A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE UNIVERSAL FEATURES OF CIVILIZATION WITH THE «SEVEN PILLARS OF THE GREAT STEPPE»
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Meryem Hakim
Social Sciences University of Ankara Faculty of Political Sciences
Department of International Relations
As the famous historian Arnold Toynbee said that « tradition of the past is also the wave of the future», understanding and studying history of the great Eurasian steppe is the key to shape the future of the state, geography and the society of the present-day state of Kazakstan. This paper is an attempt to discuss some of the new approaches regarding the study of historiography and the new methods in studying the sources of Kazak national history in the new millenia.
There are important events in the history of societies and nations that shape the future of the people living in certain geographies in the world. One of this important events was the declaration of independence of the Kazak Republic in 1991. A quarter of century since that irreversible momentum of the Kazak independence, outside world is witnessing many changes and policies in the region and many developments happening on the public and intellectual spheres on this geography. One of the pivot of such movements was announced by the Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev, late in the previous year under the title of the Seven Features of the Great Steppe (Uly Dalanyn Zheti Qyry) . Kazak President in his public statement announced many important matters on how to study, use and evaluate the sources of history regarding the past of the Great Steppe area and regarding the ancient roots of the inhabitants of the Kazak land in the present day. President pointed to a need to have a holistic approach to the history of the great steppe area from the time immemorial up until the present-day. He pointed further that the achievements, accomplishments and failures of the past societies in the geography should be regarded as the inheritence of the present-day people on this land. Important achievements of the previous societies of the great steppe area were all genuine ceations and innovations that were valued as the most advanced accomplishements of their era.
Historiography, methods of studying history, is an activity dates back to the ancient time. Historians in different era and in different geographies chose to interpret the past from many perspectives. History of historiography starting from ancient Greek times to the present-day is full of different approaches to follow the development of historical methodology. Yet this subject concentrates on the changing nature of interpretations of events rather than the study of events of the past.
Understanding the past is a universal human need and it dates back to the ancient times in history. However the methods of historiography changed over the centuries. Ancient Chinese Annals; classical Greek historians from Herodotus, Hippias of Elis and Hellanicus of Lesbos to Thucydides; Cato the Elder in Latin speaking-imperial Rome to Cicero; Muslim historian Ibn-i Khaldun and Evliya Çelebi of the Ottoman period as well as intellectuals of the enlighthened western Europe like Voltaire, David Hume, Edward Gibbon; together with the nineteenth century German, French and British historians as well as the twentieth century British historian Arnold Toynbee all have their own peculiar methodology in historiography.The way historians utilize the sources, tecniques and theoretical approaches to interpret certain events, thus vary according to the era and particular research interest of the scholars. By the late twentieth century, new approaches appeared in historiography. Contemporary scholars developed a tendency of changing their approach from traditional diplomatic, economic and political history to social and cultural studies.
This modern approach and methodology for studying history is also reflected in recent speech of the president of Kazakstan. Kazak president referring to an idea of depicting to unearth a vast panorama regarding the place of Eurasian great steppe area in the history of human civilization. Kazak president is claiming the legacy of ancient Central Eurasian warriors and seemed to share the pride of horse-mounted nomadic hordes invading the western regions of the Eurasian landmass. It is also a well-known fact that ancient Eurasian societies contributed greatly to the innovations in metal industry as well. This was made possible by the rich mining deposits of the great steppe area. Archaeological excavations reveal the level of advancement of the societies in producing metallic materials and utensil for multipurpose usage. The Kazak land is still rich in many kind of metal and mineral resources. Archaeological artifacts regarding the Golden Man (Altın Adam) that gained a fame as the Central Asian Tutankhamon display the level of advancement of the Eurasian societies in jewelry production and in gold smithing.
Ideas publicized in the Kazak president’s statement supports the argument and undertakings of famous historian Arnold Toynbee in studying history according to the cultural criteria rather than a national one.
Importance of geography in the Eurasian region and particularly the peculiar meaning of the Altay mountain for the history of the World of Turks given a special emphasis in the statement of the President Nazarbayev. Present-day Kazak territory was home to the ancient and medieval trade route, the Silk Road. Societies inhabiting this geography were active participants to the economic activities of the, then international world in the history as well. They were in contact with the Chinese, Indian, Persian and Mediterranean civilizations through their trading connections. This important statement of the Kazak President will give a new impetus to the Professional scholars and lay intellectual public for reinterpreting the history of the Kazak territory starting from the time immemory to the present-day. It is also supports the recognition of world scholarly circles’ findings as « …within the last few decades (in the twentieth century) historians have come to recognize that history comprises a record of past human activities in every sphere- not just political developments, but also social, economic and intellectuals ones»
It seems that in the now independent state of Kazakstan, history is going to be reinterpreted and rewritten with a more modern and contemporary approach. According to the findings of different disciplines in social sciences such as archaeology, anthropology, ethnography, musicology and others, societies inhabiting the present-day Kazak land back in the previous centuries have reached into a high level of civilization. Studies on these disciplines carried out in the past and in the contemporary era reveals many unearthed characteristics and unique peculiar achievements of the Eurasian inhabitants of the past. It is important to publicize all before the scholarly and lay public of the world.
Research activities devoted to define each and every features of civilization existed on the land of the great steppe region will be a great service not only to the state of Kazakstan but to the general history of mankind.