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Old December 18th, 2018, 04:18 AM   #9
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Wonder if anyone followed the link, scrolled down a few inches and read the "Into Russian Turkistan" piece? I thought it might be interesting to those who read the travel literature on Central Asia.

The obvious problem with most of the writers cited above is that they are "birds of passage" who only spent a short time in Central Asia with a limited knowledge or sympathy for the people they were seeing. Personally, after spending a couple of years in Afghanistan, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of the place-two years later, I realized how little I knew!

There are couple of sources that haven't been exploited as yet from people who interacted (for better or worse) with the Turkmen on a daily basis.

The first would be the letters and diaries from upper class Persians that were held for ransom by the Turkmen tribes during the 19th century. These "slave narratives" would, no doubt, contain a good deal information about day to day life among the Turkmen during the 19th century or possibly even earlier.

The other source, untapped as far as I know would be the letters and documents from the Central Asian Jewish traders who worked closely with the Turkmen during the 19th and early 20th century. Apparently, they forged close ties with Turkmen tribes as traders in both carpets and karakal furs, gaining respect as trusted partners. As neutral parties with neither tribal or government allegiances they also were said to have negotiated disputes between tribes when asked.
(Whether Mashhadi Jews actually fought alongside Turkmen against the Persians as claimed by Wolff is an intriguing question.)

Jewish traders (not just the Central Asian ones) are an important historical source as they both wrote a lot of letters and preserved them, often in Genizah. There are surviving letters from Jewish traders from 11th century Afghanistan and even earlier from Eastern Turkestan so surely there must be some from the 19th century!

Maybe more rewarding than the thoughts of some clueless Russian military colonial?
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