The Šabdan Baatır Codex

Epic and the Writing of Northern Kirghiz History


Editor: Daniel Prior
In The Šabdan Baatır Codex, Daniel Prior presents the first complete edition, translation, and interpretation of a unique manuscript of early twentieth-century Kirghiz poetry, which includes detailed accounts of nineteenth-century warfare. Dedicated to the chief Šabdan Baatır, the Codex occupies an illuminating position in a network of oral and written genres that encompassed epic poetry and genealogy, panegyric and steppe oral historiography; that echoed oral performance and aspired to print publishing. The Codex’s fresh articulation of concepts of Kirghiz self-identification was incipiently national, yet remained couched in traditional forms. The Codex thus bridges the interval, often glossed over in cultural histories, between a supposedly archaic state of oral epic tradition and the “afterlife” of epics in modern ethno-nationalist projects.
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Biographical Note

Daniel Prior, Ph.D. (2002), Indiana University, is Assistant Professor of History at Miami University. His publications include The Semetey of Kenje Kara: A Kirghiz Epic Performance on Phonograph (Harrassowitz, 2006). Musa Chagataev (fl. ca. 1910), was the main author of the Codex. Belek Soltonoev, d. 1938 (scribe). Shabdan Dzhantaev, ca. 1839 - 1912 (patron).

Review Quote

'Dr Prior in fact deals with his subject with extreme thoroughness. Not only does this book include a complete facsimile of the manuscript, it also contains a transcription into Roman script of the full text in the original language, with a translation and extensive commentary. A quite lengthy introduction gives the background to its text and its contents, including very useful information about the complex history of eastern Central Asia during the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, (...) He has dealt very thoroughly with the ms and produced an impressive work of very high quality.' Stephen G. Haw, independent Mongolist, The Central Asiatic Journal, 56 (2013)


Academic libraries and institutes, researchers, and students of 18th - 20th Central and Inner Asian history, heroic epic poetry, and Steppe Turkic traditions of historiography.