Posted by: ken98 | February 17, 2010

The Last of Old Samarkand and Mixing Up Your Steppes Peoples

Day 159 – Ken here (W)(2-17-2010)
(DEF I, v.2, ch.25, pp.1030-1040)

It’s a hot and uncomfortable day – I’m a little slow and under-the-weather today, so we might be a little short. Its a bittersweet experience doing this blog – as I’ve said before. It always feels good once you’re done (like shoveling the snow off the sidewalk when you get home at night), but it just takes a little energy to push past the inertia and get to escape-velocity (at which point the history become fun again).

We continue today with a long, long (and ultimately, probably erroneous) digression on the history of the Huns. Gibbon tries manfully, with the resources he has in the 1780’s, to wrestle with the origins of the Huns – but comes up with what we feel is the a historical case of mistaken identity. The current state of scholarship on the Huns: we don’t know where they came from with any certainty before they suddenly appear on the borders of Europe in the late 300’s.

The Story
 
Digression on the Tartars – a Turkic People

  • Government – by tribe, loyalty to local leader/chieftain, also loyalty to monarchy (if it existed above the tribal level)
  • He describes the Tartars of Genghis Khan – circa 1200’s – 800 years in the future
  • Geographical description of Tartary or Scythia, or the Russian Steppes – basically, everything north of China, India, all the way to the plains of Siberia – he delineates a limit by the temperature – the coldness of the climate
  •  
    Origin of the Huns – Complete Error?

  • He describes the Xiongnu – current historians are not at all sure that the Xiongnu are the same as the Huns
  • Since we have only a few words of Hun recorded, we are not totally sure even the language is Turkic, let alone the people
  • The actual fact of nomadic political life makes sure identification almost impossible – a group of warriors could attach themselves to a warlord and become a part of his tribe – so even finding out who was a part of what and when is guesswork at best, esp. in the absence of written records
  • Gibbon goes on for 8 pages describing the Chinese origins of the Huns 800 years before they appear in Europe – much of this is not accepted as probable in the 21st century
  • Emirate of bukhara - the Last Emire - Mohammed Alim Khan (1880–1944). Picture taken by Prokudin-Gorski in 1911

    Emirate of bukhara - the Last Emir - Mohammed Alim Khan (1880–1944). Picture taken by Prokudin-Gorski in 1911. This must be hand-colored, I'm thinking.

     
    Interesting Tangent – The Strange History of the Last Mongol Empire-let
     
    A Bit of Old Samarkand
     
    Although Gibbon seems to be drawing a definite connection between Genghis Khan (1200’s) and the Huns of the invasions of the 400’s, the Mongols almost certainly rose and fell as a people separate from the history of the Huns. Yet, (in a strange turn of history), the vast empire of the Mongols which fell apart due to internecine strife in the 1300’s, left a remnant Khanate deep in the heart of the Russian steppes – the Emirate of Bukhara.

    This from Wiki (here):

    The Emirate of Bukhara (Uzbek: Buxoro Amirligi; Tajik: Аморати Бухоро Amorati Buxoro) was a Central Asian state that existed from 1785 to 1920. It occupied the land between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, known formerly as Transoxiana. Its core territory was the land along the lower Zarafshan River, and its urban centres were the ancient cities of Samarkand and the emirate’s capital, Bukhara. It was contemporaneous with the Khanate of Khiva to the west, in Khwarezm, and the Khanate of Kokand to the east, in Fergana.

    The Emirate of Bukhara was officially created in 1785, upon the assumption of rulership by the Manghit emir, Shah Murad. Over the course of the 18th century, the emirs had slowly gained effective control of the Khanate of Bukhara, from their position as ataliq. By the 1740s, when the khanate was conquered by Nadir Shah of Persia, it was clear that the emirs held the real power. In 1747 after Nadir Shah’s death, the ataliq Muhammad Rahim Bi murdered Abulfayz Khan and his son, ending the Janid dynasty. From then on the emirs allowed puppet khans to rule until, following the death of Abu l-Ghazi Khan, Shah Murad assumed the throne openly.

    Fitzroy Maclean recounts in Eastern Approaches how Charles Stoddart and Arthur Conolly were executed by Nasrullah Khan in the context of The Great Game, and how Joseph Wolff, known as the Eccentric Missionary, escaped their fate when he came looking for them in 1845. He was wearing his full canonical costume, which caused the Emir to burst out laughing, and “Dr. Wolff was eventually suffered to leave Bokhara, greatly to the surprise of the populace, who were not accustomed to such clemency.”

    In 1868 the emirate lost a war with Imperial Russia, which had colonial aspirations in the region. Russia annexed much of the emirate’s territory, including Samarkand. In 1873 the remainder became a Russian protectorate, and was soon surrounded by the Governorate-General of Turkestan.

    Reformists within the Emirate had found the conservative emir, Mohammed Alim Khan, unwilling to loosen his grip on power, and had turned to the Russian Bolshevik revolutionaries for military assistance. The Red Army launched an unsuccessful assault in March 1920, and then a successful one in September of the same year. The Emirate of Bukhara was conquered by the Bolsheviks and replaced with the Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic. Today the territory of the defunct emirate lies mostly in Uzbekistan, with parts in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

    The Emirate of Bukhara circa 1850 (top), with Kabool (centre) and Balochistan (bottom and right) - this last remaining Khanate of the Mongol Empire remained a political unit until 1920 and the Russian Revolution and Soviet reorganization into Socialist Republics

    The Emirate of Bukhara circa 1850 (top), with Kabool (centre) and Balochistan (bottom and right) - this last remaining Khanate of the Mongol Empire remained a political unit until 1920 and the Russian Revolution and Soviet reorganization into Socialist Republics

    Engraving of Huns in battle with the Alans (1870's) after a drawing by Johann Nepomuk Geiger (1805-1880).  The Huns are associated with an ancient Chinese enemy - a nomadic empire from the 400's BCE - the controversy over the origins of the Huns rages unabated to this day

    Engraving of Huns in battle with the Alans (1870's) after a drawing by Johann Nepomuk Geiger (1805-1880). The Huns are associated with an ancient Chinese enemy - a nomadic empire from the 400's BCE - the controversy over the origins of the Huns rages unabated to this day

     
    Modern Understanding Versus Gibbon – the Tartars, the Chinese, the Huns, and Turkic Peoples
     
    Gibbon firmly identifies the Huns as a Turkic people, originating as the Xiongnu (of the ancient Xiongnu empire).

    Here is a summary of the various theories surrounding the possible relationship of the Huns and the ancient empire of teh Xiongnu – basically the arguments fall out in one of several ways: a Turkick origin for the Huns, identifying the Huns with the historical (400 BCE) empire of the Xiongnu, an Iranian origin of the Huns, a Yenisaean origin of the Huns, a multi-ethnic origin of the Huns, a complete isolated language instance of the Huns.

    Here is a portion of the discussion from Wiki (here):

    Turkic theories and possible relationship to Huns

    Turkic languages
    Since the early 19th century, Western scholars have proposed various language families or subfamilies as the affines of the language of the Xiongnu. Proponents of the Turkic languages included Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat, Julius Klaproth, Kurakichi Shiratori, Gustaf John Ramstedt, Annemarie von Gabain, and Omeljan Pritsak. Some sources say the ruling class was proto-Turkic, while others suggest it was proto-Hunnic.
    An inscription in the Iranian language, Sogdian, reports the Turks to be a subgroup of the Huns (Henning 1948). Henning (1948) also exorcised the perpetual debate about equivalency of the numerous Chinese phonetic renditions of the word Hun and the Huns known from non-Chinese sources, by demonstrating an alphabetical form of the word coded in the Chinese as Xiongnu.

    Relationship between the name Xiongnu and the name Hun

    Pronunciation of 匈
    Source: http://starling.rinet.ru
    Preclassic Old Chinese: [sŋoŋ]
    Classic Old Chinese: [ŋ̥oŋ]
    Postclassic Old Chinese: [hoŋ]
    Middle Chinese: [xöuŋ]
    Modern Cantonese: hʊŋ
    Modern Mandarin: [ɕɥʊ́ŋ]
    Modern Sino-Korean: [hɯŋ]
    Modern Sino-Japanese: [kjoː]

     
     
    Location of Xiongnu and other steppe nations in 300 AD.

    The supposed sound of the first character has a clear similarity with the name “Hun” in European languages. Whether this is evidence of kinship or mere coincidence is hard to tell. It could lend credence to the theory that the Huns were in fact descendants of the Northern Xiongnu who migrated westward, or that the Huns were using a name borrowed from the Northern Xiongnu, or that these Xiongnu made up part of the Hun confederation. As in the case of the Rouran with the Avars, oversimplifications have led to the Xiongnu often being identified with the Huns, who populated the frontiers of Europe.

    The connection started with the writings of the eighteenth century French historian de Guignes, who noticed that a few of the barbarian tribes north of China associated with the Xiongnu had been named “Hun” with varying Chinese characters. This theory remains at the level of speculation, although it is accepted by some scholars, including Chinese ones. DNA testing of Hun remains has not proven conclusive in determining the origin of the Huns.

    “Xiōngnú” [ɕɥʊ́ŋnǔ] is the modern Mandarin Chinese pronunciation. At the time of Hunnish contact with the western world (the 4th–6th centuries AD), the sound of the character “匈” ‘chest’ has been reconstructed as /hoŋ/. The second character, “奴”, appears to have no parallel in Western terminology. Its contemporary pronunciation was /nhō/, and it means “slave” — usually a pejorative term, although it is possible that it has only a phonetic role in the name 匈奴. There is almost certainly no connection between the “chest” meaning of 匈 and its ethnic meaning. There might conceivably be some sort of connection with the identically pronounced word “凶”, which means “fierce”, “ferocious”, “inauspicious”, “bad”, or “violent act”.

    Although the phonetic evidence is inconclusive, new results from Central Asia might shift the balance in favor of a political and cultural link between the Xiongnu and the Huns. The Central Asian sources of the 4th century translated in both direction Xiongnu by Huns (in the Sogdian Ancient Letters, the Xiongnu in Northern China are named xwn, while in the Buddhist translations by Dharmarakhsa Huna of the Indian text is translated Xiongnu). The Hunnic cauldrons are similar to the Ordos Xiongnu ones. Moreover, both in Hungary and in the Ordos they were found buried in river banks.

     
    Iranian languages

    Among scholars who proposed an Iranic origin for the Xiongnu are H.W. Bailey (1985)[25] and János Harmatta (1999), who believe that the Xiongnu confederation consisted of 24 tribes, controlling a nomadic empire with a strong military organization, and that “their loyal tibes and kings (shan-yü) bore Iranian names and all the Hsiung-nu words noted by the Chinese can be explained from an Iranian language of the Saka type. . . . It is therefore clear that the majority of Hsiung-nu tribes spoke an Eastern Iranian language”. Jankowski concurs.

     
    Yeniseian theory

    Lajos Ligeti was the first to suggest that the Xiongnu spoke a Yeniseian language. In the early 1960s Edwin Pulleyblank was the first to expand upon this idea with credible evidence. In 2000, Alexander Vovin reanalyzed Pulleyblank’s argument and found further support for it by utilizing the most recent reconstruction of Old Chinese phonology by Starostin and Baxter and a single Chinese transcription of a sentence in the language of the Jie (a member tribe of the Xiongnu confederacy). Previous Turkic interpretations of the aforementioned sentence do not match the Chinese translation as precisely as using Yeniseian grammar. The hypothesis of Edwin Pulleyblank (1962) in favor of the Ket also seems to be favored by some scholars.
     
    Mongolic theories
     
    Some scholars, including Paul Pelliot, insisted on a Mongolic origin.
     
    Theories on multi-ethnicity
     
    Albert Terrien de Lacouperie considered them to be multi-component groups. Many scholars believe the Xiongnu confederation was a mixture of different ethno-linguistic groups, and that their main language (as represented in the Chinese sources) and its relationships, have not yet been satisfactorily determined.
     
    Language Isolate theory
     
    The Turkologist Gerhard Doerfer has denied any possibility of a relationship between the Xiongnu language and any other known language and rejected in the strongest terms any connection with Turkish or Mongolian.
     

    Chinese Funereal Sculpture (circa 20 BCE) of Horse Stepping on Xiongnu soldier.  A young general of the Western Han Dynasty, Huo Qubing, died at 24, but was given a lavish tomb to celebrate his many victories over the Xiongnu people.  This is one of the surviving sculptures, and one of the earliest stone sculptures to survive in China.  Gibbon associates the Xiongnu and the (much) later Huns.  Scholars differ on this attibution

    Chinese Funereal Sculpture (circa 20 BCE) of Horse Stepping on Xiongnu soldier. A young general of the Western Han Dynasty, Huo Qubing, died at 24, but was given a lavish tomb to celebrate his many victories over the Xiongnu people. This is one of the surviving sculptures, and one of the earliest stone sculptures to survive in China. Gibbon associates the Xiongnu and the (much) later Huns. Scholars differ on this attibution


     
     
     

    Last Word…

    And, in case you were wondering, the Yeniseian hypothesis (above) for the origin of the Hunnish People refers to a Central Siberian origin for the Huns (see here in Wiki).

     

    The map of distribution of Yeniseian languages (red) in the XVII century (approximate; hatching) and in the end of XX century (continuous background).  It's always good learning a new thing

    The map of distribution of Yeniseian languages (red) in the XVII century (approximate; hatching) and in the end of XX century (continuous background). It's always good learning a new thing

     

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