Togan Memoires

Struggle for National and Cultural Independence of the Turkistan and other Moslem Eastern Turks


The sources constituting the basis of these memoires were taken out, prior to our Togan, along with other prominet leaders of the Turkistan National Liberation Movement departure at the beginning of 1923 from Turkmenistan to Iran, via the Kabul Embassy of Bukhara and merchants travelling to Muhammedabad. Quite a few valuable documents were taken out to Finland by my compatriot Osman Tokumbet the same year. The notes and documents that had been recorded in a similie of cypher, and taken out via various means, were read and decoded in collaboration with my compatriots who had fallen prisoner to the Germans during 1943, who were aware of the events contained therein. Additional voluminous updates of information was also obtained from them. Those materials were brought to the Turkish Republic by the late Saffet Arikan, then the Ambassador to Berlin. During 1957, extensive use has been made of the Russian newspaper colections at the “Hoover War Library,” originally collected by F. A. Kerenskii, and by his permission, and with the aid of the library director, a Professor of Polish origin, W. S. Sworokowsky. Use also has been made of the microfilms of the Turkistan newspapers, originals of which were collected with care by Mr. Richard Pierce of Berkeley University during his visit to Russia Soviet Union, also with his aid. I must here experess my gratitude to these individuals.

To assure the correctness of the information provided herein, I have asked my friends who have participated in the inclosed events, such as Abdulkadir Inan, Kocaoglu Osman, Abdullah Taymas and the combatants Shirmehmet Bek and Kirghiz leader Parpi Haci, to read the manuscript.

The first draft of this work was written in Berlin during 1924, but due to the unavailability of a suitable publisher, it’s publication was delayed. Finally, a compatriot of mine, who had saved capital as a high-school student, provided for the eventual printing of this volume, desiring to aid the national publications. He wishes to remain anonymous. Author and poet Orhan Saik Gokyay undertook the task of revising the original manuscript which had been written under the influence of Eastern Turk dialects, in order to render it readable in modern Turkish. I offer my sincere thanks to both.

A few photographs, though referenced in the text, were unavailable at the time of the printing. I offer my apologies for their omission.

18 February 1967 (Istanbul)

I dedicate these memoires to my beloved wife Nazmiye Ungar Togan, who had aided me in their compilation.


The sources constituting the basis of these memoires were taken out, prior to our Togan, along with other prominet leaders of the Turkistan National Liberation Movement departure at the beginning of 1923 from Turkmenistan to Iran, via the Kabul Embassy of Bukhara and merchants travelling to Muhammedabad. Quite a few valuable documents were taken out to Finland by my compatriot Osman Tokumbet the same year. The notes and documents that had been recorded in a similie of cypher, and taken out via various means, were read and decoded in collaboration with my compatriots who had fallen prisoner to the Germans during 1943, who were aware of the events contained therein. Additional voluminous updates of information was also obtained from them. Those materials were brought to the Turkish Republic by the late Saffet Arikan, then the Ambassador to Berlin. During 1957, extensive use has been made of the Russian newspaper colections at the “Hoover War Library,” originally collected by F. A. Kerenskii, and by his permission, and with the aid of the library director, a Professor of Polish origin, W. S. Sworokowsky. Use also has been made of the microfilms of the Turkistan newspapers, originals of which were collected with care by Mr. Richard Pierce of Berkeley University during his visit to Russia Soviet Union, also with his aid. I must here experess my gratitude to these individuals.

To assure the correctness of the information provided herein, I have asked my friends who have participated in the inclosed events, such as Abdulkadir Inan, Kocaoglu Osman, Abdullah Taymas and the combatants Shirmehmet Bek and Kirghiz leader Parpi Haci, to read the manuscript.

The first draft of this work was written in Berlin during 1924, but due to the unavailability of a suitable publisher, it’s publication was delayed. Finally, a compatriot of mine, who had saved capital as a high-school student, provided for the eventual printing of this volume, desiring to aid the national publications. He wishes to remain anonymous. Author and poet Orhan Saik Gokyay undertook the task of revising the original manuscript which had been written under the influence of Eastern Turk dialects, in order to render it readable in modern Turkish. I offer my sincere thanks to both.

A few photographs, though referenced in the text, were unavailable at the time of the printing. I offer my apologies for their omission.

18 February 1967 (Istanbul)

I dedicate these memoires to my beloved wife Nazmiye Ungar Togan, who had aided me in their compilation.

Mollas of the Bukhara-Khiva type —

The group our family got on best with were the mollas. Among the more prominent ones were Nogayogullari Serefuddin and Kemal from Isterlitamak, Abselam and his son Bekbulat Molla of Sayran village, Sultan Gerey of Yumagoca village, Allam of Kunsak village, Nimetullah and and Zeynullah of Isterlitas, Seydioglu Abdullah of Mollakay village of the East of the Urals, and a prominent one with the name of Zeynullah Isan of Troysk. These individuals knew Arabic and Persian, possessing theological knowledge, belonging to the Naksibendi tarika of Bukhara, were heads of their medreses, book reading personalities. Neither my father, nor Veli Molla maintained any appreciable contact with those who were unenlightened, fanatic. The most scholarly of those seyhs were Zeynullah of Troysk and Mollakay Abdullah. Abdullah had studied in Bukhara, was an authority in theological sciences, a master in writing Arabic and Persian poetry and belonged to the “Muceddid-i Halidi” branch of the Indian Naksibendis. Their medreses were established in the model of Bukhara, especially of the Khorezm type. These were not fanatic men, for example, like those Kiskar and Tunter mollas of the Kazan area or many of the “Ishans” of the Bashkurt il. All were astute individuals, cognizant of politics.

Arif Sayrani and Hizir Molla —

Among those, Isterlitamak Nogayogullari had the most influence on our family. They considered themselves descendants of the Nogay Oybakti Mirza, maintained contacts with the likes of Kursavi, Mercani of Kazan, Cardakli Hekim of Western Siberia and with Bukhara. It is said that they also held political views. My uncle Veli Molla and my father had studied in their medrese. In their milieu, some men of thought had matured, they valued sciences and branches of knowledge such as mathematics and history. One of the distinguished personages studying in the Nogayoglu medrese was the aforementioned Bekbulat Molla’s brother Arif Sayrani, from the neighboring village of Sayran. This individual, while studying at the Nogayogullari medrese, along with Nizameddin of the Katay urug, from the Kuruc village, had been inspired by “Al-Tarikat al-muhtla,” written by Mercani of Kazan, inculcating the “modern” understanding of Islam at the time. As a result he became interested in mathematics and philosophy, went to Bukhara during the first half of the last century in order to expand his knowledge in those areas. Upon observing that these types of knowledge had degenerated at that locale, he wrote a letter in Arabic expressing his deep grief, and sent it to his uncle or father, appended to a copy of the book “‘Akaid Nesefi.” My father had that letter published, through the great Tatar scholar Rizaeddin Fahreddin and historian Murad Remzi. Arif describes the ulema of Bukhara with “the turbans on their heads are high as the mountains, their claims wide as the oceans, but they are ignorant and insignificant.” Another one of his letters in Arabic has been published in a book by the historian Sihabeddin Mercani of Kazan. This individual {Arif}, accompanied by his fiery friend Nizameddin, left Bukhara for Herat and Kabul, to undertake scholarly activities, and from there went to Bagdad via Iran. He was disillusioned once again and both perished in poverty during 1856 under conditions suggesting suicide. The adventurous lives of these two individuals, seeking true knowledge and reform in social life, their disappointment upon observing the demise of intellectual life in such Islamic centers as Bukhara, Herat, Rayy and Bagdad constituted a significant tragedy at the time.

Among the members of the Yurmati urug, interest in the positive aspects of Islamic civilization was not confined to Arif Sayrani. In fact, an imam by the name of Hizir, living in the village of “Buce,” four kilometers from ours, knew geometry quite well. My father had arranged for me to study geometry with him. This person used to determine the kibla of the mosques using the “Rub-I mucayeb” (Astronomical Quadrant) method of the mathematician Ulug Bey, grandson of Timur. This was medieval knowledge and had diminishing relation to the developing mathematics available in contemporary Turkey or Russia. This imam, it was said, had also determined the peak heights of Ulkum and Alatav mountains, which were the highest in our vicinity, with his simple instruments. Hizir Molla lived out the last years of his life as the imam of Bacik village, was pleased with my learning Russian and expressed his desire for me to be an engineer. After his death, I, too, determined the kiblas of some newly constructed mosques, using his method.

During my youth, the influence of Khiva on the national life of the Southern Ural Bashkurts was continuing and manifested itself in many respects. For example, a gift of an outfit called “Khiva Capani” would be made at the wedding ceremonies. When I was in Khiva-Khorezm during the winter of 1920, I was astonished to observe that the style and embroidery of the unlined blond furs worn during winter were the same as the ones we would wear. The haircuts and beard trims were also alike. In short: the milieu to which my father belonged was under complete influence of Bukhara and Khorezm, and perhaps abandoned the seminomadic life-style during the 19th century, or perhaps not entirely. The visible center of this cultural milieu was the Sayran village, seven kilometers to our South, and the Makar village, a similar distance to the North East. That is to say, villages of Arif Sayrani and Major Yusuf. Though the Russians had studied, with imperialist aims, vast areas that lay between China and Tibet, down to the village level, they had entirely neglected the Ural environs. The Geographical Society they had established in Orenburg had only studied Ziyancura town, from among Baskurdistan cultural centers, and had published some studies on it, but that type of research had not spread in our direction. The existence of towns such as “Sayran,” “Selci,” “Yapanci,” “Sart Hasan,” that had reared some distinguished personae; and their possession of historical inscriptions, point to the populations’ having been detached from the Western Turkistan towns, known to be historical civilization centers, of “Sayran,” “Selci,” “Yafenc,” and settled in our territory.

Influences of the Kazan School —

When my father married Ummulhayat (my mother), the daughter of Satlikoglu Kafi of the Utek village, where a mixture of Bashkurt and Tipter were living, he entered into a somewhat different world maintaining contacts with Kazan, instead of Bukhara and Khiva. Valuable scholars had emerged from Utek since earlier times, one of them, Kockaroglu Emirhan, who had died in 1826, had studied in Daghestan, Istanbul, Egypt and Hijaz. He and his son Ahmetcan, a foremost theologian who settled as an imam somewhere in the vicinity of Kazan on his way back from the pilgrimage, had introduced some modernism into Islamic theology. Our relative from my mother’s side, Oteguloglu Abcelil Hazret (died in 1859), who had a medrese at the Utek village, had studied at Khiva-Yeni Urgenc; my maternal grandfather, Satlikoglu Kafi (died 1900) had lived in Bukhara and Khiva. Reportedly, both learned good Persian. The Persian culture, present in our village earlier, had developed further with my mother’s arrival. While my father was teaching me Arabic, my mother was teaching me Persian.

On the other hand, Emirhan and his son Ahmetcan, both of whom settled in Kazan environs as imams, were inviting their relatives to Kazan for study. The “Kazan sympathizers,” who had emerged in our area, in competition to those of Bukhara and Khiva, rose from this Utek village. Their principal representative was my maternal uncle Satlikoglu Habibneccar, who admitted me into his medrese when I reached the age of eleven. Mercani of Kazan was known under the name “Sihab Hazret” in our parts. His independent views pertaining to Islamic precepts were received well even among “Bukhara type Mollas.” But, his historical works were held in utter distain due to their containing passages belittling Kazakhs and Bashkurts. Consequently, even Habibneccar was viewed as a “lackey of Sihab Molla.” Mercani had misunderstood a point made by the Arab traveller Ibn Fadlan explaining a shamanic fetish called “tos,” and wrote that there was a “phallus” cult among the Bashkurts. Because of that, Mollakay Abdullah Hazret, who knew Arabic very well, burned Mercani’s book “Mustefad al-axbar” in a fire, in my father’s presence. Outside of these three circles, several other individuals had contributed to my maturation. One of them was Mollagul Divana.

Mollagul Divana —

My mother regarded Persian not merely as a language, but also as the vehicle inculcating mystical thoughts of the 13th century Persian Sufi writer Attar and the 18th century Sufi Allahyar of Bukhara, who wrote in Turkish and in Persian. In this respect, she was under the influence of a dervish named Mollagul Divana – he was fifty years of age when I was very young — who used to visit us often. This dervish of the Sengim Kipcak urug had lived in and around “Turkistan” (the city of “Yesi” in Syr Darya) and belonged to the Yesevi tarika, which was not well known among us. His zikrs consisted of reciting aloud religious verses all the while rocking back and forth and bouncing about. Though my father belonged to the Naksibendi tarika, reciting their zikrs silently in their mouths, he liked the zikrs of others called “cahri” and would remind Mollagul of the Sufi codes in Arabic at the end of a namaz, causing Mollagul to take notice, jumping and responding with “yahu.” (*) {(*) “Ya Hu ya men Hu/Cered al-emre(?) illa Hu” etc.}

I understood that these jumps and gyrations, throwing the head back and forth, resembling a dance, were called “erre” in Persian, meaning “bicki zikri”, and in Turkish, “capkin.” My mother greatly enjoyed these zikrs, which Mollagul would perform at the end of namaz at our home, when not going to the mosque to do so. My mother would memorize the Turkish and Persian verses recited by this dervish, write down some and have me memorize them as well. These were all religious, moralistic poems. The poetry he used to relate from the great Turkish Sufi of the 12th century was emotive.

For example: “If I were to ask about the path from those who arrived at the truth/ Would it be wrong to place my head on their knees and rub my face?/ If I were to climb the peaks of tall mountains to become an ascetic/ Melding with the clouds, causing endless rains to fall/ Would it be wrong for me to resuscitate drying trees and grow lush gardens?/ If I were to touch the clouds as a Sunkar bird/ Descend down to become a hunter and stalk rapacious beasts/ Joining sparrows, repeat God’s name ninety one times/ Would it be wrong to fly about along with the nightingales? (*) {(*) Turkcesi.}

I could never forget the time when Mollagul was visiting us during a bayram. He (or, my father) apparently had previously related a story to the population, concerning the prophet. In any case, everybody knew of it. The contents of the story was as follows: During a bayram, the prophet noticed a destitude orphan, who, watching the children of the rich riding on luxuriously ornamented camels, was crying: “I wish I, too, had a camel.” In order to please the child, the prophet pretended to be a camel, placing the orphan on his sholders, moved about the crowd, jumping. When Abubakr intervened, stating that this was unbecoming of him, the prophet responded with “in that case, the child should purchase the camel under him and release it.” Abubakr, handing six walnuts to the child, had him free the prophet. Mollagul, singing the versified story in lyrical form, placed me on his back, moved about among the congregation that had gathered next to the mosque. My father caused me to free Mollagul by giving me six walnuts. Commencing to recite the following poem in Turkish to me, attributed to Sems Tebrizi, my father repeated it exuberantly perhaps ten times in a row; all this being done as if it were a short theatrical act: “That child did not know the identity of the men under him, being a mere child; otherwise, he would not have sold it even if presented with the world entire and the universe.” (*) {Turkcesi}

The proceedings made me cry too, because Mollagul had acted the part of the prophet, and my father, that of Abubakr.

Mollagul would sing, in lyrical form, some of the religious verses and used to play the flute, known as “kuray.” He would thus bring alive the Islamic traditions before the adults and the children. According to him, the famous Sufi Sems Tebrizi, who recited Persian poems, also recited them in Turkish, was a fiery dervish, caused the Muslims to be overwhelmed with joy through his verses and dances.

Mollagul passed away during the Russo-Japanese war. When I visited home, accompanied by a detachment of troops during revolutionary times in 1918, I discovered a notebook belonging to Mollagul preserved in our house. After his death, my father and mother appended to it additional Turkish and Persian poems they had heard from him earlier. My father would recite those poems along with Mollagul. Often, my father would recite them when he was alone. Those poems were so fluid, so lively that they would effortlessly place themselves into a person’s memory. There were times when Mollagul would behave strangely. For example, sometimes he would steal something from my father. My father woud say “let him.” But once he stole a silver pocket watch which came from Mekka as a present. My father caught and beat him. Despite the fact that he had a huge body, he cried, saying “I did not take it Molla, I admired it as a possession of a friend” and recited a Persian poem with the content “gold becomes more beatiful as the jeweler pounds it.” (*) {Farscasi} Truly, Mollagul was not a thief, but would walk way with the properties of those individuals he considered to be his true friends.

When he came to visit us during the summer months, he would stay in the summer dormitory of the medrese adjoining our house, called “alacik.” The summer kitchen was there, too. All of us children would sleep there as well. Upon Mollagul’s arrival, my mother had a goat skinned and prepared it to be boiled in the cauldron. Mollagul, stating “and this is Mahmay’s,” offered a leg of it to our dog by that name. My mother was angered and crowned Mollagul with the ladle. Mollagul immediately recited a Persian poem suitable for the occasion, and addressing his wife, who was perhaps one hundred and fifty kilometers away, shouted “Rehile, Ustabike is beating me.” “Ustabike” means “Ustad bike,” schoolmistress. My mother did not forget the poem he recited during this incident, and entered it into Mollagul’s notebook; meaning: “The aroma drew me inside (into the kitchen), and caused the ladle to be placed on my head.” (*) This was not a poem he composed at that instant, but one of the thousands of poems he carried in his memory, selecting the appropriate one as needed.

It is said that he even used the suras of the Koran in such masterly manner. I tried to use them as he did. Mollagul liked me very much, and had me memorize Turkish and Persian poems of morality in my childhood. For instance “if you greet the guests forthright, God will bestow upon you countless blessings;” and “son, do not offend people with your tongue, so as not to weary God.” Also, “God, who can provide the fish to feed the birds flying in the sky may also grant powers of state to his smallest servant.” But, he did not provide an interpretation of this last one, and indicated I would understand in adulthood. I did not insist. Though my father sometimes flogged him, he also used to say that Mollagul may be an evliya. When I presided over the Bashkurt government in 1918, my father reminded me of Mollagul’s poem, asking “do you now comprehend the meaning?”

When I related those poems to Ahund Yusuf Talibzade of Azarbaijan (in 1922), who knew Persian literature very well, he explained that those were all from 12th-13th century poets Attar and Celaledddin Rumi. It became apparent that Mollagul also knew history. For example, he used to remember a poem concerning Seljuk rulers Sencer and Karahan Arslan Hakan’s often visiting seyh Ahmet Yesevi, who had spread a “Turk mysticism” centered around Syr Darya; {they} knocked on Yesevi’s door, kissing the earth on his threshold as well as his feet. I used to consider that an invention. Apparently that, too, was quoted from Rumi’s works. Though I never took the poems Mollagul taught me during my childhood seriously, I discovered they had all had been relayed from grand personae.

My teacher Zeki Halife and I would consider Mollagul’s behavior, such as addressing his wife afar, back at home, when beaten with a ladle on the head by my mother, a fraud and regarded him a thief. My father, on the other hand, supposed him learned and even a member of the “erenler,” admonished me to earn his “alkis,” meaning praise, and avoid his “kargis,” imprecations. On my part, I would transport him to see his friends in the neighboring villages, using our horses and carriages. In any event Mollagul aided my understanding in a considerable way, by helping me learn Persian and Chaghatay literature, how Yesevism and Islam spread among the masses and became their property. He categorically shunned those who were ceremonious and lacking cordiality. He also severely criticized my father for taking an officious approach of religion. For instance, he did not find it expedient that my father would rouse me for the morning namaz. He would say “he is still a child, he has not yet acquired a taste for namaz, why do you compel him?”

Another anecdote: As long as I remember myself, on the wall of our guest house, which we called “Agoy,” there was a sizeable poster hanging. Along its borders it contained Sufi poetry taken from Yesevi, Attar and from other mystical poets. In its middle, as I recall, the heads of three dervises were drawn. The blue colored tears running from their eyes were depicted as forming rivers, leading to a lake, finally engulfing the village. Supposedly, these dervises were clamoring with “ah’un min al-isq,” meaning “oh, this love,” Allah, Allah. Addressing Mollagul, I queried: “Uncle, what is this? God is not visible, it is not known where he is, how can one fall in love with him. Is Allah a “Leyla” so that a “Mecnun” can fall in love with him? It is absurd that their tears are forming rivers. How can that be?” Because of my question, my father slapped and reprimanded me, calling me a swine. Mollagul immediately intervened with: Molla, what are you doing? The child does not possess the ability to understand mysticism, can mysticism be acquired forcibly? God created him thus, though he may become “sagacious,” but not a “Sufi.” If anything, he may become a “starshina,” but not a “seyh” or “murid.” In Russian, “starshina” refers to the rank of governor of a township, or, in the army, to the rank of “major.” My father would not object to his interferences of this nature, instead, accept them. This was to my benefit. Mollagul did not at all like the mollas, known in Islam as “ulema-i rusum,” of the formal type. He would not go anywhere near my maternal uncle Habibneccar because of his overly formal approach to being a molla, or the zealous Kessaf Molla of our village, who was of the Bukhara type. When he died, I was only fourteen years of age, and had not appreciated his worth. I began understanding him somewhat, after he passed away, from the poetry he had me memorize and through my mother and father. I also began to understand the inner thoughts of my mother and father only from the entries they made in Mollagul’s notebook, which was in their hands during 1918.

My Learning Russian —

While I was still six, seven years of age, I began learning Russian along with Arabic and Persian. My learning these three languages at such an early age caused me to save quite a bit of time later in life, and allowed me to concentrate on other topics instead of struggling to acquire them after I grew up. Why did I start learning Russian this early? There is a reason. While my father was serving in the army, he had suffered tremendously, and resolved that, if he were to have a son, to have him learn Russian before anything else.

He used to recall the event as follows: In Islam, when “nocturnal emmission” (pollution, ejaculating semen during a dream) takes place, it is customary to wash the body in “ritual total ablution.” One night, my father experiences that event in the army. But, he is caught by the officer of the watch during the “ritual ablution.”

Upon the request of the military doctor, my father’s company commander orders my father imprisoned and condemns him to be prostrated under sandbags for hours as punishment. As my father moans under the weight of the sandbags, the Daghestani Beys, called “Samhal,” in their thick uniforms, serving in the Russian army, happened to be by. Samhal inquires from the young Russian officer the cause. Commander recounts the event. Samhal asks the commander whether he could take my father to his own unit to serve out the punishment. But my father, not knowing Russian, addresses the Samhal in Arabic, which pleases the latter immeasurably. After the punishment period, as the Samhal returns my father, tells the Russian commander: “he is a worthy youth, promote him to sergeant.” But, since my father could not speak Russian, he suffers immeasurably as a sergeant, and receives beatings often.

At that juncture, my father resolves that, if he could return home, get married and father a son, to have him learn Russian before all else. In our village, there was no school teaching Russian. There was one in the neighboring Makar village, but he did not wish to send me there. Instead, he charged Abdurrahman Menglibayev, a Tatar student in his medrese, a graduate of the “Russian City School” (Middle School), to tutor me privately in Russian. Two years later, another “Russian City School” graduate, Sahibek Ozbekov, son of a close friend of my father came to the medrese. When Abdurrahman left, Sahibek tutored me in Russian. When I reached the age of eleven, Sahibek prepared me, by tutoring me in other subjects as well, to sit for the primary school exams during the summer. I went to the school in Makar a few times during the summer. During spring, I sat for the exams there. The schoolteacher, Miftah Karamisev, gave me a diploma indicating I had passed. He also added that in four years, with private tutoring, I had learned better Russian than his own students, and recommended that I be sent to the Russian city school in Isterlitamak. I also insisted. However, my father and my mother were strictly against it. Instead, I was taken to my maternal uncle’s medrese in Utek, during the fall (1902). That bigoted Kessam Molla’s fabricating gossip: “Molla Aga is sending his son to the Russian school” prevented my going to Isterlitamak.

My Education in Utek (1902-1908) —

Though this village was fourteen kilometers from ours, my maternal uncle’s circle was quite dissimilar to ours. I usually stayed in my uncle’s house, in its richly stocked library section.

All five sons of my maternal grandfather were imams, so were his three daughters’ husbands, who were his pupils. His eldest son, my uncle Habibneccar (photograph 3), was taken to Kazan by the aforementioned son of the wealthy trader Kockaroglu Emirhan, became a student of one of the greatest minds, masters, philosophers of the time, the renowned historian Sehabeddin Mercani; and later became his famous assistant. Habibneccar published, in Turkish, his book pertaining to Islamic history, “Miftah ut Tavarih,” meaning “Key to Histories,” as well as Arabic commentaries to the well known medrese textbooks on Islamic metaphysics and philosophy. The Arabic footnotes he produced were written while the latter books were being typeset, as a means of correcting them, also appending biographies of their authors, in Arabic. Hamid Sengari, a friend of my uncle’s, wrote many such footnotes. Also, the “Qalyubi” anecdotes, which my uncle translated from Arabic literature, were also published.

Habibneccar was also informed about politics. He had read the “Tercuman” newspaper, published by the educated Crimean Muslim Turk Ismail Gasprinskii, from the beginning, meaning since 1883. In sufism, he was a disciple of the progressive seyh of the time, Zeynullah of the Tungatar urug. Habibneccar also would obtain the latest publications from Turkey, and read them. He, like my father, occupied himself with the Arabic language as well as the philosophical and moralistic works in that language.

But, there were points where their life views diverged from each other. My uncle had learned of the spherical nature of earth’s constitution from the translation of Flamarion. He knew astronomy and mathematics in its contemporary form. On the other hand, my father considered these topics from the perspective of 12th century Islamic thinker al-Ghazali, whom he regarded to be the only teacher in such matters. He believed in the spherical nature of earth , that the moon is smaller than the earth and closer to earth than the other heavenly bodies, that the sun is larger than the earth and further away, knew of the solar and lunar eclipses. But he did not believe in the fact that earth rotated around its axis, because Gazali, under the influence of Ptolemy, stressed the heliocentric theory of the universe. My father, in his sermons, enthusiastically related from Gazali’s “Ihya-ul-ulum al-din,” meaning “Resuscitation of religious knowledge,” but would also read certain portions of the same work in bed, to fall asleep. I would ask my father: How is it that one work can create such excitement and induce drowsiness? He would answer with: Son, this book contains sections to effect both. Later on, upon reading the French scholar G. Bosquet’s analysis of the said volume, I found a similar opinion and realized the essentially correct prognosis of my father.

I knew of Ghazali’s date of death, expressed in reiterative figures (A. H. 505; A. D. 1111), since I was perhaps ten years old. My father wished to die at the age of sixty three, as did Ghazali and our prophet. But, his wish was not granted. When he died in the hands of the Bolsheviks, after having been subjected to prolonged tortures, he was well past eighty. My father regularly received Gaspirali’s newspaper as well, reading only the important news, would not necessarily understand the articles pertaining to the contemporary intellectual currents, would believe in the advertisements. For example, he would regard long haired Anna Chilag, appearing in a hair tonic promotion, as real. Hence, my father’s circle, though distant from fanaticism, was conservative. Habibneccar’s milieu, on the other hand, was enlightened and progressive. These aspects bound me more to my uncle than to my father.

My Father’s Personality —

Though my fathers environment appeared comparatively undistinguished, in many respects I preferred it to my uncle’s. My maternal uncle and my father were friends, but their characters and the life views they held were truly different. Habibneccar in Kazan, along with two other “assistants” of Mercani, Abbas and

Sadri, indulged in excesses and all were involved in scandals. About them, a satirical poem was written:

“Neccar, Abbas and Sadri/ Though it is said that they are students/ They are distinguished in merrymaking/ Their eyes on the girls. (*) {T} Abbas went to Istanbul, but did not refrain from immoderation, and satires caught up with him. Neccar, whose reputation followed him to Istanbul due to those satires, became an imam in his village, and later, seyh. But his life was a mystery to me. Even though I lived in his household, I used to think “I wonder if he still drinks?” My father, on the other hand, was a simple and completely sincere man, held no secret for me. My uncle was overly pompous toward his students, while my father, though an authoritarian, treated his students and sons as a friend and a real father. If he noticed a fault, he would definitely mete out punishment, but often turned a blind eye toward the offenses. He had never imbibed intoxicants in his life. The namaz was compulsory in the family, but he knew that when he was away we did not perform it, and would not pursue the issue.

He was extraordinarily disciplined. He would rule with an iron hand when we were involved in the family herd management activities. He would place a cushion called “kopcik” on his saddle, {but} not allow anyting soft to be placed on ours, requiring us to sit only on the leather saddle cover, even if we were to be riding fifty kilometers.

Our cover at night, at home or in the field, was a wool capote called “sekmen” (cekmen). During summer though the herds had shepherds, he would make us, his sons, responsible for any cow or sheep that was left behind, got lost or became ill. We had no less than five horses at home. At night, he would send us to “Qunalga,” meaning to take them for grazing where the grass was best. We would stake with a lengthy rope those horses which had a tendency to run away. We would get up at night to change the places of those

stakes. During morning prayers, we would bring the horses home. If we were to be still asleep by dawn, my father would most definitely slap our faces.

He was faithful to old customs and traditions in the highest possible degree. He was always in conflict with his lieutenant, imam Kessaf Molla, for customs not found among Miser, Tipter and Tatars. Reportedly this person, behind my father’s back, would say “molla prefers zakon to sheria.” Having studied in Bukhara, what Kessaf Molla referred to as “zakon,” meaning Russian official laws, were in actuality Bashkurt traditions not necessarily in step with sheria. This manifested itself in inheritance matters, custom of “inci” (insi), and the “honey” drink.

“Inci” (insu) means division of property of all types equally, based on the principle of parity among men-women of a family, without regard to gender, and branding of all animals accordingly. “Inci” is a fundamental law governing the family affairs, such as the slaughtering of animals for religious sacrificial occasions or for banquets, zekat and inheritance. Reportedly, our village was famous for keeping “bees,” producing “honey” and for partaking freely of “bitter honey.” A relative of ours, Ehil Molla, an aged imam, was in the habit of drinking and leading the congregation in that state. It is said that Kessaf Molla would object: “the namaz cannot be performed under his leadership.” In return, my father would only say: “if anyone is in doubt, let them repay their debt at home,” {and} not contravene the aged molla because of this bitter honey matter. My mother, too, would surreptitiously produce this bitter honey for her own consumption. Though my father would see the “kurege,” the wood container where bitter honey was

fermented, he turned a blind eye. He would even hand my mother the honey-water generated from washing the “ekmekli” portion of the honey from the hives, through which process candle wax is extracted, with the request that she “pour it out.” My mother would not, instead storing it in her “kurege.” This would turn into the most potent kind. And my father would act as if he was not aware. Kessaf Molla would hear of this, and about my father, whom he greatly revered, would say: “In Molla Aga’s house, there is no shortage of unlawful honey.” Kessaf Molla insisted on compliance to sheria to the letter. He had followers among the Tipter and Misers. They, too, would gossip about my father.

Since my father held the primacy of old traditions in the village life, there would be conflicts. According to my father, the main occupation of the village was to raise animals and provide pastures. His agriculture was confined to the “corn” he would plant, as much as could be carried in the skirt of his gown called

“bismet” or “yilen,” and the area where it was planted. The seeds of his annual planting would not exceed two or three skirtfulls. The planted field would be surrounded by a fence called “kerte,” as done by everybody else. But when the Misers arrived, it is said, they had encircled the village with a fence, in Russian style, and called it “Ukalsa” (okolitsa) in Russian. The pasture was removed, all having been converted to planting fields. Then, conflict broke out between those keeping animals and the planters. My father regarded as natural the raids of the animals on the fields, returning from yayla in the fall. Miser, Tatar and Russians stood against him.

During summer, Misers and Russians were renting the winter pens of our animals, to plant potatos there. Our people would not eat those, regarding them grown in filth. Misers also planted vegetables, like the Russians, and surrounded them with hedges. Our neighbor, Siddik Miser, once beat me, stating I stole a cucumber and accused my father of raising his son as a thief. A row broke out. Whereas, my father did not recognize the right to punish humans to them, for taking cucumbers or chickpeas. My father, faithful to all ancient nomadic traditions and customs, viewed life where “one custom made place for another according to necessity.” Meaning, in adapting to changes in life, the central reference point was custom, and not sheria. From this standpoint, he was much more amenable to progress not only with respect to Kessaf Molla, but also to my maternal uncle Habibneccar.

Years passed, he used the winter pens of our animals to grow potatos, having us eat large potatos. He even grew cabbage, had his relatives get used to potatos. In adapting to life, also planting fruit trees in the garden, he surpassed the Miser and Kessaf Molla who did not have any. When I was older, I persuaded him to increase our planting field by five-ten hectares. Earlier, would harvest grass with a scythe, but as the sickle caused us backache, we would employ Tatars or the Russians as day laborers to do that job. In time, my siblings got used to the sickle as well as the machine {harvester?}.

Earlier, we would feed our animals in open pens (kerte), even during the winter. In time, we had “ahur,” “saray,” meaning barns, constructed like those of the Miser. The Bashkurt village school next to our house, comprising two rooms, took the form of an excellent medrese similar to those found in a Tatar township. In other words, my father speedily adapted the medieval life of my youth to contemporary times. In ten years, by the time I left our village at the age of eighteen to study in far off places, radical changes not seen for the past few centuries had taken place in our lives. The factor facilititating this change was my father’s ability to keep “religious” matters separate from affairs of “life,” and sheria away from the business of “life,” subjecting “life” to custom.

Our Family —

At the beginning of my life, as I shall chronicle in this book, it could not have been foreseen that I was going to lead a great political movement of the Urals and Central Asia during this century and a liberation struggle of mass scale among the Turks; and that I was also going to attain international prominence as a person conducting research in the field of Oriental studies.

The entirely medieval simplicity of the lives of the Bashkurt and Tatars, comprising some agriculture and forestry, in the southern portions of the Ural mountains, in a village flanked by the mountaineous forest as well as the steppe, could have left me a modest and docile peasant like my relatives living today in Soviet kolhozes.

Despite that, the character of our life, seemingly very modest in this setting of elevations and yaylas summer pastures, especially its historical manifestations which I have listened to in my childhood, was drawn from living memories and their reflections, possessed of a nature that could drive its members to adventures, to make plans for the present, the future and the benefit of Turk and Islamic world. Keeping all this in mind, it could be said that my life may be regarded as a logical result of historical memories living within the people. Except, in order to shed some light on the circumstances, it is necessary to relay some details to my readers which may appear utterly uninteresting at first sight.

The kernel of our village was constituted by perhaps a count of 30 or 40 emigre households of Tatar and Muslim Chuvash Soqli – Qayli and Ungut Boy, extended family, groups of families acknowledging one leader the majority of which was settled in the middle of the last century.

In order to understand these tribes better, it must be added that Bashkurts differ from other Turks by the manner they substitute “Z” and Ch” for “dh” and “S,” and comprise four groups:

1. Mountain Bashkurts (Burcen, Usergen, Tamyan);

2. Yalan (Plateau-Steppe) Bashkurts (Yurmati, Kudey, Geyne, Irekti, Yeney, Tanip). It is possible to determine that these two groups were living in the Urals at the time of Jesus. Mountain Bashkurts use “S” for “H,” majority of the Yalan Bashkurts use “Th.” But, those of the latter, living in the West and the Northwest have largely become Tatars.

3. The third group consists of portions who have arrived in various centuries and joined the Bashkurts: Qipchak, Qangli, Suvun, Uran, Qayli, Qatay, Baylar (i. e. Bayat), Kerey (Kerait), Churas, Nogai, Qirghiz, Merkit. Those of them who have settled among the Mountain-Bashkurts speak proper Bashkurt, and the majority of those who have gone towards the West are under the influence of the Tatar dialect. These three groups have been in the Bashkurt army during the last centuries and have paid a different tax to the Russians.

4. The fourth group came from the West to Bashkurt lands, from the region of Bulgar and Kazan, after those districts have been occupied by the Russians, they are refugee Tatars (or, Tipter, meaning “Defterlu” in Ottoman), Buler (Bulgar), Misher and Muslim Chuvash tribes. Russians called these refugees, who came from the area of the Kazan Khanate, “Bashkiri Pripushchenniki,” meaning “those Bashkurts accepted into the body.”

The first three groups out of the aforementioned four are semi-nomadic, in possession of large lands and yaylas and have maintained their tribal organizations. The fourth group had been farmers since early times, having lost their tribal organizations, historical dastans ornate oral histories and traditions.

I am a member of the Sokli – Kay of the third group. Although I am considered an historian for the past 55 years, I know the least about the history of my own tribe. It is said that the Sokli – Kay and Unggut tribes, constituting the foundations of our village, were residing on a branch of the Yigen, which in turn is a tributary of Ak-Edil river, composed of 12 dispersed homesteads, settled on two hills belonging to Kuzen and Baki, and around a well of Yakub, since the 1800s. During the 18th century wars they had suffered many casualties, land remained vacant. Later, our village suddenly grew, when the tsarist government brought a crowded group of Western Bashkurts called “Minzele Misheri” and settled them on the lands confiscated from us, as a separate subdivision. The villages on the branches of the Yigen river, Ermit, Utek and Togay were very small Bashkurt settlements at the end of the 18th century.

It is written in Selim Umidbaev’s book, “Yadigar,” that the Utek and Tukun villages belonged to the “Kichi Tabin” tribe. Since the name of the “Erbit” was spelled as “Ermit,” it follows that at one time they must have been included among the ranks of the Western Siberian “Tumen.” But I do not know to which tribe they belonged. Their lands were confiscated as well, and given to refugees driven away from Western Bashkurdistan. The confiscation of their lands caused them to rebel against Russia under the leadership of “Kusuk Sultan,” “Murad Sultan,” and “Sultan Cerey.”

It is said that our ancestors were living under the administration of “Kusuk Sultan,” whom they highly revered, in Erqaragay at the Tobol basin, and Irendik and Chubarkol of Eastern Ural. During the heat of the summer, they migrated to the mountains named Ak-Biyik. Under the leadership of Kusuk Sultan, they had gone to Kemelik, Kuban and fought against the Russians. Neighboring “Katay” Bashkurts were our allies, but “Arlar,” from another neighboring villages did not accept this sultan. These “Arlar” would not intermarry with us. Since “kusuk” also meant “little dog,” the people of Arlar would say: “Your sultan became ‘it kusuk,'” ridiculing us. In return, we would say: “Ar, who had swallowed snakes.” Our other relatives had lived in the Eastern Ural villages of “Kusi,” “Ismail,” and “Nogay” as well as the “Mukas” village of Yurmati Ulus.

Earlier, Kusi and Nogay villages were located towards the east of our village, in a region called “Kusi-Yurtu” along the Yigen river. Those of our ancestors who joined them later moved on to the Irendik region of Ural, but mine stayed where they were. However, they continued to intermarry. There is a river called “Bitire” from “bitirmek,” i.e. coming to an end on the Eastern side of the Ak-Biyik yaylak. The road leading to the town of Timech crosses it several times. Perhaps 150 years ago, two bridal processions had met on their respective journeys, one going to “Kusi,” the other arriving from Kusi, coming to us. The bride going away from us was crying, weary of seeing the crossings called “turkun,” which were constant reminders to her that she was getting further and further away from her mother’s home, complaining with: “you keep telling me that the end is in sight, what an endless end is this?” The other bride, arriving from Kusi, to express her desire that she did not wish to see the crossings come to and end, for she did not have a notion of what awaited her at the “Yigen” river basin, was repeating with running tears: “If the crossings came to an end, and my heart caught fire, could the waters of Yigen extinguish the flames?”

I had many times visited the Kusi and Nogay villages at Irindik after I turned fourteen, and stayed with old “friends” and “elder sisters,” and had taken down “Muradim” (Edige) fixing them on paper which we also knew, adding it to our versions. One of my first works of scholarly research were the papers I published in 1911 in connection with this dastan.

During spring, our horse herds, as they grew accustomed to from the times of our ancestors, would go to the Ak-Biyik yayla without any supervision. During the aforementioned visits, I had learned that the inhabitants of Kusi also had the tradition of taking their horse herds to Ak-Biyik during hot summer days as well, and even related songs keeping those memories alive. In those songs, the general theme was as follows: “God gave us a mountain such as Ak-Biyik, so that we could erect our white goat-skin tents. Wild colts playfully and voluntarily rushed into the rope stables, as if saying ‘tie us, no need to use the catching-ropes.'” This means the climate of this place was very cool even during the hottest days, so the colts liked to be in the rope stables.

This yayla is perhaps one hundred kilometers from us. Our ancestors lived in yaylak and wintering quarters far away from each other, and died in batllefields equally distant. The tombs of some are known. About one it was said that “he died in Kuban.” It is the Northern Caucasian city. About another ancestor, it was said that he had gone to Mansil in “Tumen” and became a martyr in a battle fighting against the Russians and the Kalmaks on the Eastern side of the Urals, in a lake region called Chubar-Kol. The elders, such as my grand uncle Veli Molla and Gusam Aga of Uggut, knew the old dastans very well. These dastans were in verse, narrations about the Golden Horde (Edige, Cirence, Isaoglu Emet, etc.). One of our ancestors, named “Allah Berdi,” remembered as an individual who knew these dastans extremely well, was buried at a high yayla called Karli-Bulek some three kilometers from our village. He was known as “Allaberdi God-given Nogay” and his burial place was called “Allaberdi Olugu Where Allaberdi is buried.” Since it was reported that there were quite a few tall individuals among our ancestors, my father exhumed this Allaberdi’s remains and determined that he was indeed tall, and discovered pieces of sword in the burial as well.

Along with Allaberdi, a contemporary Nogay Bey is also remembered, named Burnak, and a yaylak was associated with him, along the Nigush river, near Ak-Biyik. When other Nogay Beys leaders, rulers migrated to the Kuban basin, it is said that along with this Burnak, Allaberdi had stayed here. In addition, there were “Nogay Ogullari,” members of the ulema, who were said to be of Nogay Mirza lineage, in the city of Isterlitamak. One of their ancestors was said to be buried in this “Allaberdi Olugu.” They were my father’s and my uncles’ teachers. They used to visit us as guests, and despite being of the ulema, they were addicted to alcohol. My fifth generation ancestor Ishtogan (from whom my last name is derived) of the “Kuzen Ogullari” had died at Kemelik, very far from us, fighting the Russians. Around our village, there are places called “Russian died,” “Russians broken.” While ploughing, pieces of weapons used to be discovered at those locations.

Though all of the foregoing constitute only oral traditions concerning the history of my lineage, nonetheless they influenced my development. This stresses the point that my ancestors, in contrast to the Bashkurts of our neighbors, have descended from martial, nomadic, and much traveled stock. Our homeland, termed “tubek,” was actually “Yigen Boyu” region, but the Ak-Biyik yaylaks and Irendik district of Eastern Baskurdistan became the homeland of my ancestors. They have travelled throughout this zone, participated in all political events deliniated by Mansil in Western Siberia, Erkaragay in Tobol, Kemelik in Western Baskurdistan, Kuban river in Northern Caucasia; in the retinues of Khans, Beys, “Mirzas,” fighting against not only the Russians, but also the Kalmuks. The small Kalmuk village neighboring ours had arrived at the time when our ancestors were fighting against the Buddhist Kalmaks. However, the identities of those individuals regarded as belonging to the leadership, such as Kusuk Sultan, and among our direct ancestors, Burnak Biy Bey, Allaberdi and Kuzen Biy were unknown.

It was after I grew up, learned Russian, started working at the archives of the “Land Boundaries Commission” in Ufa during 1912, followed the Russian publications pertaining to Western Siberian history, acquired information on Bashkurt genealogy that I discovered “Kusuk Sultan” to be the grandson, living during the 17th century, of the famous Kucum Han of Western Siberia and also the son of Ablay Sultan; that Burnak and Allaberdi Beys were Nogay Beys who had lived during the 16th century; that our ancestors were in the retinue of Kusuk Sultan, and under his leadership, as well as his brothers Abaga and Qansuvar Sultans have fought against the Russians in Western Siberia, around Astrakhan and Kuban, and since these princes were deriving their maintenances from scattered lands they controlled, they were widely dispersed.

The Turkish language ferman given to a Bashkurt Bey by Kucuk Sultan in 1663 was published in the “Historical Materials” by the Baskurdistan Academy of Sciences during 1943. The participation of our ancestors in the campaign of this prince was also recorded in a geneology owned by Hidayet Sufi residing in the Askar village. The genealogy of the Burnak and Allaberdi Beys, along with the geneologies of their descendants, the “Nogay Yurmati,” living today in a village close to ours, were among those published by the Baskurdistan Academy of Sciences during 1960. It is recorded in the Russian sources that during his fight against the Russians, Kucuk Sultan had 6400 Nogay troops, and those Bashkurts in his retinue stating: “We are fighting to establish an independent state, similar to the one formed by Kucuk Han.”

“Sultan Murad,” son of this “Kucuk Sultan,” was among the leaders of the uprisings, had travelled to Crimea and later to Istanbul, met the Sultan; had been taken prisoner during the fighting in Daghestan and executed. “Sultan Gerey” was the nephew of “Kucuk Sultan,” had assumed the names of “Kara Sakal” and “Suna” while he was hiding from the Russians. It is not known when our great ancestor “Kuzen Qart,” who gave his name to our village, had lived. However, the mountain next to our village is also named after him. Two of the grandsons of this Kuzen, Aydaq and Curaq, along with 42 other Beys of the Yurmati Urug of Teltim oymak, had sold land belonging to them during 1757 to the Tatars of Said (Kargali), who were situated along the headwaters of the Isterli river. Photographs of the Turkish and Russian language texts of the contract were published in the Materials Pertaining to the History of Baskurdistan during 1956 by the Baskurdistan Academy of Sciences. (See Photo 1). Other documentation concerning land and familial lineages were present among my family papers. The names of the “sultans” who led our grandfathers, “Sultan Murad,” “Bahti Gerey,” “Sultan Gerey,” were among those most often given to children until recent times.

Our urug extended family is Soqli-Qay; a branch of the Qay or Qayli, to which belong also the Senekli-Qay, Yurektav-Qay, Tavli-Qay, that were near us. According to tradition, before arriving in its present location, this urug was resident in the Irendik region of Eastern Urals. Large groups of Qay (Qayli) tribe are found in Western Baskurdistan. It can be determined that the “Yalan Qatay” and “Orman Qatay” tribes, which are close to us, on the banks of the Iset river, had constituted military groups during the time of the Khans, from the existence in history of “Katay Kalesi” (Katayskii Ostrog) and “Kay Kalesi” (Kay-Gorod) from the beginning of the 17th century. The other urug in our village is Unggut, and this tribe was also prominent with the designation of “Ak-Tatar” during the time of Chinggis Khan. I surmise Qay, Qatay tribes joined the Bashkurts at the time of the Karahitays, and Tabin and Ungguts, at the time of the Mongols. Since the Katay tribe was one of the mainstays of the descendents of Shiban, of Chinggisids, after their occupation of Maveraunnehr they were called “Katay Hans.” This was related by Herberstein, the German ambassador of the 16th century. My father knew little of the Bashkurts to the West of our village, as all his relations were with the Eastern Bashkurts. This is the result of their fighting, on the same side, against the Russians during the time of Kucum Han and his sons. My father caused me to become engaged to the daughter of Haci Mehmet Yaksimbet-oglu of the Tungevur Bashkurts, living on the banks of Yayik river, when I was still fourteen years of age.


From a cultural standpoint, it will be observed that no person of prominence in learning or other fields had emerged from my family. Despite that, Soqli-Qay had played a role within the enlightened circles of our country. The house of Velid Bay, my great probably Great-Grandfather ancestor, was a central place of meeting during the first half of the 19th century, where public banquets were also given, Bashkurt Canton Presidents, Russian Generals and Governors were received among the guests. It was said that an old “Kimiz ayagi” on which the kimiz container was placed and a very old torn carpet in our house were presented to our sixth ancestor by a Bey as a momento.

Military memoires of our ancestors–

It was said that the majority of our family friends were from among those who had served in the old Bashkurt army alonside our fathers. Prominently, Karmishogullari from the Makar village, six kilometers from our village, and Kackinbayogullari from the Alagoyan village. Kackinbayoglu Shemseddin Molla and my great uncle Veli Molla had served together as non-commissioned officers. A very old man, Omer Haci of the Karmishogullari was the Canton President. Contemporary members of this family, as teachers and officers, had served in our national movement, in the front ranks of our army. It is said that a Yusuf Karamishev had reached the officer rank of major. Our people had always liked to listen to the songs dedicated to him, and the melodies on the ney. My friend, the late Dr. Tagan, and Prof. Jansky had published those scores in the scholarly journals of the Vienna Academy of Sciences.

Some members of these families also learned Russian, due to their military service. Veli Molla was one of them. Prior to his military service, Veli Molla had studied in a medrese. Veli Molla was posted to Sirderya, and my father to Daghestan. Both made time to learn good Arabic and Persian. Veli Molla had works in Arabic and Persian, but, since I was very young, I only learned from him, in Turkish, the historical national dastans Edige, Cirence, Isaoglu Emet. While my father was serving in Gunib of the Caucasus, where Seyh Samil’s headquarters were located, he had met the scholarly secretary of that Seyh named Dibr al-Indi, and had corresponded with him, and his brother, in Arabic, until the 1905 revolution. There must have been other good reasons for my uncle and my father to learn Arabic, but I could not determine those. However, it was reported by a Daghestani Omer Akay, who would visit my great ancestor Velid to teach Arabic to his sons among whom was Veli Molla, that after completing his military service, my father had stayed on in the Caucasus for another year studying Arabic.

No attachment among the Bashkurts to Russian culture is discernible among those who had served in the Bashkurt army until 1860 when disbanded, nor among those educated in Russian military schools who served only in Russian military units. Major Yusuf and other officers wore official Russian military uniforms while on home leave, but had never shown favor to Russian music, songs and were never attracted to Russian dances and games. In the home of the Karmishogullari, there was no Western or Russian furniture, the house and gardens were entirely in the Turkistan style of the Syr Darya.

Some Bashkurt historians’ writings, published during the Soviet period, suggest such an attachment is at the behest of today’s Russians. Otherwise, though the technical superiority of the Russians was acknowledged, from the moral culture perspective, it was generally and absolutely believed that, like other Muslims, Bashkurts were superior. Those Russians who entered our midst such as ironmongers, grocers, etc. would quickly learn our language, often their children would come under the influence of Islam, and sometimes, contrary to prevailing Russian laws, they would become Muslims. In addition to those Russians who had considered the Bashkurt life original, and wrote about it, Polish (origin) General Siyalkowski, the military governor of Orenburg, while a guest of Major Yusuf in the Makar village, had expressed his fascination with the originality of the Bashkurt life, and expressed his great admiration for Bashkurt music. He recommended that Bashkurts reserve their traditions.

The presumption that their ancestors also held the West in adoration is also prevalent among the educated of the Turkish Republic. The wish of some of the educated Turks to regard Fatih Sultan Mehmed as a lover of the European, especially Italian renaissance, is contrary to history. Fatih was a proper representative of the Islamic civilization of which he was a member. As he looked down on the European civilization, was proud of his own, so did the 18th and 19th century enlightened Bashkurts, who were willingly or otherwise in contact with the Russians. They knew their national culture, which is in origin Central Asian, and were proud of it.

My Father’s Medrese —

My father’s medrese comprised four buildings. He would have one hundred fifty to perhaps two hundred students. The majority of these students were dag Bashkurts, and children arriving from distant locations. They would study for four months, returning to their villages before the snows melted. Fermenting honey secretly, without letting my father know, they would hold drinking parties. They would also organize regular wrestling and dancing events during Thursday evenings. There was a very tight disciple among them. The news of bitter honey parties would not reach my father’s ears, and I would not at all report them. The head, called “kadi” would be elected during fall, as soon as the medrese session began. He would be seated on white felt and raised high by four individuals, while other students would pinch, sometimes even needle him here and there with an awl, causing him to cry. But, later he would get his own back. This was the “Han,” meaning rulership, tradition of the old Turks. We have later learned that the election of “kadi” in medreses was entirely a Khorazm tradition.

Though the official director of the medrese was my father, the actual administration was in the hands of this elected “kadi.” Not allowing the internal matters to reach the medrese owner, called the “muderris,” was considered a talent of the “kadi.” My father’s skill was in appearing as if he had not heard of those events. In this manner, the medrese life was the mirror of our community, and its history. In it, there was not the trace of the new pedagogical system called “usul-i cedid.” Except, my father had designated an assistant of his, named “Zeki Halfe,” with the task of teaching mathematics and geography to those interested. He also had students who could teach Russian. But my father categorically refused the proposal by the Russian government to open a Russian elementary school next to the medrese. And even I had opened a “village library” in this medrese.

The jurist Bashkurt Sultanov, sent to us as the government district commissar (zemski nachalnik), was the son of Ufa mufti Sultanov. He, like the Tatar girl Zeyneb Abdurrahmanova, who was sent as the government doctor, had studied at the St. Petersburg university. Both would visit us often, discussing politics and educational matters. Perhaps these two had also influenced my father’s evolution into a reformer from that of a medieval village imam. In my father’s medrese, I studied Arabic and religious lessons with him, learned Persian from Zeki Halfe and Kessaf Molla, Russian and mathematics from Sahibek. But, one occupation that pleased me most was my participation, as a standard fixture, in wrestling competitions, though allowed to the students only during Thursday evenings, were organized among our household nightly. I did not neglect the “honey parties” either. Folk stories would be recited until the lights were put out for sleep, and I enjoyed them very much.

Once Again, From My Mother —

Because, when I was imprisoned at Orenburg in 1918 by the soviets, and in the Turkish R