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Turkestanskii Sbornik



Turkestanskii Sbornik (roughly translatable as “The Turkestan Collection”) is a one-of-a-kind resource that, until acquired in digital form by the University Library in 2011, was only available at the National Library of Uzbekistan in Tashkent.  Consisting of over 220,000 full-text pages of newspaper articles, journal articles, and books on Central Asia published between 1867 and 1917, Turkestanskii Sbornik was compiled in a single scrapbook-style copy in St. Petersburg and Tashkent, ultimately running to 594 bound volumes.  The great Russian bibliographer V. I. Mezhov oversaw the project for its first twenty years (1868-1888), but the massive task of indexing its contents by title, subject and author was not completed until 1940.  The introduction to the 1940 index (covering volumes 417-591), translated from the Russian by University of Illinois graduate student Adrienne Seely, is reproduced below.

Arguably the single most comprehensive resource for the history, politics, economy, society, and scientific study of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and neighboring areas before 1917, Turkestanskii Sbornik includes not only Russian-language scholarly and journalistic works on and from the region, but also tens of thousands of pages of English-, French-, and German-language works on Central Asia, originally published in Western Europe and the United States.  Although there was a sustained Russian military presence on the Kazakh steppe beginning in the 18th century, the Russian conquest of what later became Soviet Central Asia can be said to have begun in earnest with appointment of K. P. von Kaufman as governor-general of Turkestan in 1867, based in Tashkent.  It was Kaufman who invited Mezhov to begin compiling what became Turkestanskii Sbornik, as a comprehensive collection of information pertaining to the Russian Empire’s new Central Asian domains.

To provide access to the contents of the Sbornik, four separate indexes were published:  an index to volumes 1-150 in 1868, another index covering volumes 151-300 in 1884, a third index covering volumes 301-416 in 1888, and the abovementioned index to volumes 417-591 in 1940. When you click on the link above, you will be able to choose among these four indexes (or simply to browse among the volumes themselves, although given the extent of the material, this can be a bit overwhelming).  The indexes are organized by subject, and within each subject category, the articles and books pertaining to that subject are listed, along with which volume (and, sometimes, which specific page range) of the Sbornik they appear in.  Once you identify an item you would like to view, enter the volume and page on which it appears into the boxes at the top of the screen and click on “Go To…”.  Our sincere thanks are due to Tom Habing and the U of I Library’s Information Technology department for their quick work in developing a navigable interface for the raw jpeg files supplied by the National Library of Uzbekistan.


[Foreword to O. V. Maslova’s Sistematicheskii ukazatel’ k tt. 417-591 Turkestanskogo Sbornika, Tashkent, 1940]


Among the many precious manuscript and monographic materials possessed by the State Public Library of the Uzbek SSR, one of the foremost ranks is occupied by the Turkestan Collection (Turkestanskii Sbornik) due to the significance of the regional material contained within it.

The Turkestan Collection, consisting of 591 volumes, is designed in a large format, with clippings from newspapers, journals, and monographs pasted onto paper, stitched together, and bound.

The history of the Collection’s creation is as follows: in 1868 the Turkestan Governor-General K.P. von Kaufman approached the eminent Russian bibliographer V.I. Mezhov with the proposal that he take on the work of compiling a collection of materials concerning Central Asia. V.I. Mezhov, having worked for many years in the field of bibliography and having already compiled a complete set of superlative bibliographic indexes, including ones on Asia, agreed to Kaufman’s proposition. In the introduction to the first book of the Collection, speaking of the goals and challenges of his work, Mezhov writes, “Specialized bibliographic indexes, for any topic whatsoever or on any region, doubtlessly bring enormous benefit, but they fail to fully realize their purpose in a place lacking great libraries in which it would be possible to find all that is contained in a bibliographic index, and as a consequence of this they become little more than tomes with hieroglyphic or kabbalistic characters.”

Mezhov selected all types of material relevant to Central Asia for the Collection: books, journals, and newspaper articles, [collected] at the time of their publication. But in some cases, in order for this or that historical event to be fully described, all the material that appeared relevant to a given question was united in one place in the Turkestan Collection, for example: volume 42, part 3 [?], which refers to the years 1872-73, 1873, and 1873-75, contains not only books published subsequently, but also all of the decrees, reports, reminiscences, and Russian and foreign newspaper articles concerning the Khiva Campaign of 1873. All of this can serve as extremely valuable material for researching the colonial period of Central Asia.

Less complete was the selection of materials concerning states bordering on Turkestan (Afghanistan, Persia, China, and East Turkestan), although some questions relevant to these areas were well-covered, such as the Anglo-Afghan War.

Mezhov continued his work on the selection, extraction, and incorporation of material until 1888, giving the 416 volumes of the Collection the title page, “An assemblage of articles on the countries of Central Asia in general and on the Turkestan region in particular, as found in Russian periodical publications. Compiled by V.I. Mezhov, St. Petersburg [Sobranie statei o stranakh Srednei Azii voobshche i Turkestanskoi oblasti v osobennosti, pomeshchennykh v russkikh povremennykh izdaniiakh.  Sost. V.I. Mezhov. SPB.].”

In the foreword to the index to the Collection, Mezhov writes: “Among other considerations, my Collection still does not represent that completeness which I tried to achieve. Many books were unobtainable by any means. Nonetheless, the missing books and articles number very few—barely a tenth of everything published in the last ten years. I am referring here only to the Russian part of the Collection.”

In their work, the esteemed researchers of the region I.V. Mushketov and Middendorf remarked the immense importance of the Turkestan Collection for any scholar of the region. I.V. Mushketov describes the Turkestan Collection thus: “Kaufman created a library, the crown jewel of which was the Turkestan Collection of works and articles, [which] devoted to Central Asia and to the Turkestan region in particular more than 150 volumes [“t.t.”] compiled by the bibliographer Mezhov.” Remarking further on some omissions in the selection of materials, Mushketov continues, “But, despite any shortcomings, which are easily remedied, the Collection by Mezhov nonetheless represents quite a thorough compilation of literature, largely devoted to Turkestan, and is extremely useful for any researcher.” (Mushketov, I.V., Turkestan Volume 1, 1886, p. 180, “Notes.”) The scholar Middendorf, in the foreword to his work, “Studies of the Fergana Valley,” writes: “Since the moment that General Kaufman founded in Central Asia the exemplary, unique [Mezhov Turk. Coll.] library in Tashkent, it has been the only place in the world where it would be even remotely possible to access the entirety of the necessary literary materials.”

For the 416 volumes of the Collection there are indices—also composed by Mezhov—which allow one to easily orient oneself amidst all of this extensive and highly diverse material. This was the so-called “Systematic and alphabetic indices of works and articles in Russian and foreign languages” for the years from 1878 to 1884.

The alphabetic indices were done in three sections: 1) An alphabetic index of authors, translators, and other persons encountered in the bibliography, 2) an alphabetic index of locations and subjects, and 3) an alphabetic index of authors and subjects encountered in the foreign sections of the bibliography.

In his foreword, Mezhov articulates the goals that he pursued during the composition of the indices, writing that, “In general, I constructed my index so as to be of use not only for those able to have the opportunity to hold the Turkestan Collection itself in their hands, but generally for all who take an interest in the literature of Central Asia broadly conceived, and in the Turkestan region in particular. To this end, along with the title of each article, I placed a cross-reference to the periodical from which it was excerpted.”

In the opinion of Baron V.R. Rozen, the Index to the Turkestan Collection “should always be near at hand for anyone interested in Central Asia, in its past and present, and we shall hope” he concludes his commentary, “that our deserving bibliography succeeds in supporting these labors, which bring forth such manifest and great benefit.” (“Notes of the Oriental Department of the Russian Archaeological Society [Zapiski Vostochnogo otdela Russkogo arkheologicheskogo obshchestva], Volume 1, 1886, p. 38).

In the year 1907, work began anew on the “Turkestan Collection”—now, however, in Tashkent. At the Tashkent Central Archival Administration, a file is preserved that aids in partially restoring the history of the creation of this Collection for the period of years from 1907 to 1910.

The first item, dating from January 9, 1907, is a letter from the Newspaper Clippings Bureau of the “House of Industry for Educated Men in St. Petersburg” [“Dom trudoliubiia dlia obrazovannykh muzhchin v Peterburge”], sent to the editorial board of the Turkestan Register [Turkestanskie vedomosti] with an offer to send in clippings.

The very next item is an official message from the director of the Turkestan Public Library to the Bureau, with the request to send in clippings concerning Western China, Afghanistan, the Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva, and Russian Turkestan.

A bureau consisting of the following members was organized to work on the extension of “Mezhov’s Collection”: I.P. Zykov, A. A. Divaev, A.V. Dmitrovskii, I.A. Villevich, I.I. Geier, A.D. Kalmykov, and A.A. Zvorykin, under the chairmanship of N.V. Dmitrovskii, and with technical editor V.P. Zykov.

Members of the bureau carried out all work on the annotation of newspaper and journal material, and for technical work two office employees and a binding-worker were hired.

For receipt of the necessary newspapers and journals, appeals were made to the editorial offices of both local newspapers and journals and those in other cities. Statistical committees, scientific academies, and the editorial boards of journals such as Russian Thought [Russkaia mysl’], Historical Bulletin [Istoricheskii vestnik], Turkestan Agriculture [Turkestanskoe sel’skoe khoziaistvo], etc., sent in material. A.A. Semenov took part in the composition of the 44 volumes. In total, 174 volumes were produced, and work ceased in 1916.

Although the “Bureau for the Compilation of Mezhov’s Collection” strove to continue its labors, a certain disparity in the methods of work upon it is nonetheless perceptible. For the Collection, Mezhov accepted newspaper, journal, and monographic material alike, while the bureau deliberately declined to include monographic materials, with the exception of very small pamphlets. Only in the final years, 1913-1916, were books once again selected for inclusion.

Mezhov selected material consistently from year to year, and by this means he drew a clear, multifaceted picture of the life and affairs of Turkestan in the years 1867-1888.

The bureau also worked quite consistently in its first three years. It was because of this that somewhat more incidental material could be brought to light, in order to fill in the understandable lacunae during the years 1888-1907. In addition, some very minor and highly varied newspaper material was gathered under the title “From the Life and Press of the Muslims,” in which there were fragmentary pieces of information about India, China, the Caucasus, and other countries. Besides the Central-Asian material (which also appears in the present Index), many articles were taken from the history of Persia from 1907-1909. In the final 44 volumes (i.e., volumes 547-591), completed under the guidance of A. A. Semenov, the method of composition of the “Collection” shifted to some degree, with more books, fewer journal articles, and almost no newspaper selections. One senses the editor’s effort to collect not only current material, but also material that was overlooked in previous years. The volumes were, in part, organized into defined themes: for example, one volume has the theme “Useful Minerals” and contains excerpts from three books: Veber, “Useful Minerals”; Andreev, “Catalog of Useful Minerals”; and Nazarov, “A Useless Book about Useful Minerals.” Almost all of the works of Divaev, etc., are collected there as well.

The significance of the Turkestan Collection to anyone working on Central Asia, is, of course, high, due to the fact that it has preserved material on the history of the region which is available in very few libraries.

The present “Systematic Index to Volume 417-591 of the Turkestan Collection” was compiled using a somewhat different method than Mezhov’s: 1) only material pertaining to Turkestan was included; 2) a new system of classification was applied; 3) a specification of the distribution of material was introduced; and 4) within each rubric, the material is arranged in chronological order.

In the process of this work I availed myself of the valuable counsel and assistance of E.K. Betger, for which I extend to him my sincere thanks.


O. Maslova.  [Tashkent, 1940]

(translated by Adrienne Seely)