About the Project

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The Early Modern Kyrgyz Oral-derived Narrative Sources (EMKONS) project is a collaboration to advance and disseminate fundamental research on premodern Central Asian Turkic narrative manuscript sources. The project’s institutional bases are Miami University and the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic (NAS KR). Our team consists of scholars from around North America and at the NAS KR. The project was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Collaborative Research Grant for a team workshop in 2022.

The narratives we study were created within networks of changing oral and written genres including history, genealogy, and epic poetry, and thus lie at the nexus of several categories of interpretive problems where historians, linguists, paleographers, philologists, and scholars of oral traditions require each other’s insights and methods to do sustained work. By collaborating digitally to analyze, publish and interpret the sources, we will illuminate the self-concepts and interactions of Central Asian nomadic peoples (primarily the forerunners of the modern Kyrgyz), as they used varying lenses of tradition and modernity to create knowledge during times of turbulent and crucial change from the 18th to the early 20th century.

The EMKONS team aims to build research capacity and develop intellectual and technical approaches to changing forms of written and oral knowledge, including history, epic, and genealogy, among Central Asian nomads in the period preceding the formation of modern nationalities. Most written knowledge of nomadic peoples is controlled by sedentary outsiders; our sources are unique in that they portray the Kyrgyz as they see themselves. Users can draw from the EMKONS project to study ethnic, regional, and Islamic identities; the intertwining of oral and written modes of transmitting knowledge about the past; premodern Central Asian Turkic linguistic fluidities; and Central Asian nomads’ experience of the Russian Empire.

The NAS KR has an online archive of digitized manuscripts. The EMKONS project bases its editions and studies on the digitized manuscripts from that collection.

Listen to team members’ round-table panel discussion on the project at the online conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society, Friday, 15 October 2021, 11:30-1:00 US Eastern time (UTC -4).

About the Contributors

  • Temirkul Asanov, Head of the Department of Medieval History of Kyrgyzstan, National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic
  • Jipar Duishembieva, Independent Scholar, Seattle, Washington
  • Arienne Dwyer, Professor of Linguistic Anthropology, University of Kansas
  • Asel Isaeva, Head of the Manuscript Archives, Ch. Aitmatov Institute of Language and Literature, National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic
  • Daniel Prior (Project Director), Associate Professor of History, Miami University
  • Alia Levar Wegner, Digital Collections Librarian, Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, Miami University Libraries
  • Ben Storsved, M.A. student, Department Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University
  • Patrick Hawk, Computer and Technology Specialist, Miami University Libraries
  • Meng Qu, Web Services Librarian, Miami University Libraries


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Duishembieva, Jipar. 2015 Visions of Community: Literary Culture and Social Change among the Northern Kyrgyz, 1856-1924. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington.

———. 2019 “From Rebels to Refugees: Memorialising the Revolt of 1916 in Oral Poetry,” in Aminat Chokobaeva, Cloé Drieu, and Alexander Morrison (ed.), The Central Asian Revolt of 1916: Rethinking the History of a Collapsing Empire in the age of War and Revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019), pp. 289-307.

Dwyer, Arienne M. 2016 “Manuscript Technologies, Writing and Reading in Early 20th Century Kashgar,” in Ildikó Bellér-Hann, Birgit N. Schlyter and Jun Sugawara (eds.), Kashgar Revisited: Uyghur Studies in Memory of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring (Leiden: Brill), pp. 34-57.

——— and C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, PIs. 2015-2018. Annotated Turki Manuscripts from the Jarring Collection Online (ATMO-1). Lawrence, Kansas: https://uyghur.ittc.ku.edu/atmo.html, 2016-05-25.

Egemberdieva, S. and A. Akmataliev (eds.). 2002 Tarykhyi yrlar, koshoktor zhana okuialar. Bishkek: Sham.

Frank, Allen J. and Mirkasyim A. Usmanov (ed. And trans.). 2001 Materials for the Islamic History of Semipalatinsk: Two Manuscripts by Aḥmad-Walī al Qazānī and Qurbāncalī Khālidī (ANOR 11). Berlin: Das Arabische Buch.

——— and Mirkasyim A. Usmanov (ed. and trans.). 2005 An Islamic Biographical Dictionary of the Eastern Kazakh Steppe, 1770–1912: Qurbān-cAlī Khālidī. Brill’s Inner Asia Library, 12. Leiden: Brill.

Hatto, Arthur T. (ed. and trans.). 1977 The Memorial Feast for Kökötöy-Khan (Kökötöydün Ašı): A Kirghiz Epic Poem. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Iudakhin, Konstantin K. Kirgizsko–russkii slovar’. Moscow: Sovetskaia entsiklopediia, 1965.

Jacquesson, Svetlana. 1998 “Un barde kirghiz mal connu Chamïrkan uulu Kïlïtch (1886–1917),” in Cahiers d’Asie Centrale, no. 5–6, pp. 221–57.

Kenchiev, Japar, Rémy Dor and Gundula Salk. 1999 “Dire l’histoire en l’écrivant: Un fragment de sanjïra kirghize,” in Turcica 31, pp. 489–507.

Khalid, Adeeb. 2004 “Nation into History: The Origins of National Historiography in Central Asia,” in S. A. Dudoignon (ed.), Devout Societies vs. Impious States? Transmitting Islamic Learning in Russia, Central Asia and China, through the Twentieth Century (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz), pp. 127–45.

Khālidī, Qurbān cAlī. 1910 Tavārīkh-i khamsa-i sharqī. Kazan.

Kudaiberdy-uly, Shakarim. 1990 Rodoslovnaia tiurkov, kazakhov, kirgizov. Dinastii khanov, trans. B. Kairbekov. Alma-Ata: Zhazushy/Dastan (first published 1911).

Marghulan, Ä. 1971 Shoqan zhäne“Manas”: “Manas” zhyrynyng Shoqan zhazyp alghan nusqasy turaly zertteu. Alma-Ata.

Prior, Daniel. 2013 The Šabdan Baatır Codex: Epic and the Writing of Northern Kirghiz History. Leiden: Brill.

———. 2019 “A Qırghız Verse Narrative of Rebellion and Exile by Musa Chaghatay uulu,” in Aminat Chokobaeva, Cloé Drieu, and Alexander Morrison (ed.), The Central Asian Revolt of 1916: Rethinking the History of a Collapsing Empire in the age of War and Revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019), pp. 308-326.

Qılıch, Moldo. 1911 Qiṣṣa-i zilzila, ed. Īshāncalī Ārābāyef. Kazan: V. Eremieev and A. Shashabrin.

Reichl, Karl. 2000 Singing the Past: Turkic and Medieval Heroic Poetry. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Salk, Gundula. 2009 Die Sanjïra des Togolok Moldo (1860–1942). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Ṣidiq ūġlī, cUthmān cAlī. 1913 Mukhtaṣar-i tārīkh-i Qirghiziya. Ufa: Sharq.

——— [= Ṣīdīkūf]. 1914 Tārīkh-i qirghiz-i shādmāniya. Ufa: Vostochnaia pechat’. (2nd edn.: Osmonaaly Sydykov, Tarikh kyrgyz Shadmaniia. Frunze: Kyrgyzstan, 1990.)

Soltonoev, Belek. 2003 [Kyzylkyrgyz tarykhy, ed. A. Ch. Kakeev. Bishkek: Arkhi. (Edn. of ms. written 1895–1934; 1st incomplete edn. Bishkek 1993, 2 vols.).

Toqombayeva, A. Qayum Miftaqov, 1892–1948. Ilimiy–populyardıq očerk (Frunze: Ilim, 1991)