Prospects for Democracy in Turkey

H22 A contribution to the SIPCATS Discussion Forum

Patrick Hällzon, MA, Research Assistant, SIPCATS

Editorial remark
The number of questions about the future development of Turkey as a democratic state keeps growing after the failed military coup last month. The SIPCATS Research Assistant Patrick Hällzon reminds us of previous support for the Gülen movement across a broad section of Turkish political and professional elites, which has now been replaced by much confusion and doubts as to the sincerity behind the ongoing purges and declarations of an allegedly “national unity”.

Prospects for Democracy in Turkey

Soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Turkey profiled itself in its relations with the newly independent Central Asian states as a role model: a modern Muslim country – Turkic-speaking like most of the Central Asians – with a secular system of government and market economy.

Diplomatic relations were established and interstate organizations such as the Turkic Summits, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, and the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency were formed, as reported by Igor Torbakov in one of the books under revision for the present SIPCATS discussion forum, Prospects for Democray in Central Asia.[1] Turkish TV started transmitting programs in Turkish and students from Central Asia were given special scholarships for university studies in Turkey for the sake of creating and strengthening cultural bonds between the countries.

In addition, a large number of schools were set up in all of the Central Asian states by individuals inspired by the so-called Hizmet movement, also known as the Gülen movement, which was active in non-Muslim countries as well, outside of Turkey and Central Asia. This movement worked hand in hand with local authorities and with strong economic support from networks in Turkey.

Barış köprüleri – Bridges of Peace
Keeping the current state-of-affairs in Turkey in mind it is hard to imagine that just a decade ago the establishment of Gülen-inspired schools was cherished by leading figures in Turkish society, not only members within the ruling AKP party but also influential persons from other walks of life and political backgrounds. By contrast, the Gülen movement was looked upon with great suspicion by a great majority of the Turkish army and the “secular elite”, who did not trust the movement’s intentions to educate the poor and to advocate secular strategies in terms of modern education.[2]

In the book Barış Köprüleri: Dünyaya Açılan Türk Okulları [Bridges of peace: Turkish schools opening across the world], which was published in the same year (2005) as the above-mentioned Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia,[3] influential people from the whole political spectrum in Turkey expressed their common support for the schools’ activities. While some supported the movement for religious reasons, others favored the Gülen movement’s educational enterprises as vehicles for spreading Turkish culture and language to the world. One supporter was, for example, the well-known politician Bülent Ecevit (1925-2006), leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and subsequently the Democratic Left Party (DSP). Although he was not in favor of the religious motivation behind the educational activities of the Gülen movement, he supported the idea of teaching Turkish at these institutions.[4]

Recent events in Turkey
As of today, it would be impossible to publish a book like Barış Köprüleri: Dünyaya Açılan Türk Okulları in Turkey, where Gülen supporters have now been pointed out as the masterminds behind the failed military coup attempt of July 15, 2016. Although the founder, Fethullah Gülen, has condemned the coup attempt, the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has demanded his extradition from the USA, where he has been residing since 1999. There have even been insinuations from Turkish government circles that the USA would be behind the coup attempt. However unlikely this may seem, there are many who support this idea.

After the declaration of a state of emergency in Turkey, more than one thousand schools, 15 universities, various businesses, media outlets, schools and medical establishments believed to have links with the movement have been shut down. Furthermore, tens of thousands of people associated with or merely suspected of having contacts with the movement have lost their jobs and several thousands have been detained. It is unclear how many of these people arrested were actually involved in the attempted coup. In the current turmoil it is extremely difficult to get a clear picture of what is “really” going on in Turkey.

The recent developments raise many questions about democracy and freedom of speech in Turkey. Even before the failed military coup last month, Turkey was already one of the countries with the highest number of journalists jailed in the world. The recent closure of universities and newspapers and the increasing number of imprisoned academics and other people critical of the government will be another great blow against political pluralism in this country.

The European Union is concerned but remains surprisingly modest in its reactions to Turkish policies, while at the same time President Erdoğan is signaling that he might change his mind as regards the agreement on the readmission of refugees to Turkey, if the EU fails to meet Turkey’s demands on visa-free travel to EU countries for Turkish citizens.

The political chessboard keeps changing. What is Erdoğan’s ultimate goal? He has been quoted saying that democracy is a like a tram; “You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off.”[5] What does this signify for the future prospects for democracy in Turkey?

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[1] Torbakov 2005:120
[2] Yılmaz 2005:397
[3] See e.g. Şen 2005 in this volume.
[4] Ecevit 2005:17-26
[5] Cook 2013.


Balcı, B., 2003, “Fethullah Gülen’s Missionary Schools in Central Asia and their Role in the Spreading of Turkism and Islam”, in Religion, State & Society 31: 2, Carfax Publishing.

Cook, S., 2013, “Keep Calm, Erdoğan: Why the Prime Minister has Nothing to Fear”, in: Foreign Affairs, June 3, 2013, (retrieved 02/08/2016).

Ecevit, B., 2005, “Türk Okullarının Türk Dili ve Türkiye’ye Katkısı” [The Turkish schools’ contribution to the Turkish language and Turkey], in T. Ateş, E. Karakaş, & I. B. Ortaylı (eds), Barış Köprüleri: Dünyaya Açılan Türk Okulları [Bridges of peace: Turkish schools opening across the world], İstanbul: Ufuk Kitapları, pp. 17-26.

Kramer, H., 1996, Will Central Asia Become Turkey’s Sphere of Influence?, (05/04/2011).

Levinskaya, V., 2007, “Resemblance of Fethullah Gülen’s Ideas and Current Political Developments in Uzbekistan”, in İ. Yılmaz et al. (eds), Peaceful Coexistence: Fethullah Gülen’s Initiatives in the Contemporary World, London: Leeds Metropolitan University Press, pp. 331-344.

Şen, M., 2005, “Turkish Islamist Entrepreneurs in Central Asia”, in B. Schlyter (ed.), Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia, Transactions 15, Stockholm: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, pp. 253-264.

Torbakov, I., 2005, “Turkey and Post-Soviet Eurasia: Seeking a Regional Power Status”, in B. Schlyter (ed.), Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia, Transactions 15, Stockholm: Swedish Research Institute, pp. 117-128. 

Yılmaz, İ., 2005, “State, Law, Civil Society and Islam in Contemporary Turkey”, in The Muslim World. Special issue. Islam in contemporary Turkey. 95: 3, Hartford & Connecticut, pp. 385-412.

A response to Bayram Balcı’s paper on the Gülen Movement in Central Asia and the Caucasus

H22 A comment for the SIPCATS Discussion Forum

Patrick Hällzon, MA, Research Assistant, SIPCATS

For a comment on the contribution by Bayram Balcı to the SIPCATS Discussion Forum, “The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Central Asia after the Failed Military Coup in Turkey”, I would like to highlight one aspect that may be of importance when analyzing the future prospects for the hizmet-schools in Central Asia and elsewhere. This is finance. Even if the Central Asian governments might want to continue to support the schools, it is well known that the human and financial capital invested directly from Turkey has played an important role in the establishment of these schools.

In one of the books revisited for this discussion forum, “Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia (2005)”, there is a chapter on “Turkish Islamist Entrepreneurs in Central Asia”, where the author, Mustafa Şen, speaks of the important role that so-called ‘follower entrepreneurs’ have played in the establishment of Turkish businesses and schools in Central Asia.[1] The atmosphere of good will surrounding the opening of schools helped promote business opportunities for small scale Turkish entrepreneurs supportive of the movement. Thus an important question is what will happen to the schools when individuals in Turkey supporting the movement are increasingly monitored and prevented from donating money to these establishments.

Bayram Balcı writes in his contribution to the discussion forum that “there is an economical and practical reason for local countries to defend the schools set up by the Gülen movement”. However, it is not likely that the future of the schools only depends on ‘sovereign state policies’ in Central Asia vis-à-vis Ankara.

On the contrary, current developments in Turkey will most likely also affect the hizmet-schools in Central Asia, especially from the point of view of financial support. Firstly, teachers from Turkey will find it increasingly difficult to go and work there. Secondly, Turkish businesses linked to individuals within the movement will be prevented from continuing their activities in Turkey, and as a consequence of that they will no longer be able to provide economic resources for the schools.

[1] Şen, M. 2005. Turkish Islamist entrepreneurs in Central Asia. In: Schlyter, B. (ed.) Prospects for democracy in Central Asia. (Transactions 15.) Stockholm: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. 253-264.

To The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Central Asia after the Failed Military Coup in Turkey
by Bayram Balcı

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The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Central Asia after the Failed Military Coup in Turkey

H22 A contribution to the SIPCATS Discussion Forum

Bayram Balcı, CERI Sciences Po, Paris

Editorial remark
In our ongoing SIPCATS Forum for discussions on sociocultural and political developments forming the so-called Central Eurasia Discourse, the failed attempt at a coup d’état in Turkey last July is of immediate concern. Its consequences for the Turkish society as well as its repercussions on the political status-quo in adjacent Central Eurasian regions and at a still broader international level are yet to be seen.

Bayram Balcı, CERI Sciences Po, Paris, a participant in our discussion forum in his capacity of author in one of the anthologies presently revisited by the SIPCATS Forum (”Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia”), has written an English summary of his own recent article “Quel avenir pour le mouvement de Gülen en Asie centrale et dans le Caucase depuis le coup d’état manqué”.

Comment by Patrick Hällzon
Comment by Fernando Rosa

The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Central Asia
after the Failed Military Coup in Turkey

There is a huge consensus in Turkey that the main actor behind the failed coup d’état in Turkey was Fethullah Gülen, or rather, the organization represented by him. More than anyone and long before what happened on the night of the coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has entertained a harsh campaign to eliminate this movement and to uproot it in Turkey. Furthermore, Erdoğan’s all-out war against the Gülen movement is not limited to Turkey. Well aware of the wide-ranging international network of this organization and its influence in other parts of the world, the Turkish president has exported this war abroad agitating against the Gülen movement since the first overt clash between the government and the Gülen movement in December 2013 and urging Turkish embassies to take measures against this movement. Two regions that will for sure be affected by this campaign are Central Asia and the Caucasus. In terms of political influence and geopolitical strategy, from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan, this mainly Turkic sphere is of great significance to Turkey. It was also in Central Asia and the Caucasus that the Gülen movement started its transnational strategy and implementation after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. This is the sphere, more precisely Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrghyzstan, where the Gülen movement has made its best achievements with at least 3 universities, more than 60 high schools, and dozens of business companies established in the aforementioned countries.  As can be expected, the Turkish government will increase its influence and pressure on local authorities, in order to eliminate the Gülen movement in these and other countries. However, this may not be a very easy task. It is not certain that Central Asian authorities will satisfy Erdoğan’s demands, for at least the following reasons :

1)      Sovereignty is the first obstacle to Erdoğan’s campaign. In Kyrghyzstan, for example, it has been indicated, with reference to the country’s sovereignty and independence, that good relations with Turkey does not necessarily mean that the Kyrghyz are willing to take part in what they have called “a Turkey Turkish war”.

2)      In addition to the principle of sovereignty, there is an economical and practical reason for local countries to defend the schools set up by the Gülen movement. The education provided in these schools is modern and secular, with all kinds of facilities and equipment, up-to-date laboratories, etc. These schools are also attractive to the elites, who send their kids to these schools, first and foremost because the education is in English and enhances the children’s chances to be accepted at prestige universities.

3)      Last but not least, shutting down these schools will create more problems than resolving them. These schools were established in Central Asia and the Caucasus just after the end of the Soviet Union, 25 years ago. This is a very long period during which new elites have been formed and now constitute an important part of society. For 25 years, these schools were legal and it may seem awkward to suddenly make them illegal, especially as long as there is nothing concrete to replace them with.

For such reasons, it is difficult to predict the end of the Gülen schools in Central Asia, where – and this is another reason for the local authorities to maintain them – the Gülen movement was never as much infiltrated in the state apparatus as it has been in Turkey. In Turkey the official government, and Erdoğan himself, as he confessed recently, contributed to the infiltration of the movement in Turkish state organs. In Central Asia, the local authorities have always been very clear about the mission of the Gülen schools restricting their activities to education only.

My full article in French on this topic can be retrieved from

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The Economic Impact of Labour Migration on Central Asia and Russia

H22 A contribution to the SIPCATS Discussion Forum

Dr. Olga R. Gulina, CEO & Founder of the RUSMPI – Institute of Migration Policy, Berlin–Moscow

Editorial remark
In a previous contribution to the Central Eurasia Discussion Forum, “Regionalism vs Networking in Central Eurasian Space”, it was argued that young Inner Asian states are becoming more and more deeply embedded in a greater Eurasian sphere delimited first and foremost by economic networks and infrastructures sustained by surrounding and partly overlapping strong powers, such as Russia, China, India, and Turkey.

The present contribution from Dr. Olga R. Gulina, CEO & Founder of the RUSMPI – Institute of Migration Policy, Berlin–Moscow, could be seen as another piece of evidence supporting this argument.

The Economic Impact of Labour Migration
on Central Asia and Russia

Labour Migration is a strong driving force behind human mobility in present-day Eurasia. Ever since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the ex-Soviet states divide into migrant sending and migrant receiving countries. Among the Central Asian states Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan belong to the former category, whereas Kazakhstan qualifies for the latter together with Russia. For each Russian worker leaving the country there are 12 workers who arrive. For Kazakhstan the ratio is even greater – 1 to 44. This could be compared to the ratios for Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, where outbound labour migration by far outnumbers the inbound flow. The ratio in Uzbekistan is 7 to 1. This means that every newcomer in Uzbekistan is replaced by 7 emigrants. Tajikistan is the “leader”, with the aforementioned ratio between inbound and outbound migration, where one in-migrant makes way to 600 out-migrants (Rayazantzev & Horie 2011: 44).

Such a distinction between inbound and outbound migration has a strong impact on human development in the Central Asian states and may have negative effects on their economies. In 2012, the GDP of Uzbekistan was about $48.3 billion (96.6 Trillion UZS), $5.693 billion of which constituted legal remittances sent by Uzbek migrants working in Russia. In the same year, the GDP of Tajikistan was about $7.5 billion (31.16 billion TJS), of which $3.8 billion constituted remittances of Tajik migrants working in Russia. In 2015, the GDP of Uzbekistan was about $48.3 billion (171.0 Trillion UZS), $ 2.5 billion of which constituted legal remittances sent by Uzbek migrants working in Russia (Statistic 2016 & Central Bank 2015); the GDP of Tajikistan was about $ 7.87 billion (48.40 billion TJS), of which $ 1.9 billion constituted remittances of Tajik migrants working in Russia (Agency on Statistics 2016 & Central Bank 2015); the GDP of Kyrgyzstan was about $ 6.3 billion (424 billion KGS), of which $ 1.01 billion constituted remittances of Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia (National Statistical Committee 2016 & Central Bank 2015).

The relevance of remittance flows to those countries becomes even more conspicuous when these numbers are shown as percentages of the GDP. According to World Bank estimation, approximately 43 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP and 30.3 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP were remittances in 2011–2015 (World Bank 2016a). Here it should be noted that World Bank data and figures from the Russian Central Bank only include official transfers (wired via bank or other official financial transfer systems), not cash carried home by migrants or persons authorized by them.

In contrast to Kazakhstan, which as a receiving country does not affect the GDP of other Central Asian countries to any great extent due to the lower capacity on the labour market, Russia has a considerable impact on the GDPs of sending Central Asian countries. Declining remittances as a result of the decline in the Russian economy affected Uzbekistan by 16 percent and Tajikistan by 8 percent in 2014. In 2015, migrant remittances from Central Asian workers in Russia were reduced by 20.3 percent in (World Bank 2016b; for some positive expectations, on the other hand, see KNOMAD 2016).

The Eurasian Development Bank published the 2015 Report on “Labour Migration, Migrant Remittances and Human Development in the Central Asian Region”, which proclaims that nationals of three Central Asian countries – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan – constitute one third of 11 million foreign citizens officially registered in the Russian Federation and a majority of 3.5 million immigrants officially registered on the territory of Kazakhstan (EABR 2015: 8). These countries differ from the fourth ex-Soviet Central Asian country with predominantly outbound labour migration, Kyrgyzstan, in as far as the latter is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, which guarantees a simplified migration regime towards Kyrgyz migrants (90 days instead of 30 days for the official registration, free movement on the territory of the Eurasian Economic Union member states, simplified rules for job acquisition, etc.).

Human capital remains a number-one export entity in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The positive and negative migration outcomes in all of these countries strongly depend on socio-economic circumstances and not least on the state’s approach towards workers abroad. Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, recently urged migrants to come home. Following this call, Uzbekistan’s Agency for External Labor Migration sent “all local migration and registration authorities warnings about what labour migrants can expect to find abroad, from prostitution to slavery or recruitment to extremist organizations” (Bologov 2016). Meanwhile, Uzbek mass media announced a significant growth in the GDP (+8.0%) and the creation of 980 000 job-places for 2016 (Gazeta 2016). However, people still leave the country.

This is not the first attempt by Central Asian countries to restrain their nationals from job-searching abroad, i.e. Russia. However, the Central Asian economies, haunted by high domestic unemployment and dependent on migrant remittances, are unlikely to reach this goal and to be able to stop the human outflow in the foreseeable future.

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Agency on Statistics of Tajikistan (2016): Socio-economic situation in the Republic of Tajikistan from January to December 2015,

Bologov, Petr (2016): Uzbeks in Russia: Not Homesick Yet,

Central Bank of the Russian Federation (2015): External Sector Statistics. Cross-border Transfers of Individuals (Residents and Nonresidents). Breakdown by Country.

EABR (2015): Labour Migration, Migrant Remittances and Human Development in the Central Asian Region,

Gazeta (2016): the Uzbekistan’s GDP increased by 8% in 2015,

KNOMAD (2016): Migration and Remittance: Recent Developments and Outlook. Migration and Development Brief Nr.26. April 2016,

National Statistical Committee (2016): National Accounts. Statistics.;

Rayazantzev, Sergey & Horie, Norio (2011): Modelling of the Labour Migration Flows from the Central Asian Countries to Russia. Moscow.

World Bank (2016a): Personal remittances, received (% of GDP), Last access on June 17, 2016.

World Bank (2016b): Remittances to Developing Countries Edge Up Slightly in 2015. Press- Release. April 13, 2016,


Russia as a Guarantor of Security

H22 A contribution to the SIPCATS Discussion Forum

Michael Fredholm, Head of Research and Development, IRI, Stockholm, Associate of SIPCATS

Comment by Bayram Balcı

Russia as a Guarantor of Security

Many political and cultural changes have taken place in Central Eurasia since the conference in Istanbul in 2003, which resulted in the publication of Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia, yet the balance of power from a regional perspective fundamentally remains as it was then. In my chapter on ‘Russia and Central Asian security’, I then concluded that Russia remained the key guarantor of security in Central Asia, despite often heard claims that the United States had assumed this position. Russia would assist its allies with, among others, military support and international diplomacy, particularly when faced with a threat from Islamic extremism.

This now applies to the greater region as well. When Russia in 2015 launched a major air war against opposition forces in Syria, this sent a strong message to Russia’s allies that Russia indeed would be their guarantor of security. There were other implicit messages as well in the Russian military operation, aimed at the NATO and EU member states. However, for Russia’s allies and Russian public opinion, there was little ambiguity. Russia remained a great power, despite sanctions and falling oil prices, and so, the political message suggested, Russia could be relied upon.

On 30 September 2015, Russia began to launch air strikes from Khmeimim air base near Latakia in Syria against targets primarily connected to the Islamic State (IS) but also against those of other armed insurgent groups in the country. Russia had several reasons to strike against insurgent targets. One was the aforementioned political message. Another was to prevent Russian citizens within IS from returning to Russia to carry out acts of terrorism.[1] This was hardly surprising; less than a fortnight before the air strikes, the Russian Security Service, FSB, reported that an estimated 2,500 Russian citizens had gone to Syria to join IS or other jihadist groups. In addition, some 3,000 Central Asian fighters had joined the jihadists as well, and might return to threaten the Central Asian republics.[2] Then, on 31 October, a Russian airliner was destroyed in a suspected terrorist attack in Sinai, causing the loss of 224 lives.[3] Vicious terrorist attacks took place in Paris on 13 November,[4] which focused international, in particular European, attention on the need to fight IS. On 17 November, having determined that the airliner was indeed destroyed by terrorists, Russia extended its air campaign in Syria to include long-range aviation bombers which began to carry out air strikes from bases in Russia.[5]

Above and beyond the need to combat its own jihadists, Russia did not wish to see the Syrian government being overthrown by jihadist-led insurgents. Besides, some observers noted that the Russian initiative also might have been intended to reduce the tensions between Russia and the EU and the United States because of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea and the ongoing unrest in eastern Ukraine.[6]

The United States and NATO protested against the Russian air strikes and remained committed to regime change in Syria.[7] Turkey protested too, and on 24 November shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber.[8] As international tensions increased, it was easy to forget that the threat from Russian-speaking jihadists was real. Many of them had links with the Caucasus Emirate, a terrorist group in the North Caucasus. It was not only for political reasons that Moscow chose not to distinguish between the different insurgent groups. Former members of the Caucasus Emirate could be found in most of them, and they were hostile to Russian interests.

On 14 March 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order to begin the withdrawal of most Russian forces from Syria starting from 15 March. He concluded that “the tasks set to the defense ministry are generally fulfilled.” Putin added: “With the participation of Russian military, Syrian troops and patriotic forces in Syria have managed to turn the tide in fight against international terrorism and take the initiative on practically all directions.” However, Putin made a point of mentioning that not all forces would be withdrawn. Russian military forces would remain in Syria in the naval base in Tartus and the Khmeimim air base.[9] Clearly, the message was, Russia had not ended its support but would remain as a guarantor of security.

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[1] Reuters, 1 October 2015.
[2] Pervyy kanal, 18 September 2015 (
[3] Reuters, 31 October 2015; FSB press release, 17 November 2015.
[4] Reuters, 14 November 2015.
[5] Sputnik News, 17 November 2015, 18 November 2015.
[6] New York Times, 16 September 2015.
[7] New York Times, 30 September 2015; Wall Street Journal, 8 October 2015.
[8] Washington Post, 24 November 2015.
[9] TASS, 14 March 2016.

The Role of Language in Identity Formation

H22 A contribution to the SIPCATS Discussion Forum

Azize Güneş, MA Student in Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University, Research Assistant, SIPCATS

In one of the two books referred to in the invitation to the present discussion, Historiography and Nation-Building among Turkic Populations (2014), the role of language in nation-building and identity formation was examined from different aspects. On the one hand, the authors looked at intentionally created products by the state, such as laws, official policies, national ceremonies and public speeches, as well as dictionaries and national history books, all of which could be considered to offer public options for identity formation. On the other hand, individual and collective language use was treated by the same authors, giving an idea of how language is involved in identity formation at a personal level. In this context, notions such as memory, narrativity and performativity were brought up. Rereading the chapters, I began to wonder about the relationship between these notions and their involvement in the formation, maintenance and rejection of social and national identities.

In a chapter titled “Image and Influence: The Politics of Nation-Branding in Uzbekistan”, Anita Sengupta writes that “[l]anguage is the basis for most performative acts” (p. 98). By creating a unified cultural image of language or “[t]hrough the ‘making’ of the language, the state acts as an agent of influence and control not just on performative traditions and their norms but also on the creation of a single linguistic community as the basis for the nation.” (p.98) In this chapter about national and international branding of states and the creation of signs in the public sphere, Sengupta states that commercial branding techniques are used for influencing public opinion and strengthening loyalty by constructing a relationship between cultural images and identity. Through such performative acts by the state, language, history, and nation are made into specific cultural images or signs that are linked to a sense of belonging and identity.

As nation-states create images of language and use them for controlling public opinion, they are engaged in a performative project. In which way can this be connected to individual language use? Individual language use could also be thought of as performative for it often surpasses the main goal of communication. The speaker is not an isolated speaker, and the addressee not an isolated addressee. Rather, language users are situated identity holders. Their identities are continuously being reinforced and challenged in situations of communication, which makes individual language use performative in my mind. While the speaker and the addressee send and receive information, affirming, rejecting, repeating and negotiating different parts of the message, they are simultaneously performing their roles. Messages and identities negotiated in acts of communication must at the same time be anchored in different discourses and images produced by different actors such as the state.

In the chapter titled “On Oral History of the Soviet Past in Central Asia: Re-Collecting, Reflecting and Re-Imagining”, Timur Dadabaev writes about the act of narrating memory in an Oral History project conducted in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In this project, individuals were asked to talk about life experiences from their Soviet pasts. Given such acts of creating a story, fragmented life experiences are re-collected and pieced together to form a narrative, not only to be shared with others as in a negotiating dialogue, but also to be presented to others, as a kind of performance to an audience. Remembering and talking about a lived life is both performative and narrative. Memories as fragmented events and feelings are sequentially ordered against a predetermined theme and told by a narrator who chooses a point of departure as the beginning of his story, which he relates to a particular temporal dimension bringing it to an end that is already known to him.

Summing up life experiences and creating a life story is not a simple project, and as Dadabaev affirms in his chapter, it results in an alternative to official historiographies created by a state or other authorities. How and to what extent is the evaluation and presentation of memory influenced by official narratives and intentionally produced cultural images? And as technology and globalization reaches new levels and enables access to more narratives, will the personal narratives of the public change and adapt? Are life stories and narrated memories important for the formation of individual as well as collective identities?

In her chapter on “The Status of Uzbek as ‘National Language’”, Birgit Schlyter introduces the notion of the ‘narrative capacity’ of language (footnote 7, p.133), suggesting that language in itself has a narrative capacity. Besides looking at the distribution of the language in space and time, and the products of the language composing its corpus, Schlyter analyzes the symbolic value of Uzbek as a national language through the manifestation of language, in which its narrative capacity can be investigated from the point of view of “political agendas and literary traditions as well as everyday language in both private life and public intercourse, having the effect of communicating sociocultural messages and serving as a means of identity formation” (p.133).

Could the narrative capacity of language, as seen in e.g. branding and life stories, be understood as the power to enforce temporal and causal sequences out of sociocultural messages available by means of everyday language use? What feature of language enables such a narrative capacity? Ruling out referentiality as the primary enabler of narrative structures, the ability of grammar to order information in time and aspect might be a good candidate.

Moreover, as connotations and ideological values are implemented in language by language users, I would like to suggest that the narrative capacity of language could also be something belonging to the language user. That is, a psychological tendency or an endeavor by the conscious language user to piece together fragments of sociocultural messages into a narrative in order to make sense of the world and position him or herself within it.

Many of the chapters in Historiography and Nation-Building among Turkic Populations (2014), not least the three chapters mentioned here, remind us of the ideological significance of language and a number of intriguing questions could be asked with regard to the performative and narrative functions of personal and official language use. By expanding the theoretical framework for the sake of identifying different levels of narrativity and performativity in signs produced by the state, in everyday language use and in the act of telling life stories, I think we could reach very interesting results.

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Regionalism versus Networking in Central Eurasian Space

H22 A contribution to the SIPCATS Discussion Forum

Birgit Schlyter, professor, SIPCATS Director

At least in the first decade of independence after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the then newly-born states in Central Asia were generally and mostly regarded as a region. The five ex-Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan themselves also acted as such on a number of occasions. Most ostentatiously this was done in January 1993, when all states declared in unison that they would henceforth consider themselves as part of “Central Asia” (‘Markaziy Osiyo’ in Uzbek). One year later, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were negotiating the prospects for establishing a common economic zone.

When organizing a conference and editing a volume on the “Prospects of Democracy in Central Asia” in 2003–2005, I was also inclined to view democracy as a “regional” issue, where the prerequisites for a development towards stronger democratic orders to some extent could be considered cross-regionally rather than in a state-by-state fashion. This may have been naïve – or at least unrealistic.

Despite their common past, where they had belonged to the same state and the same ideological sphere, the newly independent Central Asian republics after 1991 were to develop towards greater differentiation and separation – in physical as well as sociocultural terms. Former domestic republican borders with intersecting infrastructures were turned into state borders, where members of the particular state’s titular ethnicity living across that border were redefined as diaspora and citizens of another nation-state.

In the meantime, great changes have occurred in Asian politics as a whole, and today the general trend among both politicians and researchers is to view the ex-Soviet republics to the south of Russia as polities developing in a wider geopolitical context. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was not only a number of newly-born states in Central Asia, but also a new Eurasian discourse, where ex-Soviet Central Asia could become a transit area or connecting area between economically strong states, with Central Asian “regional” borders being more and more blurred.

For me living and working in Turkey since a few years, it is of particular interest to follow Turkey’s endeavors to strengthen and at times also defend its role as a Eurasian geopolitical hub focusing on not necessarily brethren Turkic and Muslim states exclusively but rather a wider Central Eurasian sphere.

The presence of natural resources and centuries-old infrastructures for trade and transportation across the Central Eurasian area constitutes an indisputable potential. The Black Sea area is reportedly the second largest source of oil and natural gas in the world (after the Persian Gulf) and is expected to become the major corridor for energy transports to Europe. Furthermore, a large part of the world trade is carried out by countries along the ancient Silk Road – according to some reports the share is as high as 25%.

Multilateral cooperation is manifested by organizations such as BSEC (Black Sea Economic Cooperation) from the early 1990s and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) operating as a full-fledged organization since 2001.

The BSEC member states have agreed to work together for the improvement of infrastructures in order to promote cross-border trade of natural gas and other goods at the local level as well as at a joint BSEC-EU level. In parallel to such development plans, the BSEC agenda deals with security issues specifying measures for combating organized crime, human trafficking and climate change.

The SCO has developed from a security network combating ”separatism, extremism, terrorism” along the Chinese borders to an organization dealing with other types of security as well, not least as regards the exploitation and transportation of energy reserves. Given such a development the SCO may attract a wider range of states concerned about good and safe energy transportation, either as supplier or buyer or both.

Turkey is engaged in both organizations and has through them access to both of the Asian great powers Russia and China. Turkey and Russia are not friends any more. The normalization of relations after the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet last November seems still to be out of reach.[1] Instead of turning back to normal, the clash of interests in Syria may as well lead to widened animosity and greater insecurity in other parts of the near abroad of the two countries, especially the Black Sea and Caspian regions.

Turkey’s warming to China, on the other hand, is of another concern for Inner Asian states, as they are thereby integrated in a broader economic, cultural as well as political, and perhaps even military context. The desire for stronger and broadened bilateral relations between Turkey and China is evident – commercially as well as culturally and politically. Today China is Turkey’s 3rd biggest trading partner, after the EU/Germany and Russia, though still with a great imbalance between imports and exports. Bilateral trade initiatives have been bolstered with exchange programs in the cultural and political fields. In recent years, China has featured as “country of honor” at international Istanbul fairs for literature and art, and official state visits have been exchanged between the two countries. After a visit by the then Vice President Xi Jinping to Turkey, the former Prime Minister and would-be President Tayyip Erdoğan went to China in 2012. On his way to Beijing Erdoğan stopped by in Xinjiang, which has a large Turkic-speaking Uighur population. This was the first visit ever to the region by a Turkish prime minister. During his 3-day official visit to China, Erdoğan spent the first day in Urumchi touring the Uighur sections of the city.

The Black Sea region with Turkey developing into an energy transportation corridor could be attracted by an expanding SCO network, as is also argued in one of the chapters in a book on the SCO published from my Stockholm program for research on Central Asia and the Turkic world.[2] In 2012, Turkey was acknowledged the status of ”dialogue partner” in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which has among its full members 4 out of 5 ex-Soviet Central Asian states.

To these two organizations could be added the Eurasian Economic Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan as the founding members. This, however, goes beyond my horizon at present, though it would be interesting to try and see what may have been the basic aim of this initiative taken by Vladimir Putin in 2010. Perhaps it was an attempt by Putin to create a new supra-national union without being stuck with the stagnant CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). Or was the main impetus to such unification rather of a civilizational character, with these countries – at least Russia and Kazakhstan – identifying themselves both as Asian (geographically and historically) and as European (in terms of European values and the Soviet legacy)?

In 2012, BSEC and the forerunner of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC; 5 member states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Russia, Tajikistan) celebrated their 20th and 15th anniversaries, respectively, in Istanbul. Expressions uttered in the great number of speeches delivered in honor of these occasions were phrases like “Intercultural dialogue along the Black Sea Silk Road”, “Bridge of hearts”, “Peace culture”, etc. Allusions have been made to the Eurasian sphere and the potential of interconnected regions in Eurasia. One example from 2013 is a comment by the Turkish Minister of Transportation in connection with the opening of the Marmaray railway in Istanbul on 29 October – the national day and the 90th anniversary of the Turkish Republic. The Minister called the new tunnel under the Bosphorus a modern “Iron Silk Road” interconnecting civilizations and fostering trade relations between continents.

Against this background, it may be more relevant for the social and political analyst to view young Inner Asian states not as a region or regions per se but rather as polities becoming more and more deeply embedded in a greater Eurasian, or Central Eurasian, sphere delimited first and foremost by economic networks and infrastructures sustained by surrounding and partly overlapping strong powers, such as Russia, China, India, and Turkey.

To the Central Eurasia discussion forum

[1] Toni Alaranta (Finnish Institute of International Affairs), “Russo-Turkish Relations: Completely in Tatters for the Time Being”, in “Russian Analytical Digest”, No. 179/12 February 2016, pp. 5–8.
[2] Anita Sengupta (Maulana Abul Kalam Institute of Asian Studies, Kolkata), “Rethinking Regional Organizations: Turkey and the SCO”, in Michael Fredholm (ed.),“The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Eurasian Geopolitics”, Copenhagen: NIAS Press 2013, pp. 176–198.


During the past 15 years Central Asian Studies at Stockholm University has devoted much of its research to various aspects of state- and nation-building in Central Asia and other neighboring Turkic societies in the post-Soviet era. Two anthologies resulting from this research and published by the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul are Historiography and Nation-Building among Turkic Populations (2014) and Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia (2005). Their contents are listed at the end of this post.

Historiography  Democracy

Great changes have occurred in the Central Eurasian space with regard to the political and cultural processes focused on in these two volumes. At SIPCATS/Istanbul, new readings are currently being conducted for a reevaluation of issues presented in the different chapters. This could be a good opportunity for a still broader discussion with the participation of other researchers as well, including the contributors to the abovementioned anthologies. For the next few months, till the end of this summer (2016), a forum for discussion will be running on the SIPCATS Director’s Blog under the title of ”The Central Eurasia Discourse”.


Within the framework of the SIPCATS Program and in accordance with several other international research programs, the designation of Central Eurasia refers to a geographically and cultural-historically cohesive sphere for studies in the humanities and social sciences.

Common cultural historical features uniting a vast part of the Inner Asian area are, among others, not only the distribution of languages (Turkic, Iranian, and in modern times Slavic languages), but also epic literature spreading from Tibet and Mongolia in the east to Anatolia and eastern Europe in the west. As to origin this type of literature is largely nomadic in both content and ethics and has become part of folk literatures and national literatures influencing the language habits of individuals and societies.

From a present-day sociopolitical point of view it may become more and more relevant to view the same area as an expanding Central Eurasian sphere defined first and foremost by economic networks and infrastructures sustained by surrounding – and partly overlapping – strong or influential powers, such as Russia, China, India, Turkey, and the European Union. A large part of the world trade is carried out by countries along the ancient Silk Road; according to some reports the share is as high as 25%.

Against this background, I want to suggest the following broad themes as a general framework for future discussions and I look forward to receiving reflections and comments from both members of the SIPCATS Program and other fellow researchers.

  • Central Eurasia as Geo-Political and/or Geo-Cultural Space
  • Language Minorities and Multiculturalism in Central Eurasia
  • Collective and Individual Identity Formation in relation to State and Language Policies
  • Trends and Developments in the field of Political Pluralism and Individual Freedom
  • Independence and Interdependence in the Central Eurasian Space
  • The Balance of Power from a Regional as well as an International Perspective

Please send in your contributions and comments to, which address can also be used for whatever questions you might have in connection with this forum.


Below are the lists of contents of Historiography and Nation-building among Turkic Populations (2014) and Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia (2005). Some of the chapters are available at


Historiography and Nation-building among Turkic Populations

ntroduction: Central Asian and Turkic History Revisited

On Oral History of the Soviet Past in Central Asia: Re-Collecting, Reflecting and Re-Imagining
Timur Dadabaev

The Coverage of Central Asia in Turkey: The 1990s and Beyond
Büşra Ersanlı

In Search of New Historiographies for Ex-Soviet Turkic States: Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan
Emre Gürbüz

History-Writing and History-Making in Azerbaijan: Some Reflections on the First Two Decades of Independence
Zaur Gasimov

Image and Influence: The Politics of Nation-Branding in Uzbekistan
Anita Sengupta

Linguistic and Social Contradictions within Uzbek National Identity
Rano Turaeva-Hoehne

The Status of Uzbek as “National Language”
Birgit N. Schlyter

Language and the State in Late Qing Xinjiang
Eric T. Schluessel


Prospects for Democracy in Central Asia

Preface (with an introduction)                                                                                            


For a Transition to Democracy in Central Asia
Stephen Blank

The Tajik Experience of a Multiparty System – Exception or Norm?
Muhiddin Kabiri

Tajikistan at the Crossroads of Democracy and Authoritarianism
Michael Hall

Democracy and Political Stability in Kyrgyzstan
Pınar Akçalı

The Blocked Road to Turkmen Democracy
Torgny Hinnemo

On the Problem of Revival and Survival of Ethnic Minorities in Post-Soviet Central Asia
Valeriy S. Khan

The Karakalpaks and Other Language Minorities under Central Asian State Rule
Birgit N. Schlyter


Russia and Central Asian Security
Michael Fredholm

Turkey and Post-Soviet Eurasia: Seeking a Regional Power Status
Igor Torbakov

US Security Policy in Central Asia After the 9/11 Attack
Ariel Cohen

Dividing the Caspian: Conflicting Geopolitical Agendas Among Littoral States
Anar Ahmadov

Water Politics and Management of Trans-Boundary Water Resources in Post-Soviet Central Asia
Timur Dadabaev

People, Environment, and Water Security in the Aral Sea Area
Gunilla Björklund


Poetry and Political Dissent in Central Asia from a Historical Perspective: The Chaghatay Poet Turdi
Nurten Kılıç-Schubel

Democratization as a Global Process and Democratic Culture at Central Asian Élite and Grass-Roots Levels
Dinora Azimova

Post-Soviet Paternalism and Personhood: Why Culture Matters to Democratization in Central Asia
Morgan Y. Liu

Uzbek and Uyghur Communities in Saudi Arabia and Their Role in the Development of Wahhabism in Present-Day Central Asia
Bayram Balcı

Turkish Islamist Entrepreneurs in Central Asia
Mustafa Şen

Epilogue: Reflections on Recent Elections
Birgit N. Schlyter and Merrick Tabor



After my previous announcement of the forthcoming Kashgar Revisited: Uyghur Studies in Memory of Gunnar Jarring, I have been asked about the contents of this volume. Here is the list of chapters:


Kashgar Revisited
Uyghur Studies In Memory of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring

Edited by
Ildikó Bellér-Hann
Birgit N. Schlyter
Jun Sugawara


List of Illustrations
A Note on Transliteration and Spelling

In the Footsteps of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring

I. Language:

Chapter 1.
Birgit N. Schlyter
From the Private Library of Gunnar Jarring and His New Eastern Turki Dictionary

Chapter 2.
Arienne Dwyer
Manuscript Technologies, Writing and Reading in Early 20th- Century Kashgar

Chapter 3.
Äsäd Sulaiman
From Eastern Turki to Modern Uyghur: A Lexicological Study of Prints from the Swedish Mission Press in Kashgar (1892–1938)

Chapter 4.
Abdurishid Yakup
The Khotan Varieties of Uyghur as Seen in Jarring’s Transcription

II. History

Chapter 5.
Takahiro Onuma
The 1795 Khoqand Mission and Its Negotiations with the Qing. Political and Diplomatic Space of Qing Kashgaria

Chapter 6.
Eric Schluessel
Muslims at the Yamen Gate: Translating Justice in Late-Qing Xinjiang

Chapter 7.
Jun Sugawara
Models and Realities: Aspects of Format in Real Estate Deeds under Conditions of Legal Pluralism in Xinjiang Province

Chapter 8.
Alexandre Papas
Muslim Reformism in Xinjiang: Reading the Newspaper Yengī Ḥayāt (1934–1937)

Chapter 9.
Fredrik Fällman
Defining the Past and Shaping the Future: Reflections on Xinjiang Narratives, Uyghur-Han-Hui Relations and the Perspectives of Research’

III. Religion

Chapter 10.
Thierry Zarcone
Writing the Religious and Social History of Some Sufi Lodges in Kashgar in the 20th Century

Chapter 11.
Rahile Dawut
Ordam Mazar: A Meeting Place for Different Practices and Belief Systems in Culturally Diverse Xinjiang

Chapter 12.
Chris Hann and Ildikó Bellér-Hann
Magic, Science and Religion in Xinjiang

IV. Anthropology

Chapter 13.
Rune Steenberg
“Keep the Wealth within the Family”: Cousin Marriage and Swedish Uncles in Kashgar

Chapter 14.
Dilmurat Mahmut and Joanne Smith Finley
‘A Man Works on the Land, A Woman Works for Her Man’: Building on Jarring’s Fascination with Eastern Turki Proverbs





A new anthology for Uyghur Studies is in the making and will be published by Brill later this year. With contributions from scholars in the fields of language, history, religion, kinship and gender, this volume in memory of the distinguished Swedish Turkologist, Ambassador Gunnar Jarring (1907–2002), is likely to become an important reference work for future research. One of the anonymous reviewers characterized the edited manuscript as “something of a showcase of the various dimensions of ‘Uyghur studies’ as practiced today”.

The title of the book is Kashgar Revisited: Uyghur Studies in Memory of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring and the editors are Ildikó Bellér-Hann, Birgit N. Schlyter and Jun Sugawara.

From the editors’ preface:

Besides his well-known career as a Swedish diplomat, Gunnar Jarring also excelled as a scholar. Through his voluminous publications he made a significant contribution to Turkic Studies. His work has been fundamental to the emergence of Uyghur and Xinjiang Studies. The aim of this volume is twofold. With contributions on a wide range of topics, we wish to pay tribute to Gunnar Jarring’s scholarly accomplishments while at the same time providing an overview of recent and ongoing research on the Uyghurs and Xinjiang.

The three editors at the symposium (Copenhagen, 2012) preceding the aforementioned anthology.

The three editors at the symposium (Copenhagen, 2012) preceding the aforementioned anthology.

In 2007, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gunnar Jarring was celebrated at different places in Sweden. The following text is an excerpt from my own speech delivered on this occasion at the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities.

[From a speech delivered on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring, at the Royal Academy of Letters History and Antiquities, on 12 October 2007, published in Dragomanen, no. 10/11, 2006-2007, pp. 215-218]

Birgit N. Schlyter

Return to the Uighurs …

In 1929 Gunnar Jarring travelled to Kashgar to do field work for his Ph.D. thesis on Uighur – or as they have also been called, Eastern Turki – dialects. His dissertation appeared under the title of Studien zu einer osttürkischen Lautlehre and was defended at the University of Lund in 1933. In 1978, almost 50 years later, he was invited by the Chinese government to visit Kashgar and Xinjiang (Sinkiang) once again. Several visits to libraries, museums and institutes were arranged for the Swedish guest. His Chinese hosts asked for his opinion on various issues. From a discussion of minority languages and literatures at the Nationalities Institute in Peking he reports in his book Return to Kashgar: Central Asian Memoirs in the Present (1986; transl. from Swedish original Åter till Kashgar: memoarer i nuet,1979):

The Uighur dialects had not been studied much, and the number of dialect samples in phonetic transcription was minimal. There existed a wealth of folk tales, folk literature, riddles, proverbs, and speech mannerisms, which all, most likely, dated back to cultures that have long since disappeared. You have asked me for advice, I said, and my advice is: save all that can be saved of Sinkiang’s folk literature, because it is in danger of disappearing. It is based upon an oral tradition, upon memories, not upon books and periodicals. Find people who are fifty, sixty, and seventy years old. They can remember and tell the stories. But there is little time. The twentieth-century modernizations will soon change their way of life. If the minority cultures and literatures are to survive, it will be necessary to spare no effort. [Return to Kashgar, p. 17]

The one who truly heeded this piece of advice, perhaps more than anybody else, was Gunnar Jarring himself. When he retired from the Swedish Foreign Ministry, Jarring returned to the Uighurs and their language. In fact, he had never really left them. However, after his retirement as an Ambassador in 1973, he could once more devote more of his time and energy to them – as he had done before he became a diplomat, as a student of Turkology.

Besides his scholarly work on Uighur lexicography, folk literature and ethnology, Gunnar Jarring took a keen interest in the Central Asian region as a whole, from a linguistic and literary point of view as well as an historical and political one. A large part of his vast library consisted of publications on Central Asia, both from the region itself and from other parts of the world, not least the former Soviet Union, where Jarring was Ambassador from 1964 to 1973. His collection of Central Asia publications belongs to the Swedish Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, which had Ambassador Jarring among its fellows. All of the most renowned accounts of expeditions to Central Asia and adjoining regions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries can be found in this collection, along with a great number of lesser known accounts, some of which are very rare and accessible at just a few or perhaps no other libraries in the world. Together these publications thus provide us with an exceptionally rich material for studies of the accumulation and formation of Western knowledge about Asia in general and Central Asia in particular during the colonial era up until the cold war era. Linguistic treatises and dictionaries for many Central Asian languages are also to be found in the collection, as well as books on history, religion, literature and several other disciplines. All in all, the collection consists of almost 5000 volumes, a number of manuscripts, catalogues and maps as well as more than 3000 offprints, most of which were signed by their authors with dedication inscriptions to their colleague and friend, Ambassador or Professor Jarring.

A few years before Jarring passed away, this collection was at his own request deposited at the University of Stockholm, where it was catalogued and came to comprise the core of a future “Gunnar Jarring Library”. Ambassador Jarring’s last contribution to his own collection of Central Asia publications was a handwritten manuscript for the second edition of An Eastern Turki-English Dialect Dictionary. Ever since the first edition was published in 1964, Jarring seems to have worked on a revised and substantially enlarged version of this dictionary. He was engaged in this enterprise up until his death at the age of 94. During the same period he published several minor works containing edited texts in literary Uighur and to a still greater extent in oral varieties of this language, together with translations, commentaries and glossaries. The last publication during his life-time appeared in 1997, on the 90th anniversary of his birth: Central Asian Turkic Place-Names – a dictionary of more than 500 pages compiled on the basis of the long series of reports from the Sven Hedin expeditions, Gunnar Jarring’s own transcriptions of Eastern Turki dialect material and many of the accounts of expeditions eastwards in Asia to be found in the aforementioned Jarring Collection of Central Asia Publications. All of these late publications by Gunnar Jarring were included in the extended list of sources referred to in his manuscript of the second, enlarged edition of the Eastern Turki dialect dictionary. With generous grants from The Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities and the Henrik Granholm Foundation at Stockholm University, Jarring’s manuscript has been edited for publication at the Department of Central Asian Studies in Stockholm.

The new edition of An Eastern Turki-English Dialect Dictionary is not only a linguistic treasure. It is as much a treasure of cultural history, providing us with information and knowledge from a great number of sources not so easily accessible. Just to offer one example: You have all heard the word burka and you know what discussions and emotions this concept may stir up. At present it is mostly associated with women in Afghanistan. Did the burka ever appear among the Uighurs? In Gunnar Jarring’s manuscript for the new extended edition of the Eastern Turki dialect dictionary, Jarring quotes an article published in 1871 in the British Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, and he writes in the lexical entry for this word:

burka veil; burkha a sort of sack, which covers them (the women) from head to foot, a piece of muslin, with eyeholes, being used as a cover for the face. This is a new custom in Kashgar, introduced by the order of Atalik, which the women particularly dislike (Montgomerie, Journal R. Geogr. Soc. 41 (1871), p. 178); cf. WB [W. Radloff, Versuch eines Wörterbuches der Türk-Dialecte, 1893-1911] IV:1890 rkä Schleier

The author of the article, Major Montgomerie, presents a report of a journey from Kabul to Kashgar at the end of the 1860s – an expedition that for various reasons did not return until two years later. The traveller was not Montgomerie himself but a local silversmith, the “Mirza”, as he was called – trained as an “explorer” and sent off on his mission by the British in 1867. The “atalik” mentioned in this quotation was Yaqub Beg. He was the leader of an Islamic state in Eastern Turkestan for about 10 years, from 1866 to 1877 – a strict and demanding Islamic leader who put the Islamic law into force and who did not allow women to be unveiled outdoors. The word burka cannot be found as an entry in the first, 1964 edition of Jarring’s lexicon. Nor is there any entry for atalíq. Jaqob as a proper name is there as well as beg. However, there is no information about Yaqub Beg. The new extended edition, on the other hand, has them all – burka, ataliq and Yaqub Beg. We even find Yaqub Beg’s full title: atalíq gha:zí.

In 1964 Jarring called his dictionary an “index” to his collection of Eastern Turki oral texts published in four volumes between 1948 and 1952 under the title of Materials to the Knowledge of Eastern Turki. A number of other texts were included as well. In the same preface he commented that it had been his intention to take into account all published Eastern Turki texts and to include the total word material of all these texts. However, lack of time had prevented him from doing so, he wrote, and for this reason he had decided to draw exclusively on his own material.

There had, thus, been a desire to produce the ultimate exhaustive dictionary of Eastern Turki, or as he also commented in the 1964 preface, the Eastern Turki language up until the mid 1930s – the language of a non-modernized society – since the time he was working on the first version of his dictionary. This desire apparently never left him. During the last thirty years of his life he worked constantly on this project and produced hundreds and thousands of handwritten pages.

Ambassador Jarring finished his manuscript and could have it all typed before he died. He also took an active part in the preparations for the transfer of the files and printouts to the Department of Central Asian Studies at Stockholm for the final editing and publishing of the manuscript.