Rich history promises Turkic ethnic groups a brilliant future – View from Tashkent

  31 January 2023    Read: 647
 Rich history promises Turkic ethnic groups a brilliant future –  View from Tashkent

by Ravshan Nazarov

Turkic ethnic groups have been making significant contributions to the blossoming of global civilization for many centuries. The first ethnonym ‘Turk’ similar to its modern pronunciation is found in the Chinese chronicles of the 6th century, in 542 to be more precise.

In Europe, Menander and Theophanes were the first to use the term ‘Turk’ in Byzantine chronicles in 568. The Kagan of the Gokturks Baga-Ishbar (ruled the Turkic Khaganate in 581-587) was first called the ‘Great Turkic Khan’. The actual ethnic territory of the Turks begins much earlier – in the 1st century B.C, at the turn of epochs. The eminent orientalists-Turkologists Vilhelm Thomsen, Vasily Barthold and Andrey Kononov proposed several versions of how the term ‘Turk’ originated. We believe the following are the most interesting:

- from the word ‘turuk’ (‘toruk’) – sturdy, strong, reliable

- from the word ‘turu’ – legality, thoroughness

- from the word ‘turi’ – flourishing.

Turkic ethnic groups have built many states in the history of humankind. Among these are the First and Second Turkic Khaganates, Western Turkic and Eastern Turkic Khaganates, the Uyghur Khaganate, Volga Bulgaria, Mamluk Sultanate, Yenisei Kyrgyz Khaganate, Seljuk Empire, the Ghaznavid Dynasty, Karakhanid Empire, Khwarazmshahs, Timurid Empire, Babur Empire, Khanate of Kazan, Astrakhan Khanate, Khanate of Khiva, Emirate of Bukhara, the Ottoman Empire and many others. 

There are currently 6 independent Turkic states – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. There are also a number of Turkic political autonomies within other states – both Turkic and non-Turkic: within Russia – Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, Tuva, Khakassia, Chuvashia, Yakutia, and others; within Uzbekistan – Karakalpakstan; within Moldova – Gagauzia; within China – XUAR, Aksay Kazakh Autonomous County, Xunhua Salar Autonomous County, etc.

World historical science has recently made significant contribution to studying the history of Turkic ethnos. Suffice it to name such tomes as ‘Tatars’ (M., 2001), ‘The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane’ (Cambridge, 2002) by Beatrice Forbes Manz, ‘The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor’ (2002) by W.M. Thackston Jr., ‘The Turks in World History’ by Carter Vaugh Findley (Oxford, 2005), ‘Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923’ by Caroline Finkel (2005), ‘Cumans and Tatars: Oriental Military in the Pre-Ottoman Balkans, 1185-1365’ by Istvan Vasary (Cambridge, 2005), ‘The Steppe Empires of Ancient Eurasia’ by S.G. Klyashtorny and D.G. Savinov (St. Petersburg, 2005), ‘Siberian Turks’ (M., 2006), ‘Turks of Eastern Siberia’ (M., 2008), ‘Uzbeks’ (M., 2011), ‘Yakuts’ (M., 2012), ‘Kyrgyz’ (M., 2016), ‘Turkmens’ (M., 2016), ‘Azerbaijanis’ (M., 2017), ‘Chuvash’ (M., 2017) and many others.

The science of history has thoroughly researched the history of individual Turkic ethnic groups, states, dynasties, and eras. However, there is still no unified history of the Turkic ethnos yet. This is now a crucial task for researchers – Turkologists, historians, ethnologists, anthropologists, jurists, orientalists, culturologists, archaeologists, linguists, and art historians. There is a pressing need to build a unified history of the Turkic ethnos and scientists from all Turkic (and not only Turkic) countries should take part in this endeavour.

Deriving from its wealthy history, the Turkic ethnic groups have a great future ahead – and a common future at that – in the development of economy, politics, and culture.

Turkic countries have a huge tourism potential. For example, the UNESCO World Heritage List includes such precious artefacts as: historical and cultural centres of the cities of Baku, Bukhara, Merv, Samarkand, Istanbul, Khiva, Shahrisabz, Sheki, petroglyphs of Gobustan and Tanbaly, landscapes of Western Tien Shan, Issyk-Kul, Saryarka, Ustyurt, etc.

The UNESCO list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity includes numerous cultural masterpieces of the Turkic ethnos, such as the Novruz holiday, heritage of Dede Korkut, epics of Koroghlu and Manas, Azerbaijani and Turkmen carpet weaving, Turkish Karagoz theatre, Turkic bread, Uzbek pilaff, Turkish coffee, Azerbaijani mugham, Uzbek makom, Turkic yurt, Khwarazm dance of Lazgi, etc.

The Turkic ethos must use all means possible to promote their languages, cultures, history, and ethnography. There is a good deal of accumulated experience in this regard – we can rely on the history of the cultural work carried out by such established international organizations as the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Latin Union, the Arab League, Hispanidad and many others.

Apart from the ‘unified history of the Turkic ethnos’ mentioned above, it would also do us tremendous good to develop the ‘Turkic Encyclopaedia’ project, following the example of the already existing ones, such as the ‘Jewish Encyclopaedia’, ‘Encyclopaedia Iranica’, ‘Korean Encyclopaedia’, ‘Kodansha Encyclopaedia of Japan’, ‘Sahapedia’ (Indian Encyclopaedia), ‘Encyclopaedia of African peoples’, ‘Encyclopaedia of American Indians’, etc.

Apparently, the ‘Turkic Encyclopaedia’ folio will be quite substantial, given the Turks have been represented in the global culture through such prominent figures as Bumin Qaghan, Asparuh of Bulgaria, Al-Farabi, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, Mahmud of Ghazni, Alp Arslan, Nizami Ganjavi, Jalal al-Din Mangburni, Sultan Baibars, Ozbeg Khan, Ahmad Yasawi, Emir Timur (Tamerlane), Mehmet II (Mehmet the Conqueror), Mirza Ulugh Beg, Zahir ud-Din Muhammad Babur, Alisher Navoi, Ismail I of the Safavid, Suleiman I the Lawgiver, Nader Shah Afshar, Devlet I Girey Khan, Said Abd al-Ahad Khan, Muhammad Rahim Khan Feruz, Ismail bey Gasprinsky, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Sharof Rashidov, Heydar Aliyev, Islam Karimov and many other political figures, military leaders, scientists and cultural figures.

The Organization of Turkic States is a promising international association that currently comprises 5 Turkic states. The observers are neutral Turkmenistan and the Finno-Ugric state of Hungary, which is already quite symptomatic. I would like to add here that there is a scientific hypothesis that suggests that the Finno-Ugric peoples and the Turks are kindred peoples within a single Ural-Altaic linguistic family.

The permanent Summit of Turkic-speaking states has been operating since 1992 and the Turkic Council has been running since 2009 (it has even had its own flag since 2012). The Organization of Turkic States has been operating based on the Turkic Council since 2021. The Turkic states to cooperate in all fields, be it economy, politics, culture, and humanitarian directions.

The Samarkand Summit of the OTS took place in November 2022. The heads of Turkic states discussed the execution of the Turkic World Vision-2040 concept, adopted in 2021. This is a highly strategic document, which includes the roadmap for deepening cooperation among the Turkic-speaking states for the next 20 years in priority areas, such as security, transport, logistics, ICT, energy, tourism, healthcare, preservation of the environment, agriculture, culture, education, science, youth policy, sports, and working with the Turkic diasporas in all countries.

The leaders also used the OTS Samarkand Summit platform to adopt the OTS Development Strategy for 2023-2027 as a part of implementing the Turkic World Vision-2040 concept for the next 5 years. The strategy envisages carrying out numerous projects such as the Turkic Corridor, mutual investments, digitalization, facilitation of trade and customs procedures, cultural-humanitarian cooperation, and many others. Overall, the OTS is a dynamically growing international organization, which in the future may include not only the states with mostly Turkic populations but also those where the Turks are in a significant minority.


Ravshan Nazarov, Candidate of Philosophy, Uzbek historian, and senior research fellow at the Institute of State and Law under the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan especially for

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