition of (29) 1946 printing? Kazan, 1958.
42. Alpamish. Russian translation by L. Penkovskii. Preface by V. Zhirmunskii. Reprint of 1949. Moscow, 1958.
43. “Alp-Manash.” In Altay Baatirlar. Volume II. Tuulu Altaydin Bichikter Chigarar Izdatelstvozi. Editor: P. Kuchiyak. Gorno-Altaysk, 1959.
44. Alpomish. Editor: R. Amonov. Translated into Tajik by L.N. Demidchik. Stalinabad, 1959.
45. Alpomish. Tajik? Second printing of (44)? Stalinabad, 1960?
46. Alpamys. From Esemurat-jray Nurabullaev. Nukus, 1960.
47. Alpamis Batir. Prepared for publication by N.S. Smirnova and T.S. Sydykov. Editors: M.O. Auezov and N.S. Smirnova. Alma-Ata, 1961.
48. Alpamis Batir. Editor: A. Shalabaeva. Alma-Ata, 1968.
49. Alpomish. Uzbekistan SSR Fanlar Akademiyasi, A. S. Pushkin Nomidaki Til va Adabiyat Instituti. Berdi Bahshi Variant. Transcriber: Abdulla Alavii; editor: Tura Mirzaev; editor of the series: Hadi Zarif. Tashkent, 1969.
50. Alpamish. Uzbekskoe narodnoe tvorchestvo . Translated from Fazil Yoldash oglu text. Translator: L. Penkovskii. Reprint of (34)? Moscow, 1977.
51. Alpamis Batir. Kazak SSR Gylym Akademiyasi M.O. Auezov Atindaki Edebiyet yane Oner Instituti. Alma-Ata, 1977.
52. Alpamysh. Tashkent, 1979.
53. “Alpamis Batir.” In Kazakhskii gerocheskii epos v prozaicheskom pereskaze Akseley Seydimbekova. Russian translation by Satimjan Sanbaev. Alma-Ata, 1981.
54. Alpamis. Nukus, 1981.
55. Alpamish. Uzbekskii narodni epos. Translated from T.M. Mirzaev text. Translator: L.M. Penkovskii. Reprint of (33), Moscow, 1982.


This work has been produced over a span of seven years, with research conducted on three continents, ten countries and almost two dozen cities. I offer my sincere gratitude to the libraries and librarians of a host of institutions situated in almost as many geographic locations. Among them, the following bore the brunt of my incessant queries: Bodleian (especially the Oriental Reading Room); Oriental Institute; St. Antony’s College; the St. Antony’s Middle Eastern Center libraries – all of Oxford University; School of Oriental and African Studies of London University; British Library; Slavic Reading Room of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Widener Library of Harvard University; Seminar für Sprach und Kulturwissenschaft Zentralasien of Bonn University; Bibliotek National, Paris; Helsinki University; University of Washington, Seattle; Istanbul University; Regenstein Library of University of Chicago; Indiana University; UCLA; Library of Congress. In addition, several libraries in the USSR provided material. In due course, I have received advice, access, comments, criticism, editorials, materials, permits and permissions, recommendations, suggestions, specific items and encouragement, and more, from a multitude of individuals. I thank them all: Thomas Allsen, Audrey L. Altstadt, A. Altay, Edward Allworth, Bugra Atsız, C.E. Black, J. Bailey, D. Barrett, the late Alexandre Bennigsen, Y. Bregel, R. Campbell, Marianna Tax Choldin, Ilse Cirtautas, Robert Dankoff, M. Daly, Remy Dor, R. Dunnell, Turhan Gandjei, R.N. Frye, W. Feldman, Peter Golden, H. Halen, Gavin Hambly, A.T. Hatto, K.H. Karpat, Edward L. Keenan, D.E. Kline, Rahman Kul Kutlu, Habib Ladjevardi, Harold Leich, Geoffrey L. Lewis, Mrs. R. Lewis, A. Lord, A. Mango, David Montgomery, Roy Mottahedeh, D. Nalle, H. Oraltay, Omeljan Pritsak, Nicholas Poppe, D. Ring, Klaus Sagaster, Nazif Shahrani, M. Mobin Shorish, Denis Sinor, Sinasi Tekin, Wayne S. Vucinich, S. Enders Wimbush. Obviously, especially at the latter stages, some of these individuals have suffered more than others. Profs. Geoffrey L. Lewis and Audrey L. Altstadt have read and reread the manuscript, commented, re-interpreted and alternately caused me to view life from different perspectives with their observations. At certain points, Mrs. R. Lewis lightened the weight. Rahman Kul Kutlu calmly and pleasantly withstood a thorough and impatient interrogation, weeks on end, while I re-examined the 1901 text with him. He divulged much, not the least of which was his wisdom and experience. Prof. A.T. Hatto very kindly made time to check the translation; moreover, he took a special interest in the progress and the scholarly welfare of the author. Prof. R. Dor, with a special trip, made himself available to discuss problematic passages. Profs. Allworth, Cirtautas, Dankoff, Dunnell, Lord, Montgomery, Poppe and Pritsak asked the necessary questions and pointed in the direction of solutions. D. Barrett, M. Daly and H. Leich did not hesitate to don their dust-masks before entering the stacks on my behalf, bringing otherwise unavailable or unknown materials to my attention. S. Enders Wimbush always lent an eager ear, allowed himself to be the sounding board. Thomas Allsen and Peter Golden, with characteristic care and attention, and with their magisterial command of sources, made certain that no undesirable loose-ends remained in the text. I could probably carry on in this vein, but for fear of causing embarrassment. Any remaining errors are due to my insistence.

During the years of 1983, 1984 and 1985, I received ORS Awards from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom. In 1984, a grant from the Society for Central Asian Studies (Oxford) facilitated field research among the Kırghız. As a 1986 Associate of the Summer Research Lab of the Russian and East European Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I have benefitted both from the Center resources and the stimulating seminar discussions. Permanent International Altaistic Conferences in Chicago, Valberberg, Venice and Bloomington, Indiana were amicable and fertile grounds to further research and discussion on the topic, in part with the hospitality extended by the PIAC Secretariat. Six different Central Asian Conferences, held between 1982 and 1988, three at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in collaboration with Association of Central Asian Studies (Wisconsin), two at the W. Wilson Center-Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies of the Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C.), one in Munich, with funds contributed by the organizers toward the travel and maintenance of the author, provided forums of discussion, public and private, and afforded feedback from a conglomeration of scholars. The small but potent gatherings of the Society for Central Asian Studies were of no less value. I was able to maintain the momentum in the last phases as a Faculty Associate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, as well as through the functions of the Harvard Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies. An earlier version of this work was accepted by the University of Oxford in partial fulfilment of the Faculty of Oriental Studies requirements toward my D. Phil.

There was no typist involved. The entire project, from its inception, through its several dozen iterations, was done entirely on word-processing computers. Along the way, I wore out two complete systems beyond repair. Despite the frustrations inherent in such man-machine interactions, they were of great help – when they functioned. Consequently, if any typing errors are discovered, I am partly responsible.

As for the structure and the contents of the work proper, I assume full responsibility.


Notes to the Preface

1. H.B. Paksoy, “Identity Markers: Uran, Tamga, Dastan,” Transoxiana, 8 June, 2004.

2. Another example is in: H.B. Paksoy, “Chora Batir: A Tatar Admonition to Future Generations,” in Essays on Central Asia, (Lawrence: Carrie, 1999).

Notes to Chapter One

1. T. Tekin, A Grammar of Orkhon Türkic, (Bloomington, 1968), p. 231. Both the original and the translation are from this source.

2. Diwan Lugat at-Türk by Kashgarli Mahmud (written in the 1070s) was translated as A Compendium of the Türkic Dialects by Robert Dankoff in collaboration with James Kelly (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982-85). The volume was printed in the Sources of Oriental Literature series, Sinasi Tekin and Gonul Alpay Tekin, editors, Harvard (Volumes, labelled “Parts” I, II, III published in 1982, 1984, 1985, respectively. This term is defined in Part III, p. 157, and used on p. 227 of Part II (p. 512 of the manuscript).

3. Meni hikmetlerim dana eshitsin/ SÖzüm dastan kilib maksadiga yitsin. See K. Eraslan, Hikmet (Ankara, 1983), p. 280.

4. The term alp is used interchangeably with batir, batur, bagatur meaning “valiant,” “gallant,” “brave” as attributes of a skilled and fearless champion tested in battle or contest. See Sir Gerard Clauson, An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth-Century Turkish (Oxford, 1972), p. 127. See also the entry “Batir,” in John Hangin, A Concise English-Mongolian Dictionary (Indiana, 1970), p. 270.

5. In the Book of Dede Korkut, the bard is called an ozan. See the translation by G.L. Lewis (Penguin, 1974). Such a person is also called bahshi, akin, ashik, shaman, kam in various locations. Gazi Alim uses “akin,” whereas Hamid Alimjan calls the reciter “bahshi.”

6. Usually this musical instrument is referred to as a kobuz or kopuz. A descendant of the kopuz is still known and used as a saz or baglama in Asia Minor. A representative sample may be seen in the Pitt-Rivers Museum. For a full description, with photographs, see Bolat Saribaev, Kazaktin Muzikalik Aspaptari (Alma-Ata, 1978). Also Doerfer, “Turkische und Mongolische Elemente,” Neupersischen III (Wiesbaden, 1967), p. 1546.

7. Even the Orkhon inscriptions of the early eighth century A.D. employ flashbacks.

8. Boratav theorized that the supernatural content of literature in oral tradition is directly proportional to the distance it has travelled from its birthplace. That is, the further away from the location where the work was originally composed, the more magical elements it will contain. See P.N. Boratav, Halk Hikayeleri ve Hikayeciligi (Ankara, 1946).

9. Political borders and boundaries were not applied by the Central Asians before such artificial limitations were forcibly imposed upon them quite recently. See Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, (Tr. N. Walford) (New Brunswick, NJ, 1970), pp. 221-2, p. 253; also see O. Caroe, Soviet Empire, the Turks of Central Asia and Stalinism (London, 1953); also Zeki Velidi Togan, Bugunku Turkili Turkistan ve Yakin Tarihi, 2nd. Ed. (Istanbul, 1981).

10. See Z.V. Togan, Turkistan, p. 39, note 18. See also I. Kafesoglu, Türk Milli Kulturu (Istanbul, 1984) (3rd. Ed.),passim.

11. A. Inan, Makaleler ve Incelemeler (Ankara, 1968). See also Z.V. Togan, Oguz Destani (Istanbul, 1972); H.N. Orkun, “Oguz Destanina Dair,” Ulku, V. 5, Sayi 30, 1935; F. Sumer, “Oguzlara Ait Destani Mahiyette Eserler,” Ankara Universitesi DTC Fakultesi Dergisi, 1959; and, D. Sinor, “Oguz Kaĝan Destani Uzerine Bazi Mulahazalar,” (Tr. from French by Ahmet Ates) Türk Dili ve Edebiyati Dergisi, 1952.

12. See introduction to Şecere-I Terakime (Facsimile) (Ankara, 1937); A. Inan, “Destan-i Cengiz Han Kitabi Hakkinda,” in Azerbaycan Yurt Bilgisi, Year 3, No. 25, 1934.

13. G.M.H. Schoolbraid, The Oral Epic of Siberia and Central Asia (Indiana, 1975).

14. The ozan also had other duties within the oymak. See Fuat Koprulu, “Ozan,” in Azerbaycan Yurt Bilgisi, No. 3. 1932. Reprinted in the same author’s Edebiyat Arastirmalari (Istanbul, 1966).

15. Kımız is fermented mare’s milk. It is a very popular traditional drink among Central Asians.

16. See the description in A.T. Hatto, The Memorial Feast for Kokotoy Han (London, 1977). This work is a short cycle of Manas.

17. See Arminius Vambery, Chaghataische Sprachstudien (Pest, 1867), p. 154. (Reprinted by Philo Press, Amsterdam, 1975).

18. Tahir bila Zohra, Original Chaghatay text, (German translation by G. Raquette) (Lund, 1930).

19. A collection of “converted” masal may be found in Amina Shah, Folk Tales of Central Asia, London, 1975).

20. Chora Batir appears to be such a dastan, modified in the mid-sixteenth century. For an overview of this dastan, see H.B. Paksoy “Chora Batir: A Tatar Admonition to Future Generations,” Studies in Comparative Communism Vol. XIX Nos. 3 and 4, 1986.

21. Examples of such successful gestation periods, among others, are found in Oghuz Han; N. Ural, Ergenekon (Ankara, 1972) and Kül Tegin.

22. See H.B. Paksoy, “Central Asia’s New Dastans,” in Central Asian Survey (hereafter CAS), V. 6, N. 1.

23. Uzbek Sovet Entsiklopediyasi (Tashkent, 1971), 112-4 (Hereafter: USE).

24. Bol’shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia, Third Edition (Moscow, 1978), Vol. 1, 458 (hereafter, BSE).

25. The passages cited are taken from the Tekin translation (cited in Note 1, this chapter), pp. 263-267, with corrected spellings.

26. Kutadgu Bilig by Balasagunlu Yusuf, completed in 1077, translated by Dankoff as Wisdom of Royal Glory (Chicago, 1983). The passages cited are taken from the Dankoff translation, including the associated line numbers.

27. See, for example, Azerbaijan filologiyasy meseleleri, No. 2 (Baku, 1984) for more than a dozen essays by various scholars on these topics, including repeated discussion of the Orkhon inscriptions, DLT and several analyses of the dastan Dede Korkut. A similar pattern is evident across Central Asia, in virtually every ‘Republic.’

28. For archival references, see M. Kemal Oke, “Prof. Arminius Vambery and Anglo-Ottoman Relations 1889-1907,” Bulletin of the Turkish Studies Association, Vol. 9, No. 2. 1985.

29. See his The Beginnings of the Great Game in Asia 1828-1834 (Oxford, 1979); idem, Commitment to Empire: Prophecies of the Great Game in Asia 1797-1800 (Oxford, 1981); idem, In Defense of British India: Great Britain in the Middle East 1775-1842 (London, 1984).

30. Published (Paris, 1896).

31. See Mogollarin Gizli Tarihi (A. Temir, Trans.) (Ankara, 1948), p. 227. There is also a more recent English translation by F. Cleaves.

32. See T. Allsen, Mongol Imperialism (Berkeley, 1987); M. Rossabi, Khubilai Khan (Berkeley, 1988).

33. Issued by H.M. Government, Naval Staff Intelligence Department (Oxford, November 1918).

34. Published (Leipzig, 1885).

35. On this work, and the identification of its author, see Togan’s comments in Turkistan, pp. 560-563.

36. For additional references, see H.B. Paksoy, “Central Asia’s New Dastans.” Also a work entitled Turkismus und PanTurkismus by M. Cohen (whose pseudonym was Tekin Alp; a colleague of Ziya Gokalp and Omer Seyfettin during the 1910s) was published in Weimar (Verlag Gustav, Kiepenheurer, 1915). It appears that the British Admiralty had this work translated into English, from German, and classified it “secret.” See C. W. Hostler, Turkism and the Soviets (London, 1957).

37. See for example V. Propp, Morfologiia skazki (Leningrad, 1928), translated by The American Folklore Society & Indiana University Research Center for the Language Sciences, published jointly by Indiana University and The University of Texas Press: Morphology of the Folktale (Austin, 1968).

38. Divaev is the form used in Russian language sources. Togan, a fellow Bashkurt, refers to him as Divay. See Chapter Two for additional details on Divay.

39. One such example is Heda Jason, “Oral Literature and the Structure of Language,” Rand P-3758 1968, submitted to Current Anthropology, Chicago; idem, “A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Oral Literature: A Proposal,” Rand P-3733 1968. (First read to the American Anthropological Association, Washington D. C., 1967).

40. Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry, A.T. Hatto, Editor (London, 1980).

41. Hatto’s Kokotoy-Khan, cited in Note 16 above.

42. See the Introduction to the Commentary by Hatto, in his Kokotoy, pp. 90-91.

43. Z.V. Togan, “Turk Milli Destaninin Tasnifi,” in Atsız Mecmua, May, June, July, September 1931, cited in, N. Atsız, Türk Tarihinde Meseleler (Istanbul, 1975), p. 157.

44. N. Atsız, ibid.

Notes to Chapter Two

1. On Russian expansion from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries, one may begin with Caroe (cited in Chapter One); Alexandre A. Bennigsen and Chantal Lemercier-Quelquejay, Islam in the Soviet Union (G. Wheeler, trans) (London, 1964). On the late eighteenth-nineteenth century expansions, see the works of Ingram cited in Chapter One. Also see Muriel Atkin Russia and Iran, 1780-1828 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980) as well as Firuz Kazemzadeh’s classic study of Russian and Britain in Persia, 1864-1914 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968) on expansion into the Caucasus. The Gorchakov Memorandum (issued by Foreign Minister Gorchakov in 1864 as an instruction to Russian embassies in the West concerning the government’s grounds for its conquest of Central Asia) establishes Russia’s “civilizing mission” in Asia as one justification for the expansion. The 1892 Anglo-Russian treaty also established Afghanistan as an official buffer state between the Russian Empire and British India. On the history of Oriental Institutes and their role in this expansion, see Richard N. Frye’s “Oriental Studies in Russia,” in Wayne Vucinich, Editor, Russia and Asia (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1972).

2. The first Governor General of the krai was General Kaufman who held the post from 1867 to 1882. The conquest is discussed in several monographs including, of course, Caroe; G. Wheeler, History of Modern Central Asia (New York, London: Praeger, 1964). For a description of administrative arrangements as well as greater focus on the khanates of Bukhara and Khiva, see Seymour Becker, Russia’s Protectorates in Central Asia; Bukhara and Khiva, 1865-1924 (Cambridge, MA: the Harvard Russian Research Center Series, No. 54, Harvard University Press, 1968).

3. I. T. Kreindler, “Education Policies Toward the Eastern Nationalities in Tsarist Russia: A Study of Il’minskii’s System,” unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, 1970.

4. On Il’minskii, see Krindler, “Ibrahim Altynsarin, Nikolai Il’inskii and the Kazakh National Awakening,” CAS V. 2, N. 31983. On Ostroumov, see Togan, Turkistan, 503 and Frye, “Oriental Studies in Russia,” p. 43.

5. Togan, Turkistan, p. 503 discusses Ostroumov. N.A. Baskakov makes this argument regarding smaller Türkic populations such as the Altai, Khakass, and Tuva, but even the Yakut, Chuvash, Karakalpak and the numerous Kırghız are stated to have languages that are “either unwritten or written primitively. See Wurm’s translation in The Türkic Languages of Central Asia, pp. 1-2.

6. The same view is expressed in A. N. Kononov, Türkic Philology: 50 Years of Soviet Oriental Studies (Moscow, 1967) in English translation, p. 7. The view has even crept into Western textbooks such as Dmytryshyn, cited in Chapter One.

7. For a glimpse of such tsarist reprisals, see A.N. Kurat, Muhammed Ayaz Ishaki: Hayati ve Faaliyeti (Ankara, 1979).

8. Togan, Turkistan, pp. 492-3.

9. Ahmed Midhat (1844-1912) was a popular novelist and newspaperman active during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II. See Stanford J. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1977), p. 255.

10. Togan cites here W.W. Radloff, Proben der Volkliteratur der Turkischen Stamme, III, Introduction.

11. This material was compiled from various sources. See the articles published in Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia, (Izobraztsov, sobrannykh i zapisannykh A.A. Divaevym) (Alma-Ata,1964). esp. Chapter 1 and the article by Zarif.

12. The term used in the original Russian is uchastkovyi nadziratel, which literally means “inspector of an uchastok,” a police district.

13. More details on his travels and informants are given in Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia, p. 14.

14. N.C. Smirnova inserted the term “Kazakh” as explanatory material after the reference in the original title to Kırghız. Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia, p. 8. Discussion of terms ‘Kazakh’ and ‘Kırghız’ are taken up briefly in this chapter.

15. Smirnova, ibid, cites here Grodekov’s monograph Kirgizy i karakirgizy Syr-Dar’inskoi oblasti, vol.I, Tashkent, 1889, p. v.

16. A note in the Russian text refers to Grodekov, ibid.

17. Reviews by W. Bartold, N.F. Katanov (who criticized Divay for using the Cyrillic alphabet for transliteration) and others are reproduced in Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia.

18. Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia, p. 9.

19. This work, under the general editorship of V.I. Mezhov, comprised several hundred volumes. Divay apparently contributed to volumes 566-569. See Kazakhskia narodnaia poeziia, pp. 9-10, note 7.

20. This process is well documented in Lowell Tillett’s The Great Friendship. Tillet pays particular attention to the Kazakhs. Also useful in connection with this policy are those works on language policy cited below.

21. This and other changes are discussed in detail by Olaf Caroe, The Soviet Empire (cited in note 1, this chapter) and in C.W. Hostler, Turkism and the Soviets.

22. For the definition of Kazakh, see Togan, Turkistan, pp. 37, 38. For the political use of the term Kırghız, see A.T. Hatto, “Kırghız” in Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry, A.T. Hatto (Ed.) (London, 1980), p. 300.

23. Many sources exist on this topic, for example: Edward Allworth, Uzbek Literary Politics (The Hague, 1964); Michael Bruchis, “The Effect of the USSR’s Language Policy on the National Languages of Its Türkic People,” in Yaacov Ro’i, ed, The USSR and the Muslim World (London, 1984); Olaf Caroe; Wheeler; Stefan Wurm, Türkic Peoples of the USSR: Their Historical Background, Their Languages and the Development of Soviet Linguistic Policy (Central Asian Research Centre in association with St. Antony’s College) (Oxford, 1954); idem, The Türkic Languages of Central Asia: Problems of Planned Culture Contact (Central Asian Research Centre in association with St. Antony’s College) (Oxford, 1954).

24. Wurm, The Türkic Languages of Central Asia, 30-48. Togan discusses further problems, Turkistan, 486-513. Also see Bruchis, note 23, this chapter.

25. See Azarbayjan Dilinin Izahly Lughati (Baku, 1980); Kazakh Tilining Tusindirme Sozdigi (Alma-Ata, 1961); Tatar Teleneng Ahglatmatly Suzlege (Kazan 1977); Uzbek Tilining Izokhli Lughati (Moscow, 1981).

26. A. Bennigsen, “The Crisis of the Türkic National Epics,1951-1952: Local Nationalism or Internationalism?,” Canadian Slavonic Papers, V. XVII, No. 2 & 3, 1975.

27. Tura Mirzaev, Alpomish Dostonining Uzbek Variantlari (Tashkent, 1968), pp. 9-13.

28. Bennigsen, p. 465.

29. Anthology of Uzbek Poetry (Moscow, 1949), cited without page number in Bennigsen, p. 467.

30. SE (Moscow, 1950), cited in ibid.

31. Preface to the Russian translation (Moscow, 1949), cited in ibid.

32. “Concerning the Poem Alpamysh,” Literaturnaia Gazeta, 14 September, 1952, cited in ibid, p. 468.

33. Pravda Vostoka, Tashkent, 24 February, 1952, cited in ibid.

34. Pravda Vostoka, Tashkent, 28 February, 1952, cited in ibid.

35. Pravda Vostoka, Tashkent, 3 April, 1952, cited in ibid. The charge is self-contradictory since, by definition, a “pan” movement must be broader than nationalism.

36. “Ob epose ‘Alpamysh,’” in Pravda Vostoka, 29 January 1952.

37. “Obsuzhdenie eposa ‘Alpamysh’ i vopros uzbekskoi fol’kloristiki,” in Pravda Vostoka, 3 April 1952.

38. Ibid.

39. “Alpomish dostonining mukhokamasi,” in Shark Yilduzi, vol. 5 (Tashkent) 1952, cited in Mirzaev, 14. Details are given in Pravda Vostoka, 29 January; 24, 27, 28 February and 3 April 1952. Although the word “mukhokama” can also mean “judgement” or “discernment,” in this context it is best understood as “the hearing of a case in court; trial” and therefore has been here rendered as “trial.”

40. “Obsuzhdenie,” cited in note 48.

41. Vsesoiuznoe soveshchanie po voprosam izucheniia narodov SSSR, Khronika in Izvestiia AN SSSR, Institut literatury i iazyki,1954, vol. XIII, No. 5, cited in Mirzaev, p. 15.

42. Mirzaev, p. 15.

43. N. Shukurov, S. Mirzaev, KH. Donierov, “‘Alpamysh’ dostoni hakkida,” in Shark Yilduzi (Tashkent) 1956, vol. 2, cited in Mirzaev, p. 16.

44. Tezisy dokladov i soobshchenii regional’nogo soveshchaniia po eposu ‘Alpamysh’ (Tashkent, 1956), published by AN UzSSR. Also cited in Mirzaev, p. 17.

45. Tezisy. Also cited in Mirzaev, p. 17.

46. Borovkov, “Geroicheskaia poema ob Alpamyshe,” in Tezisy, 61-86, cited in Mirzaev, pp. 17-18.

47. Kh. Zarifov, “‘Alpomish’ eposining asosii motivlari,” in Shark Yilduzi No.1, 1957 (Tashkent), cited in Mirzaev, p. 16.

48. Mirzaev, 14. Also see “Ob epose ‘Alpamysh,’” (excerpts reprinted in Literaturnaia Gazeta, 12 February 1952); and also by Abdunabiev and Stepanov, “Pod flagom narodnosti,” in Zvezda Vostoka, (Tashkent) 1952, No. 4.

49. Richard Frye, “Oriental Studies in Russia.”

50. Wayne Vucinich, “Structure of Soviet Orientology,” in Vucinich, Russia and Asia.

51. Iz istorii sovetskogo vostokovedeniia by N.A. Kuznetsov and L. M. Kulagina (Moscow, 1970) (Publication of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Oriental Institute), p. 12. (Henceforth: Izistorii). Also cited in Vucinich, p. 56.

52. Vucinich, p. 52. On the development of Lenin’s interest in the revolutionary potential of the colonial world, see Richard Pipes, Formation of the Soviet Union; Communism and Nationalism, 1917-1923 (Cambridge (MA), 1957); and I.T. Kreindler, “A Neglected Source of Lenin’s Nationality Policy,” in Slavic Review (March 1977). On the Baku Congress, see Alexandre Bennigsen and S.E. Wimbush, Muslim National Communism in the Soviet Union (Chicago, 1980); Stephen White, “The Baku Congress of the Toilers of the East,” Slavic Review, September, 1967.

53. Novyi Vostok, N. 4 (1925), pp. 503-504. cited in Vucinich, pp. 56-7.

54. Iz istorii, pp. 27-28. (Also cited in Vucinich, p. 59).

55. Mirzaev, p. 8, cites the resolution in Özbek “Partiyanin badii adabiyat sahesindeki siyaseti.” The resolution was originally in Russian.

56. B. Dmytryshyn, A History of Russia, (Englewood Cliffs: New Jersey, 1977), p. 516, discusses this cultural policy.

57. Vucinich, p. 55.

58. Vucinich, p. 56.

59. Iz istorii, p. 136, citing “Perspektivnyi plan raboty Instituta vostokovedeniia AN SSSR v blizhaishchee piatiletie,” in Kratkie soobshcheniia Instituta vostokovedeniia AN SSSR, vol. 1, 1951, pp. 3-16.

60. Iz istorii, Chapter II, and Vucinich, p. 56.

61. Vucinich, p. 60, citing Iz istorii, pp. 72, 73.

62. Iz istorii, pp. 73-75.

63. Iz istorii, p. 75.

64. See D. Montgomery, “Career Patterns of Sixteen Uzbek Writers,” presented to the Second Central Asian Conference, held in Madison, Wisconsin, October 1985.

65. G.A. Kniazev and A.V. Kol’tsov, Kratkii ocherk istorii Akademii nauk SSSR (Moscow-Leningrad, 1957), p. 122, cited in Vucinich, p. 66.

66. Vucinich, p. 67.

67. Vucinich, note 72 cites a report on this congress published in Izvestiia AN SSSR, Otdeleniia literatury i iazyka (1944), pp. 177-81.

68. Vucinich, p. 69.

69. Vucinich, p. 70, note 70 citing I. Amusin, “Sektor drevnego iranne-srednevekovogo IVAN {Institut vostokovedeniia akademiinauk},” in k drevnei istorii (VDI), 1948, pp. 164-167.

70. Iz istorii, pp. 134-135, citing document.

71. Vestnik AN SSSR (hereafter: Vestnik ), 1950, No. 9, pp. 86-87.

72. Iz istorii, 135, citing “Otchet Instituta vostokovedeniia ANSSSR za 1950 g.,” (hereafter: “ (year)”).

73. Vucinich, p. 74, notes 91-93, citing Voprosy istorii, no. 9 (1954) and no. 3 (1957); Iz Istorii, pp. 141-142; and Vestnik, no. 4(1953).

74. Vucinich, note 94 for other details.

75. Vucinich, 75, notes 96-97, citing Bol’shevik, no. 13 (1952) and Voprosy istorii, no. 11 (1952).

76. Iz istorii, 141-142, citing “O nauchnoi deiatel’nosti isostoianii kadrov Instituta vostokovedeniia,” in Vestnik, no. 4, p. 77.

77. Vucinich, p. 76, states these changes were made in 1955. In Izistorii, 143, the authors are ambiguous, but suggest the changes were made around 1953.

78. Iz istorii, 143, citing “ 1952 g.,” ArkhivInstituta narodov Azii AN SSSR (henceforth: Arkhiv); and “Postanovlenie Prezidiuma AN SSSR ot 13 Fevralia 1953 g.,” Arkhiv.

79. Iz istorii, p. 135, citing “ 1950 g.,” Arkhiv.

80. Plan reproduced in Iz istorii, p. 142.

81. Vucinich, p. 72.

82. Iz istorii, p. 146, citing “Otchet…za 1955 g.,” Arkhiv.

83. Iz istorii, p. 148, citing P.P. Bushev, “O rabote Instituta vostokovedeniia Akademiia nauk SSSR,” in Voprosy istorii, 1954, no. 9.

84. Iz istorii, p. 151 citing V.V. Struve and M.A. Korostobtsev, “100-letie so dnia rozhdeniia V. C. Golenishcheva,” in Vestnik , 1957, no.2.

85. Iz istorii, pp. 152-153 citing “O zadachakh i strukture Instituta vostokovedeniia AN SSSR,” in Vestnik, 1956, no.1.

86. Iz istorii, p. 154.

87. Iz istorii, p. 157, citing P. A. Brovtsinov, “Plannauchno-issledovatel’skikh rabot Instituta vostokovedeniia ANSSSR na 1959-1965 gg.,” in Voprosy storii, 1959, no.11; (no author) “Plan nauchno-issledovatel’skikh rabot Institutavostokovedeniia AN SSSR,” in Problemy vostokovedeniia, 1960, no.1.

88. Iz istorii, p. 158.

89. Bennigsen, pp. 472-474.

90. Mirzaev, Uzbek variantlari, pp. 161-169.

91. Mirzaev, Alpomish (Tashkent, 1969), pp. 108-110.

92. Skazanie, pp. 36, 40-41.

93. Kazak Halkynyn Batyrlyk Jyry (Alma-Ata, 1972), pp. 77, 80, 97.

94. The Tajik variant I discovered is a translation, published by Akademiyai Fanhoi RCC Tojikistan, Instituti Zabon va Adabiyat banomi Rudaki: Alpomis (Stalinabad, 1959).

95. A project was discussed in 1982 to create a German translation with the cooperation of East German institutions and Özbek scholars.

96. Mirzaev, Uzbek variantlari, pp. 17-20.

97. See Togan, Turkistan, pp. 504, 513, 516, 520.

98. Kazakh halkynyn Batyrlyk Jyry, p. 11.

99. Kazakh Halkynyn Batyrlyk Jyry, p. 11.

100. “A.A. Divaev; k 25-letuiu nauchnoi deiatel’nosti,” published in Zhivaia Starina, 1916, no. 3, 37-38, reprinted in Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia, pp. 173-4.

101. Togan, Turkistan, p. 556. Togan was 23 at the time of this visit.

102. Full citation in note 11.

103. Ghabdullin and Sydykov, p. 15, note 18.

104. From a reprinted presentation by Sydykov before the Academy commemorating the 100th anniversary of Divay’s birth in 1855 (reproduced pp. 181-185). A note cites this as vol. X, pp. 3-40. Only in this work is that volume of the Sbornik cited as 1902 rather than 1901. However, since the separately published Alpamysh is dated 1901, it can only be an offprint from a 1901 publication.

105. Togan, Turkistan, pp. 493, 513.

106. Mirzaev, Uzbek variantlari, pp. 7, 8. Mirzaev examines both the 1928 manuscript and the 1923 printed version in Bilim Ocagi.

107. See H.B. Paksoy, “New Dastans,” cited above. Muhbir, Uzbekistan Kompartiyasi Markazii Komitetining Nasriyati, November, 1982.

Notes to Chapter Three

1. M. Ghabdullin and T. Sydykov, Kazak halkynyn batyrlyk jyry, 37, fn. 4. (Henceforth, Ghabdullin and Sydykov).

2. Batyrlar is not identified, but is called a ‘series’ by Sydykov, “‘Alpamysh’ v publikatsii A. A. Divaeva” in Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia, pp. 181-186.

3. Ghabdullin and Sydykov, p. 37.

4. A.S. Levend, in his Türk Edebiyati Tarihi (Ankara, 1973) states that Chaghatay is primarily based on Uygur, which later became Karakhanid on the way to Chaghatay. See also A. von Gabain, Ozbekische Grammatik mit Bibliographie, Lesestucken und Worterverzeichnis, mit einer Karte von Turkestan, mit Ortsnamen in Ozbekischer Form (Leipzig and Vienna, 1945), p. 278; S. Cagatay, Türk Leheleri zerine Denemeler, Ankara, 1978.

5. See Alexander Park, Bolshevism in Turkistan 1917-1923 (New York, 1957); G. Wheeler, Racial Problems in Soviet Muslim Asia, Institute of Race Relations (Oxford, 1960). See also W. Bartold, Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion, 4th ed. (London, 1977).

6. See for example the writings of Ali Shir Navai and Babur.

7. See text above.

8. Togan, Turkistan, pp. 37, 38 provides a definition of the word “kazakh.” It must also be pointed out that the Kırghız are mentioned in the Orkhon inscriptions. See Tekin, KT E4, E14; BK E15; pp. 261-281.

9. Zhirmunskii in his 1960, Russian-language work and in Chadwick and Zhirmunsky, pp. 292-4, argues that this version is Karakalpak and was “mistakenly” called “Kırghız” by Divay. This is explored in Chapter Four.

10. See H.B. Paksoy, “Observations Among Kırghız Refugees from the Pamirs of Afghanistan Settled in the Turkish Republic,” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, Volume XVI, no. 1. Hilary 1985. Idem, “The Traditional Oglak Tartis Among the Kırghız of the Pamirs,” The Royal Asiatic Journal, 1985, Part II.

11. Dr. Nazif Shahrani, who spent 22 months among this tribe in the Pamirs, was in 1984 compiling a biography of Rahman Kul Kutlu at UCLA.

12. See the text in the appendix of the printed edition.

13. See V. Smith, The Oxford History of India (Oxford, 1919), p. 225.

14. See Halil Ethem, Duvel-i Islamiyye (Istanbul, 1927), p. 463.

15. See S. Digby, “Iletmish or Iltutmish? A Reconsideration of the Name of the Dehli Sultan,” Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies (Iran), 1970, VIII, pp. 57-64.

16. See the version by Le Baron Desmaisons, Histoire des Mogols et des Tatares, Tome I, Texte. Imprimerie de l’Academie Imperiale des sciences (St. Petersburg, 1871).

17. Inan, p. 181.

18. See A Grammar of Orkhon Türkic, pp. 250, 268.

19. Borovkov, “Geroicheskaia poema,” cited in Mirzaev, p. 18.

20. V. M. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie ob Alpamyshe i bogatyrskaia skazka (Moscow, 1960), p. 66.

21. Barthold’s “Turetskii epos i Kavkaz,” in Iazyk i literatura, vol. V. (Leningrad, 1930), 12, cited in Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, 71. See also Barthold’s article on “Kalmucks,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition, (EI 1) vol.2, pp. 700-701; Bartold’s “Eshche izvestie o Korkude,” in ZVOPAO, v. XIX, 1890. Finally, Bartold’s translation of Dede Korkut was published in ZVORAO, v. XV, 1903 and republished in the Baku 1950 publication on pages 42-67, cited in Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 67, note 13.

22. V. Zhirmunsky, “The Epic of Alpamysh and the Return of Odysseus,” Proceedings of the British Academy, London, 1966.

23. Togan, Turkistan, pp. 35, 40.

24. Togan, Turkistan, p. 29. It should be noted, however, that the Kungrats were originally an Eastern Mongolian tribe (Qonggirad) and the consort of the Chinggisids. I am indebted to Thomas Allsen and Hidehiro Okada for (independently) bringing this fact to my attention.

25. V.M. Zhirmunskii and Kh.T. Zarifov, Uzbekskii narodnyi geroicheskii epos (Tashkent, 1947), pp. 69-70, citing in part A.A. Semonov, whom Hadi Zarif thanks for providing information on Özbek historical documents of the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries. Mirzaev, p. 18 also cites Kh.T. Zarifov, “Osnovnye motivy eposa ‘Alpamysh’,” in Tezisy, p. 28 on this topic.

26. Grousset, p. 421.

27. Togan, Turkistan, p. 104.

28. Grousset, p. 479; also discussed in Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, pp. 70-71.

29. Togan, Turkistan, p. 171.

30. Grousset, 522. Also Togan, Turkistan, pp. 157-176 on Kalmak migrations through the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries.

31. Togan, Turkistan, pp. 163-167. Also Muhammed Haidar, A History of the Moghuls of Central Asia, translated by E. Denison Ross (New York, 1970), pp. 73-121.

32. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, p. 71.

33. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, p. 69.

34. See Togan, Turkistan, p. 61.

35. See Chadwick and Zhirmunsky, p. 293.

36. L.S. Tolstova, Istoricheskie traditsii iuzhnogo Arala (Moscow, 1984), pp. 131-134. This passage and the translation were kindly provided by Prof. Hatto, private communication of 1985. Spelling and punctuation are his.

37. A.A. Divay, Alpamysh Batir: Kırghız Poem (Tashkent, 1901), p. 41. (Henceforth: Divay). Divay’s own Russian translation includes numerous explanatory notes, which are cited in this commentary.

38. Private correspondence of 1985 with Remy Dor.

39. Divay, note on p. 41.

40. Private communication of 1984 from A.T. Hatto.

41. Private communication of 1985 from Remy Dor.

42. Divay, p. 42.

43. Divay, p. 42, note 1.

44. Since the early Mamluk soldiers were largely composed of Kipchak Turks who had come or were brought to the Mamluk Sultanate from the steppes of Central Asia it may be that the game came with them. See also The Cambridge History of Islam, P.M. Holt, A. Lambton, B. Lewis (eds), (Cambridge, 1970), Vol IIB, p. 833; C.E. Bosworth, “Barbarian Incursions: The coming of the Turks into the Islamic World,” Islamic Civilization, D.S. Richards, Ed. (Oxford, 1973).

45. Ibn Taghribirdi, Al-Nudjum al-Zahira (Ed. Cairo) VIII, 6, ll. 3-7, cited in D. Ayalon, “Notes on the Furusiyya Exercises and Games in the Mamluk Sultanate,” (translated from Hebrew) in his The Mamluk Military Society (London, 1979).

46. Divay, p. 43, note 1.

47. See the entry on “Kalendar” in EI2, IV, p. 472.

48. Divay, p. 43, note 2.

49. Divay, p. 44, note 1. Explanations of terms in parenthesis and quotation marks are from Sir James W. Redhouse, A Turkish and English Lexicon, New Edition (Beirut, 1974).

50. See H.B. Paksoy, “Oglak Tartis,” cited in note 10. In the Persian speaking areas of Central Asia, i.e. portions of Afghanistan, Kk Br is played under the designation of bozkashi.

51. Aksakal: literally white beards, the respected elders of the tribe. Karasakal (black beards-able bodied adults) are the middle generation who are above the bola (children) group. The latter includes the youngsters still in adolescence. Ibid, note 8.

52. In fact, in the heat of the game, the goat is often pulled apart. It is a normal occurrence to stop the contest momentarily to replace the totally obliterated carcass. Ibid, note 9.

53. Sky Wolf, or Blue-White Wolf. Ibid, note 11.

54. See Togan, Oguz Destani (Istanbul, 1972).

55. Mohammed Haidar, A History of the Moghuls of Central Asia (translated by E. Denison Ross), (New York, 1970), p. 79.

56. See James Hutton, Central Asia (London, 1875).

57. Divay, p. 46, note 1.

58. Divay, p. 47, note 1.

59. Divay, p. 47, note 2.

60. For a catalogue of offices in a similar setting, see Beatrice Manz, “Politics and Control Under Tamerlane,” unpublished PhD Dissertation, Harvard, 1983.

61. See also Lewis, p. 204, note 82.

62. Divay, p. 48, note 1.

63. See W. Radloff, Versuch Eines Worterbuches der Türk-Dialecte (‘s Gravenhage, 1960). V. 3, p. 793.

64. Divay translates “taksir” as “O Ruler” on page 49.

65. Divay, p. 49, note 1. See also entry on Khidr-Ilyas in EI2, vol V., and Lewis, p. 196, note 11.

66. Divay, p. 52, note 1.

67. Divay, p. 55, note 1.

68. Divay, p. 55, note 2.

69. Divay, p. 56, note 1.

70. Divay, p. 57, note 1.

71. See Tekin; I. Kafesoglu, Türk Milli Kulturu, p. 289; D. Sinor, “‘Umay,’ a Mongol spirit honored by the Turks,” in Proceedings of International Conference on China Border Area Studies. National Chengchi University. (Taipei, 1985), pp. 1771-1781.

72. Divay, p. 58, note 1.

73. Divay, p. 58, note 2.

74. See A.T. Hatto, Kokotoy-Khan, p. 127.

75. Divay, p. 58, note 3.

76. Divay, p. 58, note 4.

77. Divay, p. 62, note 1.

78. Barthold, I:122. Also see Togan, Turkistan, pp. 49, 80; and Muhammed Haidar, p. 80.

79. Togan, Turkistan, p. 167.

80. Grousset, pp. 351-353.

81. Ibid, p. 431.

82. Islam Ansiklopedisi (Istanbul, 1971), pp. 491-5.

83. See the section on Divay.

84. See H.B. Paksoy, “Nationality and Religion: Three Observations from mer Seyfettin” CAS V. 3., N. 3, 1984.

85. See Abulgazi, Şecere-I Türk.

86. Divay, pp. 71-72.

87. Divay, p. 72, note 1.

88. Divay, p. 72, note 2.

89. Lewis, pp. 170 and 204, note 82.

90. Divay, p. 74, note 1.

91. Divay, p. 74, note 2.

92. Divay, p. 76, note 1.

93. Divay, p. 78, note 1.

94. See DLT, pp. 74, 150, 173, 413; Also Tekin, KT N8, N9 for early references.

Notes to Chapter Four

1. Mirzaev, Uzbek variantlari, pp. 151-160.

2. V.M. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie ob Alpamyshe i bogatyrskaia skazka, (Moscow: Izd. Vostochnaia literatura, 1960). Publication of the Academy of Sciences of USSR the Gorkii Institute of World Literature and the Oriental Institute.

3. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 35 and note 13. “A. Divaev. ‘Etnograficheskie materialy VII,” (in Sbornik... vol IX. Taskent 1901 and separately); second edition in the series Kirgiz-Kazakhskii bogatyrskii epos, v. VI Tashkent 1922 (without translation).

4. See Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia (Iz obraztsov, sobrannykh i zapisannykh A.A. Divaevym) (Alma-Ata, 1964), p. 182. This is a publication of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR, M. Auezov Institute of literature and art. Another version was collected from Irkembek Akhenbek, a “Kazakh of the Chimkent uezd of the Nogaikurinsk volost,” and published in Russian under the title “Velikan Alpamysh” (The Giant Alpamysh), in Turkestanskaia vedomost’, 1916, No. 217-218.

5. Chadwick and Zhirmunsky (see note 9 below), p. 292.

6. Kazakhskaia narodnaia poeziia.

7. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, pp. 69-70.

8. Uzbek variantlari, pp. 29-30. On the other hand, as noted in Chapter One, this is in contradiction to Zhirmunskii and Zarifov’s writings.

9. This view is presented in English in Nora K. Chadwick and Victor Zhirmunsky, Oral Epics of Central Asia (Cambridge, 1969), p. 293.

10. Zhirmunskii, p. 15; repeated from Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, p. 68.

11. See Chapter One.

12. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 15.

13. Mirzaev, Uzbek Variantlari, p. 10.

14. According to Mirzaev, pp. 4, 108, the variant of Berdi Bahshi was recorded in 1926 by Abdulla Alaviy.

15. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, On Fazil’s variant 16-23, 23-24 on the bahsis, 24-30 on variations of other bahsis listed here; additional information on the bahsis in Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, Chapter 1.

16. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, pp. 40-45; shorter but similar comments are found in Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, pp. 66-67, 102. In the 1947 work the story is not tortuously retold, but differences are simply pointed out.

17. Zhirmunskii notes, Skazanie, p. 40, note 18, that he is indebted for information on this repository to corresponding member N.A. Smirnova and ‘nauchnyi sotrudnik’ (‘scientific assistant’) T. Sydykov. The wording of this statement suggests that Zhirmunskii did not actually see these manuscripts.

18. A.S. Orlov, Kazakhskii geroicheskii epos (Moscow: Academy of Sciences, 1945) cited in Skazanie, p. 41, note 20.

19. Togan, Turkistan, pp. 492, 493.

20. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 40, note 21.

21. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, pp. 35-39.

22. Published in Latin orthography as “Alpamys” in Moscow, 1937, with second edition Tashkent 1941, cited in Zhirmunskii, p. 36.

23. Zhirmunskii, p. 36, does not give the date of collection, but cites the publication of this work as Alpamys (Nukus, 1957).

24. Narod means a people, equivalent of halk; in Russian, narodnyi may mean ‘folk’ or ‘national,’ depending on context. Here it is contrasted to the term ‘natsional’nyi’ and so it is rendered as ‘folk.’ However, elsewhere in this passage, the term ‘national’ is more in keeping with the sense of the passage.

25. USSR Academy of Sciences, Department of Literatures and Languages, V.M. Zhirmunskii: sravnitel’noe literaturovedenie, vostok i zapad (Leningrad, 1979). (Part of the series “V. M. Zhirmunskii; izbrannye trudy.”).

26. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, pp. 61-68.

27. See Chapter Two. This is true primarily of Section 2, Chapter 2 (the chapters of Section 2, of which there are three, are by Zhirmunskii) on “Epic Songs.” The final chapter on “Singers of Epics” actually contains comparatively little material on Cenral Asians ozans. What there is seems heavily based on Hadi Zarif’s work.

28. Zhirmunskii, pp. 16-23; Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, pp. 61-65.

29. Zhirmunskii’s note 29 cites his own Vvedenie v izuchenie Manas (Frunze, 1948), p. 20.

30. Translated from the text of Kazan 1899.

31. Zhirmunskii, “Literaturnye otnosheniia Vostoka i Zapada kak problema sravnitel’nogo literaturovedeniia,” (Literary relations of East and West as a problem of comparative literature,” in the Trudy iubileinoi nauchnoi sessii (Works of the jubilee academic session) of the Leningrad State University, Section of Folkloric Sciences (Leningrad, 1946).

32. This translation from Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, pp. 36-37, also in Chapter Two.

33. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 29.

34. For a comparison of Alpamysh and Bamsi Beyrek, see H.B. Paksoy, “Alpamis ve Bamsi Beyrek: Iki Ad, Bir Destan,” Türk Dili, Sayi 403, Temmuz, 1985. This paper was rendered into Kazakh by Fadil Aliev and published under the original author’s signature, in its entirety (but without footnotes), in the weekly Kazak Edebiyati, No. 41 (Alma-Ata, 10 October 1986).

35. These were published in Zapiski Vostochnogo otdeleniia Russkogo arkheologicheskogo obshchestva, (ZVORAO) vols. VIII, XI, XII, XV, 1893-1903; they were apparently republished (presumably from these issues of the ZVORAO) by the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences as a single work under the title Dede Korkut (Baku, 1950), cited in Zhirmunskii, p. 64, note 1.

36. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 63. More detail about Bartold’s publishing history of Dede Korkut is provided in Zhirmunskii and A.N. Kononov’s “From the Compilers” note in a 1962 republication of Bartold’s translation of Dede Korkut: Kniga moego Deda Korkuta (Moscow: Academy of Sciences of USSR, 1962).

37. Lewis, pp. 18, 19.

38. Lewis, p. 68. Lewis, in his commentary, refers to the “tiresome question” about Lady Chichek’s whereabouts. He argues that since the manuscripts from which he made his translation represent fragments, it is not possible to determine this matter.

39. Since Beyrek had been betrothed to her, however, it must be assumed that he did marry her.

40. Lewis, pp. 15-6.

41. Abul Gazi, Rodoslovnaia Türkmen, p. 78 (Zhirmunskii, p. 83, cites here the Russian translation of Şecere-I Terakime).

42. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, Uzbekskii narodnyi geroicheskii epos, p. 74.

43. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 71, refers to Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, p. 74.

44. N. Macler, Contes legendes et epopee populaire de l’Armenie, (Paris, 1928) and E. Rossi, Kitab-i Dede Qorqut (Vatican, 1952), p. 58; cited in Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 76, note 31.

45. Rossi, p. 58, cited in Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 77.

46. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, pp. 70-71.

47. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 15.

48. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 15.

49. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, p. 68; repeated in Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, p. 15.

50. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, p. 41.

51. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, p. 41.

52. Zhirmunskii, Skazanie, pp. 18-21.

53. Zhirmunskii and Zarifov, p. 41.

54. There is no evidence in his narratives, commentaries or notes that Zhirmunskii knew any Türkic dialect. All his references are to Russian translations of Alpamysh and, in works such as the 1962 republication of Bartold’s translation of Dede Korkut, Zhirmunskii states that items “were checked” against other manuscripts and indicates that his own contribution was limited to compilation. His biography similarly does not reflect any knowledge of Turkish.

55. Gazi Alim, “Alpamysh Dastanina Mukaddime” in Bilim Ocagi, No 2-3, Tashkent, 1923.

56. See the items 19 through 29 in the Bibliographical Appendix.

57. See H.B. Paksoy, “Central Asia’s New Dastans.”

About the Author

Hasan Bülent Paksoy is a Turkish historian (b. 1948 in Ödemiş) who earned his doctoral degree at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford. He was a Faculty Associate at Harvard University and taught at the Ohio State University, Franklin University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Central Connecticut State University, Texas Tech University, and Baker College. He is now happily retired.

In addition to authoring numerous original and historical works, Paksoy is the translator of such historical fiction as The Sun is Also Fire, a short story about the struggle of the Turks of Transoxiana to remain independent of the expanding Caliphate in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D.


Text copyright © 1989 H.B. Paksoy

Cover image: Noyan Turunç, Esq.

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