Accepted Paper:

Russian Exploration of Chinese Central Asia: Sergei Oldenburg's Travelogue as a Source on the Early XX Century Uyghur Society of Xinjiang  


Ablet Kamalov (University Turan)

Paper long abstract:

The paper will share with the Conference participants the results of the work on the manuscript of the Diary of Sergei Oldenburg of his expedition to Southern Xinjiang in 1909-1910. This was the second trip to Xinjiang also known as Eastern/ Chinese Turkistan of the Russian scholar within the frame of exploration of Central Asia by the Russian scholars in the early XX c. Despite Oldenburg's works on ancient India and Eastern Turkistan are widely known in Central Asian studies, his Diaries of the 1909-1910 expedition to Eastern Turkistan has never been published before.

The S.F. Oldenburgs Diary entitled 'Diary of the Turkistan expedition prepared on the Highest order by the Russian Committee on the study of Middle and Eastern Asia' consists of 86 double-sided pages filled up with small handwriting. Oldenburg's records cover the entire trip of the expedition, which went though the following oases of Xinjiang: Karashar, Turfan, Korla, Bai, Aksu, Uch-Turfan, Kalpin, Maralbashi and Kashgar.

While the main object and results of the expedition were connected with ancient history of Eastern Turkistan, Oldenburg's travelogue contains unique information on the Uyghur society of the XX century. Recording travel and work of the group of Russian scholars on ancient historical sites, Oldenburg at the same time collected and recorded ethnographic information and accounts related to intellectual and religious life of the Uyghur society of that time. Generally information recorded in the Oldenburg's Diary can be grouped in the following way: 1) description of ancient sites and monuments of pre-Islamic period, 2) description of custom and traditions of the Uyghur population of Xinjiang; 3) records on intellectual life of the local society; 4) intellectual life of Uyghur Muslim society. Of great important are accounts on Muslim shrines (mazars). Some of shrines described by Oldenburg no longer exist and this makes the accounts on them quite unique. The paper will compare those accounts with description of contemporary shrines given by Rahile Daut and other Xinjiang scholars. Of linguistic and literary significance are Uyghur folk songs qoshaq recorded by Sergei Oldenburg, most of which do not have analogues in modern publications of folk songs.

Generally, the paper will characterize Oldenburg's contribution to the study of the Uyghur society of the early XX century and put his materials on Uyghurs and Xinjiang into the context of existing academic literature outlining perspectives of how they can be used in the research.

Panel HIS-12
Mongols, Uyghurs and Xinjiang