Historiography Of Post-Soviet Кyrgyzstan

Int. J. Middle East Slud. 34 (2002), 351-374. Primed in ihe United Slates of America

Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev

Tynlchlykbek Tchoroev (Tchorotegin) is a broadcaster with the Kyrgyz Service of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and a Professor at Kyrgyz State National University; e-mail: chorotegin@hotmail.kg.
© 2002 Cambridge University Press 0020-7438/02. S9.50

HISTORIOGRAPHY OF POST-SOVIET КYRGYZSTAN

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The first written information about the Kyrgyz is found in ancient Chinese chronicles. However, no Kyrgyz historian who wrote a history of the nation can be identified before the end of the 19th century. Of course, there were many relaters of genealogical legends arid stories based mainly on folk heritage. This paucity of indigenous historiography is the reason that Kyrgyz history has been written mainly from external sources in various languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Iranian, Greek, Turkic, Mongolian, and Russian. Kyrgyz historians made their first attempts at publishing histories at the beginning of the 20th century under the influence of the reformist movement known as Jadidism. Some Kyrgyz intellectuals brought out works in Kazan, Ufa, and Orenburg. For example, books by Osmonaaly Sydyk uulu were published in Ufa in 1913 and 1915.
W. W. Barthold was the first European Orientalist to write a brief summary of the history of the Kyrgyz, in 1927, and he opened the way for the beginnings of systematic and fundamental research on their history (see Barthold 1963,471-543; cf. Schott 1864, 432-61). But this development is connected with the epoch of Soviet historiography. (I must stress that, although he continued to work into the 1920s, Barthold, a brilliant Russian Orientalist, never belonged to the Bolshevik school of historiography).
The Soviet school of historical science demonstrated an unfortunate propensity for the politicization, and sometimes even falsification, of history to please both communist ideologues and the Russians, the main nation in the former USSR. Nevertheless, owing to this school, the first research institutions were founded that focused on Kyrgyz history, archaeology, anthropology, museums, archives, and architectural restoration. During the Soviet period, a wide range of research was organized in Kyrgyzstan, becoming embodied in collective monographs on Kyrgyzstan history from ancient times to the present. At the end of 1991, when the Soviet Union fully collapsed, Kyrgyzstan had its own strong contingent of historians. Nevertheless, this detachment is destroying its old edifice, and the former Soviet school of historians is being crucially transformed. This article investigates the principal contradictions between the old Soviet school of history and the various contemporary schools of Kyrgyz historians, who are divided into different methodological and political groups. I will cover how Kyrgyz historians have dealt with issues in the stage approach to explaining history; problems of Kyrgyz ethnogenesis; the history of the states erected by Kyrgyz peoples; Russian colonialism; the problem of the historical personalities who had become non-people under the Soviets; the written culture of the Kyrgyz and surveys of its sources; and, finally, the controversies attending the commemorations of the Manas epic in 1995 and the founding of the city of Osh, planned for the year 2000.

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