THE PROBLEMS OF ETHNIC HISTORY OF THE KYRGYZ
The question of ethnic origins also had political implications in Kyrgyz Soviet historiography, which developed under the influence of Soviet anthropological theory on ethnicity. According to this theory, the family, tribe, and tribal federations arose in the primitive communal system stage; the «people» arose in the slaveowning system and feudalism stages; and the nation arose in two regular stages (i.e., the capitalist nation arose in the capitalism stage, and the socialist nation in the socialism stage). All humankind will resolve all national problems at the ultimate stage of communism, when the nations will amalgamate with one another. The peoples who had orderly kinship structures in the past and retained them until the beginning of the 20th century were named «peoples with tribal and kinship patriarchal remnants.» The Kyrgyz—one such people—were considered a «socialist nation» from the end of the 1930s (this definition applied only to the Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan; their kin in China, Afghanistan, Turkey, and elsewhere were considered exceptions to this rule). It was taken into consideration that the Soviet Kyrgyz had bypassed the stage of «capitalist nation.»
In Russian, the words narod (people) and natsiia (nation) are used somewhat synonymously. But according to the last official Soviet anthropology, natsiia (which originated from the German pronunciation of the Latin word) was used only for peoples who were living in conditions of capitalism and socialism. Narod was lower in its stage than was natsiia in its ethnic-development level. The Russian term narodnost (it seems to me that it would be correct to translate this as «subnationality») is used to express a lower stage of ethnic development than that for great peoples. For example, Russians in the 18th and 19th centuries were a narod, while many small peoples of Siberia were characterized by narodnost.
This cliche dominated Kyrgyz Soviet historiography, as well. At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the Association of Kyrgyzstan Young Historians organized several discussions of this issue and suggested rejecting the understanding of ethnic structures typical of the communist approach to social formations. The celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Kyrgyz national-liberation uprising against czarist Russia (mainly in July-August 1916) was one of the factors that prompted these discussions. J. Junushaliev and K. A. Toktomushev, active communist historians at the time, supported the official opinion of the Kyrgyzstan Communist Party leaders, who were in great doubt about the «progressive» character of this anti-Russian uprising (Toktomushev 1992). In 1990-92, these communist historians were continuing to use theoretical postulates suggesting that the Kyrgyz were not a nation (natsiia) before 1936 (or before they adopted the Stalinist constitution of «triumphant proletarian dictatorship» in the USSR on 5 December 1936); thus, they found it impossible to consider the uprising one of «national liberation.»
These historians’ opponents did not accept these postulates. They insisted that the Russian words narod and natsiia and their Kyrgyz equivalents were synonymous, which is why the Kyrgyz were a narod and a natsiia at the same time, regardless of their character and the stage of their society at the beginning of the century—that is, before the socialist regime (Omiirbekov and Tchorotegin 1992; Tchorotegin 1991).
Currently there are two opinions in post-Soviet historiography on the ethnic development of the Kyrgyz. The authors who mainly represent the «old school» continue to believe that «before 1917 the Kyrgyz … were not a natsiia [nation] and they were only a narodnost [sub-nationality], given the feudal-kinship structures of their settlements» (Koichuev 1998, 3). In another book, the sixth chapter is titled, «Formation of the Kyrgyz Sub-nationality» (the author of this chapter is б. K. Karaev, and the head of the book’s authorial team is 0. Chotonov, who was a chief editor of Communist of Kyrgyzstan magazine). Thus, the diminutive word narodnost (sub-nationality) continues to be used, suggesting latent dependence on Soviet-epoch anthropological theory (Chotonov 1995).
One new post-Soviet postulate on the ethnic development of the Kyrgyz is the rejection of artificial terminological divisions such as narod, narodnost, and natsiia. According to this major, new historical understanding among historians, the Kyrgyz are a nation with ancient historical roots. The name of the ancient Kyrgyz was first recorded in 201 в. с. in connection with Inner Asian events. In their 2,000-year history, the Kyrgyz assimilated a lot of components from their historical neighbors (the Hsiung-nu, Wu-sun, Saka, Turgesh, Oghuz, Qarluq, Qypchaq, Uighur, Chigil, Turkified Sogdians, Qara-Qitai, and other Mongolian-speaking peoples). Several Kyrgyz groups were included among the other Euro-Asian peoples and mixed with them. This was expressed during the special scientific conference devoted to research of Kyrgyz national origin and ethnic development (Kyrgyzy 1996).
There were post-Soviet revisions and re-evaluations not only of theoretical aspects but also of the understanding of several historical stages of the history of Kyrgyz ethnic development. According to Kyrgyz Soviet historiography, the postulate suggesting that «the Enissei Kyrgyz were not the sheer and immediate ancestors of the Kyrgyz people» (Ploskih 1984, 50.) officially took root. This postulate was formed under the influence of the «autochtonic theory,» which rejected any other historical regions to which the Kyrgyz had migrated and maintained that the Kyrgyz and their ancestors had been living in this country from very ancient times.
Because of this historical approach, not one archaeological expedition by Kyrgyz historians was organized in the Southern Siberia and Altai region during the Soviet period. Historians who studied problems of medieval Enissei Kyrgyz history (e.g., 0. Karaev, A. Arzymatov, and A. Abdykalykov) became estranged. Asanbek Abdykaly-kov (d. 1995) was pensioned before he reached the official retirement age. The Sinologist Galina Pavlovna Suprunenko (d. 1997), who published several works on the early medieval history of the Enissei Kyrgyz based on Chinese sources, had to change her department and, of course, her scientific subject in the 1980s.
The Enissei (in the contemporary Kyrgyz language «Ene-Say,» or «Valley Mother») stage of Kyrgyz history has in fact been included in all post-Soviet publications in Kyrgyzstan devoted to the medieval history of the Kyrgyz. However, there are two main and opposing opinions on this matter. According to one of them, the Kyrgyz had been living in Enissei (southern Siberia) and the regions bordering it since ancient times—that is to say that southern Siberia and western Mongolia were the Kyrgyz’s ancient Motherland (Koichuev 1998, 3). According to the second opinion, which gained wider currency among Kyrgyzstan’s post-Soviet historians, the ancient Kyrgyz living in the period of the great Hsiung-nu Empire werre settled in the region of the Eastern Tefiir-Too (Tian-Shan) Mountains. They migrated from this region into Enissei in the 5th century under pressure from the Juan-juans from the East and the Hephthalites in the West. It was in this period that the Ashina-Turks did the same: they were forced to migrate from eastern Turkistan (to which they had come from the Hessi passage in northwest China) to the Altai Mountains, where they made the first steps toward creating their Great Turk Qaghanat (khanate). This concept was especially defended by the Russian archaeologist Yulig Khudiakov, an honorary member of the KHS, and has been included in some recent textbooks on Kyrgyzstan history (Khudiakov 1995, 48-58; Tchorotegin 1996, 204-209; Tchorotegin and Omiirbekov 1997, 110-15). In this view, the history of the Enissei Kyrgyz was not the beginning of the dynamic history of the Kyrgyz nation that migrated within the wide expanses of Central Asia and southern Siberia; it was its continuation.
The problem of defining the period of migration (or re-migration) of the Kyrgyz from Enissei to the Teflri-Too area began enthusiastic debates in post-Soviet Kyrgyz historiography. It is well known that the last official Soviet historiography defended the view that, in the full sense, it was not the Kyrgyz people but simply their ethnic name that had migrated from Enissei. Some of Kyrgyzstan’s «official» historians suggested that two Russian versions of the same word be used for two historical stages— that is, «Kyrgyz» for the period before the middle of the 15th century, and «Kirghiz» for the next period up to the present (Ploskih 1984, 423-31). Of course, this was suitable for literature in Russian alone, but it was impossible to implement in Kyrgyz-language literature, which uses only the spelling «Kyrgyz.»
Some of the scholars who prepared this very artificial scheme have changed their minds somewhat now and have been using only one word, «Kyrgyz,» in their recent publications. However, they continue to regard the modem Kyrgyz as descendants not of the Enissei Kyrgyz but of the Altai Mountain Kyrgyz who migrated to Tefiri-Too and formed the Kyrgyz narodnost (subnationality) there in the 15th and early 16th centuries (Koichuev 1998, 84-85; Koichuev et al. 1994, 38-41). It is too hard for them to accept that the Altai and Enissei regions are situated within one wide and integrated historical zone to the north of Central and Inner Asia and that it was divided into autonomous regions and republics within Russia during the Soviet period. Their belief that the name of the modem Kyrgyz originated in the migration of ethnic groups of the «Altai Kyrgyz» looks like a remnant of the old schema of Soviet historiography.
Other authors, including 0. Karaev, Yu. S. Khudiakov, K. Sh. Tabaldiev, O. Karat-aev, A. Kylychev, M. Kojobekov, T. Omiirbekov, A. Turdueva, T. Beishenaliev, consider that the remigrations of the Krygyz from Enissei to Tefiri-Too had happened in a few stages between the 9th and 13th centuries (see, e.g., Karaev and Moldobaev 1989; Khudiakov 1986, 1995; and Kyrgyzy 1996). This concept has been included in the new textbook on Kyrgyzstan history intended for the seventh form in Kyrgyzstan’s secondary schools (Tchorotegin and Omiirbekov 1998, 42-57). In this textbook, the Fu-Yii Kyrgyz (in the northern Chinese province of Heilungzian, Manchuria) and the late medieval Siberian and eastern Turkistan Kyrgyz groups have been included for the first time as a regular part of the entire history of the Kyrgyz that has to be learned by post-Soviet schoolchildren.
The problem of the ethnic origin of the Kyrgyz and the question of using the terms «ethnosis,» «people,» and «nation» continue to be debated in a lively manner. These subjects were discussed on 9-10 April 1998 in the Special Council for defending dissertations (the single official council for Kyrgyzstan’s historians, which acts under the Institute of History of the Kyrgyz Republic’s National Academy of Sciences). However, no new monograph devoted to these issues has been published. (The work of Oljobai Karataev, who defended his dissertation on Kyrgyz ethnic names, includes not only anthropological and genealogical material but also the onomastic aspects (see Karataev 1994; see also Akunov and Ibraeva 1998, 235-42).