Home > Turkmen Rugs >Review: new hoffmeister collection book Part III
Author:jc
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Tue, Jul 12th, 2011 04:45:14 AM
Topic: Review: new hoffmeister collection book Part III


"S" group Salor gol chuval Tsareva calls a "Trinity of Sun-Gods, hoffmeister collection, cat. 8

Like her co-authors, Elena Tsareva uses the now outdated, and more to the point incorrect, spelling Turkoman rather than Turkmen. She should know better.

Frankly RK is surprised, in a book written in the 21st century, authors like these refuse to get with the program and use the far more correct spelling.

Oh well, no accounting for awareness and knowledge, or the lack of it.

Tsareva begins her text with a brief recount, ad nauseum RK must say, of Turkmen tribal “history”.

What she wrote has been written many times before, and though she explains why she is doing it we feel it is a waste of her time as an author, and for her readers as well.

There is nothing new in what she says regardless of the fact she feels it is important

…as a necessary introduction, as elsewhere in this book I will often rely on the events described here in order to help explain similarities and/or differences between the use by various Turkoman tribes of particular carpet ornaments, structures and materials. In many cases those peculiarities can be linked to specific events in the Turkoman past.

She could have accomplished that same aim by mentioning any of the specific references with each item she was going to link any idea to and saved us all having the plough through something that has been already mentioned by countless authors in almost every book on Turkmen rugs.

Since RK is writing this review as we are reading Tsareva’s text for the first time we will be amazed if she can really chew down and swallow what she has bitten off in the quote above, especially the last sentence

In many cases those pecularities can be linked to specific events in the Turkoman past.”.

Wonders never cease, but by the end of our report we will either take our hat off to her for doing something no one else has ever done, or we will take our turko-dunce hat, which we have placed on hoffmeister’s head for the crummy and absolutely useless introduction he produced, and put it on hers.

Let’s read on together and see how Tsareva is getting on chewing that mouthful of a quote we just cited.

For the record, RK wants to state our expertise is not centered on the history of the area, nor have we intensely studied the historic population shifts, ebbs and flows.

Likewise, we haven’t studied carefully the geophysical and environmental changes this area underwent in the period Tsareva is discussing (“…the last ten centuries.”)

And while what she has written on this first page sounds good(see below where the complete chapter is reproduced for reference), frankly we do not buy the simplification of complex factors inherent in the processes of assimilation in Turkmenistan and the neighboring areas she says formed the Turkman tribal groups, nor do we think it happened as she claims.

We have been long reading/studying Yuri Bregel’s seminal work, and one other, on the subject and compared to what these tomes imply Tsareva’s brief survey appears less than satisfactory.

Also, she seems to have ignored the pre-16th century environmental changes brought on by climate and the ever encroaching desiccation and only states

In the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries many of the western and northern Turkoman were forced to move to oases in the south and east due to the gradual drying out of Lake Sarakamysh and the Uzboi course of the Amu Darya River.”.

But let’s read on and see how she works up her tack on this broad and esoteric subject.

She, in fact, doesn’t and suddenly, after a few more sentences, Tsareva has left behind, after only some few paragraphs in total, the first four hundred years of her time-frame, and has jumped up to the 15th/16th century and states the following that is in or opinion barely related to where she was going

The main activity of the Turkomans was animal herding, partly commercial, combined with agriculture(mostly in the Sarakamysh region and southern Turkmenistan), as well as domestic crafts, also partly commercial, primilarly the carpet trade with Iran and the trans-Caucasus region in particular.

What Tsareva is doing with this breakneck trip through the historical background of the Turkmen people strikes us as glib and simplistic, not to mention redundant.

This sentence is especially troubling

Non-stop conflict and tribal resettlement continued in the 19thcentury: early in the period Khiva conquered Merv and the slope of the Kopet Dag, forcibly moving the Goklen and the Alili to Khorezm."

Who/what is the Khiva and Merv she mentions, as both of these are cities and cities do not conquer each other, their inhabitants do.

We all know there was the emir of Khiva, who ruled the territory during this period so are we to assume he is the subject of her statements? And since the situation in Merv at this time was somewhat more complicated Tsareva should have fleshed this out a bit more.

If so, and it is the emir of Khiva, which is probable, then story is far more complicated than Tsareva is making it appear to be; well, at least from what others have written, that is.

But let’s give Tsareva a pass here and continue reading.

Gulp, get this

The events outlined above represent a brief selection of some of the most important, for our particular reasons, in the history of the Turkoman tribes from the tenth to the late nineteenth centuries. Though fragmentary and very limited, they help us to understand the historic data we rely on when trying to attribute Turkoman knotted weavings by the tribe and time of their manufacture. In this, the most important criteria are the ability to distinguish whether, according to structure and ornamentation, the makes of a particular carpet product was a member of either the Salor or the Chodor Confederation, and also to determine geographic location by color scale and, to a lesser extent, materials, which often point to the time of production.

This is the crux of Turkmen studies, and so far other than enunciate Tsareva has done nothing to substantiate.

But let’s read on in hope… in adddition her position vis-à-vis the “Salor and Chodor confederations” needs much more explanation than she has given to make it fully intelligible.

Oppps, Tsareva just dropped the ball like a hot potato and launched into a brief completely unrelated account of what she calls

Turkmenistan’s entry into the Russian Empire…”.

Will she pick it up again or just ignore it?

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