Turkish Literature and Folklore in Manuscripts of the Collection of the Yalta Historical and Literary Museum
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Turkish Literature and Folklore in Manuscripts of the Collection of the Yalta Historical and Literary Museum
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Tatiana Anikeeva 
Occupation: Senior Research Fellow
Affiliation: Institute of Oriental Studies RAS
Address: Moscow, Moscow, Russia

. Only a few works of literature can be distinguished among Turkic manuscripts of this collection (these are various destans, poetical divans, didactical treatises).

collections of manuscripts, Crimea, Islam, Ottoman Empire, Turkish literature, Turkiс folklore, dictionaries
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1 The Yalta Historical and Literary Museum contains a fairly representative collection of manuscripts and old-printed books in Arabic, Persian and Turkic languages (about 200 items). The collection was primarily formed by the manuscripts which were brought to the Museum in course of archeographic expeditions of the 1920s in Crimea.

The history of the collection

3 The Oriental Museum was established in Yalta in 1921 and existed until 1930. One of the main goals of the Museum was to preserve the traditional culture of the Muslims of Crimea, especially the Crimean Tatars: “Priority was given to written sources and things from the era of the Crimean khanate. The Museum... had to play a leading role in preserving the culture of the Crimea. The Oriental Museum was planned as a logical continuation of the Bakhchisarai Museum, where only the culture of the Muslims of the Crimea was represented...” [Musayeva, 2014, p. 176]. The activities of the Museum in the 1920s, quite well recorded in various preserved archival documents, are currently extensively studied. The most researched part is the history of replenishment of various ethnographic collections, primarily related to the culture and life of the Crimean Tatars. Thus, it is reported that “the staff [of the Museum] was sent to Tatar villages to search for ethnographic material. Thanks to this expedition, a loom, chests, and women's metal jewelry were purchased. At the same time, work was underway to create a catalog of the Museum”; also the employees of the Museum gave lectures on history, art and ethnography of the Crimean muslims [Musayeva, 2014, p. 176].
4 In 1927, Yakup Memetovich (Memet-oglu) Kemal (1887–1938), an Arabist and the former student of A. E. Krymsky, once the rector of the Zinjirli madrasah, became the director of the Museum. His priority was to collect materials on the history and culture of the Crimean Tatars, as well as manuscripts in Turkic, Arabic and Persian (along with other items of material culture of the Tatars of the Crimean southern coast). At the same year, the Oriental Museum in Yalta under his direction carried out three ethnographic expeditions. At the end of March 1927 there was the first expedition to the coastal villages located between Alushta and Sudak; in September 1927 the second expedition took place to the villages of Oreanda, Koreiz, Miskhor, Kekeneiz; and the third one was set off in November-December again to the Sudak region – from Baydar to Sudak). Apparently, the manuscripts that formed the core of the Museum's manuscript collection were collected as a result of these expeditions. According to some publications, Yakup Kemal started to work on the description of some manuscripts on Arabic language from this collection.
5 In the same year, in October 1927, a manuscript collection of 65 manuscripts in Arabic, Turkish and Persian languages, which has been initiated by Yakup Kemal, was briefly reported by V. A. Gordlevsky [Gordlevsky, 1968, p. 257–261]. In 1929 Yakup Kemal was removed from the position of director of the Oriental Museum, and the Museum itself was closed indeed a year later (in 1930, it was merged with the Yalta Museum of Local Lore – later the Yalta Historical and Literary Museum).
6 It is considered that the closure and disbandment of the Oriental Museum in Yalta led to the liquidation of its funds and archives, but the collection of its manuscripts (and also litographs and old-printed books) in Turkic, Arabic and Persian languages was preserved and later was found in the funds of the Yalta Historical and Literary Museum.

The content and the description of the collection

8 In 2019, a preliminary list of manuscripts, lithographs, and old printed books was compiled, they were grouped by language (Arabic, Persian, and Turkic), chronology, and subject matter. Some of the manuscripts were attributed and described in accordance with the established in Russian oriental codycology scheme of description of arabographic manuscripts.
9 The structure of the description corresponds to the general principles of description of such manuscripts [Khalidov, 1986; Gacek, 2001]: code of the manuscript; the title of the work in the Arabic script; translation of the title of the manuscript into Russian; the name of the work. By specifying the name of the author of the work we also indicate (if it is possible) differences in the versions of the name, the middle name, nickname, place of origin and possible literary pseudonym; date of copy of the manuscript; name and nickname of the copyist; receipts of former owners, containing names and dates, brief characteristics of other attributes; seals that are stamped on the manuscript; the name of the former owner or a collection, which included the manuscript. We also indicate the size of the manuscript, number of pages, information about the oriental catchwords and pagination with possible errors in it, the number of lines per page, text size, characteristics of paper, ink, type of handwriting, decorations and miniatures of the cover (i.e. description of execution and the name of the bookbinder). Particular attention was paid to the notes in the margins, glosses, seals of different waqf libraries, owner's inscriptions and bindings, as they, being an independent historical source, allow us to establish how did the manuscripts got to the Crimea and to this collection.
10 Some manuscripts of the collection are extremely damaged (water stains, sometimes there is no beginning and end, some MSS are burned, etc.) and this makes it difficult to identify and describe them. The degree of damage has been already noted by V.A. Gordlevsky in 1927 [Gordlevsky, 1968, p. 258].
11 The collection includes copies of the Koran, manuals on Arabic and Persian languages, dictionaries, treatises on Sufism. Most of the collection consists of manuscripts in Ottoman Turkish language on various branches of Islamic theology and law, as well as treatises on astronomy and medicine.
12 Only a few works of literature can be distinguished among the manuscripts of this collection, among them the translation of “Gulistan” by Saadi in Turkish, “Divan” by Shahidi, commentary on “Pend-Nameh” by Farid al-Din Attar, “Muhammadiya” (or “Risale-yi Muhammadiya”) – a didactic poem about the prophet Muhammad created by Mehmed Çelebi (Yazicioğlu) in 1449. This poem is known in many MSS copies and publications, it was extremely popular not only in Ottoman Turkey, but also among Russian Muslims, in particular, among the Tatars of the Volga region:
13 № 12025
14 Mehmed (Mehmed Çelebi, Muhammad b. Salih) Yazıcıoğlu (d. 1451).
15 Muhammadiya محمّدية
16 Manuscript. Language – Ottoman Turkish. Leather binding, turundj. The name on fol. 1v. Text in two columns. Black and red ink. Naskh. Catchwords. The date and place of copying are missing. See copies: [Dmitriyeva, 2002, № 1042–1054].
17 № 12098
18 Ibrahim Shahidi (d. 957 H/1550). Divan.
19 Manuscript. The name on fol. 1verso: … شهيدى كتاب هذا
20 Language – Ottoman Turkish. Binding – cardboard covered with the dark red leather with embossing. 13 × 19. Text in two columns, in the frame, 4×15.5. 21 fols. Fol. 11 is lost. Black and red ink. Naskh. Catchwords. 12 lines. Copied in 1093 H./1682. Oriental seal on fol. 4 (the seal of Hojja b. Osman); owner’s inscription (?) of Mustafa-efendi in the flyleaf.
21 It is also necessary to mention one of the old-printed books, which is adjaсent to this collection in a thematic and content sense – “Divan-i belagat unvan-i Nazim” (also known as “Divan-i Nazim”).
22 № 11965.
23 Yahya Nazim. Divan-i belâgat unvan-i Nazim. نظيم عنوان بلاغت ديوان
24 Printed book. Language – Ottoman Turkish. [İstanbul], 1257 H /1841. 500 pp. There is a tab in the book – a handwritten note (a sheet from a notebook) in Tatar language, with a list of names and the date “1918 November”.
25 This is a quite popular divan in Ottoman Turkish language created by Yahya Nazim approximately in 1668–1687, it has gone through several editions in the 19th century. Yahya Nazim (1650–1727) was a Turkish poet and musician, who belonged to the Mevlevi brotherhood’s “cloister” in Galata [Özcan, Uzun 2006]. A native of Istanbul, Kumkapi, he worked in the first third of the 18th century – the so-called “Tulip period” (tur. Lâle devri), the heyday of the Ottoman poetry associated with the court and urban environment. His “Divan-i Nazim” consists, in turn, of five separate divans (for one of them, see: [Yıldırım 2016]) and is one of the most voluminous works of the classical Ottoman poetry. It is interesting that this poet considered the Crimean khan Selim Giray (1631–1704) as his patron [Özcan, Uzun, 2006], which to some extent makes it natural to have his divan (in printed or handwritten form) in home libraries of Crimean Muslims.
26 Significant value have the collections of folk and religious poetry (cönk), as well as the manuscripts of Crimean Tatar epic poems-destans, such as the destan about the pigeon (“Guvercin”), “Tugay-Bek”, “Şukur-nama”, and “Kesikbaş kitabi” (“The Book about the Severed Head”). These destans retain in their poetic fragments a certain kinship with various forms of folk poetry. Apparently, some destans also existed in the form of an orally performed text (see, for example: [Radlov, 2010]), and, thus, their existence simultaneously in the form of a written text is one of the ways of interaction between the book and oral traditions among Crimean Muslims in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.
27 № 12115.
28 Collection of various destans. Manuscript. Among them, in particular, “Kesikbaş kitabi” or (here) “Destan about Kesikbaş” (دستان هذا باش كيسك). Also includes some sections (fasl) from “Muhammadiya” (mentioned above).
29 Language – Turkic. The beginning and binding are missing. 1×21. Text is in the frame 13.5×18.5. 9–12 lines. Black and red ink. Naskh. Catchwords. Copied in 1277 H./1860.
30 See other copies: [Dmitrieva, 2002, № 1925–1934; Bulgakov, Galyautdinov, 2009, № 53–55].
31 “Kesikbaş kitabi” (“The Book about the Severed Head”) is a folk hagiographic narrative in verses about the severed head, which is based on a Muslim legend of the 12th century (according to other sources – 13–16th cc. 1). The origin of the legend, however, is not completely clear: the prophet Muhammad sees a severed head, crying for help, because the monster-div kidnapped his wife, and he himself was deprived of the body; the righteous Caliph Ali fights with the div, defeats him, and after the prayer of Muhammad the Almighty God returns the body to Kesikbaş / ”severed head”. The poem was used by the clergy for religious education in madrassas, and was repeatedly published in Kazan (for the first time in 1807: [Bulgakov, Galyautdinov, 2009, p. 133]).
1. This time is the period of the development of various hagiographic and apocryphal stories in Turkish literature, which took the form of destans and related primarily to the prophet Muhammad and his associates [Borolina, 1970, p. 357–358].

Dictionaries and lexicology

33 In this collection there are also manuscripts of some manuals on Arabic and Persian languages (for example, grammar of Persian languages, composed in Ottoman verses and so on) and various dictionaries (Arabic-Turkish, Persian-Turkish dictionaries). Among them is:
34 № 12124.
35 Cevherî. Kitab al-sıhah fi-l-lûgat الصحاح في اللغة كتاب
36 Manuscript. Language – Ottoman Turkish. Binding – cardboard covered with leather with embossed turundj. 14.5×22.5. Naskh. Red, black and blue ink.
37 A lot of notes and ownership inscriptions, poems, passages from hadiths. The seal of the Oriental Museum in Yalta; prints of other seals (including worn ones), one of the waqf library: "Waqf-i Maulana Muhiy al-Din-efendi...".
38 Most likely, it is “an excerpt from the dictionary "Sihah"” mentioned by V.A. Gordlevsky in the essay about this collection [Gordlevsky, 1968]. So-called “Sıhah-i Cevherî” is a Turkish translation of the Arabic dictionary “Taj al-lugat” (اللغة تاج) by Abu Nasr Ismail b. Hammad al-Javhari (d. after 1009). The translation of this dictionary into Turkish was made by Mehmed b. Mustafa al-Wani and was published among the first books printed by Turkish first printer Ibrahim Müteferrika in 1729 under the name “Lûgat-i Vankulu” (“Vankulu Dictionary”). This work, as well as its Turkish translation, was very popular, and for a long time later it was distributed in the form of handwritten copies – as a result, the Arabic original was published for the first time by typographic means in Tabriz only in 1853 (see: [Kılıç, 2010]).


40 The Turkic manuscripts and books of the Yalta Historical and Literary Museum represent not only the reading of a Muslim, who could be “khoja or student” (according to V. A. Gordlevsky: [Gordlevski, 1968, p. 261]) of the 17th – early 20th centuries, but they are primarily one of the illustrations of the close literary and cultural ties between Crimea and Ottoman Turkey, where the bulk of the collection's manuscripts were copied, as well as the Volga region. As it is well known, local history of a semi-legendary nature, religious literature of the curriculum and proper textbooks of the 19th-early 20th century prevailed in manuscript collections from the Volga-Ural area. In this area, there were no artistic samples in the design of manuscripts in general [Dmitrieva 1987, p. 446–447]. To some extent, the content of the manuscripts in the Yalta collection is similar to those in the Volga region.


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2. Bulgakov R.M., Galyautdinov I.G. Description of Oriental Manuscripts of the Institute of History, Language and Literature. Part 1. Turkic Manuscripts. Ufa: Gilem 2009 (in Russian).

3. Dmitrieva L.V. Turkic Arabographic Handwritten Book on Its Areas. Handwritten Book in the Culture of the Peoples of the East. Book 1. Moscow: Glavnaia Redaktsiia Vostocnoi Literatury, 1987 (in Russian).

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5. Gacek A. The Arabic Manuscript Tradition: A Glossary of Technical Terms and Bibliography. Leiden: Brill, 2001 (Handbuch der Orientalistik. Vol. 54).

6. Gordlevsky V. A. Manuscripts of the Oriental Museum of Yalta. Selected Works. Vol. 4: Ethnography, History of Oriental Studies, Reviews. Moscow: IVL, 1968. Pp. 257–261 (in Russian).

7. Kemal Y. Arabic, Sufi Manuscripts of the 13th century, found in the Crimea and copied outside the Crimea. Collection of the Historical and Philological Department of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Kiev, 1930. No. 89: Studios from the Crimea, I–IX. Pp. 159–164 (in Ukranian).

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11. Özcan N., Uzun M.İ. Nazîm. Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Ansiklopedisi. Cilt 32. İstanbul, 2006. S. 452–453 (in Turkish).

12. Radlov W. Proben der Volslitteratur der nördlichen türkischen Stämme. Kuzey Türk Boylarının Halk Edebiyatından Örnekler. VII. Bölüç. Kırım Ağızları. Haz. Tülay Çulha. İstanbul, 2010.

13. Yıldırım İ. Nazîm Yahya’nin bir aşk hikâyesi: “Dâstân-i hecr ü visâl”. A.Ü. Türkiyat Araştırmaları Enstitüsü Dergisi. Cilt 57. Erzurum, 2016. S. 1663–1700 (in Turkish).