Friday, February 21, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Could Kazakhstan Be Become Turan and the Nucleus of Pan-Turanism?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 21 – Now that Nursultan Nazarbayev suggested that Kazakhstan be renamed “Kazak eli” to set it apart from the other Central Asian “stans,” Academician Ermentay Sultanmurat of the World Assembly of Turkic Peoples has suggested that a better name would be Turan, given the centrality of Kazakhstan in the world of the Turks.

            In an official appeal to the Kazakhstan President, the Kazakh scholar and Turkic activist argues that “under conditions of globalization and neo-colonialism, there is no alternative to any Turkic people however ‘great’ and proud it considers itself except unity. In the opposite case, all of us can expect to pass from the historical arena.  For the achievement of union of the most important and constantly developments required a factor which prompts all to think and move in this direction” (

            If Kazakhstan, the birthplace of the Turkic peoples and the center of the Turkic world were to rename itself Turan, the academic says, that would give an enormous impulse to the re-unification of the Turkic peoples and make possible their joint contribution to the future of the world.

            Kazakhstan has achieved an enormous amount in the short time of its independence, Sultanmurat continues, but it is important that it not ”limit itself to narrow national interests.” “We cannot for a minute forget that our fate and the fate of the Turkic super-ethnos are one, and that the Turkic world looks to Kazakhstan with hope.”

            “It is no accident that the President of Kazakhstan is called the aksakal of the Turkic world or that the brother Kyrgyz not long ago proposed creating a common state with the Kazakhs.” And it must not be forgotten that “despite the efforts of regional powers to block it,” Kazakhstan “is building an historical-cultural, social-scientific center of the Turks of the world, the city of Turan, and is fruitfully working with the World Assembly of Turkic Peoples.”

            If Kazakhstan were to rename itself Turan, that would in no way reduce the national dignity of the Kazakhs but it would dramatically promote the rebirth and unity of the Turkic people and “the ancient Turans” who would then look to Turan-Kazakhstan as their natural center and organizer.

                This would be a most important step ...  toward the consolidation of the Turkic super-ethnos which is the guarantee of the survival and rebirth” of all Turkic peoples, including the Kazakhs, Sultanmurat says. And it would transform what is now Kazakhstan now into a very different state and one with far greater influence in the world.

            It is unlikely that Nazarbayev will agree to rename his country in the way that Sultanmurat has suggested, but by opening the possibility that the country could have a new name, the Kazakhstan president has intentionally or not opened the way for discussion about a wide variety of ideas, including some old, radical and marginal ones.

            But even if none of these ideas is accepted, their discussion provides a matrix for considering what they may mean.  If          Turkism or pan-Turkism is generally understood. Turanism or pan-Turanism is not. In contrast to the other ideologies, which focus on language, Turanism focuses on a broader group of peoples supposed linked by genetics.

Thus, for supporters of the Turan idea, their world consists not only of all Turkic-speaking peoples but also the Hungarians, Finns, Estonians, the Finno-Ugric nations of Siberia and the Far East, and even the Mongols and Manchus, a diverse swath of  humanity whose highly unlikely rapprochement would transform the international system.

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