J. G. Renat – Early Modern Swedish Superhero

Johan Gustaf Renat (1682-1744) was an amazing historical figure, a Swedish man with an uncanny skill for survival in strange environments who traveled further afield into Turko-Mongol territory than practically any other European in his generation. He has left an interesting trail of documents and traces in others’ accounts of the time, but still one must rely on conjecture and speculation to put together many of the personal details of his life. Continue reading J. G. Renat – Early Modern Swedish Superhero

Arts and Crafts and Traditions and Antiquity

Traditions, in my experience, are crafted. Which is to say that they do not arise spontaneously out of the thin air, though the specifics of the tradition probably are generated spontaneously from the creativity of those acting out the tradition. In the case of a family, there is little like a tradition to give a sense of history and enduring continuity to a collective experience that so rarely feels permanent or stable.

Continue reading Arts and Crafts and Traditions and Antiquity

Elim-ai: An investigation

Previously I wrote that I would use the blog for writing practice, more specifically for writing things outside the scope of my dissertation. Today I am making an exception: this is an attempt to write coherently about the subject of my next dissertation chapter. My next chapter is about the poem/song now commonly known by the title “Elim-ai,” a text closely connected with the story of the Bare Footed Flight. Continue reading Elim-ai: An investigation

Famines and Zhuts: Connections in Kazakh History between the 18th and 20th centuries

On a handful of occasions, I have encountered an interesting phenomenon in conversation with some citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This anomaly occurs when the discussion turns to my subject of research for the first time: the Kazakh/Jüün Ghar wars of the 1720s, part of the long-term struggle of the 17th and 18th centuries, commemorated under the phrase Ak-taban-shubryndy. This phrase, however, doesn’t always point the listener to the Kazakh – Jüün Ghar wars. Rather, when I have explained that I study the Aktaban Shubyryndy, my conversation partner may nod knowingly and respond with something about the importance of studying the great famine (sometimes the term “genocide” arises) of collectivization that occurred in the early 1930s. Continue reading Famines and Zhuts: Connections in Kazakh History between the 18th and 20th centuries

Archery and Firearms

This post is perhaps more rambling than some…

I have several areas where my hobbies and my academic interests intersect. Since childhood I have loved strategy-based board games and other “war” games on the computer or other video game systems. I believe that that is what fuels my continued interest in military history. Continue reading Archery and Firearms

Translation: Tynyshpaev, "Ak-taban-shubryndy"

This translation requires an admission of guilt.

I am ashamed that I have left this translation only half-completed on other occasions. It is a piece that has deserved far better treatment from me. Aside from its direct impact on my dissertation research, it is especially shameful considering how often I write about my respect for Tynyshpaev. Continue reading Translation: Tynyshpaev, "Ak-taban-shubryndy"