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Saturday, October 6, 2012

“Sons of the Conquerors: The Rise of the Turkic World”, by Hugh Pope


432 pages, Overlook Press, ISBN-13: 978-1585676415

Hugh Pope's Sons of the Conquerors: The Rise of the Turkic World provides the Western reader a glimpse into a different reality of world history. Under-emphasized and under-represented in any history curriculum at any Western university, this work presents to the reader facts and events of pan-Turkic and central Asian history and culture that have had little currency, recognition or understanding in the West. Comparatively speaking, the history and culture of East Asia – Chinese history, Japanese history, Korean history and the history of Southeast Asia – are much better taught and understood in the West than the history of the Turkic peoples in central Asia. A major strength (but also the major weakness) of Pope's work is his concentration on Turkey and Turkish history and culture, especially the Ottoman period and 20th Century, post-Ataturk Turkey. This is understandable because Pope has clearly spent more time, done more research and has more knowledge of Turkey than of the other pan-Turkish cultures of central Asia. In Sons of the Conquerors Pope does not limit himself to documenting Turkey. Instead, he has attempted to bring in the many central Asian nations associated with pan-Turkic culture, i.e., Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc. As a reader, I would have liked to see more equal time spent on the cultures of these central Asian nations, many of them newly minted from the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Among these, Uzbekistan is slightly favored with extra time. In addition, Pope gives short shrift to Turkic peoples living within today's post-Soviet Russia, i.e., Tatars and the Buryats to name two groups. This is a good read, especially for someone reading about Turkic history for the first time. However, the serious student will need more than is presented here, especially about the central Asian pan-Turkic peoples.

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