[TURKISTAN-N] TN: Book Review -- "The Ethnic Origin ofTurko-Tatars" [SabirzyanBadretdin]]

--- In b_c_n@yahoogroups.com, Polat Kaya <tntr@C...> wrote:

Turkistan Newsletter Wed, 11 Sep 2002 18:56:43
Turkistan Bulteni ISSN:1386-6265
Uze Tengri basmasar asra yer telinmeser, Turk bodun ilining torugin
kem artati, udaci erti. [Bilge Kagan in Orkhon inscriptions]

From: SabirzyanB@a...
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2002 23:13:25 EDT


"The Ethnic Origin of Turko-Tatars" by Mirfatih Zakiyev (Torki-Tatar
Etnogenezi, Kazan, 1998)

In the early 1980's, I was a history student at
Kazan State University, located in the capital of Tatarstan, an
autonomous republic within the former Soviet Union. The curricula of
Soviet universities devoted very little time to teaching the history
of ethnic minorities. Tatar history, just like the history of other
Turkic peoples, was generally treated as a relatively insignificant
footnote to the "glorious" history of the Russian people. Moreover,
Tatars and other non-Slavic and non-Christian minorities were
invariably depicted as barbarians who greatly benefitted from being
subjugated by the Russian state.

I always suspected that Tatar and Turkic history was
misrepresented at best and falsified at worst in official Soviet
textbooks. Some teachers at Kazan University were less doctrinaire
than their colleagues and occasionally would mention facts
contradicting the official view of history or at least not fully
conforming to it. One such courageous teacher was Professor Suleiman
Daishev, who specialized in Tatar and Russian history.

During one of his lectures, Suleiman Daishev told us about a
book written in 1975 by a relatively little-known Kazakh scholar,
Olzhas Suleimenov. The Russian title was "Az i Ya" (a clever word
play that could be translated either as "A and Z" or as "Alphabet and
I" or even as "Asia.") In a conspiratorial voice, Suleiman Daishev
told us that the book had been banned from most libraries in the USSR
and forbidden from being mentioned in scholarly works. He told us
that the most interesting and controversial part of the book was
devoted to linguistic similarities between the ancient Sumerian and
modern Turkic languages. Most of us never had a chance to read the
book and were naturally very skeptical about Olzhas Suleimenov's
conclusions. Most students (including myself) dismissed his theories
as "wishful thinking." I should have read the book before
expressing my opinion about it.

Now, almost 20 years later, my whole view of ancient
history is very different from what it was before. My views changed
gradually after I left the Soviet Union, but the most profound change
happened after I read a book written by Mirfatih Zakiyev, a prominent
Tatar linguist and historian. His book "The Ethnic Origin of Turko-
Tatars" is an unorthodox overview of the ancient history of the
Turkic peoples from the point of view of a linguist.

Mirfatih Zakiyev contemptuously dismisses the
centuries-old "euro-centric"interpretation of ancient history, an
interpretation according to which ancient Europe was populated only by
peoples speaking Indo-European languages. According to this view, all
non-Indo-European peoples migrated to Europe much later and Turkic
peoples in particular migrated to Europe from Asia only in the 4th
century CE as nomadic invaders bent on killing, burning and pillaging
everything that stood in their way.

Summarizing meticulous research undertaken over ten years,
Mirfatih Zakiyev presents a totally different view of ancient history
from the one familiar to most of us. According to Zakiyev, the
history of the Turkic peoples is much more ancient than the
traditional euro-centric science would have us believe. The
similarities between the Turkic languages (and proto-Turkic
languages) and those of such ancient peoples as Sumerians,
Etruscans, Thracians, Scythinas, Cimmerians and Sarmatians are easily
detectable. In Zakiyev's view, this fact indirectly proves that
ancient Turkic tribes must have lived in Eastern Europe and the
Middle East as long ago as the 4th-5th millennium BCE.

If that is true, then the Turkic peoples ought to be
considered Eastern Europe's and the Middle East's native population.
Scholars belonging to the euro-centric school of thought, operating
on the false premise that Turkic peoples have always lived in Asia
and did not migrate westwards until the 4th century CE, did not even
try to look for any similarities between the Turkic languages and the
ancient languages of the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Middle
East. For example, after comparing every existing modern Indo-
European language to the ancient Etruscan language and, failing to
find any similarity to it, the euro-centrists hastily asserted
without any proof whatsoever that the Etruscan language is absolutely
unique and different from any modern language in the world. It did
not even occur to euro-centrists to compare the Etruscan language to
the Turkic languages! . In the euro-centric view, Turkic peoples
originated in Asia and came to Europe much later as alien
invaders. What could those backward Asian horseback riders have
possibly in common with the ancient predecessors of the Romans?

Asian horseback riders? - rhetorically asks Mirfatih
Zakiyev. Then how can one explain the existence of a very rich and
ancient agricultural vocabulary in Turkic languages? How can one
explain the numerous similarities between Turkic languages and the
ancient Sumerian language? Admittedly, Mirfatih Zakiyev is not the
first scholar to notice such similarities. For example, a German
scholar, Friedrich Hommel, as far back as 1915 found at least 200
words common to both the Sumerian and Turkic languages (F.
Hommel, "Zweihundert sumeroturkische Wortgleichengen", Munich, 1915).

What confuses many euro-centric scholars is that the
ancestors of ancient Turkic peoples did not necessarily call
themselves Turks. Mirfatih Zakiyev explains: The ancient ancestors of
the Turkic peoples have been known under many different names, even
though they all spoke basically the same language. It was not unusual
in ancient times for a number of closely related tribes to form a
single political entity. Depending on which one of the tribes was
dominant within such an entity at a particular period of time, the
whole state would be named after the predominant tribe. Later, when
another tribe becomes predominant, the name of the state would
change accordingly even though the ethnic composition of the state
remained the same.

Some euro-centrists question Zakiyev's reliance on linguistic
analysis, arguing that the Turkic languages must have changed
unrecognizably since ancient times, just as all the Indo-European
languages have changed. Therefore, say euro-centrists, any
similarities between the modern Turkic languages and the ancient
Sumerian language are completely accidental. Their argument is
hardly convincing given the peculiarities of the Turkic languages.
For example, the Turkic languages are agglutinative, i.e., all
derivative or compound words are formed by putting together
components expressing a single definite meaning. This quality makes
Turkic languages much less prone to any change, because the roots of
Turkic words almost never change. In contrast, the roots of words in
Indo-European languages change relatively often, over time resulting
in profound changes in those languages. Accordingly, similaritie! s
between Turkic and ancient Sumerian languages are less likely to be
accidental than similarities between Indo-European and ancient
Sumerian languages.

Zakiyev exposes such inconsistencies of predominant historical
theories using nothing but logically substantiated scientific
arguments. The response has often been personal attacks or
condescending reproach and vilification. The predominant theories are
entrenched and many of their proponents seem emotionally committed to
the assumption that only Indo-Europeans have an historic foothold in
Europe and that Asians are nothing more than relatively recent
invaders. It will take much more than a single book written in
Tatar to demolish such outdated concepts of history. Mirfatih
Zakiyev has written a book that is a harbinger of major changes in
historical thinking. He is far ahead of most of his contemporaries in
understanding ancient Turkic history.

Sabirzyan Badretdin