Book of Dede Korkut

Book of Dede Korkut

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The Book of Dede Korkut, also spelled as Dada Gorgud, Dede Qorqut or Korkut-ata (Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

: Dede Korkut, , , ), is the most famous epic stories of the Oghuz Turks
Oghuz Turks
The Turkomen also known as Oghuz Turks were a historical Turkic tribal confederation in Central Asia during the early medieval Turkic expansion....

 (also known as Turkmens or Turcomans) The stories carry morals and values significant to the social lifestyle of the nomadic Turks and their pre-Islamic beliefs. The book's mythic narrative is part of the cultural heritage of Turkic states some of those are Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

, as well as to a lesser degree Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 and Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan , officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world's six independent Turkic states . Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east...

..

A series of epics orally told and transferred over the generations before published as a book. There are numerous versions collected of the stories; once were natural verses since Turkish is an agglutinative language, they gradually transformed into combinations of verse and prose as the Islamic elements emerge by the time. Various dates have been proposed for the first written copies.Geoffery Lewis dates it fairly early in the 15th century with an older substratum of these oral traditions dating to conflicts between the ancient Oghuz and their Turkish rivals in Central Asia (the Pecheneks and the Kipchaks
Kipchaks
Kipchaks were a Turkic tribal confederation...

). However, according to him, this substratum has been clothed in references to the 14th-century campaigns of the Akkoyunlu Confederation.
Cemal Kafadar mentions that it was no earlier than the 15th century based on the fact that the author is buttering up both the Akkoyunlu and Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 ruler. Stanford Jay Shaw
Stanford J. Shaw
Stanford Jay Shaw was an American historian, best known for his works on the late Ottoman Empire, Turkish Jews, and the early Turkish Republic...

 (1977) in his history of the Ottoman empire dates it in the 14th century. Professor Michael E. Meeker believes that the stories and songs have emerged no earlier than the beginning of the 13th century and were written down no later than the beginning of the 15th century. Some scholars in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

 place it in the eighth century. A precise determination is impossible to come by due to the nomadic lifestyle of the early Turkic people, where epics such as Dede Korkut were passing from generation to generation in an oral form. This is especially true of an epic book such as this, which is a product of a long series of narrators, any of whom could have made alterations and additions, right down to the two sixteenth-century scribes who authored the oldest extant manuscripts. The majority of scholars of ancient Turkic epics and folk tales, such as Russian-Soviet academician Vasily Bartold
Vasily Bartold
Vasily Vladimirovich Bartold was a Russian and Soviet historian and turcologist.-Biography:Bartold was born in Saint Petersburg.Bartold's lectures at the University of Saint Petersburg were annually interrupted by extended field trips to Muslim countries...

 and British scholar Geoffrey Lewis, believe that the Dede Korkut text "exhibits a number of features characteristic of Azeri
Azerbaijani language
Azerbaijani or Azeri or Torki is a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people, primarily in Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran...

, the Turkish dialect of Azerbaijan".

The epic tales of Dede Korkut is one of the best known Turkic dastan
Dastan
The Dastan , is an ornate form of oral history from Central Asia, the most famous of which is Dede Korkut - which may have been created as early as the beginning of the 13th century....

s from among a total of well over 1,000 recorded epics among the Mongolian
Mongolic languages
The Mongolic languages are a group of languages spoken in East-Central Asia, mostly in Mongolia and surrounding areas plus in Kalmykia. The best-known member of this language family, Mongolian, is the primary language of most of the residents of Mongolia and the Mongolian residents of Inner...

 and Turkic
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 language families by international scholars.

Origin and synopsis of the epic


Dede Korkut is a heroic dastan
Dastan
The Dastan , is an ornate form of oral history from Central Asia, the most famous of which is Dede Korkut - which may have been created as early as the beginning of the 13th century....

 (legend), also known as Oghuz-nameh among the Oghuz Turk people
Oghuz Turks
The Turkomen also known as Oghuz Turks were a historical Turkic tribal confederation in Central Asia during the early medieval Turkic expansion....

, which starts out in Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, continues in Anatolia and Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, and centers most of its action in the Azerbaijani Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

. According to Barthold, "it is not possible to surmise that this dastan could have been written anywhere but in the Caucasus".

For the Turkic peoples, especially people who identify themselves as Oghuz, it is the principal repository of ethnic identity, history, customs and the value systems of the Turkic peoples throughout history. It commemorates struggles for freedom at a time when the Oghuz Turks were a herding people, although "it is clear that the stories were put into their present form at a time when the Turks of Oghuz descent no longer thought of themselves as Oghuz." Now it is known that the term 'Oghuz' was gradually supplanted among the Turks themselves as Turkmen, 'Turcoman', from the mid tenth century on, a process which was completed by the beginning of the thirteenth century. The Turcomans were those Turks, mostly but not exclusively Oghuz, who had embraced Islam and begun to lead a more sedentary life than their forefathers. In the fourteenth century, a federation of Oghuz, or, as they were by this time termed, Turcoman tribesmen, who called themselves Ak-koyunlu established a dynasty that ruled eastern Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and western Iran. But even before that at least one of the stories (Chapter 8) of the Dede Korkut epic existed in writing, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, from an unpublished Arabic history
Arabic history
Arabic history may refer to:*Arab history*History of Arabic*History of Arabia...

, Dawadari's Durar al-Tijan, written in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 some time between 1309 and 1340.

Since the early eighteenth century, the Book of Dede Korkut has been translated into French, English, and Russian. However, it was not until it caught the attention of H.F. Von Diez, who published a partial German translation of Dede Korkut in 1815, based on a manuscript found in the Royal Library of Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

, that Dede Korkut became widely known to the West. The only other manuscript of Dede Korkut was discovered in 1950 by Ettore Rossi in the Vatican Library
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

. Until Dede Korkut was transcribed on paper, the events depicted therein survived in the oral tradition, at least from the ninth and tenth centuries. The Bamsi Beyrek chapter of Dede Korkut preserves almost verbatim the immensely popular Central Asian dastan Alpamysh
Alpamysh
Alpamysh, also spelled as Alp-amish or Alpamish , is an ancient Turkic epic or dastan — ornate oral history, generally set in verse — and one of the most important examples of the Turkic oral literature of Central Asia...

, dating from an even earlier time. The stories were written in prose, but peppered with poetic passages. Recent research by Turkish and Turkmen scholars revealed, that the Turkmen variant of the Book of Dede Korkut contains sixteen stories, which have been transcribed and published in 1998.

The twelve stories that comprise the bulk of the work were written down after the Turks converted to Islam, and the heroes are often portrayed as good Muslims while the villains are referred to as infidel
Infidel
An infidel is one who has no religious beliefs, or who doubts or rejects the central tenets of a particular religion – especially in reference to Christianity or Islam....

s, but there are also many references to the Turks' pre-Islamic magic. The character Dede Korkut, i.e. "Grandfather Korkut", is a widely-renowned soothsayer and bard, and serves to link the stories together, and the thirteenth chapter of the book compiles sayings attributed to him. "In the dastans, Dede Korkut appears as the aksakal [literally 'white-beard,' the respected elder], the advisor or sage, solving the difficulties faced by tribal members. ... Among the population, respected aksakals are wise and know how to solve problems; among ashiks [reciters of dastans] they are generally called dede [grandfather]. In the past, this term designated respected tribal elders, and now is used within families; in many localities of Azerbaijan, it replaces ata [ancestor or father]." The historian Rashid-al-Din Hamadani (d. 1318) says that Dede Korkut was a real person and lived for 295 years; that he appeared in the time of the Oghuz ruler Inal Syr Yavkuy Khan, by whom he was sent as ambassador to the Prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

; that he became Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

; that he gave advice to the Great Khan of the Oghuz, attended the election of the Great Khan, and gave names to children.

The tales tell of warriors and battles and are likely grounded in the conflicts between the Oghuz and the Pechenegs and Kipchaks
Kipchaks
Kipchaks were a Turkic tribal confederation...

. Many story elements are familiar to those versed in the Western literary tradition. For example, the story of a monster named "Goggle-eye" Tepegoz
Tepegoz
In Turkic mythology, Tepegoz is a legendary creature who has only one eye on his forehead. He is an ogre that appears in the Book of Dede Korkut, a famous epic story of the Oghuz Turks.-Etymology:...

 bears enough resemblance to the encounter with the Cyclops
Cyclops
A cyclops , in Greek mythology and later Roman mythology, was a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of his forehead...

 in Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

’s Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

that it is believed to have been influenced by the Greek epic or to have one common ancient root. The book also describes in great detail the various sports activities of the ancient Turkic peoples: "Dede Korkut (A.D. 1000- 1300) clearly referred to certain physical activities and games. In Dede Korkut's description, the athletic skills of Turks, men and women, were described to be "first-rate," especially in horse-riding, archery, cirit [javelin throw], wrestling and polo which are considered Turkish national sports."

Soviet treatment


The majority of the Turkic peoples and lands described in the Book of Dede Korkut were part of the Soviet Union from 1920 until 1991, and thus most of the research and interest originated there. The attitude towards the Book of Dede Korkut and other dastans related to the Turkic peoples was initially neutral.

Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 historian Hasan Bülent Paksoy argues that after Stalin solidified his grip on power in the USSR, and especially in the early 1950s, a taboo on Turkology
Turkology
Turkology is a complex of humanities sciences studying languages, history, literature, folklore, culture, and ethnology of people speaking Turkic languages and Turkic peoples in chronological and comparative context...

 was firmly established. He observes that the first full-text Russian edition of the Book of Dede Korkut, by Azerbaijani academicians Hamid Arasli and M.G.Tahmasib and based on the Barthold translation of the 1920s, was published on a limited basis only in 1939 and again in 1950. He asserts, "Turk scholars and literati (who raised the same issues) were lost to the Stalinist 'liquidations' or to the 'ideological assault' waged on all dastans in 1950-52." According to Paksoy, this taboo of the early 1950s was also expressed in the "Trial of Alpamysh" (1952–1957), when "all dastans of Central Asia were officially condemned by the Soviet state apparatus".

Nevertheless, the publication of dastans did not wholly cease during that period, as editions of Alpamysh were published in 1957, 1958 and 1961, as they had been in 1939, 1941, and 1949; the entry on dastans in the second edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia
Great Soviet Encyclopedia
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia is one of the largest and most comprehensive encyclopedias in Russian and in the world, issued by the Soviet state from 1926 to 1990, and again since 2002 .-Editions:There were three editions...

 (volume 13, 1952) does not contain any "condemnation" either. Despite the liberalization of the political climate after the denunciation of Stalinism by Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 in February 1956, the same "Barthold" edition of the Book of Dede Korkut was re-published only in 1962 and in 1977. Problems persisted all the way to perestroika
Perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

, when the last full edition in Azerbaijani language
Azerbaijani language
Azerbaijani or Azeri or Torki is a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people, primarily in Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran...

 was sent for publication on July 11, 1985, but received permission for printing only on February 2, 1988.

UNESCO celebrations


In 1998, the Republic of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 and UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 nominated, and in 2000 celebrated, the "One thousand three hundredth anniversary of the epic Azerbaijani legend Kitab-i Dede Qorqud". In 2000, the General Director of UNESCO remarked: "Epics - and I have in mind in particular that of the Turkish-speaking peoples attributed to Dede Korkut, perpetuated by oral tradition up to the fifteenth century before being written down...are vectors of the historical, geographical, political, social, linguistic and literary references of the peoples whose history they relate. Although many of these epics have already been noted down, the oral and gestural skills of the storytellers and griots who keep them alive should also be immortalized without delay. The matter is urgent."

Since 1956, UNESCO has commemorated historic events and the anniversaries of eminent personalities celebrated by Member States and Associate Members, in order to give them worldwide significance. Azerbaijan announced the Kitab-i Dede Qorqud as its first "Celebration of anniversaries" in 1998.
In 1999 the National Bank of Azerbaijan
National Bank of Azerbaijan
The Central Bank of Azerbaijan is the central bank of Azerbaijan Republic. The headquarters of the bank are located in the capital city Baku.-Mission and ownership:...

 minted gold and silver commemorative coin
Commemorative coin
Commemorative coins are coins that were issued to commemorate some particular event or issue. Most world commemorative coins were issued from the 1960s onward, although there are numerous examples of commemorative coins of earlier date. Such coins have a distinct design with reference to the...

s for the 1,300th anniversary of the epic.

Asian Nomad Epics/Dastans

  • Alpamysh
    Alpamysh
    Alpamysh, also spelled as Alp-amish or Alpamish , is an ancient Turkic epic or dastan — ornate oral history, generally set in verse — and one of the most important examples of the Turkic oral literature of Central Asia...

  • Epic of Köroğlu
    Epic of Köroglu
    The Epic of Köroğlu is a heroic legend prominent in the oral traditions of the Turkic peoples. The legend typically describes a hero who seeks to avenge a wrong. It was often put to music and played at sporting events as an inspiration to the competing athletes.The legend first began to take shape...

  • Chora Batir or Chora Batyr
  • Oguzname
  • Edigu
    Edigu
    Edigu was a Mongol emir of the White Horde who founded the new political entity, which came to be known as the Nogai Horde....

     (also written Edigey or Idige)
  • Jangar
  • Ergenekon legend
  • Epic of King Gesar
  • Epic of Manas
    Epic of Manas
    The Epic of Manas is a traditional epic poem claimed by the Kyrgyz people dating to the 18th century, though it is possibly much older. In some earlier versions, however, Manas is identified as Nogay. This opens the possibility of Manas having spoken a dialect of Turki similar to that of the...


External links



  • Epics, four editions of the Dede Korkut book at the Uysal-Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative
    Uysal-Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative
    The Uysal-Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative is a searchable archive of oral Turkish literature. The archive is housed in the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, United States. It includes links to numerous audio recordings in MP3...

    , Texas Tech University, 2000–2007
  • "Mother-of-All-Books" Dada Gorgud article in Azerbaijan International magazine
  • First and second parts of the 1975 Dede Korkut film