«We need to look into the past in order to understand the present and foresee the future»

Recorded history of Kazakhstan. Part 2

Recorded history of Kazakhstan. Part 2

The Qazaqstan Tarihy portal continues to acquaint its readers with a unique collection of ancient manuscripts. In the first part, the chief expert of the National Center of Manuscripts and Rare Books, Almat Absalikov, spoke about the richest collection of manuscripts from the Karakhanid era that is kept in the Republic State Institution, named the “National Center of Manuscripts and Rare Books” under the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In the second part, the readers learn about the books of the Golden Horde era.  

An era of the Golden Horde

The Golden Horde is the cradle of our culture. If there would be no Golden Horde, there would be no Kazakhs. This period had been opened by Kutb's poem “Khosrov and Shirin”, written in the 14th century at the capital of the Kazakh Khanate – the city of Syganak, that is located not far from Kyzylorda, is one of the priceless legacies of the Golden Horde period of the Jochi dynasty. Qutb wrote a literary work based on the poem of the great Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi “Khosrov and Shirin”, that was translated from Persian into Turkic in arbitrary form. As he said by himself: “I will cook Kutb halva from Nizami’s honey”. The poem was written in 1341 and it is dedicated to the eldest son of the Khan of the White Horde Uzbek Tynybek and his wife Malika-Khatun. The poem tells about the love between Khosrov and Shirin. An original form was copied in Egypt by the Mamluks in 1380 from the original version. Then, after the Napoleonic wars, she came to France. Nowadays, this manuscript of the fourteenth century in a single copy is preserved at the National Library of Paris. A facsimile version of this work was made at the National Center for the Manuscripts and Rare Books. The book is written in Arabic script and Kypchak dialect, that means, in the language spoken by the Kazakhs, Tatars, Bashkirs, Nogais, Karakalpaks and other Turkic peoples. This is the first secular lyric work in the Turkic language. For example, if we compare this with Russia, the secular works began to appear there in the 18th century, before that the works were mainly from a religious and ecclesiastical nature. We have been informed that Abai is the founder of Kazakh literature. Actually, this is wrong, Abai is the founder of a new wave of Kazakh writing. Kutb and Saif Sarai can be safely called the founders of Kazakh writing and literature.

The next book is a work and creation of the fourteenth century, “Mahabatnama (A book about love)”. Khwarizmi wrote it on behalf of the court khan of the Ak Orda, Muhammad Hadjibek. He completed his work in 1353. In all probability, “I wrote a book by the river Syr”. He noted this in Sygnak or his environs. The original version of the book “Mahabatnama” has been saved. There are two lists in the Turkic language, written in Arabic and ancient Turkic (Old Uyghur) scripts. This copy was written in Arabic script in the 16th century, and in Old Turkic script in 1432 by the scribe Bakhshi Mansur in Herat. Both of these manuscripts of “Mahabatnama” by Khwarizmi are kept in the British Museum in London now.

“Gulistan bi Turki” (Garden of Flowers) is a work of the 14th century. Saif Sarai, a poet of the 14th century, was born in Kamishly and lived and developed as a poet in the era of the Golden Horde in the city of Sarai (Saray Jadid). After the defeat of Tokhtamysh and the actual capture of the Golden Horde by Timur, most of the intelligentsia, including writers, poets, historians, and scientists, left the Golden Horde. Saif Sarai was no exception. He moved to Egypt, which was an ally of the Golden Horde in the fight against Timur. Saif Sarai worked in the office of the Egyptian sultans in Cairo, where he completed his work on the poems included in the collections called “Gulistan bi Turki” and “Yadgornama” (Book of Memoirs). The poems “Gulistan” and “Yadgornama” are written in the Turkic language of the Oguz-Kypchak dialect, i.e., the literary language of the Golden Horde. The manuscript is stored at the library of Leiden University (Netherlands). According to some reports, there are about 10 settlements called Kamyshly that are located in Kazakhstan, Tatarstan, Russia, Crimea, and other places. There is an opinion that this Kamyshly may be located in Kazakhstan. There are two settlements in Kazakhstan: Kamyslybas in the Kyzylorda region and the second one in the Atyrau region. But the village of Atyrau in the region was closed due to environmental considerations, and all residents were relocated. And, Kamyslybas in the Kyzylorda region is a very ancient settlement. It is likely that Saif Sarai is from there. The book “Gulistan bi Turki” is a collection of various ethical stories. In addition, Saif Sarai also has the book “Yadgar-nama”, built as a memoir, and the poem “Suheil and Guldursun”, which is also about love, and was already completed in Egypt. When a civil war broke out in the Golden Horde, he was forced to leave the country and fled to Egypt, where the Kipchaks-Mamluks, allies of the Golden Horde, were in power. Currently, you can find in Egypt a lot of interesting information on the history and culture of the Golden Horde.

The book “Jumjuma Sultan” from the fourteenth century was written by Husam Katib. A poem was composed in 770/1368-69 years and it is a compilation of the Persian poem "Jumjuma Nama" by Fariddin Attar (d. 627/1230 years). The poem was written based on the well-known Biblical-Quran story about Jesus and the skull, the dispute between the soul and the body. The Prophet Isa was walking along the road and saw a skull, then he stopped and asked God to resurrect him. The skull began to tell a story about himself, about how he used to be a great ruler, to whom East and West yielded, and how he had devolved into a useless skull. The poem also demonstrates an interest as a valuable linguistic monument. Actually, it is one of the relatively rare examples of the Turkic “Golden Horde” (Kypchak) literature of the 14th century. The poem was popular among the inhabitants of the Volga region, the Uralsk and Kazakhstan, as evidenced by the found lists of this manuscript during archaeographic expeditions to these regions. “Jumjuma” is translated from Arabic as a “Skull”. This poem was very popular among the Kazakhs. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, it was reprinted more than five times in Kazan, in the Kazakh language. Several lists have been preserved, the oldest of which is kept at the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in St. Petersburg. In the 19th century, Kazakhs very often told children an instructive story about the skull. When ethnographic expeditions were carried out in Kazakhstan, copies of this poem were found, but later, this tradition was interrupted suddenly. This copy was given to Kazakhstan by the Institute of History named after Sh. Marjani.

The next book is “Jamiu at Tawarikh”, written in the Persian language at the beginning of the 14th century by Rashid ad-Din Fadlulla Hamdani. The book was compiled at the request of Gazan Khan (1271–1304) and was presented in 1307 as a gift to Olzhayt Khan (1278–1316). The book is a detailed history of Genghis Khan and the Mughals, as well as an important historical source on Central Asian Turkic-Mughal tribes. The “Collection” includes important information about the Turkic nomadic tribes of Central Asia: The Naimans, Kereites, Konyrats, Kypchaks, Dzhalairs, etc. This collection is an important primary source for Kazakhstan's history between the 13th and 15th centuries. This book is a copy of the Paris copy, copied from the original in the first half of the 14th century. The book is dedicated to Genghis Khan, the Kazakh tribes, and the history of the Kazakh clans, and a brief summary of our history is given there as well. The book is decorated with interesting miniatures. Rashid ad-Din wrote this work at the request of Ghazan Khan, and had already completed it during the period of Olzhaytu Khan in the territory of modern Iran. While he was writing this work, Ghazan Khan (great-grandson of Genghis Khan) provided him with very valuable manuscripts about the history of the region. As a result, this book is the most important historical source on the life of Genghis Khan.

The book “Hashiya (sharkh) al-matul”, written in Arabic in the fourteenth century, is dedicated to Arabic eloquence. The author of the book is Taftazani (1322–1390), a Muslim scholar, calamist, and theologian, and author of books about Muslim dogmatics. Taftazani lived in Saray, the Golden Horde's capital, and wrote his works on a variety of subjects there.Taftazani wrote this book as a generalization of the book “Galhis al-Miftah” by Khatib Qazvini. A large number of comments were written on Taftazani's book; the commentary by Seyyid Mir Sharif Jurjani is among them. Yahya ibn Yusuf as-Sarami wrote the additions and a note to Taftazani's work. This book was called “Hashiya (sharh) al-Matul”. This book on Arabic rhetoric, eloquence, and oratory explains and discusses the various turns of the Arabic language, different expressions, and the rules used for the correct construction of sentences.

The book “Nahj al Faradis” was written in the fourteenth century by Mahmud ibn Ali Kerderi. A manuscript from the era of the Golden Horde (written in the 14th century in Arabic script in the Turkic language in Saray, the capital of the 3rd Golden Horde). The book includes some issues of Muslim law, ethics, and historical chronicles of early Islam. The book is written in the Oguz-Kypchak dialect of the Turkic language. One of the old copies of this manuscript, copied in A.H.761, is kept in Istanbul. The second, a copied version in A.H.792, was lost during World War II. The library at the Yeni Cami Mosque in Istanbul holds the oldest copy of this work, registered under No.879 (“Fazail al-Mujizat”).This manuscript is a copy of the Istanbul list. There are many questions about the origin of Mahmud ibn Ali Kerderi. The Tatars believe that he was a Bulgari, although he himself never mentioned this. Besides that, he was from this tribe. There is a version that says Kerderi is a place in Khorezm. This religious book is dedicated to Islamic jurisprudence and teaches the basics of Islam and Muslim ethics.

The book “Muiz al Ansab” can be called very valuable because it was written at the request of Shahrukh (son of Timur) in 1427 and completed in 830 of the lunar Hijra, i.e. The book contains tables of genealogy for the Genghisides and Timurids. This book was an important source for the history of the Chingizids in the Mughal state in India. The book is an important source for the genealogy of the 13th–15th century Jochids.This book is a Parisian list, and it has great historical and cultural value for Kazakhstan. There are five lists of Muiz al Ansab. A list of Paris is of great interest.

The next work “Qissas al-Anbiya”, written by Nasreddin ibn Burhanuddin Rabguzi and presented to Nasreddin by Tokh Buga, was released in 1310. It is a collection of stories and legends about the prophets and their companions. Rabguzi's prose is also called “Kissa and Rabguzi”. There are many copies of “Qissas al-Anbiya”. The oldest of these is in the library of the British Museum in London. The scientists confirm that this ancient manuscript was copied in the 15th century. A version of London has been investigated for the first time by the scientist K. Grenbeck and published in 1948 in Copenhagen. A facsimile version of this work was made at the National Center for Manuscripts and Rare Books.

There is also a printed version of “Jamiu at Tawarikh” by Rashid ad Din Hamdani from the 15th century. The editors of the printed edition, Muhammad Raushan and Mustafa Mousavi, noted that Rashid ad Din used more than 20,000 Turkic words and expressions when writing his work in Persian. The most famous seven lists of the manuscript are: Tashkent, Istanbul, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), the manuscript of the British Museum, the list of the Tehran Museum, and the Paris list. The book is a valuable source for the history of Kazakhstan between the 12th and 14th centuries. A printing office “Al Burz” is located in Tehran, Iran. 1373 is a year of solar Hijri (1994). Unlike a handwritten book that is difficult to read aloud, this copy is convenient for researchers to work with.

To be continued…