Welcome to the first issue of the Journal
of Makhtumkuli Studies. This is a journal which has been a long time in
the planning, ever since the formation of the Society of Friends of Makhtumkuli
in 1992. Right from the beginning it has been one of the Society's main
aims to publish a journal to foster knowledge and appreciation of the great
18th-century poet of the Turkmen people. Another aim of the Society, one
which has already been achieved, is the publication of a definitive edition
of Makhtumkuli's works in English translation. Indeed. the two projects
go hand in hand, as without access to the poet's body of work itself, the
English-speaking public would have no way of assessing and discussing the
man and his work.
In the Western world, Turkmenistan is almost as little known as its national poet. The formation of our Society more or less coincided with Turkmenistan's emergence as an independent republic from the shadows of Soviet Central Asia. Each of the five Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union is now seeking its own distinctive identity and image in the world. Each of these nations looks to its past for inspiration, and in the case of Turkmenistan it is natural to turn to Makhtumkuli, who lived at a time (1733-1783) when the country was beginning to unify itself from a group of disparate and conflicting clans or tribes.
The facts of Makhtumkuli's life are only sketchily known and not very well documented. He presents a challenge to historians. They must sift the facts about him from the legends, and even the pictorial images of him are idealizations, as no picture exists that can be definitely identified as representing the poet.
Likewise with the poet's work, which has been passed down in a series of copied manuscripts. Some of which are incomplete, some authentic. It has been a formidable task for modern scholars to compile texts which represent as accurately as possible the words that Nlakhtumkuli actually wrote. The task would be impossible were it not for the oral tradition which has remained strong among the Turkinen
people from his day down to the present. It is by no means uncommon for modern Turkmens to he able to recite by heart long passages of their national poet's work.
In compiling this Journal we aim to provide a broad range of articles ranging around Makhtumkuli's work and Turkmen culture generally. Much, virtually all, of what we present in these pages is appearing in English for the first time. In this first issue you will find a number of articles which originally appeared in the press in the Soviet period. in one or two cases even before that. Assessments of Makhturnkuli's work have tended, in official publications, to vary according to the policies of the day, and we present these earlier articles as an interesting backdrop to modern scholarship.
Details of the . Society are in the inside cover.