Problems of Oriental Philosophy
INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL
THE BOOK OF DEDE KORKUT

THE BOOK OF DEDE KORKUT

ONCE AGAIN ON THE BOOK OF DEDE KORKUT AND ABBASGULU AGHA BAKIKHANOV’S GULUSTANI-IRAM AS THE SOURCES OF AZERBAIJANI HISTORY

Zumrud Guluzadeh

Doctor of Philosophical Sciences

 


The article is one of the author’s numerous efforts to draw attention to the discussion of the problem of updating the scientific history of Azerbaijan in the light of the potentialities of the epic The Book of Dede Korkut and Abbasgulu agha Bakikhanov’s book Gulustani-Iram, in particular, to direct the attention of the historians of Azerbaijan to the scientific conception of the given works. As it was mentioned by Academicians M.F.Brosse and B.Dorn in the minutes of the meeting of the Department of History and Philology of the Russian Academy of Sciences on 16 May 1845, “Gulustani-Iram – The History of the Eastern Part of the Caucasus by Abbasgulu agha Bakikhanov … comprises very important information on different geographical  areas and gives a scientific interpretation of the history of Shirvan and Dagestan beginning from the most ancient periods up to day…, can serve as a valuable supplement to the history and geography of the Caucasian countries… (Cited from Z.M.Buniyatov. From the Editor. Abbasgulu agha Bakikhanov. Gulustani-Iram. Baku. 1991. P.5). The content of the work by Abbasgulu agha Bakikhanov is brought to light in The Introduction titled by him The Topographical Description of Shirvan and Dagestan. The Positions and Names of the Countries, the Origin of the Inhabitants, Languages and Beliefs. This work is known to be the first systematic comprehensive description of the history of what is referred as Caucasian Albania. The content of the concept ‘a historical source’ has different parameters. In a broader sense a historical source is the whole of the monuments of material and intellectual cultures of their bearers, and therefore the sources of information about the past. They, i.e. these monuments are the targets of researches from archeology to musical studies, and facilitate the creation of the entire picture of history as the one in the many, i.e. the pictures of the historical geography, political (including the history of the language) and different aspects of the intellectual culture of certain ethnicities, ethnic history.

A certain part of historical sources is represented in written form. The written legacy, particularly, of the ancient times and Middle Ages, which is characterized by variety of forms and peculiar encyclopaedism of content, is distinguished by an organic synthesis of rational and irrational correlation in content – of fantasy, myth and reality, and in assessment - of the subjective with the objective ones, and is invaluable as a source in restoration of the history of society.

The significance and relevance of addressing the written sources irrespective of their character – no matter whether they are official documents (contracts, decrees, reports, etc.), monuments of religion (first oral, later fixed in written), geographical, literary, historical and other works – are approved by the entire history of the culture of mankind including also modern age. One can show as an example the study of the past – the historical geography, political, ethnic and cultural history, with due consideration of The BibleThe Koran,The Epic of GilgameshOdysseyManas, Nizami’s Khamsa as well as numerous monuments of historiographical nature, in particular, the Histories by Greek and Armenian authors and so on, whom the Azerbaijani historians refer excessively in the description and interpretation of the Ancient and Medieval Histories of Azerbaijan. As it is generally recognized, among historical sources the centrepieces are the eposes characterized in the scientific literature as the bearers of historical information; long narrations in poetry or prose about outstanding national and historical events; major works describing the events of national historical interest.

And The Book of Dede Korkut, the epic of the Turkic nations created in Azerbaijan in the Oghuz-Turkish language belongs to the range of eposes presenting the long narration about the national and historical events.

For its content, form and significance in the history of culture, the epic The Book of Dede Korkut reminds the analogical famous stories of moral culture of the East and West, the eposes which appeared as pieces of folklore, and later were recorded. Further acquiring a certain stability of form and content, they became kind of written sources, bearers of particular historical information on material and intellectual histories.

However, the potentialities of The Book of Dede Korkut as a historical source, in our opinion, have not been used to the right extent by the Azerbaijani historiography. Speaking in favour of the above-said, we would like to point out as a specific feature of The Book of Dede Korkut its affinity to a chronicle, objectivism in presenting the information on the political structure, ethnic and socio-economic picture of the community of the Oghuz compactly living on the territory of Northern Azerbaijan and distinguished by the commonness of language forming their mentality of religious, ethnic and other notions, their interactions with the neighbours, representatives of other ethnicities and religions and finally, their borders, border control, vassals and so on.

It should be noted that during the scientific discussions of the location of The Book of Dede Korkut as one of the historical sources specifying the history of nationalities on the territory of Azerbaijan by some professional researchers, in particular, historians some doubts were expressed in relation to The Book of Dede Korkut as a historical source, since it has the status of a literary work, and comprises elements of mysticism and fantasy. It was in this connection that we started our article with argumentation justifying the reference to the eposes in general and to The Book of Dede Korkut in particular as a source of historiography, and will further try to prove the scientific bias of the claims to The Book of Dede Korkut as a historical source of the researchers who use different standards when characterizing the similar, analogical phenomena. Taking into account the fact that the admission or rejection of the existence on the territory of the present Republic of Azerbaijan of the Turkish – Oghuz statehood in the form of a khanate and the admission of the Turkish – Oghuz statehood along with the Azerbaijani-Albanian statehood might bring serious changes in characterization of the history of Azerbaijan as well as its cultural history, and would be significant in the exposure of numerous falsifications in the given field, yet again we call the researchers for a serious scientific discussion of the introduced problem.

As it has already been mentioned, the epic The Book of Dede Korkut drew also the borders of the state of the Oghuz – the Oghuz khanate, alongside with the exact information on the ethnic identity, social and political hierarchy, mentality, religious and world-outlook notions of the Turks-Oghuz compactly living on the territory of Northern Azerbaijan. According to the Book of Dede Korkut, one of the borders is with the Georgian state that paid an annual tribute to the Oghuz. According to The Book of Dede Korkut, on this borderline were located the cities of Ganja and Barda, where Bekil, the Oghuz hero had settled together with his men for the border control of the Oghuz khanate, as shown in The Book of Dede Korkut (See The Chapter about Imran, the Son of Bekil, also The Encyclopedia of The Book of Dede Korkut, V.1, p.138). The second border is, again in accordance with the epos, in the region referred as Darband-Iron Gates. The researchers are confronted with the problem of identifying the time when that state existed.

To judge by the fact that in the VI-VII centuries the residence of the Albanian Catholicos (the year of 551) and the capital of the Albanian kingdom (since the year of 630) were located in Barda, in that period Barda could not have belonged to the Oghuz. Logically, the Oghuz-Turkish khanate should have existed on the territory of the Caucasus either before or after the VI-VII centuries.

The existence of that khanate later is excluded due to the absence of the records of the Armenian as well Arabian historians who left behind the relatively detailed information on the history of Medieval Azerbaijan. The various information on the social and cultural life of the Turks-Oghuz presented in the epos gives evidence that it was created in pre-Islamic period. This is proved also by the character of the community described in the epos and by the degree of, undoubtedly, less religious ideological bias of The Book of Dede Korkutif compared with the famous medieval eposes of the West, such as The Song of the NibelungsThe Chanson de Roland and others.

Whether there exited the Oghuz khanate on the territory of Eastern Caucasus prior to the Albanian statehood, and what its temporal and other parameters were, the final answers to these questions can be given through the coordination of the archeologists’ and language historians’ research findings related to the culture reflected in the epos, in particular, taking into account its strata associated with totemism and shamanism. It should be reminded that the community and the state of the Oghuz were headed by the shaman, the son of shaman Bayandur khan.

Unfortunately, the data of the epos constituting the historical source about the existence of a Turkish-Oghuz state in the form of a khanate on the territory of Northern Azerbaijan in the ancient period despite the number of debatable problems in regards with Southern Caucasus, have not become the targets of serious scientific researches, which could have changed the interpretation of both the political as well cultural history of the region to a certain extent. In this regard it would be appropriate to return to the doubts of the Azerbaijani historians in the authenticity of the information of The Book of Dede Korkut on the existence of the Oghuz khanate. As some of the Azerbaijani historians suggested during the discussion of the problem at the meeting of the Social Sciences Department at the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, they are confused by the presence of the elements of mythology and fantasy in the epos, and for the sake of accuracy of the facts presented in the epos they require the confirmation of these facts by the data from the in-sync historical records. (Similar requirements are not applied to the works of history, as is known. For instance, to the works by Herodotus and others). As for the confirmation of the information from The Book of Dede Korkut in the in-sync historical records, it is, naturally, the historians’ problem to find these sources. However, unless the historians have identified the time of the existence of the Oghuz khanate, the requirement to confirm its existence through the in-sync written historical sources is deprived of a logical basis. Meanwhile, the esteemed Azerbaijani historians should be reminded that almost all the early Medieval and partly more recent historical records generally used by them (without exposing them in many cases even to the contrastive analysis as a subject of at least some relative authenticity with the written historical sources either existing in a similar time or existing in-sync) in the study of the ancient and early Medieval history of the Caucasus, are abundant in the evidences from mythology and elements of fantasy. The above-said is related to, above all, the Armenian and Albanian historical records recognized as classics by the Azerbaijani historians, many of whom on their basis have tried and are trying to recreate the scientific history of Azerbaijan. However, the Azerbaijani historians somehow fear the moments of mythological and fantastic content in the historical source only in the case of The Book of Dede Korkut. Taking into account the above-said, we suggest to address the records by Favstos Buzand and Moisey Kalankatuyski, the authors whose works are more extensively referred to by the Azerbaijani historians when recreating the history of Azerbaijan. The confused and unfounded data of the so-called The History of Armenia by Favstos Buzand are frequently repeated by the famous Azerbaijani historians not only in their fundamental monographic researches, but also in the scholarly editions of The History of Azerbaijan of different years including also its latest seven-volume edition. In the presentation of the ethno-genetic processes in Azerbaijan, the reader, by the way, finds the names of such ethnic units encountered only in Favstos Buzand as ‘pokhi’ (for euphony some authors present the name of that ethnic unit as ‘pukhi’, ‘pakhi’), ‘balasichi’ (‘balasisiki’). Finally, we would very much like to hear from the ethnographers and historians of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus some additional information on the existence of the mentioned ethnic units, their language, and territory, social and spiritual lives, whether they have ever encountered these ethnonyms in some other historical works as well. In regard with the endless references of the Azerbaijani historians to The History of Armenia by Favstos Buzand, we find it appropriate to bring to the notice of the Azerbaijani historians that Favstos Buzand, as the Armenian scholars write about it, was not the author of The History, which our historians so eagerly refer to as a reliable historical record.

Favstos Buzand’s work was initially called The Short Novels or The Stories. The very Armenian historians write that the so-called The History of Armenia by Favstos Buzand is abundant in the narrations of fantastic concoctions and miracles. Thus, N.S.Khachikyan, the author of the prolusion to the narrative of Favstos Buzand, writes that without having almost any written sources “… historian F.Buzand made a profound use of the richest folklore of the Armenian people, its legends and tales, laments, epic tales and in particular, the epos The Persian War. We would like to remind the reader, also the esteemed historians some data from The History of the Land of Aluank by Moisey Kalankatuyski. When preparing a next–scheduled The History of Azerbaijan, these data might make them ponder over the justifiability of their scholarly stand, and in particular, the stand in relation toThe Book of Dede Korkut.

Thus, The Introduction to The History of the Land of Aluank presents the genealogic line of the Alban beginning from Adam to Noah, and further on the basis of the Biblical stories (Book 1, Ch.1,2) comes the genealogical line of Japheth and his offspring. Chapter 4 of Book 1 takes the reader from the events of the creation of mankind to the appearance of Haran, one of the offspring of Japheth, and from his (Haran’s) son originated the populations of the Uti, Gardman, Chavadi, Gargar princedoms”. For the miracles and fantastic tales see chapters VII, X, XXIII of Book 1 of the mentioned work, Chapters V, VI, XVI, XXIX of Book 2, etc., as well as Appendix About the Honest Head of St. John the Baptist… Commenting on some moments from the work by M.Kalankatuyski, Sh.Smbatyan, one of the translators and comment writers of the work, the Armenian historian writes, “Thus, one must say confidently that Movses Kalankatuatsi drew the information upon the oral tales disseminated in his time, which in the long run had lost many a details and been exposed to considerable changes”.

The folkloristic element in the Armenian historiography, which is one of the main sources in the presentation of the ancient and medieval history of Azerbaijan, is an inherent feature of the medieval Armenian historiography. As Sh.Smbatyan writes in The Preface to the edition of the monument The History of the Land of Aluank by Movses Kalankatuatsi… he (Kalankatuatsi) has extensively used the works by the previous Armenian historians – Movses Khorenatsi, Yegisheh, Lazar Parbetsi, Petros Syunetsi as well as a range of tales by the Armenian catholicoi – Gyut Arahezatsi (461-478), Yohannes Gabelenatsi (557-574), Abraham  Albatanetsi (607-615), Mashdotz Yeliardetsi (897-898)[1] and others. However, the above-stated failed to have any impact on the attitude of the Azerbaijani historians, frightened by the moments of folkloristic and mythological content in The Book of Dede Korkut, to the authenticity of the data of the Armenian and Albanian historiography.

We have repeatedly written about the above-stated problems. However, our publications have not been answered so far. Moreover, we think it necessary to draw the attention of the Azerbaijani and non-Azerbaijani historians not only to the epic The Book of Dede Korkut, but also to Gulustani-Iram – The History of the Eastern Part of the Caucasus by the most prominent historian and thinker of Azerbaijan Abbasgulu agha Bakikhanov whose work can constitute the source of pride of the historical science of any nation of the world without exaggeration. Taking into account the endless searches of the representatives of the post-soviet Azerbaijani historical science for a new methodology to study their history, its new conception, we remind them also about the conception of The History by Abbasgulu agha Bakikhanov correlating the high scientific character with high tolerance.

Below we cite a fragment from that work, which, in our opinion, can become the main conception of history as a scientific discipline. In The Foreword to Gulustani-IramA.Bakikhanov wrote, “No chronicles, legends and monuments can show us the historical developments in the Caucasus in their entirety. In cases of relentless wars and marches across its ranges by different tribes it was exposed to a partial devastation. Since they had almost destroyed all the historical facts to which the historian could refer. And the neighbouring peoples’ chronicles and legends represent nothing satisfactory in this regard. Adhering to the Arabian proverb implying, “One cannot abandon everything just because much is incomprehensible”, I collected the material as much as possible, checked the scattered data, compared the tales with the monuments and having in mind the chronicles, documents, coins, inscriptions and different historical notes of the contemporary and of the ancestors, whenever possible I tried to follow the basic terms of the historians – to describe the event in connection and order, being guided by strict impartiality in relation to my co-religionists  and Motherland, considering the entire mankind as one family, and the Globe as our general Motherland.” It is significant that touching upon numerous sources in The Foreword, A.Bakikhanov emphasizes, “And the neighbouring peoples’ chronicles and legends represent nothing satisfactory in this regard”. These lines seem to be addressed to the future researchers. In our opinion, the discussion of the raised issues has a multi-aspect and moral-political significance along with the scientific relevance.



[1] In the English  sources the mentioned names are spelt as follows, “Kud I of Arahezi (461-478), Hovhannes II Gabeghian  (557-574), Abraham I of Aghbatank (607-615), St.Mashdotz (897-898)


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