Alpamysh: central Asian identity under Russian rule


Alpamysh is a Turkic dastan — ornate oral history — and prime representative of the Turkic oral literature of Central Asia. It is the principal repository of ethnic identity, history, customs, and the value systems of its owners and composers. Set mostly in verse, the Alpamysh dastan is known and recited from the eastern Altai to the western Ural mountain ranges and as far south as Band-e Turkestan. It commemorates the Turkic people’s struggles for freedom. The events leading to the composition of the dastan may date from a very early period; though some published variants depict these struggles to be against Kalmak oppressors — perhaps the result of later overlays. A major variant of the dastan, under the title The Tale of Bamsi Beyrek of the Grey Horse, forms part of the Book of Dede Korkut and is known in Azerbaijan and Asia Minor. Alpamysh is shared by Central Asians across the continent and knowledge of this dastan is an inseparable part of identity and national pride. Failure to know it was regarded as a source of shame.

The struggle of the Central Asians to preserve this dastan in the face of Soviet attacks upon it is the central focus of the present work. The attacks and attempts to save the

H. B. Paksoy

Alpamysh: central Asian identity under Russian rule

By H. B. Paksoy

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