Questions re: Historical Atlas and others

Posted by Glenn Kempf on 19:30 4/21/02

In reply to: Questions re: Historical Atlas and others posted by Glenn Kempf on 10:19 4/20/02

Thanks for the info, and for considering my comments; keep in mind that I'm not an expert on metallurgy, either (or demographics, for that matter...)

[In addition, in re-reading my original message, I noticed that I twice wrote Eretald (the Plain) where I should have wrote Erelae (the continent). Oh, well...]

Your description of the ancient Monkhayu sounds like a number of similar cultures in our world. A good example is ancient Ireland--there may have been a titular High King of the the island at Tara, as well as kings of Ireland's major divisions (Ulster, Connacht, Meath, Leinster, and Munster), but day-to-day power lay in the hands of a multitude of local chieftains and clan leaders.

As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, this may be a bit off the topic (but see below!), but the country today is a typical example of a former Soviet republic, with rich natural resources and an educated population, but struggling to emerge from the collapse of the economy (and just about everything else) and suffering from environmental problems, nepotism and corruption, and the remaining threads of Soviet-era bureaucracy and authoritarianism, combined with every-man-for-himself capitalism and "democracy." Kazakhstan itself has staked a lot of its future on its oil deposits, and foreign oil companies (Chevron, Exxon Mobil, etc.), are effectively keeping the country afloat. On the other hand, there are definitely capable people who want to make their country a better place; I've found that they often have things together better than us foreigners who are "here to help"... :-)

One of the most important elements of KZ is its status as one of the most European of Asian nations, or vice versa, and its ethnic mix. Just over half the population is Asian and Muslim, primarily the Kazakhs, who are a Turkic people, while the remainder are European, mostly Russian Orthodox. (While the Kazakhs are Muslim, they are far from fundamentalist, partly because they were largely nomadic until the 1930s and had little "organized" religion. Kazakhstan strongly supported the US in Afghanistan--the current government was highly alarmed about having Islamic forces not far from its borders--while criticizing the civilian casualties there.) For most of the Soviet period, Russian language, culture, and education were dominant, even if the Party head was Kazakh; since KZ gained independence in 1991, the tide has shifted, with Kazakhs appointed to nearly all government posts and Kazakh history and culture being recovered.

What is particularly interesting, in this case, is language policy. (See--you KNEW this all had to be leading somewhere!) The Kazakhstani government has been passing legislation to push Kazakh-language education, Kazakh language instruction, and the use of Kazakh in official documents and proceedings, much to the disgruntlement of the non-Kazakh population, most of which do not speak Kazakh, particularly in the north and east where Russian-speakers are a majority. (In addition, some educated urban Kazakhs actually speak Russian as well as or better than Kazakh; mixed-language conversations are common.) (Other ex-Soviet Central Asian states have faced similar problems, but none of them have Kazakhstan's huge Russian-speaking population--although some have complicated things further by attempting to drop the Russian Cyrillic alphabet as well.)

(Incidentally, as a student of Russian, I find that the Verdurian words derived from Russian really jump out at me when I read them; the effect is rather unsettling.)

One big problem for the Kazakh-promoters, however, is that all higher and especially scientific education has been traditionally in Russian, with the result that Kazakh simply _lacks_ many of the technical terms needed to provide the same information. As a result, there is an entire movement to coin new Kazakh words and drop Russian borrowings, which can confuse even native speakers. (As a US scholar studying the phenomenon told me, "I wouldn't want to undergo surgery by a doctor trained in Kazakh right now; they haven't even decided what to call everything yet.")

So there you have it--one people attempting to recover a language and heritage that have been largely suppressed, in a manner that creates newfound discrimination against a new minority. Needless to say, all of this could make for fascinating developments in a conlang situation as well...

More generally, history provides some fascinating examples of multi-ethnic and multilingual settings (for instance, during some periods in medieval Georgia--Soviet, not US--the rural aristocracy and peasantry were Georgian-speaking, while the inhabitants of the cities were almost entirely Armenian and Persian), and well as of both liberal and highly restrictive language policies (Bulgaria forcing Turks to adopt Bulgarian names, after emerging itself from Turkish rule, the Japanese doing the same to the Koreans, etc.), and these can be applied to conlang settings as well; admittedly, it's not necessarily a simple matter...

Thank you for your wishes on my world; if I get it assembled, it may appear on the Net (or in print) one of these years. Dekuy! (Sorry--I can't seem to attach accents or umlauts to my E-mail; otherwise I'd include them.)

Ad onlelan,

P.S. My younger brother lives in Chicago; who knows, maybe we'll bump into each other whenever I make it back to the US... :-)

Mark responds: Sure, come on by. I'll break out the knigi russkovo jazyka.

Thanks for the report; the media here have basically forgotten all the ex-Soviet states. I've always been interested in Central Asia...

As for Verdurian, all you have to do now is learn French, and you'll almost be able to read it...

The different languages in city and country thing is not that uncommon. Another example, I think, is medieval Poland: Polish in the countryside, German and Yiddish in the cities. And there are still parts of Latin America where you find Spanish in the cities, Amerindian languages in the country.

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