• Ешқандай Нәтиже Табылған Жоқ

The Middle Horde Kazakhs’ religiosity as described by Russian Ethnographers

In document century Kazakh nomads thr (бет 63-70)

Chapter 2: The religiosity of the Kazakhs through the Lens of Russian

2.2 The Middle Horde Kazakhs’ religiosity as described by Russian Ethnographers

63 established long before the Tatars and Central Asians religiously approached the Kazakh steppe.147

64 Bronevsky’s claims “The Kirgiz are drowning in ignorance and superstition; they are

Mohammedans only in name” («Киргизы утопают в невежестве и суеверии; они суть Магометане только по названию»)150 and “The inner worship of God consists of

superstitions and prejudices” («Внутреннее богопочтение состоит из суеверий и предрассудков»).151 Hence, somehow Bronevsky’s scant ethnographic findings provide enough evidence to conclude that the Middle Horde’s nomadic population, although calling themselves Muslims, were ignorant of the Islamic religious rituals and canons. However, a more thorough analysis of Bronevsky’s materials reveals the author’s poor comprehension of the nomad’s religious life, the Islamic religious institutions, and the peculiarities of observing the Islamic rituals by the nomadic population and the nomadic lifestyle in general.Bronevsky states that “Kirgiz–Kaysaks, although professing the religion of Mahomet, essentially

ignorant of it; they keep Akhuns, Mullahs, and Khojas in the Volosts, but do not have any mosques” («Киргизы-Кайсаки, хотя исповедуют закон Магомета, но суть невежды в нем, Ахунов, Муллов и Ходжей содержат в волостях, но нет у них ни мечетей»)152. Thus, despite his repetitiveness about flat Kazakh affiliation to Islam, the author admits the presence of the Ulama (the Islamic clergy and scholars) among the Nomads. And the absence of permanently built mosques per se does not mean that the Kazakhs did not have mosques in their way for such religious practice. The Kazakhs, being nomads and leading a nomadic lifestyle, had their interpretation of the mosque’s function. Thus, according to the canons of Islam, mosques may be the place of collective convention and prayers everywhere except for dirty places such as toilets and bathing rooms; therefore, the Nomads used yurts as the place of gathering and performing communal Islamic rituals such as Friday prayers. Accordingly, the mosque was either a separate yurt constructed primarily to observe Islamic practices or a yurt where a Mullah or other representative of the local Islamic clergy was living. Spasskii, in

150 Ibid.

151 Ibid.

152 Броневский, «Записки Генерал – майора Броневского о Киргиз – Кайсаках Средней Орды», 96.

65 his observation, proves that aspect by asserting that some well-off Kazakhs set up a yurt for a mosque while his aul (nomadic encampment) was out on the steppe.153 In the same vein, the Turkestan Teachers’ Seminary’s pupil, Bukin Ish-Mohammed, states that among the Nomads, the mosque was replaced by an ordinary Kazakh’s kibitka (yurt).154

And Semyon Brovevsky, in his ethnographic observation, to some extent proves this assumption as well as the assertion that the Kazakhs were properly performing namaz, one of the five mandatory canonical pillars of the religion of Islam; thus, he writes as follows: “In any aul, a Mullah, or in case of his absence, one of the honorable elders who knows the law better, by coming out of the yurt, calls some prayers loudly five times a day. Then everyone suspended their chores, falls on their knees and prays” («во всяком ауле, Мулла, или за неимением его, один из почетных стариков, более знающий закон, пять раз в сутки, выйдя из юрты, громко кричит некоторые молитвы. Тогда все, оставляя занятия, повергаются на колена и несколько молятся»).155 This author’s observation provides a great explanation of the Middle Horde Kazakhs' formal affiliation to Islam, both

institutionally and canonically. Thus, my argumentations from those sentences are as follows

«во всяком ауле, Мулла, или за неимением его, один из почетных стариков, более знающий закон» “in any aul, a Mullah, or case of absence of him, one of the honorable elders, who knows the law more” means each Kazakh settlement had its own Ulama, who was represented by a Mullah or other person recognized within the community as the most

proficient in knowledge of Islam religion to be the representative of local Islamic clergy; then («пять раз в сутки, выйдя из юрты громко кричит некоторые молитвы») “by coming out of the yurt calls some prayers loudly five times a day” means “the yurt” was the place for collective prayers either a mosque or a Mullah’s living place, and “calling some prayers

153 Спасский, «Потребностью православной миссии», 6.

154 Букин, «Физическое и умственное воспитание у киргиз», 10.

155 Броневский, «Записки Генерал – майора Броневского о Киргиз – Кайсаках Средней Орды», 95 – 96.

66 loudly five times a day” nothing else but calling “Azan” the canonical call for the five daily prayers in Islam religion; and the last part of the observation, “Then everyone suspended their chores, falls on their knees, and prays” («Тогда все, оставляя занятия, повергаются на колена и несколько молятся») means that all Aul’s inhabitants living in that particular settlement suspended their deals and started to pray, where “falls on their knees”

повергаются на колена») nothing else but the performance of namaz.As a result, according to my arguments, the aforementioned Semyon Bronevsky’s ethnographic

observation, particularly in the last section discussing the aspect of observing the five daily prayers by every member of the local Kazakh community, calls into question the general perception of Kazakhs as superficial Muslims who ignore Islamic canonical rituals. Further in this thesis chapter, these research outcomes will be compared with other Russian

ethnographical materials concerning the Middle Horde Kazakhs’ religious beliefs.

Another Russian ethnographer who compiled data on the Middle Horde Kazakhs’

religiosity was a colonial military officer, Nikolai Krasovsky. In the same vein as Semyon Bronevsky’s research findings, the paper “Materials for Geography and Statistics of Russia Collected by Officers of the General Staff. The Region of the Siberian Kirgiz” (Материалы для географии и статистики России, собранные офицерами генерального штаба.

Область Сибирских Киргизов) does not include ample information concerning the religion of the Middle Horde Kazakhs in question. Accordingly, he points out that the nomadic Middle Horde people, although recognizing themselves as adherents of the Islamic religion and observing Islamic ritual practice, were indeed weak in their religious convictions. It is evident from the following Krasovsky’s assertions: “ritual, performing prayer, etc., he is ready to give up everything tomorrow” («обрядность, при совершении намаза и прочее, готов завтра же все бросить»)156 and “a Kirgiz should be considered a Mohammedan only in appearance,

154 Красовский, «Материалы для географии и статистики России, собранные офицерами генерального штаба. Область Сибирских Киргизов», 392.

67 and a temporary one” («киргиза должно считать только по наружности

магометанином и притом временным»).157 Reflecting on the general colonial perception of the lack of hygiene among the Kazakhs and their laziness, the author makes a subsequent claim that “only laziness can explain why a Kirgiz-Mohammedan, who regularly performs prayer, even five times a day, never does ablution” («только ленью и можно объяснить, почему киргиз–магометанин, исправно совершая намаз, положенный даже пять раз в день, ни разу не делает омовение»)158 corresponds to the criterion that Kazakhs were proper and diligent in some of their Islamic rituals but not in others. What is worth noting here is that Krasovsky, who, as the mentioned-above ethnographer from the Younger Horde Meyer, was also a military officer obtaining only military education from the Second Cadet Corps and Infantry School and the Imperial Nicholas Academy of the General Staff. Thus, I argue that his academic background did not allow him properly comprehend the nuances of the

religiosity of the Nomads. Hence, Krasovsky prefers using the term Mohammedan (магометане) instead of naming adherents of the Islam religion as Muslims, along with Meyer and other Russian ethnographers, who lacked knowledge of the Islam religion.

Reflecting the previously mentioned materials, the ethnographic essay “The Kirgiz of Akmola region” (Киргизы Акмолинской области) does not provide much data that may shed light on the religious faith of the Middle Horde Kazakhs in a broader context. On many

points, the essay reflects Nikolay Krasovsky’s assumptions about the Nomads’ superficial attitude towards the Islam religion. Thus, the statement “In religious terms, the Kirgiz cannot be called true Mohammedans” («В религиозном отношении киргизов нельзя назвать истинными магометанами») 159 is an example of such an analogy. What needs to be pointed out is that the essay proves that the Middle Horde Kazakhs practiced Islamic rituals.

157 Ibid., 391.

158 Ibid., 401.

159 “The Kirgiz of Akmola region” (Киргизы Акмолинской области).

68 Still, similarly to Nikolay Krasovsky’s arguments, it associates the Nomads with darkness and ignorance. It is evident from this assertion of the essay: “With a nomadic lifestyle and

illiteracy, they mainly focus their religious concepts on the blind observance of rituals” («При кочевом образе жизни и безграмотности, они преимущественно сосредотачивают свои религиозные понятия на слепом соблюдении обрядов»).160 On the other hand, the essay provides the information that “their winter quarters should be kept as clean as possible, to which they are forced by their religious rites of daily fivefold prayer and ablution” («их зимовки содержаться по возможности в чистоте, к чему их принуждают их религиозные обряды ежедневного пятикратного моления и омовения»)161 which, to a certain degree, disagrees with Krasovsky’s assumption about the Kazakhs’ poor sanitary conditions and proves that the latter held the Islamic rituals in due manner.

Vladimir Tronov, who anthropologically studied the Kazakhs of the Zaisan district of Semipalatinsk and reflected research findings in his essay “Materials on Anthropology and Ethnology of the Kirgiz” (Материалы по антропологии и этнологии киргиз), obviously only paraphrases Nikolay Zeland’s assumptions regarding the religiosity of the Middle Horde Kazakhs. His statements are similar to Zeland’s, where Tronov argues that Kazakhs, although recognizing themselves as Muslims, lacked the understanding necessary to comprehend the dogmas of Islam. Tronov writes: “The Kirghiz are Mohammedans by religion, but in essence, the religion of Mahomet is as little known to them as any other” («по вероисповеданию киргизы магометане, но в сущности религии Магомета им также мало известна, как и всякая другая»)162 and “only the ceremonial side of religion is known, but its essence, its

160 Ibid.

161 Ibid.

162 Тронов, «Материалы по антропологии и этнологии киргиз», 17.

69 dogmas are inaccessible to the understanding of the Kirghiz” («известна только обрядовая сторона религии, сущность же ее, ее догматы недоступны пониманию киргиз»).163

What is worth noting here is that Vladimir Tronov, being a colonial medical

representative and not being religiously educated, may have introduced some distortions in their findings concerning Kazakhs’ religious faith. Fortunately, for my thesis research, I have access to the accounts of an orthodox priest, Efrem Elisiev, who can be considered the primary source of information related to the Middle Horde Kazakhs’ religious beliefs.

The orthodox priest Efrem Elisiev (Ефрем Елисьева) published his ethnographic materials relatable to the Kazakhs’ religious faith in Pravoslavniy Blagovestnik and Serkovnye Vedomosty at the end of the 19th century. The centerpieces of his research endeavors were the areas of Semipalatinsk and Ust-Kamenogorsk regions. I argue that his findings are the most valuable and credible narratives among all available ethnographic sources due to their

particular directivity to religious issues. First and foremost, it is crucial to point out that in the first chapter of his notes Elisiev firmly disapproves of all previously circulated Russian ethnographic assumptions asserting the superficial Islamization of Kazakhs. It is evident from the following statements:

Until now, I have repeatedly heard and read that the Kirgiz are not as passionate as the Muslim Tatars. According to rumors, I knew that the Kirgiz, although Muslims, were only touched by Islam on the outer, ritual side and that, therefore, the Kirgiz steppes could serve as a favorable soil for sowing the word of God. The Kirgiz are only external executors of the law and the rites of Islam. Many never perform namaz (prayers); they do all the rak’ahs (bows) clumsily when they do. Unfortunately, this idea of the Kirgiz is often far from being true. The Kirgiz often display the same blind devotion to Islam as the fanatical Tatars”

(До сих пор мне неоднократно приходилось слышать и читать, что киргизы не так фанатичны, как мусульманствующие татары. По слухам, мне было

известно, что киргизы хотя и мусульмане, но мусульманство коснулось их только внешней, обрядовой стороной и что, поэтому, киргизские степи могут служить удобной почвой для сеяния слова Божья. Киргизы только внешние исполнители закона и обряда мусульманства. Многие из них никогда не

совершают намазов (молитв), совершая намаз, делают все ракаяты (поклоны) неумело. К сожалению, такое представление о киргизах часто далеко не

163 Ibid.

70 соответствует действительности. Киргизы зачастую проявляют такую же слепую преданность Исламу, как фанатики – татары).164

Elisiev’s statements show what misconceptions regarding Kazakhs’ religiosity established among Russian colonial officials and ethnographers and to what extent those prejudices and biases distorted the portrait of Kazakhs’ religiosity by depicting them as a nation of nominal Muslims. Further, the priest witnessed his observations that Kazakhs prayed at the time when Elisiev hosted the nomads. Elisiev states that “at the appointed time, at night, the Kirgiz got up for prayers” («В урочные часы, ночью, киргизы вставали на намазы»).165 Elisiev provides no significant evidence that his missionary efforts to baptize Kazakhs resulted in any tangible results regarding his missionary activities to introduce the inhabitants of the Middle Horde to the Orthodox religion. The notes mainly represent a few cases when Kazakhs voluntarily agreed to be converted to Orthodoxy; on other occasions, the Nomads preferred to stay cold and indifferent to Elisiev’s preaching. In addition, according to Elisiev’s accounts, Kazakhs were sometimes inclined to radically treat someone of their tribe for changing their religion from Islam to Christianity, including executing a convert. The priest depicted one such case in the Zaisan district.

In document century Kazakh nomads thr (бет 63-70)