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Old December 20th, 2018, 09:28 PM   #11
Pierre Galafassi
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 87

Hi Andy,

So far, I have found on the net only two reports by upper class central Asians, not yet any memoir of any former prisoner of the Turkmen, nor of anybody having freely shared their life (contrary to O’Donovan and de Blocqueville who enjoyed stays of, respectively, 2 and 1 years with tribesmen).

These two Central Asian’s reports have been a disappointment for two main reasons:

They did not seem to be more interested by the Turkmen than the Russian military was, rather less.
Their mixture of legends, obvious embellishments and facts is a serious challenge for any occidental reader.

One can find in Gallica (1) a 1876 translation in French, by Charles Schefer (from the Ecole des langues Orientales Vivantes) of a report by a certain Mir Abdoul Karim written to a certain Arif Bey in 1800-1810, probably when the latter gentleman was in charge of high ranking visitors to the Ottoman Court in Constantinople.
According to Schefer, Mir Abdoul Karim was from a family of Seyids from Boukhara and employed by high profile local people. He was member of embassies to Russia and to Constantinople and was also part of the household of Mahmoud Khan.
He later moved to the Ottoman Empire and worked for the Court.
Schefer praises his knowledge of history and affairs of the Uzbek Khanates of Khokand, Boukhara and Khiva and of their relations with Persia and Afghanistan.

The role of the Yomud as auxiliary cavalry in Khivan armies, their allergy to Uzbek taxmen and a list of tribes living near the Amu Darya are about the only mentions of Turkmen.
Mir Abdoul Karim mixes facts and myths and apparently believes strongly in 'cherchez la femme' to explain every single political event. His information is better taken 'cum grano salis'. However, he probably remains so far the best oriental source available for the 18th and early 19th century.

In 1879, prof. Charles Schefer also translated in French the ‘report’ of another Central Asian, of very high social extraction named Riza Quli Khan. However the description of his embassy to Khiva is very short on facts but full of 'Sheherazade tales'.


Hi Chuck,
Did Capt. Wood’s book supply some interesting informations?

Best regards
Pierre Galafassi is offline   Reply With Quote