Edited by  H. B. Paksoy

Table of Contents:

H. B. Paksoy "Ibadinov's Kuyas Ham Alav"
Peter B. Golden (Rutgers) "Codex Comanicus"
Richard Frye (Harvard) "Narshaki's The History of Bukhara"
Robert Dankoff (Chicago) "Adab Literature"
Uli Schamiloglu (Wisconsin-Madison) "Umdet ul Ahbar"
Kevin Krisciunas (Joint Astronomy Centre) "Ulug Beg's Zij"
Audrey Altstadt (UMass-Amherst) "Bakikhanli's Nasihatlar"
Edward J. Lazzerini (New Orleans) "Gaspirali's Tercuman"
David S. Thomas (Rhode Island) "Akcura's Uc Tarz-i Siyaset"

ISBN: 975-428-033-9
Library of Congress Card Catalog: DS329.4 .C46 1992
173 Pp. (paperback)  US$20 

ISIS Press

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FAX: +90 + 216 321 86 66


Please refer to the printed version for the footnotes

IsmailBey Gasprinskii's Perevodchik/Tercuman:
A Clarion of Modernism

Edward J. Lazzerini

                         Es is der Geist der sich den Kärper baut
                                               Friedrich Schiller

The absence of ideas and aspirations... demoralizes a people,
lulls them to sleep, and enfeebles them.
Ismail Bey Gasprinskii

     During the 1870s, a young man from the southern portion of
Tavrida Province, ancestral home of the Crimean Tatars who once
figured crucially in the political and economic life of Eastern
Europe, wrestled with a complex of social conditions that he deemed
intolerable.  Ismail Bey Gasprinskii (Gaspirali), then in his
twenties, was hardly unique in this respect. For some time young
subjects throughout the Russian Empire  --people of varied ethnic
backgrounds--  had been pondering the fate of their country, had
been encouraged to nurture a social consciousness by the writings
of men like Alexander Herzen and, more recently, Nikolai
Chernyshevskii, and had been engaged in both spontaneous and
organized activities imed at changing Russia.  Like the "new
people" celebrated in the latters's novel What is to be Done? these
youths were angry with the socio-economic and political status quo
and the traditions sustaining it; many were willing to sacrifice
personal advantage and aspirations for the general good, however
variously defined.  Some would choose terror as their preferred
     Gasprinskii shared similar sentiments, thoughhe was not one of
the latter extremists.  Throughout a life committed to improving
mankind's material and spiritual well-being, he consistently
rejected violence resolutely affirming, instead, the long-term
value of rational discourse, dissemination of information, and
education, and education for achieving the desired social
transformation along modern lines.  Like many of his contemporaries
who matured in the intellectual climate of the 1850s-1870s, he
developed into an unequivocal advocate of the ideology of progress
that served to legitimize the modern perspective.  Trusting in the
truth-discovering power of empirical science and the efficacy of
human reason, will, and energy, Gasprinskii was convinced that
popular discipline and (re)education would unleash a boundless
store of human creativity and turn it to the task of shaping the
future.  An armed spirit, as the German poet Schiller implied,
could give dreams concrete expression.
     Gasprinskii differed from other idealists of his generation,
of course, by virtue of his being not merely a Russian(ized)
subject, but also, a Tatar reared in the local variant of the
greater Islamic cultural tradition.  Discovering and living that
more complex identity, with its special demands and burdens imposed
largely by an imperial policy that proclaimed people bearing to it
to be inorodtsy ("others") and marginalized them through
administrative measures, complicated the gigantic mission
Gasprinskii undertook.  As a result, he had to contend with
opposition from not only Muslim detractors but also, and more
importantly Russian ones.
     Minimizing that overt opposition and overcoming the apathy and
more subtle resistance to change, typical of the general Muslim
populace became Ismail Bey's most challenging task.  What had to be
done, he decided not long after the mid-1870s, was to devise a
multi-faceted strategy for enchancing intra- and inter-cultural
communication, whether of ideas, skills, sensibilities, or even
fears.  Organizing new types of schools to create the proper
environment for learning consistent with the needs of modern life
was one such element of that strategy; so too were the
encouragement of book publishing, with contents reflecting
decidedly practical concerns, and the organization of mutual aid
societies to consolidate resources and focus social activity.  As
a result, over the span of thirty years Gasprinskii had a direct
hand in, or inspired by his example, the establishment of thousands
of reformed (usul-i cedid -- "new method") primary and secondary
schools within Muslim communities inside and out.  Simultaneously,
a small but productive printing facility that he owned and managed
in Bahchesarai contributed no small number of books and pamplets to
the growing array of cedid literature, whether for direct use in
the new schools or to stimulate within the general reading public
as appreciation of modern ways.  Lastly, the number of mutual aid
societies grew rapidly, especially after the turn of the century,
adding their important share to the evolving sense of community
across Russian Islam.  Together such activities represented
fundamental innovations in the experience of Muslims.  In the midst
of it all, he struggled to ally Russian fears of what the Muslims
were up to, and sought to convince them and his co-religionists of
the benefits to be derived from dialogue based upon respect and the
realization of common purpose.
     Cenral to Gasprinskii's overall strategy, however, was his
determination to found and sustain a newspaper.  Until he received
official permission to publish what would be Russia's longest-
running Turkic-language newspaper prior to 1917, the peridical
press was virtually unknown among his cultural brethen despite
occasional efforts to initiate it in Kazan, Tiflis, Tashkent, and
Baku.  Responding to a comment from a visiting Russian in 1888 that
the native population did not provide particularly fertile soil in
which Gasprinskii's enterprise could flourish, the budding
publisher acknowledged: "Even a short time ago there were few
Muslims who could answer the question: What is a newspaper?"  Yet
here he knew was the one means by which he could most effectively
propagandize his grand project, reach the widest audience, and
overcome opposition to modernism; here too was a vehicle with
extraordinary power to chip away at the entrenched prejudice
fortifying Russian and Muslim against one another, prejudice born,
he believed, of ignorance and misinformation.  Moreover, a
newspaper could serve to rally the fragile and widely dispersed
forces already awakened to the benefits of progress, and encourage
them through the difficult times that inevitably lay ahead, all the
while serving as a forum for modernist propaganda.  As he wrote in
his first editorial statement: "[The newspaper] will serve so far
as possible to bring sober, useful information to Muslims about
[Russian] culture and, conversely, acquaint the Russian with
[Muslim] life, views, and needs."  And as he later commented,
"[f]or the revival of a great people, who have long remained in
ignorance, the press will play a cricial role."
     The newspaper about which Gasprinskii wrote and to which he
devoted the fullest measure of resources and energy was the first
of several that he would sponsor.  Its most distinguishing feature
was its dual-language format: a Russian text with a Turkic
translation.  Along with the usual information about date and place
of publication (and price), the masthead bore the title Perevodchik
for the\Russian portion and Tercuman for the Turkic.  Each means
"translator" or "interpreter."  Title and format thus speak to the
essential purpose of the publication: to elucidate the natures of
Islamic and Russian/Western cultures for wide-spread public
consumption across cultural lines so as to encourage both the
revitalization of Islamic society and its sblizhenie (raprochement)
with the Russian.  The anticipated consequences were, on the one
hand, an end to the mental complacency of Muslims that stifled
economic development, encouraged social indifference, and
engendered political weakness; on the other, a beginning to an
equal partnership between Muslim and Russian in shaping a more
just, harmonious, and strenghtened empire.  A tall order for one
man and his fledgeling newspaper, but not for Gasprinskii and
Perevodchik/Tercuman, prpelled as they both were by the unflagging
belief that with effort and time, "little things become large,
difficult things easy, [and distant things close."

>From all corners of Russia Muslim merchants came to the Nizhni-
Novgorod fair.  Each year I went there to propagandize [my
ideas]... But so as not to draw official suspicion to myself....
I collected subscribers for my newspaper.
Ismail Bey Gasprinskii.

     A man struggling to change one culture subsumed within
another, dominant one, by means of discourse that relies upon the
technical achievements of the printing revolution only recently
available to Russian Islam, needs an audience.  The trips he madeto
the Nizhni-Novgorod fair, and later to other important Muslim
centers, were sensible responses to an obvious problem that would
only abate with time.  Held annually in August for two weeks, the
fair was\Russia's most important.  But it had significance even
greater than its vital economic functions: the participation of a
large number of Muslim merchants and businessman, particularly of
Volga Tatar ethnicity.  Because of their long-standing involvement
in far-flung commercial activity, their significant diaspora,
consequent extensive contacts, influences, experiences, as well as
competitive spirit that made them more open to change, Gasprinskii
recognized in the Volga Tatars a potential ally and shrewdly sought
their support.  He did so, however, only after he had developed a
project that they and other Muslims, he hoped, would find
attractive.  That project  --a search for means by which to
propagandize his modernist position--  took several years of
intense and often frustrated efforts to consummate.
     For about four years before 1883, Ismail Bey tested several
alternatives.  In 1879 he submitted his first request to Russian
officials for permission to establish a newspaper.  This followed
by two years the closure of Hasan Bey Melikov Zerdabi's Ekinci the
very first Turkic-language newspaper in Russia, and ocurred at
approximately the same time that Said and Celal Unsizade in Tiflis
were authorized to begin publishing their newspaper Ziya. 
Rejection of Gasprinskii's request remains inexplicable, as does
the similar fate of subsequent petitions he submitted to "two
governors and three ministers."  Differences between Crimea and
Caucasus in local conditions, as well as administrative leadership
and regulations, however, may have been instrumental.
     With this avenue closed to him for the moment, he turned to
other forms of publishing.  Beginning in May 1881 and continuing
into the following year, he produced at irregular intervals twelve
"newsletters" of one to two pages each.  Written in Crimean Tatar,
they contained not only articles of general interest but also a
number dealing with language reform, a subject that would figure
prominently throughout his career.  To avoid charges that he was
managing a periodical without official authrization, Gasprinskii
gave each newsletter a different name.  Of the twelve, I have been
able to identify eight: Tonguc, Sefak, kamer, Ay, Yildiz, Gunes,
Hakikat and Latail.  For lack of a press in Bahchesarai capable of
printing the Arabic script, the first two were issued in Tiflis by
the Unsizade brothers in quantities of five hundred and one
thousand respectively.  Gasprinskii managed to print all subsequent
editions in Bahchesarai (in undetermined count) because he would
gain permission during the summer of 1881 to open a printing
establishment.  With that permission in hand, he travelled to St.
Petersburg, commissioned the printing of a circular announcing his
publishing plans (fifty issues of the newsletter a year, for three
rubles), and then traveled through several provinces distributing
the circulars.  It was August 1881 and the Fair at Nizhnii-Novgorod
was in progress.  From it, despite significant resistance to the
idea of a "secular publication," at least some Muslim merchants
carried the announcement with their wares "to all significant
places in European and Asiatic Russia."  Shortly after returning
home, he began setting up the press, training typesetters, and
turning out the newsletters, buoyed by support from about two
hundred and fifty subscribers.
     This auspicious beginning, however, was stalled for reasons
still obscure.  Only ten of the promised fifty newsletters followed
upon the heels of Tonguc and Sefak, with Gasprinskii suggesting
that the authorities had caught up with his game and forced him to
cease publishing that hich "had the character of a periodical."  In
the confusuion that followedand the embarrassment with regard to
his subscribers, Ismail Bey settled on two strategies: first, the
compilation, printing, and distribution among those patrons of two
booklets as partial compensation; and second, a renewed attempt to
persuade government authorities to allow him tostart a newspaper.
     The booklets in question were huriedly put together, as
Gasprinskii admits himself.  Nevertheless the proved typical of so
many others that he would author over the next thirty years:
didactic, informational, simple, and straightforward, they were, in
a phrase, little more than primers.  The first was Salname-i Turki
(A Turki Almanac), a "calendar" in the nineteenth century sense
entailing a compendium of information "necessaryfor the coming
year."  To compile the data GAsprinskii drew upon almnacs,
geographies, statistical works, and other sources in Rusian,
Turkish and French.  Its contents ranged from history and geography
to contemporary events, education in various lands, the press,
train schedules, and even a description of the history, spread and
treatment of syphilis.  The second and much horter booklet was
Mir'at-i cedid (The nEw Mirror), again a collection of diverse
materials including an article on the life of animals, an itenarary
for a pilgrimage to Mecca by Russian Muslims, an essay on tea, a
vignette on the cafe owner, a brief history of Istanbul, and a
description of the Aurora Borealis.  To supplement the text
Gasprinskii inserted several illustrations (as of a tea plant), a
"remarkable" decision that he felt obliged to explain  --and did so
in terms of the demands of modern scientific analysis--  to readers
acustomed to the traditional Islamic prohibition against portrayal
of living things.
     As for his second strategy, persistence reaped its rewards. 
A petition addressed and personally delivered in St. Petersburg to
Count Dimitrii Tolstoi (Minister of Internal Affairs) in August
1882 received a positive response.  Gasprinskii was permitted to
begin publishing a weekly newspaper whose contents were to be
printed in both Russian and Turkic and which would be subject to
the preliminary review of a special censor.  Although available
sources discuss this episode only superficially, several
considerations may explain why success was finally achieved when it
was:  the involvement of V. D. Smirnov, the publication of
Gasprinskii's essay Russkoe musul'manstvo, and the soon-to-be
celebrated one hundredth anniversary of the Russian conquest and
incorporation of Crimea.
     An orientalist-historian by training, Smirnov certainly had a
hand, perhaps a crucial one, in the events leading up to
Gasprinskii's hard-won victory.  If only as a result of his
interests and duties, Smirnov could hardly avoid being attracted to
GAsprinskii: as a historian, he maintained a life-long fascination
with Crimea and published several studies of the pre-Russian period
of the region's history; as an accomplished linguist with a
thorough knowledge of a number of Turkic languages, he served as
censor of Muslim publications in Russia; and as a student of
Islamic culture, he found himself heavily involved in the problems
of educating the empire's muslims at a time when the issue was a
subject of intense debate, writing articles for the official
journal of the ministry of public education dealing with the matter
both in general terms and as it applied specifically to the Crimea.
     The publication of Russkoe musul'manstvo in booklet form after
being serialized in a local Russian newspaper introduced
Gasprinskii's name and ideas to the Russian reading public. 
Whilemany would find much in this essay with which to disagree,
Ismail Bey's call for sblizhenie  between Russians and Muslims, his
assertion of unqualified Muslim loyalty to the Russian state, and
his condemnation of the old Muslim educational system, among other
things, must have made him an attractive figure save the most
ardent imperial reactionary.  Himself a hostile critic of the
traditional Islamic education and religious obscurantism, Smirnov
must have appreciated the sympathetic arguments of this Russianized
Crimean Tatar.  And if a comment he made in 1905 concerning
Perevodchik/Tercuman is telling at all  --that the newspaper
"promised a great deal with its appearance"--  then we can
reasonably assume his initial approval.
     A third factor that may have influenced the response to Ismail
Bey's latest petition is rather more complicated and relates
indirectly to the April 1883 anniversary of one hundred years of
Russian rule over the Crimea.  While no internal memorana or
records of official discusions surrounding the issue have been
uncovered to date to sustain an argument, government leaders may
very well have decided to permit the creation of a native-language
newspaper in conjunction with the celebration for the following
complex of reasons: (1) the historical significance of the
eighteenth-century event and the economic and strategic gains
expected for the empire even after a full century; (2) conversely,
the difficulties that the region had had in fulfilling many
expectations, especially economic ones, and the overall decline in
the quality of life of its native inhabitants that generated a
certain amount of visible discontent and mutual distrust, leading
to (3) the apparent sympathy for and dependence upon the Ottoman
Empire (with whom Russia had frequent conflicts, the most recent
being in 1877-1878) that Crimean Tatars continued to display in
various ways --e.g. through occasional and usually massive
emigration to Turkey and heavy reliance upon imported Turkish
     Whatever the circumstances that gained him permission to
publish a newspaper, Gasprinskii plunged ahead with efforts to
produce Perevodchik/Tercuman.  Its first number appeared on April
10, 1883, just missing the anniversary celebration by two days,
perhaps because of the need to send copy to St. Petersburg for
prior review by Smirnov, the newspaper's first censor.  It had been
put to press in part with Arabic type imported from Istanbul and
typesetter from the same place.  A year would pass before Ismail
Bey managed to train local men to asist with the variou printing
tasks.  Even then the dual-language character of the newspaper
continued to cause problems to the typesetters who only slowly
learned to "compose Russian texts nd ceased to confuse the Tatar."
     The first few years of Perevodchik/Tercuman's existence proved
financially unstable.  Some help came from the dowry tht Zuhre
hanim brought to her marriage to Gasprinskii in 1881 and from the
sale of a legacy bequethed by his mother, but the key to long-range
survival of the newspaper depended upon how successful its
publisher would prove in attracting subscribers.  The task was
daunting.  Everywhere he faced extraordinary apathy, mistrust, and
cynicism.  Two episodes, both occurring during junkets to a major
Muslim community in search of support, illustrate his difficulties. 
The first transpired in Kazan in 1882.  Renting a large hall in one
of the local hotels and advertising a literary soiree for the
city's Tatar community, Gasprinskii planned to give a talk on the
advantages of reading and writing and on the Muslim languages.  As
he recounted the evening, however,

     Nine o'clock arrived.  I waited another two hours but
     only three visitors showed up, not from Kazan but out-of-
     towners.  One of them was Allahyar Bey from the Caucasus,
     and the other two were the brothers Saki and Zakir
     Ramiev, the future publishers of Vakit [a Tatar-language
     newspaper] in Orenburg. The event, of course, did not
     take plac, but among these travelers meeting by chance in
     Kazan there passed a very useful exchange.

     According to Cemaledin Validov, the only native of KAzan who
approved of Gasprinskii's plan for a newspaper and encouraged him
in his endeavor was the prominent reformist alim and historian
Sihabeddin Mercani.  But even sympathizers could have their doubts
as shown in a letter from Sakir Ramiev to his brother probably not
long after they had met Ismail Bey:

     You have seen yourself, so you know, that our people do
     not pay attention to the words of those who do not wear
     a .... turban on their heads.  Some people were
     frightened when they heard that gAsprinskii was preparing
     to publish a newspaper, and brandishing their sticks from
     afar they said: "The newspaper, the newspaper! It leads
     to the destruction of the world!"

     While very much in favor of spreading literacy and
enlightenment among Russian Muslims, Sakir was personally unsure
that the time was ripe for a newspaper.
     The second episode occurred several years later in 1885 during
a "hunting" expedition for subscribers in the Caucasus.  Recalling
the experience some time later, GAsprinskii wrote:

     Having gone all around the city [Baku] at that time, and
     having distributed almost by force several hundred copies
     of the newspaper, we were able to find not one person who
     wanted to subscribe to it.  The merchants were evidently
     afraid of us, as were the people, and this eriously
     hindered our efforts.  The clergy shunned us as heretics,
     and the two or three intellectuals that we met by chance
     viewed us as madcaps!

     How many subscribers Perevodchik/Tercuman had at any given
time in its history defies confirmation.  For its later years, a
figure of ten to fifteen thousand is typically bandied about, with
five thousand being sold in Turkey alone, but the validity of these
numbers remain suspect.  By the end of its first half decade,
according to comments Gasprinskii made to Filipov, the newspaper
still attracted only three to four hundred.  Puzzling is
Seydahmet's claim that figures for 1883, 1884 and 1885 were three
hundred and twenty, four hundred and six, and over one thousand
respectively.  However acurate these numbers may be, by the early
1890s, the issue of financial survival seems to have receded and
then disappeared.  
     From its inception until late 1905, Perevodchik/Tercuman
maintained a technical format of four pages almost equally divided
between the Russian and Turkic sections.  GAsprinskii seems to have
always written his copy in Russian first and then had it translated
into Turkic.  Abdurresid Ibrahimov claim that this was Ismail Bey's
practice because he was unable to write in the latter language.  It
may be more a matter of not being "a master of literary style," as
Gasprinskii described himself in 1906.  Whether and to what degree
he became proficient in his native tongue is unclear, although he
notes the continued practice as late as the end of 1905 of having
others translate his work into Turkic.  In any event, by 1905 the
Russian section had dwindled to near nothing and the newspaper's
name had become Tercuman-i Ahval-i Zaman (The Interpreter of
Contemporry News).
     At first a weekly publication, Perevodchik/Tercuman began to
appear twice a week in 1904, then three times a week in 1906, and
finally as a daily from 1912 until its closure in 1918.  The cost
of a subscription was originally four rubles a year, reduced to
three in 1907, and finally raised to five when it became a daily. 
>From 1890 onward, sketches, illustrations, and photographs were
permitted, although Gasprinskii continued to be cautious in their
use.  In terms of basic layout, consistency was a hallmark: a lead
article or articles by Gasprinskii, Russian domestic news, news
from abroad, a feuilleton (sometimes literary/didactic, other times
straightforwardly informational), official announcements
(particularly those affecting Muslims), excerpts from the Russian
(and later the Muslim) periodical press, book news, and
     This bare-bones description of the contents typical of an
issue of Perevodchik/Tercuman tells one little about the
newspaper's monumental significance.  To begin with, its very
existenc was constant testimony to a veritable revolution in
communications that, coupled with a rapidly expanding book
publishing/trade cycle, changed for increasing numbers of Rusian
Muslims not only the nature of public discourse but its level and
impact as well.  In the beginning the newspaper was, quite simply,
a novelty, and like novelties it elicited a wide range of
responses: from curiosity and applause, to suspicion and
condemnation.  It served as both a reflection of and a mouthpiece
for a way of looking at the world and human activity that was, for
Muslims, different and thus unnerving.  As a clarion of modernism,
it was inherently subversive, which helps to explain Ismail Bey's
strategy of incremental assault upon the status quo, whether rooted
in Islamic or Russian practice.  Thus, on the one hand, he
initially limited the newspaper's contents to the most elementary
and unadorned information on matters of non-controversial interest
to his Muslim readers.  As he noted:

     Thus it went for three years.  In the fourth year I
     enlarged somewhat the contents of the newspaper and
     introduced into it critical elements.  In order to do
     this, however, it was first of all necessary to convince
     my subscribers that they should not confuse my criticism
     with mockery or scandalous gosip.  Convincing people of
     this takes a long time, and [the task] still continues.
     Even now [1888] my readers at times assume that I am
     gossiping, and it takes all my efforts to try to convince
     them otherwise.

     On the other, he respected the realities of Russian power and
dominion, avoided the censor's club, and kept politics out of his
program until circumstances had changed in the empire after 1905. 
As its novelty wore off, Perevodchik/Tercuman gradually acquired a
stature that bore symbolic, even metaphorical significance.  This
occurred partly because it was a survivor, a  sturdy plant spawned
from a seed tossed upon rich but undeveloped soil.  By comparison,
most other Muslim fruits of the periodical press appearing during
the several decades before 1917 were short-lived and came on the
scene much later, largely after 1905.  More significant than
survivability, however, was the program for shaping a better future
that slowly found expression on its pages.  By encouraging the
reading of books (the right kind, of course) and newspapers,
Gasprinskii set the stage for a broader and more tolerant
entertainment of ideas: about reforming the traditional education
system, about simplifying the Arabic script and overcoming
distinctions among Turkic languages, about the importance of
studying foreign languages as passages to other cultures and their
achievements, about developing skills (particularly economic ones)
and unleashing talents (especially in women), and about
restructuring the administartion of Muslimreligious practices.
     Even more basic was his unwavering insistence that reason and
religion were not incompatible; they merely served different human
needs.  Religion, while regulative of human behavior, was not to be
the exclusive object of experience, from which men must learn.  As
Gasprinskii succintly put the matter: "...[I]t is highly important
that the sheriat, or faith, not diverge from reality, that is, from
reason and the dictates of experiences."  By de-centering the
Islamic religion, though not disowning it, he sought to create a
secular place within the Muslim experience that would permit
adoption of the technicalistic achievements of the West.  Those
achievements, more and more people came to believe  --not without
constant prodding from the likes of Perevodchik/Tercuman--  could
not remain the patrimony of Westerners alone.  How to share in that
patrimony, incorporate it into a committment to modernist ideology,
and thereby reclaim the power, prosperity, and ignity that Muslims
believed they once possessed and desired anew, was the challenge
and the promise offered by Gasprinskii and his newspaper.  With
time Perevodchik/Tercuman became a metaphor for modernism.  As such
its name would conjure for Russian Muslims that monumental goal
toward which they and so many others have lurched for the last
century or so.

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