Turks in World History by Carter Vaughn Findley
Oxford University Press, USA | November 2004 | ISBN: 0195177266 | 320 pages | PDF | 6 MB
Beginning in Inner Asia two thousand years ago, the Turks have migrated and expanded to form today's Turkish Republic, five post-Soviet republics, other societies across Eurasia, and a global diaspora. For the first time in a single, accessible volume, this book traces the Turkic peoples' trajectory from steppe, to empire, to nation-state. Cultural, economic, social, and political history unite in these pages to illuminate the projection of Turkic identity across space and time and the profound transformations marked successively by the Turks' entry into Islam and into modernity.
|“||Review by Mark L. Stein in The Middle East Journal, June 2005|
In his latest book, Carter Vaughn Findley traces the history of the Turkic peoples from their origins on the Eurasian steppe to the modern era in which the Turkic world includes states in Central Asia, the Middle East, and a global diaspora. Arguing against the too-common view of a clash of essentialized civilizations, Findley presents the Turks as a group who successfully moved across civilizational boundaries, at the same time adapting to new conditions and maintaining their identity. Working chronologically, Findley first discusses the pre-Islamic Turks and their predecessors, and then addresses the transformations wrought by the Turks' encounters first with Islam and then with modernity.
The book is wide in scope, looking at the Turkic peoples across all of Eurasia from Anatolia to Xinjiang. This is a plus, as often discussions of Turkic history are dominated by coverage of the Ottoman Empire. Findley gives equal time to Turkic states and peoples in Central Asia as well. By placing his study of the Turks within the larger framework of world history, Findley admirably shows the significant role they played all across Eurasia.
The greatest strength of the book is Findley's chapters on the 19th and 20th centuries. Findley skillfully elucidates developments in the Turkic world in the face of European and Russian imperialism. He especially focuses on reform efforts by the Turks themselves, whether the Ottoman Tanzimat reforms or the Jadidist movements in Central Asia. Following this discussion is an effective chapter on the differing impact of nationalisms in Turkey and the Turkic republics of the Soviet Union.
There are, however, some considerable weaknesses to this study. I would put them into three categories of ascending importance: editing, authorial choice, and overall conceptualization. First, there are some serious copyediting problems. These include typographical errors, such as "A-Arab" for "Arab" (p. 139), and repetitiveness, such as the dates and details of Tang Princess Ningguo's marriage in two successive paragraphs (pp. 153-54). Indeed, there is a great deal of repetition of details and anecdotes throughout the book, giving the impression that chapters, perhaps even sections, were written separately and inelegantly knit together.
More troublesome are some of the choices Findley makes. Although he presents a fairly thorough survey of the history of the Turks, he neglects the Kipchak Turk Mamluks in Egypt and Syria. This is a significant omission, both for the Mamluks' importance in the history of the Middle East and the way that Mamluk amirs' use of personal troops speaks to Findley's emphasis on the importance of retinues in Turkic rulers' rise to power.
Findley includes major sections on the Xiongnu and Mongol empires, which are vitally important as the predecessors and successors to the first Turkic steppe empire, the TUrk. In his discussion, however, Findley seems to imply that the connections between the three states are more those of identity than socio-political organization derived from the commonalities of nomadic steppe life. Although Turks were an important part of Chingiz Khan's Mongol empire, his family was not Turkic. By using the Ttirk term for the ruler, "kaghan," to refer to the Chingizid dynasty instead of the more usual "khan," Findley projects an association that goes beyond a shared institutional structure.
Throughout the book, Findley prefers the term "Azerbaijani" to "Azeri." This defines this important Turkic people geographically rather than linguistically or ethnically, and undermines Findley's own arguments about the maintenance of Turkic identity across boundaries.
Indeed, this leads to the most significant weakness of the book: Findley's failure to establish a direct definition of "Turk." Findley sets out to show that Turkic identity was maintained across civilizational boundaries; however, he never clearly defines what that identity is, speaking only of a shared language and "cultural baggage that they carried as they spread across Eurasia" (p. 9). Although he differentiates between "Turkish" for the Turks of the modern Republic of Turkey and "Turkic" for all Turks, in the end Findley seems to accept pan-Turkist and modern Turkish definitions of Turkic identity, relying especially on the ideas of Yusuf Akqura. Findley wants to demonstrate how much diversity there is among the Turks, but in that pursuit fails to show what unifies them as a people.
Findley's study is to be admired for its attempt to place the history of the Turks within the larger context of world history and its wide-ranging discussion of the impact of modernity. Unfortunately, it does not critique the product of that encounter: the conceptualization of a Turkic identity.
Mark L. Stein, Assistant Professor, History Department, Muhlenberg College, is the author of Guarding the Frontier: Ottoman Border Forts and Garrisons in Europe (forthcoming).
ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE NOTES xiii
NOTE ON USAGE xv
ONE The Pre-Islamic Turks and Their Precursors 21
TWO Islam and Empire from the Seljuks through the Mongols 56
THREE Islamic Empires from Temr to the “Gunpowder Era” 93
FOUR The Turks in the Modern World: Reform and Imperialism 133
FIVE The Turks and Modernity: Republican and Communist 175
The Turkic Caravan in Retrospect 224