cam-book-index.jpg (2430 bytes)CENTRAL ASIAN MONUMENTS

Edited by H. B. Paksoy

SUN IS ALSO FIRE

H. B. Paksoy

The particular conditions of writing history in the Soviet Union have been partially documented, although far less often in the case of the Asian territories. Lowell Tillett, Wayne S.

Vucinich and C. E. Black have shown that especially since World War II, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Soviet Academies of Sciences and their branches have mandated that the history of the non-Russians and their relations to the Russian state and to the ethnic Russians themselves is and has always been positive, "progressive" and beneficial to the non- Russians. With respect to Central Asia, Soviet officialdom has been and is eager to legitimize both its conquest and present position in the region as Central Asians constitute approximately one-fifth to one-fourth of the Soviet population and occupy a substantial portion of the Asian land-mass.

The Central Asian authors have responded to the restrictions on history writing by reporting accurate history and relaying messages of the past in the guise of literature. The field of literature has its own strictures. Thus, Central Asians have tried to ensure that their output is both the real history and sufficiently veiled (for example, under the "yarn" genre) to pass censorship. This is an effort to maintain the historical identity which Central Asians see is under attack by the Russian-dominated party, state and academic apparatus in the official "histories." One must observe the recent publishing activity of the Central Asians, in their dialects, especially since late 1970s. These efforts represent a renewal of activity since the interruption caused by the "liquidations" of the 1930s.

The efforts of the past decade constitute a renewal—rather than initiation—of activity because history, politics and literature have always been inseparable in Central Asia. This has been true regardless of the era or form of government. The tradition is continuing as ever, with "fiction" and "novel" genres now being used not only to bear a contemporary message, but to relay the lessons of real historical events and written monuments of Central Asian history to the indigenous populace. To recognize these messages—both contemporary and historical—of these new works of "fiction," serving as platforms for true history texts for the Central Asians, it is imperative that the Western reader be equipped with the historical knowledge being referenced by the Central Asian writer and recognized by his readers.

"SUN IS ALSO FIRE" ("Kuyas ham Alov") is one such work of supposed fiction that contains accurate historical information, quotations from key historical monuments of Central Asia, and which bears several messages relevant to the contemporary population. "SUN IS ALSO FIRE" is a "short story" by Alisher Ibadin, printed in the periodical Gulistan (published in the Uzbek SSR), in its issue No. 9, 1980. Examination of current Soviet textbooks suggests that the works implicitly referenced (identified below) in this "short story" are not generally available or taught in Soviet schools. In this effort, Ibadin is

presenting himself as a conduit, a bridge to the real past. In verbalizing the thoughts of the collective ancestry, he is taking a great personal risk—perhaps, like the central figure of the "tale," pouring (symbolic) naphtha on himself. The main theme of "SUN IS ALSO FIRE" reflects the messages of both the sources and the historical events to which Ibadin alludes—a struggle for independence against an invading alien, preservation of the culture of one’s ancestors and the self sacrifice required for the task. Along the way, purification, by fire, is woven into the main flow, an important historical motif.

One of the most powerful messages of "SUN IS ALSO FIRE" is represented by the epigram with which Ibadin begins:

"If the sky above did not collapse, and if the earth belowdid not give way, O Turkish people, who would be able todestroy your state and institutions?"

These words come from the Orkhon-Yenisei tablets inscribed in the first third of the 8th century. The tablets are the earliest known surviving written monuments of the Turks in their own language. They recount the fall of a great Central Asian Turk empire in the 7th century and the leaders who rebuilt it. It is not only the story of national reconstruction after subjugation (in this case, by the Chinese) and thus a message of confidence, but contains the sobering lesson that the loss of the earlier empire was the fault of the Turks themselves because they forsook the ancestral values. It is from that passage that Ibadin took this admonition.

The use of the Orkhon inscriptions bears also an indirect message—these tablets were inscribed more than 250 years before the conversion of the Rus and, therefore, some 300 years before an alphabet was invented for the Russians. In fact, the stelae predate—by a wide margin—the first mention of the Rus in any written chronicle (i.e. Annales Bertiniani of the 9th c.).

Consequently, the tablets are a not so subtle reminder that the culture of the Turks is of greater antiquity than that of their present-day overlords. Since the tablets describe an empire even earlier than the time of the inscriptions, the reminder is redoubled—the Turks’ empire preceded the Kievan state as well as Russian literacy. This may be deemed a backlash against the contents of the current Soviet textbooks.

Additional historical references emerge in the first few lines of the narrative itself. The central figure of "SUN IS ALSO FIRE" is named Alp Tekin. An "alp" is a battle-tested young man, or woman, with a noble and distinguished character and "Tekin," or "Tigin" denotes a Turk prince. There are, however, several known historical Alp Tekins, each with a specific message to the audience. Bartold mentions four: of Bukhara, the Hajib (Chamberlain) of Khwarazm Shah, A. D. 1071; of Ghazna, in Samanid kingdom, d. A. D. 963, who founded a new state on the territories of Ghazna, having risen from the position of a military bondsman; the ambassador to Sultan Masud in A. D. 1036; and of Kara-Khitay in A. D. 1141, who restored the castle in the city of Bukhara. Certainly, the Alp Tekin who founded the Ghaznavids is the most likely one Ibadin wishes readers to focus on—the Alp Tekin who established an independent state for his followers.

Ibadin continues his historical text: When Alp Tekin is awakened, he jumps up, prepared for battle and asks whether the enemy, the Arabs, are attacking. The reference, of course, is to the Arab conquests of Central Asia in the 8th century. There are several references (by name) to a "Talas battle." There were several battles at that location, and the most well known took place in A. D. 751 between the Arabs and the Chinese. Although the overt theme here is protection of the homeland from invasion, the emphasis throughout is not so much on the fear of physical occupation, but rather its result—the threat to the native culture, particularly the religion and language of the ancestors.

Because it is Islam (and Arabic) that these invaders represent, many a Western reader, imbued with the present thought that attributes everything in Central Asia to Islam, may see here a simple anti-Islamic message reflecting official CPSU policy.

Perhaps Ibadin relied on such a presumption also entering the minds of Soviet authorities. But in view of tsarist and Soviet Russification policies and their emphasis on the use of the Russian language, one must also see a broader intent. It is the imposition of an alien language, whatever it may be, that is the threat to culture.

Furthermore, and although the depiction of Arabs as enemies and Islam as an alien faith may coincide with Russian policies, the examination of Islam and the degree to which it ought to be part of the Central Asian identity has deep historical roots. The Central Asian educated stratum debated this question (yet again) at the turn of the 20th century, inter alia, on the pages of the St. Petersburg newspaper Mir Islama. Throughout "SUN IS ALSO FIRE," the emphasis is not so much "anti-Islamic" as it is "pro" the ancestral religion and traditions.

As soon as Ibadin delineates his main reference points, he has Alp Tekin invoke the aid of more well known and historical Turks, those who gained fame even before the arrival of invading Arab armies, to solve the problems Alp Tekin is facing. The resulting effect is that a Turk is looking up to another, a more ancient Turk, to emulate as a role model. Among these role models, six are rather significant and recalled by name. Alp Er Tunga is the first. He is revered even by his medieval "biographers" and his name repeatedly appears in the Kultigin stela of the Orkhon group.

On the same man, Balasagunlu Yusuf, in Kutadgu Bilig comments:

"If you observe well you will notice that the Turkishprinces are the finest in the world. And among these Turkishprinces the one of outstanding fame and glory was Tonga AlpEr. He was the choicest of men, distinguished by greatwisdom and virtues manifold. What a choice and manly man hewas, a clever man indeed—he devoured this world entire! TheIranians call him Afrasiyab, the same who seized andpillaged their realm."

Kashgarli Mahmut, in Diwan Lugat at-Turk also cites an elegy for Alp Er Tonga:

"Has Alp Er Tonga died? / Does the wicked world remain emptyof him? / Has time exacted its revenge upon him? / Now theheart bursts..."

Kashgarli further identifies him:

"Tunga (tiger)...King Afrasiyab, Chief of the Turks, meaninga man, a warrior, (as strong as) a tiger."

For Tonyukuk, another revered historical Turk alluded to in the narration, Ibadin provides a footnote:

"FN 24. During the I. and II. Turk Kaganates, a very highranking political personage."

>From available sources, it is known that Tonyukuk was the chief advisor to rulers Ilteris and Bilga Kagan, the latter of whom was apparently responsible for all the Orkhon stelas, including one erected in Tonyukuk’s honor ca. 720 A.D. Tonyukuk himself was alive in 716, at Bilga Kagan’s accession and is believed to have died a few years later.

A third historical personage to whom Ibadin alludes is Sebuk Tegin (d. A. D. 997), the protege of Alp Tekin of Ghazna. After Alp Tekin’s death in A. D. 963, as with at least two other commanders preceeding him, Sebuk Tegin was elected the commander of the army by its troops in A. D. 977. In 15 years time, he was the ruler of all Ghaznavid territories.

The case of the historical Bugra is not difficult either. Han Suleyman b. Yusuf (Bugra Tekin), lived c. A. D. 1040, at the time of the Dandenekan battle. The events of this period broadly involve struggles to control Transoxiana, with the Ghaznavids in the middle, Seljuks to the West and the Karakhanids to the East.

There are also a number of other Bugra Han [Khan] of the same period. Moreover, Balasagunlu Yusuf dedicated the Kutadgu Bilig to Karakhanid Bugra Khan. What is inconsistent with his demonstrated knowledge of history, is the fact that Ibadin cast the Bugra of "SUN IS ALSO FIRE" in a rather dim light. One wonders if he did not have access to credible historical sources on the Seljuks, Karakhanids or Ghaznavids. Or, perhaps, he had some other, special purpose in mind, such as warning the members of his readership about complacency and unacceptable behavior in the manner of his Bugra Bek. Possibly, Ibadin points to Tabgach Bugra Khan, to which Kutadgu Bilig was dedicated, to suggest he did not follow the admonitions in that manual of statecraft, and thus caused the decline of the Karakhanids.

Ibadin introduces a fifth historical name, Tarhan. Though "Tarhan" is a title denoting a member of the ruling elite, it has also been used as a personal name. Bartold chronicles a "Tarkhun" being active c. A. D. 701-4, "the leader of the native princes, Tarkhun, the Ikhshid of Sogd." Togan details the use of the word, based on the writings of seven medieval historians, indicating "Tarhan" was a title given to some Turk rulers.

Togan’s description includes a Tarhan of Kashghar c. A. D.

775-785, Arslan Tarhan of Kashan near Fergana A. D. 739, and several others up to A. D. 893. This cross-referencing of Tarhan and Arslan somewhat complicates the picture. Bartold lists no fewer than twelve rulers carrying "Arslan" as part of their names. The majority of those Arslan lived 11-13th centuries A. D.

(It must be remembered that many individuals in Central Asian history had their given names before assuming titles associated with acquired or inherited positions of authority). There is, however, one "Arslan Khan Ali, who, according to Jamal Karshi (a period historian), died a martyr’s death in January 998: the nature of his death may be guessed from the epithet Hariq (‘the burned’) applied to him."

Ibadin has Alp Tekin make a reference to a sixth historical personage, Bumin Han, a Turk prince, referenced in Kul Tigin. He is one of the ancestors of Kul Tigin, "... who organized and ruled the state and institutions of the Turkish people."

There are also specific references to the land on which the depicted events are taking place. That aspect, too, is critical to the understanding of history, the bond between the people and the homeland and how it relates to the readership. The footnotes to the translated work provide the details of how those geographic locations are significant and to which historical sources they may be traced.

Next, Ibadin brings in concrete references to personal sacrifice for the homeland, manifesting itself as consumption by fire.

Reverence for fire is most commonly associated with Zoroastrianism, but exists also in many belief systems. Most salient for the present case, Central Asian Shamanism is known to encompass reverence for fire. In his study of Shamanism, the late Mircea Eliade writes:

"The idea that fire ensures a celestial destiny after deathis also confirmed by the belief that those who are struck bylightning fly up to the sky. ‘Fire,’ of whatever kind,transforms man into ‘spirit;’ this is why shamans are heldto be ‘masters over fire’ and become insensitive to thetouch of hot coals. ‘Mastery over fire’ or being burned arein a manner equivalent to an initiation. A similar ideaunderlies the conception that heroes and who all die aviolent death mount to the sky; their death is considered aninitiation. On the contrary, death from disease can onlylead the deceased to the underworld; for disease is provokedby the evil spirits of the dead."

Such beliefs and practice were still alive in Central Asia during the early part of the 20th century. The late Z. V. Togan relates a particular event, when he was involved in the Basmaci Movement of 1920s. At one point Togan was taken ill seriously. His companions carried him to a shaman. Togan narrates:

"In an ™zbek [sic] tent, a large fire was lit. The bakhsi(shaman), had a jet-black beard, appearing to be fortyyears of age, with a robust body, but was otherwise aseemingly normal person... An iron shovel was placed in thefire. He lifted this spade, inserting a wooden handle. Thewood handle caught fire. He {shaman} filled his mouth withwater and sprayed the spade. The bouncing droplets of water{from this process} were striking my face, burning me...Finally, the shaman grasped this spade with his teeth. Heencircled me several times with it, and threw it back intothe fire... Despite the fact that he had held the burningspade in his mouth, his black mustache was not {even}singed."

Among the Central Asians, the motif of "burning in fire" in the course of an independence movement is not confined to one location. For example, in 1927, Jafar Jabarli, an Azarbaijan author wrote a novel with the title Od Gelini (Bride of Fire).

The main theme of this novel being the heroic battle of the Azerbaijanis against Arab invaders. It was also translated into Russian, under the title Nevsta ognia and Ibadin’s work appears to share sentiments with it.

More recently is the case of Musa Mamut, a Crimean Tatar activist, striving to facilitate the return to the Crimean homeland of all Crimean Tatars who had been forcibly exiled to Central Asia by Stalin. After much harassment from the authorities for his activities, Musa Mamut poured gasoline on himself and committed self-immolation in 1978, in the village of Beshterek {in Simferopol’ district in Crimea}. He died from the burns he sustained. The close proximity of this incident to the time of Ibadin’s writing should be noted.

It is necessary further to point to three groups of issues pertinent to the readers of "SUN IS ALSO FIRE:" Sources, Motivation and Intentions.

Sources—As noted, Ibadin’s sources are clearly discernible. He has thoroughly studied the primary Monuments of his patrimony: The Turk stelas erected in the 8th century along Orkhon-Yenisey; the 11th century Compendium of Kasgarli Mahmut; Kutadgu Bilig of Balasagunlu Yusuf, also of the 11th century A. D. Nor did he neglect the secondary sources. He is obviously quite comfortable with Bartold’s Turkestan. He is unlikely to have confined himself to those, however, since there are other references in the work that reach beyond these volumes.

Motivation—"SUN IS ALSO FIRE" has appeared during 1980, less than a year of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. One cannot help but wonder if Ibadin is using the Arab example of the 8th century because—at that point in time -- he could not refer to the Russian occupation of Central Asia in the 19th century.

Does he wish his readers to make the substitution? Or perhaps he is addressing the multinational population of Afghanistan, bringing the example of Central Asia to their attention, urging them on to carry on with their independence struggle. It should be noted that, soon afterwards, Afghan historical literature also began appearing in the Uzbek press.

The plot of "SUN IS ALSO FIRE" is set partly on soil which is now Afghanistan, the medieval Ghaznavid territories, and partly in the Talas region at the opposite (Eastern) end of Central Asia.

The depicted events take place 900 to 1300 years ago. Given the fact that Ibadin demonstrates his historical knowledge and his facility with the sources, this ambiguity or blurring in time and territory seems to have been intentional and perhaps designed to emphasize the broad applications of the message.

Intentions—The workings of the censorship mechanism of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union are documented.

Occasionally there appear to be some breakdowns in what strives to be a comprehensive system. One such incident is discernible immediately after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. A sweeping change took place among the editorial personnel of Uzbek newspapers and journals in September 1980. In this period, under new editors, Uzbek journals published quite a few intensely nationalistic "novelettes," and "short stories." In 1982, just as abruptly, the editorial personnel were once again changed.

Although the exact nature of this period, or the underlying political implications is not yet fully understood, the effects were notable. "SUN IS ALSO FIRE" was published {September 1980} at the very beginning of the first change.

There are other concerns ever-present in the minds of Central Asian authors. Two are among the most prominent.

1. The Socialist Realism filter—From the outset (as in this resolution passed by the CPSU on 18 June 1925), the Soviet regime established that "...in a classless society there is and can be no neutral art." Thus, arts and literature are and must be a means for the dissemination of state and party propaganda. No writer living in the present Soviet domains is allowed to produce any work without adhering to the Socialist Realism formulated in the 1920s-30s and demanded by the state even now. Although the "intensity" of Socialist Realism may fluctuate with time and efforts at enforcement, it is essentially ever present.

Because the ideological function of the arts was first articulated by Lenin and later reiterated by his followers ad nauseam, no literary work can clear the censorship {at least theoretically} if it does not conform to the manuals prepared and distributed for the purpose of ideological screening. Hence, when an author decides to risk his career, his life and those of his family members, in order to "speak his mind," he is obliged to do it in "doublespeak." That fact, too, may have contributed to the mixing of the two periods noted above. The interrelationship of historical references displayed in the "fiction" may also indicate the political tendencies or positions apparently acceptable to the authorities charged with the censorship task at the time of writing.

2. Ostensible "Pan Turanism"—Ibadin continually hammers at the theme of "unity" among Turks, especially in their efforts to resist foreign invasion. Many Western and Russian authors have discerned such efforts to be a sign of "Pan Turanism," ostensibly a movement by Turks to establish hegemony over the world, or at least Eurasia. In fact, this "Pan" movement has no historical ideological precedent among Turks and has been documented to be a creation of the Westerners. Around the time of the occupation of Tashkent by Russian troops in 1865, the doctrine called "Pan-Turanism" or "Pan-Turkism" appeared in a work by Hungarian Orientalist Arminius Vambery. Vambery, it is now known, was in the pay of the British Government.

 

The doctrine was invented, propagated and attributed to the Turks by the Europeans as part of 19th century balance-of-power struggles, both in the matter of the weakened Ottoman Empire and against the Russian expansion in Central Asia. Dubbed the "Great Game in Asia," by its practitioners, the origins and means of this contest have been studied by E. Ingram.

Later, and even today, various Western entities have used this pseudomovement as a "bogey-man" to reap financial benefits, to "fortify the West" against "yellow hordes" sweeping out of Asia and swamping "Christendom." For example, L. Cahun’s Introduction a l’Histoire de l’Asie, Turcs, et Mongols, des Origines a 1405 was written to suggest that a racial superiority motivated the conquests of the Mongol Chingiz Khan. It is perhaps not coincidental that this book was published on the heels of the 1893-1894 Franco-Russian rapprochement, at a time when Russia justified its conquest of Central Asia as part of its own "civilizing mission."

In the Secret History of the Mongols, written c. 1240 A. D., after the death of Chingiz, there is, of course, no reference to the racial superiority of the Mongols. Instead, it quotes Chingiz: "Tangri (God) opened the gate and handed us the reins," indicating that Chingiz regarded only himself ruling by divine order. The "Great Khan" himself was and remained the focus of power, as opposed to the clans under his rule. In any event, the Mongol armies were distinctly multi-racial.

Another representative sample of this early phase of the "movement" is A Manual on the Turanians and Pan-Turanianism a work that was based on Vambery’s Turkenvolk and that it was compiled by Sir Denison Ross, as Sir Denison later personally informed Togan. Even Alexander Kerensky, in Paris exile after the Bolshevik Revolution, was utilizing the same "Turanian" rhetoric, calling it "a menace threatening the world."

Despite its European origins and apart from its European goals, the idea took root among some Central Asian emigres, as it promised the removal of the Russian occupation and subsequent colonization in their homelands. Accusations of "Pan-Turkism" are still employed today, especially but not exclusively in the Soviet Union, against even cultural movements, scholarly works on the common origins and language of the Turks, even in conflict with and refuting another Soviet position that the dialects are separate and distinct "languages." The Soviet state has exerted much effort to introduce the "idea" of this "scientific finding," the existence of separate "Turkic languages" among Central Asians. It must be noted that in no Turk dialect or "language," is there any such distinction as "Turkic" and "Turkish." This distinction exists in some Western languages, as well as Russian, with the latter referring to the Ottoman or Turkish republican domains and the former, to other Turks. It is noteworthy that, before the arrival of the Russians, the Central Asians were able to communicate among themselves, apparently totally oblivious to the fact that they were speaking in "totally separate and distinct languages."

The search for the historical sources and beginnings of their history is by no means confined to the inhabitants of one Soviet Republic or efforts of a single author. Though no comprehensive study of this aspect is made, the manifestations are so numerous in the Central Asian press that it is difficult to evade or ignore them. Even the tracing of history back to the Orkhon monuments, is not isolated any longer; one crosses paths of other examples: Qulmat ™muraliev in Kazak Edebiyati No. 30 (1982); Ismail Ismailov, "Eski Yazili Abidelerde Hemcins Uzviler" in Azarbaijan Filologiyasi Meseleleri Vol. 2. (Baku: Elm, 1984); Suyerkul Turgunbaev "Bayirki Kultegin Esteligi: VI - VIII Kilimdardagi Turk Poeziyasinan" Ala Too No. 9, 1988.

The full-length translation presented below does not strive to "Westernize" the narration of Ibadin’s work. All punctuation is as in the original, including the ellipses and changes in scenery. Sentence structure is also preserved to the extent possible. Ibadin provides 30 footnotes of his own throughout the text. Most are related to the explanations of words he has used, which do not appear in present-day dictionaries. Additional notes contain references that are supplied by the present writer, to place the work and its implications into perspective.

It must also be reiterated that the mixing of time periods and historical references arbitrarily, of the 8th and the 11th centuries A. D., and juxtaposition of real historical personages with events that may not have taken place appear to be intentional, so as to give the work an air of "fiction," thus avoiding Soviet censorship. Thus the "story" can be read as a "fiction" or a series of tightly packed and "indexed" real history to the readership.

"SUN IS ALSO FIRE"

"If the sky above did not collapse, and if the earth belowdid not give way, O Turkish people, who would be able todestroy your state and institutions?

As written in the Kul Tigin Funerary Tablets, VII Century."

As he opened his eyes, Alp Tekin swiftly grasped his sword from underneath the pillow.

Alp Tekin tied a silk scarf around his forehead, tucking his singly braided hair to his belt, walked outside.

Sorrowful autumn. Scarlet leaves were spread around, covering the ground, making it appear as if splashed with blood. At a distance, some as yet unidentified horsemen were seen approaching the fortified position.

"No, -- the yigit sighed deeply, -- what would Jibilga be doing in Kitkan?" Pacing to-and-fro under the stronghold gate, he recalled the events that brought him to Kitkan...

During the spring of 739 A. D., Arslan Tarhan, the Hakan of Ferghana, attacked with his troops the domains of Talas Hakan Tugasiyen, destroying the land and scattering the army of the latter. The fighting between these Turk tribes did not produce a winner. Unfortunately, the severe losses of the Turks, as a result of internecine fighting, were benefiting the Arabs who were amassing troops at the foothills of Usrushana. Moreover, the Turk State, keeping its existence by the force of sword against the Chinese troops in Davon was weakened.

The Arabs, owning half the earth, had occupied the roads leading to Ferghana and were waiting for an easy opportunity. Three or four months after the Talas battle, the Khaliph’s governor in Khorasan, Nasr bin Sayyar had entered Sogdia with a large body of troops. From there, he sent letters to the rulers of Shash and Ferghana, inviting them to accept Islam and Arab rule.

Upon receiving the letter of Sayyar, threatening them from head-to-toe, Arslan Tarhan called a Kurultay in his orda located along Enchi Oghuz.

Arslan Tarhan’s younger brother, scholarly Alp Tekin was also present at the kurultay, who possessed the Sogdian courtly eloquence, and familiarity with Arabic and Chinese.

At the time of the Kengesh, the Apatarhan Sebuk Tekinbek looking at the quietly sitting Beks, mockingly stated: "We know the Arabs! We must fight!" Then, giving a manly salute to Arslan Tarhan sitting on his leopard skin covered throne, continued:

Sebuk Tekinbek, having amassed untold amount of goods in the Talas battle, was now weary, longing for the comforts of his home. Alp Tekin knew his companion quite well. Sebuk Tekinbek could behave like the father of a nasty boil! Keeping that in mind, Alp Tekin did not immediately join the discussion, but patiently listened to the other beys. The aged and not entirely truthful beys, who have added flocks of sheep to their possessions after the Talas battle, pessimistically pontificated at length on the number and power of the Arabs, the weariness of the Turk Bori, the difficulty of success against the prevailing odds.

Sebuk Tekinbek arose, spoke of the tax exemption privileges extended to those inhabitants of Bukhara and Samarkand who joined the community of Muhammad, and the fact that the dehkan were not at all opposed to the state.

"Deceitful posture" thought Alp Tekin, driving the topic out of his mind "the lustre of gold is burning his heart. The Arabs knowingly say ‘the coquetry of gold causes the mejusi to accept religion, it also grants tongue to the mute.’ Perhaps Aka is more concerned about his throne. He who is concerned about the throne is not concerned with the affairs of the people.

In order for him to rule, he only needs healthy people. It does not matter to him if the people are fire-worshippers or Muslims... Alas, in this kurultay, I fear they sold their own Turk religion and language. I wonder?"

 

Arslan Tarhan appeared to be pained. The attention of the beys turned to Alp Tekin. Alp Tekin, though eagerly awaited by the beys, did not wish to continue with this harsh line. But, since a light of treachery was thus cast on the indicated actions of Sebuk Tekinbek, he was compelled to resume: -- "Look at these swallows... Beys, perhaps with difficulty, they make their nests, they rear their young which they brought to life, teach them to fly; to these birds, without {the power of} reason, what is the benefit of this hardship?"

 

However, Arslan Tarhan and Sebuk Tekinbek glanced at each other, winking meaningfully.

Afterwards, Arslan Tarhan sent Alp Tekin to the Kitkan fortified post...

While Alp Tekin was recalling these events in his mind, he was keeping an eye on the approaching horsemen: two riders, two pack camels. He surmised the identity of one of the riders from the way he was trundling on the saddle: it must be Bugrabek. Alp Tekin recognized the second rider as it burst through a cloud of dust. His {Alp Tekin’s} face turned red as if reflecting the flames of a fire: Jibilga! Mounting his purebred horse, to greet them, he galloped towards the nearing young riders. In a short time, the clouds of dust kicked up by both sides merged.

* * *

 

Bugrabek took the opportunity of coupling his mouth to the drinking vessel, containing crystal clear water of Kitkan, capable of soothing away exhaustion, began chewing a mouthful of bread. Jibilga was going in and out along with the servant girls, rather than sitting at the side of Bugrabek, whose legs were saddle bruised, whiling away time at the courtyard of the korugan. This yigit, who had accompanied Jibilga from the orda, was Sebuk Tekinbek’s adopted son, representative of his family.

Bugrabek had a lazy nature, ordering around his father’s countless servants, not leaving the enclosure of the white tent.

He was a man who did not care what happened around him, even if horses... would be taken away, he could not think of going after them, but protecting the insects. Alp Tekin would say "if it is not for the benefit of the insects, what use is the stubble of the field?" whenever his eye encountered Bugrabek.

Bugrabek cleared his throat, scratched his neck. Alp Tekin became impatient.

 

After some more minutes of wheezing, croaking and clearing his throat, words began to fall out of Bugrabek’s mouth like the crumbs of a torn piece of bread:

Are you speaking the truth?"

He grabbed Bugrabek by the throat and shook him mightily.

Bugrabek collapsed as if he were deflated. Alp Tekin, standing over the drained face of this adopted bey:

 

In the wrathful eyes of Alp Tekin, Bugrabek appeared as the personification of scandalously corrupt Arslan Tarhan and Sebuk Tekinbek. Preparing to separate body from head, he unsheathed his sword. Bugrabek, with bloodshot eyes betraying fear, placed his head on Alp Tekin’s feet. Just as he aimed his sword at the hairy neck of the adopted bey, like a predatory bird:

 

Bugrabek did not brave standing up, he crawled away.

Alp Tekin was compellingly drawn to the banks of Kitkan river, began splashing water onto his face. "Ey!"—he roared, towards the wide open spaces—"where are you now, the glorious batirs of the Turks, those of you who at one time held sway from Chochon to Rum; from Altay to Boipin, where are you?"

* * *

Shadows were settling in from the East. The night quietly embraced the Kitkan korugan with its helmeted guards visible at the turrets on high walls. When darkness became total, the scarlet tongues of flames leaping from the oven fireboxes remained visible. Eternally defiant of night, yet again rearing their heads, because light is born to the arms of darkness!..

 

The flames in the hearth were casting a pale light upon Alp Tekin and Jibilga, lying on the wooden platform, then causing a naked sword on the floor to glisten before dissipating into the dark corners of the house. Suddenly Jibilga reached over the bare sword and touched the wrist of Alp Tekin with her long fingers.

Alp Tekin’s flesh tingled, his body stiffened.

... Ah, those sweet memories, recalling the delightful times of days past! Enjoying the exquisite melodies emanating from the chankavuy played by Jibilga which would accompany drinking kimiz, then, knowingly winking at each other, begin courting.

 

Alp Tekin would silently visit his Toga’s apple orchard, sit and wait for Jibilga in the quiet corner. Their greeting the dawn together was ostensibly unknown by anybody in Sebuk Tekinbek’s household, accepting the gifts of Tuput origin from Alp Tekin and turning a blind eye to Jibilga’s early morning outings, which supposedly went totally unnoticed.

When the moon reached overhead, as Alp Tekin’s patience ebbed from waiting, Jibilga would appear from the direction of the water canal.

During those heady days the sounds of the Enchi Oghuz would be audible at the distance, until dawn... Ah, what would they not discuss! Their intense discussions would inevitably turn to the appreciation of the prominent Turks of the past, they would end the night without sleep. "The land of Turks were in a single religion at the time of Bumin Han and contemporaries, now some worship fire, others became Manichean or Buddhist. What calamity that it turned out so!" would say Jibilga. "What are you getting at?" "It is necessary for the Turks to belong in one religion for their future unity." "Did that thought originate from your father?" "What do you think? He is not called the Tonyukuk of Arslan Tarhan, by the Beys for nothing." "Which language of the Tengri are we speaking in Jibilga? Our ancestors did not leave us the pyramids of the Pharaohs, they only bequeathed us their language. If we were to forget this language, would they not be dried like a river absorbed into the sands? No, it is best to be seeking refuge in fire—worshipping the Tengri is the best path. Actually, the mother of this realm—is the sun and fire! Worshiping the sun!" "The sun! Ha-ha-ha!" Jibilga’s hearty laughter reverberated in the orchard, causing {....} to come out in a hurry, her hair reflecting the moon’s glow. "If I were the sun, I would not simply radiate, but I would have destroyed the enemies of the people and bestow upon them life sustaining warmth!"

At times, while Jibilga played the changavuy, the melodies seemingly melded with the silky light of the moon and draped like a soft mist over the apple blossoms...

 

Alp Tekin rubbed his eyes like a child about to fall into sweet slumber.

Alp Tekin quiveringly shook his head and looked.

Jibilga suddenly grasped the sword from its blade and placed the hilt in Alp Tekin’s hand:

 

Alp Tekin drew his knife and began slashing his own face...

Jibilga’s pearl-like tears were discernible in the reflecting light.

* * *

Are there quarters for him in Ferghana? Tell me Turks!"

* * *

Although Apatarhan Sebuk Tekinbek’s troops were reinforced by the ghazis arriving from Samarkand, and together they had laid siege to Kitkan korugan for twenty days, they had been unable to conquer it. The Apatarhan was most unhappy. He was incessantly ordering new attacks, but an unknown number, according to some rumors one thousand, or said some informants, one hundred Turk troops defending the thick walls were keeping at bay a force of five thousand. Those in the fortification had stockpiled naphtha from the Chimyan mountain, which they were burning in bowls and pouring onto those who came close to the walls, thereby keeping them away.

The water-wells began to dry-up with the choking of Kitkan korugan by Sebk Tekinbek. Food and drink was rationed and the women and children who came to the korugan from surrounding kishlaks began suffering. The use of naphta against the attacks had to be carefully husbanded. The days of Kitkan korugan appeared numbered when catapults from Usrushana and reinforcements from Arslan Tarhan’s orda arrived to aid the attackers. All of the possessions of the korugan was defended by some one hundred troops, who were rendered weak from malnourishment and lack of water.

In deep thought, Alp Tekin approached the distant guard room of the korugan. Humidity greeted him upon opening the small, squeaking door. As the door opened Jibilga rose, looking at the entering figure, and faced away. At the corner, with beard and hair unkept like weeds, Bugrabek was eating noisily with full cheeks. Noticing Alp Tekin, he pressed his forehead to the ground and rose.

For a moment, both the yigit and the girl were silent. Alp Tekin lowered his head:

 

Alp Tekin shook his head, Jibilga looked at him a moment and noticed the bandaging on his arm:

 

Alp Tekin’s voice strained, reached down to stroke Jibilga’s hair:

Alp Tekin pulled his legs from Jibilga’s embrace, left.

* * *

After dark enemy catapults breached the korugan walls in one-two places. But the enemy could not gain inside access. Alp Tekin’s troops were heaving bowls full of burning naphta to keep them away. It was clear that the remaining life of the korugan was not long.

* * *

Alp Tekin sent for the Diviner.

The Diviner knew of the circumstances. He stated to Alp Tekin:

 

Alp Tekin was shaken.

In the middle of the korugan, preparations began to build a fire.

Dry logs were cut at the height of a human, placed upright in the middle of the wood pile.

The sun was setting behind the mountains.

Jibilga arrived at the pile fearlessly. Then Bugrabek was brought, by collar and trouser-cuff from the dungeon. He screamed, grappling at the ankles of the guards, as two-three guards dragged him towards the pile.

Bugrabek spotted Alp Tekin, in awe, crawled towards him.

Jibilga was placed onto the pile and tied.

Suddenly a deep silence fell on the korugan. Even the bitterly neighing horses quieted.

The setting sun cast an unprecedented scarlet hue on Jibilga, bathing her in heavenly beams. Standing as if chiseled out of red stone with ruby eyes, she resembled the standing statue of Umay.

Mother tongue, motherland is in this heart; could there be two hearts? Tell me Jibilga!"

Naphtha-soaked timbers roared with fire...

Alp Tekin ordered the naphtha to be brought forward. Mounting his horse, he had himself sturdily tied to the saddle. Unsheathing his sword:

Understanding Alp Tekin’s intention, the troops froze for a moment,. Then, one, two, three... five... ten... one hundred of them joined him. Naphta was poured over one hundred fighters.

* * *

During the last attack of the enemy, the korugan gates were flung open, and from inside issued... bellowing riders aflame. Ah-hey; the mounts, the riders themselves and even the drawn swords, powerfully grasped, were... on fire! The horses were running with supernatural speed. The enemy was aghast. From the gates of the korugan, the riders aflame kept issuing until the one hundredth, all together charging the enemy. The horrified enemy army broke like a sheep herd facing danger, began deserting piecemeal.

At that time, Kitkan river burst through its poorly constructed temporary dam, reuniting with its previous channel, overwhelmed those ghazis who attempted to seek refuge from the riding flames in its bed.

As the tents came into contact with the riding flames, the headquarters of the enemy caught fire. Camels went mad, foaming at the mouth, without harnesses, began trampling the besieging troops who had also gone mad.

The ten thousand strong army of besieging adventurists began running away disgracefully. Gallant men who had sacrificed themselves to the sun so that the homeland could live on, kept giving chase, burned and rode, burned and rode, burned and rode...

 

AFTERWORD

To those familiar with history, the present Soviet "restructuring" and "openness" are perhaps reminiscent of earlier "thaws." Furthermore, it is unlikely that filling a few "blank pages," will suffice to elucidate the missing portions of the true Central Asian history. But, works such as SUN IS ALSO FIRE - - if they are allowed to appear—may be deemed an appropriate precursor to true historical text writing.

NOTES

(c) Copyright H. B. Paksoy

ISBN: 975-428-033-9
Library of Congress Card Catalog: DS329.4 .C46 1992 173 Pp. (paperback) US$20
ISIS Press
1992
Isis Press
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Please refer to the printed version for the footnotes

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