Dissertation Abstract

“The Shibanid Question: Reassessing 16th century Eurasian History in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan”

Committee: Prof. John Woods (Chair, History and NELC), Prof. Holly Shissler (NELC), Prof. Leah Feldman (Comp. Lit.)

This dissertation investigates how post-Soviet Uzbekistan appropriated 15-16th century historiographies in constructing a national identity and a national historical memory. I pursue how a particular historiographic problem has played out in history-writing in Central Eurasia and shaped the discourses and practices of nation-building in post-Soviet Uzbekistan, a problem that I refer to as the “Shibanid Question”: where should the Shibanids stand in the history of “Uzbekistan”? Tracing back to as early as the 16th century when the Shibanid rulers themselves had to reconcile their nomadic roots with Timurid customs, institutions, and cultures of sedentary rule, I illuminate the longue durée process whereby Turkic, Persian, imperial Russian, and early Soviet historiographers have addressed the Shibanid Question in hallowing the Timurids as progenitor of the Uzbeks and of Uzbekistan. I analyze these processes anchored in 15-16th century Persian and Chaghatay historiography, 19-20th century Russian historiography, and post-Soviet applications of those historiographies on nation-building. In approaching Uzbekistan’s history in such a manner, three broad concepts of Uzbek memory arise: first, territorially, through the reproduction of images and reinforcement of claims to an Uzbek territory through modes of quotidian life (numismatics, philately); second, relations with other Central Eurasian ethnic groups (namely Tajiks and Kazakhs as foils to the Uzbek ethnicity); and third, regionally, meaning that each part of Uzbekistan has its own regional sense of “Uzbekness” through local customs and traditions.

Banāʾī’s Shibānīnāma (ongoing project)

For the study of 16th century Central Eurasia, there are a substantial number of sources written in Persian, with comparatively fewer written in Chaghatai. Few of the extant sources have yet to be critically translated and analyzed for the breadth of information they provide. In this regard, this project seeks to further the field of Central Eurasian studies with the production of a critical analysis of Banāʾī’s Shibānīnāma. The Shibānīnāma was part of a new wave of Uzbek historiography that was produced in post-Timurid Central Eurasia. The influx of Turkic populations during this period added to the gradual Turkification of the settled peoples of the region, which greatly affected the historiography of Central Eurasia. The merging of traditions among the settled populations with those of the newly arrived nomads led to a burgeoning of historiography in the 16th century, following the Timurid traditions of production in a newly conquered Uzbek region. Works were produced in both Persian and Turkish, and include chronicles, biographies, and hagiographies. It was early in Shibānī Khān’s rule that Banāʾī was commissioned to write the Shibānīnāma. This chronicle is an account of the events of Shibānī Khān’s rise and the disintegration of the Timurids in areas overrun by the Uzbeks. It is written in Persian prose with hyperbolic verses interspersed. It provides the political and social history of Central Eurasia at the beginning of the 16th century, and it is, as are many other sources, intended as a source deferential to Shibānī Khan with conventional rhetoric praising his qualities.

Petrushevskii’s “K istorii instituta soyurgala(ongoing project)

One of our major challenges and limitations facing a scholar of the Timurid period is the paucity in source materials. Greater a challenge still is the literature available for the study of the Timurids. Literature on the subject at hand is often written in other scholarly languages—namely French and German. Russian seems to be—and this is only an assessment from my time in Chicago—a language often considered important for scholarship, yet not important enough to learn as an operable tool for research. There is a vast store of scholarship in Russian that remains linguistically inaccessible to students and scholars of Central Eurasia and Iran, which has, among other reasons, prompted this current project. Ilya Pavlovich Petrushevskii’s “K istorii instituta soyurgala” has yet to be translated and updated from its 1949 publication in Sovetskoe Vostokovedenie. This project concerns itself with providing a translation of and introduction to Petrushevskii’s seminal article.


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