Sunday, November 28, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Ottoman Should Become Language of Caucasus Emirate, Activist Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, November 28 – Ottoman Turkish rather than Russian or Arabic should become the language of the Caucasus Emirate once that state is formed because it can not only unite the peoples of that region but link them to the broader Turkic world and make their study of Arabic, the language of the Koran, easier, according to one emirate supporter.
While many supporters of the Emirate want to retain Russian as the language of inter-ethnic communication and others hope to jump immediately to Arabic, Said-Magomed Tokayev writes, Ottoman Turkish for a variety of reasons is a far better choice for the peoples of the future state (
The choice of language is “an interesting question,” Tokayev writes, exceeded in political importance only by the selection of the name Caucasus Emirate. For a millennium, people have talked about the Caucasus as a region at the dividing point between Asia and Europe, but “no one ever called by this name any state formation.”
Of course, he concedes, declaring the existence of something is one thing, and creating it is quite another. But if the Emirate is to come into existence, there must be “a correct and precisely developed ideology which will be mentally close for the peoples populating such a single state.”
There have been discussions about what the language of inter-ethnic communication should be in that state, Tokayev notes. And at present, “there are not a few supporters of preserving [this status] for the Russian language,” an idea that is based on “completely logical arguments.”
But Tokayev says, it is his view that this issue requires answering a variety of questions, including “historical, religious, ethnic, linguistic, political, geostrategic and other” ones, and he suggests that a consideration of these leads him to conclude that it would be “completely logical” and more useful to adopt the Ottoman language as the common language of the Emirate.
“Our fathers and grandfathers in the Caucasus for many centuries communicated with each other in Kumyk,” he says, a pattern connected with the rule of the Ottoman khalifate, “which left a deep trace in the culture and language of the peoples of the Caucasus,” contributing vocabulary to all the languages of that region.
Indeed, Tokay continues, “even the name Ichkeria [which is what Chechen nationalists call their republic] is a Turkish word which means ‘internal’ in translation from the Kumyk language.”
After Russia conquered the Caucasus in the 19th century, he writes, “the Russian administration replaced Kumyk with Russian as the international language, introducing it by means of schools and trade. From the point of view of the empire, this was a correct step.” And if the Caucasians want a single state, they too much find a single language.
The Russian Empire used force to impose this change, but the Caucasus Emirate will not find such a method very “effective.” But “nevertheless, in uniting the Caucasus into a single state, we are obligated to adopt and introduce a state language for a single state, in our case, the Caucasus Emirate.”
In addition to those who support retaining Russian, there are others in the Emirate movement who want to go over to Arabic, “arguing with justice that there cannot be any better language of the Koran.” But despite that, “there is reason to consider another variant as well, namely the Ottoman,” Tokayev argues.
Arabic is important because of its religious uses, but Tokayev suggests that there should be two state languages for every resident of the Caucasus Emirate – a local ethnic one and Ottoman, “a state language” and also “a language for communication among the peoples of the Caucasus.”
The basic reasons for that are first of all, “more than half of the Ottoman language consists of Arabisms, which means that whoever masters Ottoman is already halfway to mastering Arabic.” Moreover, those who speak one of the six Turkic languages of the region are already able to move to Arabic.
Second, Ottoman was earlier spoken in “today’s Turkey, Central Asia, Arab countries, Persia, the Caucasus, the Middle Volga (Idel-Ural), and the Crimea. Peoples who lived on this enormous territory understood one another thanks to the Ottoman language.” Moreover, while using Ottoman, they never lost their own languages but only saw them “enriched.”
Thus, by adopting Ottoman, the Caucasus Emirate can reach out to all these peoples with all the benefits that will entail.
Third, while Ottoman is not the official language of Turkey, it is taught in law faculties of that country because the terminology it supplies for legal and political issues is so rich. Consequently, the future Caucasus Emirate could only benefit by gaining access to that vocabulary.
And fourth – and Tokayev says this is “the chief argument” in its favor – the adoption of Ottoman will not only link students with the pre-Russian pasts of their own peoples but make it easier for them to learn Arabic in the future not only because of the Arabisms in Ottoman but also because Ottoman uses the Arabic script.

No comments: