Identity Markers: Uran, Tamga, Dastan
reconstruction of historical events essentially revolve
around understanding the societal dynamics of the polity
under study. This will involve a broad based approach
to the subject, including literature, material culture,
philosophy of governance, and so on.
that are insulated by natural barriers from their neighbors
more readily coagulate
into "nations" and "states." These
polities tend to form and maintain their
political and cultural states around a specific ethnicity,
and traditions. The incursions
from the "outside" are less often than that
occurs on a continental scale.
And the effects of these incursions, and the local response,
different paths. Ireland, Great Britain and Japan, among
others, may serve
the Asian continent polities are adjacent in contiguous
tracts. The geography comprises vast expanses, with
demanding climactic conditions. This causes the politics
to evolve in a bit more complicated fashion. A culture
heavily dependent on horses is much more fluid. They
are very mobile. Neighbors can come calling at short
notice, and may not leave for a long time. Cultural
contact ensues, sometimes in intense measures. Polities
may change character or even structure as one result.
in sum, is what has been happening in the heart of Asia,
for close to two millennia
often termed Turkistan.
all corners of the Asian continent is lush with tropical
forests, nor all land is
arable or suitable for agriculture. Large areas, especially
in the center of Asia,
are designated bozkir, supporting limited vegetation,
mostly saksaul (Holoxylon
Ammodendron). Rainfall is exceedingly rare, and benefits
mostly small irrigated patches where cities are located.
All are separated with sizeable deserts such as Karakum,
Kizilkum, Gobi, Taklamakan.
these conditions, family units must depend on each other
for survival. This is accomplished
largely by engaging in animal husbandry, primarily horses
species provided the basic necessities of life in the
bozkir, including the fibers
to produce clothing and shelter (not to mention food
and drink). Anyone attempting
to live alone, could hardly see the next spring in the
harsh continental climate.
a single family, regardless of how large it might be,
could not survive without
other kinsmen. The Central Asians, as one consequence,
have highly developed vocabulary to define social relations
and familial ties.
we observe that a pyramidal structure constitutes the
bases of the broad community
in Central Asia. It has a defined set of steps. An uruk
is comprised of oymak, which are made up of aris, a
composition of soy, itself a subdivided into tire, constituted
by ara: uruk > oymak > aris > soy > tire
times of political strain, when war clouds are visible,
various uruk form coalitions
and establish the ultimate political and economic union:
The Central Asians termed this process "tug baglamak."
is the horse-tail standard. The leader of a polity or
unit had the traditional right
to tie a tug to his lance. (As the tug would be more
visible than a naked lance,
this tug was used to identify the polity and, when needed,
to signal the cavalry,
to order various attacking, flanking, retreat and regrouping
the leader in question attracted more of his kinsmen
to his standard, he would be in a position to add additional
tug to his own lance. This was necessary because he
now had more divisions to command, each with a designated
lieutenant, called tugbay. For example, in the very
late 15th and very early 16th centuries, the Ozbeks
and the Kazaks formed their confederations in this time-honored
fashion. In the 14th century, Timur was another
example. Their population comprised primarily of urug,
oymak, aris and so on, that arrived from the Nogay confederation
that was dissolving. This was the mechanics by which
the Central Asians established their polities, which
we might now call states, complete with their geographic
domains and governance
name adopted as the appellation of the confederation
is chosen carefully, as it determines the character
of the polity. For example, Ozbeks named themselves
after Ozbek Han. This took place after an earlier confederation
was dissolved, and the components of that earlier confederation
chose to join others to form a brand-new confederation.
Z. V. Togan, in his "Origins of the Ozbeks and
the Kazaks" summarizes the process involved (http://webpages.acs.ttu.edu/hpaksoy/oko.htm)
polity would choose an uran as a part of their membership
kit. Uran is the word shouted in the heat of the battle,
to allow combatants to identify and gauge the whereabouts
of their fellows without taking their eyes off the common
adversary. The uran serves as the general password of
the members of a polity, as seen for example, with the
Nogay. The utterance of the uran (during the act of
the strike, of the motion of the sword, to release the
pressure on the diaphragm) marked the membership in
a given polity as well as access to other members not
personally acquainted in non-combat times. Thus, uran
is an integral part of identity in Central Asia, forming
a triad, along with tamga and dastan.
term tamga, originally referring to the "seal"
of a given group, was later borrowed
by Russians to designate customs levies (Russian: tamozhnia).
The tamga was embroidered on Central Asian tents, incorporated
into rugs, filigreed into jewelry, struck into coins,
and used as a cattle brand. A list of early tamgas is
found in Kashgarli Mahmut's eleventh century work the
Diwan Lugat at Türk. It provides, in part, the
visual identification component of the membership in
dastan, on the other hand is an ornate "oral history"
of the origins, customs, practices,
and exploits of ancestors. It was a shameful act on
the part of any member
who could not recite a portion of the designated dastan.
The dastan contains the events that brought the polity
one result, the triad uran, tamga, dastan comprise,
if you will, the constitution,
passport and national anthem of the confederation. Together,
they form the emblems of a polity, or statehood. In
the political party platforms of the proposed
Turkistan independent republic, the traces of these
elements are discernible.
This triad was always used by Central Asian polities,
even after large-scale
Central Asian empires, city-states or other smaller
triad lay dormant for a period, until new conditions
favorable for another confederation
presented themselves. It happened in the fifth to seventh
centuries A.D., when the Göktürk empire rose
from its earlier roots, and even after the thirteenth
century Mongol irruption as the Timurid empire demonstrates.
the twentieth century, this uran, tamga, dastan triad
began to make itself felt once
again. Much like the Australian colonies confederating
in 1901 to form Australia,
or the American colonies in 1776 making use of earlier
symbolisms and traditions, forming coalitions.
leaders of the Turkistan National Liberation Movement
(1919-1930s) took on the historical title Korbashi,
meaning "commander of defense troops" as recorded
in the eleventh century, and set about engaging the
colonizer and preparing for sovereignty. Along the way,
the elements of Uran, Tamga, Dastan played a prominent
role in this struggle; as they continue to do so.
P. Paksoy, D. Phil
Texas Tech University