Turkic Studies

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Turkic Studies


the division of the humanities that studies the languages, history, literature, folklore, and culture of the Turkic-speaking peoples. Originally, Turkic studies were primarily a philological discipline; the basic sources for the discipline included the Orkhon-Enisei inscriptions (seventh to 11th centuries), which were deciphered by the Danish linguist V. Thomsen in 1893 and first read by the Russian Orientalist V. V. Radlov (W. Radloff) in 1894. Other sources used during the early period of Turkic studies were Uighur writings, and works by medieval Arabic, Persian, and Turkic authors. Particularly valuable was the ancient compilation of information about the Turkic tribes that was collected and systematized by Mahmud Kasgari.

Western Europe gained knowledge of the Turks between the 11th and 13th centuries, when Byzantium and the Crusaders opposed the Seljuk Turks. Interest in the Turks grew, particularly after the capture of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks and the associated threat of a Turkish invasion of Europe. The works of the Byzantine and Greek historians Georgios Pa-chymeres, Johannes Kantakuzenos VI, Nicephorus Gregoras, Michael Dukas, Georgios Phrantzes, Laonikos Khalkokandyles, and Michael Critobulos acquainted Europeans with the Seljuk state in Asia Minor and with the early history of the Ottoman Empire.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, descriptions of Turkey were written by Europeans who had returned from Turkish captivity, including the Bavarian Johannes Schiltberger; the Frenchman M. Boucicault; a student from Mühlbach (now Sebes, Rumania); and the Slav B. Georgievits. Other descriptions of Turkey were written by such travelers and envoys as the Saxon Adam Oleari-us, the Fleming W. Rubruquis (William of Rubruck), the Venetian Marco Polo, the Austrians O. G. de Busbecq and S. Gerlach, the Italian Pietro della Valle, the Pole Starowolski, and the Russian Afanasii Nikitin. Important information on the history of the Seljuks and the Ottoman Turks during the 16th and 17th centuries was contained in the Chronography by the Armenian historian Grigor Daranagetsi.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the attention of Western European Orientalists specializing in Turkic studies was focused on the Ottoman Empire. The French historian L. F. Marsigli and M. d’Ohsson, a Swedish diplomat in Turkey, published works on the origins of Ottoman political and military power. The Turkish language became a subject of study in Europe: the first Turkish grammar appeared in manuscript form in 1533, and the first printed Turkish grammar, by Hieronymus Megiser, was published in 1612. These and many other works on the Turkish (Ottoman) language, particularly the Turkish grammar and dictionary of F. Meninski (second half of the 17th century), served as a foundation for the scholarly study of the Turkic languages in Western Europe and Russia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The first scholarly historian of the Ottoman Empire was the Austrian Orientalist J. von Hammer-Purgstall. Until the mid-20th century, Turcologists focused on the medieval Ottoman Empire, as seen in works by the German historians F. Giese, F. von Kraelitz-Greifenhorst, and P. Wittek. Periodicals specializing in Turcology included Türkische Bibliothek (Berlin, 1905–27) and Mitteilungen zur Osmanischen Geschichte (Vienna-Hanover, 1921–26), which were published by F. Taeschner, T. Nöldeke, and F. Babinger.

In Turkey, the study of the nation’s medieval period and the publication of original sources began in the early 20th century. At Istanbul University and the Ottoman Historical Society (founded 1910), Turkish history was studied by A. Refik (Altinay) and M. F. Köprülü, and the history and literature of the Turkic peoples were investigated by A. Asim and Köprülü.

Turkic studies were founded in Russia in the second half of the 18th century by S. Khal’fin and I. Giganov. Previously, descriptions of the Turks and Turkic peoples had been recorded in such Russian chronicles as the Primary Chronicle and in other works, for example, Nestor Iskander’s Tale of the Seizure of Tsar’grad. The Turks and the Turkic peoples were also dealt with in the treatises on the Turks that Ivan Peresvetov presented to Ivan IV the Terrible, in the Scythian History of Andrei Lyzlov, and in the two-volume history of Turkey written by the Moldavian scholar D. Kantemir.

Until the mid-19th century, Turkic studies in Russia were a comprehensive discipline that dealt with Turkic languages, literatures, and historical texts, and to a certain extent with numismatics and the ethnology and folklore of the Turkic-speaking peoples. Important contributions in these fields were made by Kh. D. Fren, O. I. Senkovskii, A. K. Kazembeg, A. O. Mukhlin-skii, O. N. Böhtlingk, L. Z. Budagov, P. M. Melioranskii, and F. E. Korsh. After a chair of Oriental history was established in the faculty of Oriental languages at the University of St. Petersburg (1863), the history of the Turkic peoples became a separate discipline; scholars in the field included V. V. Grigor’ev, P. S. Savel’ev, N. Ia. Bichurin, V. G. Tizengauzen, V. V. Vel’iami-nov-Zernov, N. V. Khanykov, I. N. Berezin, V. D. Smirnov, and N. I. Veselovskii.

In the 1860’s the Russian scholars N. I. IPminskii and Radlov inaugurated a new stage in the study of the Turkic languages with their analyses of Old and Middle Turkic literary texts, their comparative studies of the Turkic languages, and their compilation óf a dictionary of the Turkic languages. Beginning in the late 19th century, V. V. Bartol’d made innovative contributions to the study of the history of the peoples of Middle Asia. He focused on the social and economic history of this area, drawing on historical sources written in the languages of the Near East. Beginning in the 19th and early 20th centuries, scholars from the Turkic-speaking peoples, including Ch. Ch. Valikhanov, K.Nasyri, M. F. Akhundov, I. Altynsarin, and N. F. Katanov, were active in Turkic studies.

Soviet Turkic studies, which differ from prerevolutionary Russian Turkic studies in terms of methodology and aims, have at the same time retained the best traditions of Russian Oriental studies. The scholars Bartol’d, Smirnov, V. A. Bogoroditskii, A. N. Samoilovich, S. E. Malov, N. I. Ashmarin, A. E. Krymskii, P. A. Falev, and V. A. Gordlevskii, who began their work in prerevolutionary Russia, continued the Russian traditions of Turkic studies and at the same time helped establish modern Turkic studies in the USSR. Other important contributions to Soviet Turkic studies, including the study of the Turkic languages, were made by B. Chobanzade, N. K. Dmitriev, A. P. Potseluevskii, I. A. Batmanov, K. K. Iudakhin, Kh. Zhubanov, N. Sauranbaev, S. Amanzholov, V. G. Egorov, B. M. Iunusaliev, L. N. Kharitonov, A. K. Borovkov, A. P. Dul’zon, Dzh. G. Kiekbaev, and N. A. Baskakov.

In the 1920’s, the Soviet Turcologists N. F. Iakovlev, L. I. Zhirkov, Samoilovich, Chobanzade, E. D. Polivanov, A. A. Pal’mbakh, A. M. Sukhotin, and Iudakhin developed new alphabets and orthographies for the Turkic languages of the USSR. At this time and later, Turkic languages that had been insufficiently studied or entirely ignored by scholars were analyzed in terms of their phonetics, grammar, and vocabulary. A scholarly terminology for the Turkic languages was developed and systematized, and textbooks were written for Turkic-language schools.

In the 1940’s, the modern Turkic languages and their dialects were first studied, in addition to historical and comparative historical phonetics and grammar. Fundamental works on the lexicology, lexicography, dialectography, and dialectology of the Turkic languages were written at this time. Turkic literary texts were first studied from a linguistic standpoint in the 1950’s. The initial volume of E. V. Sevortian’s Etymological Dictionary of the Turkic Languages was published in 1974. Many scholarly centers for Turkic studies have been established in the republics of the Turkic-speaking peoples of the USSR; they are staffed by scholars belonging to these nationalities.

Outstanding achievements in literary studies have been made by the Soviet Turcologists Smirnov, Samoilovich, E. E. BerteFs, Gordlevskii, V. M. Zhirmunskii, M. Auezov, M. Rafili, G. Arasly, M. Gainullin, and L. Al’kaeva. The history, ethnology, and archaeology of the Turkic-speaking peoples of the USSR have been extensively analyzed by Bartol’d, A. Iu. Iakubovskii, P. P. Ivanov, S. I. Rudenko, A. N. Bernshtam, N. P. Dyrenko-va, A. A. Popov, S. V. Kiselev, V. A. Shishkin, M. E. Masson, S. P. Tolstov, L. P. Potapov, A. P. Okladnikov, S. M. Abram-zon, Ia. G. Guliamov, A. Kh. Margulan, T. A. Zhdanko, S. I. Vainshtein, L. N. Gumilev, A. D. Grach, and L. R. Kyzlasov.

A further achievement of Soviet Turkic studies has been the publication in the USSR of multivolume histories of all the Turkic-speaking peoples of the Soviet Union, as well as of monographs on socioeconomic problems of the medieval, modern, and contemporary periods. These works deal with agrarian history, the social structure of society, classes and the class struggle, and the achievements of socialist construction; their authors include M. Abduraimov, A. Alizade, R. Mukminova, S. G. Kliashtor-nyi, and O. D. Chekhovich.

Soviet Turkic studies have also dealt with Turkey’s socioeconomic history from the Middle Ages to recent times. Particular attention has been devoted to peasant rebellions, periods of reform and of bourgeois revolution, the history of the national liberation movement, and Turkey’s contemporary development. These subjects have been studied by the Soviet historians Gordlevskii, V. Gurko-Kriazhin, M. Pavlovich, A. A. Alimov, B. M. Dantsig, A. F. Miller, A. D. Novichev, A. S. Tveritinova, A. M. Shamsutdinov, Iu. A. Petrosian, A. D. Zheltiakov, and P. P. Moiseev.

Centers of Turkic studies in the USSR are the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Moscow and the institute’s Leningrad division, the Gorky Institute of World Literature, the institutes of linguistics, ethnology, and archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, and institutes and divisions of Oriental studies of the academies of sciences of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Other centers of Turkic studies are the Kazan, Ufa, and Dagestan branches of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, specialized research institutes in the Kara-Kalpak, Tuva, Chuvash, Gorno-Altai, and Khakass autonomous oblasts, the Institute of History, Philology, and Philosophy of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Yakutsk branch of this division, and specialized institutes in the academies of sciences of Armenia and Georgia. Soviet Turcologists are trained at the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Moscow State University, at the universities of Alma-Ata, Ashkhabad, Baku, Kazan, Nal’chik, Samarkand, Tashkent, Tbilisi, Ufa, Frunze, Cheboksary, and Yakutsk, at the Department of Oriental Studies of Leningrad State University, and at a number of other educational institutions.

A decree of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR of Oct. 13,1973, established the Soviet Committee of Turcologists, which unites all Soviet scholars who deal with the languages, history, literature, ethnology, and archaeology of the Turkic-speaking peoples. The committee, which is under the auspices of the Division of Literature and Language of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, helps coordinate research in Turkic studies and promotes contacts and scholarly cooperation with Turcologists in foreign countries.

In foreign socialist countries, Turcologists have traditionally focused on historical and philological studies and occasionally on strictly linguistic research. In Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania, and Yugoslavia, which were once completely or partially under Turkish domination, intensive studies are made of Turkish written sources on the history of these countries; other subjects of study are Ottoman documents and the Turkic dialects spoken in these countries. Prominent Turcologists in the socialist countries include the Hungarian scholar G. Hazai, who works in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), as well as L. Fekete, G. Németh, Z. Kakuk, and G. Káldy-Nagy (Hungary), G. Gylybov, B. Nedkov, N. Todorov, B. Tsvetkova, and V. Mutafchieva (Bulgaria), M. Guboglu and V. Drimba (Rumania), H. Hadzibegic, H. Sabanovic, B. Durdev, and N. Filipovic (Yugoslavia), and P. Zieme and S. Kleinmichel (GDR).

The Hungarian scholars L. Ligeti, Németh, Hazai, A. Róna-Tas, G. Kara, Kakuk, and E. Schütz study the historical links between the Hungarian people and their language with the Turkic peoples and their languages. Outstanding Czechoslovak Turcologists include J. Rypka, J. Blaškovič, J. Kabrda, Z. Veselý, and V. Kopčan. The Polish Turcologists A. Zajączkowski, J. Rejchman, E. Tryjarski, W. Zajączkowski, A. Dubiński, and J. Ciopiński have concentrated on the study of the Karaite language, Polovtsian and Armenian documents, works of Turkic literature and their links with Persian and Arabic literary works, the history of Turkey, and Polish-Turkish cultural relations.

In Turkey, the Turcologists I. H. Uzunçarşih, Ö. L. Barkan, M. T. Gökbilgin, M. Akdağ, and H. Inalcik deal primarily with the Middle Ages and with the editing and publishing of historical sources. The scholars Y. H. Bayur, E. Z. Karal, and A. N. Kurat study modern and contemporary Turkish history. The centers of Turkic studies in Turkey are the Turkish Historical Society (founded 1931), the Turkish Linguistic Society (1932), the Faculty of Letters of Istanbul University and the university’s affiliated institutes of Turkic studies and Islamic studies, the Faculty of Letters of the University of Ankara and the faculty’s affiliated Institute of Turkic Studies, and the Atatürk University at Erzurum.

In Austria, Great Britain, Demark, Italy, Finland, France, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), and Switzerland, individual Turcologists study primarily the Turkish language and Turkish history and literature. Western European Turcologists include A. von Gabain, B. Spuler, B. Flemming, and G. Dörfer (FRG), M. Räsänen and P. Aalto (Finland), L. Bazin, R. Mantran, C. Cahen, J. Hamilton, and I. Mélikoff (France), and A. Bombaci (Italy).

Turkic studies in the USA were established in the late 1930’s and expanded in the 1950’s and 1960’s, owing mainly to the immigration of Turcologists from Europe and Turkey. These scholars helped institute courses in the Turkic languages at Columbia University (K. H. Menges and T. Halasi-Kun), at Harvard University and its Center for Middle Eastern Studies affiliated with the Russian Research Center, at the University of California at Los Angeles, and at the University of Indiana (D. Sinor). Since 1960 the University of Indiana has published the Uralic and Altaic Series, whose publications include textbooks for the Uralic and Altaic (including Turkic) languages. Outstanding Turcologists in the USA are Stanford Shaw, R. H. Davison, R. Devereux, S. Mardin, and H. A. R. Gibb; a prominent Canadian Turcolo-gist is Niyazi Berkes.

Turkic studies in Japan, which have a long-standing tradition, were revived after World War II (1939–45) with the works of Shiro Hattori, Masao Mori, Nobuo Yamada, and I. Muroyama. Japanese Orientalists are united in the Institute of Eastern Culture (Toho Gakkai, founded 1947), which has divisions in Tokyo and Kyoto.

The main periodicals dealing with Turkic studies (in addition to those specializing in Oriental Studies) are Sovetskaia tiurkologiia (Soviet Turkic Studies; Baku, since 1970), Tiurkologicheskii sbornik (Collected Materials on Turkic Studies; Moscow, since 1970), Asia Major (London, since 1949), Türk Dili Belleten (Istanbul, since 1933), Türk Dili Arasttrmalan yilhgi Belleten (Ankara, since 1953), Türkiyat Mecmuasi (Istanbul, since 1925), Türk tarih Kurumu: Belleten (Ankara, since 1937), Tarih Dergisi (Istanbul, since 1949), Tarih Arasttrmalan Dergisi (Ankara, since 1963), Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher (Wiesbaden, since 1922), and Turcica (Paris, since 1969).


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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